node created 2012/06/17
last changed 2013/02/04
I guess I should add my own story - when I was in high school, this army recruiter gave a talk to our class. What follows is a paraphrase of his speech:

"How many of you support the war in Iraq?"

no one raises hand

"What about Hitler? Saddam Hussein is doing the same things Hitler did to his own people. So If you oppose the war in Iraq, you support Hitler!"

None of us quite had the nerve to speak up about it, but if you listened closely, you could hear the sound of a thousand little bullshit detectors going off.
People, not nature, are responsible for turning the natural diversity of human beings into oppressive hierarchies.
Sufficiently advanced incompetence is indistinguishable from malice.
To the amalgamation of politicals and criminals, with which the concentration camps began both in Germany and Russia, soon a third element is added, which would soon form the majority of all inmates. This largest group consisted of people who hadn't done anything that stood in any rational relation to their imprisonment, be it in their own mind or in that of their torturers. Without them the camps could have have existed, that is, they would not have survived the first years of the regime.

[..]

These in every sense innocent people do not just form the majority of all the camp population, they also are those, which finally were "exterminated" in German gas chambers. Only on them could the murder of the juridical person be performed so completely that they could be "processed", without names, deeds or misdeeds, by which they could have been recognized, in the mass factories of death, which just because of their sheer capacity could not take individual cases into account anymore. (A Jew for example, who had done a "crime" against the Nazi regime, didn't even get put in there in the first place, they were shot or beaten to death right away.) From the beginning the gas chambers were not intended as means to intimidate or punish; they were intended for Jews or Gypsies or Poles "in general", and they served to prove, that humans in general are superfluous.

[..]

While the separation of inmates into categories was merely a tactical-organisatory measure for the the purpose of administration of the camps, the arbitrariness of committal demonstrates the essential principle of the institution as such. The existance of a politacal opposition is just a pretext for the concentration camp system, and its purpose is not achieved when the population more or less voluntarily conforms as consequence of the most monstrous deterrence, that is, to give up its political rights. The arbitrariness has the purpose to deprive those under the totalitarian regime of all their rights as citizens, which finally become as outlawed [vogelfrei] in their own country as otherwise only the stateless and homeless. The deprivation of humans of their rights, the killing of the juridical person in them is just a precondition of their being totally controlled, for which even voluntary agreement is a hindrance. *[Related to that is the fact that all propaganda and ["Weltanschauungslehre"] was expressly forbidden in the camps. (also see Himmler, "Wesen und Aufgabe der SS und der Polizei"). And together with this in turn it has to be considered that that teaching and propaganda was also not allowed for the guarding elite formations; their Weltanschauung was not to be "teached", but "exercized" (see Robert Ley)]*. And this is not just the case for special categories of criminals, political enemies, Jews, on which it was tested [first], but for every citizen of a totalitarian country.
"Elemente und Ursprünge totaler Herrschaft", S. 658 ff.
Criminals don't actually don't belong in a concentration camp. That they still form a permanent category in all camps is, from the viewpoint of the totalitarian power apparatus, a kind of concession to the prejudices of society, which in this way can be made to get used to their existence the most easily.
"Elemente und Ursprünge totaler Herrschaft", S. 657
Still the element of criminals must not be missing from any concentration camp. [..] the fact that nearly without exception they compromise the aristocracy of the camps and fulfill administrative duties, shows clearly that it is much harder to kill the juridical person of a human who is guilty of someone, than of someone who is innocent. The rise of criminals into the aristocracy of the camps is similar to the improvement that happens in the juridical situation of the stateless, who also lost their rights as citizens, when they resolve to commit a theft.
"Elemente und Ursprünge totaler Herrschaft", S. 656
Compared with the insane world of the concentration camp society itself, which can never be quite grasped by the imagination, because it is outside of life and death, the process by which humans get prepared and [zugerichtet] for it, is rational and purposeful. The [Anstoß], and what's more, the tacit approval of such conditions in the middle of Europe, was created by those events, which in a period of dissolving political forms suddenly had suddenly made hundreds of thousands and then millions of people homeless, stateless, rightless, economically superfluous and socially unwanted. On them it already had been demonstrated that human rights, which were never philosophically founded nor secured politically anyway, had lost even their proclamatory, their appelatory effect and were at least in their traditional form no longer applied anywhere. But these are only the negative preconditions; after all the loss of the workplace and therefore the place in society, which came with unemployment, or in the case of statelessness the loss of papers, home, a secure place to stay and a right to work, were only preliminary, summary preparation, which would have hardly sufficed for the ultimate result.

