Tag Archives: morality

On Life:

Hay all, going to put all the petty concerns away for a little bit today and ramble about the bigger things. So if you’re looking for my usual practical and pragmatic advice go read “On elected officials: Why we just cannot get it right…” again, cus what follows is more of a “if you don’t know, know you know” type thing.

 

Currently I have 33 continuous years of life racked up here on Earth, in that time I’ve come to strongly prefer people, opinions, situations ect. that respect life. Now I’ll freely admit my current living state may make me particular bias towards other living things, I’m spouting off how I feel today so a bit of biases will no doubt be in the mix. I’m not a fan of killing (though I support it indirectly all the time… (Taxes paid, food purchased ect..) It always seems so wasteful, especially when it comes to more complex organisms. That is not to say I give a free pass to the killing of “lower” organisms, plants should be entitled to live their plant lives, ants to do their ant thing ( IE take over Earth…) and so on. That is at least what I see as more ideal; letting life do what it wants to do… It’s a cool system we would be well served f-ing with as little as possible.

Humans (an area I have a special understanding of) tend to muck things up when it comes to life, when we are not killing each other en-mass, we regularly kill on small scale, both as indivual and societies. This may all be explained (and solved?) as our collective understanding of empathy ( and empathy gap) progress but when I look at the history of public execution, how violence is portrayed in media  and our infantile understanding of “Rights”…I’m not holding my breath.

How valuable is my life? I ask myself this fairly often, I know very well that my life is finite and try to be honest about what I think my life is worth. So far I’ve come up with a lot of different answers, mostly depending on what was going on in my life at the time. The most common answer (the one that came up this week and most) is “Very”, at least to me.  That said I do not consider it to be the end all be all of my existence, there are things that I would trade my life for, situations where I would (and have) risked it for something more valuable.

The personal value I place on my life is not the only measure thought, as a member of humanity my life also has value to the species (and if I’m going to look really far out, to all life in the cosmos). Now with the current state of humanity that value may be negative when looking from a cosmic perspective. Regardless life has value, it may be absolute (I don’t see it that way, but I also begrudge no one for fearing death, and acting like an asshat because of that). That is why I fall so strongly on the “let live things live” side of things, I value my life (as I think all humans on some level do).

Getting off the “Humans are everything” train, the value of life anywhere should be something we innately empathize with. From animals to bugs and bacteria, we can see parts of ourselves in them and should respect that as best we are able. Ownership when extended to live things is likely a bad idea, while I paid for him I do not “Own” pups, he’s a companion I try to be worthy of each day. ( Most day’s I’m not, but he’s super cool about it)

In the end we humans are all members of humanity (membership is mandatory^^), further as living beings we are all members of … something…   I long for a world where any human will always be happy to see another human, and by extension, where all humans are happy to see life, everywhere it exists, in all it’s forms. Where we abandon the death filled ways of the past and work only to understand life and through that understand ourselves. Once we show that minimal level of dedication to our condition, we can start interactions with intelligent life. (I think there’s a fundamental difference between life and matter, and it’s important to respect that. People who are forced (or by choice) to see life as means to an end are not their brother’s keeper, are being selfish and in need of an environment where they can learn to love.)

On GAAP

For those not in the know GAAP is known by some as generally accepted accounting principles, it’s basically the rules that public (and most private) companies use to report their financial data, and it’s use is required by law in most western countries (Europe uses IFRS) I’ll skip the specifics and just say GAAP is CRAP because of how it treats payroll.

According to GAAP payroll is an expense, the antithesis to profit, something to be minimized. While it is true that monies paid in payroll are not available for other uses by the business, they are in effect a part measure of how much that company is supporting the public good. While a board room may simile upon paying the least to people and maximizing their profits, that mentality is a force for inequality. How can businesses determine a fair rate of pay? Clearly there is not enough money to pay everyone CEO rates, how can we (more) fairly determine how much money a person gets?

