node created 2019/09/29
The political policies that are called conservative these days would appal any genuine conservative, if there were one around to be appalled. For example, the central policy of the Reagan Administration - which was supposed to be conservative - was to build up a powerful state. The state grew in power more under Reagan than in any peacetime period, even if you just measure it by state expenditures. The state intervention in the economy vastly increased. That's what the Pentagon system is, in fact; it's the creation of a state-guaranteed market and subsidy system for high-technology production. There was a commitment under the Reagan Administration to protect this more powerful state from the public, which is regarded as the domestic enemy. Take the resort to clandestine operations in foreign policy: that means the creation of a powerful central state immune from public inspection. Or take the increased efforts at censorship and other forms of control. All of these are called "conservatism," but they're the very opposite of conservatism. Whatever the term means, it involves a concern for Enlightenment values of individual rights and freedoms against powerful external authorities such as the state, a dominant Church, and so on. That kind of conservatism no one even remembers anymore.
We must not see any person as an abstraction. Instead, we must see in every person a universe with its own secrets, with its own treasures, with its own sources of anguish, and with some measure of triumph.
These are patent rules so high, if they'd existed in 19th century the US would be an agricultural producer today... What we now call "piracy" is the way the rich countries developed. There's a phrase for it in trade theory: kicking away the ladder. First you violate all the rules, then by the time you get rich you kick away the ladder so others can't do it too and you preach about "free trade."
It is such a splendid sunny day and I have to go.
Today we have marketing departments that say things such as “we don't need computers, we need appliances. Make me a computer that doesn't run every program, just a program that does this specialized task, like streaming audio, or routing packets, or playing Xbox games, and make sure it doesn't run programs that I haven't authorized that might undermine our profits."

On the surface, this seems like a reasonable idea: a program that does one specialized task. After all, we can put an electric motor in a blender, and we can install a motor in a dishwasher, and we don't worry if it's still possible to run a dishwashing program in a blender. But that's not what we do when we turn a computer into an appliance. We're not making a computer that runs only the “appliance" app; we're taking a computer that can run every program, then using a combination of rootkits, spyware, and code-signing to prevent the user from knowing which processes are running, from installing her own software, and from terminating processes that she doesn't want. In other words, an appliance is not a stripped-down computer—it is a fully functional computer with spyware on it out of the box.
Sure, the elimination of sexually transmitted diseases would be a great thing, but to herald it primarily for the potential of the self-centered orgy it might bring is downright depressing and reeks of a man who has never had meaningful sex.
In this great big universe, we have all those stars. Who cares? Well, somebody cares. Somebody cares about you a lot. As long as we care about each other, that’s where we go from here.
[Q: can you conceive of any form in which you might support American military action taken, like the President's justification, in anticipation of an imminent and dangerous threat?]

Why don't you generalize it, and say, can you conceive of any action which any state might take? Sure, you can imagine such things. Let's say you're in Iran right now. [audience laughter] It's under attack by the world's superpower, with embargoes... It's surrounded by states either occupied by its superpower enemy, or having nuclear weapons. Little way down the road is the regional superpower, which has hundreds of nuclear weapons, and other WMDs, and is essentially an offshore US military base. And has a bigger and more advanced air force than any NATO power, outside the United States. And in the past year has been supplied by the global superpower with 100 advanced jet bombers, openly advertised as able to fly to Iran and back to bomb it. And also provided with what the Hebrew press calls special weaponry, nobody knows what that means, but if you're an Iranian intelligence analyst you gonna give a worst case analysis, of course. And has actually been publicly provided with smart bombs, and deep penetration weapons... They have a terrific justification for anticipatory self defense, better than any other case I can think of.

But would I approve of their bombing Israel, or carrying out terrorist acts in Washington? No, even though they have a pretty strong case, better than anything I can think of here. Just as the Japanese had a much better case than any that I can think of here, but I don't approve of Pearl Harbor. So yeah, we can conceive of cases, and in fact some of them are right in front of our eyes, but none of us approve of them. None of us.

