Sunday, March 26, 2017

Beware the School of Life

Lately, every time I watch a video on YouTube, in my peripheral vision, on the sidelines, or in the center when my video ends, YouTube offers me a selection from The School of Life. I don't know how much YouTube has been bribed to show me those videos and to tempt me to watch them, but I'll wager that some not so small amount of money has passed hands.

The style of some of those videos is similar to this one I made to promote the unrequited love aspect of Our Lady of Kaifeng: Courtyard of the Happy Way.


The School of Life videos are better drawn, more professionally edited and feature a sensible sounding male voice with a British accent. "Sensible" is the word that comes to mind when listening to the advice they offer. It's quite a bit like talking to my distant relations in Great Britain. Urbane, well read and very, very sensible.

Here's the sort of advice you might get from one of the  School of Life videos:

  • Everyone has feet of clay, goes to the bathroom, puts on their pants one leg at a time, so don't let being painfully aware of your own failings blind you to the fact that you are just as much a mess as everybody else. Chin up and do your best.
  • We instinctively choose people who remind us of our parents to mate with, even when they remind us of our parents' worst qualities. So when choosing a mate, whatever you do, do not listen to your feelings. Be sensible, and choose somebody nice.
  • People don't come with an owner's manual, so this makes anticipating another person's needs difficult. But in order to keep your relationships going, do your best to help your partner unravel what makes you tick.
  • Machievelli has a bad reputation for telling princes how to do evil things, but in fact he is just trying to help nice people find a way to get by in life by manipulating others for their own good.
  • We are told to respect other people, but in fact when someone is throwing a tantrum, you should treat that person like a very small child.
  • Work is boring, but there is a good reason for that, so carry on. At least we know it is equally boring for the CEO of your company as it is for the lowliest janitor -- so it's fair! 
I don't even know where to begin. In case you think I am exaggerating, go watch some of their videos. I do not think they need any more promotion from me than they are already getting from YouTube, so I am going to limit myself to just one of their videos, the one about how boring work is and why it's all good.



Take this statement "The modern job market gives us no option but to specialize." It makes it seem so one-sided. Us against the job market. But if everybody didn't agree to specialize, what would happen to the job market? Is there something that inherently makes the job market trump all our individual wishes? I mean, I could understand it if just one person wanted to give expression to the multitude of possibilities within himself, but nobody else wanted that. But if all of us want the same thing, couldn't we do something about it? What is forcing us into jobs we don't actually want?

According to our sensible middle class British narrator, this was first explained by Adam Smith, who said that "the division of labor massively increases collective productivity." Remember this word: collective. I'll come back to it.

And then we move on to a discussion of Karl Marx. Make no mistake, our middle class British narrator actually knows something about Marx's writings, which the average American, whether a conservative, a liberal or even a libertarian does not. Most Americans I have met -- those who like Marxism and those who detest it -- assume that Marx was for redistribution and collectivization of the ownership of  the "means of production." They assume that he was preoccupied with inequality of wealth and that it was out of an egalitarian concern for meeting the material needs of the poor that he wanted socialism or communism -- or progressivism or whatever we are calling that -ism today, because the last -ism we used has fallen into disrepute. Wrong! Marx actually cared about the mind of the common laborer and was afraid he would die of boredom. He wanted to put an end to the forced drudgery of the constant repetitive actions in the factory. He cared about ordinary people's minds and souls, something no modern day socialist cares a fig for.

Now, here is where our sensible guide to Marx comes in with the most sensible twist of all. Marx was wrong! he tells us. But he wasn't wrong because redistribution of wealth violates the rights of the individual. He wasn't wrong because theft is bad. He was wrong because collectively we can produce more stuff  by all of us doing work that bores us out of our gourd. So it's all good!

"In suffering this way we are participating in a common human lot," the Sensible Narrator tells us. But the thing is, it is not a common human lot. In a free market, you can choose what you do. You can change your mind and choose again. And yes, you can even work at one job by day, and follow another career by night.

