Saturday, 31 January 2015

Words Of Wisdom, And Why They Go Unheeded

I've been taking an online management relationships training course and because I am so honest (and opinionated!), I'm not sure I'll pass it. I could if I just gave them the answers they want, but integrity forbids me to do so; I'd rather not gain anything by lying about it or being untrue to my principles. The fact is, I believe some very strange things, if the way everybody else goes on is an accurate indicator.

Conflict resolution - we ought to be honest

For example, it's one thing to insist that people stick to provable facts and keep emotion out of it when working to resolve a conflict. In practice, good luck with that; if you're going to set ground rules, be ready to enforce them or you may find yourself in the middle of a screaming match. That's not what it says in this video.

This is what actually happens in practice. Can you see the difference? Okay, I was debating here but this is conflict and in my experience online and in real life the only one who can change anyone's mind is the person himself. They will do that when they are ready and not one second before.

Most people aren't honest

Here's a rebuttal I wrote earlier, though Renata Avila did a better job with this tweet about Wikileaks:
I wrote a whole blog post about [online] abuse and the complicity of those who refuse to provide the counter-speech required to save people from being chased offline, and she said it all in five words I want everyone to be able to quote as readily as other words of wisdom:

Silence -> consent -> normalization of abuses. - Renata Avila

That's my whole harassment experience, right there. The dishonesty of people who pretended to be my friends then either abandoned me or joined the trolls kept me in a situation I'd have left behind a long time before if I had known how it was going to turn out. You can't have a worthwhile discussion with a dishonest person and you can't force people to be honest. Making them outwardly conform is a different thing, and that's quite easy. It's the sneaky backstabbing I have a problem with. I think that's wrong. Weird, eh?

Most people don't want a resolution, they want to be right

Now while it's true I like to argue I don't chase people down if they're not interested in hearing from me. When stopped responding to me I stopped tweeting at her, mostly because I've finished saying what I had to say. That she probably still disagrees with me is none of my business. That ended when she stopped replying to me. It's the same with anyone I argue with.

Not all my arguments consist of everyone butting heads. In this thread, we're all in agreement on principle, but not on the details. Notice that I'm still putting facts and opinions out and asking questions, the same approach I use every time. Notice that a few of my own comments were favourited and retweeted. I'm not saying the other person is the problem every time; my confrontational approach can and does put people off. It's just that honesty tends to produce debates and conversations of superior quality than dishonesty, and people, perhaps because they're insecure, aren't always honest, particularly when they are socially and emotionally invested in an opinion or philosophy. In the linked thread, I was offered this free ebook on how to be more convincing. Highly recommended for debunkage purposes. It shows you how to argue more effectively. What's not to like?

People tend to invest emotionally in their opinions

I don't invest my self-esteem in my opinions since I'm not always right. I don't mind being called out when I'm wrong and usually admit it, hands up, when called out. And sometimes I win. When I'm not sure about something I'll either leave it alone or find out more about it by asking questions. I don't care what people think about that, it's how I learn. In this situation, I can see both sides — gross!/where's the justice? — and since I'm not willing to go metaphorically sewer-snorkelling to explore the ramifications, I decided to leave it.

It's hard to be tolerant and willing to listen

I've learned from the Debunking Handbook that people with low self-esteem issues will personally identify themselves with something they consider to be higher and better, and adopt its tenets as their worldview. Thus, when someone believes that to be a true conservative you must utterly reject out of hand anything that is not conservative in case you are contaminated by it (I've seen grown men bug out of discussions on hot button issues because of that. I thought it was hilarious, but now that I understand why I feel sorry for them.), you need to encourage them to find other things to base their self-worth and sense of belonging on if you are going to have an honest discussion. They might even listen to you if you just stop laughing at them. I know, but damn, it's hard. Grown. Men. Afraid of little old me. Stop it! LOL! But if being tolerant and willing to listen to their points of view, and to take the time to address their insecurities results in them being more willing to open their hearts and minds a bit, it's worth it. But that all depends on how honest they are willing to be and how long you're willing to wait for the drama to subside. To be honest, I've got better things to do, as a rule.

