A Paradox of Modern Life

A paradox of a techno-immersed, consumerist age heavily influenced by that modern liberal principle of autonomy:
Take the phrase “I don’t care what other people think” or “I don’t care what [insert name] said or thinks.”

People say this all the time. It’s quite the cliche now; in fact, I think it is so much a cliche now that whenever people hear this, barring exceptional cases when people truly do not care, we immediately assume people are simply trying to convince themselves they do not care, not us. Personally, for the most part, I never truly believe anyone when they say this. Neither do many others when they are subjected to other people uttering this phrase. Whatever else this phrase is meant to symbolize, it mostly functions as a way to convince ourselves (and others) that we have transcended an interconnected community. What others think do not matter (in fact, I would say in a world now obsessed with personal autonomy the thoughts and sentiments of others about my self cannot matter if I am to be truly free). It is no surprise to me that many people say “I don’t care what you think” or “I don’t care what others think” when they go on making their personal choices. It is their choice after all – and not yours – so caring about what you or anyone else thinks is disruptive to their so-called freedom. This phrase is meant to show others that this person, who supposedly doesn’t care, is beyond the influence of other people. They live their life exactly as they please and wish apart from any concern or worry about others – a truly modern Liberal Übermensch.

But could anything be further from the truth? Sure, people like to pretend this is what they actually believe but I have serious reservations about this (and I always have). A world so immersed and controlled by technology suggests otherwise. People who spend inordinate amounts of time on social media, fishing for “likes” as a form of affirmation, posting pictures of their life and possessions; tweeting their aphorisms, their vacation spot; snapping their participation at the biggest and best party, or their meeting a celebrity typically do these things because they want others to think and feel a particular way about their life. Our buying the most up-to-date version of a phone, or buying the newest and most progressive form of technology, like an Ipad or Mac computer, is also another way of symbolizing our status, which amounts to a whole lot in our culture. But status only means anything if others recognize and affirm it. In a word, consumerism has driven many of us into an obsession of what others think about us. Consumerism, as it has been said by other writers, convinces us to care more for quantity rather than quality. For example, people usually care about how many friends they have rather than the kind of friendships they have (again the quantifying of “friends” and “followers”  on social media only goes to support this).

This isn’t complex or complicated. It’s just  a paradox of a technologically immersed, consumerist world also heavily influenced by that modern Liberal principle of personal autonomy. You are not beyond the thoughts and feelings that others have about your life choices (which the phrase “I don’t care what you think” suggests), if almost everything about modern industrial and technological life seems to suggest you do in fact care what others think about you .


The Incredibles and Anti-Egalitarianism

SyndromeIf you haven’t already heard, Pixar is working on their follow up to The Incredibles. The movie was successful but not as popular as their other films, like Toy Story and Finding Nemo. Long after it’s release, The Incredibles became ever more popular, especially with young adults who like to indulge in movie nostalgia.

After hearing the general excitement over this announcement, I began to wonder why so many people are feeling this way; after all, it’s not like the theme of the movie is exactly a popular idea nowadays.

The Incredibles is not consistent with Liberal egalitarian principles; in fact, it’s in opposition to those principles. “Supers” – or those human beings with extraordinary abilities – roam the streets of Metroville fighting crime and protecting ordinary citizens. As the supers clean up the streets of Metroville, buildings get smashed, windows are broken, and sometimes innocent by-standers are hurt. A law is eventually passed that forces the Supers into ordinary lives. The supers reluctantly accept this, but many of them secretly fight crime when and where they can. Their lives are a testament of what it is like to possess abilities and talents that elevate you beyond many others while pretending these abilities and talents don’t exist so that you do not “trigger”, “intimidate” or “exclude” others.

And that is exactly the plot. The antagonist of the film, Syndrome, is not a super; he’s one of those ordinary guys who holds a grudge against all Supers because they won’t let him pretend he is a super. However, the world expects the Supers to pretend they’re ordinary (when they’re not) and this is some how okay. This makes the world especially vulnerable and weak to depraved minds (i.e. Syndrome). It’s no coincidence that the villain of the film has a name like “Syndrome”; he doesn’t possess the mental fortitude to accept the very basic truth that some people are in fact better and more deserving than others in some regards. This creates Syndrome’s psychological motive, as he says “When everyone is super, no one will be.”

