Thursday, June 22, 2017

Anti-Romanticism




Note: This is a Vlog Post, so the text comes from the embedded videos. It is therefore in a spoken rather a written register of English.



So... I was listening [to] and watching a lecture by Alain de Botton that was delivered somewhere in Australia, I think at an opera house. And he was giving his usual message, which is really an anti-individualist message. But a lot of people don't realize it, because it is couched in such humanistic language that a lot of people are, in fact, attracted to it. And the point of his lecture was that it does not matter who you end up with, that you can love anyone, and that Romantic love is probably something that we were conditioned to feel by literature, but it's not real, and that in fact there are probably a lot of people walking around pretending that they're in love, because they think they can't be in a relationship unless they are in love. But it's okay, you don't have to pretend anymore. The secret is out. It's not real. 

I do think that there's a lot of truth to what he says. and that's why it resonates with people. But it's not true for everybody, and that's part of the problem. 

He says that we are now in the Age of Romantic Love, and then he gives an example from Flaubert's Madame Bovary to sow ow awful it is. But, of course, Flaubert was not a romanticist. He was an anti-romanticist. He was a realist, and he was on the same bandwagon as de Botton. He just wanted to tear apart the image of romantic love and show how silly it was.

In fact, maybe a higher percentage of the world's population is not given to romantic love, because they're not limerent. And it does not ave specifically to do with love, It also has to do with preferences.

Some of us have very strong preferences -- on everything.  We know exactly what kind of pizza we like. We know what movies we like.  We're in love with certain characters in movies and television and books. And we are totally not interested in other movies and other television shows and other books. We have strong preferences, and we won't change that.  And then there are other people who just go by trends. Their favorite clothing is whatever happens to be fashionable today. Their favorite show is the one that is popular today.  They're going to read the latest novel on the best seller list, because it's on the best seller list, and they want to be able to discuss it at parties with other people. And it doesn't matter whether they like the book or not, but they're very open, and being open like that, they just don't have a preference.

Even something like "What's your favorite color" is a question that not everybody has an answer to. You can say that we were conditioned by society to think that we're supposed to have a favorite color, and if we don't have one --- well, we make one up. And, of course, if we don't have one, and we make up the favorite color, today it could be red; tomorrow it could be blue. And somebody for whom the whole question of favorite color is important might think: "This person is lying to me. Yesterday his favorite color was red. Today it's blue. He's lying! He's keeping the real favorite color a secret from me." We often have that kind of a clash with people for whom some things are just not that important.

So when I was watching that lecture, here's what it reminded me of. In 1976, during the Bicentennial, I visited England, and at the time I had a best friend. So I was obsessed with this best friend, because I am one of those limerent people, and I was having a conversation with my host in London, and I was going on and on, and I said "My friend" -- let's call her Suzie. That's not her real name, but let's call her that. "So Suzie said this about that. And Suzie really likes to do this." And on and on.  Almost every subject that we brought up, that we were talking about, I inserted something about Suzie. And finally -- kind of -- he was laughing silently to himself. So I asked him: "Why are you laughing?" And he said: "Well, you keep talking about Suzie all the time." And I said: "Yes, because she's my friend. Don't you have any friends?" And he said: "Yes, I have many friends. But I'm not obsessed with them."

Okay. Well, that's just it. To me, if you had a friend, you pretty much had to be obsessed with that person. Otherwise, it's not your friend. I either like somebody a lot or I don't like them at all.

For most people, it's not like that. And I think it's like that with everything in their lives. You can talk to them about what profession they would like to be in, or what profession they are in, and they're not going to be passionate about it, and you might get the impression they don't like their job, but that's not actually the case. They like to work. They like the workplace. They like to socialize with other people in the workplace. They may be perfectly happy and content with their jobs, but they are not in love with their job. They're not obsessed. They might be married. They might be happily married. They might have a spouse who they truly -- they have a very nice arrangement going. And they're not ever going to get a divorce, and they're very content, but you won't get the impression that they're in love, because, in fact,  they're not in love. But that does not mean that nobody is ever in love.

