The Materialist Illusion

We live in a world of matter and energy (though as Einstein demonstrated, the two are really the same).  Matter and energy are at base particles, though the term particle is a bit misleading.   It isn’t like there are minuscule chunks of stuff out there, it’s more like there are ripples in various fields, and those ripples create what we experience as reality.   The current thinking is that the only reason our material world has weight is because of ripples in what is called the Higgs field.  The Large Hadron Collider at CERN is trying to find a Higgs boson (particle) that would prove the existence of this field.

So right at the start the material world isn’t what it seems to be; we’re clearly perceiving it because we’re made of the same stuff and experiencing it with brains that translate how we interact with the ripples in various fields into sensations.

All of this is to foreshadow my real topic: the importance of education.   In discussion on yesterday’s post it was suggested that students forgo college and work hard in order to make money.  I noted that on average college grads earn $1 million more during their life than non-grads, and usually at jobs that are more comfortable.   One person pointed out that students can amass debt during college.   I’ve long thought that unless you get into a really top name school where contacts and connections are abundant, it’s not worth paying a lot to go to a fancy private college.   In fact, at the top schools well qualified applicants will always get substantial scholarships if they have need (and often even if they don’t).  It’s the second and third tier privates where can cause you to amass over $100,000 of debt in four years.

That’s one reason I choose to teach at a public liberal arts school.   The goal is to provide a quality liberal arts education rivaling the expensive private schools at a much lower price.   Kiplinger’s put us in their top 100 colleges in terms of value — you get a good liberal arts education without high debt.   Even out of state tuition is manageable.

That gets harder as state funding gets cut (it now pays about 40% of the costs, so we’re more private than public).  And we lack the resources, pay rates, beautiful grounds and sofas in the hallways with state of the art classroom equipment that nearby privates like Colby, Bowdoin or Bates enjoy.    I don’t get resources and time to do much research, teaching is the focus.    Yet that is gratifying, I’d much rather teach than research.

However, my goal in teaching is only partially to get students to understand how political scientists analyze world affairs and comparative politics.   Only a small number of students will go on to graduate school, a few will work in fields involving foreign affairs, but many will end up with a degree designed to get their foot in the door and be able to advance in fields outside of political science or international relations.   Where once college was an elitist institution where you groomed students to follow in your disciplinary field, now it’s mass education designed to give students the capacity to better understand the world, develop critical skills, learn to read and write more effectively and be prepared for how fast jobs and opportunities shift.

The stated goal is to promote “life long learning.”   Practically that means to help students learn to break out of the cultural hypnosis that so often captures people.   One of those spells is the idea that somehow happiness comes from material prosperity.   That if you can get rich, you’ve succeeded.    Or as Dennis DeYoung put it with Styx in 1977: “Don’t be fooled by the radio, the TV or the magazine; they’ll show you photographs of how your life should be, but they’re just someone else’s fantasy.”

Pressure is put on students by parents, peers and themselves to look at life in starkly materialist terms: how much money will I make, what will I own?   One student back in Minnesota came to me when I was a TA and said her dad didn’t want her to go to Spain for a year because of what it would mean for her earning potential in her prime years (apparently he charted out what missing a year would mean).   I told her that was insane, that what she’d gain from going to Spain would be invaluable for her life, and now she can afford to do it.    She told her dad what I said (though she promoted me to professor in her story) and surprisingly he backed down, “well, if your professor says its worthwhile, then go.”

Now one could argue that one doesn’t need college to become a life long learner.  Indeed, no matter what you think of the politics of Malcolm X, the story of how he educated himself — learning words and history while in prison — is powerful.   If one truly wants to learn, one can.   My experience is that most people don’t.   It’s not that they don’t like learning, but they don’t know how much knowledge and understanding enriches a life.  Even Malcolm probably wouldn’t have taken the time if he hadn’t been in prison, cut away from his life of what had been petty crime to that point.

Part of teaching is to get students to see that.   One time after a unit on the Cambodian genocide a student was so shocked by what happened that he took a job the next summer to teach English in Cambodia.   More often students talk about how what they learned changed how they look at the world, causing them to see both their future and their goals in a different light.   That’s what college should be about —  four years where your main job is to learn about the world and its mysteries from science, literature, how societies function, philosophy, world religions, and diverse cultures and countries.   You can’t do all of that in four years, but if you get students on the right track they’ll want to keep learning as they go on — that’s the goal.

Ultimately if this world is made up of nothing but ripples in fields, life is transient and brief.  Moreover, we don’t know what it is – it takes as much a leap of faith to say that the material stuff is all that is and once dead we’re simply gone as it does to say that something spiritual carries on.   Our lack of knowledge makes both claims equally plausible.   The fact that there is something rather than nothing causes me to think it likely there is something beyond this brief material existence, but who knows?

And if there is something important about living, it can’t just be acquiring material stuff.   We need it, but at some level once we are able to survive that isn’t the sole meaning of existence, nor does it seem to bring growing pleasure.    Someone who gets used to the luxuries of a millionaire’s life style probably enjoys them no more than how a middle class worker enjoys his or her material pleasures.   Once you get most of the hotels playing monopoly the game gets boring.

People choose distractions – television, sports, celebrity gossip, the lifestyles of the rich and famous, religious fervor, ideological fervor, anything to help push aside the emptiness that an unexamined life yields.    Education and exploring the richness of the world’s art, music, literature, science, cultures, etc. opens up avenues that enhance ones’ personal journey and spiritual reflections.   We may not end up with the answers, but the journey becomes exciting and exhilarating on a deeper level.   And isn’t the journey what it’s all about?   After all, the final destination is the same for all of us.

