Saturday, 4 December 2021

On the production of new fables (and songs) for Socmas.

My mind has been set on just two tasks, after which I assumed I'd pour my attention and energy into Socmas.

I had imagined I'd have completed these two tasks by December first.  I have not.  Not yet.

The two tasks are, simply, (1) finishing the revisions to the manuscript for No More Manifestos, and (2) reading two books that are directly related to that revision process (sort of, "fact checking").

Now, I have to respond under a few different headings, here (1) about this song in particular that you've composed, (2) about the broader question of composing songs (a revision to this one, or some number of other songs you may compose), and then (3) the even broader question of the production of fiction and rituals for Socmas.

All three, to begin, are united by one problem: who is singing?  One of the most successful examples of propaganda in the history of the world is a song by Stan Rogers, titled Barrett's Privateers: its strength is this, i.e., that the listener knows very clearly who is singing (i.e., the fictional protagonist, situating us in the historical moment in question).  And, without digressing into matters of mere fact, the song is propaganda, and is telling the audience how to feel about history (it is neither entirely honest nor accurate).  That sense of "who" is sining is --in my opinion-- what makes it possible for many people to join in singing the song (i.e., very much like the most successful Christmas carols, and that's why I mention it here as an example).

Now, this song you've proposed for me has the opposite problem --and it may be an incomplete song, or a first sketch indicating an idea for a song, etc., I am not offering criticism for the sake of criticism, but rather discussing the underlying issues for the sake of whatever may be produced next (and by any one of us --not putting any kind of undue burden on yourself).

Is it really possible to write a song that is performed from the perspective of Alcibiades?  If it is possible, it is probably unwise.

Now consider, by contrast, the strength of a song performed from the perspective of an anonymous member of the jury that sentenced Socrates to death: he (singing) and we (when we sing along) could have the sense of certainty that we were doing the right thing in condemning him to death --and later in the song, we could have some kind of regret, being caught up in the politics of the time (etc.).

Did Alcibiades smash the herms?  We (in the 21st century) do not know, but we can write a song from the perspective of someone on the jury who is certain that he smashed the herms (and that he should be executed or exiled for that reason) --and we can indicate that this certainty is false (later in the song, or that same moment, through careful writing).  This is, so to speak, "the unreliable narrator".  I think that's the only way to handle it: we cannot portray Alcibiades himself as bragging that he smashed the herms.

More broadly, we can't really depict Socrates as anti-religion --we can only portray him as someone who was hated by others as if he had been anti-religious.  Handled carefully, that is the more powerful message.

Who was Socrates and why did he matter?  He had original ideas about politics and religion: these were an unwanted challenge to the society he lived in --and they killed him for it.  That can be made into song (and narrative fiction) from many perspectives, but the most implicitly dramatic is that of the nameless, numberless crowd that condemned him.

His original ideas about politics and religion: were they, in fact, better than those of Pericles or Aristotle?  We'll never know: it is quite possible that the answer is no.

Did Socrates propose an atheist Society?  No, certainly not.  Did Socrates propose abolishing slavery?  Certainly not, nor was he even interested in their "upliftment" in any way, so far as I can see.  Did he suggest veganism or even vegetarianism?  No, and others did, in his era and culture.

The fictional Socrates that is ridiculed in "The Clouds" was more of a nihilist than the actual Socrates; but, in part, he died for that fiction --and, of course, he died in part because he really was attached to a whole cabal of schemers (some of whom dreamt of taking over the government, and others actually did so, briefly).  From our perspective, he died because he opened the door to a set of disturbing questions, that inexorably lead to nihilistic answers --including, very simply, whether or not the gods actually controlled rain, thunder and lightning.

Is Socrates the hero or the villain of the story?  Is Alcibiades the hero or the villain of the story?

I think the modern perspective must be, "Inasmuch as they were trying to destroy democracy, they are the villains, and yet, inasmuch as they were trying to challenge and overturn the city's religion, we would go even further in villainy if we could".

I think that is a very productive "starting position" for the creation of new fables: Socrates as a hero is not terribly interesting, and Socrates as a Christ-like victim is even less so.

Viewing the polity of Athens as the protagonist (i.e., "the members of the jury") we then work with "an unreliable narrator" second to none: the singer of the song can condemn Socrates (and/or Alcibiades, etc.) and can at the same time lament his death, ruefully celebrate particular things he and his followers did, and so on.

But, after all, SOMEONE smashed up the herms: from the perspective of Athenian members of the jury alive at that time, it certainly was possible that it could have been members of the same cabal of freethinkers that Socrates and Alcibiades were a part of that smashed them up… who else?  Oh, but didn't you hear the rumor that it was supporters of the Persians that did it?  The Spartans would never do such a thing, it must have been the Medizers, etc.