Regardless, the first crucial step on the way to totalitarian power is the killing of the juridical person, which in the case of statelessness happens automatically because the stateless person ends up outside of all law. In the case of totalitarian power this automatic killing becomes a planned murder, because concentration camps are always placed outside of the penal system, and the inmates are never to be put there "for punishable or other offenses" (also see Maunz, p. 50). Under all conditions totalitatarian power takes care to put people into the camps, which only *are* -- Jews, carriers of diseases, members of dying classes -- but have already lost their ability to act, be it for good or bad.
"Elemente und Ursprünge totaler Herrschaft", S. 655
I have also been on the Earth a long time. Making measurements.

Ice is there, yes. A few hundred miles less ice on the glaciers. I assume that you can tell the difference between an ice cube and an ice sheet. Or is it all filed under ice?

Bloody hell.

Storms have always been there. In different places, with different moisure content.

Maybe the Khmer Empire thought the same as you, just before they died horribly. They'd moved the atmospheric rivers by several hundred miles. Sure, there was rain. Just not near them, because they were idiots.

Don't copy them.

The temperature has risen to levels that are higher than what they should be given prevailing conditions. But that's not as important as the gradient. The gradient has never occurred in historic times, or indeed any time since the last asteroid strike.

But you ignore that and assume all gradients are equal, all numbers are equal.

They are not.

The Khmer discovered this too late. This time, you're playing not with millions of lives but billions. Ignorance isn't going to save even one of them. There is no plea bargain with physics.
They who have put out the people's eyes reproach them of their blindness.
If you assume that there is no hope, you guarantee that there will be no hope. If you assume that there is an instinct for freedom, that there are opportunities to change things, then there is a possibility that you can contribute to making a better world.
The USA has a huge military budget because:
[1] it values its freedom and independence
[2] it values its allies and trade routes
[3] it costs the USA a lot more to get any measure of military might since it does not have a conscripted military and its materiel is not made by government suppliers.

The USA has a huge military budget because:

[1] it has whipped it's population, and that of a significant portion of the worlds population, into a frenzy of fear and paranoia, by maintaining a permanent war status since the end of WWII. Whether hot or cold, the USA has waged war against non-enemies, aggressively supporting brutal dictatorships around, killing millions in defence of "freedom and democracy" around the world. The USA as "protector" of the "free world" has been holding the human species hostage to the possibility of imminent extinction via nuclear weapons for nearly 70 years now. This in the name of valuing its freedom and independence.

[2] it has decided that the best social control mechanism for social pacification is to provide the lowest possible cost for goods and promoted consumerism as ersatz status symbols for a largely disenfranchised permanent underclass. In order to secure such cheap access to goods, the USA must dominate all world trade and be able to dictate prices for resources, resource extraction, production and distribution. This in the name of valuing its allies and trade routes.

[3] it spends a lot less money for the size of our military than any other country would for a similarly sized and scaled military because 18 year-old's with no prospects always form a cheap labor pool( "sold" as in soldier, comes from Roman Latin, daily wage-worker), particularly if one can convince them that they are serving their country men in the name of noble goals and values like "freedom and democracy". And because military production in the USA has always been "dual-purpose", a civilian feel-good, while producing weapons of mass destruction.

The USA has co-opted a tremendously large section of it's so-called private market for dual-purpose: production of disposable goods, while supplying the worlds largest military with an endless production line of "goods", of which no good can ever come. Most major manufacturing firms in the USA would not be economically viable if it were not for this arrangement. Boeing could never make it solely producing commercial air-liners, the market for such is not large enough, but if the Pentagon needs x number of fighter jets, missiles and rockets every year, which must be constantly restocked, due to usage in wars or due to degradation from not ever being used, they can show a profit for their civilian production lines. The same is, and has always been, true for GM, Ford, GE, etc.

The USA has not, historically, HAD a "health service" because we traditionally left health to the people themselves, the private sectore, and communities and states (The US Constitution says nothing about healthcare, and it explicitly says that anything it does not assign to the federal government belongs to the people and to the states)

The USA has not, historically, HAD a health service, because immiseration is a constitutive part of maintaining an exploitable permanent underclass. During the first 250 years of American history, surplus value, ie. profit, was made primarily by either a) stealing the indigenous peoples lands or b) exploiting "free labor", ie. slavery. Following the civil war profit has largely been made by exploiting those born into inter-generational poverty, both here and around the world. The majority of Europeans who immigrated to the USA during the first 150 years of colonization were debt-prisoners, ie. the then european permanent underclass. The USA has proudly cultivated cultural identities for the permanent underclass, going back almost 350 years, nowadays we call them "rednecks", the "n-word", and "mehicans".

