Category Archives: Politics

Categorical coimperative

Where some conceive principles as unconditional rules of behavior, I am conceiving principles as unconditional rules of relationship with those who share them. One must conduct oneself liberally with liberals, peacefully with the peaceful, respectfully with the respectful.

And the best way to know who shares your principles is to go first. Approach others as liberal, peaceful and respectful and offer them the chance to reciprocate.

If they do not reciprocate, different principles are appropriate — for instance, passive resistance, which is not at all the same as unconditionally peaceful behavior.

Lazy activism

Why would anyone demand a ceasefire from Israel instead of surrender from Hamas? Israel, after all, is the only liberal-democratic state in the middle east — the only place in the region where it is safe to voice liberal and progressive ideals — while Hamas is a terrorist organization with the primary goal of elimination of the state of Israel, who has demonstrated willingness to immiserate and sacrifice the lives of its own population to achieve that goal?

The same reason progressivists endlessly harass liberals about their unconscious racial biases instead of confronting explicit racists: Convenience.

It is much easier and more gratifying to poke at people who share your values and actually feel the sting of your criticism and the force of your reason than to deal with the real problem of evil. 

Personal brand

I remember back in the 90s we explained brands to people as the personality of an organization.

Today the idea of branding is more immediate to us than the reality of souls. We talk about selfhood using the language brand strategy.

It is strange to me how so many children who fancy themselves anti-capitalist have internalized marketing so deeply that they understand themselves as examples of marketing segments of a political party.

Eubigotry

I’m going to fully and publicly adopt the terminology of eubigotry and disbigotry as two species of bigotry, which I define broadly as any reduction of an individual person to a category or identity and relating to the individual person primarily as an example or instance or manifestation of the category.

Most of what we call bigotry is disbigotry. We deduce that a person has certain negative characteristics or we respond negatively because we have assigned them a negative category. But, according to this view, if we deduce that a person must have positive characteristics or we respond more positively to them because we have assigned them a positive category, we are also succumbing to bigotry — eubigotry.

We can also be bigoted toward ourselves. Whether our self-bigotry is disbigoted or eubigoted, we are still objectifying ourselves and succumbing to what existentialists call “bad faith”.  In this weird time, we are suffering mass bad faith. It appears to be the default faith for most college educated young people.

Deeply bigoted people sometimes try to overcome their bigotry by reversing disbigotry into eubigotry. The purpose of coining the word “eubigotry” is to show that even if the felt valuation has actually reversed (which is questionable) this makes no progress toward seeing the other as fully human.

Note: I stole this linguistic move from the field of psychology, which identifies both distress and eustress as varieties of stress.

Destructive misconceptions of justice

Sam Harris and Yoval Harari had a remarkable conversation on Harris’s podcast Making Sense. Harari seems to, at least to some degree, share Matthew Yglesias’s perspective on Netanyahu’s destructive role in this conflict.

Two quotes from Harari stood out to me as profoundly true:

As a historian, I tend to be cautious about drawing historical analogies. But what I can say, from a broader perspective, is that in most ethnic conflicts around the world, both sides tend to be victims and perpetrators at the same time. And this is a very simple and banal fact, that, for some reason, most people seem incapable of grasping — that it’s very, very simple — You can be victim and perpetrator at one and the same time. And so many people just refuse to accept this simple fact of history. And in thinking binary terms, that one side must be 100% evil and one side must be 100% pure and just, and we just need to pick a side.

And this, of course, links to these fantasies of perfect justice, of absolute justice, which I can say, from a historical perspective, are always destructive. The idea that you can achieve absolute justice in this world, usually, or almost always leads to destructive places — to more violence and war. Because no peace treaty in the history of the world, provided absolute justice. All peace treaties are based on compromise. You have to give up something. You won’t get absolute justice, in the way you understand it.

and

And I think this is a choice in every ethnic conflict, whether you look to the past, or you look to the future. And I will say one more thing about it as a historian: I think the curse of history is the attempt to correct the past, to save the past. “If we could only go back to the past and save these people.” And we can’t. We can’t go back to the past and save the people who were massacred on the seventh of October in Israel, or go back to the Holocaust… No, it’s impossible. And we can’t go back to the past and try to do a different narrative of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

What we need to do is stop using the injuries of the past as an excuse for fresh injuries in the present, and instead, to think constructively about how we can heal the injuries and create peace — which will not give absolute justice to anybody, but will create better future for everybody.

