Who Are We, Really?

Human Nature

In his celebrated Treatise of Human Nature (Book II, Section 3) David Hume opined:

Nothing is more usual in philosophy … than to talk of the combat of passion and reason, to give the preference to reason, and to assert that men are only so far virtuous as they conform themselves to its dictates…. The eternity, invariableness, and divine origin of the former have been display’d to the best advantage; the blindness, unconstancy, and deceitfulness of the latter have been as strongly insisted on. In order to shew the fallacy of all this philosophy, I shall endeavour to prove first, that reason alone can never be a motive to any action of the will; and secondly, that it can never oppose passion in the direction of the will….

We speak not strictly and philosophically when we talk of the combat of reason and of passion.  Reason is, and ought only to be the slave of the passions, and can never pretend to any other office than so serve and obey them….

Back in the eighteenth century when Hume wrote, this was a controversial opinion. A certain kind of rationalism dominated Western letters. Its dominance would only grow, and Hume would be credited with contributing to it (for, e.g., his assault on the credibility of belief in miracles). In recent decades rationalism has lost a lot of ground. It still has forceful voices, but its credibility as a system seems to be overall on the wane. What (if anything) will replace it?

Theories of Human Nature.

The history of Western thought alone discloses at least nine theories of human nature (Leslie Stevenson, in an interesting little introductory volume, aggregated seven).

  • (1) “Man, the rational animal.” The theory of the Platonist-Aristotelian axis, in which reason or rationality is our essence and uniqueness among the many life forms we see around us, and the job of working out both the structure and applications of reason falls to philosophers. For Plato, as with Descartes much later, reason is first exemplified in mathematics and geometry, where exactitude reigns supreme, where operations provide complete logical closure and deductive epistemic certitude, and which point to a realm of perfect Universals or Forms apprehended in a prior existence and relearned in the course of education for wisdom (Plato’s “The Cave” in The Republic being one illustration of the process). Aristotle followed up with his working out of the first (that we know of) comprehensive systems of logic in words such as Prior Analytics. Hume, though, was not the first philosopher to argue in response that this applies only to relations of ideas as he called them, not matters of fact. (Leibniz, for example, distinguished truths of logic from truths of fact.)  
  • (2) “We are sinners.” The view of Christianity, as seen in the Old and New Testaments. We are capable of reason, but as “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Our reason has fallen as well, and is as vulnerable as any other human capacity to error and corruption. In his Summas St. Thomas Aquinas tried to unite Aristotelianism and Christianity into a single system, and the result was such concepts as natural law as well as the cosmological argument. We have “two books,” the Holy Scriptures and the “book” of nature, and can learn something of the divine intellect by studying the latter. But when push comes to shove, because we are sinners only Christ can save us. For quite a while after Aquinas’s time, few major philosophers would have argued with this. Even the first architects of the scientific revolution would have agreed with its essence.
  • (3) “We are machines.” The view of early materialists such as Etienne de la Mettrie, author of L’Homme Machine (Man, the Machine) — in which we are, first and foremost, made of material substance (as Descartes called it) with all that this implies, including no Christian “life everlasting.” The view that death is the end for us — lights out, totally — goes back at least to Epicurus. In modern times, early materialism is one consequence of the failures of Cartesianism: explaining, for example, how two fundamentally different “substances, corporeal and incorporeal, could interact. Far easier to cut one or the other out of your ontology. Idealism or immaterialism eliminated “matter” (Berkeley). Materialism eliminated “mind” (de la Mettrie and several  Enlightenment philosophers who came in his wake).  
  • (4) “We are products of class.” The view of Karl Marx, noted for the detailed analysis of capitalism (he coined the term) in his multi-volume Das Kapital, in light of his “materialist theory of history”; his materialism differed markedly from that of de la Mettrie and Enlightenment materialists, from his incorporating Hegelian dialectic into his thinking. History disclosed a progression of revolutions. The bottom line for human societies: we have to produce the means of our survival and advancement. Consciousness is thus tied to the means of production, and to who owns / controls it. That is, those who own the means of production (the bourgeoisie) “dictate” this consciousness and all its manifestations, including philosophy and religion, while those who own only their capacity for labor (the proletariat) are subverted into a false consciousness. Under capitalism, Marx argued, the conditions of the proletariat would worsen until they precipitated mass revolution on a global scale, during which control of the means of production would be wrested from the bourgeois capitalists and placed in the hands of the proletariat workers. We need not review the whole worldview. Human nature, for the Marxian, is tied to history and economic arrangements. It changes when these change. Utopia will someday be not only possible but an inevitable product of economically-based historical development.
  • (5) “We are products of drives” such as the unconscious: Sigmund Freud’s view. What our unconscious is doing may be revealed in dreams; hence Freud’s first major work was The Interpretation of Dreams. We have different drives, those of the id (which is instinctive, biological, and sexual, seeking immediate satisfaction), the ego (the conscious mind in its dealings with the world around us), and the superego (the “societal mind” from which the ego derives societal “right versus wrong” obtained in childhood and continually reinforced, by religion, public education, and other institutions). These can clash with one another, and the result will be neurosis, to be cured or at least diagnosed and alleviated through psychoanalysis. Freudianism became the first “depth” psychology.
  • (6) “We are products of conditioning of various sorts,” argue behaviorists such as B.F. Skinner whose first premise was that only empirical science can tell us anything useful about human behavior, that its methods are experimental, not merely intellectual, and that what we’ve learned is that not just can we understand behavior in terms of conditioned responses to stimuli but actually learn to control behavior by supplying stimuli that lead to desired forms of human mass behavior. Skinner held that not taking charge of the causes of human behavior was jeopardizing civilization. “We can no longer afford freedom” in the conventional sense: a single-phrase paraphrase of his bestselling Beyond Freedom and Dignity. While the idea of technocracy had been around since the 1930s, its programs received a boost with this kind of thinking, from Skinner’s specific idea of a “technology of behavior,” although he had lesser-known predecessors such as Wilhelm Wundt and Edward Thorndike. Where Skinner excelled was in being a kind of scientific celebrity who could sell his ideas to the scientistic wing of the literati. What some picked up on were hints of an actual scientistic-technocratic Utopia.
  • (7) “We are innately aggressive as products of evolution,” contended Konrad Lorenz in his On Aggression. To be sure, all of the above except (1) and (2) accepted Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection, and it is likely that adherents of (3) would have accepted it had they known it was coming. Adherents of (4) made some changes to it (not approved of by “orthodox” Darwinists). Where Lorenz and his associates believe the behaviorists and others go wrong is their being compelled to play down the innate drives that explain our aggressive and warlike tendencies. We are, in the last analysis, an aggressive species. Conflicts are inevitable; resolutions only temporary until the next source of conflict erupts. Historically, perceived scarcity of the resources necessary to power an advanced civilization have become a source of conflict, even when ideological differences are blamed.
  • (8) “We are absurd, a ‘futile passion.’” This is the view of existentialists such as Jean-Paul Sartre, and in a less extreme form, Albert Camus. We are born into this world, not having been asked, and in the absence of a God to reveal morality and give us direction, it is up to us to decide what to make of ourselves. We have absolute freedom to decide; we are “condemned to be free,” Sartre said. To rely on any theory — even an evolutionary one — or any justification outside one’s own will and choice is to refuse to assume responsibility for our choices and lives. When choosing, what we are saying is that “This is what it means to be a human being.” Yet since there exists no “rational” (logical, eternal) basis for choice any more than there is a theological one, our choices must be made “in anguish.” Full recognition that life is absurd but must be lived anyway is what it means to live “authentically.” Unless one decides life is not worth living. For Camus, this was the fundamental philosophical problem: suicide (“The Myth of Sisyphus”). A person can still enjoy life in its moments, though, even if death extinguishes it. What is interesting is how the existentialists expressed themselves most clearly not in philosophical treatises or essays but in novels, plays, and short stories (e.g., Sartre’s La Nausée and Camus’s L’Etranger). Arguably, members of the Beat Generation (1950s) and possibly some of the Hippies (1960s) became “native existentialists” (see Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, or Tom Wolfe’s The Electric Kool-Aide Acid Test).
  • (9) “We are problem-solvers.” This view seems to be inherent in a form of pragmatism that may or may not embrace some of these other views in modest form, but emphasizes our capacity as creative agents, relying on experience, discerning patterns within it, and turning to reason for explanations, predictions, and solutions. While there are elements of a “proto-pragmatism” in Hume, pragmatism that is conscious of itself is an American phenomenon. The founding American pragmatists are C.S. Peirce who wrote essays such as “The Fixation of Belief” and William James who penned “The Will To Believe” among many others. John Dewey is typically cited as a third figure in a triad, but Dewey’s thought has always seemed to me to derive from a cross-pollination of Hegel, Darwin, and perhaps behavioral psychologists such as Thorndike. More likely follow-ups to Peirce and James might be George Herbert Mead and Clarence Irving Lewis; later, Willard Van Orman Quine “shifted” analytic philosophy “toward pragmatism” (see his famous article “Two Dogmas of Empiricism”) having incorporated technical logic and analyses of science. The final figure worth mentioning is doubtless Richard Rorty, whose book Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature subjected epistemology and philosophy since the time of Kant to a detailed critique and found it “optional”; drawing on the later writings of twentieth century philosophers Dewey, Heidegger, and Wittgenstein to more recent thinkers such as Kuhn, Feyerabend, Derrida, and others, he urged a rejection of any kind of philosophy that seeks to be “foundational” with respect to the rest of culture or any specific institution such as science or practice such as politics.

For a pragmatist the bottom line is that we are problem-solvers. This is as open-ended as it looks. For what is a problem? It can be anything that motivates a person to at least consider pursuing a course of action that will relieve or solve the problem. This will doubtless change from person to person, and will definitely change from one historical epoch to the next, and from community to community. But if a person believes his/her actions really will succeed in solving an identified problem which may be a severe pain point, that is a definite plus! It seems to me that a pragmatist could look at the edifice of modern technological systems and what economic progress we have made and conclude that some of us have been very good at problem-solving — and that there are literally millions of unsung heroes out there who are competent and in control of the bulk of their lives because they have faced and solved a sequence of immediate problems. These may be problems associated just with growing up and facing setbacks along the way, assuming the responsibility that comes with becoming an adult, identifying some scientific puzzle and coming up with an original solution for it, or developing some new instrument or using some new technique not seen before, but which solves a problem for a group of people.


These are bodies of ideas, not facts, of course. Some are compatible with others; for surely it is conceivable that no one “theory of human nature” does the job. I’ve not here delved into whether human nature is “fundamentally good” or “fundamentally evil.” Whatever else one says, we’re fairly complex entities with a lot of facets to our personalities and makeup. Many of us are motivated by quite different things. We can all draw on specific events of our lives, or in some cases events in the world we observed, that became turning points and shaped us. I have a certain amount of sympathy for (9), but I see us as still being very far away from having fully faced, much less solved, the massive problem of how to get along with one another, especially in the face of ideological differences, or how to grapple with the problem of how to control that minority in our midst that I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that is obsessed with power, or even how to master ourselves where we need to. We remain trapped in illusions, not just about power and the fact that some seek it as an end in itself, but about ourselves and our unwillingness to face truths sometimes staring us in the face but are too unpleasant to spell out. Suffice it to say, I do not believe we will ever see the see the Utopias of (4) or (6).

I doubt that my list above is comprehensive. Readers will doubtless think of ideas I missed, or important variations on those I did discuss. They should feel free to note this in comments. Reviewing such ideas as these seems to me helpful, if we are to arrive at some kind of preliminary answer to, “Who Are We, Really?” That is, after all, the first great problem of philosophy-psychology. And in a world that manifests great simplicity in some contexts but great complexity in others, we might not want to rule out anything even if we disagree with some of their premises or think they got some specifics wrong.


This site is not (yet) monetized. Independent philosophers, i.e., philosophers outside of academia, also have to buy groceries and pay bills. If you thought this content worthwhile, please consider my Patreon.com monthly “tip jar.”  One-time private donations through PayPal are also acceptable (email: freeyourmindinsc@yahoo.com).

My book What Should Philosophy Do? A Theory is available here and here.

My earlier book Four Cardinal Errors: Reasons For the Decline of the American Republic is available here.

I have linked to a couple of articles I wrote for the Medium audience. If you go to those and enjoy them, consider becoming a member. It only costs $5 per month. 

And please watch for future announcements.

Posted in Philosophy, Philosophy of Science, Science and Technology | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Superpowers (With Notes on Rules Versus Controls)

What are superpowers?

A decade or so ago, an artist friend of mine and I had an enlightening conversation. I’ll call her Julie. We were comparing notes on our childhoods. What she told me, best as I can remember:

From the time Julie was old enough to grasp a crayon, she was trying to draw. Soon she could draw near-perfect images of faces. Then houses, buildings, landscapes, getting the depth perception just right. How much “work” was involved? Some say it takes hundreds of hours of practice to learn any skill. But if, as a child, you are obsessed with something, you don’t have to be “motivated” to practice it. You just do it, every day. It comes to look like you had a “knack” for it.

Julie’s “motivation” came from within. She didn’t merely enjoy art. It made her feel fully alive in a way no one can put into words when they are doing it. They simply lose themselves in it.  

As an adult, Julie became a photographer, and a good one! Many of the skills transferred. For a while she had her own company, which did weddings, banquets, and personal portfolios.

What I found interesting was the parallel with my own experience. As a child I was writing things down. I copied from books and encyclopedias. I began integrating and piecing together information in new ways, writing my own small items, just two or three pages of handscrawl. I had little booklets on various subjects (the planets were a biggie) by the time I entered grade school. I’d probably spent hundreds of hours writing such things. So to someone observing, it looked like I had a “knack” for it.

Like Julie, I didn’t have to be “motivated” to do this. The “motivation” came from inside. I lost myself and felt fully alive when writing. The hours flew by!

Obviously, upon growing up writing became central to my life, and I’ve written hundreds of items of various lengths for various audiences: articles, reviews, blog posts, forum posts, ghostwriting projects, lectures, and also five books (counting a published novella as well as the nonfiction, and not counting my MA thesis and my doctoral dissertation).

We do have superpowers, I call them: activities we seem born to do. They come natural to us as a drive that appears when we are children, and in which we can simply lose ourselves. I have no trouble imagining others. Think of the kid who figures out how to take his dad’s wristwatch apart and put it back together and it still works! Or the one who becomes fascinated with car engines, studies them obsessively, and is a sharp mechanic by the time he is in high school. The boy (or girl!) who becomes physically adept at a sport at a very young age, and can’t practice at it enough. The boy (or girl!) who has a “knack” for playing the piano (or guitar) and is composing his (her) own tunes as a child, as Mozart is supposed to have been able to do.

It’s not that we can’t learn other things. We can probably learn to do anything we put our minds to and spend the time and effort on, or any subject we choose to take up. But these won’t come as easily and naturally, which means we’ll have to work harder to gain mastery. It will seem like more work. It may even seem like a “drag.” Because we often have to be “motivated” from outside. Grades may be a motivator. Later, the promise of money may be another. Either way, the “motivation” does not come from within, and there is no disappearance of self into the activity.

Thus despite mastery, the person is never as fully alive or as happy doing the work he/she is doing.

Think of the clerk who is a competent number cruncher, let us say, but watches the clock all day. Or the insurance salesman who goes home exhausted after work and does whatever he can to forget about it.

How many middle-schoolers say to themselves as they jump out of bed in the morning, “Boy, I can’t wait to grow up so I can sell insurance policies for a living!”

Superpowers and Formal Education: Ally or Foe?

Do we all have superpowers? Possibly. What percentage of humanity is actually using whatever  superpowers it has? I suspect the number is quite small. This is why so many people honor Thoreau by living lives of quiet desperation.

What does this have to do with education and (since this is a philosophy blog) philosophy?

Imagine, first, an educational system that encourages children to develop their superpowers, instead of one that (intentionally or not) stunts them through regimentation, divides the vast array of information out there into discrete, disconnected boxes called “subjects,” and measures “learning” by an ability to memorize enough content to pass tests. Oppose this to actual learning which involves constant exploration, asking increasingly better questions, challenging assumptions, and getting better at identifying problems and coming up with original solutions.

Seems to me the latter would view children as they are — their default setting one of natural curiosity about everything around them. Curiosity that can be encouraged, or thwarted until it is literally killed.

It is hardly a cliché that “public school” kills most kids’ natural curiosity in short order!

The death march may start as early as kindergarten. The idea of kindergarten is Prussian in origin, not American; translated from German the word means “child garden”: as if children are akin to plants to be grown in a garden!

This became part of a “theory” of education, usually attributed to Horace Mann, a founding father of American “public education”  back in the 1830s, based on a European, not an American, philosophy of personhood and society. The basic idea was that “society” owns the person. The consequence was that children (unless they were children of the ruling elite) should not be encouraged to be autonomous and freely acting agents but instead subordinated to developing industrial civilization, i.e., to business’s need for servile employees, government’s need for loyal subjects (later, taxpayers), and cannon fodder to fight its wars.  

Was this a good thing?

What we can say at this point is that the free use of one’s superpowers may put one at cross-purposes with the needs of industrial civilization.  

The Trajectory of Industrial Civilization.

It can be said for industrial civilization that the standard of living gradually improved — by leaps and bounds.

Diseases were eradicated; new technologies enhanced our capabilities and made life less precarious and more convenient. Violence dropped steadily. People grew wealthier and their capabilities grew still more. Communications eventually spanned the globe. Travel across oceans was eventually reduced from weeks to less than a day.

Probably because enough people were using cognitive superpowers, which can lead to inventions that solve problems.

You will find arguments that the “first world” has never had it better. Although the honest will concede the existence of numerous troubling processes.

Let me mention a couple such developments: at least since the 1970s (1971 being the year Richard Nixon killed the gold standard),. Since then, currencies have lost most of their purchasing power, real incomes have fallen relative to a rising cost of living, and wealth and power have consolidated in the hands of ruling elites.

We’ve also seen a seismic shift in medicine and health care from curing acute conditions to managing chronic ones — because the latter are more profitable to the elite owners of, e.g., pharmaceutical corporations. The masses, who may have become that because their superpowers have been forever stunted, have seen a steady rise in (often stress-related) health problems. Because life, once at least tolerable, has become increasingly precarious with the rise of the “gig economy.” It’s a cinch you cannot really maintain even a developed superpower in the sense I described at the outset if you are working multiple jobs to keep the rent paid, the lights on, and food in the fridge.

Has anyone checked the suicide rate lately?

In many respects (culture is another) we have started slipping backwards. Pollyannish views of Western civilization don’t deal honestly with matters that have had us divided all along (e.g., the division of elites versus peasants, which long precedes that of “left” versus “right”). So much for an honest assessment of the exact factors that are widening the divisions between different groups today.

So perhaps the superpower-dependent gains of industrial civilization were only temporary (?).

Rules and Superpowers.

Civilization needed boundaries, some will argue the obviousness, and these have to be instilled in children if they are to grow up to be responsible citizens. This means learning to live according to rules. These rules may seem to force a curtailing of one’s private superpowers, whether to become that clerk, supplying something some market needs (or an employer needs), being obedient to the law, or for some other reason coming under the general term socialization so that one becomes “well-adjusted.”

We can all agree that we live in a world of causes and effects, and that the whole basis of political economy is supply and demand. In this world we have to produce the means of our survival and advancement. We not only produce but then oversee the distribution of these means. Most serious economists believe that market-driven systems, emerging within populations, are better at supplying people’s needs than command-driven systems that start at the top and go down. Many will claim that industrial civilization did this.

