Thursday, November 20, 2008

Morning Reads: Twilight, and Free Will


Twilight hits the Box office this weekend.

For good reason, I always take the chatter from Hollywood with a modicum of salinity but this quote is informative:
It is fascinating that author Meyer, who is a Latter-day Saint and has never tried alcohol or seen an R-rated movie, will be the toast of Hollywood this weekend. Twilight is “squeaky clean,” promoting pre-marital abstinence as opposed to teenage fumbling in the back seats of cars. Parents who shake their heads at the crassness of Gossip Girl and the new version of Beverly Hills 90210 may find the romantic restraint and chivalry-before-all-else mentality of Twilight both refreshing and morally sound.

Thomas Sowell has an interesting article about the "Right to Win." Why the left is always one step away from Fascism: no restraint at all.

Example #1:
Blacks who just happened to be driving through Westwood, near UCLA, were accosted in their cars and, in addition to being denounced, were warned, "You better watch your back."

Example #2:
In their midst was a San Francisco Supervisor who said "The Mormon church has had to rely on our tolerance in the past, to be able to express their beliefs." He added, "This is a huge mistake for them. It looks like they've forgotten some lessons."

Perhaps the two most historically persecuted minorities in the United States (Blacks who suffered injustice in the bonds of slavery and Mormons who had to flee the U.S. from government sanctioned and institutionalized genocide), have forgotten to be submissive.

When the majority of the people become like sheep, who will tolerate intolerance rather than make a fuss, then there is no limit to how far any group will go.

Over in the scientific corner, Nature (probably the most respected scientific journal) has just published an article on the neurobiology of human volition (or 'will' if you please), and on the importance of sleep in neurobiology.

The former artice brings my mind back to the day when I had a discussion on the neurobiology of free will with another family member (who is now a faculty member at a major University). I may have seemed to support the mechanistic naturalism inference of will (that it's not free per se), and certainly nothing in Nature will be published that hints towards ‘free will’ as any non-materialistic mechanism (it's science after all); but I may have been overly enthusiastic about criticizing psychotherapy in arguing the affirmative of pharmaceuticals as a good way to manage things like PTSD or MDD (major depressive disorder). Certainly I think there is more to individual agency than absolutely predetermined sets of billiard balls running into each other in the brain.

Australia's Newest Example

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What I wrote a couple of days ago about the sexual existentialist movement is once again affirmed; this time in Australia.

My apologies to Steve Irwin's family but I just couldn't resist the picture. It was quite appropriate to the post.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

On Imposing Morality

So many say that one version of morality shouldn't be imposed on society as a whole. I'm glad people believe they shouldn't impose their morality or existential values on others because that leaves me free to impose my morality on them. I am the Master and they will be the Slave. Ok, that was kind of a joke, but such facile thinking has been all the rage recently with the dominance of post-modern cultural relativism; and we know that people who say that really don't mean it because the whole point of saying a person shouldn't impose their morality on others is in fact a surreptitious attempt to impose an individualistic morality on the prevailing moral sensitivities of society. It’s a form of shame that denies shame a priori and yet it presents a false sense of liberalism that only expands radical individualistic liberty while at the same time strangling any meaningful opposition voices.

Moral values, and their more rigid facsimiles, laws; shift along with the prevailing zeitgeist of the bourgeois. If modern history is any gauge, however, I'd be very cautious to attenuate a people's common moral inhibitions, even if I don’t agree with them; either through political repression or through forced hedonic apathy. If you thought Abu Ghraib was bad, just remove a people's common moral sense. Srebrenica will look quaint in comparison, and no amount of investigative journalism or individual moral outrage will arouse the slumbering majority out of its hedonic trance. At the temples of the theatre, the abortion clinic, and in the sheltered monastic cloisters of academia; as these cognoscenti chant the mantra that “it doesn’t hurt anybody else” the voice of the people will increasingly ape the tautological cousin that “it doesn’t hurt me” so why bother.

