Sunday 30 April 2023

"I am also a clown", addressed to Professor Robert Yelle (Dr. Robert A. Yelle)


I notice that you have not been willing to read even 1,000 words of my own writing, nor to watch a single youtube video, in terms of "reciprocating" this intellectual exchange.

You do realize that I read your paper (in full) when you sent it to me, yes?

Do you not think basic human decency might entail that you show SOME interest in what I've done with my life in the last ten years, whether by asking a question, or by reading something I've written, or by listening to some monologue or another I've posted to the internet?

I've reached an audience of roughly seven million views (which is not seven million viewers, I note) all of whom showed more interest in me than you have.

Perhaps you do not find me an interesting person, and perhaps you do not find my stories of Laos, Cambodia, Yunnan, etc., to be of any substance at all, etc. —but there is really something remarkable for you to reflect on, in just how self-centered you've been in this conversation.

You did not answer anything I said about Machiavelli or Harrington's "Commonwealth of Oceana".

It wouldn't take any great depth of character on your part to show some interest in that —even if you had the most haughty and contemptuous attitude imaginable toward what I've done with my life.

Now let me be frank: when I put your name into youtube, what do I see?

How many people do you think have read your published work, Robert?  How many do you suppose ever will, in the next century?  I used to work in the non-fiction book publishing industry: I know how small the numbers are for subjects far more popular than yours.  Your audience is measured in the dozens, and the metrics on youtube demonstrate this fact.

I am a real intellectual, and you know it, but I'm also a clown, e.g., the following, and please note that this video is only three minutes long:

Now look: I taught myself Pali without a teacher, and I taught myself Laotian while sleeping under a mosquito net, chopping firewood to boil the drinking water, and having no electricity in Northern Laos, etc. —I have lived a remarkable life (that you take zero interest in) being "a real intellectual" without any of the support of the academic establishment that you take for granted.

But I'm also a clown: my virtues are not intellectual only —nor are they emotional only —nor are they ethical only.

Really re-examine what your attitude has been in this correspondence: you take and take and take, giving nothing in return —not even curiosity.  And this has been my experience with you for decades now: I can look back at the correspondence you sent me when I was in Taiwan and say —genuinely— that you're an utterly despicable human being.  At some point, Robert, you have to give, instead of taking; and giving involves caring about people, learning from people, and taking an interest in what they're interested in —even if that is just allowing the conversation to expand to include Machiavelli and Harrington (rather than just your monomania for Hobbes).

Robert: do you think you're going to meet ten people more brilliant than I am in the next ten years?  I hope you do.  I hope you meet twenty.  I've seen that video of you "livestreaming" with your assembled colleagues and graduate students: those people don't have enough brilliance to find their way out of a paper bag.  You're surrounded by bureaucrats pretending to be intellectuals, and on some level, you know it.

Why did you send me this essay about Hobbes in the first place?  Were you expecting the same kind of cow-eyed flattery that you get from your graduate students?  You knew me as a Pali scholar, inasmuch as you knew me at all: there was something you wanted from me in this correspondence and you ONLY wanted that thing from me —thinking only of yourself, and what you could take, not what you could give.

Oh, and did this discussion turn out to be too emotionally disturbing for you?

Was it simply too hard for you to cope with someone expressing skepticism (true skepticism!) about your interpretation of Hobbes that would overturn the evidence of about 99% of what Hobbes had written, on the basis of an esoteric (and symbolic) interpretation of 1%?  Oh, perish the thought!  Perish the thought that you'd have to endure such skepticism, Robert!

You should certainly block my email and never speak to me again: certainly you should be the aggrieved party here, and I should be the one apologizing to you, not vice-versa —not after what happened during our last conversation (years ago) when I was in Taiwan, hm?

You imagine you have nothing to apologize for, hm?  You imagine that you have nothing to reflect on in this many-years-long non-relationship with me, and how it is you treated me when I reached out for the one kind of help you could have given that would have cost you nothing, i.e., advice in precisely the thing you're an expert in.  You imagine that you weren't haughty and contemptuous precisely when you should have been compassionate when I reached out to you, all those years ago, from Taiwan, hm?  Do you want me to send you those emails?  Do do you want to read them again and reflect on what kind of a man you are, and what kind of a man you've now become?

Collagen, Gelatin and Nihilism: Beyond the Vegan Perspective

I think it has to be acknowledged that we're getting out of the arena of science and into the arena of merely empirical experience —which is something I do not sneer at, but something that deserves a name and a category of its own that the English language does not quite have a term for.

To give an example: if I met a man who said that he struggled to sustain an erection during sex, but then found that drinking hot sauce massively improved his sex life, I would not tell him that he was hallucinating (nor would I dismiss this as pseudo-science) but I also would not really regard it as evidence that hot chili peppers have a scientifically real effect on blood circulation --nor would I regard it as an indication that the subjective experience of eating spicy food is erotic/arousing as some kind of universal fact.  If I met someone whose empirical experience was that drinking hot sauce really, directly, improved his sex life, I would treat that as an empirical reality, but I wouldn't generalize about it —I wouldn't try to construe it as something equivalent to a law of physics.

I have never, ever mentioned this on my youtube channel, for example, but when I switched from being vegetarian to being vegan, both my breathing improved and my eyesight improved, and this is most likely because my sinuses were slightly irritated by the low levels of dairy that had been in my diet before.  I have no explanation for the change, but my ability to breathe clearly through my nose really improved when I switched to being vegan, but it is possible that the improvement actually did not have a cause-and-effect relationship with my diet at all --and, of course, the improvement in my eyesight is even more bizarre and inexplicable (and I have to wonder myself if it is more perception than reality, if you know what I mean: did something about my own psychology change, rather than my physiology, at that time?).

So, in this way, I think there's a category of empirical experience, of things that one knows, but never really knows with the certainty of a law of physics.

If you were on a 100% vegan diet for six months, would your aforementioned health conditions get better or worse?

I think the truth is: you don't know.

Many, many people report drastic improvements in joint pain when they switch to a vegan diet, and the primary reason for this is reduced inflammation, but there are probably complex secondary reasons as well (a vegan diet improves just about everything, including the circulation of blood throughout the body, so… there can be a lot of little improvements in things like joint pain without a single, simple cause-and-effect explanation).  Of course, conversely, it could just be that some people who adopt the vegan diet are losing body fat and gaining muscle, and they attribute improvements in their joints to the diet, whereas its actually the result of weight-loss and overall improvement in health and strength —the list of conditions that are alleviated in mysterious ways with loss of body fat is very long indeed.

Will your joint pain get better or worse if you tried being on a vegan diet for six months?

The honest answer is: you don't know and I don't know.

It is possible your health would get worse in the specific ways you're worried about; but it is merely possible.

Now the following principle you will agree with: whatever makes broccoli healthy or unhealthy, good or bad, exists in the form of molecules within that broccoli.

We can put broccoli through a mass spectrometer analysis and figure out (atom by atom) what it is composed of: which vitamins, which minerals, etc.

If you ask me what it is that is healthy about broccoli, I can point to the molecules it is composed of.  No more, no less: it is as healthy as the chemical components it is comprised of.

Have you ever examined, skeptically, what chicken bone broth is composed of, in this way?

What is the molecule, or what is the chemical, precisely, that you think is uniquely (or distinctively) healthy about this particular foodstuff?

Many, many people claim that chicken eggs have some tremendously life-affirming property, but this is more perception than reality, it is more psychology than physiology: atom by atom, there's really nothing healthy in eggs —and, on the contrary, they are remarkably unhealthy.  This can be seen just by looking at their constituent parts, so to speak, atom by atom.

You seem to be confident that chicken broth is healthy for you, and even that it specifically benefits your joints.  

Do you actually believe gelatin is good for your health?  What is gelatin?  It's an incomplete protein.  Scientifically, why would it be healthier than (or have an effect different from) any other incomplete protein, or superior to a complete protein?  I will state this as a scientific fact: any complete protein (vegan or non-vegan) will be nutritionally superior to an incomplete protein.  Getting a complete protein from any vegan meal will be superior for the health of your whole body than an incomplete protein from gelatin in particular —and there is, chemically, nothing magical or special about gelatin.

Here is what wikipedia says about the matter, and I have not modified this in any way, aside from removing the links to the footnotes:


Some clinical studies report that the oral ingestion of hydrolyzed collagen decreases joint pain, those with the most severe symptoms showing the most benefit.

However, other clinical trials have yielded mixed results. In 2011, the European Food Safety Authority Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies concluded that "a cause and effect relationship has not been established between the consumption of collagen hydrolysate and maintenance of joints".  Four other studies reported benefit with no side effects; however, the studies were not extensive, and all recommended further controlled study. One study found that oral collagen only improved symptoms in a minority of patients and reported nausea as a side effect. Another study reported no improvement in disease activity in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. Another study found that collagen treatment may actually cause an exacerbation of rheumatoid arthritis symptoms.


There is no reason for Wikipedia to be the beginning or ending of anyone's research, but you must be aware: the link between gelatin and improved joint pain is dubious indeed —and reeks of what anthropologists would call "sympathetic magic".

In our culture, people believed (for centuries!) that the human body could not generate bones without eating the bones of other animals, and H.D. Thoreau refuted this by pointing out that the oxen on the farm were pulling your ploughshares with bones that they had generated from a diet of nothing but green grass.

I can repeat this with collagen.  What is collagen, etc.?

And then for both gelatin and collagen, I must ask: is there evidence that the human body cannot produce these things for itself, without reliance on an external source?

My body, for example, can produce all the testosterone it needs without eating testosterone (and note: I say "eating", not "injecting").  There is no easy argument to be made that for our bodies to produce a given chemical we must eat precisely that chemical: the opposite attitude (that we must eat bones to produce bones, etc.) is just sympathetic magic.

The art of being an old man is knowing what you do not know, and working with (rather than against) your own ignorance, productively: to live with doubt as an oar, on the side of the canoe, rather than being ballast in the bottom of the boat.

Saturday 29 April 2023

Nothing but praise: the culture of encouragement is an obstacle to political discourse.

The other problem here is the culture of praise on the internet: the pet people and the bikini people alike are accustomed to NOTHING BUT PRAISE pouring in through their instagram accounts, etc. —and, indeed, the people who hold cardboard signs and chant as a form of activism, likewise, are accustomed to an avalanche of praise at all time (from friends, family and from complete strangers on Facebook).

Now, indeed, some of that praise is motivated by the fact that people actually want to have sex with the women in bikinis, and they falsely imagine that flattery is the first step toward seduction… but there is also a lot of positivity simply for the sake of positivity ("you go girl!").

This could be seen even within the orgy of enthusiasm for Black Lives Matter, and the eagerness of white people to congratulate one another for making vague statements on the internet that they "stand with BLM", etc.

In both cases, my opposition (and genuine skepticism) is considered shocking and abhorrent: I was SKEPTICAL of B.L.M. many years before the scandals became public about what exactly they did with the money (and who exactly the founders were, and what their political agenda was, etc. etc.).  Those videos are still viewable on my youtube channel.

My point is not that I was right (and, of course, I was) but merely that my videos were perceived to be shocking and abhorrent for having an opinion at all —rather than having the "you go girl!" attitude of mindless encouragement.

As with B.L.M., so too (even more) with encouraging attitudes toward every kind of moronic vegan activism: if someone decides to devote years of their life and hundreds of thousands of dollars to providing hip replacement surgery for elderly cats at their "rescue shelter", they expect to her absolutely nothing but praise ("you go girl!").  I cannot say if this is more or less intense for the vegans whose method of activism is showing their bodies in bikinis —but, in any case, it is very intense all around.

This is the cultural context within which my critique emerges, and this is the cultural context into which my critique submerges as well.

Joey Carbstrong doesn't talk to me anymore.  James Aspey has communicated with me indirectly, but never directly.  Do you suppose these men are cowards?  They're imbeciles, but not cowards.  Even they must remain free from any contamination: any skepticism, any freedom of thought, must be assiduously avoided.

And, yes, we now get to look back at my career (over the last ten years, approximately) and ask the question of whether or not I would have been better off devoting myself to fawning over and flattering the likes of Izzy Davis, Tim Shieff and Hitomi Mochizuki, who always were "the natural leaders" of the vegan movement, not despite their stupidity, but because of it.

Would I have been better off, that's one question, would everyone else have been better off is quite another.

Friday 28 April 2023

A sacrifice on an altar: the same thing happened to Agamemnon's daughter.

Someone asked me about vivisection (and animal experimentation in lab research, generally) for the first time in (perhaps?) seven years.


[Member of the audience:] Regarding dissection being mandatory on invertebrates only, that is something that was confirmed to me by the Faculty (the courses wherein lab work involves mice, frogs, etc. are all optional, meaning I wouldn't be taking them) and further experimentation on animals is only done during one's MA (which one chooses the direction of; obviously, not the direction I'd be going in). Perhaps it sounds implausible to you (given that you speak of having to perform vivisection on frogs in high school even, which is something that hasn't been done here since before Yugoslavia ceased to exist), but it varies from country to country quite a bit, including simply due to the limited resources the Faculty has and the programs here generally being more focused on theory as a result. I've spoken to former students who also confirmed that other than one class involving the dissection of invertebrates, they haven't had any contact with experimentation/dissection/vivisection of animals.

I'm assuming you're still of the opinion that it isn't justifiable (due to having to dissect/kill invertebrates)? Are you of the opinion that no vegan should pursue a degree in biology until the circumstances surrounding the involvement of animals change?

My answer is that different people are playing different games by different rules: I think a university degree in biology is utterly worthless, whereas (e.g.) I think winning a war is worthwhile, so it's easier for me to imagine embracing the compromises and contradictions that military service would entail, in order to win a war, than to imagine making excuses for the ritualistic torture and murder of animals for a diploma in biology.  If you think that my assessment of the value of university education is impossibly bleak, you're right: a significant percentage of my book (N.M.M.) deals with just that —i.e., philosophy of education, with the options for the reform of our universities including "renovation" by the torch, and starting again on a heap of ashes.  You may be playing a different game by different rules, but no: I'm not playing the game where a professor tells me to torture animals to death and I pretend that I have no choice but to follow orders.  That's not a game I'm willing to play.  And I do have choices other than following those orders.

@à-bas-le-ciel  I thought that pursuing an education in biology as a vegan specifically could potentially be worthwhile (the paper you mentioned on the sentience of invertebrates had to be written by someone and likely isn't entirely worthless).

Ultimately, I don't think killing an animal (whether it be gastropods or what-have-you) is a compromise worth making in order to obtain a degree in biology either; going that route and eventually coming to the realization that the degree in question was utterly worthless would be incredibly bleak indeed and could very well happen (although you were speaking of your attitude towards the educational system more broadly, which I don't have a formed opinion on).

Either way, again, thank you for taking the time to offer your perspective on this.

[Further question from a different member of the audience:] What about the medication that comes out of these experiments? For context I know people in biology and virology. To justify it they use the reason I cited above. My girlfriend told me of another excuse a friend gave her yesterday for giving rats cancer, “they are born for it, so it’s ok”.

This person is vegetarian btw

The problem isn't whether the excuse is good or bad, IMO, the problem is that you're making an excuse at all —and what I reject is the excuse-making mentality as such —and belief as such —and the excuses are harder to quit than the thing itself. It isn't the case that killing a rat cures cancer: it is, rather, that you believe (or that you want to believe) that in some indirect and invisible way, its death contributes ("it helps"). A sacrifice on an altar: the same thing happened to Agamemnon's daughter.