Control of Belief – Tyranny’s Endgame

Once upon a time, it was quite rare to see Leftism naked; laid bare for all to see. Soviets once cloaked themselves in moral supremacy and the imperative to spread the workers’ paradise to the world. Democrats explained that poverty must be eliminated, healthcare given freely to all, and bigotry of all forms erased from the Earth. Leftism prided itself upon its perceived moral beauty. Always they progressed to the utopia, the heaven on Earth viewed as their due, since the divine was quite silly and could not possibly exist.

Leftists could not bring themselves to admit their real end goal, not publicly, and perhaps not even consciously. For some, defense of Socialism was so deep, so ardent and passionate, that one could scarcely disbelieve their sincerity. Yet even the most sincere may lie to himself.

Recently, the mask has slipped. Curled around the edges, it falls away. Beauty, fairness, diversity, and morality… these fade away, revealing the ugliness beneath. We’ve seen it often enough in their resistance to Donald Trump. On social media, we have seen the hatred, the disgust, the dismissive disdain in which they hold us. Censors run amok, removing us from any platform where they have sufficient control. We are disinvited, our accounts are banned or deleted, our employers harassed, and our names tarnished.

Today, however, the mask slips a little further. The title lays it out, though we must fisk this mess too: You don’t have a right to believe whatever you want to.

Let the weight of this statement sink in. For the unspoken, but obvious, corollary is that since you do not have a right to belief, you can be compelled by force to exchange your belief for that of another. And who is to do the forcing? That’s the eternal question. Certainly the author does not imply that any Rightist will have a say in this.

Do we have the right to believe whatever we want to believe? This supposed right is often claimed as the last resort of the wilfully ignorant, the person who is cornered by evidence and mounting opinion: ‘I believe climate change is a hoax whatever anyone else says, and I have a right to believe it!’ But is there such a right?

Yes. There is. You may believe in the good and the silly, the smart and the stupid. You may believe in the true and the false. Belief is a choice, and if you do not have choice of belief, you do not have freedom. You must instead believe whatever those in power say you should believe, at the point of a gun, whether true or false.

Beliefs are factive: to believe is to take to be true. It would be absurd, as the analytic philosopher G E Moore observed in the 1940s, to say: ‘It is raining, but I don’t believe that it is raining.’ Beliefs aspire to truth – but they do not entail it. Beliefs can be false, unwarranted by evidence or reasoned consideration. They can also be morally repugnant. Among likely candidates: beliefs that are sexist, racist or homophobic; the belief that proper upbringing of a child requires ‘breaking the will’ and severe corporal punishment; the belief that the elderly should routinely be euthanised; the belief that ‘ethnic cleansing’ is a political solution, and so on. If we find these morally wrong, we condemn not only the potential acts that spring from such beliefs, but the content of the belief itself, the act of believing it, and thus the believer.

Who is the “we” in this? Anyway, yes, a man may condemn a belief, and condemn even the believer. This does not mean the believer cannot be permitted his belief. Only when belief becomes action must we consider doing something about it. And then, we limit this to a violation of natural rights. You don’t have the right to murder me. You may wish to murder me all day. You may even believe it to be right, which most of us would find ‘repugnant.’ But until you attempt to act on this belief, that is a matter between you and God.

This is a core difference between Leftism and Rightism. Leftism believes thought must be regulated, controlled. It believes that man may be perfected by the State, by the combined ‘wisdom’ of the mob, concentrated in the hands of the very powerful. It’s profoundly sickening. And though, as I have said, every man may be permitted his belief, if there is any belief I would wish to see destroyed, it is that one. A common aphorism is that more men have been killed in the name of God than any other reason. That is a fallacy. Such that God has been used as a ‘reason’ for murder, it is most often only an excuse, a flimsy rationale for something else the murderer really wants.

And most often, that desire is for power. The power to shape belief is among the greatest.

 In any complex society, one has to rely on the testimony of reliable sources, expert judgment and the best available evidence.

Who is to do the judging? The experts? The author naturally believes that his beliefs are correct, and thus he is permitted to impose them on others. Remember that Tom Nichols often makes similar claims, that because an expert is judged by his peers to be an expert, and the hoi polloi are by nature dumber and/or less experienced than said expert, they must accept the expert’s word without making a fuss or challenging him. We are not permitted to question the expert’s honesty, or competency, or his pronouncements because he is judged better than us. Stay in your place.

In exploring the varieties of religious experience, James would remind us that the ‘right to believe’ can establish a climate of religious tolerance. Those religions that define themselves by required beliefs (creeds) have engaged in repression, torture and countless wars against non-believers that can cease only with recognition of a mutual ‘right to believe’. Yet, even in this context, extremely intolerant beliefs cannot be tolerated. Rights have limits and carry responsibilities.

