Wednesday 29 December 2021

Stupidity is Real. No, REALLY…

["Fan mail" from J.P. ensues:]

Re: veganism and your disgusting rant about Matt Dillahunty's point of view.

Your pathetic and intentionally ignorant word-salad effort to explain the typically myopic vegan tribe position on the empty assertion of moral superiority is moronically deficient in the simplest of evidence.

There is but one incontrovertable [sic] fact that overrules everything you've said about veganism -- from the top of the food-chain down, everything that lives on the face of this planet kills and eats as many other living things as possible to survive another day, or, alternatively, is killed and eaten, if not by predators then by parasites and microbes that are even deadlier. Ultimately, nothing escapes the cycle, including humans.

To pretend there is a significant difference between animal and vegetable foodstuffs is sleezier obfuscation than anything you have accused Matt  of because you cannot describe with specificity what you throw around as 'sentient' -- you cannot know whether and to what degree vegetable specimens may or may not be sentient. You don't even know how to know. Vegans kill and consume millions of tons of vegetable matter while totally oblivious of, or hypocritically ignoring, the fact.

I would be greatly pleased if you and all your pittiful [sic] accolytes [sic] would be true to your vegan dogma and eat nothing but rocks and sand, er...for at least the next few days -- Bon appetite!

In short, it was a complete waste of time and audio bandwidth listening to your ridiculous babbling which was really as logical and reasonable as a putrid stream of wet farts.  

(don't bother to respond-- I will never visit this site again!)


Hi J.P.,

Over the last 8 years, à-bas-le-ciel has become famous (and notorious) within veganism / amongst vegans, precisely because of my willingness to criticize (and really condemn) my fellow vegans.

Two quick examples, to give you a sense of how "atypical" this youtube channel is (and the harshness of the criticism I trade in).

          Title: "Vegan Activism is a Scam: Millions of Dollars Wasted."

          Title: "Dogs and Cats: Veganism's Little White Lie, Huge Hypocrisy."

In your one, long comment, you've attributed many arguments to me that I have never presented on my channel (and this is a channel with THOUSANDS of videos)… indicating that you're unaware of what my arguments for veganism are… and, more broadly, that you're unaware of the position of this channel (a-bas-le-ciel) within the vegan movement.

Your comment doesn't indicate any familiarity with vegan politics generally, but you are, nevertheless, attributing a "made up" set of fallacies to me, that my own arguments neither espouse nor presuppose.

You can check out any of the videos on the playlist called "the short list", here:

For example, notably: "The Product of Your Ethical Decisions is YOU."

For a directly autobiographical answer to the question of why I became vegan, cf.,

          "Who I really am; why I became vegan." 


Monday 13 December 2021

Gormless Conformists and the Reform of Education.

[This is an email sent to a retired university professor who is --in his way-- involved in the reform of education, or at least in the critique of education that could lead up to some kind of reform.]

When I was at Cambridge (England) my wife and I were laughing all the time about the fact that the British had devised a system of education that COULD ONLY WORK for people like me --and yet, at the same time, it completely excluded people like me.

Most departments at Cambridge are "self directed learning" to a fault: NOBODY teaches you ANYTHING.

My wife's PhD supervisor* DID NOT READ her PhD thesis (he didn't even look at it!) and he certainly didn't provide any supervision or advice.

* [Footnote: after several years of this, at the very end of the process, she was reassigned to a different supervisor, who did read her work.]

I was not there as a student, you will have surmised: I was there as the husband of a student (and that was my first wife, we're now divorced, and I'm instead marrying someone who has read Thucydides).

It is possible that chemistry and physics do not operate this way, but many departments at Cambridge and Oxford really are "self-directed learning".

Guess what the result is?

Religious maniacs arrive, they gain a PhD, and they leave without anyone challenging their religious mania.

True-believing Communists arrive, they gain a PhD, and they leave without anyone challenging their Communist mania.

This is true throughout myriad ideologies.

When you get into factual material, the reality is even more bleak: people write M.A. theses and PhD theses about Cambodia… and they LITERALLY DO NOT KNOW WHAT SIDE THE AMERICANS WERE FIGHTING ON.  They are writing the history as if the Americans were on the opposite side.

Not just in Buddhism, but in politics and history, I was routinely seeing "Santa Claus errors" --an idiom I made up to describe errors at the level of thinking Santa Claus and Jesus Christ are one and the same person.

Nobody corrects them.  Nobody feels that they're paid to criticize or cross-examine these students.  In a very real sense, nobody educates them.

All they get is a library card and a deadline.

"Self directed learning".

The United States lately had a remarkable challenge in improving the level of education in Afghanistan, hm?  And in eradicating the Taliban THROUGH education, if we're being perfectly honest.  This couldn't possibly be accomplished through self-directed learning.