Totalitarian word worlds

Hannah Arendt again, from Origins of Totalitarianism:

Before they seize power and establish a world according to their doctrines, totalitarian movements conjure up a lying world of consistency which is more adequate to the needs of the human mind than reality itself; in which, through sheer imagination, uprooted masses can feel at home and are spared the never-ending shocks which real life and real experiences deal to human beings and their expectations. The force possessed by totalitarian propaganda — before the movements have the power to drop iron curtains to prevent anyone’s disturbing, by the slightest reality, the gruesome quiet of an entirely imaginary world — lies in its ability to shut the masses off from the real world. The only signs which the real world still offers to the understanding of the unintegrated and disintegrating masses — whom every new stroke of ill luck makes more gullible — are, so to speak, its lacunae, the questions it does not care to discuss publicly, or the rumors it does not dare to contradict because they hit, although in an exaggerated and deformed way, some sore spot.

The most efficient fiction of Nazi propaganda was the story of a Jewish world conspiracy. Concentration on antisemitic propaganda had been a common device of demagogues ever since the end of the nineteenth century, and was widespread in the Germany and Austria of the twenties. The more consistently a discussion of the Jewish question was avoided by all parties and organs of public opinion, the more convinced the mob became that Jews were the true representatives of the powers that be, and that the Jewish issue was the symbol for the hypocrisy and dishonesty of the whole system.

The actual content of postwar antisemitic propaganda was neither a monopoly of the Nazis nor particularly new and original. Lies about a Jewish world conspiracy had been current since the Dreyfus Affair and based themselves on the existing international interrelationship and interdependence of a Jewish people dispersed all over the world. Exaggerated notions of Jewish world power are even older; they can be traced back to the end of the eighteenth century, when the intimate connection between Jewish business and the nation-states had become visible. The representation of the Jew as the incarnation of evil is usually blamed on remnants and superstitious memories from the Middle Ages, but is actually closely connected with the more recent ambiguous role which Jews played in European society since their emancipation. One thing was undeniable: in the postwar period Jews had become more prominent than ever before.

Eichmann and cliches

Following is a selection of comments Hannah Arendt made about cliches, culled from Eichmann in Jerusalem. The highlights are mine:

The German text of the taped police examination, conducted from May 29, 1960, to January 17, 1961, each page corrected and approved by Eichmann, constitutes a veritable gold mine for a psychologist –provided he is wise enough to understand that the horrible can be not only ludicrous but outright funny. … It was funny when, during the cross-examination on the Sassen documents, conducted in German by the presiding judge, he used the phrase “kontra geben” (to give tit for tat), to indicate that he had resisted Sassen’s efforts to liven up his stories; Judge Landau, obviously ignorant of the mysteries of card games, did not understand, and Eichmann could not think of any other way to put it. Dimly aware of a defect that must have plagued him even in school — it amounted to a mild case of aphasia — he apologized, saying, “Officialese is my only language.” But the point here is that officialese became his language because he was genuinely incapable of uttering a single sentence that was not a cliché. (Was it these clichés that the psychiatrists thought so “normal” and “desirable”?

To be sure, the judges were right when they finally told the accused that all he had said was “empty talk” — except that they thought the emptiness was feigned, and that the accused wished to cover up other thoughts which, though hideous, were not empty. This supposition seems refuted by the striking consistency with which Eichmann, despite his rather bad memory, repeated word for word the same stock phrases and self-invented clichés (when he did succeed in constructing a sentence of his own, he repeated it until it became a cliché) each time he referred to an incident or event of importance to him. Whether writing his memoirs in Argentina or in Jerusalem, whether speaking to the police examiner or to the court, what he said was always the same, expressed in the same words. The longer one listened to him, the more obvious it became that his inability to speak was closely connected with an inability to think, namely, to think from the standpoint of somebody else. No communication was possible with him, not because he lied but because he was surrounded by the most reliable of all safeguards against the words and the presence of others, and hence against reality as such.