Syndrome goes onto exploit the mediocrity of an absolutely ordinary world and the Supers who are oppressed by it. The writers put these ideas into Syndrome, the antagonist, for a reason: they want us to associate them with villainy, not heroism.

It’s strange to see a world so in favor of egalitarianism be so excited by the release of a second Incredibles film. But then again, Egalitarians are not always the most logically consistent kind of people either…

I look forward to the second installment of this film and hope it stays true to its theme (although I won’t be surprised if it doesn’t).

Celebrating White Guilt

JulianneJulianne Hough recently admitted making a grievous error last Halloween. She dressed up as a fictional character, who happened to be portrayed by a black person, and so administered black paint as an element of her costume (but she looks like she has a bad spray tan instead). What this means of course is that Hough was, consciously or not, actively participating in behavior that offends and hurts black people. How this is so should not matter – if a black person is offended, that in itself is proof and evidence that there is racial wrongdoing. Many people have denounced her decision for various reasons (mostly because it has some relation to “blackface”), but others have suggested that media outlets are fueling and igniting racial tension on purpose.

It’s not provocation though; it’s celebration of public confession. Hough is publically admitting a supposedly grievous wrong she committed and the media is showcasing her confession (as it does in so many similar cases). She is ready for new, more enlightened kind of life. Like a person emerging from the baptismal pool, Hough is now washed clean of her white identity. Celebrities are idolized (there is a kind of hero-worship with them, as there was with Roman emperors) but not all of their behavior can be venerated (and it shouldn’t be for obvious reasons). The media knows all too well how many people kind of deify celebrities today. It capitalizes on their errors, especially those revolving around racial issues, in order to push a point (which I will get to below). Many readers and viewers of these racial issues and stories do feel provoked though. When people make the comment that media outlets are “stirring the pot”, they mistake the effect these stories have with the intention. The intention behind these stories is to inspire, particularly white people, into action, i.e. inspire people into admitting a sort of ‘ignorance’ (an ignorance that comes along with simply being white). Only then can true education and change occur. The effect it is now having on many people is akin to hearing the same song played on the radio repeatedly everyday; it’s not inspiring, it’s repulsing and even discouraging.  While many whites are still unable, whether because they are not capable of putting words to their thoughts or because they are uncomfortable speaking up on behalf of their race and people, plenty of those reading this story (and other stories) are entirely disgusted with this sort of propaganda. One may assume that successful and affluent (white) people are more than willing to admit to their grievous wrongs (as is evidenced by Hough and so many other celebrities) and if you want to be successful too then look to the example of these celebrities who are learning from the error of their supposed white-ignorance, or a kind of hereditary negligence imbedded into the very core of white people that blockades true “equality”. As the media highlights these stories of high-profile whites reveling in their ‘ignorance’ and guilt ad nauseam, a theme becomes real clear (at least for me): White people must feel sorry for being white, accepting the burden of their ancestor’s errors, in order for real equality to materialize. Julianne Hough, and so many others like her, are merely exploited by the media as exemplary behavior.

The media, in my opinion, doesn’t intend to provoke; they honestly believe it will inspire, as it has many whites in the past, towards a confession for the sin of being white. Here Hough feels sorry for pretending to be – not some fictional character – but a black person. How dare she! She didn’t realize, that as white person, she has a supposed propensity to “offend” and “hurt” others. Ignorance, she says, isn’t always a bliss. The subtle invitation imbedded in these stories is for (white) people to reflect upon themselves and ask “Am I being ignorant in a similar manner?” If my entire social and public life is not geared towards the ceremonial respect of the minority (and eventually abolishing majority/minority distinction) , if I do not observe and respect the idea of national neutrality (no national identity), and if I do not profess a universal condemnation for the white race and the crime of my imperialistic, oppressive ways then it is clear that I am ignorant. I am invited, much like Hough and company, to renounce this ‘old life’ and be born again if only I would repent the nature which stains me and keeps me from true righteous egalitarian living – my white identity.


