Just the Tip…Some Reductio ad Absurdums on Rape

Consider the position posited by Andrea Dworkin that all heterosexual sex is rape. The gist of the argument is that the power differential between men and women is so great that any act of sex on the part of men is an abuse of power. If this is true of course, we can thus say that women do not have the agency to give their body over to a man no matter what the circumstances.

If this is the case though, it follows that women have no agency whatsoever to do anything. After all, if they do not have agency over their own bodies, how can they hope to have agency over anything else? Furthermore, if they have no agency over anything, why should we treat them as creatures of agency? To do so would be to act on the basis of superstition, not rational precedent. We are thus left not only with the conclusion that we should ignore any and all acts of agency by women (legal rights, personal desires, declarations of self-hood…etc). If this is actually the case, there is nothing particularly offensive about rape, since the agency of a woman to make decisions as to who gets to be inside of her is trivial to the point of meaninglessness.

If the US actually had a rape culture, we would not put men into prison for years for the act of committing rape. We would not view rape as a heinous kind of evil. We would not be culturally conditioned to detest rape and hate those who commit it.

If the US actually had a rape culture, disagreements as to the definition of rape and the standard of evidence needed to convict someone of the act would not occur, because our legal institutions would reflect cultural norms and so either rape would not be enshrined as a felony in legal doctrine, or we would have lobbying groups seeking to remove illegality from the act of rape.

If the US actually had a rape culture, we would be sending our sons and daughters to university with not only the expectation, but also the hope, that they will rape and be raped. We might even drop them off on their first day of school with roofies and handcuffs, the same way Johnny’s dad might give him a six-pack of lager as a going-away present on his first day of freshman year.

Rape culture hysteria is significantly correlated with the number of women on campus, not the number of potential rapists. One could argue that this occurs because fear-mongering about rape culture drives off men, but even then, there are two problems that need to be addressed.

  1. Why wouldn’t this scare off women? Why would men avoid such bastions of rape while women flock to them in droves? As far as I am aware, rape culture theorists have no answer to this.
  2. If “rape culture” is really a feature of the external environment of the campus, not the internal environment of the students’ perceptions, wouldn’t a smaller number of men lead to a reduction in “rape culture”?

We are either forced to conclude that women enjoy rape and men don’t, or that rape culture is a construct that only exists in the minds of women.

If everything we believe is a result of social conditioning, how do we know that rape is even a bad thing at all?



Love and Lust in the time of Ebola

ebolaaaWhat does it tell us about our time when a first-world nation is shaking with fear at the thought of a third-world disease? What does it tell us about our entire civilizational structure when we lack the ability to defend ourselves against the most basic threats?

Some people confuse this issue as one of bad choices. They argue that if we just chose to institute a travel ban, then we could start to contain this outbreak and begin the process of eradicating Ebola from our shores.

This is almost true, but it relies on one fatal assumption: that the US has the ability to take defensive action. We have lost that ability. Years of creating threats in foreign lands have robbed us of the ability to win when we have home-field advantage. The nation that fought two wars on home soil in its first 40 years of existence has lost the very skill that enabled it to exist in the first place.

Ashes to ashes, and dust to dust.

There is nothing we can do to protect ourselves. In light of this fact, fear has begun to take hold among many. This is a perfectly natural reaction. Yet, just as predictably, we now see a reaction occurring among people who claim that talk of Ebola is fear-mongering.

This is, to some degree, a reasonable claim. Yet, it relies on the assumption that fear in this circumstance is not rational. This is a point that can be contested fairly easily. We are talking about a highly lethal, easily transferable disease with no known cure infecting people in this country. The chances that this could become a major problem are likely enough to be worth considering. To be somewhat afraid is perfectly rational in this case.

Yet, making people aware of this is labeled as “fear-mongering” in some circles. This demonstrates fairly convincingly that some people are afraid not just of existential threats, but of fear itself. FDR must be rolling over in his graves to see what his ideological descendents have become.

But really, everyone knows that refraining from taking precautionary measures in the face of potential threats means that any harm that befalls you is unequivocally your fault. Now, not all threats will materialize (indeed, most of them will not, and yes, I do believe at the moment that this whole Ebola scare will eventually fall into this category), but it does not follow from this that we should not be at least somewhat prepared for them.

Most preparations fall into two general categories: eliminating the threat or fleeing it. Suppose you are being stalked by a tiger. Shooting the tiger would constitute eliminating the threat. Hopping in your car and driving to another state would constitute fleeing it. Fight or flight, and all that, you know.

