Sunday, 2 December 2018

As Dominoes tend to fall in one and the same direction…

Many of you have known me over the internet for 4 years by now (some for 2 years, and so on).  Things have only gotten worse.  They're still getting worse.  There's no reason to interpret that sequence of dominoes as indicating that things will suddenly get better.

Wednesday, 28 November 2018

Writing to an atheist podcast about the problem of replacing Christmas.


Hi, I'm a nihilistic atheist (I reject much more than just monotheism) and I'm writing with a topic suggestion for your consideration.  I can volunteer to help, but I assume the help would be unwanted.*

The topic is: how do we try to NOT celebrate Christmas with our children, but to provide something better / different for our children.

* (My youtube channel has 3.2 million total views… but that's been gradually acquired over 4 years… I assume you'd just be interested in the topic, and not in my actual collaboration).

What makes this topic so interesting is the level of defensive hostility this raises amongst atheism-activists (and as someone born Jewish, it is parallel to the topic of circumcision amongst secular Jews, I'd say).

I have yet to have a single atheist activist or youtuber respond in a sympathetic way to the fact that I have a 5 year old daughter and I'm going to make the effort to try to have some kind of gift-giving holiday that is NOT Christmas, because I actively reject Christianity.

When I ask them, "Would you have this same attitude if I were an ex-Muslim, explaining to you my struggle to NOT celebrate Ramadan despite tradition, cultural expectations, family, etc.?", they suddenly have nothing to say.  And I don't just use Islam as a contrast, I also refer to Hinduism, Communism, etc.

As with excuses for circumcision (amongst atheists), there is a deep-seated tendency to excuse and preserve what's familiar, even if that preservation makes hypocrites of us all.  People treat me as if I'm a troll in raising an issue I'm really sincere about: my parents were both Communists, and I have lived in two different Communist countries (plus one ex-Communist country)… it is a significant decision NOT to celebrate figures like Lenin, Stalin, Mao, and Marx, when you live in a culture that does celebrate them.  It's a significant decision to NOT celebrate Christmas.  And apparently this challenge (in pursuit of cultural change) is just too much for many atheist activists to deal with.

My video on the topic (reaching a modest 1,000 viewers… an unpopular topic by any measure) is here:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SvcP3CShFBQ

Saturday, 3 November 2018

Sarcasm for Social Change. :-/

Apparently nobody has made a t-shirt that reads, "Sarcasm for social change" —so I have to do it.


Sunday, 29 July 2018

A Funny Story From My Time as a Denizen of the Chinese Language School.


The tale of a doomed gym romance, in the distinctive setting of Keats Language School (of Kunming, China).

我住在一个语言学校。这个地方有好处和坏处。所有的学生是成人,但是我们没有成人的责任,当我们住在这里的时候,我们没有工作,没有家庭,没有朋友或者敌人。一些的学生感觉这个地方看起来像一个监。很少学生试试找新的爱,因为在这里他们没有真的家。

我有一点点开心,但是我唯一的娱乐是我们的健身房。在这里,一个很帅的外国人和一个女私人教练试试约会。在开始的时候,她对他没有兴趣。他假装他不明白所有的机器,因为他想问她,“你可以帮助我吗?”

他甚至表现得像他不明白怎么做卧推。如果我没自己看这个情况,我不相信。一次,他参加她的操课。所有的她的一般学生是老女人,和她们有一个竞争。

因为他比较强,他赢了,但是女私人教练不给一般奖励,因为这个是一个女人的衣服。所以,她决定她让他给她推拿,这个是他的奖励。也许他们开始互相有兴趣。

最后,他们约会。当这个时候,他需要承认他不久以后离开昆明。诚实地说,他想马上和她发生关系。同时,她承认她是一个处女。她从来没有男朋友,她从来没有吻一个男人。

为什么我知道这个故事?

以后,他对我说明这个情况,因为他邀请我替代他。也许他感觉内疚,也许他想想象别一个男人,有道德的人,可能变成她的第一次爱。但是,我对她没有兴趣。  [End.]

Monday, 11 June 2018

Sources on Aristotle's Political Context & Career.


(This short post implicitly relates to a youtube video on the same topic, to be found on my channel, here: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLZEkgohG7k7r2KOvbCAIKvulmFOp1kRKc)

You can get both articles from JSTOR.

(1) "Aristotle's Paradox of Monarchy and the Biographical Tradition."  J. Miller, 1998, in: History of Political Thought, Vol. 19, No. 4,

(2) The "extreme" position (i.e., arguing strongly that Aristotle was "an agent of Macedonia" in Athens) is presented in "Aristotle and the Foreign Policy of Macedonia." Anton-Herman Chroust, 1972, The Review of Politics, Vol. 34, No. 3 (Jul., 1972).