The moral ambiguity is this: Socrates didn't die so that the power of the church could continue --i.e., his position is not like Galileo, where his imprisonment (or death) is for the sake of religious authority.  No, on the contrary: Socrates must die so that democracy can continue.  And, unlike religion, democracy is neither right nor wrong, but always changing: for a time, democracy made Alcibiades the most famous and powerful man in Athens --and then the same democracy (the same voters) condemned him to exile (and he was not faultless in this matter!).

I am not really interested in Socrates as the victim of democracy: the death of Socrates, instead, has to be seen as a kind of vindication of democracy.

This song by Stan Rogers, that you may well detest: note how liberally it shifts between seemingly objective statements of fact, and very harsh condemnations of the other historical actors involved ("God damn them all!", etc.).  This device of, "I was told ______" is very powerful: people made up their minds about Socrates (and Alcibiades, and Plato, etc.) on the basis of things they were told --and that they later regretted, to some extent.

I think that's the "ontic range" within which the production of this kind of "new fable" has to exist.

Sunday, 14 November 2021

Monday, 8 November 2021

Be a snob. #SnobLife


This was a comment posted below a video of Trisha Paytas reflecting on her conversion to Hare Krishna / Pseudo-Hindu "spirituality".

Sunday, 7 November 2021

Jordan Reichert: Calibrating Failure.

Today (yes, TODAY) you can be part of the tiny audience over at "Nation Rising" (Canada's phony radical fundraising clique) that will hear the fascinating things Jordan Reichert has to say… perhaps you will find this just as rewarding as the 15 people who saw him comeback video one month ago, "Animal Debate 2021: Critical Analysis".

Now, the reality is, on youtube, 15 views indicates fewer than 15 interested viewers… but let's not digress…

If you knew how hard Jordan Reichert had been working in the last five years (including participation in elections, etc.) you'd have some sense of the gravity of this failure: it doesn't matter how hard you work (or how much time and money you waste) if you're fundamentally doing the wrong thing —it doesn't matter how loud the dog barks so long as it is barking up the wrong tree.

Saturday, 6 November 2021

I'm not impressed.

As with "Nation Rising" and so many other cliques of donation-seeking phony radicals that have come and gone… something new and different was promised (something drastically more effective than any other form of street protest we've seen before)… but… what was actually delivered… is not any more impressive than the embarrassing nonsense I was criticizing in 2016 (and, of course, none of these methods were new in 2006, or 1996, for that matter!). 

[I'm here vaguely alluding to a trilogy of videos that have just appeared on my own channel, shown above.]

Sunday, 24 October 2021

Calibrating measures of success (and failure) as a dissident intellectual.

A lot of these people have ended up with a much smaller audience than myself… despite the fact that they really are pandering to the crowd (telling people whatever it is that they want to hear, etc.).

I certainly never imagined that I'd end up with a larger audience than Wayne Hsiung or Paul Bashir.

Both of them have had millions of dollars (in donations) pass through their hands in the last few years —and yet, really, nobody is interested in whatever it is they have to say next.

And I, also, am not interested in hearing what they have to say next, to be perfectly honest.

So, yes, it is interesting to try to calibrate your measurements for success and failure —when you're promoting a message as profoundly unpopular as I happen to be.

How many of these youtube channels do you recognize?  For the answers, see below.

Wednesday, 20 October 2021

Tuesday, 19 October 2021

Getting hate mail from a fellow vegan youtuber: "Vegan Footsoldier".

[Footsoldier writes:]

I am indeed totally unaware of your previous videos on util [i.e., the critique of Utilitarianism] because I haven't watched them. If you don't like util, then that's great! I think the online vegan space would be a better place if less people were into crazy nonsense bullshit like util. You may have also began publicly hating util before I did and I'm fine with you being the winner of that competition.

I openly admit I didn't have a good grasp on philosophy when I first started my channel but at the time that wasn't the purpose. My channel was initially supposed to be a vegan music and comedy show. But my general impression is that, I went from not knowing anything about philosophy the start of 2017 to binge learning ever since and now I'm pretty confident discussing and debating meaningfully with people who have formally studied it. Whereas with you, you seem to have always had some high school level understanding of philosophy since you started your channel but you have never demonstrated in any videos that I have watched, that you have even a first year undergraduate student level of philosophy on any given issue. In the same way you claim to be fluent in Thai and Laotian but I have never heard you speak any other language than english.

[Note to the audience: notice how he says that I "claim to be fluent in Thai and Laotian", rather than actually referring to anything I've ever said or written on the topic —i.e., he's either unaware of or intentionally lying about what I've said (repeatedly, and at length) about my experience with the language, and about forgetting the language. He tries, from the outset, to make it seem as if I've offered outlandish claims, that I cannot support; but even the first half of that equation (i.e., the outlandish claim) is just his own invention.  He has been to Chiang Mai many times, and he's probably met other vegans there, who saw me speaking Thai with taxi drivers and fruit vendors —but no, I would not claim to be "fluent" in Thai —I merely happen to be infinitely more advanced in the language than he is!]