The constitution, written for the most part by by the 18th century 1%, actually went to lengths to prevent the existence of a standing army. The USA has been violating it's own constitution every day for nearly 70 years now by maintaining the largest scale military ever seen in world history in direct opposition to our founders intents. With a media hell-bent on scaring the bejesus out of everyone 24/7, covert intelligence services, dedicated primarily to propagating domestic propaganda(be scared, be very scared), and brutal police forces, who routinely terrorize, denigrate and humiliate our permanent underclass, we have held our population in line through domestic terror, knee-jerk reactionary patriotism, dog-whistle ethnic discrimination, and cultural envy as a function of permanently denying the permanent underclass of the USA access to the "freedoms" and "democracy", which supposedly are those things that make America all so great.
US leaders really are the masters in their field: They don’t even need an external scapegoat. Even when dummy Bush goes, and empties the (conveniently always kept full) villain closet, they just hold their two arms ("parties") up in the puppet theater, make the hand puppets act like enemies, and you fall for it, hook, line, sinker, fishing rod, fisherman and boat.

Then they point at the cloth hand puppets, and make you blame the puppets for what they did. Seriously, the level of delusion here only compares to North Korea.
There was a wonderfully illustrative story which I thought I had bookmarked, but couldn't re-find: it was the story of a man whose know-it-all neighbor had once claimed in passing that the best way to remove a chimney from your house was to knock out the fireplace, wait for the bricks to drop down one level, knock out those bricks, and repeat until the chimney was gone. Years later, when the man wanted to remove his own chimney, this cached thought was lurking, waiting to pounce...

As the man noted afterward—you can guess it didn't go well—his neighbor was not particularly knowledgeable in these matters, not a trusted source. If he'd questioned the idea, he probably would have realized it was a poor one. Some cache hits we'd be better off recomputing. But the brain completes the pattern automatically—and if you don't consciously realize the pattern needs correction, you'll be left with a completed pattern.

I suspect that if the thought had occurred to the man himself—if he'd personally had this bright idea for how to remove a chimney—he would have examined the idea more critically. But if someone else has already thought an idea through, you can save on computing power by caching their conclusion—right?

In modern civilization particularly, no one can think fast enough to think their own thoughts. If I'd been abandoned in the woods as an infant, raised by wolves or silent robots, I would scarcely be recognizable as human. No one can think fast enough to recapitulate the wisdom of a hunter-gatherer tribe in one lifetime, starting from scratch. As for the wisdom of a literate civilization, forget it.

But the flip side of this is that I continually see people who aspire to critical thinking, repeating back cached thoughts which were not invented by critical thinkers.
All too often, we say what we hear others say. We see what we are permitted to see. Much worse, we see what we're told that we see. Repetition and pride are the keys to this. To hear or to see even an obvious lie again and again and again, is to say it, almost by reflex, and then to defend it because we have said it, and to embrace what we've defended. Thus without thought or intent, we make mere echoes of ourselves and we say what we hear others say.
Yes, people who are bullied often respond overly sensitive. That's not because they need to grow a thicker skin, it's because the damn skin has been flogged away by incessant bullying - and that has to stop first before they can recover properly.
Force is as pitiless to the man who possesses it, or thinks he does, as it is to its victims; the second it crushes, the first it intoxicates.
All political institutions are manifestations and materializations of power; they petrify and decay as soon as the living power of the people ceases to uphold them.
"Crises of the Republic: Lying in Politics; Civil Disobedience; On Violence; Thoughts on Politics and Revolution" (1972)
Whenever I am in a place where you have to wait a lot, like at a bus station, nearly everyone is swiping at their phone.

