Saturday, June 17, 2017

thoughts on suicide

after a couple of high-profile suicides in my world, i thought i'd address the subject.

i've said many times that suicide is the saddest and most shocking thing anyone can do. if you've never seriously considered suicide, then, chances are, you can't comprehend that state of mind. it isn't something that just happens one day. it isn't the result of "being sad". it isn't because you couldn't get to a person "in time". people don't kill themselves because they got some ice cream on a hot day, but their dog snatched it when they weren't paying attention, or because they had a bad day at work or broke a nail. it can seem this way to outsiders, but, in reality, the camel's back is being broken by a straw.

suicide is the end result of a long and persistent struggle in which a person's spirit is slowly crushed by an existential hopelessness. it isn't a "solution" to anything. it's similar to being lit on fire and running, in a panic, to whatever is going to extinguish that flame. it's a desperate attempt to alleviate the agony of a dying soul.

i can't really say that "mental illness" is always the cause of the condition, although "depression" usually is. i guess it depends on how you define mental illness, but one can certainly arrive at that point simply by his perception of reality. one may see his reality as truly hopeless in the long-term. he may see himself as unloveable or unable to achieve his most precious goals. that can make you feel that your life is a prison from which you can escape in only one way, or a walled pathway that never ends and never changes. what's the point of taking the next step when it only leads to another step the same as the one before except that your feet hurt a little more? why continue walking?

i see so many ignorant platitudes about how it's never "the answer". you don't know what the answer is for other people. maybe it is the answer. imagine that you were seriously injured in a car accident. as the car comes to rest, you slowly realize that your bones are broken, you're bleeding at a worrying pace and generally disfigured. imagine the panic of that realization.

"am i paralyzed?"

"am i ever going to walk again?"

"will i lose limbs?"

"what can my life ever be after this?"

only you can decide if your life will truly be worth living at that point. of course, everyone around you will be assuring you that it is, but they don't know. they're only saying that to make themselves feel good, or because they think that's what they're supposed to say , or because they don't want to lose you, regardless of what living means to you. that's kind of how depression is. it ravages your psyche. the longer you struggle with it, the more damage it does. sure, you will heal after the car accident. but what will you be left with? you may recover from depression, but will everything still work? will you be a fully-functioning person? maybe not. maybe not in important ways. will life be worth it in that state? only you can decide. maybe it truly won't be worth it. if a house catches fire, you can put the fire out, but you'll still be left with a burned house.

when you're sitting on the edge of your bed, with a gun in your hand, or in the bathtub with a razor blade, or whatever, every cell in your body is fighting you for survival. the depth of pain and hopelessness required to overcome that survival instinct is unfathomable for most. you don't get there without having suffered severe psychological damage. i'd argue that severe depression can be overcome and that much of that damage can be recovered; maybe all of it. i wouldn't argue, however, that suicide is preventable in a meaningful way by simply "getting to him before he pulls the trigger". at that point, the damage is done. the way to help people is to pay attention and understand when things are going wrong for your friends. it may be really hard to determine. there's a good chance that, even if you're paying attention, you won't catch it.

severe depression is an insidious thing. yes, it causes more damage the longer it persists, but it also has the tendency to destroy time. what i mean is that, when one is suffering,the time spent in that condition can be like time spent in a cave. sometimes people can struggle for years or even decades and when they come out of it, they're years behind where they would have otherwise been, which contributes to the diminished value of life. 

all of that said, you can help people. i think the key is to be aware of your own ignorance. you don't know what they're going through if you haven't been there. recognize that. don't offer "solutions". don't give "pep talks". this isn't something you can fix. just be there, listen and be a silent sympathizer. don't shy away from physical contact. those things can ease the pain enough to make it tolerable. a lot of the problem is a feeling of isolation and some moron full of clich├ęs and platitudes can be even more isolating because it makes you feel like even the people you try to find solace in can't understand you. if you can't understand a person's condition, admit it. tell them you don't understand, but that you care and you want to help. think of yourself as life-support; you may not be able to stop the inevitable (and, ultimately, maybe that's for the best) but you might help a person hold on long enough to recover. suicide isn't always preventable, even if you do everything "right", but you can take comfort in the fact that you, at least, offered shelter.

asking people to be aware of themselves is like asking cows to pole-vault, but if you truly care about someone who's suffering and who's confiding in you, you'd better give it a shot (self-awareness, not pole-vaulting) or you may be the only one who lives to regret it. 

