Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Ideological orphans

A lot of noise has been made by the chattering class of the Oligarchy's PR machine (AKA the mass media) about the lack of coherent message coming from the Occupy movement.  The issue in my opinion is that thanks to the success of the said PR machine in suppression and misrepresenting leftist ideology in the United States most Liberals in American's lack a historical awareness of their ideological heritage.

In fact it's not just liberal American's who lack this awareness the ignorance extends to the vast majority of the American population up to and including most politicians and media personalities.

Thanks to this ignorance we as a nation quite literally lack the language to have the relevant discussions and as a result the 99% is having to rediscover and reinvent and reestablish a common set of terms and definitions to articulate it's concerns.

As far as most American's are concerned Marxism was the totality of leftist ideology, even worse most of these people don't actually know what Marxism or Communism even is. That the constant accusations directed at our President accusing him of being a socialist is actually given the time of day is a clear indication of this.

Anyone with the slightest actual understanding of socialism would see the absurdity in this accusation. We're talking about the guy who bailed out the Private banks, saved GMC and signed a healthcare bill that provides guaranteed income to Health Insurance companies. That is not socialism.

This has created a barrier to formulating, much less communicating specific policy positions by the Occupy movement. The common language quite simply does not exist anymore for them to use.

Now this brings up the subject of ideology. In my experience most people do not spend much time considering their ideology or as Zizek put it their unknown knowns. It's not that they don't have an ideology, everyone has an ideology as the example about toilet designs shows, it's simply that they haven't taken the time to figure out what their own personal ideology is.

What is an ideology? An ideology is the set of values, beliefs, tendencies, prejudices and preconceived notions that dictate your reaction to the ideas and circumstances you are exposed to. Sure it can also refer to a specific defined Ideology, such as Marxism or Fascism but very few people's actual views will ever exactly match those definitions.

Instead our personal ideologies tend to be much more of a hodgepodge of individual views that coalesce into an overall world view.

Since very few of us ever spend the time to examine the underlying assumptions for our personal ideologies we are often left with a self contradictory, inconsistent, and hypocritical belief system.

In fact most of us end up with more or less the same ideological framework that we are raised into, mostly formed by exposure to whatever beliefs our parents had. This lack of inner examination is what leaves people vulnerable to manipulation by those who have taken control of our economic and political systems. The wordsmiths and RP hacks employed by the powerful to can do their work because of this lack of realized ideological framework.

They can pull off their false equivalency and push their strawmen constructs and convince people that utterly empirically wrong things are true.

This is the problem with "moderates", Moderates are people who do not have fully realized ideological frameworks, They are the ones operating on that ad-hoc mishmash of inconsistent contradictory beliefs as a result they are easily manipulated.

Ones ideological framework functions as a kind of bullshit detector. It's that bit of thought that makes you go "wait a cotton picking minute there that makes no sense!" when someone asserts something that doesn't fit. It also plays a large part in determining the outcome of your cognitive biases.

So it's important to understand your ideological framework not simply to have an consistent philosophy but to be able to identify when you may be falling victim to confirmation bias or some other cognitive bias.

Since your ideology is the filter through which you process information it affects how you process evidence and ideas. It influences which evidence you grant greater weight and which you dismiss as nonsense. Being aware of your ideology will help you to identify those times when when you are dismissing a piece for evidence based on the confirmation bias of reinforcing your own ideological framework rather than on it's merit or lack there of. It also provides a degree of protection against the propagandist who will exploit your filters to misinform you.

As I said in my opening post I think believing things that are true is far more important than believing things that are emotionally satisfying. Understanding ones own ideological framework is a critical part of doing this.

Now how does all this apply to the Occupy Movement and the American Left in general?

Sadly what I said about moderates also applies to most of the "leftists", "liberals" and "progressives" in America. Many on the "left" are there not so much because of logical well considered fully realized ideology but rather because it appeals to them emotionally. Liberals and Progressives are scared of being labeled Leftists because they've accepted the Right wing frame that the political left is synonymous with socialism.