Issues arise, however, when we scale up threats to the level of civilizations. A society cannot just pick up and move somewhere else. Nations cannot choose flight when faced with threats like hostile nations or lethal viruses. On the flip side of the equation, individuals cannot fight back against civilization-level threats, as they lack the power to effectively combat them. A nation can no more run from Ebola than an individual can fight it.

What this creates is a prisoner’s dilemma-type dynamic, in which the most rational response on the part of a nation is to devote all its efforts to fighting the threat, while the most rational response on the part of the individual is to flee.

Obviously, this fails to describe how many situations play out in real life (consider how many obstacles to a smooth exit and a prosperous resettling exist). But generally, we can intuit that in cases when it is likely that the civilization can fight off threats, more people will refrain from leaving, whereas the less likely it is that the threat will be adequately dealt with, more people will flee. This in turn reduces the ability of a nation to counter threats, because what is a nation if not its people? Past a certain point, a feedback loop kicks in, and once that happens, all hell breaks loose.

This is a very basic assessment. It is equally simple to understand from this that one can measure the degree to which a nation can handle threats by noting how many people flee it in times of crisis. However, this proxy measurement relies on the degree of rationality among the populace, as well as their ability to flee.

Note that ability to flee is actually key here. The more attachments to a community and an area that a person has, the less capable they are of fleeing. Thus, the more they will be forced to hold their ground. This in turn contributes to the ability of a nation to face threats.

What are the biggest attachments the tie most people to a geographic location? Family and employment. A nation with a strong family structure and a low unemployment rate will be one in which more people are forced to stay, and so will be forced to contribute to engaging with the threat. This is especially true if the circumstances of this threat entail an increase in jobs and families.

Thus, we can hypothesize that nations with strong family structures will be more resilient in the face of existential threats. Chalk that up as yet another reason to support the family.

Yet, what happens to those who stay when a nation fails to deal with a major threat? Chaos. Destruction. Bloodshed. Instead of standing strong in the fact of danger, the bonds of civilization shatter, and one’s former countrymen become the danger.

In this way, nations end the same way that stars do, devouring themselves until they collapse.

And what of those who flee? Either they assimilate to the existing culture of their new home, or they begin to build anew. A nation can rebuild itself if the people are properly seeded.

In this way, the statement I made earlier is not entirely correct. Nations can indeed flee from certain threats and take root elsewhere, in the same way the seed from a oak can grow into a mighty tree in its own right (consider, for instance, the history of the Jewish people).

The big question, of course, is whether this can happen with the destruction of the old nation. Though the death of the old certainly gives incentive to propel the birth of the new, the history of colonization suggests that it is not a necessary catalyst.

In this regard, the tendency of an individual to flee might not be so deleterious for his nation after all. A nation, as I stated, is not just its laws or its land, but its people. If an individual flees elsewhere, settles down, and breeds, his nation carries on.

A nation optimized for mobility in this vein will always find a way to endure, though it may not always thrive. A nation that manages to thrive both at home and in far off shores, however, will inevitably rule the world.

In theory, of course. The only way to know for certain, however, would be to build a new nation entirely, one that, from the beginning, would be constructed with one singular purpose: to one day rule the world.


Micropost: Assessing modernity through music videos

I’ve got a post coming up about Ebola and normal human threat response, but in the meantime, here are a few songs that are popular nowadays. I wonder what we can observe about the current state of affairs these days by listening to them?

Habits (Stay High) – Tove Lo

I’m not going to lie, I rather like this song. It is hauntingly beautiful in a way that speaks to my macabre sensibilities, and there is just something about it that I find deeply soothing. The underlying message that alcohol, clubbing, and casual sex with strangers do little to relieve emptiness and personal despair is also quiet sensible, and the reminder that most people these days don’t know of any other way to deal with those kinds of feelings is as chilling as it is true.

Welcome to modernity, kids!


All About That Bass – Meghan Trainor

I am trying so hard to steelman the message of this song, and the best I can come up with is “Having more weight than what is considered ‘attractive’ is cool because men like a nice ass on a girl.”

In all fairness, this is true up to a certain point, though I suspect the degree of difference between the cut-off point and the body type Meghan is talking about is significant.