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

open borders: lew rockwell vs brian gray

this morning lew rockwell posted this article on his great website,

the article's headline on LRC is "Open Borders Are an Assault on Private Property".

i have great respect for lew rockwell; he's a great libertarian, but this article is superfluous on a couple of points.

1) rockwell states, "Some libertarians have assumed that the correct libertarian position on immigration must be “open borders,” or the completely unrestricted movement of people." when people talk about "open borders", does anyone really mean completely free movement of anyone to anywhere, regardless of whether the place they go is private property, or do they usually mean removing state-imposed restrictions at national borders?

should people be able to move from mexico to the u.s. freely, as long as they aren't infringing on the property of others? absolutely. that's what i, and probably and most other people think when they hear "open borders"; a removal of the state imposed restrictions on the movement of people. rule #1 when you're talking to people about complex ideas: define your terms.

2) he claims that in a regime of open borders, immigrants would flood the welfare state for benefits. "Obviously, in a pure open borders system, the Western welfare states would simply be overrun by foreigners seeking tax dollars." this might be true, but the fact that there are bad people (governments) doing bad things (stealing from some to give to others) doesn't justify further infringement on the rights of innocent people who are trying to cross those imaginary lines called borders. the problem is government, not immigrants. if one is to be restricted, let it be the guilty governments, not the innocent immigrants.

3) rockwell makes claims about the destruction of cultures due to open borders. "If four million Americans showed up in Singapore, that country’s culture and society would be changed forever. And no, it is not true that libertarianism would in that case require the people of Singapore to shrug their shoulders and say it was nice having our society while it lasted but all good things must come to an end. No one in Singapore would want that outcome, and in a free society, they would actively prevent it." "cultures" are, often, artificial constructs of governments, anyway, so who cares if cultures change? they always change, with or without immigration, so why does that even matter? why are the cultures of the u.s. and mexico so different? because the governments of mexico and the u.s. actively keep us from mixing. if we were free, we would mix, and we'd become, over time, difficult to distinguish from one another.

overall, i agree with rockwell's premise that private property should never be infringed. the right to property, defined as the entitlement to one's voluntarily acquired possessions, is the only right that exists and it should be defended at all costs. that said, i have a problems with presenting things in a way that muddies the water when people have a difficult enough time understanding the obvious and simple non-aggression principle.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

what is a bad person?

there are a number of concepts running through my mind at any given time and one of those is what makes a person "bad".

as much as i want to make it objective, meaning true beyond my opinion, i'm going to define it subjectively (because that's my prerogative ;)).

the problem is that it's not obvious when you see a bad person. very few bad people actually think, "yeah, i'm a pretty bad person". they don't have "BAD" tattooed on their foreheads. they might seem very normal in every way, likeable, even. no one thought, "wow, that hitler sure is a bad person. let's vote for him!".

it wasn't obvious to most folks.

the difference between a bad person and a not-bad person, in my definition, is very subtle and easy to rectify. a bad person speaks out on issues that affect others while in a state of ignorance on those issues. murray rothbard once said, “It is no crime to be ignorant of economics, which is, after all, a specialized discipline and one that most people consider to be a ‘dismal science.’ But it is totally irresponsible to have a loud and vociferous opinion on economic subjects while remaining in this state of ignorance.” 

even though i'm not really talking about economics here, the point remains. i see people all the time on social media, praising presidential candidate A or B. it's ok if you want another man to force you to do what he says; it's not ok for you to advocate that he do the same to me. we live in an age where the greatest repository of information in human history is literally at the tips of our fingers at virtually all times. there's no excuse except intellectual laziness or uncontrolled emotion that keeps you from using logic, based on correct premises, to understand the world around you.

victor pross said, "in the age of information, ignorance is a choice". he's right. like rothbard said, it's ok to be ignorant. there's nothing wrong with that. being ignorant doesn't make you a bad person by any means. what does make you a bad person is advocating that innocent people suffer because of your ignorance.