This tends to result in an American Left that is fragmented to the point of ineptitude, with lots of in fighting that shouldn't really exist that serve to undermine the solidarity needed to actually effect political change.

This has been capitalized on by the elites, to paint the left as wishy, washy, unrealistic, emotional, irrational children who don't understand the "real world". The lack of solidarity is exploited with identity politics and other divisive practices.

Look at how the media has presented the Occupy movement. As a bunch of dirty hippy (they aren't like you in middle america) white (they aren't fighting for you minorities) privileged college kids (see poor people these are just little spoiled brats crying because they think they are entitled something).

The Right has usurped the ideological heritage of the Left by claiming Liberals of the past such as Thomas Jefferson, and Adam Smith as their own.  It's erased by omission much of our history painting past struggles in a distorted light. Glossing over some important details and amplifying other less important ones.

A large part of this is because of the way political ideology is currently categorized and described. That it is based on the assumption that a political ideology is static. That an idea that is considered Conservative today was conservative 200 years ago in fact it's even less consistent than that in that certain idea's that were left 100 years ago remain the sum total of leftist thought today (EG socialism/marxism).

This is the real false left/right paradigm, this idea that political ideology is a function of specific policy positions rather than a more fundamental vision of what we want the world to look like.

Consider the scale the libertarians like to use where personal liberty is on one axis and business liberty on other.

It tries to categorize ideology based on policy alone, so it considers someone who supports a strong government carefully regulating business to encourage responsible behavior to be the same as one who supports a strong government regulating business in a way that creates barriers to entry and limits competition while subsidizing existing businesses.

Consider gun control and abortion on these two issues the Libertarian scale would put Pro-gun conservatives at the same spot on the scale as Pro-choice liberals.

This is ridiculous on it's face or least it should be.

Because ideology is primarily results driven.

Meaning that specific policy choices are made not because of support or lack there of for business or personal freedom but rather to achieve a desired outcome. Gun control advocates aren't asking for gun control because they hate personal freedom they're doing so because they believe that the harm caused is greater than the benefit said freedom grants. Anti-abortion activists aren't trying to limit the practice because they hate personal freedom but because they think the practice is immoral and encourages irresponsible behavior. While either of these are debatable on their merits the activists in question aren't generally motivated by high minded principles so much as gut reactions to situations they find problematic.

So what we're talking about is outcome driven policy choices. Now despite all this evidence that the existing characterizations of ideological frameworks is flawed these ideas are still the defacto standards.

Personally I think that the left needs to start challenging this way of describing ideology. We need to push the idea that ideology is and always has been results oriented that specific policies choices are not automatically the domain of one side of the ideological spectrum or the other. That things change and that policies that were liberal in one circumstance are conservative in another.

When Adam Smith wrote the Wealth of Nations the economies of the world were still largely dominated by the aristocracy who had a long history of manipulating the economy to reinforce their power. The system of capitalism as he envisioned it directly challenged the existing status quo of his time.  It rejected the principle of divine providence upon with the aristocracy based the legitimacy and privilege of their station, proposing instead a system based not on accident of birth but on merit and ingenuity.

That was not a conservative idea at the time it was written it was in fact quite radical and very much liberal when he penned it back in 1776 you know around the same time a spunky little group of colonies decided to tell the nobility in England to stuff it when said nobility tried to manipulate the tea market to the benefit of one favored company by granting it an exemption to a tax all it's competitors had to pay (oh yeah there were conservatives in those days too, they were called Tories).

What Smith found wondrous about capitalism was how much efficiency it created, the idea that specialization could leverage peoples productivity in a way that spread prosperity widely around. That specialization created skill and spurred innovation. That items that had at one time been rare and thus expensive and out of reach of the common man could be made en-mass in sufficient quantities to bring products that had previously been the domain of the rich and royal to the hands of the poor and common.

That instead of a person toiling constantly to create all the various things they required for subsistence and survival they could specialize each making one item or even one part of an item and trading it for the other things they required.