Tolerance of intolerance cannot be permitted? Well then, this entire article is, in effect, a form of intolerance toward beliefs deemed unfit by the author and his peers. In effect, it is naked intolerance. Should we then be forced to tolerate it? This is all circular reasoning and mental masturbation. The essence of human experience can, in my belief, be distilled down to a measure of quid pro quo. If you are willing to tolerate me, and respect my rights, I am likewise willing to do the same with you. On the other hand, if you insist that I have no right to my belief and should be forced to give it up, why should I concede your rights to your own?

Unfortunately, many people today seem to take great licence with the right to believe, flouting their responsibility. The wilful ignorance and false knowledge that are commonly defended by the assertion ‘I have a right to my belief’ do not meet James’s requirements. Consider those who believe that the lunar landings or the Sandy Hook school shooting were unreal, government-created dramas; that Barack Obama is Muslim; that the Earth is flat; or that climate change is a hoax. In such cases, the right to believe is proclaimed as a negative right; that is, its intent is to foreclose dialogue, to deflect all challenges; to enjoin others from interfering with one’s belief-commitment. The mind is closed, not open for learning. They might be ‘true believers’, but they are not believers in the truth.

Note some of the comparisons the author makes here. He places “Obama is Muslim” in the same category as denying the lunar landings took place. He places climate change skepticism in the same category as flat Earthers. That is a rhetorical sleight of hand. False equivalency. Furthermore, the point of deriding climate change ‘deniers’ is to deflect challenge, the very practice the author claims to loathe. He does not enjoy having his beliefs challenged, and he projects this dislike upon his ideological opponents.

Believing, like willing, seems fundamental to autonomy, the ultimate ground of one’s freedom. But, as Clifford also remarked: ‘No one man’s belief is in any case a private matter which concerns himself alone.’ Beliefs shape attitudes and motives, guide choices and actions. Believing and knowing are formed within an epistemic community, which also bears their effects. There is an ethic of believing, of acquiring, sustaining, and relinquishing beliefs – and that ethic both generates and limits our right to believe. If some beliefs are false, or morally repugnant, or irresponsible, some beliefs are also dangerous. And to those, we have no right.

Ah, who decides truth of belief? An aggressive Atheist might say that I have no right to believe in God. A radical Muslim might say I have no right but to believe in Allah. Both might find the alternatives morally repugnant. Who is granted authority to determine which beliefs I might have a right to? The quote about no man’s belief being a private matter is also revealing. This is the rationale behind Orwellian surveillance schemes. The government must determine what your beliefs are, and then must punish you if they are deemed incorrect. Or, rather, deemed in opposition to whatever those in power desire.

And those beliefs are the ones that are most dangerous… to people like the author, anyway.

The mask has slipped a little more today. The salivating drive toward complete tyranny lies naked beneath.

The Government is Your Mother, and Mother Knows Best

Some of my readers may already know that I’ve been banned from Twitter. You may not know the reason, however. Some folks were arguing that the word “retarded” should be banned from Twitter discourse. Naturally, I replied that this was retarded. Twitter has apparently sided with those demanding censorship, so let it be known that the social media platform has banned use of this word. Using it results in account suspension.

That’s pretty retarded.

Leftists, and especially journalists, have a propensity for deliberately misunderstanding language. Words have meanings, which can be gleaned partly from the commonly-accepted definitions, and partly from the context in which they were used. Or, put another way, intent matters in communication. Calling something retarded is not an affront to people with Down syndrome, because of the context in which it was used (i.e. not in the presence of, or having anything to do with, people with Down syndrome). To interpret the use of “retarded” this way requires deliberate intent to misunderstand the speaker.

In other words, Leftists who do this are defying the very purpose of language in the first place, which is to communicate. Now, using the word may very well be construed as extremely rude (and, in fact, it was intended to be), but since when is rudeness an offense which requires censorship?

This is where something very interesting happens. You see, to a Leftist, rudeness is an unpardonable sin. If I were, for instance, to refer to a gay man as a “fag” (despite the fact that many use the word to describe themselves), I am being rude. The rudeness must be censored. Leftists presume to be my mother, and to explain to me what words I am, and am not, allowed to use.

