Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Freedom & Capitalism / American Character

Image result for plato

- Sometimes I think I've got these ideas almost worked out, but then when I need them most I'm lost. Will you help me out?
- If I can.
- You know how when someone asks you 'How are you?' and you answer honestly, 'Not too good, there are these problems I just can't manage to solve, not for lack of trying, I've tried everything I can think of.' And the person you're talking to answers that he is a great believer that it's possible to do anything you set your mind to. Which makes you angry. You've had the experience, I'm sure.
- Yes.
- I get angry because I am being told to do what I never want to do in order to allow me to do what I want to do now. I'm being asked to do things I fundamentally don't want to do, like lie, disrespect strangers, turn completely around the direction of my life and go another way. Follow?
- Yes.
- So tell me, what exactly defines this wrong way we refuse to go in order to get to where we won't otherwise ever be? They, the good Americans, tell us traitorous complainers, if only we turned our minds to it, repeated to ourselves over and over anything is possible, anything would be possible. We traitorous complainers answer, 'Maybe, much is possible, if we're willing to destroy ourselves, but we aren't.' And the good strong positive thinking true Americans ask us what we're talking about. 'Destroy what about yourselves? Your inflexibility? Yes, now you're talking, destroy that! Do it right now!' What do we say to them? 
- We ask them, Isn't it true that if we have a certain character, we have certain habits, ways of doing things, and these habits make it easier for us to do some things and harder to do others? And if so, how can a person of strong character do everything and anything?
- By strong character they mean the strength to go against their own habits when necessary.
- And that is the American character that anything is possible to.
- Yes.
- A sort of instantly renewed character to suit constantly changing circumstances.
- Yes.
- Where would such a character be at home?
- In America, obviously.
- But would there be any particular place they'd be more at home than another that would suit their character best?
- That would have to be the place where instant adaptation of character would get most exercised.
- And where would that be?
- America.
- Would such a character find any rest in America?
- How, if being at home meant constant change and adaptation?
- Then being at home would mean constantly moving, inventing, producing. For those who have the un-American character of having habits rather than having a habit of change, the reward and goal of activity is rest at home when activity has come to an end. What is the reward and end for those who have a habit of changing their habits? Do they never rest?
- I'd say they don't. The more money they make and possessions they acquire the more they want to make money and acquire more possessions. 
- Would you agree that if it is true to say they rest at all, it is a rest in their confidence in and satisfaction at the thought they can continue to perform and acquire new habits successfully in any conditions?
- Yes. They gloat over their sense of power.
- But only to go on and acquire more power, because only in their thoughts is there a sort of rest, not in the world itself, there is no comfort anyplace for them when they stop doing things. 
- So, when they tell us, if we only turned our mind to it, we like them could do anything, we answer, maybe, maybe not, but we don't want to lose our sense of home, we don't want to lose our character.
- And they tell us, yes, you say it yourself, you have another character, you are different from us, you are un-American losers.
- They do. 
- What do we say to that?
- That they are the true losers.
- What have they lost? Themselves? Truth?
- Yes. But what I was thinking particularly to tell them was that they have lost exactly what they think they have gained.
- Which is?
- Freedom. Call it a bad habit, a character flaw if you will, but one last time will you let me make use of Plato's allegory? 
- Prisoners are chained in a cave...
- Behind and unseen by them is a wall on which puppets and objects are paraded. And behind that wall the puppets are moved along is a fire which throws their shadow on the back wall of the cave the prisoners face. Outside the cave are the real people and things the puppets represent, but the prisoners only see the shadows of the puppets. Let's say the American 'we can do anything' character is that of a prisoner who has broken his chains but rather than escape to the upper world of real things remains down in the cave to be a puppeteer. In his bets with his fellow prisoners about what the shadows will do he almost always comes out on top because he is no longer simply himself, he can do what he wants with all the shadows including the one that the other prisoners are now told represents himself. He can do anything he wants, subject to the need to avoid the danger of losing his advantage by teaching too many of the other prisoners to do the same he has. What do you think? Does this describe the American character of having no character we've been talking about?
- It's not really true the prisoners can do anything: it's true only that they can do anything with the shadows. 
- Yes. Outside the cave is the real world illuminated, not by the artificial light of a fire, but by the sun, which is the source of good. Getting up and getting out of the cave we establish a real relation to the world we come to know. We find that known part of the world to be good, and rest in the feeling of being at home.
- The unchained but still in the cave prisoners are free to produce for themselves the most powerful representation of themselves. It's like magic to the other prisoners who can't change their own representations and are afraid to break their chains and do what true Americans can do.
- We know though that among the prisoner puppeteers there can be no discussion about truth: each tries in his own way to put on the show that brings the most possessions into association with his own puppet. There is no truth to the show except that it is a show.
- But it's all about things. It's a show about things.
- What else could it be about if there never is any home or rest? 
- So the prisoner puppeteers are capitalists: there is no fixed right and wrong, there is nothing but the fact a show is to be performed, a show about things being produced and exchanged, and in that show they can do anything, they can destroy competitors' puppets and the things associated with them, do it behind the scenes or openly on the wall, whatever they can get away with. But no matter what they do their world is exclusively a world of things.
- To people without character everything is allowed, everything except getting out of this world composed only of things and their shadows. Or to put it another way: Americans are entirely free to do anything they can get away with except question property, the idea that meaning in life is to be found in associating oneself with things. They never get out of the cave. They are not free to make their lives good.
- But, you know, I allowed you the cave, allow me to risk making myself ridiculous and speak for the whole country: these people we are calling Americans are not Americans. You and me are Americans. We don't want freedom to move around things and images of ourselves. We want freedom to do good with our lives. These people are 'doers for the sake of doing'. They are materialists, they are restless, they are without home.
- They have a lot of character for people who claim to have no character.