Capitalism as Smith envisioned it was a wondrous engine of prosperity that could improve the lives of all people, and the fact that his ideas have been co-opted, distorted and perverted to maintain a new aristocracy is a travesty of justice that I believe would have the man spinning in his grave that is if I believed in an afterlife.

Remember Smith was not anti-labor in fact he quite clearly stated that a worker should not only be compensated sufficiently to support himself and his progeny (yeah it was gender biased but we're talking 1776 here) but to support some leisure as well.

Once again desired outcome, Smith wanted to see capitalism harnessed to the benefit of all not just the business owners.

Contrast that with the current advocates of crony capitalism on the Right who have hijacked Smiths idea's to justify the obscene concentrations of wealth and power that we see today.

So if specific policy positions can't be categorized based on such silly limited scales as personal and business freedom or the equally preposterous big vs small government alternative how should we classify them?

George Lackoff wrote and excellent book called Moral Politics where he proposed an answer to the seemingly contradictory positions of the left and right. He described the Right's philosophy using a strict father metaphor of top down hierarchical vs the Left's nurturing parent metaphor.

While I don't quite agree completely with his metaphors of choice particularly in the case of the left because I think he remains overly focused on specific current policy positions, he's definitely came closer to how I think things break down than anyone else.

Because while he doesn't actually articulate it in these terms, he does demonstrate that ideology is results driven. That ideology is the vision of how we see the world versus how we think it should be, rather than some dry theory that only a very small minority have ever read anyway.

So after all that what is the defining difference between the Left and Right?  What is the ideological heritage of the Left?

One constant throughout all history and across all specific policy positions is whether one is backwards or forward looking.

The Left has always maintained that our best days are ahead of us, that we can and should improve our lot in life, that new knowledge will unlock new opportunities and potentials.

Alternatively the Right has always looked back, the better days were yesterday, civilization is in decline "the youth today are irresponsible and unlike when I was young".

Optimism vs nostalgia, new vs old, progressive vs regressive, novelty vs tradition.

Liberalism, leftism, progressiveness what ever you want to call it has consistently and historically pushed the concept that we can and should make the world a better place.

Alternatively the right has always looked to the past, revered tradition and maintained that all that we really need to know is already known.

The specifics on how to achieve those ends change from era to era but the basic visions have not.

This is an important thing for those of us on the left to remember and explain.

That fundamentally being a liberal means that we think that the world and more specifically the state of human lives in it can and should be improved. That some bye-gone era was not a golden age and the best days are ahead of rather than behind us.

We need to remind people when they start to wax nostalgic of some earlier time what it was like for those who were not a part of the privileged class. Point out that while G Gordon Liddy might remember this being a free country when he was a kid, Emmett Till would beg differ, that is if he hadn't been murdered by racists. Or perhaps Liddy meant this was a country where he was free to murder black people.

When they complain about OSHA and government regulation of business tell them about the Triangle fire and how young women who couldn't escape because the bosses had chained the fire exits, threw themselves out of windows not to save their lives to but keep their bodies from burning so their families could identify them.

When they talk about the corruption of Labor Unions tell them about the company towns where the business owners would pay their workers not quite enough for them to afford to feed and house themselves at the companies stores and company housing and how those companies would advance them money in advance to cover the difference, money that had to be repaid some way effectively locking them into a state little better than slavery.

When they complain about financial regulation remind them of why those regulations were put in place to begin with.

When the complain about illegal immigrants remind them of the CONSERVATIVES hiring those immigrants in order to avoid paying a market rate wage. Ask why it's OK for capital to freely travel to other countries to access cheap labor but not ok for labor to freely travel for better wages.

Liberalism has been the driving force for every advancement of the human species from the moment the first early hominids climbed down from the trees to the kids facing down riot geared cops in America's Parks today, while conservatism has consistently tried to hold back progress and turn back the clock.

The left has never been about big government for the sake of big government those on the left who've pushed for big government have always had specific roles for that big government in mind.