Time! By and large we are all equal in the # of hours we have in a day. All non-government pay should be based on hrs. Service and little or nothing else. This ensures that the person in the mail room or the executives in the board room are on an even playing field. They both have 24 hrs. in a day, and should be compensated for the # they spend working.  Ideally, the hr. rate (how much money 1 hr. earns) would be level across all enterprises and industries, but (especially during the transition) indristires that the government would like more people in can have their hr. rate given a premium.  (NOTE: this is counter intuitive as a main advantage to the universal hr. rate would be compensation would NOT be a consideration in selection of work. People would work where they want to.)

Now to address the naysayers who would undoubtedly claim that the most skilled among us would not work (or at least not be utilized to their max benefit) in such a system. Good! Humanity as a whole has seldom if ever needed the best, the best is overrated, it’s costly, transient and on the whole hard to re-produce. We need good happy people doing good work. Anyone who’s main motivation is $$ will never do as good a job as someone who cares about what they are doing directly, not merely as a means to an end.

Getting back to GAAP, it’s an example of institutional, government required economic inequality. It is a set of rules that treat income as an externality, a cost, something to be minimized (and the people it applies to likewise marginalized). A better accounting system would require tracking the # of hours and how equitably the value earned from those hours are distributed in society. Instead we have GAAP, forcing all business to report payroll as a cost, with no mention of the hours involved. The human cost that each employee pays to keep the enterprise alive. Its codified repression, entrenched economic discrimination, part of the body of law that implies it’s ok to buy and sell people, as long as you call them “jobs”.

On Discretion:

Jokes about the better part of valor aside; In most facets of our lives we largely impacted by the decisions of others, here in the U.S. (hopefully) that impact is diluted among many different people. In nations less developed or social/political systems that are mostly authoritarian one person’s discretion can have an effect on many people. While this CAN be a good thing, I am going to argue that discretion is more of a reflection of the environment and condition of the individual exercising it than of the individual’s worth or character. While this is not applicable to all situations: most times communication is the ounce of prevention where punishment is the pound of cure.

Making the right call: I think it is fair to say that no one can be expected to make the right call all the time every time. Part of the human condition is making mistakes and any student of history can point out countless examples of normally reliable people exercising poor judgment. That being said, the other end of the scale is that under the right conditions (almost) anyone can make the right call. Sadly we rely on the same people to exercise discretion on a regular basis: Cops, Lawmakers, doctors, teachers just to name a few.   Starting with cops and working my way through the list I will demonstrate how environment plays a critical role in how people in these ( and other ) professions exercise discretion. Most of the time officers exercise discretion it is for a “good” reason, meaning that if (via magic) you could go back in time and look in the officers head, and see the choices they had and the reason they went with the one they did you would agree, if not condone. I make this assertion based on a fact and a lot of anecdotal evidence. Fact: most interactions with the police do not result in complaints, I will not bog us down with research on the matter just go with me for now. So an average cop under average circumstances is going to make a good call, but what if the situations starts to get messed up? Debt is a super common reality of financial life for a lot of Americans, how would a lot of debt affect a cop’s discretion? Now I think that for most cops it would not affect it much, not to the degree necessary that they would do anything different from a non-debt cop, but it is plausible that they might have reason for pause when counting money for the first time. Now let’s take debt cop and add in a messy divorce, upset sleeping habits, generally poor mood and the like. Is he going to make a “bad” call? Maybe, maybe not the point is he is at best going to make the call that normal conditions cop is going to make, and he has a lot of pressure now to make a bad call. The more people making calls ( or exercising discretion) under circumstances like these the more bad outcomes we will get. So our system has no concern for the situation of the person making a call, but doles out punishment after the fact. It is too late after the fact, lets say debt cop gives in a takes some money, now he goes to jail and a life is ruined, but was he really a bad person? Or event a bad cop? With an all or nothing approach we are setting up these people to fail, then jumping on them when they do. A far better approach would be to allow “wiggle room” for people, judgment is not an on/off or good/bad switch there are gradients of gray, FAR better we encourage debt cop to let people know, but that kind of social change seems to be beyond what we are willing to do.