The man or woman who can use his/her superpower to succeed in the market, in that case, is a man or woman to be praised — although envy is more common! I think one of the unnamed factors behind the opposition to market-driven economics is the alienated realization that for most of the human race, this is a dream that will remain a dream. Hence all those lives of quiet desperation. For every writer who earns a good living cranking out bestsellers, there are tens of thousands of us out here who earn little or nothing from it. Some of us teach. Others, less lucky, became bored clerks or insurance salesmen.

The late Gary North thus advocated the sort of personal enlightenment that distinguishes one’s occupation from one’s calling.

Your occupation, whatever it is, is how you pay the mortgage, keep the lights turned on, and put food on the table. Becoming a successful insurance salesman will accomplish this, among many other humdrum “day jobs.”

Your calling is then the exercise of your superpower, whatever it may be. You use your occupation, North explains, to fund your superpower, with each in its place so that the former can accomplish its specific goals while the latter puts you on course to leave a legacy. That legacy may be your version of the next Great American Novel or it may be something else. North penned detailed commentaries on the various books of the Old and New Testaments knowing he would earn very little if anything at all from them. With superpowers, money isn’t “a thing.” They’re labors of love!  

In this way of looking at things, in developing and using your superpower, if the market won’t support it, you are on your own. For some, this means liberation. For others, it has meant deep alienation and resentment. There are analyses, moreover, that industrial civilization does not really liberate but suppresses superpowers the free and full use of which will threaten its structures.

Where Did Nikola Tesla’s Superpower Take Him? From Industrial Civilization to an Economics of Abundance.

Suppose we could create a civilization based on an economics of abundance instead of an economics of scarcity, which is what we have now. Scarcity implies, of anything, that there is never enough to go around — even if “we make a bigger pie,” as Ronald Reagan once put it.

I have elsewhere written, perhaps too optimistically, about the possibility and the prospects. A key is energy and its production. Produce anything in sufficient abundance, and by the law of supply and demand, its price to consumers drops. This applies to energy as much as it does anything else consumers purchase and use.

But this means that an economics of abundance will render today’s leviathan energy corporations obsolete! If the price of energy drops, their profits disappear! Hence the energy leviathans — indeed, all corporate leviathans — have seen technological systems able to generate abundance as an existential threat. They have opted to maintain systems based on a presumption of scarcity, which can be lessened or aggravated through the right manipulations.

But the questioner in me still asks, What if? Specifically: suppose we ask, perhaps pointedly, what was Nikola Tesla working on when J.P. Morgan pulled his funding, and when his laboratories were raided and his scientific papers confiscated and classified?

J.P. Morgan was ruling class, of course.

Was Tesla working on an energy technology that would have created abundance and thus made corporate-based centralization obsolete? I can’t prove it, but some have thought so.

Presumably no one who has read this far would quarrel that Tesla had a definite superpower, had gotten results with it, and that the structural needs of the kind of elite that industrial civilization generates moved to suppress it.

The matter bears thinking about, since allegations of the existence of so-called “free energy” technology have appeared again and again, always in the shadows, their inventors not merely defamed as “cranks” trying to build “perpetual motion machines” but often coming to bad ends.

The better to maintain scarcity, because the demands of an economics of scarcity keep the population under control. Even if it means most live lives of quiet desperation, forgetting whatever superpowers they might have sensed in themselves as children.

Is it just conceivable that corporations, no less than governments and perhaps even more than governments, prefer controlled populations to populations of freely acting agents?

Rules Versus Controls.

What do we mean, controls, and how do they different from rules? For it is true enough, we could not imagine civilization without rules. No one serious has ever proposed such a system — which would not be a system at all. Rules can be moral, legal, or institutional. Without moral rules presupposed within a community (however we “ground” them), trust would be hard to maintain, and those practices (business and otherwise) that form the warp and woof of communities would not even develop, much less be maintained.

Legal rules — “the law” in the formal sense, is there because no one really believes everybody is going to live by the agreed-upon rules of the community, the “social contract” if you will, and there needs to be accountability. Institutional rules are going to be specific for organizations, and are products of those who created the organizations for specific purposes. Their rules exist to ensure that things get done and the goals of the organization are achieved. The better organizations will subordinate these to morality and make as much use as possible of human psychology, so that the actions they desire will emerge automatically.

Including the superpowers of their participants!  

Ultimately, rules as I am using the term reduce to the way the world is put together: cause-and-effect again, to be discovered; the natural world or the human world. Call this natural law if you wish. Rules are necessary conditions for survival, community, and advancement of any sort. They are necessary for people with different personalities and different goals to live together and work together in society. They emerge naturally when adult human beings interact and decide they have common problems that are better solved working together than working separately. Education — the real thing — helps!

Controls are a different animal. Above, we mentioned controls, and the likelihood that corporations (i.e., those running them) prefer a controlled society to a free society, however they couch their explanations around such terms as “the marketplace” and “liberal democracy.”

Rules, articulated, are just formal expressions of conditions for survival, betterments, and advancements of various sorts. Given the right social philosophy, they allow one’s superpowers to come out. The caveat, of course, is not to forcibly interfere with others in using them.

Controls, on the other hand, stifle superpowers (unless someone in the ruling class can put them to immediate use). Among the many things wrong with “public education” is that it depends on controls, not rules in my sense. If anything, such institutions assume that rules in my sense do not work, are not enough — that human beings interacting freely to learn and solve problems is not enough, as it will not allow a sufficient foothold for a ruling elite to increase its power. It is too “messy” and unpredictable — but above all, too decentralized!

Controls, it should also be clear, are imposed from the top down, as opposed to emerging from the bottom up. As opposed to natural, ongoing discoveries of what actually works in the sense of making things better for an increasing number of people, controls tend to be the inventions of ruling elites, those fascinated with power, who develop lines of thought on what is necessary to impose controls on people and either persuade them to accept a life based on controls, or force them to accept such a life.

The majority of political systems, whatever political philosophies and ideologies they embody (if any), are systems based on controls, not mere rules. They often spring full-blown not from natural developments of people working together to solve problems but from the mind of some isolated intellectual, whose ideal could be described as “a place for everybody and everybody in his place.” The idea of the Perfect Society, or Utopia, goes back at least to Plato. Many later philosophers have put forth their versions. Rousseau, Marx and Engels, Skinner — and most recently, Klaus Schwab (mouthpiece of the World Economic Forum).

So against these, free minds (relatively speaking) have counterpoised Dystopias. Huxley’s and Orwell’s are the best known, obviously, but there are numerous others, with more appearing all the time. Science fiction in particular is a gold mine of Dystopian themes, especially “technology gone awry,” having gotten away from its creators who made false assumptions about its possibilities. Generally speaking, Dystopia is Utopia gone away, because human nature cannot be fitted into the boxes the Utopian intellectual wants to shoehorn it into. If people have superpowers that constitute threats to structures built by the ruling elites, these will be suppressed. Since the appearance and use of these is inherently unpredictable, a population subjected to controls instituted in childhood is more desirable to any state of affairs permitting their free development.

Back to Freely Used Superpowers — Someday….  

One day, we might be able to undertake, on a sufficiently large scale, accessible and intellectually honest studies of why industrial civilization has taken the trajectory it has (centralization), what mindsets were responsible, whether any specific groups aided and abetted this project, and more. We might arrive at a better explanation of alienation than Marx gave us (his explanation was purely economic), considering how some, especially intellectual and artistic types, have tried to rebel in one way or another, and why so many of these rebellions have been destructive instead of constructive.

More important is that suppressing people’s natural inclinations always eventuates some form of totalitarianism. This may be covert if it can rely on deception and subterfuge, but will turn overt if its lies are exposed. In any such system, the individual person is invariably a cipher, whatever he/she is told (that he/she can “vote,” and so on). He inhabits “a place for everyone with everyone in his place”: controlled, and ultimately monitored for signs of individual thought that could lead to dissent.  

We might also someday come to grips with what will be necessary to build a civilization based on actual abundance, not scarcity, which would transcend all this, and how we can presently design systems, first personal and eventually societal, that whatever the present conditions will better enable people’s superpowers to come out.


This site is not (yet) monetized. Independent philosophers, i.e., philosophers outside of academia, also have to buy groceries and pay bills. If you thought this content worthwhile, please consider my Patreon.com monthly “tip jar.”  One-time private donations through PayPal are also acceptable (email: freeyourmindinsc@yahoo.com).

My book What Should Philosophy Do? A Theory is available here and here.

My earlier book Four Cardinal Errors: Reasons For the Decline of the American Republic is available here.

I have linked to a couple of articles I wrote for the Medium audience. If you go to those and enjoy them, consider becoming a member. It only costs $5 per month. 

And please watch for future announcements.

Posted in personal development, Philosophy, Political Economy, Political Philosophy, Science and Technology, Science Fiction, Where is Civilization Going? | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Back to Basics (3). Self-Improvement As a Core Value

Self-improvement as I use that phrase here is the process of becoming, by effort, just a little better today than one was yesterday, with the prospects of being just a little better tomorrow than one was today. Is this a viable core value? What does it involve?

Like freedom, though the phrase may sound good, it’s not for everybody. Some people just don’t go for “self-help” or think much of the industry they associate with the “law of attraction” and other New Agey “woo-woo” stuff. (I’ve written about the LoA here.) Such folks see it as nothing more than an effort to separate people from their money. And frankly, there are “gurus” out there who fit this description perfectly!

The ancient Stoics, however, surely do not. They might just be the first philosophers who were consciously interested in improving themselves and the lives of those around them, just ordinary people — “commoners” — who became their students, disciples, and proteges. Their lives and their writings that have survived indicate a viable philosophy of nature that merges well with what the best in self-improvement thinking has to offer. Hence the interest in Stoicism that exists today.  

It all began with the ancient Greek philosopher Zeno of Citium, who had lost everything in a shipwreck off the coast near Athens. He had to start over again from scratch — completely.  

He could have ended up a beggar on the streets. He probably wouldn’t have lasted long.

Instead, he chose a different path. He involved himself in the intellectual life of the place where he had fortuitously ended up. Doubtless he encountered Platonists, Aristotelians, Sophists, others. At some point he developed doubts about the viability and usefulness of what all were saying. He elected to forge his own path and became a philosopher, lecturing from a painted porch in the town (the word Stoic comes from the Greek word stoa meaning porch).

Borrowing a few ideas from the Cynics (example: Diogenes) who rejected conventional definitions of wealth, power, fame, in favor of a simple life free of cumbersome possessions. In the hands of the early Stoics, this led to a the idea of life of virtue lived “in accordance with nature.”

Early Stoicism emphasized three areas of philosophy: physics, logic, and ethics. Although volumes of writings have been lost, what we’ve discerned is that for the early Stoics, physics was the study of the world and its workings. Logic focused on our best thought about how the world worked. Ethics then considered what we ought to do, how to live a virtuous life, given what our best thought tells us about how the world works. Later Stoics such as Epictetus, Seneca, and Marcus Aurelius emphasized the third, and for good reason: arguably it is the most difficult of the three.

Today you’ll find armchair philosophers in Silicon Valley who claim to be practicing Stoics. I can’t vouch for the quality of their thought, but for the past several years now Ryan Holiday (not associated with that crowd) has been cranking out interesting books developing aspects Stoic thought.

I’ll consider just one here — what seems to me the central proposition of Stoicism. We’ll then see how it develops and how it applies to self-improvement as a core value.

Epictetus puts it thus (this is from his Enchiridion, or Manual):

There are things which are within our power, and there are things which are beyond our power. Within our power are opinion, aim, desire, aversion, and, in one word, whatever affairs are our own. Beyond our power are body, property, reputation, office, and, in one word, whatever are not properly our own affairs.

He then counsels: focus your attention on what is within your power. Let go of the rest, in the sense of attempting to control it.

In other words: there is that which I control directly. I can control when I wake up in the morning by setting the alarm. I can decide to undertake a specific morning routine. I can control how many cups of coffee I have with breakfast. I can control whether I set about doing something useful on my computer first thing, such as researching and writing an article, or whether I take the easier route and just check email or scroll on Facebook.

You can also control what you read online, choosing to read certain things while avoiding others. You can choose to control your emotional responses to what you read.

Everyone reading this has a similar range of things within their — your — control.

If you say you do not, that you have no choice what time you wake up, you are lying to yourself. Everyone has the capability of setting an alarm to get up at, say, 6 am, to work on a priority project.

If your problem is then hitting snooze, the solution is not that hard. Put your phone out of reach from your bed. Put it across the room. Or jack up the volume and leave it on a table in the hall outside your bedroom. Those actions taken the night before will force you to get up to shut the thing off. Let the annoyance (if annoyance it is) energize you. It will be easier just to stay up. The point is, you have these options.

There are things not in your — our — control. Sometimes you’re going to get sick no matter what. I arm my immune system each morning with an arsenal of vitamins and minerals, but every so often, something gets through my body’s defenses and I “catch cold.” What I do about the cold, how I react emotionally, and how I choose to take care of myself to minimize its effects, is then within my control.

I may own my condo, but I do not control the community fee on it — which pays for the upkeep of the building where my wife and I live. Nor do I control the fact that I have to pay a property tax. Arguments as sound and solid as stainless steel that “taxation is theft” aren’t going to make the property tax go away. I have the power of selling the place and going back to renting if this becomes too much. I do not have the power to determine the array of hoops to jump through in order to do this, although I have the power of asking which will cause the least stress and tailor my actions accordingly.  

I write articles, and though I am going off current events when writing the bulk of them — I do not control those, obviously — I control what goes into the articles: how they are argued, what lines I draw, etc. I have no control over the response, or even if there is a response (sometimes there isn’t). I have a visible track record online. I have no control over whatever reputation this has generated (if it has generated one at all outside those who know me personally).

I can apply for a job I might want. The things I can control: the degree to which my CV is polished and tailored to the job description, the way the cover letter is written (if there is one), whether I include a photo, etc. The things I cannot control: the response at the other end to whatever I send, whether it be enthusiastic reception (ha!) or bland indifference.

We can control our thoughts if we try. We cannot control the thoughts of others. We can control our actions, up to a point. We cannot control the actions of others without restraining them physically (generally not a good idea!).

We cannot control the bulk of events going on in our overall environment, human or otherwise.  

If all this seems ridiculously obvious, that’s because it is: on paper.

For how many people gripe about the weather? How many loudly curse the guy who cut them off in traffic? How many complain about their boss or coworkers (or spouse or kids or roommates)?

What has been accomplished? Has it stopped raining, or being cold? Did the guy you cussed at even notice? Does your boss or coworker really care about you personally? Your spouse might, but sometimes spouses have their own personal realities, too. Even more so with offspring, roommates, so on.

Far better, is it not, to refrain from trying to control what you cannot control — by reacting thoughtfully instead of emotionally? Reacting Stoically, that is.

It takes practice — more than you might think. But simply by adopting this one Stoic principle and making learning to practice it a priority item, you are engaging in self-improvement: perchance as a core value(?). Do it, and you will change your life.

We can usefully distinguish our world — as persons — from the world. Our world is everything we can affect or which affects us in one way or another, much of it directly and immediately. The world is everything else: what politicians hundreds of miles away do, what goes on in Russia, the latest mass shooting, etc. The primary difference lies in realizing that none of us is the center of the universe: another obvious point and easy to grasp intellectually but devilishly difficult to practice with any consistency. You’re at the center of your world; that guy who cut you off in traffic is at the center of his world, and you’ve no idea what is going on in his world, only that whatever it is, you’re not a part of it.

There is nothing wrong with having informed opinions about what goes on in the world, so long as we maintain a sense of perspective because there is so much we don’t know. The proper Stoic attitude would seem to come down to: get informed, take your stand based on what information you have and where it seems necessary. Support causes that are clearly just and right, but do not assume you can affect more than you are able.

The ancient Stoics certainly believed in taking stands. They took stands within the bounds of how the world really operates, and how human nature works. The world operates as a system — many systems, actually. Human nature involves many systems as well.

There is, of course, much more to be said, but this post, like its two predecessors, is intended as an overview and not a comprehensive effort. Were this intended to be more comprehensive, we would get into the specifics of Stoic virtues. But keeping in mind that this is a springboard to bigger and better things to come, I will develop three final points which might be helpful.

First: philosophers far wiser than I have concluded that the Aristotelian man the rational animal is so oversimplified as to be useless. We are not rational beings who happen to have emotions; we are emotional beings who happen to be able to reason, with all this implies. Our first premises — our basic worldview — is accepted emotionally, not rationally. There can be no “ultimate rational grounding” for reason itself, since this would be arguing in a circle. For David Hume, reason was the slave of the passions. That, too, oversimplifies, but grasps the basic idea that our reasonings, as he put it, are grounded in the sensitive, as opposed to the cognitive, part of our nature (A Treatise of Human Nature, Book I, Part IV).

What this implies (among other things) is that persuasion is not merely arguing on facts or evidence coupled with logic, but touching the emotions of one’s audience. The applied psychology of learning how to do this is an art and a science — and I suspect that all successful marketing in an “advanced” civilization relies on the marketer’s instinctive knowledge of how to do it (understanding, for one thing, that consumers tend to buy on emotion, not reason).

Second: systems are the one factor unifying our world with the world. What are systems? Entities made up of multiple parts or components, integrated and interdependent in various ways, operating together and reaching an outcome. Systems are everywhere, all around us and inside us, all the time. We participate in many. When we use them properly, they drive our outcomes. The human body is a system; so is a business corporation; so is a government agency; so is the U.S. economy. Systems run the gamut of existence from the micro level — cells, molecules, atoms, subatomic particles, it seems to be systems “all the way down” — to the macro level — the ecosystem, planetary systems, the solar system, the galaxy, galactic clusters, the universe itself (?), suggesting systems “all the way up”!  

What we are most interested in are systems in the sense of having a system, one which will get you from point A to point B, from the physical action of turning off that alarm, to getting you in front of your computer (or whatever device you work with) and first priority project of your day without wasting time you won’t ever get back. These we might call behavioral systems. Some call them habits. Our word ethics comes from the Greek word ethos which means habit.

Third: there are numerous ways we can use this information to make the initial definition of self-improvement more specific. Better how? We can be better speakers, but it is probably more important to be better listeners. We are social beings (Aristotle got this right, and the Stoics agree with on this point). All of us can distinguish our world — my world — from the world, in the sense that my world is the totality of what I care about, ranging from loved ones to personal goals and values: all those things that are important to me, including the centrality of my importance to myself.

And by the way, we can get better at anything if we choose to make it a priority. By gaining more knowledge, more skills, more of what is now called emotional intelligence, we can gradually increase the range of those things within our control — a point Epictetus does not emphasize. The caveat, of course, is always to use what we learn and can do wisely. We don’t want to just be better ourselves. We want to help others be better as well. If they want help.

Sometimes all it takes is reaching out. Success coach and entrepreneur Darren Hardy sometimes tells the story (and I am going from memory here) of the woman in a grocery store checkout lane who was obviously having a bad day. Her face was taut and hair somewhat disheveled. Her kid was being a brat. She was having trouble with her credit card, dropping things out of the disorder of frustration, and generally acting harried, telling her kid to shut up as she wheeled her cart out of the store.

As the story continues, the woman in line behind her followed her out into the parking lot, got her attention, told her she had something for her, and handed her a card the size of a regular business card. The card had just two words engraved on it. The harried woman looked at it and burst into tears. After getting introduced, having a conversation, and sharing a hug, they ended up exchanging phone numbers so they could keep in touch.

What were the two words on the card?

“You matter.”

Object lesson: all of us are important to ourselves (the alternative may be a sign of mental illness), and that leads to a principle that should drive self-improvement: acknowledging that everyone wants to feel important: to be noticed, heard, understood; to feel needed, and be significant; to believe they are making (or can make) a difference — in a word, to matter.

The logical, moral, and eminently practical thing to do is acknowledge this, and work with it.