Sure socialism was a leftist idea, so was every other forward thinking idea ever proposed. Capitalism, check; Democracy, Check; Indoor plumbing, check, Rural electricity,,  I can do this all day. Dreaming up new ideas is what we liberals do. We dream them up try them, if they work we keep them if they don't we go back to the drawing board.

So communism turned out to be a failure, yes a massively horrendous failure, so what? Not every new idea is a good idea but nothing ventured nothing gained. Some idea's sound really good in theory and fall apart in practice. It's a part of the learning experience, you just have to be sure to incorporate the lessons that have been learned.

Which brings us to the final distinction between the left and right, Fear.

While the left is primarily motivated by hope for tomorrow the Right is driven primarily by fear, fear of the other, fear of change, fear of loss, fear of failure. Fear fear fear and more fear. Scientist have actually done brain scans and found that conservatives have larger amygdalas (the part of the brain responsible for fear and other primitive emotions)  than liberals and smaller anterior cingulates (the area responsible for courage and optimism).

Which makes sense. If your primary motivator is fear, of course you're going to resist change, you're going to be fearful of strangers and aliens (the human kind though I doubt they'd deal much better with the extra-terrestrial variety) new ideas would be intimidating tomorrow is a mystery where anything can happen while yesterday despite any flaws is known. Heck just keeping this in mind explains about 90% of conservative thought.

Honestly based on the science I'm not sure it's even possible to convert a conservative to a liberal or vice versa, while science may have determined a relationship between brain structure and political persuasion it doesn't yet know if it's genetically hardwired or a result of experience. And even if it's the later it's unlikely that just words will cause a restructuring of the brain.

By now you have probably noticed that I use the terms liberal and left interchangeably, I've been criticized by this in the past because people insist that there is actually a difference. There isn't. Whether a person calls themselves leftists, liberals or progressives they all share a common ideological foundation. 

Hope for a better tomorrow and the courage to try and create it.

Now I said earlier that I'm not sure one can convert a conservative to liberalism so honestly I think any efforts to try and do so are a waste of time. What I do think is that a lot of those "moderates" are really liberals at heart they've just been deceived into believing there is something wrong with being on the left. They just need a reality check, they need to be educated on the true meaning and motivation of liberalism. 

That liberalism is about looking forward to a brighter tomorrow, it's about using courage to convert hope into positive change.

The left is the ideological progeny of all the men and women who came before us and said "there has to be more to life than this" and then rolled up their sleeves and got to work to create the better tomorrow that we live in today. It's now our turn to work to create an even better tomorrow for our descendants.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Creativity and ideology

I'm still working on a longer article about ideology but in thinking about the subject I came to something of an epiphany.

Now I'm sure most people recognize that individuals involved in creative endeavors tend be more liberal. But have you thought about why this is the case?

Undoubtedly conservatives will claim it's because of the influence of leftist professors, or attribute it to a lack of pragmatism from naive fools with too much time on their hands or some other insulting explanation.

However, I think the reason is far more profound. I propose that the reason people who work in creative fields tend to be liberal is because creativity itself is a liberal trait.

The core distinction between left and right ideology is that the right assumes all that which needs to be known is already known and there for we should leave things well enough alone or move back to an earlier idea that worked better, while the leftist thought is predicated on the idea that through new ideas things can be improved.

Consider, what is a prerequisite to thinking things can improve? The ability to imagine a better reality. Unless one can imagine something different than what has come before you can only refine existing ideas, not come up with truly new ones.

Now I'm not saying that self proclaimed conservatives can't be creative. I actually think personal ideology is more nuanced.

However someone with a prevailing conservative bias will tend towards refining existing ideas as opposed to seeking out completely new ones.

This is why the more experimental a creative activity is the more liberal the participant will tend to be.

This is why scientists tend towards liberalism while engineers have a more conservative tendency. Seeking the new vs refining the old.

One can see example after example in various creative fields. Consider acting, think about well known conservative actors, Schwarzenegger, Stallone, and Willis , not exactly guys who take parts with a wide range, in fact if you really think about it in most of their work they pretty much play the same part just with a different name under different circumstances.