In my own life, I have been a lawyer, and a linguist, a novelist and an ape language researcher, a mother and an academician, a poet and a lyricist and a playwright. And that's not counting my hobbies of painting, taking pictures of butterflies and editing YouTube videos. My life is not boring at all. I do not do the exact same thing every day, and while some of the changes from one profession to another have been serial, many other things were done and continue to be done in tandem. There are such multitudes lurking in many of us, and they find external expression every day. I was almost tempted to say that there are such multitudes in everybody, but that would have been falling into the universalist trap that the Sensible Narrator has set.

The fact of the matter is that contrary to what we have always been told, not everybody wants the same thing. Not everybody is the same on the inside. You cannot just imagine yourself in another person's shoes and know instinctively how they must feel.  Not everybody wants to be free! Some people just want to be safe and loved and taken care of, while other people want to go on grand adventures. We are always going to be in trouble if we imagine that we can solve all the world's problems just by catering to our own desires on a global scale.

Karl Marx felt sorry for the average factory worker from the 19th century, because he tried to put himself into that person's shoes and realized that he would be bored silly! He had a kind heart, and he wanted to rescue the multitudes from boredom. But guess what? Not everybody is Karl Marx. Not everybody is bored by repetitive work. Some people are bored instead by reading multi-volume works on economics or how to build a utopia. Some people feel safe and comfortable doing the same job, day in, day out and repeating the same actions, provided they are paid well and given plenty of security.

Work does not have to be boring, nor is it boring for a great many people. Some people like to learn things by rote and keep repeating, and others like to think for themselves. There is room for both sorts on the planet, and for many other sub-types that I have not named.

There is a problem, though, if government interference forces all people to work day in, day out at secure jobs to pay for everybody's collective prosperity and security. And this is why some of my libertarian friends are running into a wall while talking to others, when they use the assumption that we are all the same at heart and all want the same things. The materialist argument in favor of capitalism only works on materialists. The romantic argument in favor of freedom of self-expression only works on romantics. And don't even get me started on how silly it is to mistake our sensible pro-status-quo friends for people who care about liberty and justice, just because they are anti-communist.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Representation without Taxation

"No taxation without representation!" was a slogan of the American Revolutionary war. Yes, they had slogans back then, too. And this slogan -- while catchy --  was not much more than a slogan. Like many other slogans, it did not directly translate into policy. In order to solve the disparity of representation of the Colonists as British subjects, they could have been given seats in the British Parliament. Then their representatives in the House of Commons might have voted on the Stamp Act along with the representatives of all their English speaking compatriots, and they could  have gotten great solace from the fact that even though the tax had not been repealed, they had had a "voice" in the matter.


James Macpherson argued that the Colonists should have asked for seats in the House of Commons

In  The Rights of Great Britain Asserted, published in 1776, James Macpherson, Colonial Secretary of British West Florida, called the rebellious Colonists' bluff:

Had the Americans, instead of flying to arms, submitted the same supposed grievance, in a peaceable and dutiful manner, to the Legislature, I can perceive no reason why their request should be refused. Had they, like the County and City of Chester, represented, that "for lack of Knights and Burgesses to represent them in the High Court of Parliament, they had been oftentimes TOUCHED and GRIEVED with Acts and Statutes made within the said Court, derogatory to their most ancient jurisdictions, liberties and privileges, and prejudicial to their quietness, rest and peace;" this Country would, I am persuaded, have no objection to their being represented in her Parliament... If they are not madly bent on independence, let them propose the conditions on which they wish to continue as subjects...

Let's face it: it was never about equal representation. The Colonists didn't want equality with their distant cousins. They had no desire to vote and get outvoted by their brethren abroad. They did not want to continue as subjects under any conditions. They wanted to be self-governing, They didn't want the British outside the American colonies to have any say in the matter.  The Colonists didn't want more representation. They wanted less taxation.  They wanted to be free.

Today, when we look back to that slogan of no taxation without representation, people often criticize the representational scheme that the American states first put into effect once they were free from the British. We are told that women and blacks could not vote -- and that there were poll taxes and even poor white men were kept from voting in some places, if they did not own property. And we are expected to consider our current uniform voting rights to be so much more enlightened than those propounded by the Founding Fathers and the legislatures of the several states, as each worked out its own suffrage laws. All the while we ignore the fact that the yoke of taxation that all of us suffer under is much heavier than ever the British Crown would dare to impose in 1776.