Dale Carnegie probably wrote the first fully modern self-improvement manual with his How To Win Friends and Influence People (orig. 1937) His key to what became an instant bestseller: recognize the above, and act accordingly. For extroverts, this might be easy. For introverts, less so, but we introverts just have to work harder at it. Returning to a thought at the outset, I’ve often wondered if some of the cynicism about self-improvement is a cover for laziness: the recognition that this is a core value intended to pull us out of our comfort zones. Many people are sufficiently happy in their comfort zones, or say they are, and that’s okay, because as I also observed, this is not for everybody. The entire concept of core values is probably not for everybody. But you know who you are.

But some reflection on why you prefer your comfort zone to doing something to grow and be better at being human seems to me an inquiry worth pursuing.  


I should note that this site is not (yet) monetized. Independent philosophers, i.e., philosophers outside of academia, also have to buy groceries and pay bills. If you thought this content worthwhile, please consider my Patreon.com monthly “tip jar.”  One-time private donations through PayPal are also acceptable (email: freeyourmindinsc@yahoo.com).

My book What Should Philosophy Do? A Theory is available here and here.

My earlier book Four Cardinal Errors: Reasons For the Decline of the American Republic is available here.

I have linked to a couple of articles I wrote for the Medium audience. If you go to those and enjoy them, consider becoming a member. It only costs $5 per month.  

And please watch for future announcements.

Posted in applied philosophy, personal development, Philosophy | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Back to Basics (2). Freedom As a Core Value

For this post I start not with a question but a confession: freedom is one of my core values, but it clearly isn’t a core value for everyone. I wish it were a core value for everyone. But the plain truth is, it isn’t. I favor freedom for myself, and for those who want it. I am unsure how to help the rest. All I can do is present freedom’s benefits as we go along.

Several questions come up regarding freedom. (1) What is it? (2) What’s so great about it? (3) Why don’t more people want it, even those who say they do? (4) For those who want it and don’t have it, especially in so-called free societies, what is blocking it? (5) What can be done to remove whatever is blocking it? In that case:  

What is freedom?

I’m not talking about freedom in an absolute metaphysical sense, if only because if one defines free will as somehow acting outside the causal structure of reality, I’m not convinced it even exists or that the idea makes sense. Fortunately there are other senses of freedom readily available.

Here’s my layered working definition of it: the capacity to act in accordance with one’s own choices, and not those of someone else or some dominant institution; the capacity to inquire for oneself how to solve a problem, or just to follow one’s curiosity where it leads, and to write and speak about what one learns without fear of or actual reprisal; the capacity to associate with, and work with, people of one’s own choosing and not that of someone else, provide these others are exercising these same freedoms in all the relevant contexts (freedom does not include, that is, forcing your attention on those who do not want it).

Why does freedom matter?

Here I have to wax personal. I can explain why it is important to me. Others might have different (but possibly overlapping) reasons. I first realized that I was thriving when I was free, and not merely existing.

I suspect this is true of others who have had the experience.

When you are thriving, you are taking action and doing so naturally — not because someone is standing over you with a whip. Historically, did not civilization in the West rise because with the English-speaking world leading the way, we championed personal freedom of thought, freedom of belief, and freedom of enterprise? Did we not begin to eliminate serfdom and slavery? Were we not able to inquire more, learn more, and accomplish more? Did we do all this perfectly? Of course not! We did not become perfect. We just became better — somewhat. I would argue that many of us became happier.

Why don’t more people want freedom?

As I said, freedom is one of my core values. It is clearly not everyone’s core value. I find this unfortunate. Why don’t more people want freedom, even when they say they do? Writers such as H.L. Mencken, who wore no rose-colored glasses, offer us important insights and then some (this is from his muckraking classic Notes on Democracy published slightly over a hundred years ago):

The truth is that the common man’s love of liberty, like his love of sense, justice and truth, is almost wholly imaginary. As I have argued, he is not actually happy when free; he is uncomfortable, a bit alarmed, and intolerably lonely. He longs for the warm, reassuring smell of the herd, and is willing to take the herdsman with it. Liberty is not a thing for such as he. He cannot enjoy it rationally himself, and he can think of it in others only as something to be taken away from them. It is, when it becomes a reality, the exclusive possession of a small and disreputable minority of men, like knowledge, courage and honour. A special sort of man is needed to understand it, nay, to stand it — and he is inevitably an outlaw in democratic societies. The average man doesn’t want to be free. He simply wants to be safe.

In short, freedom goes against what appears to be one of our human default settings, I like to call them: for security, for safety, for comfort. For freedom challenges all of these. Sooner or later, having it pulls you out of your comfort zone. It demands responsibility, and in multiple arenas of living. A free society is a society of people able and willing to “own” freedom, as it were: to assume this responsibility. This includes being honest and trustworthy, creative and enterprising, also empathetic and charitable. To value freedom means to value its preconditions which come down to the willingness to stand on one’s own two feet, discern what needs to be done in a given situation — what problems need solving — and then having the responsibility to do it, without cheating or coasting.

Freedom does not mean being exclusively self-interested. It is a social value. We are social beings: we have kin, we live in communities, we form a variety of associations ranging from neighborhood groups to businesses. Freedom includes serving others. It includes sincerely caring about them, putting them first. Discerning their needs and filling them. It includes validating the people around you. Because none of us is the center of the universe. We are only centers of our universes. One’s own universe can be a lonely place if it cannot connect with that of others. Especially under even marginal conditions of freedom.

I’d be the first to say, this outlook is not for everyone. I don’t think it is even for the majority. We are left with a minority that values freedom; the rest may say they want to be free, but as always, the cash value of what they say is measured by what they do. But having said that, Menckenesque misanthropy gets us nowhere.

What is blocking freedom for those who want it?

There is more than one answer to this question. If freedom is not a priority for the majority, this alone will make it more difficult to obtain and maintain for the minority. But obviously it does not make obtaining freedom impossible because many have achieved it. You have to choose freedom over one of the many forms of servitude available out there. Freedom is not an absolute. It is not the capacity to do anything one wishes. That isn’t freedom, it is psychopathy. Freedom is the capacity, as we said, to make choices not dictated by others: to choose A over B consistently. One is not free from the consequences of choosing A over B, however, in a world governed by cause-and-effect.

There are plenty of things that can interfere with your ever being as free as you might be, even in this nonabsolute sense. I can only sketch a sampling of items here. The field is too large, and runs the gamut from the personal level to the institutional and socioeconomic level to what I will deem the global level.

At a personal level, bad parenting can do lasting damage, ranging from instilling limiting beliefs that may be subconscious and so are extremely difficult to shake, to actual abuse of various sorts. The former may have been reinforced by years of “helicopter parenting.” Parents who protect their children from the “big, bad world” do them no favors in the long run. Children have to be allowed to skin their knees a few times, to learn from mistakes. Parenting doesn’t come with any instruction manuals, which would be useless in any event because children are too different from one another. That said, parenting that is too controlling can breed fear, a sense of entitlement, and ineptitude at adulthood — even resentment and generalized anger, once discerned as such. The oppose, what could be called absent-parenting, may produce independence of a sort but also breed various degrees of disregard for rules and boundaries that are part of responsible living.

At the socioeconomic level, those born into poverty clearly have hurdles to clear that those born into wealthy or even middle-class families do not have. These hurdles have been cleared by many, though, making me suspect that poor parenting is a worse liability. Those not born into poverty face a different set of threats to real freedom from outside the home, I would argue. Parents and children usually instinctively trust so-called public schools to educate and not miseducate or simply train obedience and docility into most children. Both might tend to trust major media sources, neglecting to realize that all such sources now appear to be agenda-driven and have been for a very long time. Both are affected by the entertainment industry wing of mass media. Celebrities become celebrities because the masses identify with them in some way, want to be like them (but without the paparazzi, I presume).

The more you try to be like someone else, whoever it is, the more you hamper your own capacity to develop your own unique personal strengths, and this hampers your freedom.

Not to mention that the more time people spend pursuing entertainment, the less time they have for education — the real thing, that is.  

The top levels are conceivably both the most obscure and the strongest. We are told we live in a democracy, because we can vote to elect our presidents and representatives in Congress — although once in office they almost never represent the will of voters as has been shown by political scientists. What we have all been told at various times obscures historical truths: that “public education” is far more about socialization into obedience and indoctrination into a society’s narratives than it is about education, and has been for well over a century. Writers such as John Taylor Gatto have documented this extensively. It is well known that back in the 1800s “public education” branched off in two directions: education for the children of elite families who would join the ruling oligarchies, and training for the masses who would either farm or go to work for developing corporations (a few would go into government). It was self-evident that the children of the elites would have far greater control over their choices in life than the latter, and over society generally. However greater the complexity and societal layering, this broad continuum (elites versus masses) would continue into the 1900s and beyond into our own century when the oligarchs have basically come out into the open.

Science fiction writer Robert A. Heinlein summed up (Notebooks of Lazarus Long):

“Political tags — such as royalist, communist, democrat, populist, fascist, liberal, conservative, and so forth — are never basic criteria. The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire.”

I believe he put his finger on something massively important: the difference between those who have a “vision of society” as a whole that is more important to them than people in society as they really are, and those who have no such vision. This divides those who see people as needing to be controlled — forced down paths not of their choosing and into slots prepared for them — versus those who just want to be left alone.

The latter, whatever their conscious or subconscious views on freedom, are always the majority. But that doesn’t mean they have any power. Majorities never have power as such. While power is a topic in its own right, political power is always in the hands of an elite: in industrial civilization, what we might call the political class.

Call this the Power of the Sword. Governments make laws and enforce them with police power.

There is also economic power — the power of those with money to support specific agendas by funding them, while other agendas and ideas fall behind not necessarily because they lack merit but because they are starved of funds. Call this the Power of the Purse: the power of corporations and other private funding entities (e.g., tax-exempt foundations).

For an example, look at Nikola Tesla and wonder what this genius was working on that caused J.P. Morgan to pull his funding. Not only was his research terminated, his laboratory was raided and his scientific papers confiscated and classified, which they remain to this day. This strongly suggests that he had uncovered and was working on something the oligarchs saw as an existential threat to their dominance.

Back in the 1990s it dawned on me that a free society depends on either (or both) of two things: (1) realizing that every society contains a minority of people who are fascinated with power — they believe people need to be controlled; (2) and that one of the necessary conditions for freedom is being able to create and sustain checks of various sorts on such people. An alternative to (2) is trying to obligate them to control themselves, which has never proven all that promising. The founders of the U.S. tried to create a system of checks and balances built into the American government at multiple levels: three branches of government with different responsibilities able to check one another; state sovereignty to balance the federal level; the idea of government kept small and limited to a few carefully-identified functions; and rights against power “retained by the people” much less limited and not always identified.  

Sadly, the system contained too many loopholes, and some serious structural flaws (its compatibility with slavery, for example). With over two and a half centuries of hindsight, we have found ourselves essentially back where we started, and then some.

I turn, finally, to globalism, the ideology of those who believe humankind’s next step is to transcend the nation-state created by the Treaty of Westphal and establish, at the very least, a global-governance structure based on economics and technology with its locus of control somewhat dispersed and shared between governments and global corporations through numerous transnational, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). Some argue that the culmination of this process is not a mere structure, its power somewhat dispersed, but a highly centralized world government, its power concentrated.

Some deny that such a government is possible, because of human diversity alone. Many of us are concerned that all this ensures is that such a government would be technocratic de facto totalitarianism, probably run along the lines of a combination of Huxley’s Brave New World and Orwell’s 1984. The ruling oligarchs would have a massive superstructure of surveillance-and-control technology at their disposal, and the ability to “cancel” dissidents by simply shutting them out of all livable economic activity. Under such circumstances it would be very difficult for the freedom-seeking individual to escape. Since it would have encompassed every country on the planet, where could such a person go?

But how would this happen??? Is the situation really that bad??? Some now argue that vaccine passports open the door to a digital global ID system that would encircle everyone, monitoring not a mere vaccination-for-covid status but eventually containing their entire health history, formal education history, work history, financial status, transactions, and so on. The technocratic agenda would be furthered by the reduction and eventual elimination of cash transactions since cash cannot be effectively monitored. Calling this a “conspiracy theory” is not going to cut it. It is not a theory; there is simply too much documentation, some of it from the would-be ruling oligarchs themselves, describing exactly what kind of world they want (and hence it is not a true conspiracy, either since by definition conspiracies are hidden from you).

What can you do to remove the blocks and threats to your freedom?

We come back to: freedom is one of my core values. Therefore I do not want to live in such a world, and inveigh against it regularly in my writings online. These writings presuppose this core value.

Is freedom one of your core values? Why, or why not? If it is, what are you going to do to further it? If it is not, then as the quip goes, “what’re you going to do when they come for you?”

Getting back to the personal level, you increase your freedom by understanding your limiting beliefs and “reprogramming” your subconscious mind to eliminate them. These may be beliefs about money, relationships, health, or numerous other specifics. An entire industry is built around the idea that this is possible.

You increase your freedom through designing systems that will change limiting behaviors and enhance your ability to get things done — be it write a book or start and run a small business. Programs are available to help you do this. (One of my favorites is this one.) 

You increase your freedom through education — again, the real thing! There are now hundreds of videos on every subject, readily available to anyone with an Internet connection and many of them free. You gain new knowledge (of what is true — see my post from two days ago) and build new skills (having learned that P is true and P implies I should do A if I wish to thrive, then if I do A consistently, thriving outcome B will result).

What about the societal level? It would be foolish and Pollyannish to suppose there are no barriers holding people back, or that every barrier is a product of one’s own subconscious limiting beliefs or bad decisions. There are multiple options here: (1) deal with one’s own situation (which is the choice of many); (2) struggle against it by working to change from within the institutions that create and maintain the barriers, using whatever machinery they supply (the goal of reformers); (3) struggle against it by eliminating such institutions altogether and putting new ones in their place (the goal of revolutionaries); and (4) escaping or evading them by various degrees of personal and communal separation, perhaps building a cohort outside them developing “parallel institutions” that operate outside “the system” and reflect one’s or one’s cohort’s core values.

I don’t know what to say to those who choose (1) except, you’ve made your bed and you have to lie in it.

The reformist approach of (2) has always seemed more desirable to me than (3), because revolutionism can go badly wrong very fast — as it did in Revolutionary France beginning in 1789, this being just one example. It is always easier to tear down institutions than it is to build up new ones, one of the reasons U.S. founders were as meticulous as they were.

But what if institutions (i.e., decision-makers running them) resist reform, and continue resisting it? It was the dilemma of choice between these two that one of the first great African-American philosophers and educators, abolitionist Frederic Douglass, touched on in his celebrated speech “The Significance of Emancipation in the West Indies” delivered to an audience in Canandaigua, New York, in 1857:

“The whole history of the progress of human liberty shows that all concessions yet made to her august claims, have been born of earnest struggle…. If there is no struggle there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground, they want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the roar of its mighty waters.

“This struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, and it may be both moral and physical, but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.”

In the choice between (2) and (3) choose carefully. Be aware that even if (2) is to be preferred as the peaceful option, sometimes (3) may be necessary.

As for (4), it is the path of secessionists, separatists, “mini-state” founders (when they are being serious), colonists (assuming people aren’t already living on land they want to colonize), and other independents. Nothing I could write on (4) would be short, but those who believe conservatives are in (or close to) a position of having to separate economically, politically, and spiritually from “mainstream America” might do well to start here. I am not writing exclusively for conservatives. The same basic principles might apply to any other group, whatever its beliefs, whose members believe their freedom is being blocked and that they have exhausted all other options.  


I should note that this site is not (yet) monetized. Independent philosophers, i.e., philosophers outside of academia, also have to buy groceries and pay bills. If you thought this content worthwhile, please consider my Patreon.com monthly “tip jar.”  One-time private donations through PayPal are also acceptable (email: freeyourmindinsc@yahoo.com).

My book What Should Philosophy Do? A Theory is available here and here.

And please watch for future announcements.

Posted in Philosophy, Political Economy, Political Philosophy, Where is Civilization Going? | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Back to Basics (1). Truth-telling: A Core Value

I start with a question: are we, or are we not, better off knowing what is true, or at least part of the truth?

Of course we are. No one needs a “theory of truth” to see this and understand it. Not even philosophers!

Acting on a false idea or belief will often get you into trouble. Maybe more than often. Maybe not right away — but sooner or later. All thinking people know this. Not all of them face it.

Truth is just the facts of reality. Some facts of reality disclosed in experience, some inferred through reason, some uncovered through some combination of these two, and a few arrived at by selected other means. The results include truths of immediacy (one might call them), logical and mathematical truths, scientific truths, historical truths, truths about ourselves and our psychology (human nature), basic truths about systems that underwrite many of the others, moral truths, religious truths, and perhaps more (and naturally some of these overlap with others),.  

There is merit, that is, to the motivating idea behind a classic such as G.E. Moore’s “In Defense of Common Sense,” however turgidly written that was! Here is one hand. Here is my other hand. One rests on my desk. The other is typing. Both exist independently of my perception of them, as does the desk and my keyboard. Therefore the “external world” exists, and I know this. No Cartesian rabbit holes of methodological doubt are necessary since I’ve no Peircean positive grounds for doubt.


It is true that two people live in my apartment at this particular time and place.

It is true that an apple falls when I drop it because of Earth’s gravity.

It is true that Ronald Reagan entered the White House in 1981.

It is true that seven plus five equals twelve, that the sum of the squares of the sides of a right triangle is equal to the square of the hypotenuse, and that all statements that contain contradictions are false. (Unless we’ve cheated somehow, or are not operating under “normal” conditions.) 

It will turn out to be true that we humans are primarily emotional beings with the capacity of reason.

It is true that love is better than hate, and that peace is superior to violence. Therefore the former in each pair is morally praiseworthy.

It is true that systems are ubiquitous — in our experience and behavior, in the world at large (biological organisms are systems; so are corporations; so are government agencies; so is the U.S. economy), in the chemical and subatomic realms, at the level of stars and galaxies, and so on.

I think it true that God exists, even if the most successful arguments are indirect, and if answers to questions about how God works (and the specifics of what He wants) are often elusive.

It should be a given that some truths are very hard to find, and some may well be impossible to find. It is either true, or it isn’t, that there are extraterrestrial civilizations, for example. We may never know which it is, but of one thing we can be sure: one or the other is true.  

I certainly don’t limit my categories of truths to these, and I tend to agree with Richard Rorty that we neither have, nor need, a “theory of truth” that underwrites them all, spells out an “essence” (or abstraction) which we find in every category, beyond our capacity and willingness to see them all as factual. That search for an “essence” was the, er, essence of Plato’s mistake which has haunted Western philosophy for over two thousand years.

Getting rid of the abstraction probably doesn’t accomplish a whole lot. Although it may seem to. This is an indication of the grip it has held on the philosophical imagination. This is something philosophers have struggled with since the Platonist-Cartesian-Kantian axis gripped Western philosophy and has never truly let go, not even in the wake of Peircean pragmatism or Wittgensteinian analysis.

I assert that truth is a core value: not in the Platonist sense of some kind of universal we have to come out of the Platonist cave to see, but as a commitment not divorced from our everyday experience and our desire to discover and communicate.

Our subject divides into: finding (or learning) the truth, as much as is possible; and telling it (our title), to the best of our ability. There is an important caveat: we should wish to avoid hurting others whenever possible.

For sometimes the truth hurts. Truth can be painful. This is why many people don’t want it, and will come up with all kinds of ways of rationalizing ideas that are patently untrue, or methods that lead to comforting illusions.