Further Reading:
Puppy & Puppets
Hybrid Fates
Zagreb Stories

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Be My Guest

Image result for at your service

12 a.m. Starbucks Cafe, West Hollywood

- What are you reading?
- An email from my friend the graduate student at UCLA.
- The one that got thrown out.
- Yes. He's back home now.
- What does he write?
- Greek Orthodox Christianity appeals to him at the moment.
- At the moment?
- Before it was Sufi mysticism that appealed to him.
- And before that? I can't believe how loud those policemen are. Do they come here every night?
- Yes. The Beverly Hills Police and the West Hollywood Sheriffs both are here in force.
- I count four cars, seven men sitting at the tables. They don't seem to have anything to do with the customers.
- They don't. They talk shop with each other. Laugh at the stories people tell when stopped by them innocently going about their lives.
- Is that what you do? Innocently go about your life?
- I try to. I'll tell you a story about the innocent, or rather, if you let me, I'll tell you several stories about the innocent and not so innocent.
- I'm listening. But talk a little louder, I can't hear with all the laughing coming from over there. Why do you go to this place?
- I'm convinced there's something to be learned from the people here. The guy you see sleeping across the street, wrapped in a blanket at the bus shelter, he's a regular customer.
- What can we learn from him?
- Our own future if we don't change our ways. If we're still here half hour after closing the crazy rich women will come sit outside with us. She'll start an argument with you which will end in her calling the police and accusing you of one crime or another: stealing her things, harassment, or disturbing the peace. She once, sitting outside here, cleared absolutely everyone off the terrace after calling the police and promising to accuse one and all. The Starbucks staff won't let her inside if they see her; sometimes she sneaks in. Another edifying person to be found here is the paparazzo trying to make himself famous as the unauthorized photographer of famous people. He gets angry and shouts at anyone who interrupts him.
- What can we learn from him?
- He asked me last time I saw him if I knew the book 'Catcher in the Rye'. Why did he ask? The liner notes of a CD from a rock band he's a fan of says one song is about Holden Caulfield, the protagonist of 'Catcher In The Rye'. Did I know the book?
- I've read it many times.
- Why? What's so good about it?
- It's a work of genius.
- Really? Should I read it?
- It's not for you.
- It's only for geniuses like you. What do you know about me? Nothing. The CD notes say 'protagonist': What's a protagonist?
- The main character. Holden Caulfield is a teenager having trouble deciding whether or not to give in and conform to the expectations of the adult world. He gets upset, breaks down. He can't stand 'phoneys', people who are false.
- That's me! I'm just like him, I get angry just like him. I knew it!
- You've managed to truly shock me with that claim. Holden gets riled up at the demand of phoneys that innocence be corrupted, you get angry when people challenge your phoniness you couldn't be happier with.
- Yeah? Better watch what you say.
- Or you'll do what, Mr. Innocent?
He wags his finger, enacting a parent reprimanding a child, gathers up his cameras and computer and goes off seeking better company. What do all these people hanging out in this neighborhood have in common?
- What?
- First let me tell you about more of these characters. They're not just here. The neighborhood is crowded with them. I encounter them as I make my way late night west to east through quiet streets of Beverly Hills. We'll start from here, a tour like we did in Westwood* but this time you don't  have to leave your seat. Before you arrived there was a guy sitting where you are now who confessed to me he'd just come from getting a two girl Tantric massage. Prostitution? Yep. The oldest profession. Next, where West Hollywood borders Beverly Hills, at the ultra expensive Bristol Farms supermarket, there's often this big tough guy who chants, 'Help an elderly Vietnam Vet'. If you pass on by without giving him money he shouts out at you, 'You're EVIL!' Last time, hoping to slip by unnoticed on my bike, I was honored by being told my mother is a Nazi and he hopes she dies soon.
- What's there to be learned from him? That we're evil?
- Some of us.
- What about the guy before, the one with the prostitutes? Evil too?
- You better believe it.** Down at where Santa Monica meets Wilshire, if you're there at around three in the morning you sometimes can see the crazy young gymnast who does jumps in the middle of the street when there appears a gap in the traffic, and when cars approach, does a kind of bull fight approach and confrontation at them and jumps away at the last moment. I forgot: before you get to that corner, there's the 60 year old Harvard educated lawyer who can be met outside the cigar smokers' bar closed up for the night, enjoying in solitude one last smoke. Yesterday I got off my bike to say hello. When I'd just come back from my disastrous trip to visit my brother in Thailand I'd been introduced to him by the deal-maker I told you about.*** Remember?
- Yes. You met at the drug store.
- Right. He got me over to his place, a luxury penthouse apt. He wanted me to know both his past wealth, the decades he was spending $100,000 a month, and his present state of jeopardy in which if he didn't come up with cash soon everything would be lost. He showed me his bill for the month's rent, $3800, told me the cost of all his furnishings. Pointed out his pictures of himself, usually shirtless, with celebrities from the time he was a muscle man TV star. In fact I remembered his TV appearances, was reminded how as I kid I was annoyed by his bandit's drooping mustache. Now he'd fallen on hard times, the investment deals he'd been doing since his TV days stopped working in our times' changed economy. The past five years he put his all into a final gigantic project for a golf course and residential suburb to be financed by the Chinese. It fell through, a complete loss. Not giving up, he'd set to doing something new, packaging together a mass of internet start ups for investment. That was how I came to be at his place. I'd had some start up ideas myself. He liked one of them a lot, and wanted me to pitch the idea to his lawyer friend who was also inviting over. The friend had the 5,000 cash he needed this month to cover rent and expenses and might loan him the money if he thought the idea was promising.
- Did he?
- No. I asked the lawyer if the deal maker had been thrown out of his penthouse. No, somehow the deal maker was paying his rent. How? Doing his deals. In fact, the lawyer tells me, he just came from there. And he, I ask, how was he doing? The deal maker had told me some things about him. Before Harvard Law he'd studied Chinese poetry. He'd fallen on hard times, was sleeping on his mother's couch, working at evicting people from their houses for a demonic real estate speculator, carrying around $50,000 in money orders because his bank accounts had all been attached. This night he tells me he things have gotten so bad for him he keeps losing all his cases. The judges don't listen to anything, even read arguments, they simply decide for the side that is richest and biggest and that's not his. Ok. Want to ask what we can learn from him? No? Let's keep going west. The day before yesterday, around the same early morning hour, I saw a man a block away rapidly approaching me. This proved to be an extremely well dressed, handsome man about thirty-five who evidently knows me though I don't know him. He asks me how the writing is going, tells me he's reading my work on the internet. I'm a genius, he says. He also says I'm dead.
- 'You're dead'. What did he mean?
- Dead to the material enticements of the world. I ask him where he is going, all the while trying to remember who he is. He's going to meet his girl. Where's your girl? At her apartment. Where's that? That way. He points opposite to the way he was going. Who was this guy? A drug dealer? A gigolo? I don't know. Want to know what you can learn from him?
- No!