The case of the homosexual existentialist is illustrative. The ultimate moral force for this archetype is passion. Such people may be rich in their sense of art and other epicurean delights, but these previously safe indulgences also mingle with the wild eccentric passions that become the moral furniture of such people’s doings (NB: as opposed to being). Society has become more accepting of the open and free expression of passion recently and so what was once seen as extreme or fringe displays of passion during the stuffy Victorian age or in America’s 1950s now has become acceptable to the reformed epicurean mind. Embarrassment and pain are minimized while hedonic utility is maximized. In the most deviant of this trend, some even get much pleasure from artificially (i.e. artfully) creating shame, guilt, and pain in the absence real socially imposed shame, guilt or pain (e.g. the mainstreaming of torture porn flicks like the “Saw” series). They have their pie and flamboyantly eat it too.

The fundamental identities of all people are linked to their relationships to others; for without an external point of reference, there is no consciousness. The voyeur peeking through the keyhole of an apartment has no conscious identity until he hears steps approaching from the stairwell behind him, and it is only at that moment that the voyeur becomes self-conscious. In our interrelating with God and other people, we become conscious. That consciousness eventually blooms into a complex conscience of right and wrong, virtue and vice.

The influence of interpersonal relationships including relationships with God was clear to Charles Darwin who otherwise would scrupulously avoid religious debate, and for whom a divine first cause was irrelevant. In “The Descent of Man” He said:

“The moral nature of man has reached its present standard, partly through the advancement of his reasoning powers and consequently of a just public opinion, but especially from his sympathies having been rendered more tender and widely diffused through the effects of habit, example, instruction, and reflection. . . . With the more civilised races, the conviction of the existence of an all-seeing Deity has had a potent influence on the advance of morality. . . . His conscience then becomes the supreme judge and monitor. Nevertheless the first foundation or origin of the moral sense lies in the social instincts, including sympathy.”

For the materialistic neo-Darwinist as well as the God-fearing Christian, relationships are the bedrock of moral philosophy.

While the (homo)sexual existentialist uses the prism of passion in relating to others and in judging all other truths; the Latter-day Saint (as well as many other religious people) use a logical hierarchy of principles that revolve concentrically around 1) God, 2) Family, and 3) Society. Passion is simply a poor blunt instrument that must be skillfully controlled in order to remain within the narrow confines of logic-based moral first principles. Granted, there are materialists who claim prescriptive moral principles from descriptive processes, but they run into the difficulty of forever seeking to derive a prescriptive ‘ought’ from a descriptive ‘is’ (see C.S. Lewis “The Abolition of Man”). That is partly why American (or any other) politics will never be divorced completely from religious narrative: there must be a moral imperative to existence that is firmly rooted in the right. This is evident from the Mayflower Compact to the Massachusetts Constitution, from the Bill of Rights to the Emancipation Proclaimation, and From the Monroe Doctrine to the Bush Doctrine. We see public religion (with their own hymns, temples, prophets and scripture) even in atheistic (re: secular) communist countries.

If passion were the foundation of moral thought, however, (as with Nietzsche and the sexual existentialists), then there is no common social conscience or moral cohesion. Such a society inexorably divides into the slave and master classes and are only distinguished by their ability to effect their own personal morality (i.e. passion or the ‘Will to Power’). Such a society is repressive of those who seek to peaceably assemble and organize for the common social good since this would be a sign of herd or slave mentality that Nietzsche found so reprehensible and which he thought originated in the Jewish ideal of monotheism. There will be great ‘diversity’ of art and even truth, but access to this art will require a deconstruction and deeducation of humanity so that aesthetics and logic will no longer exist in the social sphere except as fragmented individual parts that deny association or wholeness. People will only ‘do’ they will not Be. There will only be those people that act (the Master) and those who are acted upon (the Slave). Love, the supposed final and supernal effect of the sexual existentialist; will cease to exist except as a thing that is ‘done’ or ‘made’ but that cannot ultimately be shared. There is no exit (to paraphrase Sartre) from self in this passionate model of existence and other people exist only as objects of one’s passion, rather than as autonomous beings; to be traded for ‘power,’ ‘money,’ ‘sex,’ ‘art,’ or any other final passionate effect. This is the difference between the Pathetic morals of the homosexual existentialist and the etho/logical morals of the Latter-day Saint; or any other moral system that sprung from Jewish Monotheism.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Key to a Successful Democracy

There are people who vote against gay marriage, people hate those people, and that those people are forced to live second-class citizen lives by being blacklisted and outcasted?