Childlessness as Virtue

womanRecently I had a polite but brief exchange with two sisters over the role of motherhood and femininity  (and whether these two are necessarily connected). One sister began by posting an article – if that’s what it can be called – which was more or less a collaboration of remarks and quotes made by famous female entertainers and their choice to avert motherhood (and why any suggestion that motherhood some-how completes or enhances femininity in any way is at bottom a sexist, patriarchal remark). Both sisters agreed that women should be able to define what is that makes them female. I made some remarks, which I will hash out below in more detail than I did on Facebook, but needless to say my remarks had no effect and were, for all intents and purposes, frowned upon by every female reading or commenting.

I mentioned that women who avert motherhood and are then celebrated for it are by that very fact celebrated for a “powerful choice”. I mean that when we celebrate a person – or a group of people – for making a decision, that decision cannot be a considerably common or “easy” one to make. Something must make that decision a hard one. I suggested that everyone – even the women being celebrated for this choice – intuitively recognizes some real determinant or condition, intertwined in their very being, in their very nature, that they must voluntarily oppose and cast off. This is the biological condition and propensity of motherhood. If these women do not make a choice to exercise discipline in their life, they may very easily fall into temptation and find themselves impregnated. This means practicing “safe sex” and contracepting no doubt. It means being “independent” and developing relationships that fit more modern standards, which complement the notion that women can “be whatever they wish to be” and a “real man” understands that (and those men that do not are deluded by patriarchal undertones). Simply put, their life must be in order; they must practice, each and every day, with great discipline, their female independence. Like many movements that find their genesis in modern liberalism, feminism is no different in that much of it verges on the religious. Here we find women celebrated in a saintly way for practicing something akin to a virtuous life. In a world almost devoid of any real, religious or transcendent sentiment, a gapping hole is being filed by “new virtues” and “new vices”. “Feminine independence” (or whatever one wishes to call it) is just one of those “new virtues”.  And like many of these new virtues, it is a “virtue” that possesses a self-determining feature (meaning it enables a person to choose what they are for themselves, in this case a woman chooses what it means to be female for herself, especially and most importantly apart from any suggestion or pressure of men). You can see this in many other social facets: gender, sexuality, race, nationality, etc. Where people are self-determining, i.e. defining what they are for themselves (in any regard), there too one finds praise and celebration. In the case of females and motherhood, their resolve to avert motherhood is powerful because, under our current conditions, it is seen as something virtuous (and so difficult, brave and exemplary) and it can only be seen as something virtuous if they are in fact averting something really difficult (and not just something “social” or ‘made up’). This real difficulty resides in a primordial urge and the virtue of “feminine independence” is thereby grounded in challenging this urge and so not sinking into any pattern which would effectively destroy the potential for “female independence”.

Motherhood is just the kind of institution that would effectively destroy this alleged virtue of female independence (which again is why many women are celebrated for perpetually avoiding it in their life, just like the monk that perpetually averts certain temptations in his virtuous life). Motherhood requires a woman to turn away from her self and direct her very life to the meaning and protection of another. Something else outside her very self now threatens (and make no mistake, for many woman a child is a threat nowadays) her freedom to be what she wishes to be. Why? A child demands certain responsibilities, it brings certain duties and obligations, and it brings with it a meaning, wrapped up in a relationship, that you don’t get to choose. But such a life is not compatible with the on-going “creativity” of that “new virtue” of “female independence” which means persistently defining (and redefining) what it means to be female for an individual woman. One must make a choice. Just as there is a religious call to the devout, so too the there is a “higher calling” that beckons females today. So you can hear many allegedly liberated ladies saying “There is nothing wrong with women who decide to have children; however, the higher path is being free of any imposed expectations – and at many times this means casting off motherhood”.

By doing this, the common line is that women are now more “empowered”. This issue with “patriarchy” for many feminists is that it mystifies and romanticizes a drab, boring existence (i.e. motherhood). In fact, there is no real power in motherhood; rather, it is to men’s benefit that women are taught motherhood is wonderful. But it’s seriously questionable that motherhood has no power in it. This seems like a counter-intuitive claim. I cannot say just what that power is or does, as it is clearly one of those relationships that cannot be explained in full nor comprehended completely without a corresponding experience. But any observer can see a real change in new mothers. What feminism often does is cultivate a disdain for motherhood while at the same time a desire for the power men have supposedly withheld from women ( one assumes, by the feminists standards, that this power is the only power worth having – but is that true?).