- Continuing. At Holmby Park, on the other side of the L.A. Country Club. late nights you can meet a middle aged Russian man dressed all in black, a bulky man a little overweight, projecting belly encased in a tight fitting shirt. With him is a little dog he'd warned me against approaching. The dog loves only him, he says, no one else. He was abandoned: I could imagine what happened to him, he tells me. As Kant and Hegel said life is about power, everything else was a lie. Kant and Hegel said that? Yes, do you know the names? He was looking after the dog, it was his son's ex-girlfriend's. His son is a big time drug dealer. His son always takes care of his girls when he breaks up with them. He sends them to school, he buys them a house. His son lives in a two million dollar house in the Hollywood Hills. He, the father, himself also is a millionaire, though he still gets up at five in the morning to go over to his eighty plus year old parents' place he bought them. He went there to wash his father, who's alone while his mother vacations in Alaska. From his parents' place every morning he then goes to the apartment buildings he owns and sweeps out the hallways. From apartment building sweeping he then goes to the pawn shop his son bought but doesn't have time to manage. The life of a millionaire, he sighs. He was a millionaire because he was willing to do what it takes, whatever it takes, to get ahead. My problem, he says, is I'm not willing. That is correct. Like one Salinger character says of another, I thought of myself as 'intricately calibrated', my adjustments easily disrupted. I could like he did do the anything required of me to do, but I couldn't do it without losing calibration. I was in agreement with employers who by their use of profiles reveal their assumption some types of person have greater capacities than other types for some things, for if not, why profile?
- What abilities were you unwilling to risk losing?
- The ability to stay innocent,
- I'll call you Holden from now on.
- In response to which argument of my intricate calibration the Russian says '#!%-#!' I'm a spoiled American man. He was in prison in Siberia. His first job in L.A. was as an apartment manager. He stole supplies from the apartment's storage which he used setting himself up as a painter. His business grew, he took on employees, he bought apartment buildings, became a millionaire. But his drug dealing son was much richer than he was. He ran the pawn shop as a favor to his son. But not as a normal business man. He was a Russian, he had a heart. He asked the story of everyone who brought something in to pawn. He did everything he could to help them out, made extensions of the loan period before he sold. I ask him to tell me one story. This is the story. There was this dentist who started taking all his things to the pawn shop. What had happened? Well, a patient came in one day, asked for a cleaning. He did his usual inspection, found a few cavities, asked the patient if she wanted them filled. Yes. So he does the work, presents his bill, three hundred dollars. But, the patient protests, the ad she saw said 'introductory special, $39.95'. That was for a first cleaning, not cavities, the dentist explains. But he didn't tell her that, she protests. The discussion gets more and more animated, the dentist raises his voice. The patient runs out without paying and the next day goes over to the office of the dentistry board and files a complaint. They call him in, ask him to give his side of the story. He tells the story, getting angrier and angrier, getting angry finally at the board members for not understanding him. The board suspends his license until he competes an anger management course. He finds a special all weekend intensive course, sits through it, and on the Monday following goes to the school office for his certificate of completion. That will be $5,000, he's told. He explodes in anger at the anger management coarse leader, leaves without paying and without the certificate, and goes directly to the office of the dentistry board and complains to them about this school they'd sent him to. When they ask why he didn't ask the price first just like his patient he got angry at didn't ask him his charge, he gets furious at them and storms out of their office. They suspend his licence indefinitely. With nothing to do all day he takes to drink. With no income he has to sell his possessions to pay his rent and so comes into the pawn shop.
- Do you believe that story?
- No. It's much too neat. I don't believe any of it in fact, not the son the soft-hearted gangster, not the five apartment buildings. For all these people I'm telling you about life's all a big show, strangely sad in their cases because they don't have anyone to show off to except me, and I'm not on anyone's stage.
- You're Holden Caulfield, a fictional character.
- Their isolation makes it easier to see the meaningless of their vanity. They are ridiculous doing their part on the stage without the other players, in having to talk about themselves to me, who isn't even allowed on any stage. When others are playing complementary roles on stage up with them, the meaninglessness of their role play is there but our sight is distracted by the drama between roles of who wins whatever is being fought over in the script. The police and sheriffs laughing it up at midnight in the West Hollywood Starbucks you'd think would be right in their element in today's police state, but they too are fish out of water when they climb onto a stage other than that their job is performed on. This is dangerous situation, you have to watch out, be careful you don't change role from being the superfluous other cafe customer to becoming their work. You better not look too long at them or appear to guiltily look away when they have their eyes on you. You know Marshalls, the discount store over across from the Beverly Center? See these jeans?
- What about them?.
- The alternatives were going naked or buy a pair of pants. I gave in. I went over to the superstore, grabbed off the rack the first pair my size, and went to wait my turn in line to pay. A cashier beckons me forward, callling out, 'Next guest!' I ask him:
- I'm your guest?
- Yes.
- So I don't have to pay?
- Yes, you have to pay.
- But if I invited you to my house, I mean if I had a house, if I invited you over to be my guest for dinner I wouldn't ask you to pay.
- Here guests have to pay. Would you like a bag?
- As your guest or customer?
- You're funny. The bag is free.
After this conversation I went on the internet to research this important matter. Found in seconds a New York Times story right on topic, the decision of stores to begin calling their customers guests. The Times found that a small chain of stores in the mid-west was the pioneer in this change, which didn't really get going until the Disney conglomerate took it up. The chain store and Disney conglomerate claimed calling people guests is friendlier that calling them customers.
- Sure it is. But it's not true customers are their friends. They have to pay.
- Of course it's not true. I don't think it's true either that the businesses' intention was to be friendlier.
- What was their intention then?
- To confuse the distinction between what is done for money and what is done out of friendship. If you go to the public library in Beverly Hills you'll see a big sign hanging over the checkout counter that says 'Customer Service'.****
-. So at big business outlets paying visitors become guests, but at the public library, visitors who used to be called patrons, because as members of the public they are owners of public institutions and are entitled to free passage, are now treated like they have to pay for the right to visit, are customers.
- On one side, paying-visits invades the territory of non-paying visits, on the other side, non-paying visits are treated like paying-visits.
- Do you think the obscuring of the difference between paying- and non-paying visits is intentional?
- Yes. And far from being friendly, the goal is to deprive the word 'friend' and what it represents of clear meaning by confusing it with what is done for money.
- Because people whose lives are more about spending money than being with friends make better customers.
- Yes.
- And the police and sheriffs at Starbucks are there, in this new conspiracy against friendship you've invented, to make sure even cafes are no longer places for friends to meet but are places you consume and if you don't watch out you'll be a consumable offered to the forces of law and order hanging out there. As happened to your friend the Greek Orthodox Christian thrown out of UCLA, who didn't think such things were possible. What do you think, by the way, of his advocacy of Greek Orthodoxy?
- I sympathize with the idea that the messiah has already arrived, no need to make the earth again a paradise, the other world awaits. But why must I be subject to that particular story? There are many other stories with the same message. For example there's Holden Caulfield's message. He wants to get away from the world of phonies and do something good, wait in the field of rye below the place where children are at risk of falling and be there to save them. Why if this world is only instrumental to getting to the other world should there be any privileged story in this world? Muslim, Jewish, Catholic, Orthodox, Buddhist, Sufi, etc. Each thinks it has the privilege, yet the way I see it none should have it. It doesn't matter at all which should have it so long as religion too should share the status of everything else in this world of only instrumental meaning, the world worth living in and talking about only to figure out the best way of getting out of it.
- What does your friend say to that?
- I'll have to ask him. I'll let you know.