Eichmann’s astounding willingness, in Argentina as well as in Jerusalem, to admit his crimes was due less to his own criminal capacity for self-deception than to the aura of systematic mendacity that had constituted the general, and generally accepted, atmosphere of the Third Reich. ‘‘Of course” he had played a role in the extermination of the Jews; of course if he “had not transported them, they would not have been delivered to the butcher.” “What,” he asked, “is there to admit?” Now, he proceeded, he “would like to find peace with [his] former enemies”a sentiment he shared not only with Himmler… but also, unbelievably, with many ordinary Germans, who were heard to express themselves in exactly the same terms at the end of the war. This outrageous cliche was no longer issued to them from above, it was a self-fabricated stock phrase, as devoid of reality as those cliches by which the people had lived for twelve years; and you could almost see what an “extraordinary sense of elation” it gave to the speaker the moment it popped out of his mouth.

Eichmann’s mind was filled to the brim with such sentences. His memory proved to be quite unreliable about what had actually happened; in a rare moment of exasperation, Judge Landau asked the accused: “What can you remember?” (if you don’t remember the discussions at the so-called Wannsee Conference, which dealt with the various methods of killing) and the answer, of course, was that Eichmann remembered the turning points in his own career rather well, but that they did not necessarily coincide with the turning points in the story of Jewish extermination or, as a matter of fact, with the turning points in history. (He always had trouble remembering the exact date of the outbreak of the war or of the invasion of Russia.) But the point of the matter is that he had not forgotten a single one of the sentences of his that at one time or another had served to give him a “sense of elation.”

Hence, whenever, during the cross-examination, the judges tried to appeal to his conscience, they were met with “elation,” and they were outraged as well as disconcerted when they learned that the accused had at his disposal a different elating cliche for each period of his life and each of his activities. In his mind, there was no contradiction between “I will jump into my grave laughing,” appropriate for the end of the war, and “I shall gladly hang myself in public as a warning example for all anti-Semites on this earth,” which now, under vastly different circumstances, fulfilled exactly the same function of giving him a lift.

These habits of Eichmann’s created considerable difficulty during the trial — less for Eichmann himself than for those who had come to prosecute him, to defend him, to judge him, and to report on him. For all this, it was essential that one take him seriously, and this was very hard to do, unless one sought the easiest way out of the dilemma between the unspeakable horror of the deeds and the undeniable ludicrousness of the man who perpetrated them, and declared him a clever, calculating liar — which he obviously was not. … Despite all the efforts of the prosecution, everybody could see that this man was not a “monster,” but it was difficult indeed not to suspect that he was a clown.


…As far as Eichmann was concerned, these were questions of changing moods, and as long as he was capable of finding, either in his memory or on the spur of the moment, an elating stock phrase to go with them, he was quite content, without ever becoming aware of anything like “inconsistencies.”


Justice, but not mercy, is a matter of judgment, and about nothing does public opinion everywhere seem to be in happier agreement than that no one has the right to judge somebody else. What public opinion permits us to judge and even to condemn are trends, or whole groups of people — the larger the better — in short, something so general that distinctions can no longer be made, names no longer be named. Needless to add, this taboo applies doubly when the deeds or words of famous people or men in high position are being questioned. This is currently expressed in high-flown assertions that it is “superficial” to insist on details and to mention individuals, whereas it is the sign of sophistication to speak in generalities according to which all cats are gray and we are all equally guilty.

Another such escape from the area of ascertainable facts and personal responsibility are the countless theories, based on non-specific, abstract, hypothetical assumptions – from the Zeitgeist down to the Oedipus complex – which are so general that they explain and justify every event and every deed: no alternative to what actually happened is even considered and no person could have acted differently from the way he did act. Among the constructs that “explain” everything by obscuring all details, we find such notions as a “ghetto mentality” among European Jews; or the collective guilt of the German people, derived from an ad hoc interpretation of their history; or the equally absurd assertion of a kind of collective innocence of the Jewish people. All these clichés have in common that they make judgment superfluous and that to utter them is devoid of all risk.