Self-directed learning increases inequality.  People like myself can thrive on it: highly independent, highly motivated, self-critical, defiant, frankly brilliant people --BUT IRONICALLY, the only people who could "get ahead" at Cambridge were gormless conformists.  The professors wouldn't work with anyone who challenged their ego in any way: they wanted supplicants, not applicants --and that's exactly what they got.

Do you already know the book, "Academically Adrift"?  (It's quite likely I've mentioned it to you before, perhaps years ago now.)

Look, at age 43, I am genuinely at the point of saying, "Carthago est Delenda".

At this point, our educational institutions could be improved by being burnt down.

Saturday 11 December 2021

It's not a humblebrag if you're actually humble, and actually bragging.

Losing Faith in Veganism: the Revolution that Never Was.

Veganism is —in part— about doing the right thing just because it's the right thing to do.  It is —in part— a process and praxis of self-improvement.  But veganism also has revolutionary ambitions: one way or another, it is an attempt to "revolutionize" the society and the world that we live in.  What happens when people join the movement for all the right reasons, and then they quit the movement because they decide —in this sense— that the revolution is doomed. [Link to the video:]

Wednesday 8 December 2021

Youtube: better than handing out sacks of rice to starving people. #ZeroIrony

[Letter from a viewer:]

There's a reason why you have to disable the comments and dislikes in your video's. You want to pursue filmmaking for youtube? Here's the best advice I think you need right now. Take feedback from your viewers. If you're getting dislikes and hate comments, you're probably making shitty content. Ask yourself why is it that you need to disable comments. If you have enough self-awareness, you should be able to figure that one out and then stop doing it.

All the best, although I don't think it's going to work out for you


[My reply:]


To quote a Keenen Ivory Wayans movie, "Oh sister, you are so barking up the wrong tree right now."

If you'd read the description to any of my videos --ANY of them-- you would have seen the following:

Why are comments disabled on my youtube channel?  Here's the answer, in a relatively uplifting 5 minute video:

I get messages from people all the time telling me how profoundly my youtube channel has changed their lives.  Some of them have stayed in touch with me for years, so I get a sense not only of the impact that my political philosophy has had on their lives in the short-term, but in the long term, also.  And, as indicated in that five minute video, I try to make the time to talk to those people at length (long emails, Skype calls, etc.) --and when you have just 2000 viewers per day, believe it or not, the time you have for talking to members of your audience is very finite indeed.

There are people who have quit playing video games because of my channel.  There are people who've quit eating meat because of my channel.  There are people who've broken up with their husbands or wives because of my channel.  There are people who changed their major in university, took on new career-paths, etc.

But, above all else, there are people who changed their political direction in life, because of my channel.  They reconsidered their political assumptions.  Started asking new questions, and came to new conclusions.

How about you, Leigh?

Do you get that kind of feedback from YOUR audience?

Do you have some sort of job (or some sort of hobby) with similar outcomes?

I have to tell you: I've handed out sacks of rice to starving people in Laos ("humanitarian work")… this is better.  What I'm doing, right now, on youtube: it's better.  Oh, and I've tried that "street activism" that vegans tend to brag about, too: talking to strangers while standing on the sidewalk.  Let me say, again: this is better.  ;-)


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.

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.


Monday 11 October 2021

Elitism: My Changing Approach to "Micro-Fame".

[Note: a few other mean-spirited (and seemingly crazy) messages have been omitted, to leap to the relatively "happy ending" to the correspondence, below.]


I apologize I knew the question was absurd and yes, I did in fact discredit your work, I'm just curious and living a life of distractions and am confused, that email was insulting I admit and it's a shame... As I mentioned earlier my mind's jumpy and for the wrong reasons. I apologize and from now on I'd rather actually listen, I talk more than I know and that was stupid, I tried to get to an end cause I had a certain belief, I didn't find any source, one guy on the internet (my bad curiosity again) said you might not be vegan and I wasn't confident enough with his points but I just knew Vegan Cheetah wasn't vegan and it was suspicious (I'm sorry again), I thought you might be as well but I was attacking you personally and was angry with your response, I admit defeat.. Forgive me if you can, I'll just switch channels or listen from here on. I don't actually listen, my anger got the better of me. I apologize and won't write to you again.


Thank you for your apology.

Apology accepted.

I was young once.

I know what it's like to be wrong.

I know what it's like to be stupid.

And I know what it takes to grow.

I know what it takes to change.

I know it isn't easy.

It wasn't easy for me.

I wasn't always wise.  I wasn't always brilliant.

And sometimes the hardest thing is just having the detachment to see what's in front of your face —to neither disregard it nor subtract from it nor add to it.  To see what the evidence is first, and to have a separate category in your own mind for what your opinion is about it, what your doubts are about it, what your feelings are about it, and what your conclusions are about it.

Yes, I am really vegan.

Yes, I really was a scholar of Buddhism.