Further Reading:
The Two Worlds
** Prostitution & Torture
*** While You've Been Gone
**** A Visit To The Library

Friday, August 19, 2016

Kant & Compromise

Image result for kant immanuel


- We're told it's unreasonable to expect we'll ever have someone represent us in government who is not
a sociopath or clinical narcissist, (who has) failed to be the target of fraud lawsuits, sexual-harassment claims, or federal criminal investigations...(who hasn't) the capacity for unspeakable evil that is generally considered necessary to win higher office.*
We're told we have to vote for Clinton to make sure we don't get Trump. We have to choose the lesser of two evils. Do we?
- We don't.
- Why not?
- Because it is a compromise that is sure to have drawbacks and is sure not to have benefits.
- How can that be? The benefit is to save the world from Donald Trump, who with nuclear launch codes in hand can basically end the world.
- Aldous Huxley's 'Ends And Means'** argues that the only end we could choose bad means to reach was there being greater charity in the world. Choosing any other end we'd be doing certain bad for the sake of uncertain good, at the cost to both ourselves and others, losing our integrity and becoming a bad example.
- We'll have our integrity while the nuclear bombs are exploding over our heads.
- In the 18th Century Immanuel Kant wrote an essay,*** drawing on Plato's allegory of the cave,**** that argued that people are weakened by dependence on others and don't dare to take back their independence. But once they do,
free thought gradually reacts back on the modes of thought of the people, and men become more and more capable of acting in freedom. At last free thought acts even on the fundamentals of government and the state finds it agreeable to treat man, who is now more than a machine, in accord with his dignity.
- And what if there is no time?
- Kant advocated freedom only in public speech, not in personal life:
Thus it would be very unfortunate if an officer on duty and under orders from his superiors should want to criticize the appropriateness or utility of his orders. He must obey. But as a scholar he could not rightfully be prevented from taking notice of the mistakes in the military service and from submitting his views to his public for its judgment.
- Then Kant advocated compromise too.
- He advocated obeying the rules in our personal lives when combined with free speech in public life, because that was he believed sure to result eventually in change for the better in our lives. If we merely call on each other to compromise in our personal lives, without the free speech in public life, our compromise will cost us our integrity and our good example and get us nothing.
- Except maybe not having nuclear bombs falling on our heads.
- Wouldn't that risk be better taken care of by people coming out and talking to each other, looking to another candidate or another political party rather than voting for the lesser of two evils?
- If there is time and if you can get people to talk to each other.
* From the Borowitz Report, July 24, 2016 issue, The New Yorker Magazine
** Ends And Means, (An Enquiry into the Nature of Ideals)
*** What Is Enlightenment?
**** The Allegory Of The Cave


- I've done a little research. According to Kant, because ability to be free develops slowly and is limited by present conditions, we have no choice but to accept present political conditions, in his case a more or less benevolent dictatorship, in ours oligarchy, and talk our way into more and more enlightenment which will in time change the present political circumstances. Correct?
- Yes.
- As incredible as it may seem, my research shows that present conditions may not be a restraint for us much longer. Want to know why?
- Why?
- A few years ago you talked about throwing out the existing Congress and electing a whole new one.* There now is a political movement called Brand New Congress** for doing just that in 2018 when most congressional seats will be up for grabs. You also talked about criminal prosecution and taxing of the rich to fund economic freedom for the majority of the people. The charity Oxfam, hardly a radical organization, in 2013 calculated that half of the income of the world's hundred richest people would be enough to save the lives of millions dying every year of starvation.*** Existing law in the United States makes it a crime to fail in the "duty to save".**** Putting this research together I come up with the surprising conclusion that in 2018 it is not impossible to elect a Brand New Congress with the exclusive mandate of criminally prosecuting and confiscating the wealth of our country's richest citizens for gross negligence of duty to save.
- Save from what?
- Poverty, conditions of violence and social injustice, all of which can be directly laid to the door of their hoarding of wealth, not to mention their bribery of the government in the service of that hoarding. Two years ago you wrote all this should happen.
- I did. And it is true, we have the wealth, we have the law, we have the political organization necessary for change. But part of the restraining conditions are the use of advertising and political speech to convince people change like this is impossible. Voters are allowed to choose only between images of leaders that make them feel better about themselves.
- Even if in public life they are told about other possibilities, they won't be able to act on them because in their personal lives they have been made idiots by advertising, movies, TV, music. I'm not so sure.
- Why not?
- Because as statistics tell us Americans are some of the most religious people on the planet, and really all we are talking about here is the golden rule: act with others as you would like them to act with you. Right now Americans are being told, Let those guys be billionaires as they like to be billionaires, because wouldn't you like to be a billionaire too and act as you like with your billions? But Americans haven't had the opportunity to see that those billions were acquired and maintained by criminality that costs million of lives every year, many of them in their own communities.
- They haven't had the opportunity to see because their minds are controlled by those same rich people who are criminals under current law.
- But Kant's theory of the enlightenment, and despite all our faults we are creatures of the enlightenment, predicts that that control can't indefinitely be maintained against public talk of new political parties, the world's increasing wealth, and existing law.
A Spiritualist Campaigns For Congress, An Anarchist Attends
** Brand New Congress
*** Oxfam report
**** Duty To Save