look, i'm ignorant about all sorts of stuff and i always will be. but, i have the intellectual integrity to undertsand that and to avoid advocating that others suffer because of my poor understandings. 

for instance:

if you don't know why minimum wages cause others to suffer, that's ok. if you don't know why minimum wages cause others to suffer and you advocate minimum wages, you're a bad person. 

if you don't know why gun control is both practically and philosophically wrong, it's ok. if you don't know why gun control is both practically and philosophically wrong and you advocate gun control, then you're a bad person. 

if you don't understand why taxation is theft, no problem. if you don't understand why taxation is theft, and you advocate taxation (or any of the things funded by it), you're a bad person.

if you don't understand how to tie your shoelaces, but you advocate that shoe laces be tied, you're not a bad person - because that will not cause anyone to suffer. 

all of those examples make you a bad person because all of those things require that someone use violence against someone else. all of those examples require that someone initiate force against someone else.

if you don't understand why, well, you're already on the internet, so...

Non-aggression principle

the good thing is you're not doomed to be a bad person. simply take responsibility for your intellectual conditioning, develop a little integrity, and either learn or learn to keep quiet.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

moo; like a cow's opinion.

The problem isn't that Johnny can't read. The problem isn't even that Johnny can't think. The problem is that Johnny doesn't know what thinking is; he confuses it with feeling.
- Thomas Sowell

i read this quote a couple of weeks ago and it sums up what i've been formulating in my head for some time, to come to terms with people's behavior.

it's a characteristic of human behavior to alert others to information that may help them, so when i learn something new, especially if it's of vital importance to humanity, my tendency is to pass it on. of great frustration has been the inability to convince others of simple ideas, of monumental importance, through impeccable logic. it's as though i see a crowd chanting, "2+2=5!", and i tell them, "hey guys, here's a mathematical proof that shows why 2+2=4!" unabated, they continue their chant.


it's been a great source of frustration and has been difficult to come to grips with.

i've wondered if i'm a genius to whom concepts that seem very simple are unfathomable to the average person, but i notice in the crowd of "5ers" many people of whom i'm certain possess greater intellectual horsepower than i (hopefully, my use of "whom", twice doesn't reflect that). i've thought that maybe i have a special gift for understanding and integrating concepts. maybe i do. but i think that the answer is much simpler than that. i think that sowell's quote, above, sums it up:

I think while others merely feel.

i don't know why this is. it could be from being a dumbass kid and my dad always telling me to "think, son!", or maybe a natural or defensive mechanism that allows me to separate intellect from emotion.  whatever it is, it seems to be an uncrossable gulf that divides the few from the many. uncrossable, mainly, because the very condition of confusing thinking with feeling precludes one from thinking about the concept of thinking!

if i tell bob that 2+2=4, but he doesn't know what it means to think, then he will react emotionally with no recourse to logic. he will not be able to understand why i'm right, nor will he be able to understand the means through which i came to be right. he won't even be aware that there is another way to come to conclusions! he'll think that he and i are equals and that my ideas are no better than his and therefore, argue, or even (absurdly) condescend to me about his position.

because of this, i'm not sure of the value of disseminating truth to the masses, and it shows in my decreased interest in doing so. there are, of course, others who may understand thinking and need developmental guidance, and it's valuable to be there for them, but at what cost?

it's important for a thinker not to take the ideas of the masses seriously. they're like children, saying whatever comes to them without critical thought, but also without the cuteness. we should, most times, just nod and move on.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

I punched your mom

well, not yet, but i think you'd be cool with it if i walked up to your mom and punched her right in the lip.

the defining principle of libertarianism is the Non-Aggression Principle. it states that no one has the right to initiate force against another person. if you believe this, then you wouldn't be cool with me punching your mom. but the fact is that an overwhelming majority of people reject this notion.

people everywhere support the initiation of force against others. taxation, regulation, prohibitions, social and corporate welfare, military, police, etc. all rely on one group of people initiating force or threatening to do so against others. if you don't pay taxes, ultimately, they will come for you with guns and you know that from the start. that's why you pay; because you know there's an "or else" hidden in there. regulation, be it social or business is the same. do as we say, or else. everything governments do carry an "or else".