We soon discover that no one can be forced to accept an idea against his/her will, not even a patently truthful one in front of their eyes, and there is no point in trying. For those who are teachable and can tolerate the fact (or truth) that sometimes the truth hurts, they can learn things that will make the pain go away or at least minimize it. Truth-telling, when it hurts or threats to hurt, should have this payoff.

For whatever else, the world does not appear to have been designed to make us feel good. Our psyches seem filled with tendencies designed to warn us of dangers out there. Some of these dangers are real, some not.

My commentary here makes three assumptions, and it is important to spell them out clearly. (1) I am assuming reality is such that determinate truths or facts exist to be discovered. Call this an assumption of the truth of realism in some sense of that term. And (2), that the human mind is such that it can acquire imperfect knowledge of factual truth; fallibilism. The qualification imperfect is very important. Perfect knowledge, based on perfectly closed systems of proof, does not exist outside of pure logic, mathematics, and geometry. Gallons of ink have been unnecessarily spilled struggling with the consequences, when the simple realization of the imperfection of our senses and cognitive abilities would have sufficed. Epistemic perfectionism leads to a paralyzing skepticism.

What we can hang onto is the fact, for fact it is, that the enormous edifice of aggregate human achievement on which civilizations are built becomes completely mysterious if these two assumptions are false.

This, of course, ties truth and knowledge to problem-solving, and to a post on that subject yet to be written.

It also ties in with the idea that there is plenty of room for disagreement over concrete cases. It is important that this not vitiate realism, because we are fallible. Since our institutions are comprised of fallible human beings, they are fallible from top to bottom. This leads to (3):

We ought to oppose censorship in all forms. C.S. Peirce admonished: Do not block the path of inquiry. John Stuart Mill warned against the potential for harm in censoring even what we believe to be false, On Liberty. Censorship accomplishes little beyond protecting an approved narrative and permitting it to harden into dogma. This protects supporters of the narrative (which may be demonstrably false and is being protected because it satisfies its supporters’ need for emotional comfort but cannot stand up to criticism).

In sum, censorship does not protect the rest of us, nor the mission of any inquiry that aims to serve the finding and reporting of what is true.

I should observe in closing: this is a new series. I am reconfiguring my activity as a philosopher and an author around this site — an obvious choice since I own the domain and control it. Mark Zuckerberg can’t censor it. Google can’t cancel it. Lost Generation Philosopher is on a WordPress platform, and neither of those owns WordPress.org or WordPress.com. So I figure I am safe in doing what I want to do on here, which is create a Hub of content that can be spun off in different directions: articles for sites ranging from Medium to NewsWithViews.com, a course I have started writing, some fiction, more.

Hence the Back-to-Basics theme, which will unite this and two posts to come.

Expect more posts here in the future than in the past (although I know that seeing will be believing). The next one will be on Freedom as a Core Value. The third will be on Self-Improvement. There is no better time to articulate these than the present.


I should note that this site is not monetized. Independent philosophers, i.e., philosophers outside of academia, also have to buy groceries and pay bills. If you enjoy this content, please consider my Patreon.com monthly “tip jar.”  One-time private donations through PayPal are also acceptable (email: freeyourmindinsc@yahoo.com).

My book What Should Philosophy Do? A Theory is available here and here.

Please watch for future announcements.

Posted in analytic philosophy, Philosophy | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Philosophy “Still in the Doldrums”

Time to bring this blog out of its three-month hibernation, and back to its main purpose, which is:  (wait for it)  philosophy.

Whether professionalized, academic philosophy is “in the doldrums” is something I pondered on this blog at least once before, as to my mind it is an obvious topic. More recently, the idea inspired my latest book after all, entitled What Should Philosophy Do? A Theory.  Anyone interested in something that could liven up philosophy by providing it a more substantial self-determining role in the contemporary world owes to himself or herself to have a look at this book.

I was reminded of this by a recent Brian Leiter “Blast from the Past” on his blog, linking to a post from seven years ago. In a comment I opined:

Regrettably away from my desk for over a week & having missed the poll, I would have voted Yes, philosophy is in the doldrums. Part of my evidence would be the absence of imposing or even significant figures under the age of 60, in the U.S. at least. (Timothy Williamson, an imposing figure by any measure, is British; & if I recall correctly, David John Chalmers is Australian & finally returned there.) This is odd considering that with the resources available on the Internet there are probably more people alive exposed to philosophy than ever before. As I try to keep in mind what’s already been said (not succeeding very well), allow me to cut to the chase by submitting that the reasons philosophy is in the doldrums are structural, not intellectual. They have little to do, that is, with metaphilosophical issues about philosophy’s relationship to the sciences, whether it is too specialized, whether it is relevant to public concerns, or what-have-you. Let me offer two suggestions why philosophy is indeed in the doldrums.

In the 1950s & 1960s, universities expanded to serve the GI generation, lavishly funded, & this meant large numbers of philosophers were hired; new doctoral programs were created to supply departments with Ph.D.s. No one really thinks the majority of these people had prospects for becoming the next Kant or the next Wittgenstein or even another Quine. As everyone not in a cave knows, this job market had collapsed by 1975, but the Ph.D.-producing engine kept running full blast (it still is). Moreover, in time the many mediocre professors hired during the boom years were tenured & on the hiring committees passing judgment on which members of the next generation to come down the pike deserved admission to the club: in the interests of full disclosure, my generation. We knew we had a rough road ahead, so many of us prepared accordingly: finding mentors to help us improve our teaching & beginning our publishing careers as graduate students, to increase our competitiveness in what we knew would be a hostile marketplace.

Academia had long since ceased to be a meritocracy, however. Let’s look at it this way: those who shaped the various traditions that made professional philosophy what it was — Kant, Peirce, Nietzsche, Russell, Wittgenstein, etc. — could never have found tenure track jobs after the 1970s, given the caliber of those making the decisions. Not that I am comparing us (or myself) to the giants of yesteryear, mind you. But the truth of the matter was, by comparing CVs it was clear to many of us of the ’80s generation that we were better qualified than many of those on the search committees – assuming publications & teaching experience counted for something, & also that we weren’t applying outside the AOSs/AOCs advertised. (If you get the impression that some of us, or at least one of us, from the “lost generation” doesn’t think much of our immediate elders who found jobs when they were readily available, you’re right! In the absence of stats, it is easiest to invoke Pareto’s 80-20 Distribution Rule: 80% of all that was being accomplished in philosophy was being accomplished by 20% of the profession. The rest were just coasting.)

This was all before the “adjunctification” of the universities really took off. We have no way of knowing if, perchance, the next potential Husserl or Quine or Rawls has no opportunity to develop professionally because he/she is too busy commuting between two or three campuses, teaching five or more classes, being paid starvation wages, juggling late bills, struggling to come up with the rent, & spending all his/her free time looking for his/her next job. This sort of stress-laden environment is not exactly conducive to developing as a philosopher!

The second reason philosophy might have fallen into the doldrums is related. Some will retort (as someone did on the Issues thread a few weeks ago): if you don’t like the labor situation in academia, then find another line of work. I submit that many potentially promising philosophers have done just that! There is no way of knowing how many, but they’ve probably been doing it quietly for going on 20 years now, if not more, mentally gauging the hostility of academia & deciding they would rather be somewhere else! Changing technology opened a lot of doors, after all, & as every thinking person knows, many of the analytic skills that make a person good at philosophy are readily adaptable to computer programming, website development, design, & assorted other information technology fields that continue to grow & change. As someone who walked away from an “adjunct” position (in a manner of speaking), if I’m ever asked, “Where are your generations’ Wittgensteins, Quines, etc.?” I’ll tell them, “Probably working for Google or involving themselves in tech start-ups.”

Do I need to point out that this is talent permanently lost to professional philosophy, whoever we decide deserves the blame?

No one replied directly. I did see this comment a couple days later:

Who’s [sic.] philosophy is in the doldrums? That’s the question.

Confessional: I’ve just about finished my PhD. I can’t and (at this point) don’t even try to make sense of pre-Frege philosophers. I simply have no idea what any of what they say means, have no idea how to go about reading them and, on the rare occasions when I try, end up mostly frustrated and annoyed. The sum total of what remained in my brain post-prelims about early modern philosophy would probably occupy about two pages.

So, if by “philosophy’” you mean that discipline that those old dudes were involved in, then maybe its in the doldrums. Maybe it isn’t. I quite simply can’t tell, because I’m not in touch with that discipline and frankly don’t have an interest in being in touch with it.

But if by “philosophy” you mean that post-Frege heavily analytic, deeply cautiously thought-out branch of inquiry, then I’d say it’s far from in the doldrums. There’s remarkable work all over the place. Metaontology and philosophy of mind strike me as some of the most interesting areas of current inquiry.

So yeah, I guess it depends on who’s [sic.] philosophy is being accused of doldrumity. Mine’s doing fine. Sorry about yours.

It received this one-liner retort:

the decline of analytic philosophy is largely because of this smug anti-historical attitude

I tend to agree. I wonder if this guy (I am assuming it’s a guy) finished and is now teaching undergraduates. I sincerely hope not! I would note that frenetic activity — no one I know of denies the existence of that — is not a sign of significance, much less progress. It may be a sign of something Chomsky somewhere observes (I am paraphrasing): furiously active exchanges being encouraged, and rewarded, but intended to stay within a specific set of parameters. All the while no conversation about the parameters themselves or their limitations is permitted.

This seems to be the state of affairs within a great deal of the philosophy of mind, and the parameters of most conversation within it: the materialist theory of the human person, this being only a special case of the materialist theory of the universe. All of which I discuss at length in What Should Philosophy Do? A Theory.

Posted in analytic philosophy, Philosophy, philosophy of mind, Where Is Philosophy Going? | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Essay: Reading Richard Rorty’s “Achieving Our Country” Published on Medium and Substack (and announcing The Clarity Factory)

Author’s note: this essay, in the works for around three months, is a work of evaluation, not advocacy, and so is probably much “tamer” than a lot of the material to be found on Lost Generation Philosopher. It is an attempt to reach out to that audience (if there is one). It is available on Medium and on Substack (where my publication will be called The Clarity Factory, in light of Wittgenstein’s off-cited remark that philosophy is “a battle against the bewitchment of our intelligence by means of language,” and this calls for clarity about not just what words and phrases mean but how they are being used. The second, I hold, is probably more important these days than the first. After all, is “meaning” really anything other than a limited consensus on usage?

Why might someone find Richard Rorty interesting? One reason is because back in 2016 or thereabouts, a number of writers discovered Achieving Our Country: Leftist Thought in Twentieth Century America and claimed, convincingly, that Rorty predicted the rise of Donald Trump, or at least a Trumpian figure. When I checked this out, I found myself largely agreeing, even if not in every detail. Rorty was very circumspect on the matter, and all he could do was report on how things looked to be going in the 1990s; but was it not the neglect of the worsening economic status of working white men during the era of globalization combined with the gathering power of the culture of “diversity” — and the collapsing of the mainstream narratives about each courtesy of each person’s capacity to use the Internet — that paved “the route to Trumpism”?

In any event, a “teaser” selection from the essay:

A Rorty-esque view of Left versus Right.

Start with Rorty’s view of Left versus Right. His way of putting this is one I’d not seen before, and is far more interesting than a claim about who sat on which side of an assembly back in French Revolution days.

Realize that Left and Right as Rorty sees them are not competing sets of truth-claims about anything. Neither has “accurate representations.” The debate is over “which hopes to allow ourselves and which to forego” (p. 14). It will continue for as long as there exists both a politically active Right and a politically active Left.

Where Right and Left differ is in terms of what they see as problems to solve (p. 14). For:

the Right never thinks that anything much needs to be changed: it thinks the country is basically in good shape, and may well have been in better shape in the past. It sees the Left’s struggle for social justice as mere troublemaking, as utopian foolishness.

Keep in mind that this is how things might have looked back in 1997. The point: there are things Rightists want to keep in place, anchor-points which if it’s not broken don’t try and fix it is an appropriate injunction.

As for Leftists:

The Left, by definition, is the party of hope. It insists that our nation remains unachieved. As the historian Nelson Lichtenstein has said, “All of America’s great reform movements, from the crusade against slavery to the labor upsurge in the 1930s, defined themselves as champions of a moral and patriotic nationalism, which they counterposed to the parochial and selfish elites, which stood athwart their vision of a virtuous society.”

Let’s frame this more clearly. Rorty’s distinction between Right and Left comes down to this:

The Right in general sees America’s greatest achievements as being in the past, made at the time of the country’s founding. It doesn’t need to see these achievements as perfect, just as having created “a more perfect Union.” The Right then struggles to hang onto the great achievement that was the American founding, warts and all. It is not and never has been Utopian (as Rightists might put it). Achievements, Rightists would argue, don’t have to be perfect; they just have to work better than alternatives. If the country has trended away from what seemed to work in favor of things that seem not to work (or not work as well), the Right agitates for preservation and restoration, even when accused of “trying to turn back the clock” (or these days, worse — much worse!).

The Right points to documents such as the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights. It observes that part of the latter’s uniqueness is its built-in means providing for its own adjustment over time, and that the difficulty of making adjustments was on purpose — so that change couldn’t be made frivolously and based on emotion-laden trends of a particular time or generation.

Right and Left have a deeper disagreement over human nature. The Right is pessimistic, because it sees human beings as inherently flawed and our societal prospects therefore limited. They will point to the authors of Constitution as having had no illusions about human nature, of explaining clearly the challenges in, e.g., Federalist 51. Concentrations of political power are inherently dangerous because they will be exploited. Divisions of powers are therefore necessary. They enabled adjustments of the document at the “edges,” accepting that limitations on human nature and knowledge apply to them as well. These aren’t points Rorty specifically makes as they fall outside his focus, but I think they are consistent with what he does say.

The Right, finally, tends to believe in meritocracy, at least as an ideal, in a world in which the best results are obtained if everybody can be encouraged and trained to pull their own economic weight. According to the Left, this is delusional, because we do not start in the same places. Claims to meritocracy are therefore deceptive and dishonest, because clearly, American has never been a meritocracy, never could be, never should be.

Why Rorty disdains the Right should be clear. By looking to the past the Right is inherently foundational. It sees our prospects as limited. The Left can acknowledge the importance of achievements made in the past as sources of national pride, without seeing them as closed repositories of absoluteness. The Left sees us as therefore able to experiment in the present in order to build a better future. History is open, not closed. Political actions taken in the present can and should be based on hope, not pessimism.

Two Lefts.

The Left thus sees our greatest achievements as in the future. We have not yet achieved our country, and the present is the scene of our struggles to do so. The Left tries to make progress. Thus the word progressive which many on the Left use as part of their self-identity. What are we progressing towards? A greatness we’ve yet to achieve, based on ideals of equality, peace, and social justice!

The past cannot provide us with a template for the future, because values change with increased enlightenment. Knowledge and know-how change. Leftists reject Rightist pessimism as nothing more than outmoded belief in Christian original sin. We have yet to discover what we can make of ourselves! The most important point is that the future is not a done deal. For this reason Rorty rejects classical Marxism no less than he does conservatism. Marxism was just another form of foundationalism. It posited rigid “laws” of history. Even if the Soviets and the Maoists hadn’t killed tens of millions of people in their pursuit of realizing those “laws” they would be unhelpful since they solve no situation-specific problems.

Rorty is far more interested in the different forms American Leftism has taken. He is severely critical of a Left that — he says — cannot achieve our country because it doesn’t find anything in America worth valuing. It has given up on national pride. A Cultural Left, as opposed to its predecessor the Reformist Left, has fallen into actual loathing of America. It mocks reform efforts as impossible even as it tries to “cancel” what the Right wants to preserve. America is too flawed to reform.

The Cultural Left, that is, sees “warts” no less than the Right — different ones. They are so serious that they force us to question the very legitimacy of America.

Progress, if it can be made at all, will be involve more canceling than achieving our country. (It is interesting that aspects of Rorty’s views also anticipate elements of what Rightists disdainfully call cancel culture.)

[To read the rest, go here.]

Posted in Culture, Election 2016 and Aftermath, Philosophy, Political Economy | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Five Stages of COVID Vaccine Compliance/Coercion Explained: A Dialogue

Lost Generation Philosopher: You’re written about the five stages of vaccine compliance / coercion. 

Steven Yates: Yes, in a couple of NewsWithViews.com articles. The idea’s sharpened up a little since those. Current events have helped, to say the least.  

LGP: Why five stages? Any relation to Dmitry Orlov’s Five Stages of Collapse?

SY:    No. That’s just how they broke down conceptually. We haven’t seen all five. We may not, if those in power get what they want with less. Three might turn out to be sufficient.  

LGP: Those in power?

SY:    Yes. Call me crazy if you want, but I think we’re being gullible and naïve if we think that what’s happened — or been done to us — over these past 18 months is nothing more than an unlucky accident.

LGP: We’ll see. Can you get into what these five stages are?

SY:    Sure. Stage 1 began last December when the experimental mRNA vaccines for Covid-19(84) were first announced. By January the world’s masses were practically lining up to get them. They’d been subjected to ten months of 24/7 scaremongering by the mainstream media, after all, with proposed treatments involving hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin demonized in the same media, their histories of safety erased, dropped down the infamous memory hole. “Experts” — career federal bureaucrats like Fauci — told us that a vaccine was the only way back to “normal.” Never mind that it generally takes four to five years to properly vet a new vaccine for both effectiveness and safety, that went down the memory hole, too, not to mention something employing a fundamentally new technology never before used in a vaccine. The “experts” downplayed that this was an experiment, and that the FDA had not given official approval but emergency use authorization. All that said, Stage 1 was people lining up to get jabbed not just voluntarily but enthusiastically. And being celebrated for it. There was no “getting back to normal,” but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

LGP: What’s Stage 2, then?

SY:    Stage 2 came about because a few people were asking the questions just implied. We’re not supposed to ask questions anymore. My generation grew up questioning authority — the oldest of us got sent to Vietnam after all, a lot of times against our will, and that turned out to be based on a lie, an incident that it turned out never happened (a Viet Cong Gulf of Tonkin attack). The youngest of us, born in the late 1950s or very early 1960s, were Watergate teenagers who also lived through the so-called energy crisis. So we saw benefits of asking questions instead of taking for granted that those with money and power had our best interests at heart.

But as we said back in the 1980s, that was then, this is now.

At Stage 2, incentives were used on the mildly “hesitant”: the carrot. Lotteries with cash giveaways, bonuses from employers, other free stuff — and opportunities to virtue-signal! This worked for a significant fraction of people able to be incentivized this way. Some got the shots and, lo and behold, they got sick anyway. These were labeled “breakthrough cases,” and we were fed the mantra by the mainstream press that “no vaccine is one hundred percent effective.” Then, variants such as the infamous “delta variant” appeared, and whether the vaccine offered protection from those was anyone’s guess. There was no getting back to normal, though, as people kept getting sick in waves. Some more than just that. They were “fully vaccinated” — and severely injured: with heart problems, severe tinnitus, paralysis! These were healthy people before! Their families discovered — surprise, surprise! — no decision-makers were interested. We weren’t supposed to hear about the growing numbers of injuries and deaths, which were exceeding those of all previous vaccines put together. That was all “vaccine misinformation.” Despite mass media and Establishment silent treatment, word kept leaking out. Many of those who had previously been merely “hesitant” started to say, “Damn it, no!” That’s how we got to Stage 3.   

At Stage 3, when the carrot no longer entices, the stick comes out. At Stage 3, refusal comes with a price. Initially, the price was criticism, accusations that you’re spreading the coronavirus and worsening the pandemic. People started being kicked off social media sites for saying anything that countered the approved narrative, which was that the vaccines had been proven safe and effective. Gradually, the price of refusal rose, especially as summer rolled around. Students were told they’d not be able to reenroll for classes at their universities in the fall if they didn’t get their shots. Others were told they’d be excluded from public spaces: restaurants, planes, concerts. Eventually we were looking at job loss. This aggravated the divisions that already existed not just in the U.S. but across the world, all of which I believe stem from one basic division: between people with a psychological need to control others or who identify with such people, versus the rest of us who just want to be left the hell alone.