Now in the case of my suspension, it can be argued that Twitter is a private entity, and has every right to censor me for whatever reason they wish. And while this is true in a legal and technical sense, it omits the greater point that any nation which does not really believe in freedom of speech in a cultural sense is soon to lose its legal rights to the same. Or, in other words, de facto censorship can easily become de jure censorship. But even if it didn’t, note that North Korea enshrines freedom of speech in its legal documentation. Nobody there is stupid enough to actually try to use it. Nonetheless, Leftists would love to ban the use of words they don’t like at a legal level. Indeed, they salivate over hate speech laws, and the Orwellian policing we see today in (formerly) Great Britain.

It gets much worse than that, though. Take a look at this video created in opposition to the Second Amendment:

The fascinating thing about this video is just how childish and patronizing it truly is. Note the bright colors, the cartoon figures, the sing-a-long verses and Mr. Rogers vibe of the host. This whole thing looks like it was designed for six year olds. This is what the Left thinks of people.

Ana Gasteyer’s argument is, essentially, that if one person does something stupid with a gun, that person has effectively ruined it for the rest of us, and all the guns must be rounded up and taken away, because clearly Americans are unable to handle them. She appoints herself Mom-in-Chief, under which the rest of us are supposed to obey like good little six year olds.

This argument falls flat on its face, for we could easily make the same kind of delusional argument about alcohol and automobiles. Some people drink too much, and then drive their cars, and hurt people. Clearly they have ruined it for the rest of us, ban automobiles and alcohol. Remember the temperance movement? This shares a number of similarities to it. Indeed, it’s a very matriarchal approach to problem solving.

Some people are rude on the internet, ban mean words! Some people commit sex crimes, well… we they’ve clearly ruined sex for everybody, if you want to have sex, please obtain signed consent to continue every 2 minutes. Yet somehow this motherly attitude, this “omg somebody save our kids from the NRA” attitude vanishes the moment somebody coat hangers their child at the local Planned Parenthood abort-o-mat.

Temperance movement mothers would have been horrified by that, at least.

Some time ago, Sarah Hoyt wrote about the matriarchy that she encountered when she first immigrated to the United States. The experience was jolting for her. Feminists presume that we live in a patriarchy, and that men have all the power. Men know better. We possess a great deal of hypothetical power, rather like the Queen of England. But if we actually try to use any of it, it is quickly revealed as meaningless.

After all, if you can’t even call somebody retarded on the Internet, how much power do you really possess?

Leftists want government to be your mother. To put you in time out if you say a mean word to somebody, to take a thing away from everyone if even one person misuses it. To enforce Socialist notions of fairness through a sort of scaled up version of “oh, did you bring enough to share with everyone? No? Then I’m going to take it away!”

Affirmative action is a sort of scaled up participation trophy concept. Oh, it doesn’t matter if you didn’t practice, work out, or any of that. You’re just as good as the people who did! Here, have a trophy! Take a look at medical school admission rates for how this works in the real world:

Note that the lowest tier of black applicant is roughly comparable in acceptance rate to the highest tier of white acceptance. Note, also, that whites aren’t even the worst off here – Asians are. The Asian stereotype of “you be doctor now” has some truth to it. They are likely to have intact families, to work hard, to study hard, and to be dedicated to their work. But sure, affirmative action someone with lower grades and scores, right? Yeah, I’ve never heard anyone say “can I please have the affirmative action doctor?”

But the mother might say “it’s not fair!” And we should hold the phone, drop everything, and move medicine back to accommodate somebody’s feelings about fairness, right? That sounds pretty retarded to me.

No guns for you, share and share alike, don’t say mean words, and go have a time out if you voted for Donald Trump. Or, hell, if you just didn’t vote for Hillary Clinton. After all, she’s a mother too, right? Otherwise you are an internet bully or something.

Thing of it is, even if we accepted the premise that human beings are all little children who need constant supervision, who have no agency of their own, and who must obey their betters in all things… who are the betters? Who constitutes someone worthy of being the mother who knows best? Naturally, Ana Gasteyer clearly thinks of herself this way. And pretty much every teenage SJW or college feminist considers his, her, or xis self qualified for the role, despite having a tendency to abort away their actual children.

They have agency, you see. We do not. We, as in productive adults, must obey college SJWs in all things. They are our mothers, and mother knows best, right? I have no doubt Hillary Clinton saw herself in this light. Certainly some of her emasculated male followers thought of themselves as slobbering man-children.

As far as I’m concerned, they are all retarded. And unlike folks who actually have Down syndrome (some of whom are wonderful, humble, caring people), these people are viciously arrogant about their retardation.

The thing is, mothering is an important part of humanity, but it is not the sole part, nor is it supposed to be done excessively. Otherwise you end up with wussified children who are completely unable to take care of themselves when they grow up. And if you think about it, that does sound like the 47% Mitt Romney lamented about in the 2012 election, people who would never vote for him because the government was, in effect, their mother, taking care of everything for them.