Well known liberal actors however? People like Matt Damon, Ben Afleck Dustin Hoffman, and Sean Penn these guys take a wide range of roles from traditional leading man hero's to criminals on death row Angels and on and on.

Now of course there is a bit of a chicken and the egg thing going on here, is it simply that more liberal people are more likely to take up creative activities or does taking up more creative activities train one to be more liberal?

We know for instance that liberals and conservatives end up with brains that are fundamentally different we just don't know whether it's a case of nature (genetics) or nurture (learned traits developed as the brain forms).

This of course has a number of  ramifications.

The most important of which is why it's so difficult for liberals to change a conservative's mind. Understand we know that about 25% of the population are authoritarian thinkers. These are people who want certainty in their lives and have no interest or patience with wishy washy doubters. They tend to believe a view point mostly on the basis of how certain the proponents are of their positions and how they reinforce their preexisting assumptions.

They tend towards fundamentalists religions and are the most likely to doubt scientific conclusions that are at odds with their preexisting beliefs.

Liberalism because of it's core aspect of always questioning; intrinsically lacks the certitude that the authoritarian requires from a concept. Because part of being able to imagine something greater is an admission ignorance. In order to innovate one must first admit to a lack of knowledge.

Consider science, the reason these authoritarian types won't believe in scientific theories such as evolution or human caused climate change is primarily because scientists don't tend to talk in absolutes, instead couching everything with qualifiers, such as  "probably","we think", "data suggests" etc, you'll almost never hear a scientist describe something in absolutes.

Conservative leaders never use qualifiers. No matter how wrong they might be and how many times they've been shown to be wrong they will barrel right on through insisting that it's dark outside when the sun is plainly visible. And their followers rather than saying "hey he's full of shit" will turn around and explain to you that you shouldn't trust your lying eyes.

Ok I exaggerated that last a tad. Conservative leaders tend to keep their lies in places where there is some ambiguity of what the correct answer may be. But the fact remains that the quickest way to lose those authoritarian types is to admit to error.

That's why the GOP base doesn't like "flip-floppers" in general and Romney in particular. Changing ones position is a sign to them that one lacks certitude of conviction.  

This couching answers in qualifiers is part and parcel of the creative act, without the ability to accept ignorance of a potential outcome one can not come up with new ideas.

So what is the practical benefit of this observation? Well I'm still working through that.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Paranon Crossroads

The Paranon Crossroads,

or the random musings of an opinionated nobody.

The Paranon Crossroads was the name of the fictional tavern that one my characters ran in the Call of Ctuthulu role-playing game I played as a teenager. Skex obviously not my real name was the result of using a friends method of creating D&D character names by picking a title of a show from the TV guide and spelling it backwards. The full name is Skex Relbore which was Roller Sex spelled backwards phonetically with a typo.

Is any of that important? Not really as I said random musings.

Despite being quite the prolific forum poster (troll?) going back to when Usenet was still used for something other than digital piracy I’ve never tried to put all my thoughts into a single place. My life isn’t really important to anyone other than myself and my immediate family and as such I doubt anyone is all that interested in reading about it.

But it turns out that I have a blogger account thanks to their association with Gmail and well why not use it? Sure it will probably be just another of those random blogs that no one reads, then again perhaps someone out there might actually be interested in what I have to say. Unlikely sure, but if millions care what an idiot like Glen Beck rants about then there are probably some like minded souls floating around in the ether who’d be interested in my thoughts.

If anyone else does end up reading this you can expect to political tracts and rants to be the primary stars of this bit of self-aggrandizement, you’ll also be subjected to trials and tribulations of the ongoing saga of trying to raise my ADHD aspersers son.

To start I’m an unashamed unabashed leftist liberal, or commie pinko to the right wingers. I’m also an Atheist, a secular humanist, and I believe in reality based reasoning.

The core guiding principal of my personal belief system can be summed up in the following sentence.
If your base assumptions are wrong then you can only be correct by accident.