I remember back in the wake of 9/11, especially after the United States invaded Iraq, I was unnerved by the similarity in logic and speech pattern of supporters of the invasion, and those who didn’t quite support it but played devil’s advocate on why maybe we should be over there. I felt like I was hearing some other being speaking through the mouths of these people. They were some kind of  mouthpiece for a collective being. It gave me the deepest kind of creeps.

I feel the same way today both about Progressivists and QAnon types.

I think people who think primarily in words and spend a lot of time in their verbal representations of the world instead of in direct contact with with various realities are susceptible to this kind of semi-solipsistic mass-mind possession. The moving parts of these possessions are cliches, ready-made arguments and tokens, which are less abstractions from reality than they are tokens that stand in for intuited truths.

For me, the best kind of thinking and the best thoughts are responses to real situations, situations where our intuition has failed us and needs assistance. We experiment and reflect on our failures and successes until we  once again can get traction. The practical understanding developed through this process can be formulated in language and used to interpret and guide our future actions and be taught to others. This kind of intuition-rooted, practice-forged understanding works more like an interface with the world than a representation of it.

Susan and I have been collaborating on a way to talk about these different relationships with reality. We’ve been calling these two world-relationships “word world” versus “intuited world”.

The mean of liberty, equality, fraternity

This is an attempt to reframe my old “political gamut” liberty-equality diagram, with an added third dimension of fraternity (indispensable in an age of Post-Trump identitarian madness) in terms of the Aristotelian mean.

Liberty

  • Excess: absolute autonomy of individual (anarchy)
  • Deficit: absolute autocracy of collective (collectivism)
  • Mean: balance of civil rights and obligations (liberalism)

Equality

  • Excess: wealth/power/status ought to be distributed equally (equity)
  • Deficit: wealth/power/status ought to be distributed unequally (hierarchy)
  • Mean: wealth/power/status ought to be earned and maintained (opportunity)

Fraternity

  • Excess: membership in polity is exclusive (closed citizenship)
  • Deficit: membership in polity is all-inclusive (universalism)
  • Mean: membership in polity is conditional (open/permeable citizenship)

Asemitism

Most people aren’t so much  antisemitic as they are asemitic.

Most people care more about their personal storylines than the fates of real Jewish people. Jews just aren’t much of a concern to them.

They don’t care to learn, but to find fanciful shapes in their cloudy understanding.

That cloud looks like colonization.

That cloud looks like apartheid.

That cloud looks like what we did to the Native Americans, right?

That cloud looks like the wicked wandering jew about to be set a-wandering again.

That cloud looks like the rebuilding of the third temple presaging the return of our Lord.

That cloud looks like a cool-ass paradox I thought up. Ok, get this: a nazi jew. Right? See? Like, they became their oppressor. Coz, if you gaze long into the abyss, the abyss will totally, like, stare into you. Pass me the bong.

That cloud looks like the Sunday school devotionals that I mostly forget but left me with a funny feeling about the Jews and their inflexible law-following formalistic lawyerizing ways.

That cloud looks like a sad mother. — And for once, you’re sort of right. That is a sad mother. She is a sad mother whose child was used as a human shield specifically in order to make a sad mother image for CNN to publish over and over and over to wring compassionate tears from softheaded news consumers.

Because that kind of propaganda helps Arab nations justify the destruction of Israel, which is, and has always been their sole goal.

And you’ll help them do it with your incuriosity and vanity, you brave hero of history.

The wrestling ritual

A few times a year Susan and I do a silly wrestling ritual.

To understand the ritual, it is important to know that Susan is a physical person. She strength trains most days of the week. For a woman, her strength is well above average, and she often outperforms women in their twenties. I am not a physical person. My exercise consists of cycling and walking. For a man, I am pretty damn weak. But, still, my masculine physique makes me stronger, and so far I have always managed to subdue her.

Or almost subdue her. The ritual goes as follows: Susan announces that, thanks to her new training regimen, she is now stronger than I am, and proceeds to attack me. We grapple until I gain the advantage. Just as I get her pinned and begin the count, she yells out “No fair! You can’t use strength.” At this point, I am required to loosen up my muscles. I use my longer reach to gain leverage. “No fair! You can’t use your size.” So then I just drape myself over her hold her down with my weight. “No fair! You can’t use your weight.” And “You can’t use your rough beard hair.” “You can’t use your disgustingness.”