Yes, I really have studied Chinese in Kunming (and I'm brutally honest about how little of the language I know: I don't exaggerate my accomplishments in that respect).

Attached is my C.V. / résumé.

None of this was easy for me.  It won't be easy for you.

But you will be able to learn from other people's experience: other people's wisdom, other people's folly, other people's mistakes.

I tried to be friends with many foolish people on the internet, including Vegan Cheetah (back when he was vegan).  I don't make that effort anymore.  Now, I respond in the very confrontational way that I did when you wrote to me.  In some ways that's better and in some ways that's worse.

I'm no longer trying to build an open, inclusive, broad-based movement that would include people like Vegan Cheetah —and I don't even try to reach out to (and encourage / include) people like yourself.  My approach, now, is overtly elitist.

That is "bad" in some very obvious ways.  Inviting people like Vegan Cheetah into your life is bad in other ways, perhaps less obvious.


Sunday 10 October 2021

You do realize the intellectual caliber of criticism I'm facing here.

[I've put the messages from the "fan" in italics, just to make the contrast between the two authors easier to see.]


[Vanima writes to me as follows:]

Really weird question for you and is quite off-putting but I don't mean any disrespect, my brains just a bit too jumpy along with my fingers... here it is: Are you really vegan? No disrespect I really mean it out of curiosity.. Please.... no lies

[Emphasis added to indicate my incredulity at receiving this question.]

BTW I'm sorry for the other day it was just a video from Fandar III and I was curious about your response to him which was kind of shocking but not shocking at the same time, cause fandar has been a long term hater and conspiracy theorist, I didn't want to answer the other day cause it was such a... stupid question. :/ I was basically like, "Is that really him"

Really good critique of the anonymous for the voiceless though and I think that criticism was a 100% meaningful and it actually makes common sense to anyone and that wasn't hating by any means, that contributes fully against the movement if you ask me, shutting your mouth is the worst you can do it's true, people have jobs and other things to do than stand there.


[Two minutes later, she writes again:]

BTW I was talking about your comments on the gabby petito case in my earlier email.


[My reply:]

Never write to me again.

Not now.

Not five years from now.

Not ever.


[Note: this is not unprecedented.  Some of you may recall that I replied to a self-evidently stupid and/or crazy "fan" a few years ago asking her to never write back to me.  She responded with an escalating series of threats (that she'd have her lawyer sue me, etc.)… but the emal I'd sent that infuriated her was just a single-sentence long, "Never write to me again."  That video is still on my channel, here:  I did receive later email from some kind of male relative of hers (or boyfriend?)… these messages told the tale of a grim fate ensuing for her thereafter, with worsening "mental health issues"… but, of course, I cannot verify the truth of what was merely told to me in such an email.]


To E.M.(Immoral brat)😂, So you're telling me, you're charitable? You're kind? You're moral? You're ethical? I'm pleased to know the truth anyway, I in fact knew you're a liar, Learn what ethics is, and yes, there's no way in the world, you're a scholar of buddhism, you're not ethical in the lowest sense. We need to get rid of people like you in the movement who lie to people's faces, I've tried my best to be charitable :/ You know I did, sad to see your ego get the better of you and I will in fact learn from this lesson, if you're angry about my comments on youtube and you came to a dead end, I'll remove the offensive comments but the truth needs to be spilled sometimes, whether you like it or hate it.

Van: Narcissist catcher and truth detective :)



I'm not angry at you.

I'm busy.

I reply to intelligent people.

You're an idiot.

You've demonstrated --repeatedly-- that you're an extremely stupid person.

If you want a vegan activist who will talk to you —no matter how stupid you are— please try StellaTheLight.  She charges $299 per month.  Inasmuch as I understand the service she offers, she will talk to you by voice and text message for a full month, for that price.  Perhaps you'd find that very encouraging.

That's not what I do.

I talk to brilliant, hardworking, talented people.

They don't pay me.  I don't pay them.  They recognize my ambition, and I recognize theirs.  That's why we make time for each-other.

You know how to use google?

You can read an avalanche of evidence as to my history as a scholar of Buddhism, if you can simply use google.

^ Just hit "page down" and scroll through that list of articles.

You can read an avalanche of evidence showing that I'm vegan (in both writing and video form) going back many years.





Anyone can read the articles I've written, anyone can watch the youtube videos I've published.

Anyone and everyone.

Not everyone gets to communicate with me by email.

Not everyone gets to talk to me via the telephone, via Skype, etc.

Not everyone gets to meet me in person.

No, not everyone.

Talented, hardworking, brilliant people —or, at least, people who seem intelligent, interesting and promising.

You have none of these redeeming qualities.

Apparently, you find it very easy to revile me as (1) someone who doesn't speak Chinese, (2) someone who never was a scholar of Buddhism, and (3) as someone is not (and never was?) vegan.  This demonstrates that you are both stupid and malign: you are not able to understand the evidence that is in front of you —and you have bad intentions (in "seeing only what you want to see", and what it is that you "want" reflects very badly on you).