LGP: But … public health, and “the greater good,” you know?

SY:    If those are more than buzzwords now. Is something really a “greater good” if it has to be imposed on populations by force? That’s what was happening, with rolling lockdowns destroying hundreds of thousands of businesses everywhere. Lockdown isn’t a medical term, it’s a penal system term. Down the memory hole, although people in some places were getting it. Vaccine passport implementation began amidst these rolling lockdowns despite mass protests in some parts of the world from those who didn’t want it. We heard about community-organizer types prepared to start going door-to-door with the approved narrative to administer shots with the backing of the Bidenista regime that “saved democracy” by militarizing Washington with tens of thousands of federal troops. I’m not sure where that door-to-door stuff stands. Maybe they were worried about all the guns out there in the hinterlands, when those who want to be left the hell alone are willing to back it up with deadly force if that’s what it takes.

In any event, mass media went to work. The unvaccinated faced fact-free accusations of spreading the virus. They and their spokespersons were labeled “conspiracy theorists” (always effective!), called names like “Covidiots,” “anti-vaxx nuts,” the “Disinformation Dozen,” and so on. We now have a “pandemic of the unvaccinated.” And “if you’re choosing not to be vaccinated you’re part of the problem.Anger against the unvaccinated is being fomented. They are being targeted not just by Democrats but mainstream Republicans.

The problem, though, is mounting evidence that the vaccine, not Covid, is what is making people sick and sometimes killing them. Behind this claim is the idea that what the mass inoculation program has done is create an environment that encourages the coronavirus to mutate. Viruses mutate. You don’t need a PhD in epidemiology or virology to know that. It’s common knowledge. But this kind of conversation, too, is off the table — for again, in the memory-hole world of the “fact-checkers” the jab is “tested, safe, and effective.”

Despite mounting authoritarian commands from employers and government and worsening travel restrictions, we’re still technically in Stage 3. There’s a conceptual issue here. The difference between Stage 3 and Stage 4 is blurry, just like the distinction between governmental power versus employer and corporate power. Which is greater? Libertarians and voluntarist types will tell you government power is greater because governments have guns pointed at your heads. Frankly, I find this idea rather mysterious. Corporations have the power of the purse that buys the guns and orders where they be pointed. They don’t hesitate to use this power when their interests are challenged. Libertarians and voluntarists, so called, don’t seem to have problems with corporate power and tell you, you can always leave your job or let yourself be fired for not getting a shot, so no one has a gun to your head. But what happens when all employers are enacting policies you find reprehensible, so that if you reject them you can’t work — not for an employer, anyway? Yeah, you can start your own business, but that’s not something you can do overnight. Most businesses started on shoestring budgets by people who don’t know what they’re doing fail in a very short period of time. The question then is, how long can you go without money to buy food, keep the lights on, etc.? That’s the punishing threat of Stage 3: impoverishment. And that’s where this is heading, creating a population of new “untouchables” who can’t work, something clearly possible without guns coming out. If it works, Stage 4 might not even be necessary.

LGP:  Is it working?

SY:    That seems to depend on who you ask. A lot of skeptical have gotten the jabs so they could keep their jobs. The Stage 3 stick now includes not just increasing restrictions on movement for the unvaccinated but higher insurance rates (Delta Airlines is going to charge is unvaccinated employees an extra monthly $200!) and/or requirements to get weekly or even daily tests such as Apple has started requiring. These extra expenses and nuisance harassments are meant to break the wills of the recalcitrant. Again, never ask questions, or go up against authority! There are threats by some doctors who accept the narrative to refuse medical care to the unvaccinated. Can’t afford higher insurance rates, or spare the time to get tested constantly? Get jabbed! Most do! The point of systemic coercion is to get you to do what those in power want you to do without having a gun at your head. It works on the majority.  

LGP: Systemic coercion?

SY:    Nudges, pressures that are gradually ratcheted up. Coercion by encirclement, entanglements of requirements and/or restrictions — arrangements designed to inconvenience you, reduce your options, make living a normal life harder … until you give in. All the while those behind the inconveniences are cynically telling you, “you’re doing this to yourself, your own choices are causing you grief.”

LGP: Will the Biden administration take us to Stage 4?

SY:    The Bidenistas (“Joe Biden” is little more than a puppet). They haven’t yet, whatever the call this past September for all employers with more than 100 employees to force them to get jabbed or be tested weekly. That command, straight from the White House, is the cause of a lot of the pushback from the state level. Just one day after Biden’s infamous order, which hasn’t even been signed, sealed and delivered yet, a number of state governors released a statement criticizing its overreach: Arizona, Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Missouri, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, and Wyoming. Federal judges are issuing injunctions, such as the one against United Airlines which was ordering its 67,000 U.S. employees to get vaccinated or be fired. Some are organizing on their own and saying “No!” Seattle, for example, is faced with losing something like 40 percent of its police force, something that place with its lawless street leftists can’t afford to let happen. Other police in other cities are also talking about walking off their jobs. Chicago is another case. They’ve figured out at some level that if they act together as a critical mass, they can monkeywrench the system! I don’t think they want to harm their own organizations, but a lot of people are very worried about the long-term health effects of these injections, so that if that’s what it takes to get the point across, then so be it. People are walking away from their jobs in unprecedented numbers: police officers, airline employees, dockworkers, even nurses and other health care workers. We’re talking tens of thousands of people, enough to cause significant disruptions! These last in particular are interesting, because health care workers have been on the front lines of this whole thing from the start. They have to know, based on first-hand experience, that a lot of so-called covid deaths were caused by putting patients on ventilators. They then died, and ventilator deaths were then classified as covid deaths. The number of covid deaths in America is greatly exaggerated, because no one whose voice carries weight in these Orwellian times is noting how many covid patients were put on ventilators and then died, or just making the distinction between people dying from covid and those dying with covid and some comorbidity that compromised their immune system. We’re not supposed to say any of this, of course. It’s “misinformation.” But a few employers — Southwest Airlines is an example — have gotten the message loud and clear, and are backing down.

LGP:  It’s a side issue, but couldn’t you say that if there are a lot of deaths from covid in combination with something else such as diabetes or something else that compromises a person’s immune system, it’s an indictment of the health care system in the U.S. that there are so many such people?

SY:    You could say that. It’s an indictment of a system run for profit instead of healing. As a former Libertarian I’ve had to unlearn a lot. I recognize now, we don’t really have a health care system in the U.S. We have a sick care system. Sickness makes money and health doesn’t. A healthy population doesn’t need as many doctors, hospitals, medical research, pharmaceuticals, health insurance policies, etc. Once, long ago, doctors treated acute conditions. If they didn’t, the patient died, and it was on their heads. But then, especially with the arrival of unhealthy but also immensely profitable processed foods, we started managing chronic conditions for profit, using invasive procedures and legal drugs which made the multibillion dollar pharmaceutical industry richer. We don’t call the latter Big Pharma for no reason at all. Drugs can be patented, after all; natural remedies can’t, and so were labeled “quackery” even if used effectively for thousands of years.

How did this start? Arguably, when the Rockefellers hijacked modern medicine, just one profession to fall under power elite control. Long story, but a perfect illustration of how money power trumps government guns, every time. For decades now the pharmaceuticals giants have had de facto control over nearly all medicine and medical education. They control the AMA, and through that, the medical profession, from hospitals on down to your neighborhood clinic whose doctors have to have medical licenses to practice, after all. Go see a doctor for something, and nine times out of ten you’ll walk out with a prescription for some drug. That’s what the average doctor is trained to do. Big Pharma also has control over supposedly scientific-medical journals because they have the money to bankroll data-driven studies which often take years. The idea that money hasn’t compromised science is naïve. Many studies get results that can’t be replicated like so-called scientific method is supposed to require. A lot have to be withdrawn. Getting back to vaccines, the pharmaceuticals giants have legal indemnity from lawsuits over damage done by their products. You cannot sue Pfizer if you’re injured by one of their products, including this one. This hardly inspires confidence in something experimental that employers are forcing on their employees and city governments are forcing on their workers. Small wonder people are quitting their jobs in record numbers!

LGP:  I have to play devil’s advocate a little here. Don’t the vaccines work against covid? Isn’t there some truth to the narrative? Aren’t they proven to work by the fact that hundreds of millions of people worldwide have now gotten these shots without suffering ill-effects other than having a sore arm for a couple of days, maybe a slight fever?  

SY:    There’s a morass of ambiguity here. Yes, in a sense, the jabs work. They do provide some temporary protection from covid. They trigger a strong immune system response. Nobody says otherwise. That’s not the problem. I like the way author and truthseeker Mike Whitney put it in a recent column he penned for the thrice-banned Unz Review. Here’s what he wrote, reasoning by analogy:

Let’s say, you have a really bad head cold so you take a new medication that you think will relieve the pain. And – sure enough – an hour after taking the pills – Presto — your congestion and headache are completely gone. That’s fantastic, right? Wrong, because what you fail to realize is that the medication is laced with slow-acting strychnine that kills you three days later. Do you still think it was a good idea to take the medication?

Well, of course not! What the believers aren’t getting is that it is what these shots do in the long run that counts! Short-term protection means nothing if you could be dead in a few years from effects that will kick in gradually over a long period of time!

LGP:  What effects are we talking about?

SY:    Blood clots already seen in the AstraZeneca jab, causing strokes and heart attacks. That jab was withdrawn in some places, Germany I think. We’ve had cases already of systemic organ failure. Given what these jabs do, which is reprogram your immune system, if you get the jab you could be looking at immune system collapse and AIDS-like symptoms when it can’t fight off other infections because your immune system can only fight off this one spike protein. Even short-term protection against this appears to be limited and drops off after a few months. Otherwise we wouldn’t be talking about “boosters” which are starting to be required and incorporated into the official definition of fully vaccinated.  

There’s compelling evidence, in other words, that the jabs are making you more vulnerable to getting sick from new strains of the virus. We have this from a document posted from someone calling himself Spartacus. While ordinarily I’d be disinclined to listen to someone posting on the Internet anonymously, the detail and terminology Spartacus provides is sufficient to suggest that we ought to pay attention. He explains why people are continuing to get sick in heavily vaccinated countries like Israel, Denmark, and elsewhere. He says that the intelligent thing to do would be to stop these mass vaccination campaigns immediately. The thing is, as he’s figured out, this not about public health, it is about gaining mass obedience in a society based on total surveillance and control.

You’d think more people who have at minimal educations would figure this out, that something is amiss because cases of covid keep erupting in populations of the vaccinated, and that the outcry would be deafening, not limited to relatively small groups easily dismissed as “fringe.” But schools do not teach critical thinking anymore, if they ever really did. The reason: real critical thinking does not mindlessly parrot and then bow before authority, and that’s what this is really about: not health but population control, through nudges and systemic coercion as much as possible.

LGP:  At what point do we “graduate” to Stage 4?

SY:    As I said, Stage 4 might not be necessary if the narrative stays largely controlled in the mainstream and the employment system coerces enough people into getting jabbed. The number I keep running across is 70 percent. Some countries have vaccinated a higher percentage of their masses. 

LGP:  What would Stage 4 look like, if it happens?

SY:    If it happens, and assuming it wouldn’t give away the game and prompt a mass revolt, at Stage 4 vaccination refusal would be criminalized — or, at least, going out in public unvaccinated would be criminalized and you could be jailed if you got caught. There would be nothing to prevent authorities from setting up checkpoints to check your vaccination status, just as they do now to catch drunk drivers. The unvaccinated would literally be imprisoned in their homes, therefore. Under Stage 3 conditions they find it harder to live normal lives; that’s the point. They might eventually have reason to fear for their safety, if there are free-lance enforcers out there who don’t work for the government or corporations. Violence against the unvaxxed is not impossible. Under Stage 4, government-endorsed door-to-door efforts would be the most viable way the unvaxxed could get the shots assuming they wanted them. If they didn’t, the campaign for a fully vaccinated population would turn openly coercive. One executive order could accomplish that. I know of people who are already preparing to use deadly force to fight back if it comes to that. I wouldn’t rule out eventual violence over this. Sadly, though, violence plays right into the hands of the global control freaks. Look at the massive response to what happened on January 6. 

Oh, and by the way, under Stage 4 conditions, conversations like this one, presuming the possibility of questioning the wisdom of mass vaccinating populations, noting the thousands of vaccine injuries and deaths that have already happened, would be criminalized. They’d be thought crimes.

LGP:  Wouldn’t that violate the First Amendment?

SY:    Let’s not be naïve! There are plenty of reasons besides what we’re talking about for thinking the Constitution itself and the rule of law are dead in America.

LGP:  A minute ago, you mentioned “the global control freaks”? Who do you mean?

SY:    “Our” real would-be owners, acting as if the globe’s populations are their private property. Have you heard of Event 201, the tabletop pandemic exercise sponsored by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the World Economic Forum, held at John Hopkins University on October 18, 2019? That little exercise was designed to work out a response to — what else? — a pandemic caused by a novel coronavirus.

Sometime, right around this time (or possibly a few weeks later), the actual cause of covid got loose in Wuhan. The Chinese started spreading it around the world through air travel. Most, of course, had no idea what they were spreading. The word coronavirus wasn’t even in most people’s vocabularies back then.

I’m not sure anyone serious still believes the damned thing “evolved in bats.” The NIH has now admitted bankrolling gain-of-function research in the Wuhan lab. Fauci lied through his teeth, but never mind that now. The only issue worth debating is whether the coronavirus’s release was accidental or deliberate, and whether or not this thing really is a bioweapon as both Ron Unz and Dr. Richard Fleming argue at length.  

There’s also that Spartacus document I mentioned earlier. Again, I have no idea who Spartacus is, but he’s obviously a medical professional on the inside, possibly well placed, someone who might have to fear for his life if his identity got out. He presents a detailed and technical account of what covid actually does inside the human body as well as what the jabs do; he knows the vocabulary and is clear about what has been going on, including the reason cures such as ivermectin were suppressed. He shows that these jabs, whatever their small scale temporary effectiveness, are overall not merely useless but dangerous. He outlined the evidence that points to both the virus and the vaccines being genetically engineered bioweapons. “The vaccines and the virus were made by the same people,” he says.

That’s from the beginning of a crucial passage. Let me just share the whole section:

In 2014, there was a moratorium on SARS gain-of -function research that lasted until 2017.392–394 This research was not halted. Instead, it was outsourced, with the federal grants being laundered through NGOs. Ralph Baric is a virologist and SARS expert at UNC Chapel Hill in North Carolina. This is who Anthony Fauci was referring to when he insisted, before Congress, that if any gain-of-function research was being conducted, it was being conducted in North Carolina.395,396 This was a lie.

Anthony Fauci lied before Congress. A felony.

Ralph Baric and Shi Zhengli are colleagues and have co-written papers together.397 Ralph Baric mentored Shi Zhengli in his gain-of-function manipulation techniques, particularly serial passages, which resulted in a virus that appears as if it originated naturally. In other words, deniable bioweapons.

Serial passage in humanized hACE2 mice may have produced something like SARS-CoV-2.398–401The funding for the gain-of-function research being conducted at the Wuhan Institute of Virology came from Peter Daszak. Peter Daszak runs an NGO called EcoHealth Alliance. EcoHealth Alliance received millions of dollars in grant money from the National Institutes of Health/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (that is, Anthony Fauci), the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (part of the US Department of Defense), and the United States Agency for International Development. NIH/NIAID contributed a few million dollars, and DTRA and USAID each contributed tens of millions of dollars towards this research. Altogether, it was over a hundred million dollars.402–405

EcoHealth Alliance subcontracted these grants to the Wuhan Institute of Virology, a lab in China with a very questionable safety record and poorly trained staff, so that they could conduct gain-of-function research, not in their fancy P4 lab, but in a level-2 lab where technicians wore nothing more sophisticated than perhaps a hairnet, latex gloves, and a surgical mask, instead of the bubble suits used when working with dangerous viruses.406–411

Chinese scientists in Wuhan reported being routinely bitten and urinated on by laboratory animals. Why anyone would outsource this dangerous and delicate work to the People’s Republic of China, a country infamous for industrial accidents and massive explosions that have claimed hundreds of lives, is completely beyond me, unless the aim was to start a pandemic on purpose.

Final emphasis mine. We’ve got to get it through enough people’s think skulls that this was not an accident, that the global control freaks have been planning something like this for years! Evidence? It’s not even hidden in the strict sense, but you do have to know where to look to find it. It’s not going to leap out at you from the pages of the New York Times or any medical or public health journal or in your Yahoo or Google or any other Big Tech newsfeed. Obviously you’re not going to hear about it on the six o’clock news. Was there a word about Event 201 on the news?  

LGP:  I don’t think so.

SY:    Well, this is a whole lot bigger than just Event 201. Let me get back on track. We talked about Stage 4. Just for completeness sake, at Stage 5, assuming Stage 4 was doable and open rebellion could be put down by violent police power assuming there’s any left, jab refuseniks would be removed from their homes or apartments at gunpoint along with their families and put in camps, just like the Nazis did with Jews and other undesirables. I ought to note carefully that I’m not predicting anything here, just sketching scenarios and saying this is not absolutely impossible even if it doesn’t seem very likely to me. What happened in Nazi Germany probably didn’t seem likely to them, though, at the time.

I do think there’s been more pushback the global power elites were anticipating. There’s still a lot of freedom-minded people out here, after all. And a lot of guns, in the U.S. at least. With their ongoing rolling lockdowns, I wonder if Australians rue the day they gave their guns to “their” government. We don’t know the consequences of all the pushback, or how far those with real power might be willing to go to get what they want, what they might have up their sleeves that we haven’t seen yet.

LGP:  What do you believe they want?

SY:    What they’ve wanted for generations. World government, answering to the corporations they own or control, with controlled populations: a global technocratic, techno-feudal system in which every health detail, every educational record, your birth information and past and present addresses, your work history, your tax records, will be recorded in one place, possibly on a microchip embedded under your skin that can be read by a scanner when you enter stores, government buildings, airports, public transportation, wherever. If that sounds unhinged, we’re heading in that direction already, with companies in places like Sweden already experimenting with embedded microchips and the people getting them considering it kinda cool!

Maybe you’ve noticed, quick-response (QR) codes are popping up everywhere. People are storing their vaccine information in a QR code that can be read by a smartphone. That’s their Mobility Pass, as it’s called in Chile. Convenient for a lot of other purposes as well. They’re on storefronts, table tops in restaurants so that we have digital menus now, they’re on television commercials which you can scan for special deals incentivizing you to use them, everywhere. Even the church we used to attend before we moved now only accepts tithes through a QR code, and I’m sure they didn’t just choose to do that, it was plandemic related. QR codes existed before the plandemic, of course, but one of the things the plandemic has done is to accelerate the process, again, nudging as many people as possible into the digital realm where everything they do can be monitored and the information stored.

Maybe you’ve also noticed, there’s a war on cash going on. That, too, preceded the plandemic. The approved narrative is that cash can transmit the virus. Before the plandemic, the narrative was that drug dealers and other criminals did business using cash, the illogical inference being that if you use cash or have it in large amounts, you’re a suspect. That’s how police have literally stolen tens of thousands of dollars from ordinary people using civil forfeiture laws, and you can go into the poorhouse trying to get your money back. For years now, deposits of over $10,000 into bank accounts had to be reported to Homeland Security, and making deposits less than that on a regular basis came to be called “structuring,” a federal crime, depositing your own money into your bank account, which really isn’t yours anymore under these conditions.

