Why and how to not plan for the future

One of my biggest personal strengths and weaknesses is that I am always thinking about the future. No matter what happens, I usually reflexively and automatically think: "What happens next?" I am not the sort of person to be satisfied with the status quo, and when I say that, I do not mean that I necessarily always want to change something, but rather that I always want to do something, and so no matter what I have done, even if I achieve something good, the accomplishment of the past or whatever positives I might have in the present seem less worth dwelling on than the possibilities for the future. I'm always thinking of what plans I could make.

This is a good thing in some ways, but it's also a bad thing, because it means that I am not capable of living in the moment. When I hear a bird singing a beautiful song outside, I wonder: Will people still hear such birdsong in 100 years? It's good, in some ways, to be able to plan your life and your future, but I have come to the realization that trying to plan your life is kind of a fool's errand, a leftover from a previous era. There once was a time when human beings could plan their lives, but that time is now gone. The era when a person could deliberately plan their own life--when they could enroll in a university, graduate after studying hard, get a good-paying job and work in that same job until a prosperous retirement--was a historical aberration; it was not the usual human condition, has never been, and never will be. It was a unique situation created by the unprecedented growth of the United States in the 20th century and the huge opportunities it brought to the people there. An event of similar scope will probably never happen again, ever, because such an event is no longer possible in our globalized world where everyone is expected to do insanely impossible things for negligible amounts of money. Trying to go back to that time is like trying to go back to the time when the development of the telephone opened up new opportunities for people. Those opportunities are gone, and they cannot be reproduced.

At various times, I have heard the advice that one should not plan one's life too precisely, and I am still trying to decide how I regard this advice. On the one hand, such advice seems completely counterintuitive: How could you undertake anything without some basic planning, without some fundamental knowledge of what you can do, what you must do, what you cannot do, what you must not do, what you want to do, what you don't want to do, what is helpful to do, what is unhelpful to do, what is meaningful to do, and what is not meaningful to do? The idea of not planning for one's future seems like literally the most foolish, wasteful, and dangerous thing a person could do. Here, I think, it is important to establish a balance between two extremes. When people say that you shouldn't plan too much for your future, what they mean is not that you should simply blindly go into the future without any thought for what could happen or what you want to do; the point is not that you should live without any thought for the future whatsoever. If you know that you need to pay your rent next month, don't just quit your job and get addicted to heroin with the excuse that "We don't know what's going to happen anyway". The point is rather that life is sometimes unpredictable, and relying on a set of precise plans and expecting that those plans will lead to a realization matching the sequence of events in your head could be a way of setting yourself up for failure, because if any point in that chain of events goes awry, it could derail that entire set of plans. Here we may find wisdom from perhaps the unlikeliest of sources, the notorious 2003 film The Room, in which the protagonist, in a moment of (in)decision, simply concludes: "Don't plan too much; it may not come out right." Say what you will of the rest of the movie, but in that one moment, he had it right.

It might be more accurate to say "Don't rely on your plans too much" rather than "Don't plan too much". The point is not that you shouldn't plan, but rather that you should avoid assuming that whatever you have planned will unfold as you've planned it. In fact, in a way, this is not a mistake of planning too much, but rather of planning too little, because you've neglected to consider what you'll do if the plan fails. When you plan to succeed, you also need to plan to fail, in the sense that you need to be prepared for what to do if the plan goes awry. You need to have alternative plans--a Plan B, a Plan C, and so on--because investing all of your future in a single, vulnerable plan is endangering your entire future. If you invest all you have in one single prospect, you'll be left with nothing and no way forward if that prospect suddenly hits a dead-end.

All of this having been said, however, it would be misleading to suggest that you can avoid the problem of planning too much by having backup plans. Certainly, a "single point of failure" is always a huge risk, which is why critical systems are built with redundant parts which will keep working even if one set of parts breaks down. But the problem is not just the risk involved in having one plan; at a deeper level, one of the fundamental problems with planning is that it leaves you closed off to possibilities. If a new opportunity shows up in your life, you may be tempted to reject it too quickly if it does not seem to match with (one of) your plan(s). In this way, you might miss out on some of the best opportunities you'll ever come across simply because you are too ready to say no to anything which doesn't align with what you think you want. If you've never done something before, it may be worth trying it just to see how it works. Maybe it will open a new door for you which you'd never considered before.

So if you ask the entirely reasonable question "If I don't plan for my life, what am I supposed to do instead?", the answer is fairly clear: Be open to opportunities and possibilities. Be flexible. Be ready to try something new. Don't reject everything which doesn't match your own narrowly-defined vision, because often, people limit themselves by adhering too closely to one vision. This doesn't mean that you should be ready and willing to do anything and everything; if someone suggests to you that you might not yet have considered a lucractive career stealing cars, you could reasonably say that this is something which you're not willing to try for a while to see how it works out. I'm not saying that you need to be open to everything. A big part of life is learning when to say yes and when to say no.

In a way, everything in life is an opportunity. Every single person in the world could be a potential friendship, or perhaps something more, a potential partner in romance, business, art, or something else. Every location in the world is a possible place to do something: If you can do something in Place X, you can probably also do it in Place Y. (There are exceptions, of course; there are many things which can only be done in a few very specific places in the world or even just one place in the entire world, but if that is the case, consider how much you want to take on the risk of endeavoring to do something which is dependent on you being in one particular place, as that is a future risk if you ever end up relocating or wanting to relocate.) Every object could be a resource, every idea could lead to insight, and every action could have positive or negative consequences. Keep your eyes open for possibilities, because they might show up where and when you don't expect them.

Okay, to be fair, there are a few caveats to this idea. First of all, for all of this inspiring pep-talk, the reality is that most of your life will probably consist of doing the basic things you need to do to survive. Our need to secure food and housing for ourselves is a constant in the human experience, and there are only a very few lucky folks who manage to escape this existential routine. But many people will be lucky enough to have moments of personal time, periods in your life where you don't need to just keep chasing survival, and the question is how to make the most of those moments. Here I wish to mention another point, namely that you want to avoid becoming a schemer. When people constantly think of "pursuing opportunity", they become greedy, and everyone hates seeing these people: Smooth-talking, manipulative opportunists who see everyone as something to exploit for their own gain, people who exist only to use everyone and everything for their own ends. If you look at a lot of "businesspeople", this tends to be how they spend most of their lives: Talking to people and trying to convince those people, in some form or another and for one reason or another, to make a deal with them which is primarily motivated by money. It is true that to some extent, "being ready for opportunity" also means deliberately and actively creating and cultivating opportunity, but one of life's great balancing acts is having enough self-interest to take care of your own needs without becoming so self-centered that you forget how to be a good citizen. Yes, you need to think of your own needs, because no one else is going to do it for you, but you also need to allow other people opportunities and possibilities as well. When it feels like the whole world is against you (and everyone has that feeling often), it's difficult to be a good person by letting people have something when they don't seem to have done anything to deserve it.

And finally, nothing of what I've said here negates the idea that if you are very sure that there is one thing which you really want to do with your life, then you should pursue that goal. The point isn't that you should avoid making goals for yourself, but rather that you should be mentally and emotionally open to alternatives and possibilities which you might not have considered. The point is not that you shouldn't be an active agent in forming your own life, but rather that you should understand that your ability to see the future is limited, and sometimes, things will happen to you which surprise you, in both positive and negative ways, and you need to be ready for those surprises so that you can benefit from the good surprises which life brings your way and recover from the negative ones. No matter how intelligent, perceptive, and creative you are, your vision for the future will probably significantly deviate from the actual future. That is just a normal part of the human condition, and we need to be ready for it, whatever happens.

You are beautiful

I tend to like quiet people. I dislike chatterboxes who constantly speak without any content in their words. When a person says something, I want there to be some specific intent behind their words, some meaning which other people can benefit from, because if there isn't any point in talking, then why do it? On the other hand, I recognize that there are people who feel the opposite way: There are people who like small talk and who feel uncomfortable when someone they're with doesn't talk much; some people may even get the feeling that a quiet person doesn't like them. I've met people who later had the impression that I disliked them simply because I didn't talk to them a lot, even though my reason for not talking to them was perfectly mundane: I had nothing to say. I find it attractive when a person only speaks when they have something to say, and I think that such people are the "best" people, but I recognize that there are others who feel differently. What I might find beautiful and virtuous, other people would feel negatively about, and vice-versa.

I mention this because I sometimes have concerns that people will read some of my writings and come away with a negative impression, as if I have insulted people by suggesting that they should be beheaded and turned into dog food or fertilizer. I state my opinions clearly because I do not want any ambiguity to be present, but although some people may not believe me, the honest truth is that I have never intended to insult, offend, or trouble anyone with anything I have ever written. I have certainly criticized various ideas, practices, and lifestyles, because I do not see any point in holding back with my opinions. There are certain things which I hate, but I do not hate the people who do them.

Again, what some people find beautiful, others will find horrifying, and vice-versa. There are certain people I have great respect and admiration for whom other people would dislike or even hate, because I see the beauty in those people; I am able to see their virtue in a way that other people don't. The inverse is equally true: There are people for whom I do not have any particular respect but who have the admiration of other people who are attuned to whatever qualities those people might have. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and if Person X doesn't find you beautiful, then Person Y will. If I have ever insulted you personally with anything I've ever written (which is probably the case, since I have at various points denigrated all of humanity globally), then know that I am just one person, and whoever you are, there is someone, somewhere, who can see the beauty in you and thinks that you are beautiful. If I have failed to see this beauty, the fault is mine, not yours. The fact that you should be put to death is merely a logical consequence of the human condition: All human beings deserve death. It's nothing personal.

Why I keep fighting for the underdog

There is a natural human instinct to defend a perceived "underdog". People do not like to see a smaller, weaker, or poorer entity unfairly disadvantaged against a larger or otherwise stronger opponent, and so there is a natural sense of "justice" which posits that all people should be on the same level and that no one may be allowed to have an unfair advantage. While I understand people's aversion to injustice and abhor it myself, I find the present-day obsession with "equality" and "equal rights" a bit misplaced. Just because someone has an advantage of some kind, that in itself does not automatically mean that that person should be punished or penalized to "take them down a peg". As Gandhi famously said (or at least, is said to have said), "An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind", and similarly, taking everyone down a peg every time they get a leg up will ensure that everyone always stays at the bottom. I understand that people who lack are naturally jealous of those who have, but that in itself doesn't justify striking down anyone who is "successful", because that would mean that no one may ever succeed.

What must be understood is that there is no intrinsic relationship between a person's level of power and their personal character. Some people like to imagine that the elite are naturally more classy and refined than the underclass, and some people imagine precisely the opposite, namely that the elite are greedy, evil, and corrupt while the underclass are good-hearted, generous people. In reality, neither of these are true. Most people, whether consciously or unconsciously, seek out whatever is to their advantage, and if power is ever given to people who did not previously have power, it is unlikely that they will use it wisely, since they have never learned how to use it. If Group A oppresses Group B, and Group B is somehow liberated or empowered such that they must no longer experience such oppression, they will not enter a new era of peace and harmony; Group B will simply begin to oppress Group A instead. The fact that a particular person or group is the underdog does not make them somehow more virtuous or more deserving of freedom or victory; it simply means that at a particular point in time, they were disadvantaged.

All of this being the case, I have a tendency to support groups which oppose the most powerful group. I mean this on a global scale rather than on any kind of smaller scale. I don't oppose any political group or head of state within one particular country, but on the global scene, I believe that it is very important for human beings to have options. The Cold War was, in many ways, a great period in history because it had two real viable groups who were about equal in power--at least, equal enough that neither of them could just arbitrarily do or say whatever they wanted to do. For everyone who was sick of one side, there was a real viable alternative on the other side. That's something which the world lacks today.

This is why I keep fighting for the underdog. It really has nothing to do with wanting to see the underdog win. In fact, I don't want to ever see anybody win. That's exactly why I do it: There can never be any permanent "victory", because if there were, then the world would be controlled by just one ideology, and that would be terribly unbalanced. There must always be conflict between human beings, and for that conflict to function effectively, there must always be a force which acts against whatever is the strongest force at any given moment. I don't mean resistance in the coarse, brutal way of many revolutionaries, throwing stones at police and setting buildings on fire; I abhor wanton destruction and chaos. By a force which counters the "main" or most powerful force, I mean verbal and ideological opposition, so that there may be a "war of ideas" in which ordinary people may participate.

This is why I have repeatedly written strong diatribes against the current political "left" over the past few years. I do not mean to imply, with such writings, that the political "right" is better in any inherent way, but at this point, the right is so disadvantaged that there must be some movement in that direction to maintain a balance of power. I do not intend for my blog (or anything else I write or say) to be a mouthpiece for the right wing; I merely intend to prevent one side from becoming too powerful. If I lived in Germany during the late 1930s, I would probably have taken the opposite side, not because the political "left" is in any way more virtuous than whatever it opposes, but simply because I abhor extremism. Today, the picture is inverted: Today, the Western so-called "liberal" ideology is the prevailing social and political ideology around the world, and this is precisely why it must be opposed so urgently: Not because there is anything inherently wrong with it, but in order to prevent any one group from becoming too large and powerful. It's nothing personal; it is just our practical reality.

Who is manipulating our children?

Some time ago, I saw a sticker of the sort which young people often like to plaster their cities with bearing the text: "The climate crisis won't wait until you're done with high school." And of course, I had to ask myself: What is really the point of this message?

On the surface, of course, the intended message is very obvious: The climate crisis is urgent, the most pressing emergency which humanity faces today, so act now, young person! Abandon your plans of a higher education, and go out onto the streets and protest and demonstrate instead, for that is what you need to be doing now! But I couldn't help asking myself: Who is behind this message? Someone must have thought up this slogan and gone to the trouble of having stickers printed bearing this message, and then someone else (probably a different person) had to go out with a pack of such stickers and start sticking them to various points of the city. Who were these people, and what motivations did they have?

I do not deny the climate crisis. I am aware of its urgency and its potential impact for humanity in the not-too-distant future, and I agree that something must be done about it. But much of the activism surrounding this issue has been driven by people who are so young that they are literally children, people with absolutely no political experience and usually very little understanding of anything to do with politics; the fact that propaganda stickers are now quite directly and explicitly targeting people who haven't even graduated from high school makes this clear. These stickers are literally for children, but who is behind them? Who is manipulating our children, telling them to abandon their studies and make a lifestyle out of protesting in the streets?

In many cases, perhaps, the answer is simply: Other children. Was the sticker I saw put there by a high-school-age youth as a message to their peers? Perhaps it was. But it seems difficult to imagine that the whole movement is being driven by them. School-age children usually lack the time, money, and know-how to organize large-scale global protests, and this suggests that there is some group of adults who are orchestrating these movements and using children as gullible targets for propaganda. Greta Thunberg has often been described as a pawn or a puppet being manipulated by a shadowy conspiracy who use the face of an earnest child to influence public opinion (Thunberg turned 18 this year and is thus legally an adult now, but she was legally a child when she became famous), and this has led to extensive speculation on who is behind such activities. While it seems to be the case that Thunberg's motivations are sincere, i.e. she really believes what she says and is not just repeating what someone else told her to say, it is also clear that she received extensive help from a group of adults whose identities are not made public, and this, again, leads people to wonder, not without justification, who is manipulating our children.

The problem is not the message itself. As I've said, the climate crisis is, without a doubt, urgent, and much more needs to be done to reduce the human population. But it seems somehow underhanded to manipulate impressionable young children and tell them that they need to wholeheartedly embrace a specific cause as the most important in the world, even if it is the most important issue in the world. Part of the purpose of education is to teach children how to think for themselves, how to form their own opinion in a world full of propaganda, and a message which exhorts children to abandon school and join a movement where everyone shares the same opinion is tantamount to putting them into a cult where they can easily be indoctrinated with whatever message the puppeteers wish to instill in those young minds. To be sure, the end may be worthy, but the means are questionable. It might not even be so bad if all this protesting actually achieved anything, but it is so plainly obvious that it doesn't: The climate crisis does not become averted by people marching on the street and waving placards. It's really just a convenient excuse to get an extra day off school, and the appeal of being able to get away with this is, again, one of the biggest hooks for children to join the movement.

I hope that it is clear that I have no intention to diminish the importance and urgency of climate change and our need to drastically reduce the global population. I merely wish to point out that there are people who are exploiting that crisis to fuel their own sociopolitical goals and gain a form of "soft power" which is highly influential because it is being instilled into people from a very early age, and then repeated to them endlessly, which is the surest way to create fanaticism. It would be foolish to deny the crisis, but it would be equally foolish to deny the existence of dishonest people who will always exploit a crisis to win public favor and take control of the public narrative. Be aware, and don't be deceived.

The destroyers of culture

The national elections recently took place in Germany, and I have not had much to say on the matter, as the election was fairly clear-cut, and most of what could be said about it has already been said more than enough times by major media outlets. Within the context of the election, however, I did have the surreal experience of seeing this particular election placard while walking in Berlin:

Das retten, was Berlin ausmacht: Kultur

The German text "Das retten, was Berlin ausmacht: Kultur" translates as: "Save what constitutes Berlin: Culture". Normally I would welcome any such message, because culture is the most important thing in the world. That is not an exaggeration: Culture literally is the most important thing in the world. It is more important than food and life itself, for food and life are merely means, and culture is the goal. We need food and health to live, but we live so that we can produce culture. All too often in politics, this goal is forgotten and abandoned by people who see life as the goal rather than a means and thus begin talking about how we can make more human beings live, which is a counterproductive discussion since most human beings do not contribute meaningfully to culture.

Had this sign existed with only the text on it, I would have heartily applauded it. The message it carried is very much necessary and very much ignored by both the media and the general public. People are focused on their own worthless survival, on making more money, and other forms of trash which serve only to literally and figuratively pollute our world. To remind everyone--and I do mean everyone--that we exist only to make and serve culture is a supremely important message which needs to be broadcast more. But I was held short of wholeheartedly agreeing with the sign by the photograph on it which accompanies the text. I must quite honestly and urgently ask: In precisely what cultural activity are the people portrayed on this placard engaged?

On the left side of the picture, we can see a young man who appears to be screaming at the top of his voice, which is to cultural activity what stabbing someone in the chest with an improvised knife is to heart surgery. I do not know what this young man is vocalizing--is he screaming, or perhaps singing an opera?--but either way, I must confess that "culture" is not the first word which comes to my mind when viewing this young man. On the right side of the same picture, we see a young woman (well, a young person; I suppose the figure could also be a man, but this person appears more feminine to me, so I will go with that assumption) moving her arms in a way that suggests a dance. In the air around the head of the person on the left, a spray of some kind of droplets of liquid is visible. The nature of these droplets is not clear, but the fact that they are in the air suggests some motion of vigorous activity. Are the droplets some kind of potable? Are the people in the picture consuming alcohol and releasing said alcohol into the air as part of some festivities? The position of the two people in the picture could conceivably imply that the person on the right has just broken a bottle of some alcoholic drink over the head of the person on the left, and the latter is shouting with pain or surprise. Or perhaps the young man on the left has just achieved sexual climax, and the droplets are merely his seed spread for all of Berlin to regard with pride and awe. Who can say?

What I can say is that the activity in the picture, whatever it is, seems to have as much to do with culture as a piece of fecal matter has to do with a marble sculpture. Here we see a real, living testament to what I have voiced many times in the past: That people have no idea what "culture" actually is, and mentally equate this word with going out with friends. There once was a time when "culture" connoted the fine arts, evoking ideas of paintings from the likes of Michelangelo, da Vinci, or van Gogh, or the works of literature from figures such as Shakespeare, Tolstoy, or Dickens. Some will argue that science and technology also belong to culture, and one might reasonably group great discoverers such as Isaac Newton, Nikola Tesla, or Marie Curie under the term culture, justifiably asserting that these people are no less a part of our cultural zeitgeist. Then too, politics is intricately intertwined with culture, and the development of new political forms such as socialism and communism certainly have their part in the realm of culture. Today, we see how far humanity has drifted from the target: Where the word "culture" once made people think of the Mona Lisa, Michelangelo's David, or perhaps Verdi's Rigoletto, today people hear the word "culture" and think of a group of drunk people going out and shouting. This is what it has all come to.

There are people, of course, who would defend the party scene as belonging to culture: What is culture other than what people do, what habits, social customs, and everyday activities they cherish and engage in? And if going to parties, getting drunk, and screaming be among those social customs and activities, then does not such belong to "culture" no less than a fine painting? To be sure, such activity can be described as "culture" in broad terms: Culture is partly how people live, and if people live that way, then that is their culture, but this is neither something to be praised nor protected, for human beings will do this of their own volition without any need for encouragement or support. Indeed, even wild animals will engage in similar social activities, and the idea that politics should somehow "save" such gatherings is rather like claiming that we need to fight to save the sun from falling out of the sky.

What we behold in this photograph, whatever it is that the people portrayed are doing, is not something that really deserves to be called "culture" in any way whatsoever. The picture rather portrays people engaged in literally the stupidest, least cultured activity a human being could possibly engage in. What we actually see in the picture is not culture, but quite its opposite: What we behold in this photograph are the destroyers of culture, people who take it upon themselves to not only urinate (both literally and figuratively) on all that humanity has wrought, but also to prevent other people from becoming cultured by impeding the cultural process. A screaming person cannot hear anything except the sound of their own screaming, and when they are around other people, that is all that other people can hear as well. It is literally the case that a piece of lint is more cultural than the people portrayed in this picture; at least a piece of lint does not hinder other people from cultural activity. The only way in which this photograph could possibly be interpreted as saving culture in any way would be if the person on the right were assaulting the person on the left. One could conceivably (and, I admit, not entirely seriously) interpret the picture as portraying an avenging angel of culture on the right who is righteously striking the stupid, screaming destroyer of culture on the left. Amusingly, the position of the right arm of the figure on the right could be interpreted as suggesting a Hitler salute, which somewhat adds to this effect, but considering the particular political party which happens to be behind this election placard, I feel very, very, very sure that this is not the intended interpretation.

Culture is dead, ladies and gentlemen, and humanity has killed it. When words lose their meaning so much that people can no longer even meaningfully discuss them, we lack the means to have any kind of discourse about what we have lost. Before us stretches a human future without culture, and given that human beings exist only to create culture, that is a world with no place for human beings at all.

Conflating the attributes of one's enemies

The USA is often considered one of the most Christian countries in the world. It is also popularly regarded as one of the wealthiest countries in the world. In both of these respects, however, the USA is a highly divided country: There is a significant proportion of the American populace which is not only atheist, but vehemently atheist, outspokenly opposed to all forms of religion. Likewise, the wealth in America is famously unequally distributed: There are lots of rich people, but there are also lots of very poor people. Now let me ask you a question: Which of these groups go together? Are the wealthy more likely to be Christians or atheists? And which are the poor more likely to be? I ask this question because I would actually like you, dear reader, to think about it for a while. Please do so. Really, think about it for a bit; don't just keep reading, but rather, close your eyes for a while and think, in your head, about what answer you would give. When you are sure about what answer you would give, please continue.

As you might have guessed, my own answer to the question is not unambiguous. This is because I have actually lived in the USA and had many experiences with the people there. If you have two binary attributes, as we do in this case, you can group objects (such as people) with those attributes into four groups, and so in this case, let us consider the four possible combinations we can make: Wealthy Christians, poor Christians, wealthy atheists, and poor atheists. Having spent years living in many different parts of America, I can assure you that there is no shortage of people in any of these four groups. My answer to my own question is thus: None of these attributes are uniquely associated with any others; they are all quite broadly distributed. What is interesting to note is, first of all, that many people in America will tend to say that there are a lot of whatever is the opposite of what they are: Christians will say "There are too many godless atheists spoiling our blessed land," and atheists will say "There are too many backward-thinking religious nuts ruining this country." The reason why I asked you to think about the question before reading further is because the question forms a sort of Rorschach test for the reader: Whatever answer you gave is probably the opposite of what you are. The second thing which is interesting to note about this matter is how people will very reproducibly conflate the two sides they are opposed to, implicitly assuming that whatever two things they are not go together. To describe each group briefly:

Wealthy Christians will say: "I have been blessed. I enjoy prosperity because I have been faithful, and God has seen fit to bless me with His grace and mercy. If only other people could simply open up their eyes to the gospel, they too could share in my blessings. It is unfortunate that other people, through their own lack of faith, have excluded themselves from this happiness." For these people, poverty and atheism are linked: One is a consequence of the other.

Poor Christians will say: "Of course wealthy people are atheists. They can afford to be. As soon as people get any taste of wealth and prosperity, they lose their humility and become arrogant, thinking that they got their money through their own work instead of because of God's mercy. It is very sad how these wealthy people have lost their souls." For these people, wealth and atheism are linked: One is a consequence of the other.

Wealthy atheists will say: "Of course poor people are religious. They have not received a good education because they have been brought up in backwards, uneducated cultures. If only those people could receive a basic understanding of science, they would understand that religion is bunk and that the way to prosperity is by giving up one's illusions and superstitions." For these people, poverty and religion are linked: One is a consequence of the other.

Poor atheists will say: "Of course wealthy people are religious. The whole idea of religion is just one big scam, and the only reason why a church exists is to get money from gullible people who don't know any better. Big Christianity and big business are one and the same, because Christianity is just another corporation like any other. If people could open their minds, they could free themselves from these twin institutions of repression and deception." For these people, wealth and religion are linked: One is a consequence of the other.

I hope that the pattern is obvious. Every group of people believes that their polar opposite is comprised of attributes that are inseparable. The wealthy Christian can hardly conceive of a wealthy atheist or a poor Christian, though plenty of such people exist. The poor Christian can hardly imagine a wealthy Christian or a poor atheist. And so on. Every person tends to conflate the things they oppose, mixing up different concepts and lumping everything they don't like together, assuming that every person who disagrees with them on one point must disagree with them about everything else. The thinking is that there are only two types of people in the world: People who think exactly like you, and people who think exactly the opposite way in every aspect. This is what results in the artificial creation of false dichotomies, the "us versus them" mentality which is so prevalent all over the world.

I came upon these thoughts while regarding the music video for Pearl Jam's song "Do the Evolution". If you have never seen this music video, I would encourage you to watch it, not because either the song or the video is especially great or because I particularly agree with any specific message they may have, but simply because, as music videos go, this one is probably one of the more thought-provoking videos ever made. Certainly, the message of the video is not new, but I found it interesting the way the video fallaciously combines different ideas: Negative portrayals of businesspeople and religious figures appear side-by-side in the video, suggesting a very partisan view which opposes both of these groups and creates the populist narrative that they feed into each other: It seems that in the minds of Pearl Jam, Christianity and "capitalism" are one and the same, or at least related enough that there is no need to imagine them detached from each other.

Of course, Pearl Jam are not the first people in human history to conflate the attributes of their ideological enemies. It is human nature to do this. Particularly people with limited experience with other cultures will often subconsciously (or even consciously) come to the conclusion that the things they don't like in their culture have some linked context which inextricably binds those things together. I do not know whether Pearl Jam are unable or unwilling to acknowledge that there are rich atheists and poor theists, but either way, the result is the same: A misguided and misleading association of unrelated elements and an implicit assumption that they have something to do with each other when they don't. Because this is human nature, you probably have the same confusion with things you don't like. Everyone does.

There is no quick solution to this problem, because biases, assumptions, and preconceived notions are buried so deeply in the human psyche that they often cannot be consciously identified. If you think about it for a moment, it should be obvious that there are Christians who support abortion, women who oppose feminism, Jewish Nazis, homosexuals who oppose gay marriage, wealthy folks who support higher taxes on the richest people, African-Americans in the KKK, soldiers who oppose war, democrats who advocate for a strong police force, and murderers with a deep reverence for human life. All of these are real groups of people; I didn't just make them up. And yet these groups all challenge stereotypical notions of what people believe or are supposed to believe. Not everyone is as you think they are; just because you know one thing about a person, that doesn't mean you can conclude anything else about that person. Don't conflate the things you oppose or assume that a person who has one of those attributes has all of them. If you can avoid jumping to that conclusion, you might just end up with less enemies in the world.

"Something has to be done"

Sometimes, one has the feeling that one lives in the wrong time in history. Marv, one of the most iconic characters of Sin City, is described thus: "Most people think Marv is crazy. He just had the rotten luck of being born in the wrong century. He'd be right at home on some ancient battlefield swinging an axe into somebody's face. Or in a Roman arena, taking his sword to other gladiators like him." Many people carry values, interests, or lifestyles which are not contemporary with the times in which they actually live, either because they were born with these values or because they acquired them somehow, and sometimes, this sense of temporal dissonance lasts a person's entire life. In most cases, however, you can't go back: A person who wants to go back to a previous way of living may try to find the lifestyle they're looking for somewhere else in the world, perhaps in a less "modern" country which has not "developed" as much as Western countries, but some processes are irreversible, and what starts in the West has a tendency to be copied by the rest of the world. Jimmy Carter famously noted that "Whatever starts in California unfortunately has an inclination to spread," but while he was talking about the other states in the USA, today we live in a global world, and so the quote can easily be adapted: Whatever starts in the USA unfortunately has an inclination to spread.

Any kind of shift in human values or lifestyles will always have its supporters and its detractors: There will be people who oppose the change and say that it is necessary to go back to how things used to be before the change, and there will also be people who call the change "progress" and insist that not only has the change been good thus far, but that it must in fact spread further, that whatever has happened now must happen all over the world, to every human being, because the change being brought is right and good. These groups of people will always exist: There will always be those who insist that whatever has happened is going too far, and those who insist that whatever has happened is not going far enough. One universal statement which nearly all people can agree with is: "I am so frustrated by how we are moving completely in the wrong direction, and I'm not going to take it anymore". If you want to get a lot of people to agree with you, say something like that. Unfortunately, the people who agree with you will be enemies of each other, because half of the people who agree with you will be people who are upset about the changes that have been happening and want to reverse those changes, and the other half will be the enemies of the first half, the people who are trying to force changes to happen and are upset because the first half of people are trying to impede those changes. People lack any sense of balance or moderation; everything that happens must be extreme and absolute. This is natural and logical: If you hold any particular personal values, you generally believe that those values hold for all people, without any restrictions or limitations, and so there is always a desire among all people to make their values global and eradicate any people who do not agree with their values.

I often think about this when I look back on what I've written in the past and reflect on how my ideas fit into the world today. In my previous post, for example, I wrote about the importance of creating what I called "something bigger than we", i.e. something more significant and important than humanity. I am sure that many people would dismiss such thoughts as megalomania or some other kind of disorder that causes me to be out of touch with reality, but the reason I write about such things is precisely because I am aware that they are not our reality. I feel no need to tell people that the sky is blue, that black lives matter, or any other catch-phrase which we have heard literally countless times; I write things because of a perception that most people are not aware of the things that I want to say. I wrote about the importance of making something bigger than humanity precisely because most people seem to have forgotten this idea today.

There are those who say that I am ignorant for saying something like this. "Transhumanism" is very much a current theme, and continuing research into AI (artificial intelligence) has been ongoing for decades to make computers which are as smart as--or indeed, smarter than--humans. But when you compare the situation today with the situation in the 20th century, there can hardly be any comparison. The 20th century was a time of unprecedented technological development: In 1903, very near the beginning of the century, the Wright brothers made what is generally considered the first real flight of an airplane. Less than 70 years later, in 1969, the first humans landed on the moon. That all happened within a single person's life span: From the very first primitive airplanes to the age of jet fighters and spacecraft within a single human being's lifetime. The pace of scientific and technological development in the 20th century was so uninterrupted and so unprecedented that there is absolutely no comparison with any other time in human history, not even with our present: Today, after about one-fifth of the 21st century, there has long been a sense that technological advancement has ceased. Our cars, aircraft, and computers are fast enough, our food, fuel, and electronics are plentiful and affordable enough, and our television, movies, music, and games are entertaining enough. Continuing research into AI seems to exist mostly to tailor advertising to our interests and recommend videos based on what we've watched in the past. There is absolutely no comparison between what's happening now and the sheer, sweeping changes which the world experienced in the 20th century.

There are those who will respond to this with something like: "Well, good. The ridiculous 20th-century focus on technological "progress" shouldn't continue indefinitely. The 20th century was a time when human rights were routinely violated and sacrificed on the alter of "progress", a progress which didn't seem to benefit anyone except the people who had the most power. The Cold War never erupted into the much-feared exchange of nuclear missiles, but it did fuel a lot of damage to the environment and to innocent human beings by both the USA and the Soviet Union as those two superpowers' struggle for more power crushed the little people in the dust. Both of these powers were very ready to violate the rights of the individual for the sake of grand, sweeping projects which, realistically speaking, didn't actually make life better for most people. The "grand projects" of the 20th century--the development of nuclear weapons, the Space Race, the rise of computers and the Internet--are all history now, and good riddance, because now we can finally focus on quality of life and equality for all people instead of the war games which self-important politicians fought for far too long." This is the attitude which many people have toward history, and, well, they're not entirely wrong. I don't want to see innocent people abused, and too often, the grand projects which politicians or other people of power start are nothing more than self-glorifying rituals to make them feel good about themselves but which bring no real benefit to anyone. Let's be honest: What has humanity actually gained from landing people on the moon? How have our lives benefited from that huge project?

And yet, it's not as though people's lives are perfect now, or even anything close to it. Just because we no longer have to go to sleep wondering whether ICBMs will land on us in the night, that doesn't mean that all human beings live happy, healthy, secure lives. Quite the opposite, in fact. In times of "peace", people don't actually live in peace. We just see the problems inherent to the human condition more clearly. When people are at war, it's easy to make suggestions that can improve people's quality of life--such as "stop killing each other" and "stop blowing up each other's cities"--but when the war is over and people need to get along with their lives, it's not so easy. People remain lazy, selfish, and stupid; people continue to destroy themselves and their environment. That destruction doesn't stop just because a war stops. Eventually, you reach a point where you're no longer willing to tolerate the continuation of that process, and this causes war to start up again.

There is a popular trope in fiction of using time travel to go back in time and kill Hitler as a baby in order to prevent World War II. Once of the most commonly-cited representations of this idea is "No Time Like the Past", an episode of the original Twilight Zone series, but what less people seem to remember is that the same concept was reused in "Cradle of Darkness", an episode of the short-lived 2002 Twilight Zone reboot. There's a moment in this episode which really stands out to me in which an Austrian man complains about the preponderance of Jews in Europe "keeping us from greatness". The man's furious tirade ends with the grim conclusion: "Something has to be done". After he walks off, the woman who has been sent back in time to kill baby Hitler quietly but furiously whispers to herself: "You're right. Something has to be done". The moment is so powerful because it portrays two highly strong-willed people who have reached the "same" conclusion, and yet are absolute enemies. The "something which has to be done" is clear: Both people want to eliminate each other; not merely kill each other, but erase all memory of their ideas. This is the default state of human society: People value something, cherish some abstract idea, and hold that idea so highly that they are willing to defend it to the point of being willing to murder people who oppose that idea. This is not just the stuff of movies and murder stories; it is the real, default state of any human being who is motivated by some kind of ideology. I, too, look at the world and find it untenable in its current state. It can't keep on going like this. Something has to change. Something has to be done.

And all of this is what leads me to the conclusion that humanity must create something larger than itself. All the effort which goes into supporting and enabling selfish, ignorant, destructive people is wasted. Not all people deserve life, and the ones who deserve it least of all are the ones who most vehemently insist that they deserve it, for those are the people who do nothing and see no need to do anything except gorge themselves on entertainment and satisfy themselves all their lives. And yet, it's not like the people who actually try to "do something" with their lives are any better; most of those people also just cause further destruction. Their efforts may be well intended, but as we all know, the road to Hell is paved with good intentions. And it is not lost on me that I can easily fall into the same trap: All my grand-sounding ideas about "doing something greater than humanity" could just lead to more destruction and suffering, with nothing to show for them. And yet, what else am I supposed to do with my life? Get a comfortable couch and spend the rest of my life watching TV?

You're damned if you do, damned if you don't. If you try to do something with your life, you'll only create more problems for the world. If you don't try to do something with your life, the world will only create more problems for you. I am aware that many people consider me a monster; I was recently informed that my YouTube videos have been banned in a certain online community because someone there considers me to be a toxic, hateful person. On the one hand, it's a little sad to think that people think of me that way. On the other hand, I realize that you can never say or do anything without being misunderstood by someone, and the more people know who you are, the more people will misunderstand you. You can be anonymous, or you can be hated. I am not willing to hide my entire life just for the sake of pleasing people who don't like what I have to say. I don't mean to offend or harm anyone, but I cannot remain silent in our world of trash--and it is indeed a world of trash, even if the threat of nuclear wars and genocides has been lessened. I will probably just blunder into an ideological trap like most other people who try to do something, but what else can I do? After all--and here my enemies would heartily agree with me--something has to be done.

Something bigger than we

There are many different ways in which human beings can be categorized. You could categorize people into those who think more with their heads and those who think more with their hearts. You could divide people according to whether they talk a lot or whether they rather listen a lot. And then you could categorize people based on whether they see life as something to experience or rather something to do something with.

The latter dichotomy is related to, but not exactly, what I wanted to focus on in this particular post. There are many people who see life as an experience to be lived. These people live without any particular goal which they want to achieve or intention which they want to carry out. Rather, they prefer to simply go through life and find out what it has to offer them. These people are often highly sensory, focusing on what they can gather through their five senses rather than focusing on abstract or intellectual ideas. These people are likely to be remembered as lively, friendly, and pleasant to be around. In contrast to these people are people who always feel the need to be "doing" something in the sense of "achieving" something. These are people who are likely to constantly be thinking about some kind of plans for the future, figuring out ways in which they can make something, learn something, or otherwise achieve something that is supposed to make them more developed. Because these people are often busy and distracted with their own plans and thoughts, they are usually not remembered as being particularly friendly or warm toward other people.

Most people who have been living adult lives for a while have probably decided on which group they want to be in. There are people who know that they would certainly rather be in the first group, enjoying pleasant moments with friends and experiencing all that life has to offer rather than always focusing on plans which never seem to benefit anyone, often not even the person making those plans. Then, of course, there are people who are sure that they would rather be in the latter group, because they would rather be doing something with life, taking an active role in their own lives rather than just floating through it as a passive observer. If you have been living your own adult life for a while, you probably also have a sense for which type of person you want to be. This concept, however, is a false dichotomy (like most other dichotomies). It implies, first of all, that a person cannot be both things: That a person cannot have goals and achieve things with their life and at the same time be a friendly, sociable, likeable person. Secondly, the dichotomy implies that there are only these two groups of people, when in fact, the matter is more nuanced than that.

I am not in the first group of people. I do not just see life as something to experience passively; I become bored as a passive experiencer of life, and although I try to treat everyone I meet with basic respect and politeness, I am not a particularly sociable person, because most gatherings of human beings are marked by conversation which is made not to exchange any kind of information or ideas, but literally for the sake of making noise as a social activity, and I abhor the thought of wasting a human being's time in that way. But I am not really in the second group of people, either. While I do want to do something with my life, I don't want to be doing something just for the sake of doing something; as I've written in the past, the world contains many people who are constantly "achieving" pointless goals which they set out for themselves to create the illusion of progress and achievement. If I'm going to achieve something with my life, I want it to be something which is meaningful and which has an actual benefit of some kind; I don't just want a fancy certificate which acknowledges that I did something.

Now here I stumble against a theoretically impassable obstacle, an irreconcilable pair of ideas: I want to achieve something with my life, but I want it to be something meaningful. This is theoretically impossible: As life itself is inherently devoid of any meaning, trying to do anything meaningful is the truest contradiction, literally the most impossible thing in the universe. I actually cannot think of anything more impossible; lifting 500 trillion kilograms is at least theoretically possible (I can imagine how it could be done even if I can't do it myself), painting a beautiful painting that is invisible is possible (because a vacuum could be considered beautiful), and making something which is simultaneously both itself and not itself is possible (because you can't prove that it's not simultaneously both itself and not itself), but "to do something meaningful" is utterly impossible because the idea is defeated by its own terms; you can't even imagine how it could be done.

To deal with this problem, we can't just approach the problem with usual problem-solving strategies: You can't divide the problem into smaller problems, you can't work backwards because there is no known end goal to work backwards from, and the last resort of trial-and-error is highly unlikely to yield any meaningful results; it would be like trying to find a book explaining the meaning of life in Borges' "Library of Babel". A lot of fundamental problems are like this; you can't approach them like a math problem or even a science problem, because the problem is not a lack of means, but rather a lack of ends: It's not that you lack the ability to reach your goal, it's that you lack even a goal to begin working toward. The goal is to find a goal.

Attaining goals seems particularly difficult these days, because almost anything which humans can do, machines can now do much better. Even if you spent your whole life going through book after book and learning as much as you could, you will never be able to learn more than a small fraction of the sheer quantity of information which is now available on the Internet, for free, to every person in the world. No matter how much you know about any subject, I can immediately go onto the Internet and tell you something about your field which you never knew before. This has created a world where experience and knowledge don't seem to count for much; even the most experienced people in the world can easily be surpassed by beginners, because an inhumanly large pool of knowledge is available to everyone. Of course, this only applies to "knowledge professions" where the amount of information you know is the primary factor; there are many jobs where a certain physical skill is required, and this is something that can only be developed by physically performing the act in question, and there are also jobs where a certain "feel" for the job is more important than knowledge. For a police detective, for example, knowledge itself doesn't count for that much; you need to have an intuitive feel for how criminals operate to be able to investigate them, and that isn't something which you can learn by just looking up information. Only long years of experience in dealing with criminals and how they operate can give you the "sixth sense" you need to understand what they're likely to do.

When we understand this, it starts to become clear where humans are still needed. It does us no good to try to compete directly against computers in their areas of strength: Any kind of mathematical calculation, any kind of information storage, analysis, recollection, or transfer, any kind of constant monitoring of status is something which any computer can do vastly faster, more efficiently, more reliably, and more inexpensively than any human being, and trying to compete with computers in these areas is sure to result in defeat. What computers lack, however, is an appreciation for the subtleties of the psyche, and this is where humans can still contribute something useful. The human capacity for feeling, emotion, intuition, and subtlety is not a weakness, but a strength. Most people abuse their emotions by overstimulating them: People find that they most enjoy abusing their feelings by overloading their senses with loud music, flashing picture screens, and endless food, but in a person who chooses to keep their senses sharp and tuned rather than dulled by abuse, our capacity to understand what computers can't process--things like feelings, desires, and intuitions--is something valuable.

To be able to maintain this state, however--to be able to remain in a state where our intuitions and perceptions are sharp rather than dulled--requires discipline. It requires us to avoid the mentality that life is simply a big circus funhouse where we can just stimulate ourselves into a stupor and live that way for the rest of our lives. It requires a certain commitment to something which we cannot really define or perceive, because it is neither a concrete goal which can ever be "achieved" with finality nor something which we can actually sense with the five senses; rather, it is more of an idea, an idea which we can conceive and which has value for us: The idea of being a person with value.

People who are in the first group I described above, i.e. people who see life simply as an experience to enjoy, are likely to embrace what they call "left-wing" or "liberal" politics and what detractors of such politics might call the "nanny state": The idea that systems exist to support human life, and that all people should be handled equally and given the same chance to enjoy life. After all, if life is nothing more than just a big party to enjoy, then there are no qualifications which people need to enter it, nothing which people need other than the capacity to exist, which is a requirement which every living person can fulfill. But people who believe that life has a purpose beyond just existing will tend to adopt different views, believing that people who simply exist without any further motivation should not be allowed to hinder the activities of people with a purpose. The latter are the people who believe that rather than simply existing in this world for whatever time we have, we should use this time to build something bigger than we.* And the question for those people is how we do this.

* Some people might say "bigger than us", but this is wrong. Comparatives use the nominative case, not the oblique or objective case. "This tree is taller than me" is an error; the correct sentence is "This tree is taller than I".

As I've said, I don't think that just contributing to endless physical growth is the answer. There are people who worship industrialization, believing that expanding the economy, building ever-taller buildings and ever-larger cities is the future. This process can only continue for so long before it becomes self-defeating, however. Eventually, you have so much infrastructure that just maintaining it is prohibitively cumbersome. Large cities exist in perpetual states of construction because you need to keep rebuilding the roads, rails, and other infrastructure as they deteriorate, putting something of an upper limit on how big our infrastructure can get before maintaining it becomes more work than we can consistently carry out. It's all very well and good to build buildings, bridges, and other structures as we need them, but these must be a means to an end rather than the end itself, because otherwise the goal is rather self-defeating. The point of all this infrastructure is not just to have it; like human beings themselves, it must also serve some larger purpose than just existing.

Similarly, when people think of developing themselves, some people approach self-development in a very physical way, believing that bodybuilding or other forms of increasing bodily strength is the best way to improve humanity, but I see very little benefit from such endeavors. Certainly, human beings should be healthy, and to that end, it is necessary to have daily body movement to promote cardiovascular activity and prevent muscles from withering away completely, but spending hours in a gym building huge muscles seems like such a pointless activity to me; what benefit do people get from having big muscles? Any practical work which requires physical force has been done by machines with vastly greater efficiency than humans will ever be able to naturally achieve for decades. No human will ever be able to lift anything as heavy as what a construction crane can already lift, no human being will ever be able to transport goods as quickly as a truck, and no human being will ever be able to tighten fasteners as tightly as an impact wrench, so why even bother developing the muscles to that level when they have no application? I see this kind of "development" as not only a waste of time, but also a sign of a deeply selfish person who sees strength in physical appearance and cares for nothing but making themselves seem impressive. Those people are among the many who should be eliminated. Yes, people who see life as something to enjoy are a waste, but so are people who just spend all day building themselves up with no purpose to that build-up.

The same goes for people who go for the intellectual approach rather than the physical approach. Some people just try to read as much as possible, thinking that this makes them smart, but this kind of endeavor is also counterproductive. As I've said, raw quantity of information is not something you benefit from learning, partly because you will forget most of it, but more to the point, because you won't benefit from it even if you could memorize all of it. What you need as a human being is not sheer quantity of memorized information, but rather the wisdom and understanding that comes from that information. It is human nature for the brain to summarize information: What we read from a book and what we understand from that book are two different things, but if a person has understood a book correctly, they will be able to retell the meaning of that book without being able to quote from it verbatim, and that kind of understanding is the point of being a human being. That's the advantage which we have over machines.

There are those who would say that infrastructure like buildings and machines like computers should exist to serve human beings rather than the other way around, but I would say that this is not really true. The opposite it not really true, either: It's not like human beings exist to serve computers. It's more like both of these exist to serve the purpose of truth: Computers can provide objective truth much more accurately than humans, while humans are good at providing semantic truth, and when these strengths are combined, you create a sort of hybrid thinking process which produces the best of both worlds. This is part of how we can produce something which is bigger than we: By making ourselves more capable than mere human beings alone could be. This doesn't necessarily mean that we need to become cyborgs in the science-fiction sense of having electronics implanted into our brains; in a sense, we are already cyborgs, because we already use computers to expand and extend our brains, and we can do this without surgically implanting computers inside our bodies.

There are people who have concerns that we might lose our "humanity" as this process continues, but I have to wonder: What "humanity" did people ever have go begin with? What exactly is "humanity"? Is it fairness? Is it empathy? Is it gentleness? Is it sensitivity? Because if it is any of these things, I can put your concerns to rest and assure you that human beings never had any of these things to begin with. The vast majority of human beings are biased, selfish, brutal, and ignorant. And indeed, part of the reason why people are like this is because they see life as something to enjoy, and entertain themselves into this state of stupidity and stupefaction. To encourage human beings to be more intelligent, more thoughtful, more sensitive, more prudent, and less hedonistic is not to strip them of their humanity, but precisely the opposite: It makes human beings more like human beings and less like animals. The people who most enthusiastically "embrace" life are, sadly, also the ones who least deserve to live, because they are the ones who make the world a terrible place with their thoughtless abandon.

This is also why I do not have much patience for things like "tolerance" or anything else which asserts that all people have the right to life. If anything, the opposite is true: Most people act simply as a biological dead weight on the Earth. All of these systems which people have constructed to protect people and try to make sure that they survive in spite of their ridiculous stupidity are just a waste of time. In fact, it's not just a waste of time, it's actually counterproductive, because it fills the world with even more people who contribute nothing to it but just keep taking and taking. I don't see much worth in most individuals. Generally speaking, I do not see much point in writing or speaking about individual people. All people live short life spans of maybe 100 years or so at most, and their memory is quickly forgotten in a few hundred years. It is better to speak in generalities about what is universal than about specific people, because individual people are rarely important or relevant. Only extraordinary people with properties, attributes, or qualities which the vast majority of people do not have are really worth addressing or investigating at a detailed level.

This is also why we need to build something bigger than we. Human beings themselves do not miraculously exist as the final stop of evolution, as if we were the end of all history. Only a very small number of human beings actually live intelligently and create useful things with their lives, but their inventions have always served people who don't know how to use those things. A few very smart people invented cars, and the rest of the world used them to create traffic-choked cities. A few very smart people invented the airplane, and the rest of the world used it to fly to places with beaches, destroying the wildlife and the local economies there. A few very smart people invented computers and the Internet, and the rest of the world used these to watch funny videos of people falling off buildings. Throughout human history, it has been the case that a few very people have done something great and important with their lives, and the rest of humanity has either abused that development in a way that allows them to make themselves stupider while also destroying the planet, or just ignored it if they couldn't figure out a way to abuse it. Most human beings are not actually evolved in any useful way; they've evolved only in ways that help them survive. Culling the herd by getting rid of the stupidest and most intractably useless people--those who are unwilling or unable to be anything other than selfish and ignorant--helps in the short term, but long-term, there needs to be post-human development. Human beings could be the most intelligent and most capable species on the planet, but they willingly make themselves stupid and incompetent, which makes them the most destructive and dangerous species on the planet. Only reducing and replacing humans can fix this.

The loss of neutral spaces and neutral channels

As a society and culture become more polarized, they will eventually seek to extend their control over everything, everywhere. In a society where multiple opinions and perspectives are tolerated and allowed to express themselves, there is a need for neutrality: Neutral ideas, neutral people, neutral places, and neutral institutions. These are necessary for several reasons:

1. Relatively objective information must be separated from opinions. Ultimately, all "information" which we perceive is only based on human perceptions, and thus it cannot ever be entirely objective and without bias, but there are certain things which are more objective than others. A statement like "Movie X is a good movie with useful insights for humanity" or "Person X is a good politician who should be supported" can never be true or false because they are opinions, but there are many fields, particularly math and science, which rely more on verifiable facts than people's initial perceptions or gut feelings, and objective information should be allowed to exist free of bias or ideological distortion. This is partly what Orwell must have meant when he wrote: "Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four. If that is granted, all else follows." If people can at least have the ability to state plain facts without being punished for doing so, that is worth a lot right there.

2. People need a time and place where they can live their lives without being constantly bombarded by propaganda. New ideas, new perspectives, and new experiences can only come to people when they are in an environment which does not specifically seek to indoctrinate them, but to allow them the mental freedom to have ideas which they would not necessarily have in a partisan environment.

3. By extension, people must be able to exist as more than one thing. No human being should exist solely for the purpose of representing a single cause, no matter how important that cause might be to them. Even if a specific idea, goal, or cause is especially important to you, it is important for you to be able to exist independently of that idea, goal, or cause, partly because that enables you to understand the perspectives of other people who might not agree with your cause or might simply regard it as less important than you do, and partly because the more time you spend embedded in a particular ideology, the more fanatical and obsessed you become with it; eventually, you become unable to see anything else except that one cherished idea, and particularly when such fanaticism and obsession become widespread, a society will rapidly head toward self-destruction as it becomes blind to everything except that one idea which it prizes so highly. Neutral, non-partisan ideas are necessary to break this mental ossification.

In a peaceful society, neutral ideas abound. People tend to avoid polarizing topics which are likely to lead to conflict or confrontation; this is in fact precisely the reason why it is classically said that politics and religion are the two topics which people should avoid when they get together: Everyone has their own idea, in their head, about what kind of society humanity "should" have, and because these mental images will rarely be identical between two different people, it is better to just avoid getting people to talk about their personal ideas about how human society "should" be, unless they are very sure that they support each other's ideas and agree with each other, or can at least listen to opposing opinions without becoming offended, angry, confrontational, or otherwise doing something to ruin the harmony of a human gathering. In fact, it is not difficult to keep the peace as long as neutral topics are discussed. If you think that sounds boring, it should be understood that neutral ideas are not limited to small talk about the weather or similar pointless topics: You can discuss works of media such as movies, music, books, or games; you can discuss human conditions and emotions such as hope, expectation, sympathy, inspiration, or disappointment; you can discuss new ideas and advancements (or, for that matter, old ideas) in science, technology, and engineering; you can discuss visually-appealing subjects such as art, architecture, or home furnishings... indeed, there is an extensive list of things which people can talk about which are not likely to raise tensions between people, and being able to converse meaningfully with people on such things is part of being a good conversationist. By contrast, there are people who feel the need, in any social gathering, to aggressively state their particular political stance and then make expectant glances around the room, implicitly demanding that everyone agree with them and validate how right they are. That is a sign of a bad conversationist, someone who exists only to have other people validate their existence and tell them that their opinions are the only right and true opinions. If other people are polite, they will nod tolerantly or simply say nothing, recognizing that the person who has just spoken is too stupid to respond to; if other people are less tolerant, they may try to talk some sense to that person, and that's where conflict starts.

As mentioned, the more polarized a particular society becomes, the more one will see such communications in the media and in everyday conversation: Rather than people expressing their opinions and allowing other people to express contrary or contrasting opinions, there is an expectation that everyone will simply agree with what has been said, because anyone who disagrees is not only wrong, but so dangerously wrong that they must be told that they are wrong. This kind of thinking is characteristic of totalitarian governments which seek to control not only what people may or may not do, but also what people may or may not think. Totalitarian governments are marked by their tight control of all forms of media: The prevailing ideology works its way not only into government-issued communications, but also into the mass media. It typically starts with journalism--newspapers, TV news broadcasts, magazines, etc.--but as the process continues, the demand to control people's thinking will eventually work its way into other forms of expression: Art becomes impacted, as any artworks which do not conform to the "accepted" mentality may be attacked, censored, or removed entirely. Education becomes impacted, as teachers become ordered to teach children the "accepted" mentality so that they may learn it from an early age and grow up thinking that they have the One True Mindset which all right-thinking human beings must have. Eventually, private communication between people is impacted, and individual conversations between people are monitored so that people who say disallowed things can be arrested or otherwise removed from society. When a person becomes fanatically obsessed with an idea, there is no limit to what they are willing to do to ensure that all other people agree with their idea.

I am not much in the habit of reading about modern art because I often find it more pretentious than incisive, but the other day, I happened to pick up an art magazine and browse through it a bit. There I came upon an article in which a museum curator for a major museum noted that in recent years, there has been a shift in the public's attitude toward museums and their role in human society. There once was a time, not too long ago, when the museum was seen as something neutral, a place for all people to come and see information so that they could inform themselves. More recently, however, there is the increasing expectation that museums cannot and must not avoid making statements, but rather that museums, as public institutions which serve the public interest, make strong and unambiguous statements to establish a particular stance regarding public issues. The thinking is that since a museum is a place where ideas can be communicated, it is vitally important to the public interest that museums take a side in the relevant issues being discussed in the public debate. A museum is no longer allowed to be a neutral place or a neutral institution which can distance itself from important ideas or "let visitors make up their own minds"; there is the expectation and indeed the demand that museums represent a specific partisan viewpoint. A museum is seen as having a responsibility to "educate" people and ensure that they have the right ideas, and museums which do not take a strong stance for whatever people want them to take a stance for are accused of being "complicit" in allowing wrong ideas to remain unchallenged. This is an indication of a polarized society, a society which seeks to control the flow of information so thoroughly that it refuses to allow neutral places to exist, demanding and insisting that all places where people get information must broadcast the one true and correct position which all good people must have, because people who do not have that opinion are wrong and must be sent the clear message that they are excluded from that society.

A few months ago, I wrote that increasing partisanship in our public discourse is ruining people's ability to have a sensible, rational, reasoned discussion; there is no longer the expectation that people will listen to each other and explain why their ideas differ, there is only the expectation that everyone should say exactly what you expect them to say, and if they say something different, they are wrong, and you must do everything in your power to suppress, exclude, attack, or eliminate that person. This is not just a matter of public discourse, it is a matter of every form of information distribution that exists: Fanatics do not just seek to control what you see in the mass media, they also seek to control what you can see in art galleries, in museums, in schools, in libraries, and in everyday human society. As ideologues relentlessly and fanatically seek to extend their grasp over every idea that is expressed or can be expressed, we are witnessing the loss of neutrality in the public sphere, as exemplified by the loss of neutral spaces and neutral channels. What cannot be communicated, can hardly be understood among people.

For most people, life is all about distracting yourself

Comedian Norm Macdonald recently passed away from leukemia at the age of 61. Although many people might remember Macdonald best for his post on Saturday Night Live's popular Weekend Update "fake news" segment, Macdonald had a long history in various fields of comedy work, including a long-running period of doing traditional stand-up comedy, a string of his own TV shows and podcasts, and a surprisingly unknown role as the pigeon on Mike Tyson Mysteries. Like most actors, Macdonald presented himself in various different ways at different times depending on the context; sometimes he was just a silly guy trying to say the funniest thing which came to his mind in an effort to get the most laughs from his audience, but sometimes he was a more sober and thoughtful person who commented on some of the harsh realities of life. Macdonald had a habit of going off on a tangent, telling long shaggy dog stories with plentiful irrelevant details and asides (when he was in storytelling mode, Macdonald visibly had difficulty finishing a complete sentence without interrupting his own story multiple times), and this resulted in Macdonald being best known, in his later years, for "jokes" that took the form of rambling tirades which had no point in themselves but which were funny simply because of how they were told. Although many comedians are known for their black humor, Macdonald's tendency to ramble and go down any path of thought which crossed his mind sometimes resulted in darkly humorous statements which were funny for being half absurdity and half brilliance.

In the wake of Macdonald's passing, various YouTube channels have started uploading a series of old footage from Macdonald's various appearances on talk shows and other media outlets, a sort of "greatest hits" collection to honor Macdonald's memory. One video which was recently uploaded in response to this was this one, titled "I Come From a Long Line of Death" because it starts off with Macdonald joking that "my dad died, and my grandfather died, and my great-grandfather died, and the guy before him, I don't know, probably died". After this introduction, however, the video transitions to an interview with Macdonald on The Opie & Anthony Show in which Macdonald discusses some of his thoughts on death. At about the 4:44 point in the video, a discussion about thought patterns begins, in which Macdonald declares that the reason "why you do everything in life" is "in order to escape your real thoughts", claiming that people are not able to be left alone with their own thoughts because the thoughts of an undistracted person become too depressing: Inevitably, people will think about the point of their lives and their own mortality, and these thoughts will become intolerably disquieting. The conclusion is that human beings can only function by constantly distracting themselves: If people stop being distracted and start thinking realistically, they will become unable to deal with their own thoughts.

Realistically, we all know that we're doing to die someday. We know this factually and intellectually. But it can be argued that we don't really know this. Indeed, later in the same video, there's another discussion where the conclusion is that no one really understands that they're going to die someday: "People are in deep denial of death... Nobody really thinks they're going to die. You just can't get your head around it, because you're so busy living. It's almost impossible to comprehend." People don't want to think about dying, and so they go through life just trying to avoid what they know, reaching a sort of state of doublethink where they know something but don't know it.

I don't know how many people accept the idea of living that way, but I don't want to live that way. I don't want to be living a lie. I don't want to go through life trying to forget or ignore what I know. I believe that understanding can only come from facing the truth. That doesn't mean that people need to be obsessed with death, thinking about it all the time; that's not healthy, either. The healthy attitude to take towards death is to say: "I know that I am going to die someday, and I have no need to deny that fact, but rather than becoming preoccupied with death, I will focus on my life, and do what I can with the time I have while I am alive." What people need to do is calmly accept death, not try to fight it. I think that most people know, intellectually, that this is the healthy attitude to take toward death, that this is the "best" way to think about death, but most people don't feel this way emotionally about death: People feel the need to either deny death, avoid thinking about it, or else fixate on it. And this leads to people surrounding themselves with constant distractions so that they don't have to think about the reality of life and death.

In a recent post, I mentioned that I consider thinking to be the highest human value--not just thinking in the abstract, but thinking as a lifestyle. You cannot live a life of awareness unless you think about things a lot, unless you refuse to turn away from the truth and allow yourself to think about whatever needs to be thought about, even if those thoughts are unpleasant. If you do this, if you allow yourself to do this and do not deviate from that path, eventually you reach a place of peace, a point where you don't need to hide from the truth anymore because you've gotten used to it. But that truth does not leave a person unchanged: A lot of happiness leaves life when you go down that path. Enough truth will leave a person numb. You get used to it because you can't feel bad about it anymore: Your stomach has been turned enough times from the horror of the world that you don't feel sick from it anymore. Little wonder that most people want to hide from that kind of a life.

And yet I would go so far as to say that that's the only life. Anything else is just a waste of life. If you go through your life just trying to entertain and amuse yourself, that seems like a horrible waste to me. I realize that some people would say precisely the opposite: I acknowledge that some people would say that I'm taking a wrong approach to life. There is a saying that "Life is what happens when you're not thinking about it". The idea with that is that since life doesn't have any concrete purpose or goal, the whole point of life is to enjoy it as much as you can, that that orgiastic rush through life is the ultimate purpose of life, and for me to denigrate it is to actually defeat the purpose of life. For people who believe that, well, those people would say that my approach to life, to sit and think about life, is to completely waste life, because that thinking doesn't get you anywhere: It doesn't serve any purpose and it doesn't reach any goal, so why even bother when you could be out there enjoying yourself and entertaining yourself?

These seem like mutually-exclusive opposites: The dichotomy of thinking about things, or of having a happy life. It's not that simple, though: A person who thinks a lot is actually still capable of happiness. Such a person can still take joy in life. The reason why such people are always so sad is not because wisdom makes a person inherently sad, but because most people are so stupid and thoughtless that it is emotionally hurtful to be around them. The sadness of being a thinking person comes not from the thinking itself, but rather from the painfully obvious awareness that most people in the world are not thinking people. For most people, life is all about distracting yourself. People avoid the truth to make themselves "happy", and that dishonest pursuit of happiness is, paradoxically, the source of most of the sadness in the world.