Eating is a good and proper activity. Gluttony is a sin. Having a glass of wine a day is supposedly a benefit to your overall health. Getting plastered every night is likely to destroy your body and send you to the hospital. Today, we have an excess of mothering, both from actual mothers (see: helicopter parents) and from Leftists and the government assuming a motherly role. In effect, Leftists are helicopter parents who, in lieu of actual children, have assumed the role of some kind of global parents over the supposedly-childish hoi polloi. That many of these Leftists are themselves barely removed from childhood might be regarded as a colossal irony.

I’ve long suspected that this motherly activity is actually one of the primary motivators behind the very school shootings lamented about in the video above. I remember several times as a child being disciplined by the school for defending myself against a bully. The policy, you see, was that violence was bad. Therefore, when two kids were seen fighting, both were disciplined the same. No effort was made to determine who was the aggressor. Both were at fault. Leftists view self defense in a similar matter. They are suspicious of it. They don’t actually like it. In their minds, someone who shoots an intruder is as bad as the intruder himself. Perhaps worse, even, because excuses can be made for the bad behavior of the intruder.

Likewise, excuses are made for the bullies. Oh, he’s having problems at home. Oh, he’s black and you’re white, and quite honestly you probably deserve it because your great-great-great grandfather might have owned a slave. You must accept it. No outlet is given for boys, girls are held up as the gold standard, something Christina Hoff Sommers has commented on many times. Add to this a toxic stew of single motherhood, absent fathers, a tendency to over-medicate, and a general cultural malaise… and you have a recipe for boys snapping and going apeshit at school. Not to mention the media gives a twisted sort of fame to the school shooters.

But no, like the helicopter mother who wants to stop her kid from spitting out gum everywhere, as cited in the video above, we should just ban everything for everybody. Forget the reasons why the bad behavior was occurring, just ban the word, or ban the physical object. It’s like the Rotherham rape epidemic. Forget actually protecting the victims and going after the perps, ban talking about it, ban the words.

This has given us a culture of childishness, of never actually growing up. Nothing is ever your fault, because you are seen as a child.

If I was of some protected class, and a recipient of affirmative action largess, I’d be angry. It’s patronizing, it’s saying “oh here, because you can’t win the game on your own, we won’t keep score, and we’ll give you a participation trophy.” No, screw you, I want to win, and losing the game is motivation to do better next time. 

Participation trophy culture is retarded. The government is not your mother, and the fact that Leftists of various stripes think they are qualified to be my parents is profoundly insulting. In this case, ‘mother’ definitely doesn’t know best.

 

Wednesday Randoms II

Today there is a new weekly column up on Dangerous: THALES: Turning Empathy Into a Weapon, How Social Justice Fights Dirty. This is a summary of a concept that’s been central to my posts here at The Declination.

Weaponized Empathy is a chief weapon of the Left, and we need to deprive them of it. To do so will impose a cost. Namely, many Leftists will hate you, and say the worst about you. But its a cost that must be lived with if the truth is to prevail. Indeed, the longer the cost is deferred, the worse it is likely to be.

On Monday, Francis penned an interesting post which touches upon the idea delayed gratification, something most Americans do not practice. By pushing instant gratification, and kicking the cost can down the road, our civilization has incurred an enormous amount of debt, and not merely financial debt (though that too).

The perverse incentives of our political figures has made this possible. But the citizenry itself cannot avoid responsibility either. After all, Americans have been voting en masse for short-sighted, destructive policies as long as I’ve been alive. The money quote:

We the People have earned a certain suffering-debt for our previous sociopolitical sins – never mind that we were set upon our sinful courses by an earlier We the People, who passed their accumulated suffering-debt down to us – then our choice is simple:

 

We could accept the penalty, endure it, and come out healed;
We could reject the penalty, which would compound the ultimate suffering.

 

Since World War II at least, the public has preferred politicians who will “kick the can down the road.” In consequence, government has gone ever further astray and our accumulated debt of ultimate suffering has compounded year by year. At some point, though the moment is difficult to predict, the debt will be paid. If it’s grown large enough, it will destroy our society completely.

 

But a payable sociopolitical suffering-debt is like a prison term: it’s finite. It will end. It can and should be endured, especially if the alternative is to raise it to an unpayable level. Our unwillingness to accept and endure the penalties that have already accrued is propelling such debts toward the threshold of sociopolitical bankruptcy.