So, again, simply: never write to me.

You can watch my videos.  You can learn from my videos.

But you won't.

Some people can learn.  Some people can improve.

Not you.

You're going to remain an imbecile forever.



Another example showing how self-indulgent you can be, if you want to call people stupid without any context whatsoever, we're talking about veganism not buddhism, as I said, I won't write to you ever again, period. Let me tell you something you're extremely dumb and mean-spirited if you reply to me and even reply simply anything to me, if you reply, you're stupid and ugly, along with being fat. If you reply, you're all that  ^

-Signed Narc catcher Van

[You do realize the intellectual caliber of criticism I'm facing here.]

Thursday 23 September 2021

Remember 2013? My Final Judgement on Buddhism.

This was an email sent to a "professional Buddhist" layperson: someone who is neither a monk nor a scholar, but who has a lifetime of experience organizing events, lectures, etc., and doing fundraising for Buddhist institutions (that would often brutally disappoint her after she'd handed over the money).  She had known me in Toronto, before I departed to start my life in Asia.  This message was sent in 2013, when (as you'll see) I'd given up on Buddhism because I'd given up on Buddhists as people.


> You would know yourself how much closer to love-compassion and
> wisdom your are since you first encountered the teaching…

I disagree:

• Before I encountered Buddhism, I already had an excellent philosophy
that I had pieced together from sources as diverse as ancient Greece
and 19th century Germany.

• Buddhism did not provide me with a new philosophy: Buddhism provided
me with an ancient literature to study, and set of modern (political
and social) problems to study --and the opportunity to try to help with
the poverty of Laos, Cambodia, etc.

• There are fundamental things that the Buddha taught that I do not
believe in (and I do not lie to myself about this).  If someone is
walking in the mountains, and they see ghosts of dead people being
tortured by demons, I think the person is hallucinating.

Hallucinations are real.  I do not believe that ghosts and demons are
things that are real.  I do not believe that a brain can exist without
a stomach; I do not believe there are ghosts and demons floating
around that do not eat food, and yet can think, and see, and hear, and
talk, etc. etc., in a magical form.

Buddhist philosophy is interesting.  Ancient Greek philosophy is also interesting.

My experience with real Buddhists (who are alive today) has been
entirely negative --both with people and with institutions.

Would my experience have been equally negative if I had worked on
Ancient Greek philosophy?  I doubt it.

Modern Buddhists are afraid of what the ancient texts say (even
Richard Gombrich).  They can't study them, they can't debate them,
they can't discuss them openly.  That is very sad.  That is part of
the decline (and death) of Buddhism as a religion in our century.  The
same is not true of Ancient Greek.

Everywhere in the world, Buddhism is in decline:

• Buddhism is in decline in Thailand,

• Buddhism is in decline in Sri Lanka,

• Buddhism is in decline in Taiwan, Japan, Mainland China, Korea, etc. etc.

There was an illusion of a great Buddhist revival at the end of World
War Two (because many countries regained independence, etc.) but it
was only an illusion.  Buddhism, today, is really collapsing --both as
a religion and in every other sense of the word.

In my whole life, I have never met anyone who can actually have a
conversation about original Buddhist philosophical texts with me.  Not
even Leonard Priestley!  Not even Richard Gombrich!  When I offered
simple (but "new") observations about the 12 links, nobody in the
whole world (not even Bhikkhu Bodhi, etc.) could actually have a
conversation about it.

That's the death of Buddhism right there.

> Pali and Cree are extremely specialized fields.

Pali and Buddhist studies are SUPPOSEDLY important to millions of
people (who call themselves Buddhists).

I should be able to meet people who care about these subjects
everywhere --from Bangkok to Taipei-- that people call themselves

Similarly, Hebrew is important everywhere that people call themselves
Christians and Jews.

If you make a list of universities where I can get a serious education
in Hebrew, the list is very (very!) long --and it is not just in
Israel, but in Europe, America, and everywhere.

If you make a list of universities where I can get a serious education
in Pali or Buddhist studies… in my opinion (after many years of
research) the answer is NOWHERE.  That is a serious failure.

Cree is a very different question, that I think we are not debating
here, so I say no more about that subject now.

> You
> must have known that before you decided to study them.

Why don't you ask me questions, instead of making assertions like this?

You know I have written several articles about what my economic
situation was (in Asia) and what my hopes and expectations were.

Please read them (they are short, and not "academic" in tone).

[The other link has disappeared from the internet, but it can be found quoted here, if you search for my name, Eisel Mazard:]

> I understand you have new responsibility now to your family, something you
> didn't have in the early years of your study. I certainly think you can
> reconvene your study in an area that is more in demand by the general
> public, and getting well-paid for it.