Eventually, with enough equity adjustments, she ends up winning.

Whoever controls the terms of fairness controls all.

Why Israel is necessary

You are not your brother’s keeper.

You say you are, but when the decisive moment comes, you will do the wrong thing. Remember sitting in the theater with sweet tears streaming down your face for the little girl in the red coat? “Oh, if I’d been there.” But then you watched another movie and cried over something else. It is so nice to cry. It is so fun to march and shout. It is so gratifying to grandstand with this demographic or that. Because you’re one of the good ones. You are an ally.

But I think on some level you know the truth: You are not a hero of history. You are too faint-hearted and cloudy-minded to stand alone on anything. You are a weather vane pointing whichever way your news entertainment media and your HR department happens to blow you. And if the wind stops blowing, you stop pointing.

You are not dependable. And that is why Israel is necessary.

You wanna know what I think about Israel?

Yesterday, a Jewish friend asked me what I think about the Israeli-Gazan conflict.

I began with my general go-to principle that international conflict is normally evil-versus-evil, and best conceived in terms of conformity or deviance from that norm. I’m perfectly fine choosing sides amorally, based on my own preferred nonmoral outcome. The compulsion to moralize politics is vulgar.

But morality is actually relevant in this conflict.

Hamas is unusually evil. We can debate why this is the case, but it doesn’t change the facts of the present. Hamas’s explicitly stated goal is to eliminate the state of Israel. To this end, not only has it intentionally committed atrocities against Israeli civilians, it has brutalized and terrorized Gazans. It is illiberal to the extreme, and anti-progressive, and relies on fear and violence as its primary political instruments. Hamas is vile. Anyone who affords it legitimacy lacks capacity for moral reasoning.

Morally, Israel is better than average. This, however, is actually not all that relevant. If you accept the premise that Israel has a right to exist as a Jewish state — and this is absolutely core to this issue — Israel has an obligation to prevent Hamas from pursuing its goal of eliminating Israel. That Israel attempts to do so humanely, making things much harder on itself in order to minimize civilian casualties, is to its credit. Of course, some of this effort is purely pragmatic, avoiding anything that can fuel hostility from the Arab world. But given that the Arab world refuses to credit to Israel for these efforts, and will turn just about any event into an occasion for rage, at least some small portion of the humanity can be assumed to be principled.

I’ve been listening to and reading Benny Morris on the history of Israel. He is famously unflinching in his criticisms of Israel’s conduct over the short course of its history. But he is also loyal to his nation, and able to maintain that loyalty despite refusing to divert of soft-focusing his critical gaze. He admits the many injustices committed against the Israeli Arabs, and worse, sees the necessity of this injustice in order to preserve and safeguard Israel as a Jewish state. It is a grim reality, and its unfolding in the past, present and future is necessarily tragic.

The reality is dissonant to liberal ears (including mine). Israel established a Jewish ethnostate. To survive as such it must preserve a Jewish majority. It absolutely lacks liberal latitude enjoyed by a philosophically-founded nation like the United States. It must and cannot avoid imposing ethnic double-standards, at least at the level of the collective, however much it tries to preserve individual civil liberties and equality before the law. These are things that would inspire me to light a torch and grab a pitchfork were they to be imposed in the United States. But studying Jewish history has persuaded me of the necessity of Zionism. Watching the reaction of our progressivist fringe and hearing creepy comments from right-wingers insinuating that surely there must be some valid reason why Jews have always been persecuted in Christian and Muslim nations… all this only reinforces the need to have some place for Jews to go when their host nation goes collectively insane and solipsistic and, inevitably, consequently, once again develops an autoimmune reaction toward its Jewish population. I would love it if by some liberal miracle a dynamic emerged where Jews could just naturally enjoy a majority in Israel without requiring any discriminatory demo-manipulation, but reality just isn’t that way. It is ugly. So be it.