So if we don't approve of them in real cases, why discuss hypothetical cases that don't exist? We can do that in some philosophy seminar, but in the real world there're real cases that ought to concern us.
A person who has good thoughts cannot ever be ugly. You can have a wonky nose and a crooked mouth and a double chin and stick-out teeth, but if you have good thoughts they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely.


Can I ever write,
a  poem, to both recite -
the song of my heart, and to recount -
the epic of my might?
I doubt...

Can I ever compose such verse,
in this solid dark, in this dominant night?
I doubt...

For I happen to be -
a heap of cold, discarded ash -
concealing the seeds of all revolts -

I happen to be
A peaceful sea -
carrying the roars of all storms -
underneath its quiet sight.

I am a frozen lake -
hiding the flames of all faiths -
beneath its lifeless face.
Can I ever write -
such poem?
Can I ever compose such verse?
"Nocturnal" (1955)
The salvation of the world depends only on the individual whose world it is. At least, every individual must act as if the whole future of the world, of humanity itself, depends on him. Anything less is a shirking of responsibility and is itself a dehumanizing force, for anything less encourages the individual to look upon himself as a mere actor in a drama written by anonymous agents, as less than a whole person, and that is the beginning of passivity and aimlessness.
I cordially dislike allegory in all its manifestations, and always have done so since I grew old and wary enough to detect its presence. I much prefer history – true or feigned– with its varied applicability to the thought and experience of readers. I think that many confuse applicability with allegory, but the one resides in the freedom of the reader, and the other in the purposed domination of the author.
We just need to grow up and stop blaming the geeks for the utter manure shoveled at us by ignorant jocks on golf courses determined to exclude anyone with actual understanding, insight and knowledge. And the manure shoveled by the actual geeks with a massive risk appetite and zero care for externalities beyond their startup making cash.
I fortunately come from generations past that learnt to think using paper. If I have to cut off my right arm to escape computer addiction, I can do that. Generations now and especially in the future will quite literaly be unable to think straight without an electronic device in their hand. To them, life will be brutually stressful with no inner peace to be found because they will be assaulted non-stop by disingenuous companies who have every kind of life-sapping wares to peddle.
Since no one really knows anything about God, those who think they do are just troublemakers.
I have spoken here of what ought and ought not to be done, of what is morally repugnant, and of what is dangerous. I am, of course, aware of the fact that these judgements of mine have themselves no moral force except on myself. Nor, as I have already said, do I have any intention of telling other people what tasks they should and should not undertake. I urge them only to consider the consequences of what they do do. And here I mean not only, not even primarily, the direct consequences of their actions on the world about them. I mean rather the consequences on themselves, as they construct their rationalizations, as they repress the truths that urge them to different courses, and as they chip away at their own autonomy. That so many people ask what they must do is a sign that the order of being and doing has become inverted. Those who know who and what they are do not need to ask what they should do. And those who must ask will not be able to stop asking until they begin to look inside themselves. It it is everyone's task to show by example what questions one can ask of oneself, and to show that one can live with the few answers there are.
"Computer Power and Human Reason: From Judgment to Calculation" (1976)
It was relatively easy, we now realize, to categorize countries and nations. You knew who your enemies were and whom you could count on as collaborators and friends. And even more importantly, you had ready-made scapegoats to take the blame when things were going wrong.
Integrity without knowledge is weak and useless, and knowledge without integrity is dangerous and dreadful.
The reason we don't live in a dungeon is because people have joined together to change things.
The cheapest sort of pride is national pride; for if a man is proud of his own nation, it argues that he has no qualities of his own of which he can be proud; otherwise he would not have recourse to those which he shares with so many millions of his fellowmen. The man who is endowed with important personal qualities will be only too ready to see clearly in what respects his own nation falls short, since their failings will be constantly before his eyes. But every miserable fool who has nothing at all of which he can be proud adopts, as a last resource, pride in the nation to which he belongs; he is ready and glad to defend all its faults and follies tooth and nail, thus reimbursing himself for his own inferiority.