Rather than it being a new thing that we suddenly realize that romantic love is a falsehood, and that really we should make reasonable choices about a mate, this has been ongoing. When I was teenager, that's exactly what my Great Aunt told me, that's exactly what I heard from everyone, including my friend Suzie -- which is not her real name.

Okay. So, what did Suzie say? She said that she could fall ,,, I mean, that she could marry -- she wasn't talking about falling in love at all. She thought the romantic ideal was wrong. She was a Christian. She was an Episcopalian, and she believed in loving everyone, and she thought she could be a very good wife to any man, provided that he were normal. Now, of course, I had no idea what she meant by normal. But just so you understand her situation, let's backtrack to Suzie's early childhood.

So Suzie's parents were happily married and had four children. And everything was going well, and her father was a professor at a university, and he was content with his family life, but this was maybe in the sixties -- I mean, it was in the sixties -- and he kind of got flower fever. And one day, he turned to his wife, Suzie's mom, and he said: "I love you. And I love the children. But I don't want to do this anymore. So how about I quit my job, and I get a motorcycle -- maybe we get two motorcycles -- and we tour the country with our four kids on the back of the motorcycle. Wouldn't that be a much better way of living?"

And his wife, Suzie's mom, looked at him and said: "You're crazy. I want a divorce."

Okay, so this is the background to Suzie. Suzie's mom took her four children to the town where Suzie's dad's parents were, and raised them as best she could on her own.

And Suzie was thinking: "I don't want this to happen. I don't want a flower child." So she was looking for somebody with nice conservative values, a good Christian, with whom she could form a family, and it didn't matter that he wasn't necessarily the guy that she was most attracted to, or anything like that. 




Okay, getting back to Suzie. She found the kind of man that she was looking for. And they married. And they lived in a small university town, And they had five children. And everything was going very well. She was homeschooling; he was a good provider. And then, one day, after some of the older children were teenagers, he came home and said: "I love you, Suzie. And I love the children. I don't want to change anything, except that I've met this young woman, and I'd like to bring her into our family, and have her live with us as my concubine, just like in the Bible."

And Suzie said: "You're crazy! And I want a divorce."

Now, Alain de Botton, one of his pet theories is that you can go and see what's wrong with what you are looking for in a mate, because you are probably looking for the exact same way that you were treated in your childhood, or you're looking for something from your childhood, something familiar. You're not actually looking for happiness. You're looking for familiarity. And so, if you had a cold, unfeeling parental figure, then you're looking for a cold, unfeeling parental-- I mean, sexual mate. And that's why you should not listen to your feelings. That's what he says: "You don't --You should not listen to your feelings, because you are just trying to repeat your childhood." 

But I think it's a little more complicated than that, if we look at Suzie's story. She was looking for somebody who was not like her father. Her father was an intellectual; so she was looking for somebody who was very religious and traditional. Her father was happy-go-lucky, and she was looking for somebody who would be responsible. She was looking for the exact opposite. She was trying to avoid the things that had happened in her childhood. And it was like a self-fulfilling prophecy. Because what ended up happening was amazingly similar to what happened to her mother. But maybe the thing that made it happen isn't that the man was not normal. 

It's really actually pretty normal to want that. It's fairly normal to at one point in your life, about mid-life -- to reexamine everything. And to think "Well,  maybe I don't really like my job that much." That's not unusual. And that's what happened with Suzie's father. It's also not that unusual for a man at mid-life to cboose a younger woman. It's actually kind of unusual to say: "No, I don't want to abandon my existing family." To say: "I still love you, and I just want this extra thing." And if we are conditioned by the society that we live in to do anything, it's that we expect to not renegotiate the contract, and if somebody tries to renegotiate the contract midway, then we say: "No. You're crazy." And also we don't consider other marriage patterns than the ones that we have become accustomed to. Even though, we might be religious, we might read the Bible all day long and not notice that's what's going on there. So I would say: "Suzie, read your Bible more closely!"