Why is that? Why are our taxes so much higher under "freedom" than they were as British subjects?

Just maybe it has something to do with who is allowed to vote about what today. When people who don't get taxed have equal representation with those who pay the tax in question, this rather skews the outcome of the vote in favor of higher taxation. That's why removing all the voters in Britain from the right to vote in America was a much more effective cure than giving Americans seats in the House of Commons.

This is also why a state such as New Jersey right after the revolution, in its own enlightened self interest, allowed everyone, blacks, women, or poor whites to vote, as long as they were free, not in debt, had a net worth of fifty pounds and had lived in the county for a year.

http://theodosiaandthepirates.blogspot.com/2014/08/universal-suffrage-for-free-people-in.html


Today, people who have nothing are voting on representatives who have the power to tax people who have something. This happens at the Federal level with regard to income taxation, but it is not the only place where it happens. Even in a governmental unit as lowly as a county or a school district, people who own no property get to vote on the property taxes that are imposed on people with property. This ultimately hurts everybody, but the poor are encouraged to do this, because they are told it will hurt only "the rich". We have been taught to worry about the rights of the poor, but nobody seems to have spoken to us of how helpless any property owner is in a county where most people own nothing.

In Vacuum County, I touch obliquely on this issue.

He wasn't laughing any more. "At least it saved me
some money."
"Huh?"
"Every hearing is at taxpayer expense. And I pay
eighty percent of the taxes in this county."
I thought about that. "And yet you only get one vote."
He smiled. "It hardly seems fair, does it?" (paqe 334, Vacuum County.)

In school districts where a large percentage of voters are living in subsidized housing, property taxes tend to go up. Sometimes homeowners are baffled by it, not understanding whether their neighbors are so rich that they can afford the extra taxes that they themselves cannot or whether all the other voters are just plain stupid enough to vote for every proposed tax hike. The answer is much simpler. The voters who support the tax hikes are neither rich nor stupid: they simply have nothing at stake. They are not property owners, and we are no longer allowed to keep people who don't own property from voting on property taxes.

The slogan the colonists used was not exactly what they were fighting for. It was not "no taxation without representation" as James Macpherson so ably noted. But maybe what they meant to say is "no representation without something at stake." If you are not going to be subject to a tax, you should not get to vote on it.


Monday, February 20, 2017

The Possibilities at Audible for Vacuum County

I was thinking of F.L. Light and how much better his Audible books were faring than his print books, when help came from an unexpected quarter. Kelly Clear, a vocalist who has been singing some of the Debt Collector songs, sent me a very nice reading from Vacuum County. It just happened over this weekend, and voila! here is a short demo.


Vacuum County is my most critically acclaimed novel. However, it is not my best seller. Over the years I have made a few videos about it. There is, of course, this trailer that emphasizes the Phoenician connection.



There is also this short discussion about the Biblical inspiration for the book.


And here is the video in which I discuss how realizing that Cabeza de Vaca had to be Nabal's ancestor led me back to my book report on  Hannibal of Carthage by Mary Dolan. .


And there is also the video in which I discuss the connection to the Branch Davidians in Mt. Carmel, Texas.


There is also one video filmed outdoors in the outer pen in which I am proofing Vacuum County and reading it out loud. but we are interrupted when Leo, who was just a puppy at the time, was whining for attention, and I had to get Bow to agree that I would go help Leo. We also still had chickens at the time. You can hear the rooster crow. But it does not make much of a reading.

I by far prefer Kelly Clear's readings to my own, and I look forward to working with him on a long term project on Audible to produce a full audio version of  Vacuum County. 



Order Vacuum County

If you want to order Vacuum County, I have provided the link above. Because if you just Google it, here is what you are likely to find:



Friday, February 17, 2017

What Happens to His Works When an Author Dies?

I can't help thinking about F.L. Light and what has become of his works. Yesterday, I found another photo of him, and in this one he is not wearing a baseball cap.