The real reason the elites want to get rid of cash is that it can’t be tracked. So we’re being forced to go digital, and we’re not being asked. This is not something “the marketplace is deciding.” Most of the masses are going along, of course. They always do. Most are oblivious. QR codes are convenient. Convenience is always a good way to incentivize people so that they do what you want them to do. The idea, I think, is to incorporate all your records into one of these things, personalized so that it will follow you the rest of your life (your children will get QR codes of their own), including all your records. Then put it on a chip and implant the chip in your body — most likely your forearm. Smartphones are convenient but they can be lost or stolen. Embedded chips can’t.

LGP:  The “mark of the beast” talked about in the Book of Revelation? 

SY:    Some people are saying the injections themselves are the “mark of the beast.” but I think you can make a case that what I’ve just described is a better candidate.

LGP:  Some are talking about a depopulation agenda.

SY:    Yes, because over 7.8 billion people are difficult to technocratically manage, and there’s definitely not going to be enough work for that many people in a world increasingly populated with driverless vehicles, robots, and AIs that don’t demand salaries. Have you ever been to the Georgia Guidestones?

LGP:  No.

SY:    I have. They say what the “conspiracy theorists” say they say: reduce the world’s population to 500 million to “maintain … perpetual balance with nature.” Plenty of elites including Bill Gates have said openly that “we” need fewer people!

LGP:  So you think these Covid vaccines are part of a depopulation agenda?

SY:    Some of Gates’s remarks certainly lend themselves to that interpretation, that the program for depopulation didn’t begin with these shots but was probably dragging. I think it’s too soon to tell for absolute certainty, but evidence is pointing in that direction. According to Mike Whitney again, once you make the assumption that these globalist psychopaths want most of us dead, a lot of things fall into place! Whitney also shows in great detail how scientists have known for almost two decades that this sort of vaccine wouldn’t be effective in the long run, because it is designed to attack one kind of virus, while reprogramming your immune system so that it won’t protect you against other threats. That article merits a close reading. Too bad it’s on a site that Big Tech sites like Facebook banned as “hate speech” (definitely one of the most overused phrases of our “woke” times) a long time ago. Again, we’ve got to get it through our thick skulls that this plandemic (I keep calling it) was not an accident. I’ve encountered a few nightmarish scenarios of vaccine apocalypse, caused as people begin dying in massive numbers caused by the trillions of spike proteins the jab unleashes into their systems. If that happens, of course, Western civilization will probably collapse. Steve Kirsch, executive director of the COVID-19 Early Treatment Fund, says the number of deaths is already 150,000, with more than 2 million injuries! The Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) had reported 15,386 deaths as of September 17, and that’s likely an undercount if only because a lot of people don’t know that VAERS even exists.

LGP:  I’d think those figures would be impossible to hide. I’m having trouble processing that idea. Is it even possible? Again, hundreds of millions of people have gotten these vaccines. That makes the rates of injuries and deaths still statistically very small. Can you respond to this?

SY:    I already did, but I will again. It’s important to realize that we’re looking at this from our present snapshot on the calendar. One might check with funeral homes and see if they are registering an abnormally large numbers of deaths. I don’t know if anyone is doing that or not. These inoculations haven’t been around for a full year. I can’t emphasize enough: we don’t know the long-term effects because you can’t do long term studies on something that hasn’t been around any longer than this thing has. How many of those hundreds of millions will be dead by 2030, or 2025, or sooner? We don’t know! One thing we do know is that billionaires are buying land in out-of-the-way places like south New Zealand, using their money and power to buy citizenships there. Some are building underground bunkers and storing clean water, food, and other supplies to last anywhere from six months to several years. They say it’s fear of civil unrest, or nuclear war, is that all? Don’t you think it possible, even likely, that they know things we peasants don’t?

What worries me is that the global control freaks have a back-up plan for dealing with anti-vaccine pushback if it gets out of control and it starts to look like they might lose this fight. Especially with so many people “red pilled” now, who know who they are and are awake at least somewhat to what’s really going on.

LGP: What would they do? Send in Homeland Security troops? UN troops?

SY:    Nothing as simple as that! If their gain-of-function research made this thing, infectious but not all that deadly outside certain populations of useless eaters, they could surely make something a lot more lethal. I wouldn’t put it past them to release a Captain Trips type bug if they thought they were losing control, and if they had a way to inoculate themselves they knew was effective.  

LGP: Captain Trips?

SY:    Have you read The Stand, by Stephen King?

LGP: No.

SY:    A genetically engineered superflu wipes out over 99 percent of the world’s populations.

LGP: Sounds like something he’d write. But that’s science fiction, not reality.

SY:    So far, it’s science fiction. We’re talking about psychopaths here, in any reasonable sense of that term. There’s no telling what they might do if they feel backed into a corner. There are, after all, a hell of a lot more of us than there are of them! Triggering nuclear war between the U.S. and China over Taiwan is another possibility. In any of these scenarios, we probably lose the Internet. By that I mean, the entire thing is suddenly inaccessible to us, as Facebook was for a few hours a couple of weeks ago but worse. We’ll only be allowed back online after jumping through a lot of Big Tech hoops, and one of them will doubtless be having gotten jabbed. One of the reasons I think people get the PDF of that Spartacus document and print a hard copy, don’t just save it to your desktop or something. In case it disappears, since if by some chance the Internet gets taken down, you can guarantee, things like that will be purged, just like everything else the global control freaks don’t want there.

By that time, you’d have to really be an idiot will still think this is about public health. We’ve seen what the power-hungry will do to maintain narrative control. We’ve seen waves of gaslighting. We’ve all been “fact-checked” more times than we can count. The “fact-checkers” literally do not live in the same world we do. In their world, just the idea of world government is an “unhinged conspiracy theory” — even though explicit defenses of world government are readily available online, and in connection with the plandemic! (See also this.)

Upshot of Stages 1 through 3 that we’ve seen so far: the pushback has not kept us from falling into a more closely monitored and controlled world. A global-scale narrative cold war is playing out in front of us.

Meanwhile, we are only beginning to see the psychological damage that has been done, especially to the generation that will come of age in the 2020s, assuming it survives.

LGP: You live outside the U.S., correct?

SY:    I live in Chile. There have been protests here, but not about this. Chile has its Mobility Pass, but is open compared to, say, Melbourne in Australia which was locked down for months. Chile has jabbed over three quarters of its population, and it is now difficult to eat out or use public transportation between cities if you haven’t been jabbed.

LGP: Are there places you could go that are even more open?

SY:   Panama, I’ve been told. I have friends there who tell me they go where they please, and no one wears masks except indoors, in stores. It’s important to remember, though, that this is global. That means, ultimately there’s no place to go, unless you want to move to Antarctica! It’s clear: borders can be closed anywhere on short notice based on reports of fresh outbreaks. We were planning on moving there. Closed borders monkey-wrenched our plans indefinitely, and possibly for good, given the more recent supply-line disruptions that make it twice as expensive now to move a container there, so I wouldn’t have to leave a research library I’ve been building for 40 years behind. Personal circumstances aside, the long and short of it is, there’s nowhere to run! You might as well stand and fight where you are. I know folks — I might be among them soon — who are hunkering down trying to wait this out and see what happens. We could easily end up farming for the rest of our lives. In places like Chile and Argentina you can disappear, at least up to a point. The government will leave you alone either because it is too dysfunctional to track you down, or the costs of doing so outweigh the benefits. If the global control freaks get their Great Reset and there are a handful of folks still not vaxxed out in the boonies where they can’t affect anything or anyone, they may just figure, Who cares?

LGP: Is hunkering down really a solution, though?

SY:    Not really, because if we’ve learned anything from history, it’s that power does what it pleases if no one is able and willing to stand up to it. Hitler and his goons did what they did because no one was both able and willing to stop them. Same with Stalin and his henchmen; the same with Mao and his, the same with power-crazed tyrants and their loyal followers everywhere. Today’s situation is actually far more dangerous, because the technology available to be weaponized and used to control people is so much more pervasive.

Do you own a smartphone? Everything you do on it, everything app you download, everywhere you go online, is recorded digitally and archived somewhere. Your smartphone tracks everywhere you go physically. It’s been able to do that for over a decade now, so that’s not new. If you don’t believe me, just call up the Google Maps app. It will pinpoint your exact location. Technology is being used to track our every move now.

If no one is willing to confront the global control freaks, they’ll get their world government answering to their global corporations. The Great Reset, they’re calling it now. They’ll get depopulation, which probably won’t happen all at once but gradually. People will die from various afflictions ranging from heart failure to cancers to AIDS-like symptoms when their immune systems collapse. If the current disinformation campaigns and demonizing of vaccine skeptics holds, few will connect the dots. It will remain an “unhinged conspiracy theory” to mention covid inoculations as the cause, and therefore verboten. We’ll just see the population fall a billion at a time, over a period probably lasting maybe two or three decades. It could be shorter, or it could be longer. There will be enough other things to distract the masses, and most will make our present problems with inflation and supply line disruptions look like nothing by comparison. We’re looking at natural resource depletion and food shortages likely caused by billionaires like Gates buying up huge tracts of farmland. Governments, too, are paying farmers not to farm, which makes zero sense unless you look at things in terms of engineered collapse followed by world government to “build back better.”

LGP: You left out climate change. Was that on purpose?

SY:    I’ve yet to fully make up my mind about that narrative, but something is going on. Yearly weather patterns overall are definitely more hostile than when we were kids. Hostile weather and wars (also fomented by the control freaks) are already causing mass migrations that will lead to still more political and cultural chaos, possibly distracting from people dropping dead from heart problems, cancers, organ failure, etc. I imagine many will be begging for someone to come in and restore order. I think we’re in for a rough decade or two, and its survivors may well end up under cradle-to-grave surveillance-and-control: probably a mixture of Brave New World and 1984, with some Blade Runner and Mad Max thrown in for good measure. Or perhaps Dostoevsky, when one of his characters in The Grand Inquisitor cries out, “Make us your slaves, but feed us!” To get your food, you’ll have to show your QR-encoded vax status which will probably contain your ID and all your other personal information. I’m told that countries like Lithuania have also established a heavy-handed “Opportunity Pass,” a draconian Stage 3 policy with no real health benefits but excludes the unvaxxed from nearly everything in the above-ground economy. If it controls populations there and the sheeple put up with it, you’ll see that sort of thing spread from country to country across Europe. And then on our side of the Atlantic.

LGP:  Sounds as dystopian as dystopia can be.  

SY:    Why do you think dystopias are so popular these days?

LGP:  Let’s wrap up. I’m wondering, you’re a trained philosopher and this is a philosophy blog. Why are you fighting this fight? And does a topic like this belong here?

SY:    I’m an outsider. Largely by choice, because academia is as rotten with corruption as most other “professions” these days. I don’t think it matters a whole lot to the “philosophy profession” what I say and do, so I might as well tell the truth as I see it for whoever finds their way in here. As for your second question, again, why not? Philosophy should have something to do with the real world, outside classrooms and academic cubicles. It ought to say something about power, and how it really works; and authority and when we should question it. Past philosophers wrestled with how we ought to organize socially and politically. Unfortunately, a lot of philosophical theories have played into the hands of the power-hungry, technocrat mindset. This goes all the way back to Plato, with the philosopher-kings and guardians of his Republic. Philosophers have divided ever since into Platonists who thought a strong, authoritarian, centralized system was necessary, and thought themselves qualified to design it, versus anti-Platonists who favored freedoms — usually (not always!) within the bounds of some kind of established set of traditions embedded in cultures and in the warp and woof of people’s lives. If we’ve learned anything over the past quarter century, or should have, it’s that if you attack all the historic “heroes” of a culture, all its practices, traditions, and institutions at once, you cause increasing confusion, disorientation, and eventual chaos. We nearly have chaos in the West now, and that preceded the plandemic. Out of chaos comes “order,” as the saying goes: that is to say, totalitarianism, whatever label you pin on it.  

One of my realizations, close to three decades ago now, was how few of us really grasp the central problem not just of political-socioeconomic philosophy but social organization at any level: how do we place checks on that minority of sociopaths in our midst who are fascinated with power, whose whole mindset and value system revolves around power? We’ve not done this very well, although the best attempt at instituting “checks and balances” is still our Declaration of Independence and Constitution. Could we do better than those, by noting the loopholes those who wanted power climbed through and closing them next-go-around? If anybody’s left to do it, that is.  

LGP: What is the biggest loophole, do you think?

SY:    Money. There’s very little about money in the Constitution aside from a provision that began to be ignored well over a century ago, assigning Congress the responsibility of “coining money and regulating the value thereof.” The Federal Reserve and U.S. Treasury Department do that now. Even before that, we built a money system predicated on capitalistic assumptions that money sets you free, that it ought to be used freely as a medium of exchange between the voluntary trade of goods and services, that this is the key to liberty and property and production. Which is if you have it. But after over two hundred years, it should be clear that a money political economy is a two-edged sword. Money, absent any kind of worldview with a built-in protective ethics of the value of persons however derived, frees its elites to do as they please at the expense of everyone else. It then becomes an instrument of enslavement no less fierce than any form of governmental repression. Those who climb up its ladders to the freedoms they’ve bought can kick those ladders out from under the rest of us, except for a chosen few who share their psychopath mindset. Some argue that the neoliberalism that got off the ground in the 1980s with Reagan and Thatcher did just this, creating the sort of environment in which billionaire global elites can thrive, and we’re looking the consequences in the face, especially given how much money it took to engineer this disaster.

I don’t know if we’ll be able to fix this. I’m not optimistic. But it seems to me, this is something philosophers should be thinking about, how we got here, who the major players are, the mistakes we made along the way, including the silly idea that the masses really want or care about the freedoms Libertarian intellectuals go on and on about. Not that they want to be enslaved, either, though. All this means getting a handle on disconcerting truths about human nature and society that idealistic intellectuals never face. The evidence from history that ‘there is something wrong with us’ whether you call it sin or something else, is literally overwhelming. Even those who think we evolved from lower forms of life have to concede, if they’re being honest and consistent, that we’re “programmed” biologically to seek advantage, not “equality” or some other fuzzy intellectual value, and that a few are much better at gaining advantages than others, just as some of us are better writers than others, some of us are better artists than others, some of us are better athletes than others — just doing what comes natural to us. In the absence of any widespread, education-inculcated belief in a transcendent source for moral values, though, eventually the worst get on top. History shows this decisively. You end up with psychopathic elites who do as they please, answerable only to each other. That’s the bottom-line dilemma of our time.

LGP: So you’re saying we should overthrow secular modernity and get back to God?

SY:    We surely won’t be worse off!  

LGP: Extremely interesting. There are a lot of threads here, and I wish we could pursue them all, but unfortunately we’re out of time. Thank you for coming in here today.

SY:    You are very welcome.

Posted in Coronavirus, Media, Political Economy, Political Philosophy, Science and Technology, Where is Civilization Going? | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Peter Singer on Making COVID Vaccines Legally Mandatory

Peter Singer’s article defending the idea that vaccines for COVID should be made legally mandatory is yet another (unintentional) illustration of the intellectual and moral collapse of academic philosophy in recent decades.


Professor Singer argues from analogy. Disanalogies should begin coming to mind more quickly than they can be written down.

The first is that you put a seat belt on when you drive a car (or ride as a passenger), and when you’ve gotten where you are going you take it off and get out.

You can’t do that with a vaccine.

Seat-belts are also not one of the products of a trillion-dollar cartel consisting of several of the most powerful corporations in the Western world.

On the other hand, neither are seat belts portrayed as “free,” as are the COVID jabs. When powerful people offer you something for free and tell you that it is “in your best interest” to “serve the greater good,” and then start introducing layers of inconveniences one by one when you decline and your better judgment tells you that something is amiss with this picture, maybe you ought to listen.

An additional disanology is that seat belts and other safety features in automobiles have been developed over years, and are known to save lives. The COVID vaccines were developed in a matter of six months or so and then foisted on the populations of the world. Do they save lives? While some will dismiss the accounts as anecdotal, I read accounts every day of people who were “fully vaccinated” and got COVID anyway. If one searches for information on, e.g., COVID vaccinations in Israel, one learns that Israel has one of the highest rates of vaccination in the world, and they still have enormous problems with COVID.

“Safe and effective.” Truth? Or propaganda?

For there is the question of catastrophic risk, which we know with a seat belt is absolutely minimal. Can the same claim be made for these experimental mRNA COVID vaccines?

I don’t know. No one else has convinced me that he/she knows, and that’s just the problem. There is no way anyone can know this about something produced at “warp speed” (a science fiction concept) and then rolled out and given only emergency authorization by the FDA (not the same as full approval).

People are refusing the COVID vaccine not to be obstinent or contrary, but because they aren’t buying what the Establishment is selling (for free, yet!).

Some will call this “vaccine misinformation.” My response: turn off CNN and turn on your brain!

For one thing, there have been preventatives and cures for Covid other than these experimental vaccines, such as hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) and ivermectin. The former is an anti-malarial agent known for 60-odd years to be safe. Suddenly, last year, the drug was demonized by Fauci, his cronies, and The Science. Those prescribing it, usually with great success, were threatened with the loss of their medical licenses. Their evidence was scrubbed from all the major online platforms. All of a sudden, according to The Science, there was no evidence.

One study of HCQ was done in the context of its prospects as a preventative / cure for Covid. It was methodologically botched (on purpose?) and had to be withdrawn.

Is the opposition to such cures based on the fact that they can be dispensed cheaply, so that the pharmaceutical giants cannot reap billions in profits? Is it because such cures would have been capable of ending what pandemic there was in a matter of months, which was not what wealthy and powerful people wanted?

We aren’t supposed to ask such questions in public. Presentations on, e.g., the known safety and effectiveness of HCQ are scrubbed from the Big Tech owned Internet platforms. Why? What are all the corporate media talking heads and Big Tech censors afraid of?

Some will call this a “conspiracy theory.” That buzzword again!

Anyone at this point who doesn’t realize that there is more to this “pandemic” than meets the eye (or is reported in corporate media) doesn’t WANT to realize it.

We come back to: the analogy Singer draws between seat belts, known quantities, and these COVID vaccines, the long term effects of which are a complete black hole. His analogy disintegrates when we put it under the spotlight and look at it in detail.

And incidentally, how many patents do Fauci and his cronies, which include Bill Gates who isn’t a doctor or a scientist, have on vaccines generally, on which they have all made billions in passive income?? There are conflicts of interest all over the place here, and it should astound us that someone touted as one of the major moral philosophers of our era would simply overlook them!

That brings me full circle to my first paragraph.

There is also evidence all over the place that academic philosophy has pretty much collapsed intellectually despite all the seeming activity (blogs, podcasts, you-name-it) — and morally as well. This is an era that produces academic “superstars,” after all. Peter Singer is certainly that! This is, after all, the same Peter Singer who once made the bullet-biting argument that infanticide (not just abortion) is sometimes morally justifiable, especially in cases in which an infant was born with clear physical disabilities. For this he was understandably (and rightly) castigated by that community.

I suppose he would say that “my body, my choice” only applies to what liberals and lefties euphemistically call “women’s reproductive rights.” Another of those phrases indicating the extent to which “language has gone on holiday” (Wittgenstein) despite well over a hundred years now of philosophical analysis, and how we are now going backwards, not forwards.

Steven Yates has a PhD in philosophy and is the author of What Should Philosophy Do? A Theory (Wipf & Stock, 2021). This article is an expanded version of a comment I penned for the comments section under Singer’s article.

Posted in Academia, Coronavirus, Philosophy, Where is Civilization Going? | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Lost Generation Philosopher Looks Critically at Critical Race Theory

A deep dive into CRT claims, counter-claims, the philosophical background, and the realities of power in today’s world.