Why focus on environment though? What would happen if debt cop tried to talk to anyone about his debt possibly affecting his judgment (instead of letting it fester and lead to crime)? Best case scenario he is put on leave, worst case he is fired ( unlikely) or transferred (possible) and gets a reputation and a sharp halt in advancement. There is really no good reason for debt cop (or anyone!) to communicate that anything might be affecting his judgment. There are tons or reasons for him to keep that to himself. Our environment encourage people to “tough it out” alone, and that is a problem, when a person has only their own judgment to rely on that is the WORST possible judgment possible (especially when they are stressed somehow). Not the worst outcome necessarily, even on our own we are plenty capable of exercising awesome discretion, but it is like a die roll, when you add another person to the mix it’s like adding another dice: it is still possible for 2 die to come up snake eyes, but the more people/dice you add the smaller that chance gets more over while debt-cop’s dice might be rolling at a -1 penalty ( because of the debt stress) that will not apply to others. Forcing people to keep quiet about personal problems also forces them to make decisions on their own when they are the least capable of it, this is where discretion starts to cause problems for others and society at large.

The other professions I listed ( and many not listed) are the same way: admitting that something might be affecting your judgment is a death sentence in politics. Imagine if an elected representative held a press conference to say “I am concerned about the funds in my re-election campaign, to the point that I should not be running the state for a few days”. It will not happen, however the stress and poor decisions that result from that stress do happen, all the time. Take any corruption charge, who is more likely to accept a bribe, the person who has all the money they need, or the person who is poor? (Again, not all rich decline bribes and not all poor take them; my point is it’s a motivation)

So why do we incentivize dishonesty when it comes to our own judgment? That is a topic for another day, the point is that we do, and this causes the people we trust to exercise their discretion for good to instead exercise their discretion for … themselves.

On why the wealthy should not fear re-distribution:

I tend to be unabashed in expression my opinion that we should all (more or less) be operating on the same economic level, by that I mean differences in income should be as little as necessary for survival of the specials, not a continuation of a (literally centuries long) system of exploitation of the many by the few. However the transition from barbaric winner takes most economic systems to a we’re all in this together style need not be cause for alarm, or really event concern and here’s why:

First: This transition would be good for everyone wealthy and poor alike. I reference it a lot, but the spirit level outlines fairly well the negative effects of in-equality on societies, not poverty mind you, but wealth/income inequality. We are social creatures and less “I’m better than you” in our social interaction makes for an all around more pleasant place for us all to live. Now I am sure there are social niches in society that quite enjoy having or at least proceeding themselves to have an air of superiority. While I doubt near universal economic in-equality will completely eradicate this it should at least relegate it matters that are not life and death importance. If you’re one of the un-fortunate few who currently derive pleasure from pretending you are better than everyone else the transition from inequality to equality will provide fertile soil for personal growth. Moreover sustainability will play a much larger role in economic policies from local to global, when we stop chasing profits it will be much harder to rationalize our insane consumption of fossil fuels. To cite just one example shipping cargo containers from one country to another: the expenditure of fossil fuels just moving things from Asia to the U.S. and vice versa is insanely unnecessary if we’re not perpetuating a profit based economy. Transmitting the information necessary to construct goods has a cost that is orders of magnitude less than transmitting physical goods across the world, the drawback being telling someone across the world how to make your product there is not profitable.