Monday, August 8, 2016

Time's Up

              D-Wave's Quantum Computer

There's this theory I've been reading about. As communications that once were controlled by monopolies at high profits are now produced and consumed directly by people at no cost on the Internet, so energy and transport will go the same way. Everyone will have solar panels on their rooftops and everyone will share transport rather than own a car. The production of the tools of communication and energy production and transportation are getting cheaper and cheaper through automation, approaching the point where the tools can manufacture themselves and repair themselves. Only the raw materials the tools are made from need be provided, but they can be recycled. Sounds good, right?
- Do you remember the conversation?* Last year, I think?
- Yes.
- From what I've been reading we are now within five or ten years of the point where the tools can manufacture themselves and repair themselves. We have already functioning 'machine learning' with neural network computing. Its weak point is the immense power of computation required to connect more and more 'neural' nodes to each other. However quantum computing is developing fast, and is poised to provide almost unlimited computation power. And then...
- Then?
- The head guys involved in both machine learning and quantum computing don't neglect issuing the usual warnings about technology being a tool that can be used for good or evil. Their job is to develop the technology, the society at large has to take care of the problem how to use it safely.
- There are whole institutions dedicated to this question.
- Staffed by technicians.
- Should they be staffed with philosophers who don't understand the technology?
- Perhaps they should, if this warning from 50 years ago, the ideas developed 30 years before that, turns out to be true:
The danger to democracy does not spring from any specific scientific discoveries or electronic inventions. The human compulsions that dominate the authoritarian technics of our own day date back to a period before even the wheel had been invented. The danger springs from the fact that, since Francis Bacon and Galileo defined the new methods and objectives of technics, our great physical transformations have been effected by a system that deliberately eliminates the whole human personality, ignores the historic process, overplays the role of the abstract intelligence, and -- makes control over physical nature, ultimately control over man himself, the chief purpose of existence.**
- Lewis Mumford. His astonishing idea that technology, before it constructed machines of metal, made machines out of people, organizing them in massive armies for constructing monuments to their leaders or to fight wars.
- From the same 1963 essay:
Let us fool ourselves no longer. At the very moment Western nations threw off the ancient regime of absolute government, operating under a once-divine king, they were restoring this same system in a far more effective form in their technology, reintroducing coercions of a military character no less strict in the organization of a factory than in that of the new drilled, uniformed, and regimented army....
And, towards the conclusion:
Again: do not mistake my meaning. This is not a prediction of what will happen, but a warning against what may happen. 
- So with machine learning here and quantum computing on its way: time's up.
- Slaves provided the human material to ancient civilizations to construct their technology, so as Mumford put it there was no need for 'inorganic' material and to develop metal based technology. Once, however, all our inorganic machines are making and taking care of themselves, immense supply of organic material - we human beings - will be available for use to serve the 'human compulsions' that were behind the drive to construct the first social, organic technologies, and are already a dominant element in present day social organization.
- What are those human compulsions?
- Doing for the sake of doing. Endless production. The more times you can successfully repeat an action, the safer you feel in your power to perform that action, and others related to it.
- A question of safety then. How are we ever going to get past that?
- Find security in our knowledge.
- Technology is knowledge and it is in the service of this power madness.
- The wrong kind of knowledge. We have the most perfect myth to express this: Adam and Eve,*** expelled from the garden of Eden for acquiring knowledge, become mortal. They can apply their knowledge to their work, but they are punished by work and reproduction being a pain to them and by being confined within their social roles of master and slave. Work is to do what you don't want to do, that you don't have a personal reason to do. Reproduction is a pain. Put these ideas together, and you get doing for the sake of doing, production without end never without pain. You have to do what your role tells you to do and you have to do it for no reason outside itself and you have to keep doing it forever. It is the only thing that makes you feel safe in your state of mortal uncertainty and fear.
- So you end up doing it more and more because the more you do it the safer you feel you can continue to do it. If you have the chance, you make yourself into a pyramid building pharaoh or modern day prince of finance or industry.
- Yes. Adam and Eve are out and can't get back in to Eden, but their descendants have a way back if they use knowledge right.
- Which is?
- For the sake of getting back to Eden.
- Which is where exactly?
- In the company of the people we love. Or perhaps you want a more technical answer? Here's Mumford:
The reconstitution of both our science and our technics in such a fashion as to insert the rejected parts of the human personality at every stage in the process. This means gladly sacrificing mere quantity in order to restore qualitative choice, shifting the seat of authority from the mechanical collective to the human personality and the autonomous group, favoring variety and ecological complexity, instead of stressing undue uniformity and standardization, above all, reducing the insensate drive to extend the system itself, instead of containing it within definite human limits and thus releasing man himself for other purposes. We must ask, not what is good for science or technology, still less what is good for General Motors or Union Carbide or IBM or the Pentagon, but what is good for man: not machine-conditioned, system-regulated, mass-man, but man in person, moving freely over every area of life.