I'm not saying that I have the answer. The problem is, it's kind of like this prophecy in ancient literature, where you hear that your son is going to kill you when he grows up, and you think: "Well, let's try to avoid that!" So you take the baby, and you expose him on a mountain top, not realizing that the gods and all the animals are going to save the baby, and then the baby comes back, and he's fully grown, and he doesn't know that you're his father, so he kills you. That's a self-fulfilling prophecy. 

Maybe the answer is not to not listen to your feelings. Maybe you should listen to your feelings more closely.



Somebody asked Alain de Botton after that lecture that I saw: "So what would be a good way to choose a mate? Do you think that Tinder works? Do you think all of these new-fangled ways of selecting a  mate -- Do you think that that helps us find the right person?" And he said: "No, there is no right person, and I think this emphasis on choice is wrong.  You should understand that you should be capable of loving anyone, if you learn how to love. And in fact you should be willing to marry a leper. In fact, it would be great if everybody married a leper!" And he laughed.

Okay. I have a very big problem with this. And it's not because I am prejudiced against lepers. Lepers are people, too. But each leper is a different person. And so, even if you decide that you are going to a leper colony and you are going to marry a leper, it matters very much which leper you choose. 

The idea that you should look for somebody with a disability and that that disability defines that person is one of the most evil things that there could possibly be. 


Sunday, June 4, 2017

Shortages, Migrations and Rationing

Humans have migrated every time they found that they did not have enough of something they needed to live. Instead of trying to fix their environment, they moved to a place where things were better for them.



More recently, when facing shortages, people do not consider moving. Instead, rationing and redistribution are ways in which such shortages are handled.


"What if Florida goes underwater due to global warming?" People ask this question, as if by asking it, it will make us all want to work hard to prevent the globe from warming up.  As if we could! As if we were that powerful! But isn't the answer obvious: If Florida goes underwater, then people who live there will move someplace else that is more habitable -- Greenland, maybe, if it suddenly becomes green.

Insuring the public against natural disasters has the effect of making life unbearably expensive. If every time a city built below sea level is flooded, it is rebuilt at public expense, if every time a public school built on a flood plain washes away, it is re-built by the taxpayers, then people will never see the wisdom of moving on and going to a place where things are better for them.

Living in a warm place where you need not heat in winter is desirable. Having fruit just growing on the trees, ripe for the picking, is nice. When too many people move into the same place, resources get depleted, as happened in the dust bowl, or in Middle East,  that used to be a place flowing with milk and honey. It was fertile and green there then, but now is arid and desert-like. Yes, we do, at least to some extent, destroy the paradise that we thrive in. But as people with a rich hunter-gatherer heritage, our basic instinct is sound: after you foul the nest, move on to someplace cleaner.

Are we trying to escape ourselves? Absolutely not. We are trying to escape each other. Like Pa Ingalls, we know that when the other people arrive in droves, then it is time to move on. Good neighbors are those we only see occasionally.


Saturday, June 3, 2017

Laissez Faire in All Things



Lately, I have been experimenting with turning some of my essays into videos. Not everybody likes to read. Some people prefer being read to. Here is the latest video in this vein.

The text of this video can be found here. 

Ostensibly, the above video falls into the genre of the self-help, since it is a response to a similar effort by The School of Life. But at heart, what I am trying to say is the same as in this essay about nature and the free market. 


Th text to this video can be found here

I don't think that people who believe in socialism came up with that belief in a vacuum. I think it permeates their understanding of everything. They think it applies to love, to family, to society and even to nature. I keep getting inundated with ads from Jane Goodall. The latest one was to the effect that if I send her enough money, then "nature can win!"