I do not mean to say you can't, or you are not secretly a philosophy post grad, it means I have personally yet to see any such video which demonstrates a level of competence with philosophy in which I would expect you were educated to even undergraduate level. I have made plenty of phil videos now, and done dozens of public live debates. You still after 5 years won't even have a discussion with me on anything, let alone do a live debate on a given proposition, even one of your choosing, despite me having extended that invitation many times.

Here is a video where I present many positive cases for veganism and discuss their merits and shortcomings, including a few arguments I personally developed:

Do you have a specific video you can share with me which makes a positive case for veganism which you think is of a good quality, which discusses real philosophy and not just personal opinion responding to people you disagree with?



Look, you'll find any excuse to denigrate me and insult me: just admit it to yourself.  You're EXTREMELY biased in seeing what you want to see, and ignoring everything you don't want to see —and this has been a pattern with you for five years (or however long I've known you, and it must be at least five years at this point).

Do I know anything about philosophy?

How about Buddhist philosophy, does that count?

How about classical Chinese philosophy, does that count?

How about Ancient Greek and Roman philosophy, does that count?

How about Marxism/Communism (i.e., from an ANTI-Marxist, Anti-Communist perspective), does that count?

This is not an exhaustive list, but these are examples of areas of philosophy that I have made numerous youtube videos about —and they could (hypothetically) provide some basis for you to show some positive respect/appreciation toward me.

That never happens with you.

It doesn't matter if I speak Chinese on camera, or if I show you my Chinese handwriting: you have no positive interest in anything I've done —you ONLY look for an opportunity to denigrate and insult me.

Honestly, this is less of a problem for me than it is for you.

Again: you supported Durianrider.  How?  You saw what you wanted to see, and you remained oblivious to things that you did not want to see.

Let me ask you: have you read Thucydides?  Have you read Appian?  Have you read Sallust?  Have you read Aristotle?

Have you watched videos I've made in which I discussed any/all of those authors?  Have you watched videos in which I offered a critique of Buddhist philosophy, or of Confucianism, or of other ancient Chinese authors less commonly known (Lord Shang, etc.), showing that I'm conversant in those areas of study?

What you will say, inevitably, is, "Well, I haven't seen any of those videos!"  For years, when I offered evidence of what my channel actually said on any given issue (even Nina and Randa) you'd write back saying, "Well, you can't expect me to watch SEVERAL HOURS of your videos!" —and the reality is that if you wanted to have a sense of how much or how little I know about philosophy, you would indeed need to listen to several hours of my video —OR ACTUALLY READ MY WRITTEN WORK.

You are aware that I have written work, right?

Re: "You still after 5 years won't even have a discussion with me on anything, let alone do a live debate on a given proposition, even one of your choosing, despite me having extended that invitation many times."

Look, I don't know if you've been diagnosed with something or not: if you just pause to reflect even on the videos you made and deleted yourself (without me going back and screen-shotting old emails, etc.) can you admit to yourself that this is totally false?

How about your claim that you've never seen me speaking Chinese?

This was recorded during an entrance examination I took for a university Chinese language course (no preparation, no dictionary, no notes, etc.) just a few weeks ago:

As you can imagine, this was done via ZOOM due to Coronavirus restrictions.

Ah, yes, there certainly is a dearth of evidence of how philosophically sophisticated a person I might be, Footsoldier!  Just as it is really difficult for you to find evidence of my history of language ability in Chinese, etc.!

You are, in your own idiom, "a nutter".

You're a person I have zero respect for, intellectually or ethically.

And let me say this to you directly, Footsoldier: I don't believe ANYTHING that you tell me.  You claim you don't believe how much Chinese I've studied (although I can show you evidence, including certificates I've earned for studying the language, etc.)… let me say… NONE of your claims have ANY evidence to support them… you have NO writing, NO published work, and NONE of your videos demonstrate that you EVEN have a high-school level understanding of any of the books you CLAIM that you've read.  When you say you've read a book, I assume you HAVEN'T read it, because I know you're a person of zero integrity: the same way that you lied about Durianrider, you'll lie about anything else.  You'll tell any lie, and you'll believe any lie, just to aggrandize yourself and to denigrate others —you've been doing it for years, and you're not about to change.

I thought you would have figured this out by now.

And dude, look in the mirror: if you really think I can't speak Chinese… how the hell does that help your ignorant ass out?  If you think I'm lying about what I achieved in Pali, Laotian, etc. (more than 10 years ago)… how or why does that make you feel better about yourself?  Look in the mirror and think about what an enormous level of effort it would take for me to falsify the record of what I've accomplished (languages, research, publications, formal and informal education)… and now look at what you've done in the last five years of your life, and how little you've got to show for it.

There's no evidence that you're an intellectual, Foot.


There's no evidence that you ever have been, or that you ever will be.

You don't have what it takes to live "the life of the mind" right now.

And you never will.

But hey: prove me wrong.  I'd be so happy if you actually grow a brain cell, and one day prove me wrong.