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  1. #1 by Black Flag® on January 13, 2012 - 17:36

    General agreement.

    Money is not an ends, it is a means.
    You trade for money so that you can trade with money to get your desires.

    So, as in your example, forgoing a life-enhancing trip so to save money is counter the reason for money – which is to enjoy life.

    In my opinion, college is a waste of money and time for the vast majority of people. They are not there to learn, they are there to get a piece of paper that says they wasted 4 years.

    Public funding of any college should stop, including “student loans”. The access to easy money by both the institution and the student causes the costs to skyrocket, the quality to plummet, and the sick cycle of accreditation for the sake of accreditation.

    Then, if one chooses college, it would be a choice motivated by a desire to learn – either for a vocation or as you said, a dedicated focus on love of learning.

  2. #2 by Kristine hunt on January 15, 2012 - 00:32

    I went to the University of California, Irvine. 4 of the 5 years (5, because I changed majors and frankly was an underachiever) of tuition were paid for by a National Merit Scholarship. I had modest loans for the other costs and that 5th year, which I paid off long ago.

    College helped me grow up. It was also expected of me, because I was an honors student and generally more intellectual than anything else. I loved learning, loved reading, even loved and excelled at writing and taking tests. I recognize that most people are not necessarily like that.

    I agree that the purpose of college education has changed. I am now affiliated as a spouse and a student with a state university that is at least half what I would call “vocational”: nursing, dental hygiene, practical pharmacy, even auto mechanics and the like. Not all of those are degree programs. The other half is traditional academics, including PhD programs and other terminal degrees. A huge number of students are what used to be called “nontraditional”, i.e., that they didn’t come directly from high school. They are older, with families, and are trying to improve their lives through education, either academic or vocational.

    One problem I see is that with the increasing emphasis on giving students the biggest vocational bang for their bucks — focusing on material gains — we are losing sight of the things you mentioned. Learning about the world, loving learning, gaining insight into people and the arts, etc. Maybe that’s one reason I chose to study history, that I can roll it all up together and get the best of both, indulging my love of learning and the world as well as working toward an advanced degree that will help me materially.

  3. #3 by Alan Scott on January 15, 2012 - 14:47

    How can you not focus on material gains when the cost of college is so high ? Look at the Occupy Wall Streeters ! They have come out of college with huge loans and no occupational prospects to pay off those loans . The answer from the left is to dump those costs on the tax payer . Great strategy if you are in the Education industry . It allows them to keep raising their prices, raise their overhead, and have no accountability as to whether their product is worth it’s subsidized cost .

    We on the right are not anti education, as the left constantly charges . We want accountability . If there is a field greater than in government, where you can hide poor performance and incompetence, it is in education . It is difficult to assess whether a student with failed prospects is a victim of failing Professors or should never have wasted his time in college at all . You can look at a large number of graduates from a particular university and see how they did financially in 5 and 10 year periods . I assume somebody, somewhere, ranks colleges that way . That is what should be given to high school students and their financially strapped parents before they waste their time and money .

    • #4 by Titfortat on January 15, 2012 - 15:59

      @Scott

      I agree with the accountability aspect. One of my issue’s with so called “higher” education is the fact that it is useless from a practical perspective. How many individuals out in the real world have a degree that they dont even use. 3 of my buddies all have either highschool or less education but all 3 are successful businessmen. The “higher” education they got was life skills applicable to their daily lives. 🙂

      • #5 by Kristine hunt on January 15, 2012 - 17:28

        I would argue that there are unquantifiable “skills” gained from higher education. Critical thinking, for example. Openness to new ideas, new fields of inquiry. Only looking at students’ prospects for earning wages after graduation is a recipe for the complete commoditization of a process that is more qualitative than people often realize, to truly make it an “industry”. This is not an apologia for true incompetence, bureaucratic bloat, etc. It is more directed at the increasing emphasis on trying to measure outcomes purely based on numbers.

        There will always be people who become very successful without higher education, and those with it who fail. That’s no reason to discard it wholesale.

      • #6 by Titfortat on January 15, 2012 - 17:31

        @Kristine

        I agree we shouldnt discard it wholesale, though I think we also shouldnt endorse it wholesale. There are way too many intellectuals out here who did not pursue formal higher education.

  4. #7 by Scott Erb on January 15, 2012 - 16:26

    One thing about college: there is a lot of responsibility for the student to get out of it what he or she can. At least at places that focus on teaching, professors want to help students who work hard, and there are almost always resources (writing assistance center, math center, free tutors, etc.) for students who seek them out. Yet some students just want to party. Others are happy jumping through hoops and getting the degree at minimal effort. I’ve seen students go from under performers in their first year to superb students and grad school beyond, some getting lucrative positions in the business/trade world. I’ve also seen really smart kids blow off their chance to really learn and grow. I’ve advised students sometimes to take a year or two off and come back when they want an education.

    Yet what heartens me most is students who want to learn out of pure curiosity and desire to understand the world, different cultures, etc. Some will use this for their careers, MANY are going to be teachers (we specialize in education programs), and I love it when a brilliant smart student has decided that while she or he could make a lot more money in other fields, they feel a desire and even responsibility to become a teacher. If you grab the opportunities and are active, you can use an education to achieve almost anything, it can be a gateway to enhanced opportunities if students use it, if they take responsibility for their education, and take it seriously. Far too many don’t do that, and don’t realize what an opportunity they’ve squandered.

