Re: virus: Socrates

Wed, 05 May 1999 11:35:13 -0700

Reed Konsler wrote:

> This is what I mean by rhetoric. There is a large gulf between exercise
> of power, even "capricious" exercise of power, and genocide. The
> discussion might be more informative if we didn't make such extreme
> statements. It depends, are you're interested in talking about it, or
> in making your point as forcefully as possible?

I wasn't comparing current abusive trends in the US with the holocaust. The exchange went something like this:

KMO: Our leaders exploit our fears in order to sell us on a program that restricts our freedoms.

Reed: You make it sound like a bad thing.

KMO: It IS a bad thing. I can get myself into a frame of mind in which I see it as a good thing, but that frame of mind is so far removed from my everyday perspective that when I am in it, such things as horrific as genocide have a positive instructive value.

My mention of the holocaust was intended to give an indication of a frame of mind in which I can see the capricious exercise of official power as a good thing. One law I definitely wish to propagate is Goodwin's Law: (David, the link on the alt.memetics page to Goodwin's "meme, counter-meme" article is broken.)

> I think the present state of affairs will be in continious need of reform.
> I'm a scientist, I don't believe in absolute and final truth. We need to
> tinker and think about it. But, the present state is better than a lot of
> other possible states.

Definitely better than many past states. Don't get me wrong, I buy into the extropian dynamic optimism thing with a gusto. You might even call it an article of my phaith. (I wouldn't, but that's another thread.)

> There is nothing more capricious than rapid,
> revolutionary change.

Hmmm... I might agree with that, but I'm not sure. Could you say a bit more about this idea?

> A proper understanding would involve a
> dispassionate assesment of the advantages and disadvantages of our
> state.

I'm all for passion. I understand the value of dispassion in evaluation, but what makes it "proper?" You don't have to answer that question. I can hear Yoda whispering the answer in my ear.

> Of course, to really evaluate that we would have to know what the
> purpose of the state was. I think most arguments are about purpose,implictly >

Well, I remember a bit of text set to music and accompanied by animated visions and broadcast repeatedly on Saturday morning television that has burned these words into my consciousness, "...establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare and secure the blessings of liberty for ourselves and our posterity...".

> >To say that something is "unfortunate" has, to my ears, the ring of fatality
> >to it. The "nurse-maid" society may be the current state of the nation, but
> >it's not "just the way it is." It's something that can and will be changed.
> But perhaps not by changing the rules?

Or not JUST by changing the rules.

> Wouldn't it be as effective to
> raise the median personal responsibility?

I expect that it would. There is one person whose personal responsibility I can directly influence, and I'm as committed to working on "the problem" from that front as I am to changing public policy.

> >What a boon for conspirators that any mention of conspiracy is instantly
> >dismissed in our hippness as paranoid delusion. I've conspired with others and
> >used the limited influence at my disposal to bring various social processes to
> >conclusions that I judged to be more in line with my perception of my
> >interests than the other likely potential outcomes.
> I think conspiracy thinking is a subset of "us vs. them". I'm not arguing
> that it isn't true in some cases, I'm saying that I don't think it's an
> effective
> way to approach change. It doesn't focus the mind on "win/win" solutions.

I agree with your point about focus. Still, it's useful be able to understand the motivation and aims of those who pass bad laws, and they do think in "us vs. them" terms.

> >> From a memetic perspective, the rules and
> >> laws persist becuase they complement common fears and prejudices.
> >
> >So, taking the memetic approach, I propose to identify the fears, prejudices,
> >presuppositions, and outright lies that support bad law and enable the
> >capricious exercise of authority and, once identified, undermine them.
> Agreed. That would be an educational approach. The more people that
> are aware of their state and able to think about reasonable alternatives,
> the faster bad laws will erode.

Promoting consciousness is job one here at

> Slack for all! But, we shouldn't be tolerant of ideas we
> disagree with. I question your use of the word "abuse". It is the purpose
> of law makers to enact law.

I don't accept that it is the purpose of elected representative to just "make law." I think that making law for our representatives is like killing for soldiers. It's something that we expect they will do in order to carry out their job, but it is not the purpose of the job. The US soldiers who massacred unarmed South Vietnamese civilians at My Lai in 1968 were killing, but they were not carrying out their intended purpose as soldiers. So too with our representatives, when they pass laws that degrade rather than preserve liberty and individual autonomy or selectively benefit one class of citizens at the expense of others, they may be making law, but they are not carrying out their duties as representatives of the people.

> Stop signs restrict freedom of movement,
> but I presume stop signs aren't "bad". Except for that one in the middle
> of nowhere.

You don't take me to be saying that ALL laws do more harm than good, do you?