So I see Hamas as 93%+ evil, and Israel as maybe 32% evil, and that is about as close to a good-versus-evil struggle as political reality ever produces.

If people disagree with me, I’m ok with it… as long as that opinion is actually informed, which it rarely is, or if the opinion is lightly held. I’m not going to yell at you for ignoring the news or not investing time to formulate an opinion.

But if you come at me with ignorant proggo passion — the overheated sentimenality toward identities, especially toward oppressed or colonized people — I may not be able to be polite to you. I despise this narcissistic and ignorant ideology and I won’t suffer it.

Pluralist blip

Pluralists maintain principled awareness that there are multiple perspectives from which every event and every issue may be understood.

It seems that now, with the recent brutal pogrom in Israel that at least some of our elite institutions have recovered some momentary slight degree of pluralism. They can see multiple sides of this particular issue — where, in recent years many events seemed to have only one possible morally legitimate interpretation.

Police brutality had only one side. Compelled “Antiracist” indoctrination had only one side. Sexual harassment had only one side. Overturning Roe v Wade had only one side.

All organizations were required to take a stand! Silence is violence!

But apparently this slaughter in Israel — this has two sides — and now, suddenly, organizations must maintain moral neutrality and avoid stirring up unnecessary controversy.

As a Pluralist, I am faintly heartened to see organizations behave as they should have all along. *

As a Jew, I find it appalling that Progressivists are suddenly able to see both sides of this particular issue — an issue where, on one side Jewish babies were literally murdered and Jewish women literally, physically raped.


Note: I do not believe this abrupt embrace of institutional neutrality is a principled pluralist stand. I believe it is a purely pragmatic response to the fact that on this one issue, Progressivist opinion is divided. When Progressivists all agree on an issue, and only Liberals, Centrists and Conservatives dissent (civilly, quietly, politely), Progressivists are more than happy to take a univocal stand on issues. It is only when Progressivists are divided (and will dissent vocally, disruptively, coercively) that organizations exercise diplomatic neutrality.

Liberal quintessence

When I was a young father I taught my daughters that every argument has four halves: There is my side. There is your side. There is what I think your side is. There is what you think my side is.

At this point, someone inevitably wants to add: “And there is a fifth side: the truth.”

For a liberal, there is no such fifth side.

This absence is the quintessence of liberalism.

This absence is the space where we can come to new understandings.

Weird liberal

When we are young we lack awareness of how much awareness we lack.

We see all the faults, stupidity and pure viciousness embedded in the system, and we have a vision of a system without all these faults. We see it so clearly! Why shouldn’t we tear out the faults, or even dismantle the system and rebuild it more purely and on cleaner ground?

We would — if it weren’t for the powerful. They will not yield their place. They insist on blocking the way for those who wish to change the world for the better. They have power and wish to keep it, enjoy it and multiply it.

So think the powerless. So think those who have lived under the shelter of other people’s imperfect (sometimes bungled) efforts to make order from the chaos of reality. So think those who have benefitted so much from this orderly sheltering that they believe order, equality and justice is the natural default state and that these defaults persist unless some wicked person disrupts it.

When something goes wrong this must have been inflicted by some other person. They cry out in indignation: “Who is responsible for this?”

It does not occur to them to notice when things go right, and even less when things stay right for long durations. It does not occur to them to cry out in gratitude: “Who is responsible for this?”

Humility develops when one actually takes responsibility for one these sheltering layers. Failure is inevitable and imperfections turn out to be ineradicable. And gratitude grows with awareness of how much sheltering is still happening.

One begins seeing life against the background of chaos.

Health happens against a background of decay and death, and only with effort does health expand out by decades.

Reason happens against a backdrop of insane passion, and only with effort does it expand further and further out into the inexplicable, arbitrary and meaningless.

Justice happens against a background of inequality, coercion, physical violence snd terror.

Leisure happens against a background of toil.

Contentment happens against a background of discomfort and deprivation.

In this age, a great many old people make it to then end of life, never having given shelter to anyone, and without developing humility or gratitude. They still think, had the world been more just and reasonable, they could have done it better. Entire professions exist that permit people to grow old without ever maturing. (Can you guess what these are?)