In my opinion, the best way to defeat feminism is by celebrating real, genuine mothers who have truly encountered this power I think we’ve all encountered in some way.


Loyalty in a Modern Liberal Society

What becomes of loyalty in Modern Liberal society?  I think this is an important question for obvious moral and social Samfrodoreasons. Without loyalty, a fundamental dependency found in almost every kind of friendship is rendered absent. Where loyalty is absent, one cannot depend on their friend – no matter the kind – to withstand any temptation or suffering. In this sense, loyalty is like patience. Both require the person to withstand something, but these two virtues differ in so far as why the person withstands temptation or suffering. With patience, a person withstands temptation or suffering of some kind for the sake of attaining some good. So, one is patient when they reject a mediocre offer in favor of a better option. At a certain point, “the wait” is no longer seems reasonable to us. True patience enables a person to endure. Loyalty differs from patience because the good is not one we wish to acquire; the good is something we must strive to keep.  A wife remains loyal to her vows (and her husband)  when, upon his return from war, she finds that he is now paralyzed. The temptation here is an easier, more romantic marriage than marriage to a paraplegic. She also endures the many hardships that inevitably come along with such a marriage. But why?

Loyalty is, in my opinion, one of the more important virtues and a virtue often over-looked, even by those philosophers who often advocate a kind of virtue-ethic. Let us not forget that we find treachery in the lowest chasms of hell in Dante’s Inferno, a view quite consistent with Medieval Cosmology. I have not read the Paradiso; however, assuming there are layers, circles or levels of heaven – as we find in the Inferno – I would imagine loyalty to be among the highest (and so in contradistinction to treachery). I imagine the Saints inhabit such an area of Paradise (which raises the question: is loyalty the quintessential virtue of the saint, apart from the supernatural ones? That their willingness to withstand every form of temptation or suffering, the best of their ability, is what prepared them for Sainthood? And so, is it then possible to aim towards sainthood without the natural virtue of loyalty?)

Loyalty is that virtue which enables us to withstand any temptation or form of suffering for the sake of keeping some good, i.e. friendship. Loyalty therefore presupposes that there is something greater than our self, or any personal comfort. In this, loyalty affirms the worth of the person, our friend. Treachery is also always a measure of worth, for in the act of sedition or treachery – when we turn from loyalty – we are in effect saying that the suffering or temptation is not worth withstanding for the sake of that friendship. That is, the alternative is better. For this reason, treachery is a crushing and devastating action, far more wounding than any word could ever be, because through treachery or betrayal men destroy their bond for something, which by that very act, is allegedly worth more than the friend. Treachery then is saying, through action or deed, “You are not worth the struggle” and “I choose this over you because it is worth more to me than you are”. To the one betrayed, this phenomena always begins with a question of personal worth and personal dignity. In a consumerist and materialistic society, betrayal is much worse. The bonds of friendship are broken for far less valuable things than a human person, like money and stature.

In my experiences, loyalty is on a steady decline as something of personal value. Those who would reject opportunities for success and wealth for the sake of a friend or loved one are considered foolish. This is no doubt a reflection that the worth of the human person has indeed dwindled in favor of personal ambition, which only means that egotism is on the rise (which is really a matter of shifting ideas on value). But this should not at all be surprising given what Modern Liberalism preaches about the nature of the human person. Since the human person is devoid of any inherent meaning, it is thereby considered a neutral thing. The person must choose for itself a meaning. This is why we emphasize creativity today, because we become creators of our very self, not existentially, but meaningfully. As such, no thing can inhere within the person that would in any way obstruct the human agent as autonomously self-determining for itself what it is. Thus, race, nationality, gender, family, etc. are redefined as social constructs, not something that inherently adds to the meaning of the human person. If they do add to human meaning, it’s because the person that chose that race, or this person to be a ‘family member’, or that gender, gave it meaning by choosing it.