Source #1 repeatedly alludes to the extent to which source #2 has been reluctantly/negatively received by other scholars in the field; for a sense of why this is, see (3) Christopher Kirwan's (negative) review of Aristotle: New Light on His Life and on Some of His Lost Works by Anton-Hermann Chroust, in: The Classical Review, New Series, Vol. 26, No. 1 (1976), pp. 69-70

(4) For a "simple" biographical source on Aristotle, it doesn't get any simpler than Diogenes Laertius (but secondary sources such as the ones linked above are engaged in skeptically questioning to what extent these biographies are historically valid, especially given the long "pause" between the death of Aristotle and the writing of these accounts): http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.01.0258%3Abook%3D5%3Achapter%3D1

(5) There is one further (analytical) source salient to this discussion hidden away in the pages of Essays on the Foundations of Aristotelian Political Science, 1991, edited
by Carnes Lord and David K. O'Connor, although I have left this in fifth place, as its salience is of a more general character.  It is titled, "Aristotle's Critique of Athenian Democracy" by Barry S. Strauss (staring on p. 212). https://books.google.ca/books?id=q58eP8kKBmMC&pg=PA212&dq=On+Aristotle%27s+Critique+of+Democracy&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiw0ZG68czbAhWZGTQIHSOqAqgQ6AEIJzAA#v=onepage&q&f=false

Wednesday, 4 April 2018

Giving advice to a suicidal (long-time) viewer.

[Question from a viewer.]
Hi Eisel. I'm a 17 year old from [an English-speaking country] and have been a fan of your YouTube channel for maybe a year and a half. I'm writing because I believe we share many similar viewpoints across different topics (though over my time watching your channel I have found many things I've disagreed with) and am hoping that maybe you can offer some kind of advice.
I'm a nihilistic athiest like you and at the moment am really suffering and struggling with an existential crisis. This has been progressively worsening with time to the point where now I consider suicide anywhere from 3 times a week to 3 times a day or more. I eat well and I exercise frequently but I essentially just think this depression is because of an unchangeable truth and see no possible way to overcome it. Today I saw a doctor and he'd like to meet again but I've seen your video on antidepressants and it seems very convincing, especially coupled with the fact that what is bringing me down just seems to be an unchangeable part of reality, so I'm not sure what I should do about that.
Essentially I'm just searching for some kind of point or meaning in my life and have reached what appears to be a dead end. Do you have any kind of advice for getting out of this pit I've ended up in? Any help would be greatly appreciated.
——————————

Thursday, 29 March 2018

Published in a Chinese Newspaper! "小康社会”有什么意思?

This "student composition" of mine was published in a "normal" Chinese newspaper (meaning a newspaper created for native speakers of Chinese, and, yes, printed on paper).  https://www.secretchina.com/news/gb/2018/04/02/854514.html

在最近发布的文件中,我们常常可以看见“小康社会”这四个字。在习近平中国共产党第十九次全国代表大会的讲座,他说了“小康”多少次?我算了下,这个词出现了十八次,其中在题目中出现了两次以上。

其实在习近平报告的第一段已经看到这样的官话:“中国共产党第十九次全国代表大会,是在全面建成小康社会决胜阶段…
决胜全面建成小康社会…团结带领全国各族人民决胜全面建成小康社会…"
等等。最终地,“小康”有什么意思?在这个报告里,小康是中国梦,而“中国梦”的意思是小康生活方式。这个定义很像一条蛇吞食自己的尾巴。

如果美国政府去月球种菜,我猜一猜中国政府会说,“小康社会需要月球殖民地”。我觉得我们不好意思承认,模仿美国是“小康社会”的真正意思。中国比缅甸更舒服,中国比尼泊尔更舒服,但是都不够:美国付几百亿元为人类登上了月球,迟早中国也试一试。

我决定调查这个词,因为,诚实地说,对我来说这个词是有一点儿奇怪:我的父母认为应将马克思主义、毛泽东思想视为恒久的真理(他们是加拿大白人,不过在上文革时他们参军毛派共产主义派)。

在网上,很多网民说,“小康是古老的词,你可以在孔子的诗中找到”。也许你也可以在唐诗三百首里看到这个词,但是我不觉得这种古老的诗文可以帮助我们明白现代的“小康”的意思。同样地,古老的“求是”没有这两个词现代的意思。

“小康社会”这个词的用法是由邓小平在1979年第一次提出的。在胡锦涛的五年计划的时候,我们也常常听到这个词,但是这个词的意思还没有具体的描述:人们需要多少钱才可以算为“小康”?在2007年我离开了老挝的北部,到了云南:我看到云南最穷的农村比老挝更“康”。同时,也看到云南比日本更穷。也许这样比较是不公平的,但是,诚实地说,日本算是有“小康社会”吗?为什么我们不知道“小康社会”是什么样的水平,我们什么时候才应该用“小康社会”来描述一个国家?

我不知道为什么,但是看来共产党是不能够用数量来表示小康:他们一直解释的是贫困人口比率 ("poverty headcount ratio"),所以“小康”这个词仍然是很模糊。

有时候,习近平的报告是清楚的,如下是一些具体意见:
“坚持按劳分配原则,完善按要素分配的体制机制,促进收入分配更合理、更有序。…坚持在经济增长的同时实现居民收入同步增长、在劳动生产率提高的同时实现劳动报酬同步提高。拓宽居民劳动收入和财产性收入渠道。”

我觉得这些具体意见很明确是跟小康社有关。共产党想像什么样的社会?他们正在建设一个地主所有制的社会(有“财产性收入渠道”和“劳分配原则”)。他们保证“人民平等参与、平等发展权利, 会得到充分保障”,但是房东和房客不平等,工人和厂主也不平等。在日本有钱的人越来越有钱,没有钱的人越来越穷,一些人交房租,一些人有“财产性收入渠道”。中国的未来就会像80年代的日本吗?这也算不算是一个小康社会?

Eisel Mazard / 马大影