The Twofold Principle

I believe very firmly in the Twofold Principle:

The individual must be free to act and the will of the people must be respected.

That other people don't is the problem. Ironically, they're often the ones who shout the loudest about championing freedom. I get into fights with Pirates, Greens, Liberals, Left- and Right-wingers over this because they all think they know what's best for me. I might as well show you the "win" tweet from an earlier conversation with a Tory today.
Why in the world are we only given a choice between this or that? One or the other? I'm sick and tired of the left/right dichotomy and hate being pushed into the my-way-or-the-highway alleyways the people I often argue with present. Mr. Ward appears to have experienced a sharp intake of fresh air here. Well I'm happy to help.

It's hard to accept that other people may even have a valid point when you are so convinced that you are the one in the right you're willing to impose your views on them by force of law. It's that dishonest, inconsiderate attitude that's at the root of authoritarianism. When you have moral authority, it becomes a sacred duty to bend others to your will. To question your authority is to besmirch the sanctity thereof. This is interpreted as a personal attack and you will defend it with everything you've got. That this is as pretentious and arrogant as it is dishonest is not a notion authoritarians are willing to entertain and I never win those battles so I just troll them, asking awkward questions to show them up. I can't win them over but I can reach their audience.

Authoritarian dichotomies must be rejected

As crazy as it sounds, a top-down authoritarian approach is generally wrong even if "my" team is doing it. The sooner we take that on board, the better. Who says they're right? Who says I'm right? I've been called out any number of times when I was wrong, and that's okay. That's why flexibility and personal freedom is so flippin' important, as is respect for the community and its needs, which is what winds up all the people I argue the hardest with. I won't do what I'm told, by them or by anyone else and they've got no idea how to cope with that. I mean, we've got to take ONE side, haven't we? But what if neither of them works for you? Mr. Ward recognised what I was saying in that tweet and went, "Oh, yeah!" as realisation dawned. I may well have planted a seed there. Watch this space.

The Good Faith Principle

All of the above boils down to another quintessential nugget of my distilled wisdom:

Any philosophy that requires the suspension of disbelief to be acceptable to its adherents is automatically discredited.

You know how I keep going on about there being no such thing as a free market because the market isn't free due to protectionism and distortions due to anti-competitive practices? Well this is where the Good Faith Principle comes from. When people know and openly admit that their philosophy is bogus yet stick to it because of team loyalty or some kind of fetishistic superstition, I lose all respect for them.

The Pollyanna Principle

Any philosophy based on a best case scenario is ultimately doomed to failure 

This is the antithesis of the Good Faith Principle. It chooses to see only the good, filtering and blocking out anything that contradicts its blue-skies and rainbows view of life. If you can't or won't face up to the flaws in your chosen position you lose the right to slag anyone else off for being irrational because you're doing it yourself. If your hypothesis or theory doesn't stand up to scrutiny, don't bother to defend it, let it go. The trouble with Pollyanna thinking is you can only really hope for the best if you're prepared for the worst. In real life, when someone has emotionally invested themselves in any given belief or group, they prefer to double down on error in the foolish belief that if enough people agree with them it will become true. This enables the continued suspension of disbelief required and protects them from scrutiny. Needless to say, logical fallacies and cognitive dissonance proliferate where the Pollyanna Principle applies.


We've had to choose between  free market capitalism and socialism in different forms for over a hundred years. Every time I've criticised either system I was informed that the regimes under which they were practiced were doin' it wrong. Let's take a closer look, shall we?
Free market ideology requires a hell of a lot of suspension of disbelief. That there are people who believe that capitalism, in and of itself, is beneficial because it promotes efficiency via competition never ceases to amuse me. No, capitalism tends towards protection of incumbency. That's because rational economic actors acting in their own self interest deal with information and price goods and services the most profitably.

Socialism is an economic system in which the state or the people generally own most or all of the means of production. That is, under socialism, industries, agriculture and corporations are nationalized. The government may also manage the nationalized companies, or they may delegate this to a private company. Most socialist systems, however, allow some degree of private enterprise. Because it favors a strong role for the state, socialism should not be confused with Marxism, which holds that the state will eventually disappear.

Above are the official definitions of capitalism and socialism, but to see some of the comments in forums online you'd think the people writing them would know better. They have only to look it up, after all. The truth is, when you've elected to identify yourself with a particular ideology, it becomes impossible to critically evaluate it when to question it is interpreted as a personal threat. Partisanship entrenches these attitudes and promotes a siege mentality that only serves to make things worse.

If we're honest we will have to admit that in practice, neither a centrally planned economy nor a consumer-driven one provides individuals and groups with the flexibility and freedom they need to grow unless they are able to negotiate the raft of restrictions imposed on them by the principle actors. And, like it or not, RIGHT NOW our government is being run by multinational corporations who pour money into the campaign funds of those politicians they believe will be most favourable towards them. It's a business decision. Corporate socialism, if you will. And it's old news.

Why they're both wrong

They are both wrong because one pretends that the market is free while the other attempts to control both sides of it. Corporations are creatures of the state and tend towards monopoly, which is anti-ethical to a free market. Since free market fetishists are perfectly well aware of this, they are obliged to suspend their disbelief and pretend that the market is free despite the distortions and restrictions on it set by, would you Adam and Eve it, corporations. They will accept nothing less than domination of the market by the supply side, and God forbid that you should challenge their assertions, despite the mountains of evidence against them.

Socialists have a similar problem in which they have to pretend that you can actually control and manage both demand and supply. No, you can't. If you ban the supply of any item that is in demand, the people will interpret it as damage and route around it. That's why there is such a thing as the black market, the black economy, and the dark net. Both philosophies tend towards authoritarianism and both require that you pay no attention to the metaphorical man behind the curtain.

Authoritarians delude themselves that people would benefit if they would just stop making unapproved choices, give up their free will, and sublimate themselves to the system for its own good in the hope that the net benefits will trickle down to them, but none of them are actually willing to do this themselves. They all want to be the exception to the rule. That's why I've got no time for any of them.

There is another way

Middle-out economics proposes that a mixed economy in which the state sponsors essential public services such as infrastructure, education, healthcare, and social welfare to benefit capitalists would create and maintain a stable, thriving society. It demands a rise in the minimum wage so that workers can participate in the very consumerism that provides them with employment and free them from the need to claim welfare to meet their basic needs for food, healthcare, and shelter. A progressive tax regime would fund all of this and fewer people would be claiming benefits because they would not require them. Careful regulation would ensure free and fair competition, creating a freer, more fair market.

I've never had a proper debate on this. All the criticism I've seen so far is along the lines that it doesn't adhere to either a socialist or capitalist dogma, so it gets tossed out for breaking the rules. The thing is, it does work in practice. Businessmen fought tooth and nail against a hike in the minimum wage to $15ph citing projected job losses, price rises, and chaos in general. Call me a cherry picker but the local paper says they're doing just fine at the company that implemented it first.

Look, it either works or it doesn't. That Sea Tac is one of the few companies to have fully implemented the pay rise is the problem; they're a service provider in need of customers. Hopefully, newly affluent people will be making their way over there soon. They simply can't afford it yet. The suspension of disbelief, in this case, is that there are any choices other than the left/right dichotomy. Adherence to either won't permit the existence of any other system.


If we are going to have any chance of moving forward to a better tomorrow we are going to have to stop being too damned frightened to think for ourselves and be honest about why we want to believe the things we do. Only then will the words of wisdom we often hear have any value, since that is when we will be able to put them into practice most effectively.

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