  5. #8 by Alan Scott on January 15, 2012 - 20:17

    Scott,

    Having half financed two daughters through college, I do not disagree with you .My kids both went to an in state school, which is much cheaper than other options . I have friends who have kids that went through much more expensive schools, dropped out and basically wasted their parents money .

    I suppose my bigger point is that yes, some government help is warranted, but Colleges should not get a blank check, neither should students . I simply do not trust Obama and the Democrats on this issue .

    • #9 by Black Flag® on January 16, 2012 - 03:03

      Alan

      some government help is warranted,

      Then you really do not believe in the Free Market – you are a hypocrite.

      When government benefits you, you cheer it.

      When it does not, you claim that those that do benefit from government are “just wrong”

      …and then people wonder why evil finds such an easy route to men’s hearts and minds….

      • #10 by Scott Erb on January 16, 2012 - 03:20

        You commit a logical fallacy – you act as if there are only two extremes – believe in the free market or don’t. False dichotomies in fact underlie your entire approach. Dichotomous thinking is itself an error — it’s a linguistic contract that creates the illusion of an A or not-A choice in a world where you choose from a plethora of possibilities.

        I believe in a regulated free market, where the regulations are sensible and do not harm the economy or hurt innovation and work incentives. So does Alan. We have big disagreements on where those lines are drawn, to be sure – but almost all Americans believe in the free market with some regulation.

      • #11 by Black Flag® on January 16, 2012 - 04:39

        Scott,

        No, it is not a logical fallacy – you are blinded by your own contradictions. Your position is inherently irrational – that you change which side of the fence you stand based on the immediacy of your gains or loss.

        You have no long term outlook …except at the most superficial.

        As I have pointed out before –the only measure I have to YOUR right or wrong is the consistency you hold in your own principled position.

        If you flip/flop – as you do, Scott – depending on the benefit you yourself – your position that you espouse is WRONG… either you are irrational, or your position cannot be supported.

        There is no other condition that can exist.

      • #12 by Kristine hunt on January 16, 2012 - 17:50

        Why is adjusting one’s needs and outlook according to the situation bad? I’d rather have flexibility in my opinions than rigidity. It’s perfectly rational to reject dichotomy; I think applying the same thoughts no matter what is pretty irrational.

      • #13 by Black Flag® on January 16, 2012 - 19:10

        Kristine,

        Why is adjusting one’s needs and outlook according to the situation bad?

        The matter is not adjusting one’s needs or desire.

        The question is: by what MEANS does one choose to satisfy them.

        Today I wish to eat an apple, but yesterday it was an orange.

        But if yesterday I bought an orange, but today I steal the apple …. this is the flip/flop on principles – which is completely independent of the desire of which food (or whatever material desire or want) I wish.

        This is the complaint I lay at Scott and -in this case here specifically – to Alan.

        Alan cheers the Free Market as means to deliver goods and services… right up until he benefits from the “providers of violence” and their provisioning – then he tosses away the peaceful, non-violent means of obtaining his goods and champions open theft as the means via the violence providers.

        He demands that no man should steal from him, but he has no problem receiving the proceeds of other men obtained by theft.

        When a man argues “freedom for me” – but that espouse as well “but not for you” – the consequences of that contradiction bears bitter fruit for everyone.

      • #14 by Black Flag® on January 16, 2012 - 06:20

        This is Scott’s world – where definitions of harm, violence, even “guns” is nothing but air.

        http://www.tagtele.com/videos/voir/47708/1/

  6. #15 by Black Flag® on January 16, 2012 - 04:42

    Scott

    I believe in a regulated free market

    ,

    Why do free, non-violent men need to be regulated?

    where the regulations are sensible

    Irrational emotionalism.
    What is “sensible” to the upside-down world of Scott is not necessarily sensible to anyone else.

    and do not harm the economy

    Mere blah-blah

    What is your measure here? Your opinion? Or do you have some objective metric to apply?

  7. #16 by Scott Erb on January 16, 2012 - 19:54

    Because, BF, you’re making a false, even irrational effort to force all acts into dichotomous categories and then apply a “principle” (which you come up with arbitrarily). The reality of life is that you can’t categorize acts like that. Every act is partially defined by context. Lying to a Nazi in order to hide a Jewish family is different than lying to a grand jury. Your fundamental error, and one you can never recover from, is that you simply create these dichotomies and then try to define everything into them. That’s untenable — and when pressed you start muttering hyperbolic language about “evil, insane, blah blah” which is a transparent admission that you have no argument – you have your own idiosyncratic subjective world view that only clings together through definition games and false dichotomies.

    That’s also why there are no ‘objective metrics’ – context alters all, any objective metric would be at base arbitrary and flawed. That’s the world we’re in, I know you want some clear cut answer, something to believe in, but you’ve got a complex world. I’ve decided to try to help you see these errors, and I think if you’re honest you’ll realize that you’ve not been able to respond to most of these arguments except with name calling and accusations. You need to seriously question whether or not you’ve not bought some kind of cultish ideology. I’ve done all I can. I’ll not stop you from posting but I’ve come to the conclusion it’s no use — you aren’t arguing, you aren’t debating, you’re preaching. I don’t think it’s possible to engage you on these kinds of issues, you think you have the answer and you don’t want to admit the possibility you may be wrong. Ciao!

  8. #17 by Black Flag® on January 16, 2012 - 20:40

    Scott

    Because, BF, you’re making a false, even irrational effort to force all acts into dichotomous categories and then apply a “principle” (which you come up with arbitrarily)

    There is no such thing as a “false” dichotomy between using violence and not using violence.