Critical race theory (CRT) is all the rage these days. One doesn’t see a newsfeed without articles on it, pro or con. Allegations surrounding it have led to disrupted school board meetings by angry parents, and even a few arrests. People have left positions of responsibility over it. Something like thirteen states led by Republican governors have sought to ban it from their school systems. Others are following suit.

Critical Race Theory: Defenders and Critics.

What is CRT? That almost appears to depend almost on who you ask. Its defenders speak of it as a recent field of inquiry, a way of looking at race in U.S. history honestly and earnestly. It originated in the 1970s, but really getting off the ground in the 199os. Its advocates say it exposes the codification of racism in America through its legal and Constitutional system. It is therefore a necessary tool for undoing the long term effects of what began in 1619 when the first slaves were forcibly brought to our shores from Africa, with blacks* seen as intellectually inferior to whites even after slavery was abolished. American institutions and practices remain permeated, almost organically, by systemic racism that leaves blacks, other ethnic groups, and other minorities behind even if the laws have changed and few reputable scholars believe any kind of intellectual-inferiority thesis.

According to its defenders, CRT is benign in intent. Its claim, they maintain, is not that large numbers of white people still consciously discriminate against blacks and other minorities, disadvantage them, or want to harm them in any way. There is a difference between systematic and systemic racism. We may well have gotten rid of most of the former and quashed most of the personal attitudes behind it, but the latter persists as a stubborn legacy of our past. These include visible imbalances in racial and other forms of parity, not rooted in specific intentions but rising out of invisible structures built into institutions and occupations, often as unconscious assumptions that continue to be made. In myriad ways, many effects of these structures and assumptions are too small to be noticed by white people, but they compound over time. Take for example microaggressions. Example: a white professor tries to compliment a black student by telling him he writes really well. According to CRT, the comment’s subtext is an unstated and probably unconscious assumption by the professor that black students’ writing well violates expectations. These do unintended harm and place racial/ethnic and other minorities at a continued disadvantage.

Defenders of CRT contend, finally, that most white people see themselves as essentially “raceless,” not having given race any deep thought: especially those of us who are older and grew up in a less diverse America. If we are white, privilege (also systemic) has made our lives, lifestyles, and values the “gold standard” for everyone. We see this reflecting a meritocratic view of America in which “everyone succeeds or fails based on his/her skills and personal responsibility.” According to CRT’s architects, this is illusory. The colorblindness advocated even by early civil rights heroes such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. assumed that changes in the law would result in an America where you would be judged not by the color of your skin but the content of your character, and your race-neutral abilities. But for defenders of CRT there is no escaping the basic reality that America is not colorblind, never has been, and never will be — unless systemic racism is exposed and eradicated.

Critics of CRT see it very differently. They see an assault on American institutions and founding ideals rooted in a species of Marxism. They see it as antiwhite or “reverse” racism intended to shame and disadvantage white people, including white school children, more likely to further divide the races instead of bringing them together as it invites pushback by parents. CRT’s critics observe that defenders of CRT question their motives instead of directly answering such allegations. For according to defenders of CRT, critics seem willfully blind to all of the above, and at worse, as unconscious or conscious racists themselves — perhaps driven by visceral fear of losing their status and privileges in a country growing more ethnically and culturally diverse with each election cycle.

Respondents to the criticisms thus say that public critics don’t understand it, and are falsely portraying it as attacking white people instead of unveiling those structures and habits from which the latter uniquely benefit, knowingly or not. They point to its focus on history, revisiting U.S. history in ways that reveal events previously all but hidden (example: the deadly Tulsa, Okla. race riot of 1921). They ask why, after over 50 years of civil rights efforts, African-Americans still lag behind whites in terms of educational attainment, income, health outcomes, etc., even though the Jim Crow era is long gone. They ask, in effect, Are we not to have history texts and teaching reflecting the history of the entire population, as opposed to what mattered to the dominant group?

What is interesting is that while criticizing the alleged pretenses of white “racelessness,” the absolute last thing defenders of CRT want to encourage is any kind of racial identity among whites that would be seen positively. Top U.S. military leader Gen. Mark Milley, on the contrary, wants to understand “white rage” (his phrase). A psychoanalyst recently described “whiteness” as “voracious, insatiable, and perverse — with no permanent cure.” A few seem to believe (they’ve said so openly) that society would be better off if “whiteness” disappeared, or was eliminated! I don’t think anyone is considering actual genocide, although it may be worth asking, what are some of these people thinking (we will get into more specifics below)?

What some may be thinking is very much in tune with our postmodern (Fourth Stage) times: race is not a biological category but a social construct. What was unconsciously “constructed” can be consciously “deconstructed.” In doing so, many of CRT’s footsoldiers surely appear to be urging something akin to purposefully shaming and disadvantaging white people, even as they deny doing anything other than understanding “white rage” or countering “white privilege.” Their public statements, using phrases such as “white fragility,” seem calculated to put white people on the defensive. This, I think, is what is arousing ire such as that of the parents mentioned above who are horrified if Johnny, a fourth grader, tells mom and dad that his teacher told the class “we are all racists.” (I don’t know that such things have happened, but neither kids, nor their parents, are trained to sort out conceptual differences between what is systematic and what is systemic — which may be a reason for keeping CRT out of public schools as age-inappropriate.)

One of the “edgier” commentaries on CRT I’ve run across is here. Gregory Hood develops the idea and criticisms of it as well as I could. Some readers will hate the article, its author, and the site it appears on. I would urge them to get past such emotional responses. For then they’ll notice: Hood discusses a few things CRT unequivocally gets right! The U.S. isn’t a meritocracy. Nor is any other industrial (or post-industrial) society. It is possible to soar ahead in a capitalist economy with the right beliefs, skills, and habits, many of which have nothing to do with intelligence or personal merit, and the majority of people do not have those beliefs or skills or habits or inclinations. On the contrary, one might question the ethics of some who do.  

The long and short of it: dismissing CRT as academic mumbo-jumbo, or as racism in reverse, on the basis of a few perhaps careless remarks its defenders or by teachers without a closer look would be a mistake. We need calm. We need to find out what it might get right — and where it goes wrong if it does. The outrage factory encouraged by mass media outlets and social media platforms competing for attention and ratings is getting us nowhere.

If I were to outline the philosophical roots of CRT from my perspective as a Lost Generation Philosopher, here’s how I would do it. Some of this might seem a bit far afield at first, but please bear with me. What we will discover will be surprising: its origins are Western through and through. It is therefore hardly as radical as either its advocates or its critics realize.

CRT’s Roots in Mainstream Western Philosophy.

At the beginning of the era that led to modernity, René Descartes (1596-1650) thought he needed to ground all knowledge, scientific, theological, or lived, on a “foundation” of epistemic certainty, akin to the certainty found in mathematics (he was, first and foremost, a mathematician, and we still speak of Cartesian coordinates).

Modern rationalism thus began with Descartes’s methodological razing of all experience and tradition to the ground and proposing to start over. The idea that tradition-based experience offered an imperfect but pragmatic and acceptable basis for organizing knowledge in society began to die among philosophers. Also dying was a fundamentally Christian if otherwise somewhat diffuse notion of persons as agents in the world, created by God in His image, standing before Him as sinners needing redemption. What replaced this traditional notion in Western thought was a Cartesian abstraction, a disembodied rational intellect or “thinking thing” (the usual translation from his Meditations on First Philosophy of 1641), emerging later in classical liberalism as “the individual” or homo economicus.

Collectivism (which goes back at least to Plato) surfaced in modern times with the general will of Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778), the collective will of “the people” standing above their private wills and able to subordinate them if necessary. The group was a supervening force over the individual, who derives his/her identity from group membership.

Tribalism, which Hood sees as our human default setting predating civilization (and he’s hardly alone!), had found a philosophical voice. Early Enlightenment thought sought to break free of tribal impulses. Our individual reason, questioning authority as well as tradition, would be our means of becoming better than we had been.

Unfortunately, though, the mainline of modern philosophy’s most articulate alternative to either Christian tradition or emerging collectivism was the Cartesian private intellect (Descartes’s “thinking thing” in his Meditations) — on which CRT’s architects pounced as white, male, straight, and European through and through.

The Jacobins saw Rousseau as the great philosophical voice of the era. They married him to the Cartesian method which they applied, de facto, to society’s institutions, especially the Monarchy and the Church. All was subjected to cold light of disembodied Reason. Skipping over the details, where this led was to the French Revolution and the Terror. (I’ve cashed out a few more details in my The Virus of Revolutionism.)

Christians had assumed that problems with institutions and social relations were products of sin, and that it was not possible to wish the effects of sin away with either philosophical method or societal revolution. Traditional arrangements (familial, ecclesiastical, etc.) in Christendom were all that held sin in check, however imperfectly. A defense of such had to wait for Edmund Burke (1729-1797), after the French Revolution. By then it was arguably too late.

For by this time Western thought was fully in the grip of the two abstractions: the Cartesian one, and Rousseau’s brand of tribalism. Jacobinism fused them into one package, and the result was a bloodbath. The Cartesian abstract intellect continued to captivate philosophers, but tribal existence more closely approximated the realities of human life on the ground even as it evolved into national existence under the auspices of the European nation state since the Westphalia Treaties (1648).  

Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) took the next pivotal step, formulating his famous doctrines: (1) the mind is not a passive receptor but an active shaper of its experiences via forms of intuition and categories of the understanding; and (2) morality consists of duties deducible from pure reason. The Cartesian legacy hence continued in the guise of the autonomous Kantian noumenal intellect, shaping its experiences via a priori intuitions and categories, and inferring its duties rationally instead of finding them in Christianity.

It was a small step to the idea that different matrices of categories would yield different basic experiences: different “worlds,” perhaps. Did different groups (or tribes) shape their experiences in different ways? One ingredient was yet to be added: some groups or tribes — or maybe one group or tribe — soared ahead because of unearned advantages over other groups: colonizing them, stealing their land, enslaving them, or otherwise forcibly subordinating them, then creating “pre-legal” structures and institutional arrangements that would hold them back even if laws changed.

Georg W.F. Hegel (1770-1831) took this step, distinguishing masters from slaves, or drawing as historically and philosophically important the dichotomy between “lordship and bondage” (Herrschaft, Knechtschaft). The “lord” held sway over those in “bondage.” The latter had no rights against the former, and the relationship was one of de facto or de jure ownership, not contract: the feudal system in a nutshell.

Serfs were tied to land owned by “their” feudal lords, whose troops sought to secure the land and protect their estates from invaders. This system had operated for hundreds of years. The nation state, followed by the industrial revolution, had mostly replaced feudalism in Western Europe by the time Hegel and his students came along, but for them all this meant was the arrival of new forms of masterhood and servitude.

What interested Hegel and his followers was the different ways masters and slaves experienced the world and how this affected consciousness, self-identity, and each one’s sense of place. Those in bondage surely experienced a different “world” than those in lordship. Whose was the more correct depiction of reality? Hegel’s progeny had their right wing who identified with the lords as having the superior, i.e., more “truthful” outlook on the world by virtue of their success at conquest and domination, while its left wing identified with those in bondage as closer to reality via their experience as laborers and sufferers.   

Karl Marx (1818-1883) studied Hegel. His lords were the bourgeoisie, the capitalist overlords who held the proletariat in bondage courtesy of economic arrangements established by capitalism. Marx concurred that the two experienced the world in different ways, but held optimistically that as conditions of the proletariat worsened they would organize, force the bourgeoisie from power, and institute the “dictatorship of the proletariat” which would hold sway until capitalist arrangements were abolished.

The long term result of doing away with capitalism would be Communism as Marx originally understood it: the End of History!

This followed from the idea of class consciousness — the Marxian variation on tribalism — and the Marxian idea of history as the history of class struggle. If classes ceased to struggle, history as we understood it would end. They struggled because a dominant class controlled the means of production and a subordinate class did not. A few lords or masters had always held slaves (de jure or de facto) in bondage. The rest was details. Marx believed he had discovered an iron dialectical law of history that would end all such conflicts for good, and their end would usher in Communism.  

From Classical Marxism to the Frankfurt School.

Is it unclear what all this has to do with race, with racial-identitarianism, and with CRT? Are we not beginning to see that CRT is very much a product of the Western philosophical mainstream, and would have been impossible without it?

CRT has no place for the Cartesian disembodied intellect, which does not fit well into a tribal view of the world. But that aside, CRT is quite at home with criticizing the entire basis of a society at its foundations (“razing it all to the ground and starting over”). Its idea of race (and gender) as social constructs would make no sense without Kant’s idea of the mind as a shaper of experience and not just a passive receptor; and notions like systemic racism would not make sense without Hegel’s lordship-bondage (or master-slave) dichotomy as pursued by left-wing Hegelians.

With this background in place, we come to the twentieth century and the Frankfurt School which began to organize in the 1920s in Frankfurt, Germany, founding the Institute for Social Research in 1929.

Now before going further, a psychic barrier might immediately arise that we have to get past to see what’s going on. Some have a kneejerk reaction to invocations of the Frankfurt School as a “conspiracy theory.” I realized some time ago that such phrases are code for: this is a line of thought you’re not supposed to pursue. Back off, peon, and listen to your betters, the “experts.” Believe what they tell you to believe.

Not exactly Enlightenment fare!

In any event, we will pursue it. The Frankfurt School did exist, after all. Right-wingers didn’t invent it out of whole cloth. (We’ll return to the “conspiracy theory” narrative below.)

The Frankfurt School was troubled both by the brutal totalitarianism that had descended on the Soviet Union, and the Western proletariat’s indifference to matters of social revolution. They had an answer to the former: the Soviets skipped the capitalist stage in Marxian development according to those laws of history Marx had worked out, and so couldn’t have expected the right results. The latter foxed them, though, for Western workers desired to join, not overthrow, the bourgeois! Some were doing just that (or their children were). Prosperity under capitalism was increasing by leaps and bounds. Their dislike of capitalism blinded them to what Marx had actually said, which was capitalism was indeed an engine of prosperity and a necessary stage of human development which had to reach its full potential before it would give rise to a fully revolutionary class consciousness. So strictly speaking, nothing unexpected was taking place.

Frankfurt School philosophers didn’t see it that way.

They (Max Horkheimer, Georg Lukács, Theodor Adorno, among others) decided that the “problem” resided in cultural institutions, not mere economic arrangements. They recognized a fundamental truth: as some conservatives would put it decades later, political economy is downstream from culture. They broke with classical Marxism over its near-exclusive emphasis on class as the basis of collective consciousness and driver of revolution. Rather like Antonio Gramsci (1891-1937) the Italian Marxist who developed similar ideas independently, they shifted their emphasis to culture. This opened the door to the critical theory for which they are best known.  

By the way, this is why some conservatives speak of cultural Marxism even if the core ideas differ from those of Marx, making the phrase something of a misnomer. The Gramscian pursuit of a long march through the institutions was realized, however, especially when the Frankfurt School came to the U.S. in the 1930s fleeing the Nazis and rebuilt a small institute created by John Dewey and others as the New School of Social Research.

From Marcuse to CRT.

The most important protégé of the Frankfurt School in the U.S. was Herbert Marcuse (1898-1979). In his hands, the lordship-bondage dichotomy underwent a shift from class to race/ethnicity, and potentially to other classifications such as gender (or gender identity), an emphasis beginning with Simone de Beauvoir (1908-1986) more than any other twentieth century thinker. CRT’s defenders tend to trace it to the 1970s. Its most proximate source given its emphasis on legal structures, is Marcuse’s important essay “Repressive Tolerance,” which appeared in a slim volume entitled A Critique of Pure Tolerance (1965).

Marcuse’s argument in that pivotal essay boiled down to the claim that to achieve equity and social justice, basic Constitutional guarantees such as free speech would have to be curtailed, because they continue to “privilege” the dominant group — “raceless” white people — thus thwarting the expectations of the marginalized. This association of basic Constitutional ideals with “whiteness” predated anyone’s using that term pejoratively, but here we see the origin of explicit calls for differential treatment: policies that favor women and minorities while disfavoring white men.  

Marcuse was the leading philosopher of the New Left, his pervasive influence rivaled only by that of Saul Alinsky. Through such influences, calls for the nondiscrimination of the “early” civil rights era, via Dr. King’s call for colorblindness, evolved into preferences: set-asides, quotas, eventually what became known as racenorming for law school admissions, and so on.

The shift of emphasis from nondiscrimination as a process to calls for politically acceptable outcomes entered the legal system with the Supreme Court’s Griggs v. Duke Power decision (1971). To the outcomes-focused, process was an impediment. Besides, how could an employer prove he had not discriminated? Proving a negative has never been especially easy. In practice, what it meant was: every institution hired bureaucrats to collect reams of data on every applicant for every slot to which antidiscrimination law applied. This continued rather than minimized emphasis on group identity, and thwarted attempts to achieve colorblindness.

Pushback against preferences emerged quickly, Bakke v. University of California at Davis Medical School (1978) being the best known case, and continued into the 1980s, the Reagan-Bush years, leading to more cases coming before the Supreme Court (Croson and Ward’s Cove come to mind, both 1989, in which a more conservative Court let lower court decisions curtailing preferences stand).

The idea of rolling back “affirmative action” was catching on, as conservative black scholars such as Thomas Sowell and Walter Williams criticized it in book-length treatments. Sowell argued in Preferential Policies: An International Perspective (1989) drawing on examples from around the world that when government gives favors to some at the expense of others, the others eventually rebel, their rebellion hardens if ignored or suppressed, until it explodes into violence. Though Sowell doesn’t emphasize it as much, this was surely the impulse for just instead of differential treatment that fueled the original civil rights movement.

The rising conservative influence had to be countered, one might say. The results were aggregated under the pejorative label political correctness: campus speech codes, for example, and clear intellectual favoritism for, e.g., “third wave” feminists, as for reasons CRT claimed to be able to explain, not very many blacks were seeking academic careers. But white women were. Those troubled by obvious differential treatment favoring women on campuses felt the chilling effect as they watched the playing out of what Marcuse had advocated regarding race/ethnicity two and a half decades before. The so-called “culture wars” riveted a lot of people’s attention, and it was during this period, the 1990s, that CRT took off among left academics.  

Critical Race Theory Emerges.

CRT’s own advocates don’t talk about much (if any) of the above. Their own voluminous writings lament the continuing inequities between whites and other ethnic groups (except Asians and Jews), the failure of so many blacks to make substantial progress, and attributing lack of progress in large part to the delusion of colorblindness which only perpetuates systemic racism and stereotyping. As for political correctness: it is a right-wing invention against a world in which words and actions that reflect bias are no longer accepted.

Thus we hear from spokespersons such as Kimberlé Crenshaw (1959-       ), the legal theorist who originated the phrase critical race theory, came up with the idea of intersectionality, and arguably became the prime mover of identity politics as it developed in the new millennium. Other major contributors to CRT include Derrick Bell, Angela Y. Davis, Charles Lawrence III, Mari Matsuda, Cornel West, bell hooks, Richard Delgado, Eduardo Bonilla-Silva, Ibram X. Kendi (who coined the phrase anti-racism), and Robin Diangelo (author of White Fragility in 2018), among others.

Collectively, these women and men argue what we outlined in our opening section, that despite Supreme Court decisions going back at least to Brown in 1954, executive orders (EO 10925 signed by John F. Kennedy, EO 11246 signed by Lyndon B. Johnson) and laws passed (Civil Rights Act of 1964, Voting Rights Act of 1965, Fair Housing Act of 1968, among others), actual changes under the auspices of liberalism had been cosmetic and not fundamental.