I’ve endeavored to keep my base assumptions as simple and limited as possible limiting my a priori assumptions to “the universe I perceive is real”. Everything beyond that is subject to observation testing and falsification.

I consider that to be the minimum a priori assumption that is functionally useful. Sure I could drop that one as well but I consider sophistry to be wool gathering naval gazing nonsense, in the end has no practical effect on my life and provides no value in determining the nature of reality. If I am a butterfly dreaming I’m a man does that have any effect on how I should behave? No, so I stick with the universe I perceive is real.

My core value is honestly with myself. I would rather know the unpleasant truth than live in the blissful ignorance of a pleasant lie. This was the driving impetus to my final conclusion of atheism. I absolutely refuse to believe a thing simply because it makes me feel good.

While it would be pleasant to think that my consciousness would continue once this body was gone, all the available evidence indicates that sentience and consciousness are intrinsically interlinked with our physical brains. Survivors of traumatic brain injuries demonstrate that. Neurological deceases like Alzheimer’s and Mad Cow provide further evidence. 

We know that cognitive functionality and memory is affected by physical trauma so it’s obvious that our consciousness is the manifestation of a physical process. The upshot of this is no immortal soul, that even if there is some sort of mystical “life-force” it would lack identity without the physical construct of our brains and the memories of experiences stored there in. Of course since there is no evidence of any sort of “life-force” either so out that goes.

My entire worldview has been shaped and is based on those two factors, minimal a priori assumption and an aversion to self deception. While it may not be instantly obvious, every one of my beliefs are natural conclusions based on those factors.

Apparently this was always a part of my psychological makeup. Most of the stories told about my childhood by my family revolve around my tendency to argue about anything and everything. From pretty much the moment I could talk I started testing idea’s via such trials by fire.

I believe that any idea worth holding should be able to stand up to rigorous hostile debate as such I have always been more than happy to have those debates. I’ve been accused at times of being stubborn or extremist in my views. Many people who don’t know better think I’m rigid, inflexible and opposed to new ideas.

This is simply nonsense. Because the corollary to the earlier point is that any idea that can’t survive such trial by fire is instantly abandoned. One old friend of mine once described winning and argument with me as being each of us commanding a warship blasting back and forth then suddenly when my idea failed I’d be standing on the deck his ship beside him helping to put my old ship down like I’d been there all along.

It wasn’t until later that I saw why his explanation was true. Once an idea is falsified it needs to be abandoned and scuttled post haste so it’s only natural that I should switch to the stronger idea.
Many people have described me as an oddball, a contradiction to their natural assumptions.

I’m a former Marine, I dress conservatively and still wear a Marine haircut, and I’m a white male member of generation X from a Bible belt state.  

So naturally people’s first thought would be that I’m a conservative.  This leads to an interesting view of life where those conservatives who don’t know better will often jump to the same conclusion and show their asses by saying some bit of racist or other outlandish crap that they’d normally never breath out loud.

The fact that I’m also a rabidly partisan left liberal surprises most people at first.

There is no contradiction. I joined the Marines because at one point I was “young dumb and full of cum” as we said back in the corps, I joined for the same reason most young men join the military. The lack of sense of the young, combined with a child’s fascination with the warrior ethos and an upper lower class under-achieving white males lack of opportunities.  Essentially I wasn’t ready to “grow up” I was failing at college from a lack of interest and the military offered a viable option to defer “growing up”.

I wear the hair cut because It’s convenient and as I often joke my hair tends to do whatever the hell it wants regardless of my wishes so I simply cut it down to the point where it can’t cause any trouble.

Back when I joined I was something of a rabid right winger, I was a big fan of Jerry Pournelle’s military fiction had grown up through Reagan’s “revolution” been subjected to all the propaganda of the time. I thought Iran contra was a good idea and thought of Oliver North as a hero, too much Rambo (actually I was always a bigger fan of Ruckus, the original version of the story staring Dirk Bennedict) not enough Platoon. I was still a big fan of capitalism and was na├»ve enough to believe the promise of the “free-markets”.