    What is your (mythical) third way??

  9. #18 by Black Flag® on January 16, 2012 - 20:44

    Scott,

    Lying to a Nazi in order to hide a Jewish family is different than lying to a grand jury.

    Not true.
    Because your understanding is superficial and ill-defined, you become confused on these types of scenarios.

    If your “grand jury” is applying the same basic violent laws as the Nazi, then the circumstance has nothing to do with lying but a response to the INITIATION of violence — and an act to mitigate the INITIATION of harm by another.

    That is your blindness.

  10. #19 by Black Flag® on January 16, 2012 - 20:47

    Scott,

    That’s also why there are no ‘objective metrics’

    Of course there is!

    You just blind yourself to it.

    The metric – violence on the non-violent is absolute, measurable and clear.

    But only if you actually hold to the definition of violence – and not your airy-fairy whims of the moment.

    But as that would confound your own goal and makes difficult for you to achieve such a goal by other means you purposely ignore this and set your understanding to it to be emotionalism and irrationality.

  11. #20 by Scott Erb on January 16, 2012 - 20:55

    OK, one more comment in case you really don’t get it — it’s a false dichotomy because it’s meaningless. Violence is a vague term with multiple definitions. Giving birth is an act of violence. Now you can try to play a definition game to give you a definition of violence that fits your subjective desire on what to have as a principle. But even then violence is sometimes good, sometimes bad. You can play definition games to try to refine what “legitimate” violence is perhaps, but it’s still your abstract subjective definition-game, with no real reason for your particular way of defining it. Moreover the definitions are still abstractions that don’t capture the complexity of context. You want some kind of magic “right answer” pulled out of a logical hat, but it’s not there. That’s OK. Embrace complexity, paradox and uncertainty — there’s beauty in those! OK, you can have the last word.

    • #21 by Black Flag® on January 16, 2012 - 21:10

      Scott

      Violence is a vague term with multiple definitions.

      No, it is not – except for you who requires it to be vague for you to exercise your methods and means.

      Giving birth is an act of violence.

      Hitting you with my car is violence too.

      But this is not at all the measure, is it?

      The measure is DOING (an act) of VIOLENCE on the NON-VIOLENT.

      It is not vague, it is demonstrable, and it is clear – “me hitting you with my car.”

      Now, because you want to hit me with your car (figuratively speaking) because of my beliefs are different from you, you need to confuse the definitions of violence and its applications for you to do so.

  12. #22 by Alan Scott on January 17, 2012 - 01:10

    Black Flag,

    ” Then you really do not believe in the Free Market – you are a hypocrite.

    When government benefits you, you cheer it. ”

    I am truly hurt . Hypocrite is a bit harsh. I take the universe as I find it . Other than using the fafsa program, I do not see where I am a hypocrite. My kids and me are getting nothing for free. I am not a purist as you are. Some government help is warranted. The problem is that large amounts corrupt the process. Large amounts of government raise the cost of higher education, forcing everyone to grab for the lollypop our government masters stick in our faces . You will deny me that lollypop , okay I am a hypocrite .

    • #23 by Black Flag® on January 17, 2012 - 03:38

      Alan

      Some government help is warranted.

      Based on what theory?
      Based on what measure?

      Why is government “good” when it helps you, but “wrong” when it helps others (but you merely disagree with them)?

      The problem is that large amounts corrupt the process.

      If the means to obtain your goods is evil, then why are you so amazed it is corrupt?

      If a man can steal from another man, you agree with it when it benefits you, why are you surprised that the thief steals from you, if it benefits another man?

      And that is the fundamental problem – you point at the corruption over there, but ignore the corruption that is in your favor.

      The consequence: you are surrounded by evil and corruption.

      The irony: you are oblivious that you agreed with it.

  13. #24 by Alan Scott on January 18, 2012 - 00:50

    Black Flag ,

    I am against thievery too, but I am honest enough to admit that under the right conditions I would be the biggest thief you ever saw . I am competing against other parents to get an education for my kids. They get government grants, loans, and lollipops. I will definitely take the minimum government handout so my offspring will get at least 4 years of college. I would rather the handouts were not there and college was cheaper . I will not tie one hand behind my back .

    ” If the means to obtain your goods is evil, then why are you so amazed it is corrupt? ”

    I am definitely not ” amazed “. I am against my tax money being thrown in the street, but pardon me for stooping down and picking up what is already being scattered there for others .

    ” And that is the fundamental problem – you point at the corruption over there, but ignore the corruption that is in your favor. ”

    Does that make me even more guilty than our Liberal friends here, who are blind to their sins ?

    ” The irony: you are oblivious that you agreed with it. ”

    I am oblivious to nothing . I was quite aware of the opening I gave you . I do not lie to myself. There is a lot of that going around .You are right, the corruption is there. I choose to play in the game, even while opposing it . When the game shifts, so will I . I am very happy with my own hypocrisy.

    • #25 by Black Flag® on January 18, 2012 - 02:19

      Alan

      I am competing against other parents to get an education for my kids. They get government grants, loans, and lollipops. I will definitely take the minimum government handout so my offspring will get at least 4 years of college.

      Yet, there are thousands of other parents – such as I – who are in the same competition and find such “lollipops” not only unnecessary but incredibly detrimental – and teaches the kids that theft is a proper means to achieve one’s goal.

      . I will not tie one hand behind my back
      When the game shifts, so will I . I am very happy with my own hypocrisy.