In a world depressed by Modern Liberalism, personal meaning is of supreme concern since it’s up to us to have any meaning at all. Since meaning becomes personalized, so does every thing chosen to give meaning to that person’s life, including people. People become a quintessential means – because like everything else they’re simply something that adds to the meaning of another life. That’s all you or anything could ever be in a world dominated by people heavily influenced by Modern Liberalism. Just another choice that adds to their meaning. Of course, this renders loyalty as something scarce, if present at all. One could theoretically see loyalty as something meaningful for their life and so choose a person over themselves by withstanding temptations and other forms of suffering. From a more practical angle, this doesn’t seem very likely though. In a world where real things, real bonds, real people can truly be greater than you yourself, loyalty seems like a natural thing. In a world where nobody is greater than anybody (or even in a world where nothing sacred exists apart from the will that makes it so), i.e in egalitarian society, loyalty doesn’t seem like a very common human phenomena.

Democratic Affirmation as Quintessential Positive Reinforcement

Reinforcement has been a powerful tool for motivating people (especially children) to behave in specified ways. When aDemocracy reward is introduced to modify or manipulate behavior, that reinforcement is deemed positive. The concept of reward attached to the behavior solidifies that behavior as habitual. When something aversive or repulsive is introduced to modify or manipulate behavior, that reinforcement is deemed negative. The concept of something aversive or repulsive – and the removal of these – can strengthen behavior as well. Academic psychology distinguishes punishment from reinforcement, because punishment “weakens behavior” and doesn’t reinforce or strengthen the behavior. Obviously these can be muddled though. People do often think of punishment as a negative reinforcement, since punishment not only weakens the behavior but should simultaneously strengthen the contrary behavior. When a child curses and their parent puts soap in their mouth, the cursing behavior is meant to be weakened; however, a non-cursing behavior is supposedly being strengthened as well.

With the rise of Modern Liberalism (and so egalitarianism), the use and perception of reinforcement has changed. Reinforcement is emphasized more so in such a society because it implicitly supports all behavior as an equally valuable form of human expression. When a society values all behavior in such a way, exploiting and manipulating terms like “diverse” and “enriching” which heap implicit praise upon every behavior, all such behavior is subsequently positively reinforced. Simply put, when every behavior is seen as something good those behaviors should also be reinforced.  Each person see’s their different behavior as conducive and contributing to a “diversified” community, which thereby enhances that communities richness. Since reinforcement is meant to solidify a behavior, the emphasis upon and increase of reinforcement in egalitarian societies seems like a reasonable consequence of such a society.

Punishment of course is frowned upon in such a society (but not completely absent – behavior that threatens the autonomy of any self determining agent must be punished for the sake of preserving communal harmony, or the egalitarian state) . Otherwise, punishment suggests that some behavior ought to be weakened, which in turn suggests that some behavior is wrong (and so not conducive to the enrichment of diversified communities). Punishers are considered “Extremist”  because any communication of belief, whether by word or deed, that in any way suggests that there is anything superior to “communal harmony” becomes hostile and dangerous. Thus, the person administering punishment will weaken a behavior not in line with “The Truth” or “God” or “Right and Wrong” (words found in the “extremist” dictionary). Where objective standards exist, there are clear demarcations of behavior. Those behaviors are reinforced while the host of other behaviors not consistent with this standard are punished. Thus, many kinds of behavior are deemed not worthy kinds of behavior. But how can this be in an egalitarian society where all behavior is an equally valuable manifestation of human expression? It cannot be this way – all behavior must be reinforced (as long as it does not threaten the autonomy of other individual agents determining for themselves who they wish to be). The obvious emphasis on reinforcement today makes sense but also often reaches points of absurdity. We celebrate perversion, conflate and dilute mistakes, we cheer on choice for choices sake, and we give trophies to losers. What else can one conclude except that every possible decision, choice and consequence must be congratulated (and so reinforced) in some way?