this violates the non-aggression principle. the people who call themselves government, have no right to do the things they do, because they're just people and no person has rights that another person does not. no person can give rights that they don't have to another person who doesn't have them. no amount of votes changes that fact.

it comes down to this: you either believe in freedom, or you don't. you either accept the non-aggression principle or you're cool with me punching your mom.

there's no in-between.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

how to think about flag desecration

there's been a controversy recently in a nearby college town in which a group of protesters were desecrating a U.S. flag by walking over it. during the protest, michelle manhart, a veteran, was offended by the display and took the flag from the protesters. she was arrested and later released for those actions.

video and article are here.

the situation sparked controversy with some siding with the protestors and some siding with manhart. large nationalist counter-protests were organized and executed, with thousands turning out to support the flag.

i'm not exactly sure what the protesters were protesting, but if i had to guess, it would be based on some somewhat true, but mostly ignorant ideas about what the united states is and what it stands for. manhart's idea is that the flag stands for freedom and it deserves respect. basically, it comes down to people taking sides in an argument where, as usual, both sides are wrong.

the u.s. flag is a symbol of the united states government. sadly, most people are conditioned to think of the flag as a symbol of "america", "freedom" and anyone classified as an "american". that's false. what most people think of as "our country" is really little more than a large, open-air prison, bound by imaginary lines, called borders, inside of which all people are subjected to the rule of a group of people calling themselves a "government". these people use violence, or the threat thereof, to control and plunder the hapless population residing inside the borders.

in order to make their activities easier, the government uses propaganda to convince the population that they (the government) are necessary and good and that the population is, in fact, a part of the government and that "we're all in this together". of course, as anyone should be able to see, that's not true. governments want people to view a flag as a symbol of "the people", so that people will rally around it, thus allying themselves with the government that victimizes them. that way, the government can continue to victimize the population without much worry that they will ever cease to submit.

the effectiveness of the propaganda is especially clear when people not only associate the flag with themselves, but with freedom. as i pointed out above, the flag is a symbol of a government. governments, by their very nature, are explicitly anti-freedom. at their core they use violence and the threat of violence to force people to bend to their will. that's not only not freedom, but the destruction of freedom. propaganda has to be good if people use the symbol of a freedom-destroying organization as a symbol of freedom.

according to the woman in the story above, michelle manhart, " walk on the flag is walking on our symbol of freedom." it's ironic, then, that she, in order to save a so-called symbol of freedom, actually destroyed freedom when she took the flag away from its owners. she stole the property of the protesters, thereby limiting their freedom.

to sum it up, the flag is not a symbol of freedom. it is not a symbol of "the people". it's a symbol of an anti-freedom organization that exists by victimizing a certain population through force.

if protesters want to buy a flag and then walk over it, it's their right to do with their property as they see fit. if nationalists want to support the people that exploit them by flying government flags, then it's their right to do with their property as they see fit. 

there is no other issue here.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

i'm ignoring the baltimore riots

it seems that no matter how much i try to ignore the riots in baltimore, i can't escape hearing about them.

why would i try to avoid such an important story?

the way i see it, the whole thing is a waste of time. nothing good is going to come of it. no one involved seems to have any idea what the problem is (if that's even a thought that crosses minds) and, therefore, the problem won't be solved.

the problem is socialism. socialism is government control of the means of production. in baltimore, as in every other place, the the means of production in policing are controlled by the government. so, the police do the bidding of the government and the government wants to control and exploit the population. therefore the police act to control and exploit. over time, people get more and more upset about the exploitation and abuse and they lash out. on its face, that sounds like a good thing: people fighting back against their abusers. the problem with that is the people don't understand that socialism exists, nor do they understand what it is, nor do they understand that they should be free rather than have markets held captive by socialists.

if the rioters (many of whom simply use the occasion to do harm to innocent people) were to successfully oust the police force, they would simply institute another government-controlled police force and, over time, it too would descend into greater and greater abuse.

i don't see any way that human progress can be made here. it's one big black hole. if the rioters were principled, educated people who were overthrowing a government, eliminating it and allowing people and markets to run free, then i'd be all over it, cheering them on (maybe even participating). instead, it's just fighting for the sake of fighting and no one's going to win.

i'm not interested in hearing about that kind of negative crap. if you want to learn about how policing should be done, visit this link.