Also, the whole “all about that bass” thing makes me think of that Nicki Minaj song that articulated the desire for a tall, sexy man with a deep voice and cash to burn. I wonder how many guys like that have expressed, with their actions, a preference for chunky women?


Black Widow – Iggy Azalea and Rita Ora

Some alpha stud is stringing her along and playing with her head and she can’t lock him down? She can’t decide if she loves him or hates him? The video is a projection of what she thinks she’ll do. The refrain is a subconscious admission of what’s more likely to happen. It’s easy to write off this kind of split-instinct as a woman thing, but this response glosses over the fact that all people have this inner tension, and modernity exacerbates it and discourages us from reconciling it.


Dark Horse – Katy Perry

Yeah…I really, really, really don’t want to believe that the Illuminati controls the world and announces their presence through music lyrics and hidden symbols, but the entertainment industry makes it so hard for me sometimes.

(Edit: I’m being flippant here. I don’t actually believe such things, but joking about them is more amusing than pointing out this video is just one big feminist power fantasy.)

I see a few common themes here, but most notable is the preponderance of white women singing about men; either expressing the negative consequences they have endured as a result of the actions of a male, or exhorting a man to do what they say.

Sounds like modernity in a nutshell.


P.S. Just for fun:


Of Signs and Sorcery: The Branches of Magic

When I was very young, I hoped that I would receive my letter from Hogwarts at the age of eleven, whereupon I would be whisked off to the hidden world of magic and sorcery. Long story short, my letter to Hogwarts never came. 10 years later though, it seems my invitation to the world of sorcery has arrived after all, in the form of this post by Bryce Laliberte.

Bryce’s introduction is a great first step. As he says, however, it barely scratches the surface.

A good next step would be to classify the different types of sorcery. In this way, we can better understand their application and their effects.

Before we proceed, however, we must differentiate two different types of sorcery: white magic and black magic. White magic is that which draws its power from stability and order. Black magic is that which draws power from chaos and disorder. Each branch of sorcery can follow either of these paths.

It is also important to bear in mind that both white magic and black magic can be used for good or for ill. Black magic can be used for good. White magic can be used for nefarious ends. A simple “either/or” distinction does not apply here.

There are also spells that draw power from both white and black magic. Though they are rare, they can be very powerful indeed, and it is foolish to deny their existence.

With this in mind, let us classify the different branches of magic.

 Alchemy: The art of turning one thing into another

Things change. It happens. High-heeled shoes used to be a very masculine article of clothing. Nowadays, a pair of them is an indispensable female accessory.

The word gay used to mean happy. Now it means homosexual. What happened? Alchemy.

Alchemy is the sorcery of implementing change.

His magic need not be applied to mere words. Alchemy is also the skill needed to overcome functional fixedness, for example. In what other way can you turn a frying pan into a hammer?

A black magic version of this might be to alter the definition of signs with intent to confuse (such as talking in code to fool potential eavesdroppers). The white magic counterpart would thus be to tweak the definitions of words to better reflect reality.

Divination: The art of discovering deeper truths

Your friend comes to you. He has a story to tell about why he can’t pay you back for another week. He seems a little off. His posture is different than usual. You know even before you start asking him questions that you’re about to catch him in a lie.

Divination. The magic of reading signs to discern the hidden reality underneath.

This can be as complex as the artifice of modern physics, or as simple as declaring one’s name.

(Above: Pure fucking magic, drenched in testosterone to give it that extra kick.)

A failure to understand irony or sarcasm is a failure of divination. A debate about metaphysics is a dick-waving contest in which both sides try to prove that they have the superior powers of divination.

Speaking of which, the entire framework of analytic philosophy is an attempt to bring rigor to this art.

A white magic example is in the quest of modern science to discover the inner workings of the universe. A black magic example is uncovering things that are best left untouched

If you’ve ever read Watchmen, you know what I’m talking about.

Divination is often found in opposition to illusionism.

Enchantment: The art of influence and control

I was baking with some friends earlier today. When the females in the group tried to pass off some of the more difficult tasks to me, I began laughing and teasing them relentlessly, saying things like: “Women. They only do things themselves when they can’t get a man to do it for them.”

I had fun with it, and after a few minutes, one of them was earnestly shelling pistachios and making damn sure I was aware of how hard she was working.

Enchantment. Simple shaming tactics of the black magic variety, but very effective.

Enchantment is not just the art of getting people to do what you want, however. It is more accurately conceived of as the art of instilling certain emotions in people.