      Exactly.

      The game cannot shift if there are so many playing it, and because so many play it, more join…..thus, evil multiplies until society collapses.

      I do all the evil I can before I learn to shun it?

      Is it not enough to know the evil to shun it?

      If not, we should be sincere enough to admit that we love evil too well to give it up.
      -Gandhi

      …and at least you are honest enough to say you love evil too much to let it go.

  14. #26 by Titfortat on January 18, 2012 - 19:50

    The game cannot shift if there are so many playing it, and because so many play it, more join…..thus, evil multiplies until society collapses.(BF)

    All societies collapse, such is the nature of this existence. It is part of the adaptation process, break it down and grow back stronger. It may be confusing but it sure is one hell of a ride. 🙂

    • #27 by Scott Erb on January 18, 2012 - 20:35

      • #28 by Titfortat on January 20, 2012 - 17:35

        Ok BF, here’s the god honest truth. You dont know the truth. 🙂
        Lmao

      • #29 by Black Flag® on January 20, 2012 - 17:37

        Tat

        here’s the god honest truth. You dont know the truth

        It is true I do not know everything.

        It is also true that I do know what I know, and equally true that I know what is true and what is not true in the things I know.

    • #30 by Black Flag® on January 18, 2012 - 22:18

      TitforTat,

      I do not agree that all societies MUST collapse, nor is due to the nature of society.

      Society is created by the action of men in creating conditions of social order.

      Thus there are reasons for such collapse (I argue it is the collapse of Social Order) – and I argue that since such a reason exists, men act to halt the dissolution of society by enforcing social order just as men act to disrupt social order that has been already been created and individual men can choose to act in the former manner as much as they can choose to act in the latter.

      Nothing is preordained in this matter.

      • #31 by Titfortat on January 19, 2012 - 13:50

        @BF

        It is irrelevant whether or not you agree. The only thing relevant is whether or not you can show me the difference and not just your theory. Obviously at this moment that is not possible.

      • #32 by Black Flag® on January 19, 2012 - 17:02

        TitforTat,

        The only thing relevant is whether or not you can show me the difference and not just your theory. Obviously at this moment that is not possible.

        You do not understand your own question.

        You demand an example from history of a society that did not collapse.
        I point to ours.
        You then argue that this is invalid, since I cannot know if it might collapse in the future.
        But you do not know if it will not, either.

        This is akin to trying to prove a math theory of, say, predicting the next prime number by executing the operation repeatedly. It would be necessary to do this operation forever, so to test every case – since there may be a case -somewhere- that might fail.

        Because that is impossible, we need to apply LOGIC and REASONING to our theory instead of waiting until the end of time to know if it was true.

        It is a truth that Men must act to live.
        It is a truth that by a specific set of action of men, that social order is established.
        It is a truth that social order manifests a paradigm of behavior we define as “Society”
        It is a truth that by a specific set of action of men, that social order is destroyed.
        It is a truth that the disruption of social order disrupts the paradigm of behavior we define as “Society”, this disruption we see as a “collapse” of that Society.
        It is a truth that social order is massively more prosperous for people that social disorder.
        It is a truth that men will act is specific ways to reestablish social order, creating a new paradigm of behavior, creating a new society.
        It is a truth that men can choose their action.
        Therefore, a man can choose to maintain social order and not disrupt it as much as he can choose to disrupt social order and not maintain it.
        If man chooses not to disrupt his social order, a paradigm of behavior that comes from it can continue indefinitely.

      • #33 by Titfortat on January 20, 2012 - 02:00

        @BF

        I look for patterns and though we may not have collapsed you sure as heck cant say we arent in the process of collapsing. 😉

      • #34 by Black Flag® on January 20, 2012 - 02:24

        TitforTat,

        in the process of collapsing

        Well, to paraphrase our host, “what do you define as collapse?”

        Yes, many paradigms society will undergo very significant “collapse” – the Federalist system, for one (as I see), perhaps, the fractional reserve system.

        Centralization of governments all over the world are toppling – we will be moving from moderate decentralization to quite rapid decentralization – as such, I see City Politics as becoming even more core, as federalist politics becomes irrelevant.

        Once Washington’s checks start bouncing, the social problems suddenly become very, very local. As a result, local politics becomes more and more important.

        I do not, however, see a systemic societal collapse – the economics of the high division of labor, vital to our survival, is -most fortunately – also very robust and very adaptable. If it comes close to disaster, the People themselves will naturally step in and forestall such catastrophe.

        But short of hyperinflation, biological warfare, or global thermonuclear war…. I believe our society has crossed the tipping point.

        For example, WW2 – the worst disaster of humanity – did not even dent the global population growth statistics. If I showed you the statistical summary, but removed the axis that detailed “what year?” — and shifted that axis so to mask its linear progress – you would not be able to point to WW2.

        Even Mao’s Great Leap …. “backwards”…. though is discernible in such a stat, was at worst (best?) a speed bump.

        We have societal fragility – the largest, disruption of the divisions of labor – which has tentacles – monetary system and trade…

        But if we avoid destruction there, I believe we are -as society- pretty darn robust. Again, I point to WW2 – an inconceivable disaster of the greatest historical proportions – and we made it through that just slightly scathed.

      • #35 by Titfortat on January 20, 2012 - 02:36

        @BF

        Come on man, you are bright, very bright for that matter. But if you honestly think that this society as you know it will continue. Well, I think I want some of your drugs. 😉

      • #36 by Black Flag® on January 20, 2012 - 02:45

        TitforTat,

        Whereas you are no man’s fool and will pummel any idiot who makes such a dangerous assumption… 😉

        I do not claim our society is immune to elimination.