Any democratic society is particularly susceptible to quick change because of the phenomena of what I call here “Democratic Affirmation”. A movement only need to exploit it some how to instantiate itself as the fundamental principle of that very society.  The phenomena of “Democratic Affirmation” is simply the group (any group) acceptance of your vocalized thoughts and opinions. This is important in democratic areas because individuals have an urge to share their feelings, thoughts and opinions, and their beliefs being consistent with their “God given right of free speech” and entitlement to “their own opinion”.  The very nature of a democratic society urges us to “voice our opinions”. But it is not only the sharing of those thoughts that matter; it’s the acceptance of those thoughts that matter as well, for in democratic societies truth often gets conflated with “majority acceptance”. While the acceptance of an idea or thought by a group does not actually make a thought true, in democratic societies it has a psychological effect on the carrier of beliefs and thoughts in such a way that one feels more confident and comfortable holding those thoughts and beliefs. It is not impossible to hold beliefs or thoughts that a majority of people reject, only tedious and irritating because of perpetual ridicule and ostracizing. People would much rather hold a belief that is “democratically affirmed” than a belief that is not. A “democratically affirmed” belief creates an ease of life; a more peaceable living. That is perhaps a negative quality of democratic societies – the truth alone is often not enough; others must accept it too in order for us to feel comfortable espousing those truths our self.

In my estimation, “democratic affirmation” is quintessential positive reinforcement in democratic societies. When people nod their heads, say “Yes, that’s absolutely right”; when they agree with us, and when they praise our thoughts as wise, or when they applaud our remarks, or scream “Amen”, all this serves as reinforcement of our ideas. When truth gets wrapped up in “majority approval”, the affirmation of our thoughts becomes powerful. It is simply a truism – we want others to hear and affirm our thoughts as valuable and true. The danger here is that a democratic society is left particularly susceptible for any movement to exploit this phenomena for its own advantage. A movement would only need to normalize it’s crowning principle (Egalitarianism in this instance), which will in turn normalize and familiarize the effects of that principle (effects like homosexuality, transgender, multiculturalism, white privilege, etc. in this case). Normalization engenders the unquestionable quality of the effects. That is, just as an example, homosexuality is completely fine and normal without question (because egalitarianism is presupposed as the groundwork of all else, unquestioned, simply accepted). Any contrary thought stands outside this and thereby becomes unfamiliar, strange, unfavorable – “abnormal” . “How can people think like this?” you will often see of hear when a person dares to suggest an opposing view point. These remarks are usually made dogmatically and unconsciously due to the conditioning of reinforcement, particularly “democratic affirmation”. There is an absence of real understanding here; however, powerful reactionary behavior is initiated when people hear or see remarks that oppose the solidified norm (again, here egalitarianism). One only needs to scroll through social media comments on political matters to witness the profoundly uncritical remarks but unconscious reactionary behavior of liberal people today.

What has happened? With egalitarianism as a normalized principle of society, “democratic affirmation” shifts to accommodate it. In public spheres, we celebrate and affirm the thoughts and beliefs of others which also happen to be consistent with egalitarianism. The affirmation serves as a reinforcement of mental behavior. People’s thinking and intellectual life become solidified once affirmed and thereby creates the illusion that their beliefs are true (since truth is often wrapped up in majority acceptance in democratic societies). The psychological effect of this makes the belief holder confident and sure in their beliefs. Challenging this person makes no sense, because their conditioning makes it impossible – to them, questioning their beliefs (which have been affirmed) already discredits you. You’re wrong before you even get to make an argument.  “Democratic affirmation” validates those thoughts consistent with what’s deemed normal. The opposite of “democratic affirmation” should be obvious and clearly an equal form of reinforcement.

The struggle to challenge Liberalism is far more complex and dense than many Conservatives imagine. Groups of people everywhere are affirming or rejecting thoughts as good or true based primarily on the normalization of egalitarianism. People are affirming one another’s thoughts and beliefs as true, or they are rejecting them as false. As people are repeatedly rejected they are reinforced towards a continued behavior, as they are affirmed they are reinforced towards a continued behavior. Rejection reinforces us to remain silent, even if we disagree. This way we don’t invite any unwelcome confrontation. Affirmation reinforces us to confidently speak up and out about those things we have been affirmed in speaking. In effect, every day common people are doing the “ground work” and advancing Liberalism. Therefore, challenging Liberalism head on only means failure. The only people who will affirm you are the small minority of people who have already been rejected by the majority of people influenced by the egalitarian principle of our society. If we wish to save our society from the damaging effects of Liberalism, we must find away to inform and utilize “Democratic Affirmation” again.