- Do you know what I find most interesting in this?
- What?
- Mumford warned that control over physical nature and over man himself had already become the chief purpose of existence. If that is true, we should be seeing the two acting together.
- How do you mean?
- We should be seeing people treated as property and defined and distinguished from each other by their relation to property. We should be seeing all parts of the human personality outside of these definitions being rejected, both by threat of exclusion from social participation and by outright violence upon those whose present social position is an irritant to the efficient practice of accepted social roles. I have some personal experience of this happening.
- Tell me.
- So far, all rather ridiculous stuff. On my way back to Westwood late at night I'm often trailed at walking pace by Beverly Hills police cars. I've been approached by the University police and asked to inform them of any suspicious people (like myself) I see on campus.
-What did you say?
- That there was already too much spying going on and I didn't want to be approached again.
- They must have thought you were crazy.
- They must have. To continue. My single valuable possession, a 17 year old Italian racing bicycle, regularly suggests to bike thieves who are out in force late at night that as it was too good for somebody like me it would be better in their hands than mine. Earlier this month a man was gesturing crazily across the street as I was coming towards him. When I passed he exclaimed, 'That's a nice bike', and ran after me, grabbed hold of the bike seat and tried to pull me to a stop.
- He didn't?
- No. The benefit of a fast bike. At Starbucks in Westwood a twitchy drug addict told me his story. A poet and filmmaker, he was also a biker. He had gotten into drug dealing with one of the numerous bike gangs that group-ride late at night in L.A. They demanded of him that he steal a bike for them as sort of an initiation. When he refused, his story goes, one of the leader's friend's asked to try out his bike, and rode away never to return. Whereupon the gang leader with suitable menace sends him on the way home on foot: an all night walk from Burbank to West L.A. As I got up to leave he repeated his observation, what a nice bike I had, placed his hands on the handlebars, asked couldn't he take it for a ride?
- You didn't let him?
- No. The ridiculousness reached a new level a couple days ago. I was sitting at the tables outside of Trader Joes market in Westwood, eating lunch and reading, when a strong wind rose and blew the large garden unbrella down on top of the woman at the next table. She got up and left, and I tried but failed to steady it so it wouldn't fall next on me. I was unlocking my bike to leave when a man approached me, crying out, "What are you doing to our property?" I asked,
- Who are you?
- I work for the association. We got a call that a strange man was breaking our umbrella.
- The Westwood Community Association. Who called you?
- The manager of Trader Joe's.
- Hard to believe.
- Are you calling me a liar?
- Let's go inside and talk to the manager. If he denies he called you, then I'll call you a liar.
- No.
- No what?
- I won't go inside. I'm here because a strange man was damaging our property. You admit that strange man is you.
- Your property fell on the head of the woman sitting at the next table. She left and I attempted to set it straight so it wouldn't fall on me.
- You have no right to touch our property. You have to leave.
- What?
- You have to leave. Right now.
- Who are you?
- I work for the association. I'm protecting our property.
- Your property is a public hazard. And your property is on public property.
- No. This is our property.
- It's public property.
- It's ours.
- Possibly it's Trader Joe's property which you've been given the authority to manage.
- No it's not.
- Let's go in and ask them..
- No.
- Then I'll go in. But here's the manager now.
- What's going on?
- This idiot from the Westwood Association claims he manages this area outside the store for you. Is this your property?
- No.
- No. Did you call him to come here?
- No.
- No. You're a liar, idiot.
- You can't call me an idiot.
- I can't? Is this your property?
- Yes.
- Idiot.
- Don't call me idiot! Leave right now!
- You leave. If you choose to stay I'll conclude you're such an idiot you want to be called an idiot many more times.
- You can't talk to him like that.
- I can't? Is this your property, manager of Trader Joe's?
- No.
- Then you can't control what I say.
- But you're not right to ...
- Nothing's keeping you here. You can go back into your store.
- Tell this man he has to leave.
- Look, idiot...
- Don't talk to him that way!
- Idiot, you leave, go back the way you came, and you, manager of Traders Joes, if you don't like the conversation go that way back to your store.
- Wow. The manager went back into the store?
- Yes. And the association man also went away.
- Without either community association representative or market manager showing the slightest concern about the dangerous garden umbrella.
- But showing, which is why I'm telling the story, plenty of menacing authority.

                                                          * * *

P.S. 'The most exciting breakthroughs of the 21st century will not occur because of technology but because of an expanding concept of what it means to be human.' - Albert Einstein

Something To Look Forward To
** Authoritarian and Democratic Technics
*** Eve In The Garden Of Eden

Sunday, July 3, 2016

The Character Of Donald Trump

Image result for trump

We admire good character: directness, openness, etc. We ask about politicians whether or not they in fact act, in their personal and professional lives, up to the character they work hard to display to the public.

Donald Trump is a building speculator who started with inherited wealth, repeatedly went bankrupt, and was repeatedly bailed out by the public. He is a man who was bailed out, an interference with free-market discipline, and who also claims to support conservative principles of no interference with free market discipline*. Hypocrisy is evident, that is, bad character. Much, probably most, of Trump's wealth was acquired acting in TV shows*** and licencing for profit his name, activities which make use of the show of character, not actual character, and certainly do not make use of business genius unless business genius, contrary to conservative free market principles, means profiting from claiming business genius without having the reality. Trump went bankrupt in 1991, 1992, and 2004 prior to his TV acting career, with his bankruptcies continuing in 2009 and 2014 during his acting career. Even if he had business genius, use of it in speculation in housing for the rich is not admirable or creative behavior, and does not benefit anyone other than himself:
Drawing from a deep well of data Piketty found that for almost all recorded history, those who are rich enough to be sitting on a pile of cash and assets will get richer just from the returns on their capital at a faster rate than the economy can grow as a whole. In other words, if you don’t start with capital, you can never close the gap with the rich, no matter how hard you work; whereas if you do start with capital, you’ll get richer and richer whether you work or not. Over time this leads to greater and greater inequality. (from The London Review Of Books)

Trump talks of "our people". It is natural and inescapable to care more about people you know than those you don't. That however does not make it a sign of good character to irrationally hate strangers or act without information and judgment in defense of "our people". Indiscriminate bombing of terrorist enemies in foreign countries, which Trump recommends be intensified, has caused the United States to go from having a limited number of enemies in one small corner of Afghanistan to having tens of thousands of enemies in dozens of countries all over the world -- the kind of result to be expected when show of character substitutes for reality.
* Trump, in fact wildly inconsistent in his economics, has made a point of putting himself on record to be in favor of free market principles (for example with regard to health care). However, being wildly inconsistent in economics is typical of free market conservatives who in practice mean free markets to be for the poor, and protection to be for their sponsors, the rich. Trump, like did his fellow nationalists the Nazi party (the National Socialistsin Germany of the 30s, for the sake of getting elected, as a bribe temporarily delivered, is including the poor electorate in the spoils of market economics normally reserved for the rich.
** No major U.S. company has filed for Chapter 11 more than Trump's businesses in the last 30 years. See this article in CNN Money.
*** The exact amount Trump has been paid for his TV performances is in dispute. See this article in the The Hollywood Reporter.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Political Correctness

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Since childhood, I’ve passed through a flow of milk, smells, stories, sounds, emotions, nursery rhymes, substances, gestures, ideas, impressions, gazes, songs, and foods. What am I? Tied in every way to places, sufferings, ancestors, friends, loves, events, languages, memories, to all kinds of things that obviously are not me. Everything that attaches me to the world, all the links that constitute me, all the forces that compose me don’t form an identity, a thing displayable on cue, but a singular, shared, living existence, from which emerges – at certain times and places – that being which says “I.” - Julien Coupat, The Coming Insurrection