If you enlarge the photo, you can see that he has a number of library books on the shelf behind him, and some of the titles are The Scarlet Woman of Wall Street, The Annenbergers, Dark Genius of Wall Street. Other titles are harder to make out. On the screen of his computer, there is part of a play, I think it might be about Henrry Clay Frick.  But it is Carnegie who is speaking here:

Carnegie: I cannot tough inimicality
endure, Unflattering audaciousness

He takes too far. His hostile diffidence
 In me divides us. Now my causeful heart
 He counter-hurts. The freckest rupture... 
The editing software on his screen has underlined two of the words he used as wrong: "causeful" and "freckest", They aren't wrong. They just aren't common.

I don't know who his literary heirs are, or why all his books in print are now not available any longer, except in secondhand form. I noticed that just last month, long after Light had died, someone posted a recording of an excerpt of one of his works on Youtube. It was a translation.



 I am not sure whether this is an authorized edition, but I would not be quick to pursue the person doing it, even if it is not. After an author is dead, if he has no heirs, people who copy his works for their own profit are his biggest helpers. They spread his words and cause them to be disseminated, and this is what authors generally want.

On the screen, the poster comments that listening to an audio recording of a book helps the listener to learn how to properly pronounce words that are new to him. Then we are invited to download a free audio file. I would exercise caution in doing so, because sometimes these free things being offered are a trap -- a Trojan horse that unleashes an army of spammers onto our computers. But you never know -- it could be benign.

I also wonder what happens to reviewers once they die. So far, all of Light's reviews of my books are still up there. But I am taking the precaution of saving screen shots, in case they later disappear.


He found less to praise in Theodosia and the Pirates: The Battle Against Britain than in Vacuum County, but his evaluation of Theodosia and the Pirates: The War Against Spain was quite positive.


I like the way he evaluates loyalty from an ancient perspective. I think there is something about my works that appeals to classicists, because they understand the historical context of the master servant relation better. .Light never read Our Lady of Kaifeng.  The second half did not come out until six days after he died. I can't help but wonder what he would have thought of it.

Light himself preferred audiobooks. He converted Vacuum County to audio before that was common. He had text-to-speech programs that helped him to do this. It is possible that because he was a poet, Light  understood that we need to hear poetry out loud, before we can properly appreciate it. It may be that his works in audible form will outlive his written words.

But I would still like to know: Who is his literary executor and why are all his books suddenly out of print?



Related Links 


Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Remembering the Poet FL Light

I never met F. L. Light. I would not say that I know him well or that he played a major role in my life. But yesterday I found out that he had died nearly a year ago, and I am sorry. I feel that I will miss him. In fact, I've been missing him for about a year. I just didn't know he was gone for good. Here is his obituary.

Source

The only photos of him that I have seen show him in sharp profile, wearing a baseball cap.


It's not always the same baseball cap and the background varies.


Light first came to my attention when he began submitting poetry to the Inverted-A Horn in the 1990s. At the time, my father was editor-in-chief. We had very strict standards for metrical poetry, and F. L. Light met them.  I felt at the time that his vocabulary was unusual, as he preferred archaic and rarely used words to common vocabulary items. His syntax was also a little archaic. His sentences were not always SVO.



In Horn #11, which came out January 7. 1993 we published two of F. L. Light's poems, both of them about Bernhard Goetz. The poems were metrical and fit in with our philosophy and worldview, but the vocabulary Light chose to use required us to publish a glossary. For years after that, the word "latrociny" would pop into my head at odd moments, and I could barely restrain myself from using it in ordinary conversation.

We did not know anything about F. L. Light, except that he lived in New York and sent his poetry submissions in on used sheets of paper that had other things completely unrelated printed on the other side. At times I speculated that he was homeless or very poor, but sometimes I thought that he was very wealthy and worked as a stockbroker by day. I think it was what was on the other side of some of the poems that made me think that.

It was only years later that I realized he had been educated in the Classics and could translate Greek to English. Here is a link to an interview with Light that I published on PubWages.

http://www.pubwages.com/12/an-interview-with-f-l-light

Light gave the impression of a solitary person who was interested primarily in his own poetry and secondarily in free enterprise and the worship of ancient gods. Some of his letters to the editor at the Inverted-A Horn contained unexpected praise for Zeus. Sometimes we laughed when we read his letters, but we always published them, anyway.


I did not understand in the 1990s how involved and interested in many aspects of the real world F.L. Light actually was. He seemed caught in a time warp, living in a world all his own. But after my father's death, he began an email correspondence with me, and some of the things he wrote showed he was much more observant and thoughtful than I had previously believed.