What followed was that either there were actual race differences of the sort Charles Herrnstein and Charles Murray would champion in the most controversial chapters of their The Bell Curve (1994), an idea most scholars found abhorrent and repudiated vigorously, or there was something structurally (that is, systemically) wrong that eluded such corrections, and which liberals failed to grasp.  

Here’s where things get even more interesting.

For in this author’s view, among the things CRT gets right, alluded to above, is holding that structural elements built into Western civilization ensuring that meritocracy is largely a myth, are real and not simply hoked up by left-leaning academics. These are not mere products of any legal system, though legal systems and some of their premises give them sanction. The result is unearned advantages or privileges for some at the expense of others.

Note that the last paragraph doesn’t identify who has the unearned advantages and privileges. That is purposeful. We will return to it.

Continuing with CRT’s recent history: New York Times journalist and historian Nikole Hannah-Jones (1976-      ) developed the 1619 Project designed to unveil the full history and role of slavery in America, the jumping-off point for which was 1619 when African slaves were first brought to the U.S. She clearly overreached with her claim that the colonists fought the War for Independence to preserve slavery. Nevertheless, we had/have the three-fifths compromise, the ownership of slaves by many of the founders continuing into the 1800s, and eventually Supreme Court decisions such as Dred Scott (1857). All these, in CRT hands, served to undermine the idea that the U.S. was founded just on “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”  

We already noted a key postmodernist assumption that race is socially constructed, not read out of the biological world; the same with gender / gender identify, national origin, and so on, leading to compounded discrimination from combinations of these (intersectionality).

The idea, finally, is not just to study these systemic features from the past but set about to change them in the present.

This has put CRT’s advocates in a bit of a bind, since they insist they do not reject Constitutional government, are not antiwhite racists wanting a new form of educational segregation, do not advocate hostility towards or self-loathing among white people. What they say they want is a frank acknowledgment by whites of systemic racism and unnoticed white privilege built into institutions that will lead to systemic changes.

What is unclear is what this last amounts to, or where we go from there, especially given some of the hotheaded remarks cited by Paul Craig Roberts in the article I linked to above. Let me quote one recent case:

This is the cost of talking to white people at all. The cost of your own life, as they suck you dry. There are no good apples out there. White people make my blood boil. … I had fantasies of unloading a revolver into the head of any white person that got in my way, burying their body and wiping my bloody hands as I walked away relatively guiltless with a bounce in my step. Like I did the world a f***ing favor.

This is from a lecture entitled “The Psychopathic Problem of the White Mind” by a psychiatrist (not psychologist?) named Aruna Khilanani speaking before the Yale University School of Medicine. To their credit, Yale administrators repudiated the remark. Under fire from across the political spectrum, what choice did they have?

This is just one such case. There are numerous others, some from white scholars such as the above-mentioned psychoanalyst whose name is Donald Moss and who wrote (this is from the abstract, unedited, to an article entitled “On Having Whiteness”): 

Whiteness is a condition one first acquires and then one has — a malignant, parasitic-like condition to which “white” people have a particular susceptibility. The condition is foundational, generating characteristic ways of being in one’s body, in one’s mind, and in one’s world. Parasitic Whiteness renders its hosts’ appetites voracious, insatiable, and perverse. These deformed appetites particularly target nonwhite peoples. Once established, these appetites are nearly impossible to eliminate. Effective treatment consists of a combination of psychic and social-historical interventions. Such interventions can reasonably aim only to reshape Whiteness’s infiltrated appetites—to reduce their intensity, redistribute their aims, and occasionally turn those aims toward the work of reparation. 

No hatred being expressed of whites? No self-loathing whites encouraging other white people to self-loathe? No, I did not read the article. Its abstract was enough.

These of course could be statistical outliers. But their visibility and likelihood of provoking strong reactions makes them more, playing directly into the hands of those who see CRT as divisive and destructive.

There have been white people who quit their jobs out of sheer frustration, perhaps having been forced to listen to this sort of thing, some leaving behind angered missives like this one. White rage? I have to wonder if such folks really have any “privileges” worth speaking of, or any prospects of such — especially since in the present cultural climate, when word of such statements gets around on social media, their authors find themselves unemployable.

So if CRT is right about pervasive structural features built into American society, where does it go wrong?

Where Critical Race Theory Goes Seriously Wrong and Becomes Useless.

The first and most painfully obvious thing CRT gets wrong — Hood’s article discussed this at some length — is that white people collectively have no economic or cultural power; most have no substantive privileges, direct or otherwise, that would justify blanket usage of the term “white privilege.”

Saying this may not fit Hegelian philosophy or its stepchildren, but it surely the explains the gut-level reactions many people are having, from Republican governors down to the ex-employee who penned the tweet linked to above.

Not only are white people not an abstract collective or tribe, very few are or ever have been anywhere near levers of real power.

CRT’s defenders will reply at once that one need not be anywhere near such levers to do real damage. Derek Chauvin had authority but was nowhere near the levers of real power.

The answer is, no, of course not; but that there have been plenty of whites also killed by white cops (and a few by black cops). Whites have lynched blacks in the past; but with cases such as the Wichita Horror and many others (see here and here for just two months of cases as this is published), blacks seem almost to be trying to catch up! Their victims’ “white privilege” did not save them!  

Cases of open violence aside, this is the central drawback of looking at people as abstract collectives — which do not even qualify as tribes as they are not real — even overlapping abstract collectives enabling academic discourses about intersectionality.

Every white person who lost a job during the meltdown of 2008, or who found himself unemployed and eyebrow-deep in debt after his job was outsourced to a third world country for cheap labor before that crisis erupted, understands viscerally that he has no privileges that amount to anything. The same is true of every white person who finds himself made expendable by a robot that will do his job for free.

Whites, especially rural whites, are the only group whose rates of job loss, chronic illness, depression, substance abuse, and suicide have been going up since CRT surfaced. I am not asserting a causal connection here. What I am asserting is that the actual structures of these populations — or lack of, in the necessary sense — creates problems for those who think these people have invisible privileges.

It might be helpful to add that neither are American blacks an abstract collective. There is more diversity within any actual group than there is between groups. Attempts at, say, reparations for slavery (advocated by CRT theorists) would result in a bureaucratic nightmare, given that when we look at ethnic populations we are not looking at systems but heaps — like sand grains coming and going on a beach rather than organized and semi-permanent structures. How would anyone go about deciding which black person is owed what, and by whom — especially as the ancestors of many people today deemed “white” by bureaucrats (hardly a “social construct” where bureaucratic purposes are concerned) were not even in the U.S. when chattel slavery existed. Decisions would ultimately be arbitrary, and almost immediately everyone would be crying foul — whites whose ancestors weren’t in the U.S. when slavery was practiced and blacks complaining of not receiving enough.  

Career academics of whatever ethnicity, protected by tenure and in some cases able to bid up their salaries because of their status as minority scholars (for which Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Cornel West have become infamous), manifestly don’t get any of this. The majority of academics look at the world through the “lens” created by their educations, received from professors who also never worked (or worked very little) outside of academia. This includes most professional philosophers even if they’ve gallantly tried to step outside the Platonic-Cartesian-Kantian axis.

This may seem manifestly unfair, but I was there and can certify: most university faculty would starve if they had to work outside academia. They’ve little understanding of how the nonacademic world works. Looking at it through categories familiar to them, they miss things that became obvious to those of us who left academia and struck out on our own, while continuing to explore and write and publish our research, especially about the barriers some of us did face and how they led us gradually to insights into how power really operates in this world.

Critical theory in its general sense that predates CRT originally aimed at identifying and studying arrangements of power and domination, and the effects these had on perception and on what we take to be knowledge. It associated the locus of power in these arrangements with concentrations of capital, and hence morphed into a critical analysis of capitalism — one which had the potential to go beyond anything Marx was able to accomplish given the limits of his time.

And here we return to that stumbling block that has doubtless hobbled many an analysis of how power operates in Western industrial civilization.  

Whether consciously or not, critical theorists wanted to analyze power but did not want to be branded “crazy conspiracy theorists” (especially once the CIA weaponized that phrase back in 1967!) So they stayed within comfortable Hegelian-derived categories and located power (and eventually the systemic biases CRT theorists claimed to see) in the system itself and in what they took to be the dominant population, not in organized groups operating clandestinely or specific personalities whose immense wealth enabled them to dominate key sectors of industrial civilization.

Critical theory thus avoided the idea that the industrial system itself generates super-elites (a phrase I use to refer to extremely wealthy persons and groups who operate internationally and clandestinely, as opposed to the visible national elites we see at the helms of governments) as it creates the systems they study.

They do not note that super-elites develop and enhance those sectors, or parts of the system, that advantage them with privileges. At the center of these sectors are global finance and its institutions which include central banks as well as corporate leviathans such as Goldman-Sachs, and appendages of loyalists extending into government, corporate media, higher education (via endowments), and elsewhere. Have critical theorists noticed how super-elite goals and systemic effects feed off one another in a kind of symbiosis? These have led to disadvantages for all the rest of us, regardless of race/ethnicity, gender identity, national identity, or profession. Super-elites almost automatically use money in ways that privilege themselves and their own while blocking the paths of those outside their orbit, especially if they advocate beliefs, practices, or ideologies seen as opposing their goals for the world.

It now seems entirely credible that racism is itself a super-elite product: engineered by the super-elites of the late 1800s who feared that working class whites and former slaves might begin comparing notes, as it were, realizing that their commonalities rooted in class exceeded their differences. (See also this, this, and perhaps this.) Efforts to keep those outside elite groups divided and hostile toward one another continue to this day.

Is this a “crazy conspiracy theory”? If it is, make the best of it!

A few academics developed elite-focused analyses. Sociologist C. Wright Mills (1916-1962) comes to mind, with his The Power Elite (1956) which coined that phrase. Some of the super-elite’s own members have opened up about where they thought the world was going, or about the world they wanted to see. One example is Zbigniew Brzezinski (1928-2017), who went from academia to co-founder of the Trilateral Commission to National Security Advisor in the Carter Administration. In the book that made his career, he wrote:

The nation-state as a fundamental unit of man’s organized life has ceased to be the principle creative force. International banks and multinational corporations are acting and planning in terms that are far in advance of the political concepts of the nation-state…. Today we are … witnessing the emergence of transnational elites … they are composed of international businessmen, scholars, professional men, and public officials…. These global communities are gaining in strength and … it is likely that before long the social elites of most of the more advanced countries will be highly internationalist or globalist in spirit and outlook….

…. More directly linked to the impact of technology, [the threat to liberal democracy] involves the gradual appearance of a more controlled and directed society. Such a society would be dominated by an elite whose claim to political power would rest on allegedly superior scientific know-how. Unhindered by the restraints of traditional liberal values, this elite would not hesitate to achieve its political ends by using the latest modern techniques for influencing public behavior and keeping society under close surveillance and control. (Between Two Ages: America’s Role in the Technetronic Era, 1970, pp. 56, 59, 252-53)

David Rockefeller Sr. (1915-2017), another Trilateral Commission cofounder (the third was Henry Kissinger) who, for decades, sat at the helm of Chase-Manhattan Bank and the prestigious Council on Foreign Relations, offered this succinct and, one would think, obvious case for a superelite analysis:

For more than a century ideological extremists at either end of the political spectrum have seized upon well-publicized incidents such as my encounter with Castro to attack the Rockefeller family for the inordinate influence they claim we wield over American political and economic institutions. Some even believe we are part of a secret cabal working against the best interests of the United States, characterizing my family and me as “internationalists” and of conspiring with others around the world to build a more integrated global political and economic structure — one world, if you will. If that’s the charge, I stand guilty, and I am proud of it (David Rockefeller Sr., Memoirs, 2004, p. 405).

Rockefeller thus admitted openly to being a key member of what I am calling a super-elite, working “to build a more integrated global political and economic structure”: centralization, a consequence of which is control over our lives is significantly reduced.

Both Brzezinski and Rockefeller have gone to their eternal reward (or something like that). Klaus Schwab has stepped up in their place. He originally founded the influential World Economic Forum which in a typical year meets each January in Davos, Switzerland. At WEF confabs, invited members of the global billionaire class foreseen by Brzezinski plan “our” technologically and globally integrated future, the future they see for the world. Recently Schwab wrote reflecting on some of the advances corporations have made, only intimating the technocratic uses to which they could be put:

Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies will not stop at becoming part of the physical world around us — they will become part of us. Indeed, some of us already feel that our smartphones have become an extension of ourselves. Today’s external devices — from wearable computers to virtual reality headsets — will almost certainly become implantable in our bodies and brains. Exoskeletons and prosthetics will increase our physical power, while advances in neurotechnology enhance our cognitive abilities. We will become better able to manipulate our own genes, and those of our children. These developments raise profound questions: Where do we draw the line between human and machine? What does it mean to be human?  (Klaus Schwab, Shaping the Future, p. 42).

Why are we quoting such authors in the context of a philosophical discussion of CRT? To emphasize that there is a much larger picture here, and CRT misses it completely!

Note what is not here: no Illuminati, or reptilians or space aliens; nothing about us not going to the moon or the Earth being flat and NASA hiding it. Not even QAnon or pedophiles or Elvis being alive. None of the things currently being held up to malign “conspiracy theorists.” What we are saying: (1) there is, and for quite some time now has been, a super-elite; (2) it has risen with, and is part and parcel with, centralized and monetized industrial civilization, continuing into the information age; that (3) its members are interested in “a more integrated global political and economic structure,” i.e., globalistdomination, using whatever technology is available and serves their purposes; and that finally, bringing us back to CRT, (4) they allow, through educational institutions and media corporations, narratives that function as mass distractions while they do their work of building a technocratic and neo-feudal order based on surveillance and control.  

This is the power system that eludes CRT, and always will, as long as its leaders continue swinging at windmills made of “whiteness.”

Those of us who found ourselves developing super-elite analyses of civilization have ended up on the margins of the intellectual world. We discovered critical theory, drawing attention as it did to structural features of the industrial and information age political economy that affect perceptions and knowledge via narratives (e.g., about “liberal democracy”). But we didn’t stop there. For we figured out that what matters is where money flows, because where money flows, power flows; and super-elites have spent billions on projects they wanted.

Sometimes CRT and its offshoots (Black Lives Matter comes to mind) have benefited from these money flows, via corporate dollars, to divert attention from what is really happening and ensure that whatever activists do, however disruptive they become (or are perceived as such by others as being), they will never threaten real power.  

I thus stand unconvinced that CRT in anything like its present form is going to do anything to advance the standing of African-Americans or other minorities, and for a very simple reason: the super-elites do not care two iotas about the interests of ethnic or other minorities. What are they concerned with? Building that consolidated world structure, a system to cage us all within invisible bars of surveillance and control, many of them marketed and accepted willingly.

Take the above authors at their word. They are basically soft Platonists, with their vision of where the world should go.  

There have always been people who believed themselves most fit to rule, or (like Plato) believed they had some idea of the Ideal Ruler (the “philosopher-king” of his The Republic). So in a sense, nothing I’ve said in this section ought to seem surprising, and in a more rational society, none of it would be controversial. Corporations and governments are tools of super-elites. Mass media’s primary role is to shill for approved narratives and keep the various populations — the “unwashed masses” of whatever ethnicity or gender identity — enticed by an outrage factory and entranced by whatever other local, national, or global hobgoblins (H.L. Mencken’s term), real or manufactured out of whole cloth, are available. The real shame is that so many professional educators, including philosophers who ought to know better, have fallen for it.

CRT: A Weapon of Mass Distraction?

We’ve gone deep in this essay. CRT ultimately fails at one level because it sees groups as abstract collectives or actual tribes, and thus misses where the locus of power in Western civilization really is: not with white people or “whiteness” (whatever it’s supposed to be).

In missing the real locus of power, we see a deeper failure: it fails to see how super-elites, who have the real privileges, both shape civilization and are shaped by it.

Its advocates may see super-elites who are clearly not hiding and see only “whiteness.” In which case, by placing the real purveyors of domination in the same abstract group as the white guy struggling to pay his mortgage and keep the lights on, the latter becomes angry because being told he has “white privilege” insults his intelligence.

In this case, it matters less what CRT is and more what it does? Some might even call it a Weapon of Mass Distraction, and ultimately a dangerous one. It has parents and school board members flying at each other’s throats, just as it has inflamed hostilities between blacks and whites.

If we’re all looking at one another, laterally, with suspicion at best and alert for outbreaks of violence at worst, none of us, of whatever ethnicity, will look up and see what is occurring at the top!

What would I have CRT’s advocates do? I’d ask, might they be willing to incorporate super-elite analysis into their worldview, perhaps noting for starters that the one actual group to derive breathtaking monetary benefits from Captain COVID was the billionaire class, the most visible members of the American super-elite (Bezos, Gates, et al.)? Now billionaires with global-hegemonic leanings may all be white people (or not, I have no idea), but are we really to attribute to “systemic racism” or “white privilege” their not letting go to waste a crisis that destroyed the livelihoods of millions of white people as well as millions of black people?

Does that even make sense?

How about introducing a new concept: super-elite privilege

CRT’s advocates wanted a “lens” or “approach” to view society as it really is, and they take the construction of race to have been fundamental to American legal structures. If we analyze industrial civilization from its origins down through our time, during which it has morphed into an information civilization grafted onto industrialism’s financialized base, we see chattel slavery along the way but should find it impossible to see as truly fundamental. There have been other forms of involuntary servitude, most not so obvious.

The point is, most fundamental basis of a lordship versus bondage system has not been that of straight white male people over everyone else. It is the difference between those who control the levers of global finance from the top versus those who don’t, and whose lack of such knowledge automatically works against them.

And so — hoping this doesn’t sound like an afterthought at this point — how should we respond to CRT on the ground, at least until we can have a conversation about these points?  

Here is what one defender, a professional philosopher who brands himself a “philosopher of race and racism” no less, says CRT does not assert:

It does not assert that:

  • One race or sex is inherently superior to another race or sex:
  • An individual, by virtue of the individual’s race or sex, is inherently privileged, racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or subconsciously;
  • An individual should be discriminated against or receive adverse treatment because of the individual’s race or sex;
  • An individual’s moral character is determined by the individual’s race or sex;
  • An individual, by virtue of the individual’s race or sex, bears responsibility for actions committed in the past by other members of the same race or sex;
  • An individual should feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or another form of psychological distress solely because of the individual’s race or sex.

Great! I say, let’s hold CRT to this, while we do what we can to draw attention to the real places of power, and those in them.

Recall the old saw, that there are three kinds of people in the world: those who make things happen, those who watch things happen, and the majority who wonder what the hell happened.

We might as well accept that none of us is going to join that first group. But if we can begin to move more people from the third to the second, in numbers large enough to form a critical mass, maybe we can assume more control over our lives and our communities, however we self-identify. We may find that our commonalities exceed our differences, however much elite-sponsored narratives try to divide us. Then, by talking to one another, hearing one another, seeking out and learning from people not beholden to the present power systems, doing what we can to get inside each other’s heads and hearts, alleviating pain where we can, then maybe — just maybe — there is still time to do something to make this world a better place for us all.    

*This writer has chosen not to adopt the new mass media convention, which seems to have begun after the George Floyd riots, of capitalizing black to refer to an African-American person. Capitalizing African-American made sense, because the hyphenated words are normally capitalized apart from one another. Capitalizing black makes no sense and accomplishes nothing. It does not change a single law, provide any black person who needs it with work or assistance or life or hope, and is probably one of many of the subtle micro-aggressive measures we’ve seen that drives us apart, especially as no one in mass media capitalizes white to refer to a white person.

STEVEN YATES’s latest book What Should Philosophy Do? A Theory is being published by Wipf and Stock.

Posted in Academia, Culture, Philosophy, Political Economy, Political Philosophy, Where is Civilization Going? | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment