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rrneck's Journal
rrneck's Journal
December 20, 2011

You can go out

but you gotta come back.

A novel is incoherent without syntax. A painting is useless without formal cohesion. Music without proper pitch is just noise. Every transcendental moment is coupled to a moment in real time. The process of artmaking could well be described as the switching from the transcendental to the physical and back again. Without empirical physicality transcendence is wasted, without transcendence there would be no reason to move in the world. Life is experienced between those two states.

I've never been one to put much stock in the "artist as shaman" mystique. Each and every one of us is not only capable of the movement from transcendence to physicality, we can hardly avoid it. I see no difference between the artist in his studio or the scientist in the lab. The dancer and the carpenter are, as far as I am concerned, one and the same.

The "facilitators of transcendence" otherwise known as today's spiritual leaders have just found a way to sell people something they've already got. The only thing they're making in this world is money. They offer an easy way to produce a transcendent experience and the only the only way it can be manifest is the support of a corporate organization designed to feed off people's emotions. A tennis player that smacks a hot forehand one inch over the net has a more transcendent experience than most anybody kneeling in a church.

I have great faith in the human desire to make the infinity of the transcendent experience a physical reality.

December 14, 2011

Well, I might be insane but I'm not a thief

and that will be the thief's position in the matter. Just like you say that if you don't want to get shot, don't steal, the thief is saying if you don't want it stolen, don't have it around. Someone who steals for a living has a, shall we say, flexible concept of private property.

When the thief goes to work and you defend your property, you guys are just going to have to work it out between you in about three seconds. The issue that you will be settling is who is most willing to die for the stuff - or who is more willing to kill for it. And that metric will depend on the level of desperation each of you has about the need for the stuff and the resulting amount of force each is willing to bring to bear to secure it.

If a thief is willing to kill for the stuff, and the homeowner is willing to kill to keep it, who has the moral high ground here? It's easy to say the homeowner since he or she obviously worked for the money to pay for it. But it's not that simple. Ask yourself these questions: Would I steal to secure medication to keep my wife alive? Would I kill for it? Who would I kill? Those questions are a variation of the Heinz Dilemma(1) based on Kohlbergs stages of moral development(2).

All of these scenarios regarding whether or not to shoot the thief assume the thief is a loser lowlife crook moral deficient. The terms get flung around a lot: thug, goblin, etc. But as current events would show, there is a growing level of serious income disparity in this country, and many who were once upstanding homeowners have been transformed into deadbeats who walk away from mortgages through no fault of their own because the richest 1% turned the housing market into a casino with a rigged roulette wheel. The greatest number of bankruptcies in this country are caused by medical expenses. The cases of big pharma charging exorbitant prices for medications and manipulating patent regulations to maintain profit margins are no secret. Given the rising social and political turmoil in this country, the Heinz dilemma is much less of an abstraction than it might at first seem to be.

It's all well and good to declare what's yours is yours and you are willing to kill to defend it. But what you have may not always be yours, and you may find yourself in the position of having to steal from others who have more than you to survive. Even a cursory glance at American history will tell you that. A morality based on wealth is a poorly founded morality and an unwise way to deal with others around you. Wealth changes hands, lives do not.

(1) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heinz_dilemma

(2) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kohlberg%27s_stages_of_moral_development

December 13, 2011

Never judge a man with a gun in your hand.

"But even with the issue of safety aside, the fact of the matter is my property is valuable. It cost me money, and thus by extension, part of my lifetime, to acquire it. My lifetime is precious to me. It is priceless. It is time I will never be able to replace. So when you steal property from me, you are essentially stealing a portion of my life from me."

What about instead of shooting him just hold him down and cut off his hand? That's what they do in much less civilized countries.

Your property, whatever it is, required a given portion of your life to acquire. It is excessively punitive to demand the entirety of someone else's life in compensation. And actually, compensation isn't the right word to use either because you aren't compensated for anything except for the violation of your principles. You actually gain nothing meaningful by killing him. You won't get to live any longer by ending his life. You won't get more or better property. All you get is the satisfaction of knowing that your principles are intact. You are, in effect, enforcing a solipsistic set of ideals with deadly force. Which is about the most selfish reason for killing someone I can think of.
December 12, 2011

Statistics are predictive,

but not individually so or in the face of unpredictable anomalies, like the vagaries of human emotion.

Sure it's an argument from emotion. That's the (fuzzy) point. That's how people think. If you put a thousand people in a room and convinced them that three of their number would be assaulted or killed, five hundred of them would go out and buy a gun tomorrow.

And indeed the predictability of statistics can be applied to an individual. That's how CCW laws and drivers licences work. But in those cases the statistics are wedded to individual experience and emotion. People will say to themselves some variation of, "I'm a good citizen so I get a permit." That's the real value of CCW laws. It weds education and positive individual action to political involvement. Some call it civic duty.

Statistics are of course important, but they really don't work all that well when it comes to changing people's minds. In fact, I've seen a few books and articles that seem to indicate that "just the facts" make people dig in their heels even if they've obviously been proven wrong. How many times does that happen around here?

Statistics can predict trends based on available evidence. But sometimes shit happens. And the arguments on both sides of the debate hinge on the unpredictability of future human behavior. It's either the pro gun, "I might get assaulted" or the anti gun "somebody might fuck up". Both of those possibilities and positions are much more emotion than objective fact.

For example, if the crime rate is going down fewer people are actually experiencing crime. So why are gun sales still climbing? I don't think it's because of a Democratic president. Especially since Democratic gun owners are the fastest growing demographic according to political affiliation (Gallup). But Democrats are much more aware of our future economic, environmental, and energy difficulties. Every progressive worth his salt believes in peak oil and labor unrest. I suspect that's what's selling all those guns. It ain't facts, its the heebie geebies.

December 11, 2011

About that "police blotter".

I don't mind it. Those stories serve as reminders of the reality of people's lives. Doors do get kicked in by multiple assailants. People do get carjacked. Sometimes the gun helps, sometimes it doesn't.

And by the same token, people do some profoundly stupid stuff with guns. They shoot themselves in the ass in the restroom. They wave them around needlessly. They leave them where kids can find them.

Discussion about what people actually do is how we learn about ourselves and others who have experiences with which we are not familiar. That's what people do. It's an important way for us to find common ground. When the discussion is confined to the abstractions of policy and statistics we stop thinking about people and we only defend pet ideologies.

I might suggest that if anyone wants to post human interest stuff, try to find news items that include some back story. That will give the tacticians something to figure out and the humanists something with which to empathize. Those on both sides of the debate can be both if we give them something to work with.

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