Entire generations can live under the shelter of ancestors, whose accomplishments were so effective the generations following them are not even aware of the stormy skies outside the azure ceilings under which they have lived. Instead of repairing leaks, they curse those responsible for the leaky roof that is the very bane of their existence.


I am a liberal, but a weird liberal. Through my own persistent trying and failing, I have come to appreciate what a monumental but fragile accomplishment liberalism is. Even under the many superstructural roofs and substructural ceilings over my own head, I still struggle to keep the modest ceilings for which I am responsible intact and dry.

I do not want to surrender this imperfect but mostly-good order to naive idealists who credit themselves (and their kind) for a sunshiny faith that people are innately good, that the world itself is innately good, that order, benevolence and fairness is the default state of things — unless someone makes it otherwise. I do not want to put people in charge who feel that their responsibility is only to prevent wicked people from introducing wickedness into what would otherwise be an automatic paradise.

These idealists feel that all that stands in the way of possessing the order, goodness, reason and justice to which they are entitled is to displace those responsible for this flawed system that deprives them of perfection — and, of course, to replace them with less biased, more aware and more morally awakened people who, on this basis, deserve power. I do not want to live under the rule of innocently ambitious, naive ingrates. It was not their fault that they were badly parented and miseducated — but who (besides them) says that not being in charge is a punishment? They are simply unqualified. They see only the dark side of responsibility.

Perhaps I have become a conservative liberal. So be it.

Square hipsters versus hip squares

Every adolescent knows: Oppressive piety invites defiant impiety.

If you are pious, you believe oppression is a necessary means to protect what deserves piety. But to those subjected to the oppression, it is obvious that it is the piety that is the means. Oppression is the real end. Piety justifies use of coercion, and enables the oppressor to enjoy self-righteous abuse of power.

Impiety is a vehicle for defiance of oppression. The impious content is secondary. What matters is the performative “fuck you” to those who use piety as justification for oppression.

Of course, the pious can only see defiance as a hatred of what deserves piety — morality, justice, compassion and so on. They see it this way and this way only. Permitting alternative views or irony or humor introduces the risk of seeing the ruse from the outside, which would puncture all delusions of moral superiority.

I think most people understand this to some degree. We can all sort of recall how it was to be a teenager. Some of us still identify with our teenage rebellion, and even believe that we are still rebellious, despite all evidence to the contrary. If, when corporations unite to celebrate your rebellion you bask in their approval and feel renewed inspiration to continue your personal journey to self-acceptance — or if you need everyone to unanimously affirm your rebellion or you melt into a puddle of trauma tears — sorry dude, you are the furthest thing from a rebel. How could anyone be so stupid and self-oblivious to miss that?

Here is how: Power is sneaky.

The smarter we are, the sneakier we get.

The world is currently faced with a piety with the sneakiest meta moves ever devised by our sneaky, pious species.

Imagine an oppressive piety obsessed with… opposing oppression and piety.

Now imagine a defiant impiety toward this oppressive piety of anti-oppression/anti-piety.

Pious impiety and oppressive anti-oppression versus impious piety and defiant anti-anti-oppression.

This meta layer has effectively confused the majority of our (mis)educated population.

The pious impious run around shitting on and tearing down everything formerly considered sacred in former times, and if someone gets uppity and refuses to conform with the defilement, they are scarlet lettered and shunned by the community. These people refuse to be named, but I call them Proggos, because that it a silly, unpleasant word perfectly suited for silly, unpleasant people.

Meanwhile the impious pious run around defiantly affirming the sacrality of everything the  Proggos hate, most of all sacred traditions, which is why these people are commonly called Trads. These Trads compulsively disregard all the moral rule Proggos impose and enforce, even that 75% that’s actually decent and good, and even the 50% espoused by their own sacred traditions. But Trads are not sincere in any of their affirmations. They affirm only to negate. They care nothing about sacredness — only saying “fuck you” in the most offensive manner they can find, and that has turned out to be the Apostle’s Creed.

So basically these pious impious Proggos and these impious pious Trads share something in common: a total disregard for sacredness. One desecrates with sincere contempt and the other desecrates  with disingenuous reverence.