Which right is more sacrosact in America, the right to free expression and peaceable assembly, or the right to have government sanctify a particular relationship with the word 'family' or 'marriage.' If one is in favor of ever more sexual and commercial liberalization at the cost of increasing political repression then I suppose it would be the latter. Bring on the gladators and carnivals filled with breadcarts and public executions! We have no fear of becoming Orwell's 1984; while instead, the intoxication of pleasure has lulled us into Huxley's Brave New World.

The key to the success of a democracy: Restraint.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Pink Police State and Obama

My cousin said something interesting recently:
Will it really injure our children to learn in school that some men love men, some women love women, we still love those people, and in some places it is legal for them to marry?

I certainly appreciate her thoughts on the matter and thought I would comment.

I think children should learn this and many other things about the world we live in. Personally, I think the fact that there are people who want to establish a worldwide caliphate and impose their religion and Sharia law on the West is probably a little more urgent and important than banning Gay Marriage. It seems to me, however, that the fact that there are people who want to wipe God out of American society and culture is not very different from the non-violent Islamic Fundamentalists. In both cases they are trying to force the will of a tiny minority on the public en masse.

On the one hand there's the rise of sexual and commercial liberation coincident with political repression embodied by the Pink Police State and on the other: the Taliban. Both sides of the same coin with the only difference being the prevailing method of social engineering: pleasure and terror (both of which require very little in terms of rational thought). On the scale of urgent social matters, I think the last thing I would worry about are fundamentalists drive to ban the convenience killing of viable newborns in the third trimester, or the anti-orgy bigotry of the middle class towards neighborhood sex parties, or the redefining of sexual, familial, and government roles to sanctify the actions of a tiny minority that the vast majority of poor unenlightened bourgeois America (including most African Americans) find absolutely repulsive.

I think children should understand that. Our democracy depends on it. The tiny oligarchies of supremists who 'interpret' Constitutional penumbras wholesale have already sown the seeds of this ultimately repressed society of enlightened civil libertarians.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Thoughts on an Historic Election

I'm a little disappointed about Obama getting elected, although I wasn't quite enthusiastic about McCain. I don't think Obama will destroy the country though, since the SCOTUS is fairly well balanced against a secular anti-religious facial attack. If Obama can just keep his money/power hungry liberal friends from commandering huge swaths of American economy and life then he just may turn out to be a good president. For the record; Hillary was a better candidate, but after all is said and done, a black president will help bring minorities into the mainstream better and obviate the need for preferential ractial discrimination.

As for Prop 8, I thought of this quote:
“Make no mistake about it, brothers and sisters, in the months and years ahead, events are likely to require each member to decide whether or not he will follow the First Presidency. Members will find it more difficult to halt longer between two opinions. President Marion G. Romney said, many years ago, that he had ‘never hesitated to follow the counsel of the Authorities of the Church even though it crossed my social, professional or political life.’

This is hard doctrine, but it is particularly vital doctrine in a society which is becoming more wicked. In short, brothers and sisters, not being ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ includes not being ashamed of the prophets of Jesus Christ. . . . Your discipleship may see the time when such religious convictions are discounted. . . . This new irreligious imperialism seeks to disallow certain opinions simply because those opinions grow out of religious convictions.

Resistance to abortion will be seen as primitive. Concern over the institution of the family will be viewed as untrendy and unenlightened…. Before the ultimate victory of the forces of righteousness, some skirmishes will be lost. Even in these, however, let us leave a record so that the choices are clear, letting others do as they will in the face of prophetic counsel. There will also
be times, happily, when a minor defeat seems probable, but others will step forward, having been rallied to rightness by what we do.

We will know the joy, on occasion, of having awakened a slumbering majority of the decent people of all races and creeds which was, till then, unconscious of itself. Jesus said that when the fig trees put forth their leaves, ’summer is nigh.’ Thus warned that summer is upon us, let us not then complain of the heat.”

Elder Neal A. Maxwell, “Meeting the Challenges of Today,” BYU Devotional, October 10, 1978

That success alone quelched any lingering ping of regret over losses sustained by the 'home team.' After all is said and done, political games are not as significant as the need for (at least a part of) society firmly rooted in the True and Good.

A good summary of the California Mormon experience can be found Here.

Some interesting legal arguments concerning Same-sex marriage and Religious liberty can be found here and here; originally published in the Harvard Journal of of Law and Public Policy.