Note, when Francis speaks of sociopolitical bankruptcy, is essentially discussing the fall of the United States as a functional, intact nation. And the longer we kick the can down the road, the more likely that outcome becomes. Indeed, I’m not even sure we can still avoid it.

On a positive note, Trump managed to push tax cuts through. They are not anywhere near as extensive as I would have liked, and I am sorely disappointed with the behavior of the GOP (more with the Senate than the House), but this is something.

Tax cuts used to be a sort of bread-and-butter of GOP politics, alongside strong foreign policy. The various factions within the party would jockey and argue over everything else, but low taxes and strong military were generally always agreed upon. That this much infighting was required to get the GOP to push through a tax cut – any tax cut at all – is disturbing. It demonstrates the slow evolution of the GOP Establishment away from the base, and toward a more Fabian Socialist agenda, agreeing with the Democrats in principle if not in time frame.

Still, this was why many folks chose Trump over Hillary. We knew we weren’t getting what we wanted, but a tax cut is better than a tax hike. Still, some Dems are going off the deep end telling us the tax cuts will literally kill people. They’ve clearly left sanity behind.

Signalling Lies

These days, I figure almost everybody knows someone who is a complete idiot with his money. Somebody who, perhaps, makes a decent wage but constantly overspends in an effort to keep up with the Joneses. This is the kind of person who buys a $5000 Italian leather couch and then tells you that it’s a $5000 leather couch. It is important to him, you see, that you acknowledge his ability to spend money on overpriced couches. This is nothing new; it’s a form of status signalling that goes back to the dawn of humanity, most likely. My beads are prettier than your beads. My mud hut is bigger than yours.

The fascinating thing about it, however, is that most folks I’ve met who do this don’t actually have the money. They have car payments and furniture installment loans. They have credit card debt and student loan debt. They may have home equity loans on top of their regular mortgages. And frequently, they lack the liquid assets to cover any of these notes. Their lives are constantly stressed, for any interruption in their income stream could expose the lie of their status signalling. People would know that they were broke. That is more terrifying to such folks than losing the possessions themselves.

Even folks who do have the money often spend themselves into poverty trying to chase status. Stories of celebrities who spend their vast sums of money and wind up in crazy amounts of debt are absurdly common. But at least they had the money at some point. The status signal wasn’t entirely dishonest.

SJWs do something similar with regards to various forms of bigotry. Their goal isn’t necessarily to defeat bigotry, as some of the more honest among their number admit that it isn’t really possible to eliminate all biases in human beings in the first place. And even the most idiotic of SJWs has to know deep down that in America, we have it pretty good with regards to demographic group tolerance – or we did, anyway, before SJWs started screwing around with it again. Rather, the goal of the SJW is to signal that he is not racist/sexist/whatever.

Like the guy who shows you his expensive couch, the SJW who spouts off how much he loves Antifa, and how he goes to all the local BLM protests, is actually saying look at me I’m better than you. He’s signalling that he’s one of the enlightened, educated, and right-thinking individuals. Not like those icky poor people; not like those icky Right-Wing would-be Nazis.

It’s all about ego gratification. It’s about feeling superior, and being able to look down with disdain on the unwashed, the impure, the unrighteous. Even some who are nominally Right-Wing have fallen victim to this (see: Tom Nichols, Bill Kristol, etc…). But like the neighbor who wants you to think he’s rich, many of them aren’t. Like Joss Whedon, feminist warrior who cheated on his wife with a dozen women, they are signalling a lie. Some, like Bill Kristol, may have once been what they are signalling, but aren’t any longer. Somewhere along the way, they took the signalling to be more important than the truth.

It’s confusing the packaging for the product, confusing PR with the people behind it. It is tacitly saying that appearances are more important than realities. This is a core tenet of Social Justice Leftism. A superficial understanding leads many to believe women make 77 cents for every dollar a man makes. That is the appearance. Dig deeper, and the truth comes out: women make different career choices, work less hours, and tend toward lower risk tolerance. When these things are accounted for, the gap vanishes into irrelevancy. But this doesn’t matter, because the superficial appearance trumps the reality. Thus the SJW signals his acceptance of appearance over truth by constantly bleating this metric.

Underneath this ideology is a house of cards. One misstep, one accidental exposure of truth, and like the indebted man with his fancy furniture, the repo man will come and take it all away. Harvey Weinstein’s casting couch, Joss Whedon’s infidelity, or as I spoke of once before… an SJW’s obsession with getting beaten by men dressed as Nazis in a BDSM club… and it all it comes crashing down around them. Their moral preening is no more true than the yuppie’s affectation of wealth.