Sorry, Jane, but nature always wins.  It does not need money from me or you  to function. We are a part of nature. There is no way to escape it. Nature's code of laws is self-enforcing. Any attempt to get away from the natural consequences of our actions is futile. But if we just go with the flow, if we just let things be, then we can be the beneficiaries of the consequences of sequences of events that cascade all by themselves.

Love is like that, too. It's not necessary to second guess everything. We don't need less ego to enjoy it. We can just understand this one simple thing: taking and giving happen simultaneously without "exploitation" when you just allow people to do what comes naturally. 

Friday, May 26, 2017

Not Anti-War But Anti-Tyranny

War can be hell. But it is also something that many young men look forward to so they can test their mettle, men like Alexander Hamilton, who in a 1769 letter to a friend wrote: "I wish there was a war." (He apparently had not yet mastered the subjunctive.) In times of peace, young men often wish for war. In times of war, all men wish for peace.

Here is a song by Leslie Fish explaining why the wish for total peace, if granted, would lead to tyranny. We all want peace, but not at the price of a one world government.



Is it wrong to long for a war to break out just to gratify one's personal wish to go to war? Well, it is if you start a war just to make that happen! It is if you conscript and/or tax others to serve in that war without their consent. But it's not wrong,  if you are a privateer or a mercenary, and you offer your services to those who want them and would be willing to pay.

Who should pay for waging war? Those who want to wage war. That way we can put a cap on it. But it is not wrong for a young warrior to long to serve. It is not wrong for men and women who have that calling to pursue it.

In the video embedded below, I read from Nathan Alterman's poem "אמרה חרב הנצורים" --"Said the Sword of the Besieged".  The poem is from the point of view of a sword being wielded in a hopeless last battle, in which the warrior is killed.

In the discussion that ensues after the reading, my father, Amnon Katz, says: "The sword's entire purpose is battle. And it is happy to fulfill its purpose. Even under these tragic circumstances. But we get the impression that also the one who wields the sword is privy to these values and to this experience, to the glory of this bitter and awful hour." Is it wrong for a young man to long for battle? To sign up for voluntary military service? To hope for glory?

Both Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton served in the American Revolution. Both distinguished themselves. But Aaron Burr wanted always to be on the front lines, so when he was offered a desk job by George Washington, he turned it down. Hamilton was ambitious for advancement, so he took that job.

Both Jean Laffite and Aaron Burr served the US as volunteers. Neither of them did it for a "free" college education or for a salary. Laffite was never reimbursed for his contribution or for those things that were taken from him by force. For years, Aaron Burr was destitute after being persecuted by Jefferson, but as a veteran he was not entitled to a military pension. Finally, when Burr was very old, President Jackson granted him a small pension.

Is all war bad? Or only some wars? Is getting paid for war always bad? Shouldn't our soldiers be paid?

There are some Libertarians who seem to have serious problems with the idea that military service could be entered into in the hopes of going into battle or for pay.  In the video embedded below. Austin Petersen and Larry Sharpe discuss a recent anti-military statement by the Vice Chair of the Libertarian Party.


Not all libertarians are anti-military or anti-war. "Did you agree to kill people for money?" Austin Petersen asks Larry Sharpe.  Sharpe replied "War is evil. War is bad. ...Would I join now? No. I'm also not 17 years old anymore."

But is it wrong to be 17 years old and long to serve? I don't think so.  Should soldiers expect always to be penniless and to go begging when they are in want?


Why do we honor our soldiers only when we see them as poor and without compensation for their service? Why do we think that they deserve less than teachers or doctors? Is it because we are uncomfortable with the work they do? Or is it because public funding for anything corrupts?

Let us honor our soldiers and work toward a free country where they can ply their trade with their heads held high and with compensation that is not dependent on taxation.  We do not want a standing army, but we do need to have warriors who are well trained and ready to fight for us. If we repeal the Neutrality Act and the Logan Act, we can restore the freedom that volunteer soldiers like Aaron Burr fought for in the Revolutionary War!