I disagree.  I think my life is already over --and the indifference of
people in Buddhist institutions (big and small, even including
yourself) is a large part of what has destroyed my life.

[Note that I never once spoke in terms of the difficulty of "getting paid for it", because I genuinely did not think of the problem this way (and my motivations were not so mercenary!)… whereas she does view the issue in this way, first and foremost.]

> …and your work experience was
> also.

No, Chris, you're wrong: NOBODY looks at my C.V. and is impressed.

THE ONLY PEOPLE who could be impressed are people inside Buddhist
institutions --the same people who have slammed the door in my face
and refused to help me for so many years.  If a dedicated Buddhist
studies department looks at my C.V. and DOES NOT want to help me, who
do you think DOES want to help me?  In what discipline, or in what
type of work, is my C.V. impressive?  It is only impressive to
Buddhists --and Buddhism is a disaster.

I regret --utterly regret-- that I ever became involved with this religion.

The Buddhists I have known (as people) have made me ashamed that I
ever called myself a Buddhist.

> Maybe you want to help a Buddhist
> organization…

Why don't you try to name one Buddhist organization --ANYWHERE IN THE
WORLD-- that would employ me.  The answer is: there isn't one anywhere.

> You can blame "Buddhism" all you like, but it
> won't change anything.

No, Chris, you're wrong: I have changed things.  My absence changes
things.  The number of white men who can read Pali is amazingly close
to zero.  When I quit, it becomes even closer to zero.  Buddhism
desperately needs honest scholars.  By discarding me, it DOES change
things.  Ten good scholars --alive in the same century-- would make a
huge difference.  One scholar quitting does matter (because the total
number is so few).  My presence made a difference when I was present,
and my absence makes a difference now that I'm gone.

The number of white men with combined expertise in Pali, Lao,
Cambodian, the history, the politics, etc. etc. is really zero.

Buddhism lost an asset when it lost me; nobody cared, and (even now)
nobody cares.

I don't blame "Buddhism" for anything it is not guilty of; my
complaints are neither poorly-informed nor spurious.  Sadly, I am an
expert in the things I am reviling.


Thursday 29 July 2021

I am (still) working on the book full time (i.e., No More Manifestos).

I had thought I was at the stage of final editing --just removing a few typos, etc.-- but I now can read the book as a whole (from start to finish) and I find that the first few chapters are not as well written as the final few --and so more revisions will ensue.

I do think that all of the changes now will be stylistic, rather than substantive, but as the month of July comes to an end, the book is not (yet) finished.

Tuesday 13 July 2021

Don't Make Excuses for People who Make Excuses: the Slogan, the T-Shirt, the Lifestyle.

Did I coin this slogan?  According to Google, I did: this is one of many (MANY!) turns of phrase that the internet has no record of before I said it… although it seems as if it should be in common usage (frankly, it seems as if you might find it printed on a t-shirt!).

Whenever I search for this kind of thing, I'm wondering, "Did somebody say that in a movie I saw as a child… ?" --i.e., I'm wondering if I really made it up myself, or if there's some familiar source for it that escapes me.

Tuesday 15 June 2021

Book Review: Troy Parfitt's Critique of Jordan Peterson in, "The Devil and His Due".

[In my interview with the author (in the video above) I repeatedly hinted at my skepticism about what the author did and how he did it… well, in this short review, I'm not just hinting, but stating the problem much more explicitly.]

(1) The book does identify a great deal of Peterson's "source material", i.e., the books that influenced his work --with many of these being books that Peterson openly says that he's a big fan of, but a few of the most important being covert (rather than overt) sources of inspiration.  This is a significant contribution.

(2) I did interview the author myself (for my youtube channel) and I felt he gave a better presentation of his views in that interview than he does on paper (perhaps because I was challenging him to do so, stating skeptical questions, asking about more than one possible interpretation of the evidence, etc.).  The book undermines its own premise more often than it supports it, veering off topic (e.g., did we really need this long digression on Fyodor Dostoevsky?), and making little to no effort to prove the connection between the author's symbolic interpretations and Peterson's (genuinely incoherent) source material.  Occam's razor always favors dismissing Peterson's "philosophy" as having no hidden meaning (and no clear intent) in his writing/lectures at all; yes, even in Peterson's most provocative statements about Hitler, these could have no significance beyond the professor's struggle to keep the attention of his students, they could really be nothing more than the efforts of a boring, middle-aged man trying to seem edgy and interesting in his interviews, when he really has very little of substance to say.

(3) To be blunt: the author asserts, "this is the symbolic significance of Horus, Osiris and Marduk in Peterson's work…" --but does he prove the assertion?  No.  Does he make it seem credible or compelling?  No, not at all.  Is it possible, instead, that Peterson has no philosophy whatsoever in his (extensive, incoherent) use of occult imagery?  Yes: it could just be stupid.  And it could be that what Peterson has to say about Hitler is stupid as well. 