I often tell folks that I’m not that great of a guy. I prefer the position of Socrates on wisdom: none of us are truly wise. I prefer the Christian’s view on sinning: we all do it; we all fuck up. And I prefer a dose of humility to the obsession with social status. I don’t always achieve these lofty goals (see #2), but I’ve long believed that trying to achieve them is worth something. On the flip side of that, it’s very irritating when someone tries to signal a lie, and we all know it’s a lie.

I don’t judge my neighbor on the basis of his wealth, why should I care about that? But if he goes out of his way to lie about it, then I care about being lied to. I can’t be too harsh on a man who has committed various sexual indiscretions (provided they aren’t grossly illegal, of course – see pedo shit, rape, etc…), sex is and always will be a hangup for humanity. But if you pretend to be a moral puritan about sex, and it comes out that you are a creep, then I care about being lied to. It is a ‘cast the first stone’ situation. If you are casting stones at someone, and you are guilty of the same, you are tacking on intentional, self-centered dishonesty in addition to whatever it is you did. At least have the courtesy to be quiet about it. Better yet, go ask forgiveness from Christ.

On top of the aspect of dishonesty, it’s also insulting and patronizing. We know the signals are a lie. For the man bragging about his wealth, look… we can do math. For the man bragging about his sexual purity, we know you’re full of shit, we’re human beings too, you know. We know how it is with sexual desire. For the man declaring himself wise, an expert in all things, we know it’s all bullshit. We see when you are caught in lies and mistakes. In other words, we aren’t fooled, and by continuing on with your status signals, you’re only fooling yourself. Even your fellow signalers know, deep down, that you are lying. They merely enable your lies so that you may, quid pro quo, enable theirs.

Ultimately, the signals won’t work. Even if you fool us for a little while, sooner or later we’ll find out.

I don’t think any human can remove all signalling from himself; some of it is undoubtedly unconscious. And sometimes a signal can be true: Donald Trump’s ostentatious wealth is actually true in his case. But better to err on the safe side when it comes to signalling. Best not to do it. If you must, be very sure it’s not covering a lie.

Poverty: Temporary or Permanent?

Poverty is an issue Leftists badger the Right about incessantly. Poor people provide a convenient excuse for government control over your wallet. They need food, shelter, transportation, healthcare, and so on, and why shouldn’t these things be guaranteed by a friendly government? Why rely on the charity of individuals to do this, when it is possible that private charity will miss some people, that some of the poor will slip through the cracks and suffer? Only government can make this a mandate. Let us raise taxes, they say, or reduce funding for the warmongering military, to help our poor people! As one Leftist detractor explained, let’s do it for national pride, compassion, and empathy!

The buzzwords sound great, of course. But they are empty platitudes. You cannot eat compassion, nor will empathy put a roof over your head or supply you with good, inexpensive healthcare. And as we give government our money to do these things for us (or, rather, as it is taken from us), be advised that the bureaucrats and politicians will take their slice of the action. They are the middlemen, and naturally a middleman wants his share of the spoils.

Government inefficiencies aside, many of those who are supported by government anti-poverty programs are, essentially, lifers. They are mired in permanent poverty, never to escape. What percentage, exactly? Well, it’s difficult to tell. But those receiving government benefits in the 37-48 month category (the longest period I could find concrete stats for) stands at around 43% of those on government assistance.

In browsing around these statistics this morning, I came across a Huffington Post article that was using essentially the same data (they differed by a couple percentage points here and there, but were clearly using a similar source). Their conclusion was that a majority of people used welfare benefits of varying types for only short periods of time. This was technically true (after all, 43% is a minority). But nonetheless, we are not far from that magic 50% marker.

In any event, for our purposes 43% of welfare recipients will do. These are people who are essentially in a state of permanent poverty. There are probably some who are too proud to take government benefits for long, too, or who do not qualify for one reason or another. So the actual number of those in permanent poverty is probably somewhat higher than that number would indicate.

Thing is most of us, myself included, have probably experienced some form of temporary poverty. For me, this came during the dot-com bust in 2001, when getting work as a web developer was essentially impossible. This happened to a lot of my friends in the industry, too. Those were tough times for folks in my line of work. I took a job as a Costco stocker for a time. Some friends took various odd jobs, or moved back in with family.

When talking to friends, family, and some of my readers here at The Declination, I can safely say that most of us have experienced temporary poverty. When I was born, my father was broke and just barely struggling to keep the lights on and food on the table. But that, too, was temporary. My wife’s family came from Cuba with nothing but the clothes on their backs, all that Castro permitted them to take with them. But their poverty was temporary, also. My wife’s grandfather quickly landed a job (all physical labor, but that was enough) and he managed to claw his way out of poverty. Her father managed to prosper, working his way up from a minimum wage pharmacy worker job to part-owner in a lucrative pharmacy business.