        There will always exist geological (super-volcano/asteroid strike/super-solar flare), or political (biological or nuclear war) or economic (hyperinflation) that would essentially turn us into the Mayans.

        But, as Scott would say, “we have choice”, and we have progressed – I believe! – where we can make choices that actually forestall, arrest, reverse societal collapse and choices that enhance, improve, extend social order.

        Now, my argument here – repeated until Scott throws up – is that enforcing the prohibition of the initiation of violence upon our institutions to the same and equal degree we enforced upon individuals is fundamental in multiplying social order.

        The more free men, the more this fundamental enforcement is expressed, and the further we distant ourselves from fundamental social collapse.

        ….but then again, here, I could be totally wrong.

      • #37 by Titfortat on January 20, 2012 - 02:41

        Actually BF, let me put it this way. First youre a baby, then you are an adult and then you grow old and then pooffffff youre dead. The life cycle seems pretty embedded in this worldly existence. Societies seem to follow that cycle, dont ya think?

      • #38 by Black Flag® on January 20, 2012 - 02:49

        …yet, Tat, our society lives longer than a man’s lifetime…..

        So social order is independent on the mere life of a man – it is dependent on the ability to maintain good social order between generations.

        The fundamental truth of truth is:
        The fundamental truth for you is the fundamental truth for your children.

        (PS: this is the core premise of all science, including political science)

        The problem and our job:
        Find the fundamental truth.

      • #39 by Titfortat on January 20, 2012 - 15:48

        @BF

        But, like science, your truth is always changing, always evolving. The only fundamental truth that I see is that nothing stays the same other than change. Your choice is one of two, accept this fact or fight against it.

        If you cant fight and you cant flee, flowwwwwww.

      • #40 by Black Flag® on January 20, 2012 - 16:33

        Tat,

        @BF But, like science, your truth is always changing, always evolving.

        No.

        The truth is the truth and does not change.

        What changes is the depth of our ignorance in understanding that truth.

        The only fundamental truth that I see is that nothing stays the same other than change. Your choice is one of two, accept this fact or fight against it. If you cant fight and you cant flee, flowwwwwww.

        Change does not dismiss truth.

  15. #41 by Alan Scott on January 18, 2012 - 23:08

    Black Flag ,

    ” Yet, there are thousands of other parents – such as I – who are in the same competition and find such “lollipops” not only unnecessary but incredibly detrimental – and teaches the kids that theft is a proper means to achieve one’s goal. ”

    I am not in the financial position to be as selfless as you. Nor was I able to raise my kids that way, being one half of the parenting team . And the other half being quite liberal . Not making excuses, just stating reality . At any rate I was not about to sacrifice my children’s future on the idealogical altar . I also do not see the situation as evil, just bad .

    • #42 by Black Flag® on January 18, 2012 - 23:57

      Alan

      The choice to direct my financial means are mine. I make tradeoffs so to afford what I do.

      We are a single income family – me.
      We are modest in our living.

      We forgo grand vacations, an expensive cars and things, and do not do dinner out every second night.

      We make the necessary sacrifices.

      You choose differently – not my place to judge you in this.

      However, my judgement only rests on contradiction of principles – it is the only place where I can objectively offer such judgement.

      Where you argue “here” and opposite argue “there” – I judge this as “creating evil” – and as such, if action is exercised in this manner, grave consequences – far worse than the consequence you are attempting to avoid by manifesting your contradictions– will occur.

      It may be true that you will avoid these grave and terrible consequences by dying before they impact you – but most assuredly, your children and your grandchildren will suffer them – if the actor avoids the consequences he has caused, those consequences will and must fall upon the innocent.

  16. #43 by Alan Scott on January 18, 2012 - 23:53

    Black Flag,

    Actually after further consideration, I hereby declare myself innocent of evil . I am forced to use the government student loan program because the government has squeezed out the private sector. After jumping through the Fafsa hoops, my kids and I qualified for nothing . I paid my parent’s share and my kids will pay back their money. So we basically got nothing from the Federal Government . We are getting a break from the State on the in State tuition, but I can argue that my taxes to the state in my life time more than covered that .

    • #44 by Black Flag® on January 19, 2012 - 00:01

      Alan

      Where it may be true that it is unavoidable to partake certain services without entangling yourself in government, it is not true that you are forced to accept government money to do so.

      I am paying for your kids education against my will. That does not compel me, however, to demand that Scott must pay for my kid’s education. I refuse such funds – I will not enable the thief though I may be his victim.

  17. #45 by Titfortat on January 19, 2012 - 13:54

    It may be true that you will avoid these grave and terrible consequences by dying before they impact you – but most assuredly, your children and your grandchildren will suffer them(BF)

    Well BF, if you take your idea’s seriously then you know this statement is bullshit. Considering you dont believe all societies must collapse then you obviously know that it isnt a GUARANTEE that the children or grandchildren of Alan will have to suffer the consequences. Hey, lets give those kids the credit for being smarter than us and fixing the problem before it becomes one for them. 😉

    “If you have enough bad things to say, you have a good chance of being a prophet”

  18. #46 by Black Flag® on January 19, 2012 - 17:15

    Alan

    Well BF, if you take your idea’s seriously then you know this statement is bullshit. Considering you dont believe all societies must collapse then you obviously know that it isnt a GUARANTEE that the children or grandchildren of Alan will have to suffer the consequences.