(4) However, returning to point #1, he does establish the sources Peterson was inspired by, in his incoherent commentary on Horus, Marduk, Communism, Fascism, etc. --and, again, this is a significant contribution.  

(5) If you're willing to "edit" the book yourself, by skipping over many pages, this could still be a good purchase for you… but if a professional editor from the old school had been involved, the text would be less than half as many pages long as it now is (perhaps one third).  Alternately, if the book were edited to meet academic standards of methodology, it would need to be rewritten much more radically, to explain to the reader why and how it is proving what it does at every stage --and with what implications and what limitations.  

(6) In our interview, he said just a few words about his socio-linguistic approach to tracking the common (i.e., derivative) use of vocabulary and phrasing between sources (i.e., Peterson either intentionally or unintentionally reproduces the same expressions found in books that have influenced him, including odd phrases used by Hitler).  The book utterly fails to explain this, and fails to make meaningful the innumerable pages of parallel quotations comparing Peterson's phrasing to Hitler's --and for the vast majority of readers, this will (fairly or unfairly) discredit the book at a glance.

Wednesday 2 June 2021

Satire or flattery?


No, I did not create this image myself.  I assume it was created with satirical intent, but hey… if you know the source material, it comes pretty close to flattery.

Source 1:

Source 2:

On Failure.


Thursday 27 May 2021

The Right and the Wrong, the Rich and the Poor.


I won't dilate the issue infinitely, but it may be worthwhile to pause to imagine just how nearly-infinite the expansion of the issue could be.

What I find about the left is that they will use the name of the poor (and the idea of poverty) without actually taking the slightest interest in who the poor are, or what they want.

You know, I studied Cree and Ojibwe at First Nations University (this is on my C.V.).  I could say something similar about the left wing's interest (or lack of interest) in the indigenous people: they are interested only in the symbol of what these people are supposed to represent, not the reality of who they are.

The left dehumanizes the very people they pretend to champion.

In the United States of America today, who is more Christian, the rich or the poor?

In the United States of America today, who is more racist, the rich or the poor?

And the poor: what is their perspective on the decriminalization of drugs?  And on border control?  And on immigration?  And on transgender hormone replacement therapy?  And on practically every issue that the "urban sophisticates" of the left wing imagine themselves to have the sole, morally-correct position on?

Poverty becomes a pretext for a left-wing agenda that has nothing to do with who "the poor" are, or what they want.  The left will claim that the world could only be improved by giving all of the United States the same permissive policies toward addictive drugs that Seattle already has --while, in fact, it is the poor who suffer most by living in close proximity to the drug addicts, and who most need the police to enforce the laws to make their neighborhoods inhabitable.  The residents of Calabasas, behind their high walls, can endure decriminalization; I, in my neighborhood, cannot.

And if we care about improving sewage treatment, or the healthcare system, or the university education system, whose opinion do we turn to?  Is it the poor who know the answers to how we should reform any given institution?  No, inevitably, we turn to someone with expertise or experience salient to the problem, and it is extraordinarily rare if the person with that expertise is poor --even police reform is entirely the domain of educated elites.

From my own biased perspective, the irony is that the quality of education in the United States and Canada is SO ABYSSAL that the rich have no advantage over the poor: people with university diplomas know little more than high school graduates in this culture.  So, we have a situation of "hollow elitism", in which the opinions of the rich and well-educated are esteemed for nothing.

I would warn you, again, that I am probably more "left wing" (policy by policy) than you imagine me to be: but I am extremely cynical about the things left wingers are idealistic about.

Meanwhile, if you look at the politics of any foreign country (i.e., that the observer has sufficient detachment about) you'll immediately sympathize with the wealthiest, western-educated elite, rather than the poor, or rather than the populist leaders who pander to the poor.

Thanathorn here was educated at NYU's Stern School of Business, and I think you'll find him more sympathetic than the rural poor who voted to continue to be ruled by a military dictatorship!


Saturday 22 May 2021

[From 2006!] On the Misinterpretation of the Philosophy of Max Stirner.

Oh, you want the "TL;DR" version?  Max Stirner's philosophy has become less obscure in the years since 2006, when I wrote this uncompromising critique of the only available version of the text in English, and sent it directly to the author of the introduction, David Leopold (who is also credited as the text's translator, but I suspect he merely revised the wording of someone else's translation).  Leopold actually received this and replied to it (by email) and I daresay he seemed mildly horrified.  Perhaps you will be, too.  THE PHILOSOPHY OF MAX STIRNER IS LARGELY MISUNDERSTOOD IN ENGLISH, and it certainly doesn't help that (1) the translation is poor, and (2) THE INTRODUCTION TO THE BOOK IS EXTREMELY DISHONEST AND MISLEADING!