They all look like crack addicts scratching for rocks in an alleyway.
When once you were in the grip of the Party, what you felt or did not feel, what you did or refrained from doing, made literally no difference. Whatever happened you vanished, and neither you nor your actions were ever heard of again. You were lifted clean out of the stream of history. And yet to the people of only two generations ago this would not have seemed all-important, because they were not attempting to alter history. They were governed by private loyalties which they did not question. What mattered were individual relationships, and a completely helpless gesture, an embrace, a tear, a word spoken to a dying man, could have value in itself. The proles, it suddenly occurred to him, had remained in this condition. They were not loyal to a party or a country or an idea, they were loyal to one another. For the first time in his life he did not despise the proles or think of them merely as an inert force which would one day spring to life and regenerate the world. The proles had stayed human. They had not become hardened inside. They had held on to the primitive emotions which he himself had to re-learn by conscious effort. And in thinking this he remembered, without apparent relevance, how a few weeks ago he had seen a severed hand lying on the pavement and had kicked it into the gutter as though it had been a cabbage-stalk.
"Nineteen-Eightyfour"
Just as bombs follow oil, and drones follow drought, so boats follow both: boats filled with refugees fleeing homes on the aridity line ravaged by war and drought. And the same capacity for dehumanising the other that justified the bombs and drones is now being trained on these migrants, casting their need for security as a threat to ours, their desperate flight as some sort of invading army. Tactics refined on the West Bank and in other occupation zones are now making their way to North America and Europe.
On the third day I was there, this guy who had picked me up in the Jeep, a corporal who I was ultimately going to replace, he and I were in the battalion intelligence section, we were sent down to the tractor park, the amphibious tractor park to meet a bunch of detainees. It was our responsibility to take care prisoners, and detainees were a classification of civilians, they were not combatants; they could be detained for questioning, which is why they were called detainees.

And Jimmy and I went down to the tractor park and two tractors came in, they had a whole bunch of Vietnamese up on top high flat-topped vehicles about eight or nine feet tall, and as the tractors wheeled into the park the Marines up on top immediately began hurling these people off, and they were bound hand and foot, so they had no way of breaking their falls, and they were old men, women, children, no young men, and I couldn't believe these guys were treating these people this way, and I turned to Jimmy and said, I grabbed him by the arm and said "What are those guys doing? We're supposed to be helping these people." And Jimmy turned to me and he looked at my hands on his arm, I sort of took them off, and he said "Ehrhart, you better keep the mouth shut until you know what's going on around here." I think it was at that point that I realized things were not quite what I was expecting.

It went downhill from there, and again I can't even begin to explain in the space of time that you have all the things that went into it, but I began to understand, it became obvious that the enemy was the very people in these villages around us, and we were in a very heavily populated area at that time, they were the enemy, or at least the enemy was out there somewhere and we couldn't tell one from another. And day after day our patrols went out and we ran into snipers and mines and snipers and mines and snipers and mines. I saw four armed soldiers the first eight months I was in Vietnam, and yet our battalion during that same period of time sustained 75 mining and sniping incidents per month, over half of them resuling in casualties. This is for a unit of about a thousand men. But there was no one to fight back at, and you begin to think, these people are the enemy, they're all the enemy. And then you go through villages and, you know, you get sniped at and so you call an airstrike in on the village and the whole village goes up, or you go through a place and you search it, and you burn houses and blow them up. The common perception, the notion I had when I was in high school was it was the Vietcong terrorized the Vietnamese population, forced them to fight against the Americans on pain of death. What I began to understand in Vietnam was that they didn't need to do things like that, all the had to do was let a Marine patrol go through a village and whatever was left of that village, they had all the recruits that they needed. I began to understand why the Vietnamese didn't greet me with open arms, why they in fact hated me, but of course that didn't change the fact that my friends were getting killed and injured every day and the only place that you could focus your own anger and fear was on those civilians who were there, and so it was this self-perpetuating mechanism: the longer that we stayed in Vietnam the more Vietcong there were, because we created them, we produced them.

None of that distilled itself into the clear kind of expression that I'm presenting now. What I began to understand within days and which became patently clear within months was that what was going on here was not what I had been told, what was going on here was nuts, and I wanted to get out. I knew if I was still alive on March the 5th 1968 they'd stick me on an airplane in Danang we used to call it the freedom bird and I could fly away and forget the whole thing. Turned out not to be quite so easy to forget it, but that was the notion, and certainly my last eight to nine months I ceased to think, I quite literally ceased to think about why I was there, or what I was doing. The sole purpose for my being in Vietnam at that point was to stay alive until I could get out.