What is the difference between those who fall into poverty, for whatever reason, and those who stay there?

There is a mindset I’ve seen with people who are stuck in permanent poverty. A family friend, who for sake of anonymity I will call Harry, exemplifies the permanent poverty situation quite well. Harry was a general contractor, and had a set of skills that ought to have made him permanently well off. But when he’d land a good contract, and score some hefty profit, he would quickly burn through money. Harry’s house would be filled with toys, from a new lifted F-150, to boats, RVs, motorcycles, whatever. And then, a year or two later, after going through several lean months, the possessions would disappear one at a time, sold or repossessed by the bank.

Feeling sorry for Harry, my father helped him score a job worth a substantial amount of money. Half was to be paid upfront, the remainder upon completion of the job. But Harry spent the advance too quickly, burning through it at the bars and the strip clubs, and found he did not have enough money leftover to buy all the supplies needed to finish the work. The broken contract cost him his contractor’s license, and he found himself out of work. Things continued to go downhill after that, and he spent several months in jail on some unrelated charge.

Harry has since been released, and is back working in construction, but now as a regular laborer. His lucrative career as a general contractor is gone forever. And even still, after all this, he quickly spends his money on booze, women, and toys, and finds himself in financial pickles. So far as I know, Harry has never taken a dime of welfare money, but he is still stuck in permanent poverty. And all the help my father and I could give him was for naught.

The thing is, you could give Harry a million dollars, and it would soon vanish. Just as you could give some folks on welfare piles of money, and in the long run it would do them no good. The money would not improve their lot, but if taken out of your paycheck, it could worsen your lot. That isn’t to say money can’t help a poor man at all. Those who are in temporary poverty may very well be helped by a timely infusion of cash, or some food, shelter, or otherwise.

Differentiating between the temporarily impoverished and the permanently impoverished is a mission we’ve largely outsourced to the government, and I consider that a mistake. The government is ill-equipped to do this. Some of the temporarily impoverished may be turned away, and many of the permanently impoverished may supplied with money and/or benefits that are, essentially, wasted. Take this story, confirmed by Snopes, of a man using his girlfriend’s EBT card to buy steak and lobster. He then resold the food for cash, 50% of the value of the original food. He was caught and arrested for fraud; for reselling the food and using someone else’s benefits. But this sort of thing goes on all the time. And sometimes the EBT benefits are sold more directly. And let us not forget the FEMA cards after Katrina, often being used for strip clubs and booze, not unlike what Harry did with his profits. Some got caught. I suspect many more got away with it.

The point is, some of these folks have a mindset that mires them in permanent poverty. Even given the food, they will sell the food at a discount and use it for something else. Given the welfare cash to pay bills, they will spend the money on something else. Give them millions, and they will soon be broke again. Such aid only truly improves the lot of the temporarily impoverished. And even then, I’ve never taken such benefits, even when temporarily impoverished, and neither have most folks I know. Most of the time, we can get out of temporary poverty with some bootstrapping and some assistance from family and friends.

How do you change the mindset of the permanently impoverished? I don’t know. What I do know is that if the purpose of government welfare spending is to lift them out of this state, it’s not going to work. It may help the temporarily impoverished, though I’d argue we could do that more efficiently via private means. But the permanently poor are going to stay that way, short of changing their mindset. I’ve spoken at length on the possibility that pain is a good teacher; that maybe making people too comfortable in poverty (the regularity and guarantee of government assistance) may work against learning the habits and mindset necessary to escape poverty. But Harry’s example is also instructive, he’s had every incentive in the world to change his behavior, and he never did. Some people may be beyond our help. It’s an unpleasant thing to contemplate, but it may nonetheless be true.

The question is, if some people are beyond our help, if lifting them out of poverty is beyond our means, what is our responsibility to them? Do we owe the government an ever-increasing slice of our earnings to fail to help them? Where does our obligation end? To those in power, of course, middlemen taking their slice of the action, the answer is that the obligation never ends, and is an essentially unlimited mandate.

Insight From a Reader

A reader of The Declination by the alias of fslenentine had this to say on the matter of Padraig and others like him.

The question of Padraig’s intellectual insecurity is more consequential than is generally realized.

Today, intelligence is increasingly the most important attribute one can possess. No longer are there multiple avenues to social worth, just the one.

The problem is that most people aren’t smart enough to be special, and two thirds of the population is average to below average.