    Yes I do.

    It is a truth that if the actor avoids his consequences, the consequences MUST fall upon the innocent – all consequences are a zero-sum game – they will and must be delivered somewhere.
    ALL action has a reaction.

    If they are not delivered upon the actor who created them – then the innocent will receive them – that is, those by no action of theirs, a group of people are made to suffer the consequences of others.

    On individual action, the innocent could be strangers or family etc. For example, he steals a $100, and does not get “caught”. He and his family benefit – including his kids – from the extra $100. The innocent – his victim – suffers all the consequence of the loss of the $100 – the victim and his family suffer the loss.

    However, when Alan gives support and energy to systemic theft across the whole broad range of society, such as support of taxation of Scott so to educate Alan’s kids – the delivery of those consequences of theft will also be proportioned across the whole of society.

    However, as it is broad and systemic, society is both acting and avoiding consequences that will be delivered upon itself – the effect of this action is to time displace the consequences into the future.

    Government debt is an example – government will default, and that default will create massive negative consequences across society.

    BUT! Government can avoid this default by borrowing more … which means, today, YOU will not suffer the grave consequences of default, but IN THE FUTURE, others will face it and FAR WORSE consequences.

    Thus, one can say that by supporting a broad, systemic action of evil – the consequences will be delivered in a manner that is broad and systemic – Alan may suffer.

    BUT, Alan and his ilk may be able to avoid the consequences and they may be able to do this repeatedly until eventually Alan dies – and thus, never suffers from them – BUT eventually the consequences will be delivered, and if delayed into the future, it will not be Alan, but his kids that have to face them.

  19. #47 by Alan Scott on January 21, 2012 - 00:37

    Black Flag ,

    ” We make the necessary sacrifices.

    You choose differently – not my place to judge you in this. ”

    You make false assumptions .

    ” We are a single income family – me.
    We are modest in our living.

    We forgo grand vacations, an expensive cars and things, and do not do dinner out every second night. ”

    Been there, done that and then some . I believe I can match you story for story, sacrifice for sacrifice . Although at this stage of my life I am unwilling to do as much of that . And in the near future, when my youngest finally leaves college it will be Dad’s turn for a lollypop .

    • #48 by Black Flag® on January 21, 2012 - 00:55

      Alan

      You make false assumptions

      No, Alan, I do not – which is why I explicitly stated this.

      I have no idea your goals, your values, your experience, your wants … not one thing about these things can I judge.

      My fixed, concrete, platform from which I must stand on to make this judgement simply does not exist.

      I believe I can match you story for story, sacrifice for sacrifice .

      With no doubt.

      And that is my point.

      You impose upon others, assuming that your position is more superior than anyone else – which is why you feel you can impose on them.

      I mean, you would not impose on those who are weaker than you, right?

      You would not go into the street, and hassle a homeless person for a few bucks to fund your kids, right?

      So you ONLY want to go after those that you judge are superior to you to fund your kids, right?

      BUT YOU HAVE JUST ADMITTED that all of use, including Bill Gates, have great and wonderful trials and sufferings that have made who we are, and that NONE OF US, by those trials deserve others to feed off our blood

      But, because you are ego-centric and the world revolves around Alan and his wants, you do demand others to fund your whims.

      Thus, you create evil.

      The problem: the consequences of evil will be delivered on your children.

      The contradiction: you are doing evil today to save your children, yet, you are ensuring they will be completely overrun by it.

  20. #49 by Black Flag® on January 21, 2012 - 01:05

    Scott,

    Your random release and hold-back of my comments really makes a mess of any consistency.

    I would say that this is your goal, if I was paranoid.

    • #50 by Scott Erb on January 21, 2012 - 02:50

      I fixed it, your comments should appear right away.

      • #51 by Black Flag® on January 21, 2012 - 03:35

        Thanks, Scott.

        I appreciate it.

  21. #52 by Alan Scott on January 21, 2012 - 14:21

    Black Flag ,

    I am on your side most of the time . I have already told you that I actually got very little from uncle george and uncle barak . I paid and paid and paid . Scott would know better than me, but I get the sense that we parents of undergraduates who pay and pay and pay, in large part support the graduate programs at these colleges .

    I am just not against some aid to families . I am against the massive amount that currently is the rule. It allows the colleges to raise their prices and price out anyone of modest means who does not take the help . It also corrupts politicians getting money from the education lobby .

    I also do not believe my ego is really a problem . I am quite harmless .

    • #53 by Black Flag® on January 21, 2012 - 20:27

      Alan

      Black Flag , I am on your side most of the time

      My agreement or disagreement with anyone is not based on who I disagree with.
      It is based on the argument or topic we are discussing.

      I will not agree to things I do not agree with, even if you Jesus Christ.

      I get the sense that we parents of undergraduates who pay and pay and pay, in large part support the graduate programs at these colleges

      If you pay money to a college, you are supporting college.

      . I am just not against some aid to families .

      I am not against aid – period.
      I am against theft.

      Stealing money under the guise of “aid” is a “ends justifies the means” argument – and is the most dangerous of all rationalizations of human action.

      I am against the massive amount that currently is the rule. It allows the colleges to raise their prices and price out anyone of modest means who does not take the help . It also corrupts politicians getting money from the education lobby . I also do not believe my ego is really a problem . I am quite harmless .

      Evil corrupts.
      It is no surprise that bizarre behavior, irrational goals and irrational means proliferate in such an environment.