However I had long since decided that there were no gods that the universe was as it was and always would be. I would have best been defined as a libertarian or objectivist.

This all changed after one conversation with a friend in the Marine’s. We were arguing politics and I was rattling off the usual small government anti-democrat stuff and this friend told me “don’t listen to what the Republicans say, watch what they do”

That was the key to my ideological shift; this friend had framed his question in the perfect way to push past the lifetime of right wing brainwashing. He didn’t just tell me I was wrong and he was right, he didn’t spend hours on end arguing with me. Instead he challenged me. I thought ok I’ll show him and started watching and comparing and seeing all the hypocrisy and the dishonesty that was the GOP. In the end it that aversion to self deception I mentioned earlier forced me to re-evaluate my views.

I couldn’t reconcile the idea of a small government party that grew government faster than the supposed party of “big government”. Then we had the 1st gulf war and I remember sitting in the react room at the Kingsbay Security Forces barracks listening to the reports of Saddam sending his f-16s to Iran so we wouldn’t blow them up.

I watched us go to war to defend a hereditary aristocracy in the name of “democracy”? I watched us “liberate” a country from the hands of one dictator back into the hands of the former? Oh and a country from which we didn’t get any of our oil, I remember commenting at the time that we should let the British fight their own damned war.

The final straw though came when Bush the elder wouldn’t let the Kuwaiti’s give the troops who went over there a gold bar in gratitude, because “we’re not mercenaries”. Say what? The hell we aren’t he’d just rented out our military to Saudi Arabia and England and he had the gall to claim that we weren’t mercenaries. Notice he was later more than happy to collect his “reward” through the Carlyle group.

I watched the whole nonsense around don’t ask don’t tell. The argument that homosexuality was a choice just never made sense to me, I mean really we’re expected to believe that these people chose to adopt a lifestyle that would result in endless ridicule and the constant threat of violence aimed at gay people? I noted that with all the ass kissing and dick sucking that the brown nosers engaged in we’d never notice the difference.

But really what was going on was the long process of deprogramming. My mind was busy rebuilding my philosophy based on new data. From the understanding that our consciousness was a result of biological functions it was only natural to move on to a materialistic fatalistic world view; that since we’re simply biological robots our “choices” were illusory. I didn’t choose to be an atheist, being an atheist was the natural result of my biology and life experiences. Success and failure were mostly a matter of chance and merit had little to do with anything that happened in life.

Naturally it made no sense to me to hate people because of their skin color or sexuality. Bill Gates wasn’t rich because he was smarter than everyone else or worked harder he was rich because a fortuitous confluence of circumstances created an opportunity he capitalized on and the basic fact was that no amount of hard work and dedication was going to be able to create such once in a generation circumstances.

Yeah I know I’m rambling.

Every idea I hold, every opinion I have, went through similar processes. They were checked and double checked then subjected to hostile environments to test their mettle. Those that failed were abandoned along the way. After 40 some odd years of this my opinions do look very rigid and doctrinaire to the casual observer. I seldom end up jumping ship during an argument these days. 

Many people including my own mother have mistaken this as rigid ideology just as extreme and irrational as the nonsense of the right. Of course most of these people have not spent a lifetime of rigorously testing each and every opinion they hold. 

Most are victims to the various cognitive biases that cloud human thinking. It’s been my experience that most people don’t dissect each and every idea; they don’t follow them to their final logical conclusions. Instead they look at the surface and if the idea reinforces their existing worldview it’s in.

Now someone might ask, how do I know I’m not being influenced by such cognitive biases myself?
The answer is I don’t, I simply endeavor to remain cognizant of said biases. This of course is part of why I believe so strongly in rigorously testing ideas and concepts. I’m constantly asking myself the question “do I believe this thing because it best represents reality or because of how it makes me feel?” “Have I discounted this idea because of the source/conclusion or on its merits?” 

The possibility always exists that I could be completely and utterly deluded and wrong. It’s happened before so it is a possibility that has to be considered. That said I feel confident enough in my methodology to be reasonably certain that I’m not.