- What’s happening with your friend, the graduate student who got thrown out of UCLA for sending insulting emails to his professors? He wasn’t the guy who killed the professor in his office a couple weeks ago?
- No. That was someone else.
- Professors don’t seem to be too popular at UCLA. After this students won’t be able to say anything critical without being considered potential killers. Political correctness will reign supreme. What do you think? Should we talk about political correctness?
- Fine with me.
- How would you define it? A claim everyone has on each other for tolerance? Everyone can think and do anything without challenge except use violence?
- What do you mean by “without challenge”?
- We may not like what we see but we won’t demand it be changed.
- Everyone is free to do anything that is desired?
- Except use violence.
- And what would you say is being tolerated: individual acts and words and thoughts, or identities?
- People get upset about what other people do all the time. But tolerance is not about individual acts: that is something psychological, something maybe calling for forgiveness. Tolerance is political. So I’ll say it is about social roles, identities.
- We are told to tolerate types of people unlike our own type, types which in some way interfere with the actions types like us perform.
- Yes.
- Why do we choose to see ourselves and others as types?
- Because we think we and they really are types. The type of person we are are our identities. Our Identities identify ourselves to ourselves and to others.
- Why do we need to do that?
- Why?
- Could it be for security? A sense of our own power to do the kind of things the type of person we are does?
- Could be.
- But then, why do we feel insecure in the first place? Are we missing something we need in order to feel safe and powerful?
- What are we missing?
- You know Plato’s three part division of the human soul: the rational, the spirited, the irrational. The rational part thinks and reasons, the spirited part has courage and becomes indignant, the irrational part desires.
- Why do we need the spirited part? Aren’t anger and courage irrational forces like sex and aggression?
- We are passionate when a physical need is not being satisfied. Spirit is a passionate response as well, but to a social world, the world of people we live with who we have become accustomed to, a need of their company that has become “second nature”. Follow?
- Yes.
- Political correctness, the demand for tolerance bars spirited action.
- Because spirited action makes a demand on the others in society?
- Yes.
- And because the politically correct aren't allowed a home in the social world to protect, they are insecure. They still though have the other two parts of self.
- And what do they do with them?
- They have reason and desire: they think about how to most safely and regularly satisfy their desires.
- How do they do that?
- By adapting their identity to circumstances.
- That’s all?
- What else?
- Don’t people secure their satisfactions by acquiring possessions, even hoarding them as symbols of power and security?
- They do.
- Don’t people attempt to make other people their possessions, to dominate them? To force an identity on them as dominated?
- Not always.
- If people are fundamentally insecure wouldn’t this always be an attractive possibility, a desire that reason would choose to satisfy?
- But how do spirited people maintain security? Wouldn’t they be always undermining for each other the social world each makes a home in?
- Constantly. But when you live with people without identities to be protected accommodations are easily reached.
- I don’t see it.
- If you don’t have an identity to protect you don’t have to have things any one particular way. No one ever has to face the catastrophe of loss of self. All you want is that the new way can be relied on, and it be a good way, which it will be because you’ll naturally be at home with people who’ve reached agreement with you.
- Naturally. So you argue that the crime of political correctness, respect for identities, is that it leads to possessiveness and domineering. Which political correctness tell us we have to tolerate.
- And worse. One class of people identify themselves as political and business leaders. In their insecurity they pursue endless accumulation of possessions, taking advantage of the dispossession of the rest to dominate them, to force them to sell themselves as employees or to adopt a submissive identity. Political correctness, by repressing the spirited part of ourselves, eases the way to dispossession and domination.

Further Reading:
Killing At The University
UCLA Stories

Monday, February 8, 2016

Conservatives With Property & Without


People Helping People

- What are you doing here?
- Drinking coffee. Reading.
- What is someone like you doing here, alone at a fast food restaurant in the middle of the night?
- Drinking coffee. Reading.
- What are you reading?
- The London Review Of Books.
- I knew it!
- What did you know?
- I can help you.
- How?
- Do you need help? Are you in danger?
- Riding my bike here an Aston Martin going about a hundred ran a red light and missed me by a few feet. And there's this lapsed student who wanders around Westwood night and day who has an apartment he's afraid to stay more than a few minutes in. Last week he invited me over and served me poisoned Tequila. I saw him again tonight at Starbucks. Did I want to come to his place again, he asked, he didn't like Tequila any more, wouldn't I finish the bottle for him?
- God's trying to tell you something.
- What? That I am in danger and announcing that you would arrive to save me?
- Why not?
- How are you going to save me?
- What do you need?
- A safe place. Is that what you are offering?
- Yes.
- I accept. Let's go.
- The place is my girlfriend's friend's. It's not free at the moment.
- I see.
- You should help people like I do.
- Do you offer everyone a place to stay?
- I do what I can. Sometimes a few words, a few dollars.
- How are you going to help a drug addict with a few words or a few dollars?
- I understand them. I'm a drug addict myself.
- You're a drug addict? A drug addict is sent by god to save me at Jack in the Box? You don't look like a drug addict.
- I'm checking into rehab next week. Crashing at my girlfriend's until then. I'm going outside to smoke. Come with me.
- I'll wait for you here.
- Sure you'll wait?
- Yes, sure. Go on, smoke your cigarette.


Conservatives & Other Strangers

- Something terrible has happened.
- What?
- One of my best friends has become a conservative.
- Conservative morally or politically?
- Politically. It’s so stupid.
- By conservative you mean resistant to change?
- No. I mean wanting to keep the present kind of government but reduce it to a minimum, conserving the idea of government and little else.
- That is stupid because an idea of government doesn’t govern, people do, the kind of people who have that idea of government. And what kind of people are they?
- Selfish and greedy.
- And the reason you say conservatives are stupid is that the government in idea alone they ask for ends up being against them?
- Yes. Against all of them but those who are of the same social class and wealth as their leaders.
- Conservatives want to exclude aliens, end aid to the poor, forbid subsidies to business: they don’t want the government to help strangers. Yet they elect to represent them and implement this idea strangers who convince them that they hate strangers more than all the others running for office. They don’t seem to have any doubt these strangers who hate strangers will not hate them as strangers.
- They think these politicians are their friends.
- Where do they get that idea?
- They share with them a fear and hatred of strangers. Living alike in fear they think they all are in this together.
- A kind of family. While in a family people help each other instead of treating each other as enemies, as the politicians say they want to do and the people say they want the politicians to do.
- And somehow not hate them too!
- Some things government must do if the state is to remain in existence. Government must defend against attack, protect against other countries' subsidized products coming in to ruin local trade, protect against crime. These government jobs are to be given into the hands of people who hate strangers, when the people who gave them the jobs are also strangers to them and in the normal course of things will be hated?
- They aren’t expected to act against us because, just like us, they don’t like strangers. We’re alike in not liking strangers (yet alike in nothing else).
- Political representatives have authority over people who elect them, like the government has authority over the poor and weak. Representatives who are elected to minimize concern for the poor and weak will also minimize their relation to those who elect them who are likewise poor and weak in relation to themselves who have the power of the government behind them. Have you tried explaining this to your friend?
- You know how it is. No one listens.
- We’re strangers.