      But one cannot stop it by supporting it, nor stop it by gleefully participating in it.

      You stop it by stopping it.

  22. #54 by Alan Scott on January 22, 2012 - 03:36

    Black Flag ,

    ” I am not against aid – period.
    I am against theft. ”

    Call it what ever you care to .

    ” But one cannot stop it by supporting it, nor stop it by gleefully participating in it. ”

    Being broke for eight years is not gleeful .

    • #55 by Black Flag® on January 22, 2012 - 03:48

      Alan,

      I call it what it is.
      If we cannot understand what it is, we will not understand where the consequences we suffer come from, and will continue to do the wrong things.

  23. #56 by Alan Scott on January 22, 2012 - 17:07

    Black Flag ,

    So you believe I should feel shame for my position on government aid to families for college and I should feel shame for participating in the Fafsa government loan program ? Shame is a good thing . In the 1930s there was a stigma for able bodied men and their families to be on relief. The Dole , as the British called it was originally for widows and orphans . One of the great successes of FDR was to remove the stigma and shame of taking government assistance for the average Joe . As a success, I mean from the Progressive-Liberal viewpoint . From a long term economic view it is a cancer destroying our country .

    I do not equate my position or my participation in the Federal college assistance programs with taking welfare money . I am a reasonable person, and am not troubled as you are by the small compromises I make . I do not perceive it as theft . As Mr. Franklin said, ” So convenient a thing it is to be a reasonable creature, since it enables one to find or make a reason for everything one has a mind to do . “

    • #57 by Scott Erb on January 22, 2012 - 17:18

      Alan,
      For idealists the issue is always whether one should live purely by ones’ ideals and principles, or compromise them to navigate the world in which they find themselves. I prefer the course of pragmatic idealism: recognize that the world is not going to improve without people who believe in certain values and principles acting to try to actualize them. I fully recognize and respect that others can have a similar kind of pragmatic idealism with opinions very different than mine. Moreover, to me the moment that matters is the present. That is our point of power, where we make choices, and what matters. Therefore I apply my principles in context, recognizing that the future will take care of itself. Also, there is that thing about human fallibility. No one really knows if they truly have comprehended the truth about the nature of humanity and reality. One can make an ideological edifice and keep it internally consistent, creating terms and assumptions that, within that framework, make other points of view seem contradictory. But to me that’s a game. Values and principles are applied in context, change is slow – but change comes from human choices.

      BTW, I love your Franklin quote! We humans are very good at rationalizing that which we want to believe or do!

      • #58 by Black Flag® on January 22, 2012 - 18:45

        Scott,

        oreover, to me the moment that matters is the present

        Exactly.
        You are a short-time preferenced person – “Eat drink and be merry for tomorrow we may die”

        Thus, you have little regard for long term consequences – and as such, push society and mankind into headlong rushes over cliffs, because you are too intellectually blind to see past your nose.

        Thus, concepts of savings and investment are ignored in favor of the short term wealth distribution by force.

        And when society -as it is now- begins to implode due to the destruction of wealth, you merrily ignore the consequences of your own making, and demand more of it.

    • #59 by Black Flag® on January 22, 2012 - 18:38

      Alan

      Black Flag , So you believe I should feel shame

      I do not care what emotion you assume for yourself. I am not “in charge” of your emotions.

      for my position on government aid to families for college

      No, I am pointing out the contradiction in your position, and the consequences that come from such contradiction.

      Your goal is to improve your lot and that of your family.
      You undertake a series of actions that will negatively impact your family in the future for the short term gain of today.

      Now, you may be very happy with that trade off, but that does not alter it being irrational since the reason you accepted the trade off was to improve your long term (that is, give a future for your kids).

      Thus, the only condition for you that is left is irrational emotionalism, intellectual and cognitive dissonance and fantasy.

      And when a man lives in those conditions, nature will be very cruel to him.

      You can most certainly ignore reason, but you cannot avoid the consequences of ignoring reason.

      From a long term economic view it is a cancer destroying our country . I do not equate my position or my participation in the Federal college assistance programs with taking welfare money .

      You, like Scott, require the alteration and perversion of words and definitions so that your pet thievery can be justified.

      A man who takes money for food -to you- is welfare.
      But a man who takes money for his kids education is -to you- not welfare.

      The only difference is that you are the not the former man, but the latter. Therefore, if you do it it cannot be welfare, but another man does the same thing – take the wealth of others – well, that is welfare and is the cancer.

      I am a reasonable person, and am not troubled as you are by the small compromises I make .

      You are not a reasoned man, and I know you are not troubled by taking stolen loot.

      Evil grows because of “small” compromises – one placed on top of the other.

      I do not perceive it as theft .

      Of course you do not, because that would make you the thief, and God knows, you couldn’t live with yourself looking like a thief.

      So you do Scott’s (and many others do this too) old trick – change the definition and then …poof! you are not a thief, and can feel happy that you stealing money is your right and the good and proper thing to do.

  24. #60 by Alan Scott on January 22, 2012 - 21:46

    Scott,

    At another time in my life I was a voracious reader . Now a paragraph is a chore. I happened to come across the auto biography of B. Franklin back when I still had an attention span to read a hundred pages per day . Memory is not all that good, but I thought I remembered that quote . I had a hard time finding and confirming the accuracy . In these discussions, scraps of memories of useful information from my more cerebral past enter my mind from time to time . Franklin is the most perfect blend of an egg head and a non egg head philosopher I have ever read . He was equally at home with the most educated European scientists and with the common laborers in the colonies .

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