RELATED


Thursday, May 18, 2017

On the Plains of Negev

This is my English translation of "בערבות הנגב". I translated it from the only version I knew, which was in Hebrew. But... the history is more complicated.  This song came out in Hebrew in 1948, but apparently it is just a version of a Russian song that was written in 1943:  На опушке леса "On the Edge of the Woods". Who knew?

If you see me smiling at one point when I am singing, it is because I realize my translation of that line is really awkward.



Israeli war songs  are so different from any song I have heard in America. I have looked for songs about grieving mothers, but have not yet found one about how she raised up her son to keep her people free or about how another soldier can replace him. Most of the songs I have heard have two salient differences from this one:


  1. The loss of the son or other loved one is seen as only personal and not national.
  2. There is usually some mention of reunion in an afterlife.
For people who see death as final, it takes a completely different outlook to accept this kind of loss. 



Related Posts

My English lyrics can be read here

This is my analysis of some of the issues with this song:
http://www.pubwages.com/35/where-the-personal-and-the-public-intersect-memorial-day-musings

This is the guy who wrote the Hebrew version:
http://www.zemereshet.co.il/artist.asp?id=146

Here is all the info on the Hebrew song:

http://www.zemereshet.co.il/song.asp?id=723


The lyrics in Russian can be found here:

http://a-pesni.org/ww2/folk/naopuchke.htm

There is also a closer translation to Hebrew of the original Russian words:

http://www.zemereshet.co.il/song.asp?id=764



Monday, May 15, 2017

You Get What You Pay For

You get what you pay for. But no, don't read that with the accent on "pay". Of course, you have to pay. Everyone knows that you can't get anything without somebody paying for it. Yet people are always hoping that somebody else will pay for them.  So even though we all agree that you get what you pay for, most give that line the wrong reading. It's not "You get what you pay for." It's "You get what you pay for."



This is certainly true when it comes to the defense of your country, as well as the defense of a legal case. You cannot expect to get proper representation unless the person who holds the purse strings is the person being defended.



If it's not the person who eats the dog food who pays for the dog food, the dog food may not end up being fit for a dog to eat.  That's even though the person paying for the dog food has very good intentions. It's not the amount of money that is spent that matters, nor the intentions of the one spending it. The Wedel chocolates will be ruined, if the free market does not serve as quality control.

I've seen people arguing that if the accused  is entitled to a free defense -- to have an attorney appointed for him -- then a sick person should be entitled to free health care, too. If the one is a "right", why shouldn't the other be a "right"? Well, neither is really a right, because the doctor and the lawyer still need to agree to serve. Yes, I know, the government can pay them.  But nothing that we don't personally pay for is going to be the same in value as what that amount of money could purchase if wielded by the ultimate consumer. That is the aspect of laissez faire that socialists don't grasp.

Ask anyone accused of a crime how helpful his PD is. Ask veterans dependent on the VA how great the service they receive is. Ask any dog whether he would rather eat dog food or your leftovers. You get what you pay for. What you personally pay for.

Monday, May 8, 2017

2017 Appearance, Review and Bio


I will be a featured speaker, along with Will Coley and Bill Redpath at the 2017 Missouri Libertarian State Convention on July 22, 2017 in Jefferson City. My topic will be "Show Me What You want to Tax and I Will Show You What You Will Destroy."

I am very excited about this opportunity, Meanwhile, though we did not get a public celebration of the 200th anniversary of the  founding of Galveston this April, a new review of Theodosia and the Pirates: The War Against Spain has come out this year by a Top 100 Amazon Reviewer.


There is also an new biographical entry in the LPedia about me as a libertarian author.


For me, 2017 will be a year not for writing new books, but for speaking out about the books I have already written. The new audio version of Vacuum County as read by Kelly Clear should be out in late August. And perhaps for the first time, my writings will have a clear genre designation in which they legitimately belong: libertarian.