This has produced a culture of lying. Everyone has to pretend to be smart, and we all have to pretend that they are so in order to avoid being called out for our own banal mediocrity. After all, the average IQ in this country is 98 but the average self-reported IQ is 118, more than a full standard deviation away.

The internet makes it incredibly easy to give the superficial appearance of intelligence. Consider the old tactic of “link-storming” in which someone would just post, in place of an actual argument, links upon links which often only have passing relevance.

The end result of this is that most everyone is pretending to be smarter than they are, and thus live lives of deceit. They are wracked with insecurity and it manifests in malice.

Psychologically speaking, they’re angry and resentful at the world because they aren’t as special as they’ve been told and/or imagine themselves to be.

I call it the “American Idol” problem in which a competent but unspectacular singer is turned down and leaves in utter shock, having never considered that he/she might not be good enough. After all, everyone told them how great they were.

People who live fraudulent lives are prone to resentfulness and then true malice.

I suspect that this has much to do with the embrace of postmodern marxism.

Universities, in a classic sense, challenge students with truly difficult material from truly remarkable minds. The brutal truth is that most people aren’t intellectually equipped to deal with Kant, Aquinas, Jung, and so on.

Bringing in more students means lowering the bar, intellectually speaking (and please, this is no comment on gender or race because that’s the first place Padraig will go. It’s a pure numbers game), not just for students but teachers.

Now we have generations of failed intellectuals with delusions of grandeur and wracked with resentment, unable to solve the immensely complex problems that society presents. As such, they retreat into pseudo-intellectualism, i.e. postmodernism.

It demands no rigor and affords them the ability to create what is the equivalent of fan theories about movies. Clever, fun, but meaningless. More so, they bury it in opacity. They abhor clarity for it exposes the vacuity of their efforts.

Increasingly mediocre teachers combined with even more increasingly mediocre students means a ripe environment for pseudo-intellectualism.

This affliction affects the slightly above average person the most because they’re smart enough to know that they’re above average, but not smart enough to be insightful or special. Thus, what’s their intelligence worth? To them it should entitle them to a place of status. Instead it just means that they can be a mid-level accountant or marketing manager. That’s simply not enough. They expected more. They were promised more. Now they feel angry and betrayed which causes them to lash out.

My rambling point is this: we overvalue pure intelligence and thus we create a situation in which many, many people have to pretend to be smarter than they are, and that produces psychological resentment, which is the foundation of malice.

Enter Padraig. He’s not here to discuss, which is what intelligent people generally do. They recognize the limits of their intellect and enjoy discussing with people who see the world differently. He’s not here for that. He’s not even here to lecture. He’s not even here to show-off his superior mind. He’s here to establish his bona fides as a true intellectual by attacking. That’s all he has: malice.

The all-too obvious problem is that he’s not particularly impressive. I don’t think he’s stupid but he seems perfectly average to slightly-above average. He offers no original thoughts of substance and I think it’s because he doesn’t have any, and he knows it, which is why he’s here, attacking a small blog.

Dystopic is, in his mind, an easy target. He wouldn’t risk going after someone who’s a heavyweight. Hell, I doubt he’d even risk attacking a minor leaguer like Ben Shapiro. He has no intellectual heft and he knows it. He just thinks Dystopic and his viewers don’t either.

***

This is a very important concept to understand. I’ve said for a long time that many Lefties are motivated by a desire to appear intelligent and moral, to be superior to those knuckle-dragging, hateful Republicans, or whatever the Leftist boogeyman of the day might be.

The question is why?

Fslenentine answered it succinctly. I frequently tell people here that I’m just a regular guy trying to work through the political ratfuck of our age. But the fact is, I could have been a Padraig myself, were circumstances a little different. I recognize in him certain character flaws that I once expressed, though not quite so obviously. Two things conspired to prevent that. First off, while I was probably the smartest kid in my high school (and it was not small), when I began writing software, I realized that much smarter men existed. I soon had the notion that I was uniquely clever or special beaten out of my skull.

Second, and perhaps most importantly, I began gaining recognition for genuine intellectual accomplishments. Nothing too big, nothing that would make me famous or land me a chapter in the history books, but real nonetheless. I started seeing my work out in the world – you’ve probably seen it too, though you’d never know it. And once you accomplish something real and meaningful like that, the sort of false ego-stroking you get from winning Internet debates on meaningless shit feels hollow and fake.

Nonetheless, it’s easy to become a cruel, angry person when reality doesn’t kiss your ass the same way all the fawning idiots of your youth did. I don’t blame a man for going through that period. But I do blame him for never exiting it.

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