(The youtube video, linked above, was recorded by a younger version of myself in 2017, living in exotic Yunnan, China… whereas the text that ensues below was written by an even younger version of myself, in 2006, living in Vientiane, Laos!)


... [T]urning to the introduction provided by David Leopold (Ibidem, pg. xxxi), we find a badly flawed sketch of this important aspect of Stirner's work:

[Leopold:] ... [W]hen Stirner talks of the egoist being 'owner' of the world it seems simply to indicate the absence of obligations on the egoist --a bleak and uncompromising vision that he captures in an appropriately alimentary image:

[Leopold quoting Stirner:] Where the world comes in my way -- and it comes in my way everywhere -- I consume it to the quiet hunger of my egoism. For me you are nothing but -- my food, even as I too am fed upon and turned to use by you. We have only one relation to each other, that of usableness, of utility, of use. We owe each other nothing. (p. 263)

Leopold has disingenuously foisted this interpretation onto the source text. The sup- posedly "bleak and uncompromising vision" that he alludes to on page 263 is in fact a description of a bird singing in a tree for the sheer joy of creating its own song; the image is not "bleak", but positively ebullient. Stirner's words immediately preceding the quotation that Leopold has taken out of context are as follows:

Thursday 29 April 2021

Make Reading Productive: a Practical Philosophy of Education.

[This was written in reply to an extremely flattering letter from a viewer: a young man who explained how his life had profoundly changed due to the influence of my youtube channel.  He had quit playing video games (having described himself as being, previously, "a video game addict"), and really devoted himself to the study of politics and philosophy, beginning from a very low level.  He wrote in asking broadly for advice, and quite possibly expecting "recommended reading" in reply.]

Hi _____,

Well, you are writing to me at an opportune time, as I'm in the process of trying to complete my book, "No More Manifestos".

Many chapters (not all) are already available within Patreon, and you can use the app's search function to hunt them down.

Here's the final text of chapter 1, for example:

So, I will re-interpret your question as follows:

"What should I do, to develop my own acumen and abilities, within the constraints of being a university student (busy studying ______) in _______?"

Most people would tell you to devote yourself to "reading", and would then provide you with a reading list.  There are many, many reasons why this is not what I'm going to do (I'm a critic of "recommended reading", and I'm even a critic of reading itself, to a definite extent).

I think that for someone in your situation (and for most people with a full time job, etc.) the primary question is, instead, of "How can I make reading productive?", and then how that process of reading, researching, learning, doubting, discussion, questioning, etc., can be part-and-parcel of a meaningful life.

You know, there are people who live in a cave (i.e., alone, in the wilderness) and study Buddhist philosophy: they never learn what I've learned about Buddhism.  A great deal of what is recommended (both by academia, and "here" on youtube) is really just equivalent to encouraging people to seal themselves up in a cave, of one sort or another.

The people who give this advice rarely even reflect on their own process of learning, and the extent to which very non-cave-like aspects (and very non-textual aspects) of the learning process were important to them.  The importance is attributed to the book itself, as if it were a graven idol, that could impart wisdom to us, as a reward for our devotion to it.

Many, many people on the left wing do indeed study politics in much the same way as a Buddhist eremite in a cave "studies" Buddhism, and they emerge from their caves more disconnected from reality than ever before --but, of course, utterly devoted to the particular book (or guru) that they imagine to be the source of all wisdom (and all hope for a better society in the future).

(On the right wing, this is true of some of the libertarians, but I wouldn't say there's any directly comparable pattern among "moderate conservatives", who more commonly approach politics with the assumption that they've got nothing to learn.)

What is it that makes reading productive?

Instead of a huge pile of books (qua "input"), with no clear "output", I think it's important to divide the process into a series of projects, where you pick up and handle the information you're learning as an instrument.

Instead of studying Buddhism (as a whole, for example), imagine if someone took up a specific project looking at (i) prostitution, (ii) police corruption, and then (iii) what Buddhist leaders say about it (in an intensely Buddhist society like Thailand or Myanmar) and (iv) how Buddhists are actually involved in it.  The religiosity of corrupt police officers in Thailand, the relationship between pimp and prostitute and Buddhist temple, is a specific topic that could produce a specific article, essay or youtube video --and if someone took that up as their first task in the study of Buddhism, they would learn more than reading a tome of "philosophy" in a cave, precisely because (1) what they're learning is directly connected to problems in the real world and (2) because they're making the process of learning productive, by applying what they know to a kind of problem-solving mode of thought.

Imagine the difference between examining puzzles in an art gallery, fully assembled, and handling the puzzle pieces yourself.  Learning ("active research" leading to "an informed opinion") has more to do with the process of handling puzzle pieces than it has to do with staring at them.  Thus, I'm a critic of reading as such.