And the reason for that is, you know, the kinds of questions that began to present themselves were just.. the questions themselves were ugly and I didn't want to know the answers. It's like banging on a door, you knock on a door, and the door opens slightly and behind that door it's dark and there's loud noises coming like there's wild animals in there or something. And you peer into the darknees and you can't see what's there but you can all this ugly stuff.. do you want to step into that room? No way, you just sorta back out quietly, pull the door shut behind you, and walk away from it. And that's what was going on, those questions, the questions themselves were too ugly to even ask, let alone try to deal with the answers.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.
The Declaration of Independence
To the National Association of Broadcasters, New York City. Gentlemen: What have you done to my child, the radio broadcast? He was conceived as a potent instrumentality for culture, fine music, the uplifting of America’s mass intelligence. You have debased this child, dressed him in rags of ragtime, tatters of jive and boogie-woogie.
One mistake people make is pretending that every choice we make is a hard one with no good answers. Sometimes there are good decisions and bad ones, and we end up making bad ones even when the good ones are obvious. We often see this happen with individuals, it shouldn't be too surprising that this happens with societies as well.

A few years back when I looked at solutions to "cooking this planet" that didn't involve anything that would cause much disruption to most people's lives. The reason we're not solving the problem isn't because of the hard choices we have to make. It's because a few industries that might make less money if we fight climate change try to stop efforts to combat it, politicians who get money from these industries say climate change is a hoax, the public at large is largely too apathetic to remove politicians who don't act, people who oppose all collective action oppose collective action to fight climate change, the media doesn't report on it because it doesn't get ratings, etc.

Could we have everyone's standards are close to the current standards enjoyed by developed countries without destroying the planet? Maybe, maybe not. It's insanely premature to pretend that we know it's impossible. Not only have we not seriously tried to solve the problem, but a large part of the U.S. is actively opposed to even stopping the problem. "There's no solution" is an easy way to absolve us from our failures.
The reason I hate ads is because it's a legitimized way of abuse, of hurting other people. I'm gonna be a father at some point, and I dread the day I have to explain to my kid that modern civilization is in this weird state, where it's "friendly" in the sense that you don't generally have to fear strangers, but it's also overrun by malicious actors trying to suck your money and happiness dry. Our civilization pays lip service to being cooperative, yet so much of it is still adversarial.
It's just sad how the school system destroys great works, just by virtue of making them assigned reading.
Within the affluent democracy, the affluent discussion prevails, and within the established framework, it is tolerant to a large extent. All points of view can be heard: the Communist and the Fascist, the Left and the Right, the white and the Negro, the crusaders for armament and for disarmament. Moreover, in endlessly dragging debates over the media, the stupid opinion is treated with the same respect as the intelligent one, the misinformed may talk as long as the informed, and propaganda rides along with education, truth with falsehood. This pure toleration of sense and nonsense is justified by the democratic argument that nobody, neither group nor individual, is in possession of the truth and capable of defining what is right and wrong, good and bad. Therefore, all contesting opinions must be submitted to 'the people' for its deliberation and choice. But I have already suggested that the democratic argument implies a necessary condition, namely, that the people must be capable of deliberating and choosing on the basis of knowledge, that they must have access to authentic information, and that, on this. basis, their evaluation must be the result of autonomous thought.
"Repressive Tolerance" (1965)
What good does it do me, after all, if an ever-watchful authority keeps an eye out to ensure that my pleasures will be tranquil and races ahead of me to ward off all danger, sparing me the need even to think about such things, if that authority, even as it removes the smallest thorns from my path, is also absolute master of my liberty and my life; if it monopolizes vitality and existence to such a degree that when it languishes, everything around it must also languish; when it sleeps, everything must also sleep; and when it dies, everything must also perish?
They're torturing millions of Muslims in Xinjiang, directly or indirectly through terrifying police state actions that entirely revoke all human liberty.

There is no greater mass atrocity going on anywhere on earth than what's happening in Xinjiang.

How many people, companies, VC firms in Silicon Valley are working with China and living off of Chinese money?

Where's the mass outrage and suspension of relations with China? Nope, you won't see that. No chance in hell.

The millions of Muslims in China being tortured don't matter, and one journalist does? Not exactly: it's because China is a big fat platter of money and many want to feast on it. It's a willingness to disregard all ethics because the check is big enough. It's so much money, the people that claim to care about a single journalist, don't care about millions of people being actively repressed and tortured.
As someone libertarian-leaning, what I find disturbing about all this - we all told ourselves that companies in various totalitarian regimes went along with the regime's line because they'd be "disappeared" if they didn't. Here in our country, it seems that murder, jail time, and mysterious "disappearances" are not required. Most companies will happily go along with any regime's censorship plans just to make a few more bucks, not risk losing their market position, or not be a target of a twitter outrage mob.

How are we going to maintain a free society if nobody is willing to make any effort at it?