Enchantment is perhaps one of the most intuitively simple branches of magic to pick up, as skill in enchantment is most commonly manifested through charisma and social skills.

Trying to get your friend to go to the gym? Enchantment. Charming people with witty banter at cocktail parties? Enchantment. The entire concept of “game”? A way of teaching men the subset of enchantment known as seduction.

In enchantment, white magic is that which draws on constructive emotions, like love or happiness, while black magic draws on destructive emotions, like envy or rage. Seduction is a most interesting form of enchantment because it can be white magic, black magic, or both, depending on the tactics used.

Enchantment is often found hand-in-hand with illusionism.

Evocation: The art of conjuration and banishment

Justice. Fairness. Human rights. These are weighty words, but why?

They are weighty words because they are conjurations of concepts with great weight behind them. To speak these words is to evoke the ideas they symbolize.

People turn when they hear their name because to utter a person’s name is, quite literally, to evoke them.

This is not the sum of evocation though. Evocation is also used to call into existence new constructs, as well as banish them. White magic is that which creates and sustains new constructs. Black magic is that which shatters or destroys them.

This makes more sense with a few examples.

I take this woman to be my lawfully-wedded wife.”

I now proclaim you a knight of the British Empire.”

Congratulations. You’re hired. You start the job on Monday.”

White magic. New constructs and orders of being are created.

I’m breaking up with you.”

For the crimes you have committed, I sentence you to die.”

You are no son of mine.”

Black magic incantations, and powerful ones, too. Old constructs are being disintegrated.

Evocation can also be used to compliment or to insult. To call someone a good person (or alternatively, a worthless cunt) is to evoke a beneficial (or malevolent) ideal and imply that the person you are complimenting (or insulting) falls within the class of things that belongs to this construct.

Evocation is perhaps the most variable type of sorcery.

Illusionism: The art of altering perceptions

They say that perception is reality. If this is true, then illusionism, being the art of altering perceptions, is the ability to play with reality itself. Even if it isn’t, illusionism is still arguably the most powerful branch of sorcery. There is practically no limit to what it can do. It is, for all intents and purposes, impossible to overestimate its sheer power. Underestimate it at your peril.

Humans are subjective creatures. We are fundamentally unable to grasp a truly objective reality. The subjective personal reality crafted by each individual to make sense of the world is but an illusion, yet it is a necessary illusion, for we would not be able to function in the world without it.

Because illusion is so vital to the human experience, altering the illusion can have effects as drastic as altering any vital organ. Take a look at the way that alcohol and other drugs change the way that people behave. Consider the effect it would have on a person to make them believe that everyone they love is dead.

Nietzsche’s great criticism of morality (and religion, especially Christianity) was that it was a form of illusionism meant to paralyze the strong and bring them down to the level of the weak. This isn’t exactly false, but that doesn’t mean that this is a bad thing, either.

I’ve mentioned “tactical assumptions” before, and it is now that I should point out that such things fall firmly in the category of illusionism.

White magic is those illusions that foster order, stability, and human flourishing. Civilization and morality are two illusions firmly rooted in white magic. The black magic counterpart is that which breaks down illusions, though fostering illusions that degrade also fall into this category. The concept of atomization that help American consumerist culture thrive is a powerful black magic.

In the words of Goethe, “None are more deeply enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free”. That is the power of illusionism in a nutshell.

Politics is the art of applying illusionism on the scale of a nation. Many types of art (such as film or theatre) apply illusionism for entertainment purposes. The way the media uses illusionism ought to be self-evident.

Illusionism, though powerful, can be countered not by illusionism of equal power, but also by divination. Indeed, the very nature of the two arts often sets them in opposition to each other, though this is not always the case, and in certain situations, they can be directed towards the same end (the power of this synthesis can be absolutely terrifying to those at whom its force is directed).

Necromancy: The art of giving and taking life

With one hand he giveth, and with the other he taketh away. Such is the creed of the necromancer. Illusionism may be the most powerful of the arts, but necromancy is the one that sends shivers down the spines of even the bravest men. It is that which takes life from the living and grants life to the dead.

In one sense, necromancy is evocation. When we speak the names of “Odysseus” and “Achilles”, we conjure them from the dead, and they live on through our incantations. The entirety of philosophy is one grand edifice of necromancy, with the living arguing with the dead before passing into death themselves to argue with the living.