And, of course, there's the crucial problem of having someone let you know when you've assembled the puzzle pieces all wrong: we do not learn from making mistakes, but from noticing mistakes.  Sometimes we can notice our own mistakes, ourselves, but more often we need someone to discuss our research with --and even if they know less about it than we do, the discussion itself could draw our attention to errors we've made, contrary sources/perspectives we've overlooked, etc.

So, this is also part of the praxis of dividing up the near-infinite mountain of reading into a series of small, specific projects, that have definite "output": the output you create can be seen/heard/read by other people (even if it just a circle of five friends you've got, or friends you'll meet in the process) who can then point out to you mistakes you've made, or limitations and shortcomings of your approach.

Many people would tell you to build up a wall of books you've read, and then try to develop some sophistication toward the wall as a whole.  I am telling you, instead, that it's important to develop a sophisticated attitude toward each brick, one at a time, as it goes into the wall, and to regard the whole process of learning as part and parcel of a meaningful life.

And this meaningful life is something that reading must add to, not subtract from.  It can't be that you're imposing on yourself, and suffering to do the research because it is detracting from everything meaningful in your life: the strategy of making reading productive is, in effect, that the reading becomes a positive and rewarding part of your life --something you're positively motivated to do (even if it is only on the weekend, only in the limited spare time that your university classes (or job) allows you to have, etc.).

I talked to two different viewers recently who made the mistake of "being inspired by" my youtube channels in the following manner: they bought a copy of Aristotle's Ethics, and began reading it, from cover to cover.  (I believe only one of the two finished the book, before complaining to me.)

Now, firstly, I have never endorsed or suggested such a thing (although I've made many youtube videos about Aristotle).  Nor do I suggest, for example, that anyone should sit and read the Bible from cover to cover.

Now, as it happens, Aristotle's Ethics is a terrible book, with only a few pages that are worth reading, as it happens, and even then, the few (interesting) pages are only significant because they allow us to compare what he said in his books on Politics and Rhetoric to a different account.  However, if you want to really learn something from Aristotle's Ethics, you'd need some specific project, with some specific purpose, and some kind of "output" (an article, a youtube video, etc.).

You would need, in this way, to bring a problem-solving purpose to the book.

My method here can be discovered by any jejune person, spontaneously.  Suppose someone told you that they had been forced to read the Bible as a child, and found it utterly boring.  However, as an adult, the idea occurred to them that they would research the question of slavery in the Bible ("once and for all") to discover what exactly the Bible said on the topic, and how this fit into the history of Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and misc. political movements to abolish slavery (and attempts to defend the institution of slavery, in response).  Now suppose this person wanted to write an article, or create a youtube video, summing up their conclusions --perhaps they'd discover a number of specific issues along the way that were unexpectedly interesting, and resulted in youtube videos just dealing with that specific topic.

Perhaps some of the issues were "parallel", rather than "intersecting", e.g., this researcher then might well wonder about the history of the abolition of slavery in China, Thailand and Japan (countries where Christianity and Islam were not factors at all in a "parallel" process).

Now, suddenly, the study of the Bible seems fascinating, and not because of anything inherent in the text: the book doesn't exist as an idol to enlighten us (as a reward for our devotion to it), but merely as an instrument that we take up in our own hands, in the process of solving a problem (or answering a series of questions) --and that will, indeed, involve challenging the book, and challenging our own assumptions, by consulting and comparing a variety of sources.

It is significant (and not merely a cultural curiosity, I think) that the easiest way for people to express how they've become sophisticated (politically, philosophically, etc.) is through a series of negations.  They can tell you a series of things they used to believe in, and how they challenged or overturned them, by learning something else.  They were Communist and became ex-Communist, or they were muslim and became ex-muslim, etc.

It is much more difficult to express the process positively: what was the combination of doubt and curiosity that demanded exercise, and how exactly did you exercise it?  I have tried, in this reply, to start explaining to you that process of exercise.

Someone like James Boswell was able, in his time, to publish every stray thought that entered his head in a newspaper: the most casual nonsense that he'd thought up (about politics, etc.) he could publish, from a very early age (certainly, long before his first hit book) and he was then able to surround himself with people who would "entertain" his opinions, and sometimes challenge him, in a salon of ideas.  I will admit my bias: from my perspective, Boswell was a very stupid man, and, also, morally evil.  However, in his manner of living, you can see how effortlessly he "made reading productive"; if he lifted a finger to research the Constitution of Corsica, he was rewarded with a tremendous amount of both publication and feedback.

Here, in Canada, Newspapers are dead.  The body of the book publishing industry is an emaciated shadow of what it formerly was.  Uploading to youtube is one way to approach the problem; having a circle of colleagues in a Facebook group (or equivalent) is another.

There is no point having "output" without "input": there's no point in having a book review channel, if you don't actually read books.  However, most educators are reluctant to say the opposite: there's no point in reading the book if you aren't motivated by some particular purpose --such as a book review, or such as researching some particular topic, to produce some kind of thesis, etc.