Here is an email he sent me in 2008:

 Sat Jun  7 12:04:41 2008
Aya,
During the last year I read *The Chimps of Gombe, *by Jane Goodall, works by Sue Savage-Rumbaugh, who has studied for the last decade the bonobos chimps,and books by a Dutchman named Waal or de Waal. Thus I have written a numberof aphoristic couplets on chimpanzees and will send some as an attachment tothis email.
I have seen chimpanzees pointing to lexigrams on monitors. Their speed is somewhat astounding.
Bow's attachment to you reminds me of Flint's to his mother Flo, which isdisplayed in a video with Jane Goodall as the narrator. It is presented in 3or 4 parts, each about twenty minutes.I found it through Dogpile.com, butGoogle should have the link.
Your answer to my letter on fanatics is quite well-reasoned, reasonable enough for me to accept. I am a member of the solopassion.com site, which is a forum for those who favor the principles of Ayn Rand. There are promotions in this site I disavow, not caring for all their passions, especially the unnatural ones.  They might wish to read your description of a rational fanatic, as  most of their ideas are grounded on rational objectivism.
http://theeleutherian.blogspot.com is one of my sites

*F L Light*

In time, F.L. Light reviewed three of my novels on Amazon. Here is his review of Vacuum County.

Source

We were friends on Facebook. I was one of nine people who were friends with him on Facebook. The last time he posted there was on Feb. 6, 2016. His obituary says that he died on March 4, 2016. But the memorial service was not held until May 17. His obituary does not mention that he is survived by anyone, and he is said to have died in his residence. I cannot help but wonder if he died alone and was found two months later. 

I recently noticed that of his many works available on Amazon, the books that were in print are no longer in print, though available in second hand form. But the Kindle and Audible versions are still available. Does he have a literary executor, I wonder? What becomes of the books of Createspace authors who have died intestate? Does Createspace, which treats our royalties as "earned income", just assume that we stop earning the moment we draw our last breath?

Here at my house, FL Light is not forgotten. Just this morning, Bow and I read some couplets from Shakespeare versus Keynes.


If you know FL Light and want to share some memories about him, please comment. I would love to learn more.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

The Bicentennial of the Founding of Galveston This April

This April will mark the 200th anniversary of Jean Laffite's founding of his "commune" in Galveston. Neither the city of Galveston nor the County plan to celebrate this momentous event. But for anyone interested in libertarian self-governance and anarcho-capitalism, this is a momentous occasion.

Site of  Laffite's house at Galveston
Source

Laffite called himself a governor, not a president, and the house in which he lived while he governed was La Maison Rouge -- the Red House -- rather than the White House. And he called his colony  a commune, because he was speaking in French and was influenced by the revolution and Napoleonic law and the like. But it wasn't a commune in the sense of pooled resources. Private property ruled in Laffite's world. When people worked for him, they were either paid an agreed wage or, like his privateers, they received a cut of the profits. And unlike other governments that tax their citizens for the income they make, Laffite never took a dime in tax on those who lived with him in the colony he founded. Instead, he preyed on Spanish vessels and shared the booty with his people.




Laffite was at war with the Spanish Empire and supported those who rebelled against it. But he did not finance his war at the expense of his people. He used that war to fund his government and pay those who lived in his colony for their contribution to the war effort.

Who should pay for waging war? Whoever wants to wage war and finds it profitable.

Arguably, Laffite paying his privateers to wage war against Spain is not so different from the US government paying those in the military for their services. But here is the meaningful difference: when the Federal government pays the military, it uses taxes levied from farmers, factory workers, manufacturers and every other productive individual to fund the war effort. The war effort itself shows no profit and brings in no income.  Our war effort is parasitic of everything that every other citizen does to make a living. But when Laffite paid his privateers, he did it with profits from the war effort. No farmers, shopkeepers or manufacturers were taxed to pay for the venture.

It is true that freedom isn't free. It is true that the best defense is a good offense. But what is not right is to constantly engage in wars that do no one any good, subsidizing them at the public's expense. Let him who profits from war pay for any war he profits from.

This April, think of Jean Laffite's Galveston and why the US government drove him away.