However, this does not comprise the entirety of necromancy. Necromancy is the sorcery that enables one to commune with the incommunicable. It not only removes death as a barrier to human action, but it also alters the very nature of sorcery itself.

Words, just as humans, live and die. Necromancy, in a very real sense, is the art of applying life and death to words, the very signs through which we accomplish sorcery. The coining of neologisms is the archetypal white magic example of necromancy. Far more dubious (if not nefarious) is the black magic of reviving dead words. Darker still is the act of killing off a word entirely.

The revival of Neo-paganism is an attempt to perform necromancy on a dead form of religion. Whether it works will be dependent partly on how powerful the Neopagans can make their necromancy.

A more successful example might be the way in which Latin, though a dead language, continues to live on, especially in the legal and medical fields (and, to a very limited degree, this blog).

Combining Magics

Each of these magics are powerful on their own. However, the most powerful forms of sorcery are those that combine different branches of magic. The most successful societal innovations and social technologies are those which balance the different types of magic.

Marriage is the evocation of an illusion, often done for reasons of enchantment, in order to bring together the elements needed for a very particular combination of necromancy and alchemy to take place (arguably, this makes the family the most powerful spell of all).

The western court system is an organized clash between the illusionism of the lawyers and the powers of divination of the judge or jury. The outcome of the battle determines the final evocation that the court will utter.

Propaganda and rhetoric, two of the most powerful forms of sorcery known to man, are also examples of combined magics, emerging from the union of enchantment and illusionism, though it is conceivable that a skilled sorcerer will be able to add any of the branches of sorcery to this mix (evocation is the most common addition).

They say that when you grow up, it is time to stop believing in magic. I disagree. This world runs on magic. A fool will ignore this and retreat to whatever illusion he pleases. A man with an interest in leaving his mark on the world will take great care to understand magic, for it remains the greatest power in the human toolbox for influencing the world around us.



Progress, Diversity, and Innovation

Diversity. It is one of the great buzzwords of our time. Yet, why should this be? Diversity seems naught but an aesthetic preference. Why should we prefer it to homogeneity?

The usual response to this is some variant of the equation “diversity of sex/race/religion=diversity of experience=diversity of ideas”. In other words, the justification for aesthetic diversity is that it promotes the kind of intellectual diversity needed to drive innovation and creativity.

You’ll note that these aren’t overwhelmingly idiotic assumptions. Diversity of experience, after all, can lead to diversity of ideas. I recall an instance in which I was able to draw on my experience in martial arts to point out certain patterns of action that completely reframed the discussion on a problem in epistemology that I was having at the time. It broke ground on a new way of looking at the matter and helped us make substantial progress in resolving the issue.

So yes, diversity of experiences can lead to diversity of ideas which can lead to increased problem-solving ability.

Yet, on a practical level, there is something suspicious about how these results fail to appear. Why is it that diversity tends to lead not to better problem-solving, but to more and more cries for diversity and societal rights for the “diverse” ones?

Remember, the strength of intellectual diversity is its ability to generate a wider range of possibilities to act upon. Picking certain of these new ideas without testing them and then imposing them as a new homogeneity is the opposite of proper diversity.

When we actually subject diversity to focused analysis, we see that the discrepancy between input and results makes diversity a bad investment. As much as the multiculturalists might wish to convince themselves otherwise, diversity doesn’t work the way they want it to. The imposition of diversity thus serves not as an enhancement, but a modern day sin tax, for the sin of accomplishing things without the aid of at least one representative from each of the protected classes.

It is said that diversity + proximity = conflict. This is true even on the level of ideas. However, in the realm of ideas, it is this conflict that gives rise to innovation and the marketplace of ideas (it it helps, think of this dynamic as intellectual diversity + creativity = innovation).

This is what we ought to be promoting. To promote diversity instead of innovation is to confuse the sign with the substance. On top of that, when one considers the evidence that multicultural diversity reduces intellectual diversity, it is very easy to see why diversity fails to deliver on its promises.

To conflate intellectual diversity and multicultural diversity is to confuse exactly what factors drive creativity and innovation. It is a fundamental failure to grasp that most basic principle we rely upon to identify patterns: cause and effect.

Effect is not cause, and causation is a one-way street. Some things cause other things. Some things do not cause other things. Get the chain of causation right, and you can create wonders beyond even your wildest imagination. Get it wrong, and watch as everything you have built comes crashing down.

The only option left to save the right kind of progress is to stop promoting the wrong kind of diversity.