Conservatives With Property & Without

- Let's say conservatives don't hate strangers. They believe a limited government is the only safe government. The don't want property relations questioned, they believe that is too dangerous, they'll instead select leaders who say they will lead without questioning property and govern as little as possible. But the led, giving up their freedom into the hands of leaders, are treated by them as their property to do what they want with, and what they want is more of their property.
- Why do the leaders have to want property?
- If you don't acquire property for your life with people, you use people to acquire property.
- Why?
- Because people who you manage are your work, not your joy. You don't live with people you have power over. You live with the people you share that power with, your fellow leaders, with whom you can act creatively and be at ease. Conservatives in their trusting to leaders are like their nemesis the communists. For if like them you do question property, yet agree to having leaders, you'll find unequal property relations returning, leaders getting rich, the rest getting poor.
- Then politics don't matter, communist or capitalist? Choose to have leaders and you've chosen to redistribute property from the poor to the rich?
- Yes. Conservatives and Communists alike must expect redistribution. For leaders, it is just what they do, for the led, it is the mysterious way of the world they gave up understanding when they gave that job of understanding to their leaders. Can I tell you two stories about conservative leaders and their concern for the led?
- Ok.
- In the last days of the Clinton administration a bill proposing a new bankruptcy law was introduced into Congress and passed by both houses. The proposed law would make bankruptcy inapplicable to credit card debt. The rich could go bankrupt and not pay their debts, corporations go bankrupt and not pay their debts, but those without corporation protection and without wealth, who in fact had nothing but debt, would have to pay in full. On the same principle that only the poor have to pay their debts, student loans had already by recent law been exempted from bankruptcy forgiveness. It seemed a foregone conclusion that the President would sign the bill into law, when Senator Elizabeth Warren* received a message from President Clinton's wife asking for a crash course in bankruptcy. Senator Warren met with Hillary Clinton, schooled her, convinced her the proposed law was extremely unfair. Within days the president's wife had convinced her husband not to sign. The president left office, and Hillary in the course of time became a U.S Senator. The same bankruptcy bill came up for a vote and she voted for its passage. She was willing to make a kind gesture when her husband's office was at an end, but not when for her own political career she needed funding by the credit card industry, the largest of all donors to politicians, tens of millions a year. Just today she claimed on television, now running for president herself, that she doesn't know why Goldman Sacks paid her $650,000 to give a speech; they offered, and she accepted. No obligation. An act of generosity.
- Like her act of generosity to all the little people in America.
- Not really. Leaders when they are generous to each other strengthen each other, make their collaboration more productive in the endless endeavor of acquiring property from those they lead. Generosity to the led however is a mere gesture to make the leaders feel better about themselves, severely limited because strengthening their victims too much makes victimizing them that much harder. Here's the second story about conservative leaders and their care for the led.
- I'm listening.
- The 24 hour fast food restaurant is cold, near freezing at 2 in the morning. Those who sleep outside come in one by one, encumbered with their bags, or sometimes like this one, dragging behind him a strong scent and a filthy blanket. He studies the overhead menu, while the night manager, an immigrant from India who has held this same night job for 26 years waits, his expression not hiding his increasing impatience. Yes? Yes? Can I help you? Finally the customer makes his decision.
- Give me, uh, two tacos.
- We have no lettuce.
- I'd like two tacos.
- No lettuce.
- Uh, two tacos. I want tacos.
- I tell you. No lettuce.
- No lettuce?
- No lettuce.
- Uh, hm, two tacos.
The manager grunts, punches in the order, takes payment, gives change. He moves quickly away and takes up his station at the drive through window, ready to deliver orders to the waiting cars as they are delivered by the cook. A headset keeps him in communication with cars. The overnight shift has a skeleton crew of three: cook, and two more who between them take drive through and walk in orders, clear the tables, clean the floor, and keep an eye on the bathroom which receives a steady stream of problematic visitors arriving at regular times. This demands considerable attention, as almost every night one of the bathroom regulars will flood the place bathing or washing clothes, or in an attack of madness strew the floor with paper. The next day just ahead of that time the night shift takes the precaution of locking the bathroom door: the visitor gets the message, finds another bathroom to frequent, perhaps returning after a suitable interval expecting forgiveness and period of exclusion expired. Those are the problem visitors. There are also the favored visitors, who whether they buy anything or not are allowed to pass the cold nights inside the restaurant. These include: the "mummy" who pulls his football jersey over his head and draws his arms inside and sleeps at the table; the bike restorer who sleeps days under the freeway in a semi-permanent structure built of scavenged boards, with dozens and dozens of bikes on the sidewalk protected in his absence by the other denizens of the underpass who've all got their bikes from him; the old man who talks to himself and reads the newspaper; and the former counterfeiter of U.S. currency. He operated a press himself, aged the bills in cat litter, lined up a whole crew to make purchases with the counterfeits and get genuine money in change. Finally he was caught living too large and too getting too many people involved. That was long ago. Now he's at the 24 hour fast food every night all night writing for micro payments fake comments and reviews on the internet. Counterfeiting opinions not money, he's gone legal: who can prove payment affects the personal views he expresses?
- He's doing there what Hillary Clinton does accepting Goldman's Sacks' generosity, which you say is something significant...
- It's their work.
- Not the mere gestures she makes in the direction of the public.
- He is. More, many more, are regulars at the fast food restaurant.
- The drug addict who wants to save you.
- Which is his generous gesture, like the manager letting this assembly spend the night at his restaurant despite it being against his nature and his principles and his personal interest. Indeed, his own good nature makes him angry and bad tempered with everybody. For he is a conservative just as every person let stay in the restaurant is a conservative. He doesn't complain about the desperation he has to face every night, the customers don't complain; they accept the government isn't interested in them, that actually no one is interested in them. Poor as they are they don't for a moment challenge existing property relations.
- They're conservatives without property. Why does that sound strange?
- Because we think of people being conservative to protect their property. That's generally true. As it is true that generally the poor become communist to acquire property. But in both cases the consequence of accepting leaders deprives them of property at the same time it makes them accept, in their voluntary relinquishing of responsibility and understanding, being deprived of their property.

Further Reading:
Against Leaders
Killer Metaphysics
Elizabeth Warren interview with Bill Moyers, 2004