Second: Economic equality will lead to better (although probably) less stuff. With us all operating on the same economic level the focus of our leaders will be the same as the focus of the people they lead. This will naturally cause a transition from producing things that people will buy, too producing things that people need. This might be the hardest pill for today’s wealthy to swallow, an economically equal society will have little use for personal yachts and private aircraft, until such things can be produced in quantities were all want them can have them. However I wish to make a clear distinction here I do not recommend nor do I really see it possible that the unwashed masses rise up and sees such things, rather we just stop producing them. Eventually they will take on a new role as relics of an era when mankind was cruel to his brother, and the desire to own them will fade. Now as for the better stuff: technological advancement will continue, however our current system of competition can be truly detrimental to technological advancement. Think about how our academic progress would be stunted if each institution did not share its findings, or even went so far as to pursue legal recourse against others who tried to use their findings. We have many bright people working in many different companies who could benefit immensely from cooperation, indeed humanity as a species could benefit greatly from cooperation, equality will help lead to that. The kind of progress humanity could make if we’re aligned in a single direction staggers the imagination, it rises to the level of power necessary to force a god to act. (tower of babel reference).

Third:    It’s going to happen. While inequality might have thousands of years of history on its side, so dose progress in one form or another. While the slow march to economic equality has seen many setbacks we stand on a technological presupposes that will hopefully demonstrate the need for humanity to look critically at our economic systems (and our governmental systems). The current global socioeconomic systems as we have in place are ill equipped to deal with a world where each citizen has an un-told power at his fingertips. As we become more connected with one another hopefully our understanding of each other’s suffering will force us to make more empathetic decisions. As this plays out over the next two or three decades and will be a slow and pleasant transition, and certainly nothing to fear.

On why the wealthy should not fear re-distribution:

I tend to be unabashed in expression my opinion that we should all (more or less) be operating on the same economic level, by that I mean differences in income should be as little as necessary for survival of the specials, not a continuation of a (literally centuries long) system of exploitation of the many by the few. However the transition from barbaric winner takes most economic systems to a we’re all in this together style need not be cause for alarm, or really event concern and here’s why:

First: This transition would be good for everyone wealthy and poor alike. I reference it a lot, but the spirit level outlines fairly well the negative effects of in-equality on societies, not poverty mind you, but wealth/income inequality. We are social creatures and less “I’m better than you” in our social interaction makes for an all around more pleasant place for us all to live. Now I am sure there are social niches in society that quite enjoy having or at least proceeding themselves to have an air of superiority. While I doubt near universal economic in-equality will completely eradicate this it should at least relegate it matters that are not life and death importance. If you’re one of the un-fortunate few who currently derive pleasure from pretending you are better than everyone else the transition from inequality to equality will provide fertile soil for personal growth. Moreover sustainability will play a much larger role in economic policies from local to global, when we stop chasing profits it will be much harder to rationalize our insane consumption of fossil fuels. To cite just one example shipping cargo containers from one country to another: the expenditure of fossil fuels just moving things from Asia to the U.S. and vice versa is insanely unnecessary if we’re not perpetuating a profit based economy. Transmitting the information necessary to construct goods has a cost that is orders of magnitude less than transmitting physical goods across the world, the drawback being telling someone across the world how to make your product there is not profitable.

Second: Economic equality will lead to better (although probably) less stuff. With us all operating on the same economic level the focus of our leaders will be the same as the focus of the people they lead. This will naturally cause a transition from producing things that people will buy, too producing things that people need. This might be the hardest pill for today’s wealthy to swallow, an economically equal society will have little use for personal yachts and private aircraft, until such things can be produced in quantities were all want them can have them. However I wish to make a clear distinction here I do not recommend nor do I really see it possible that the unwashed masses rise up and sees such things, rather we just stop producing them. Eventually they will take on a new role as relics of an era when mankind was cruel to his brother, and the desire to own them will fade. Now as for the better stuff: technological advancement will continue, however our current system of competition can be truly detrimental to technological advancement. Think about how our academic progress would be stunted if each institution did not share its findings, or even went so far as to pursue legal recourse against others who tried to use their findings. We have many bright people working in many different companies who could benefit immensely from cooperation, indeed humanity as a species could benefit greatly from cooperation, equality will help lead to that. The kind of progress humanity could make if we’re aligned in a single direction staggers the imagination, it rises to the level of power necessary to force a god to act. (tower of Babel refrance).

Third:    It’s going to happen. While inequality might have thousands of years of history on its side, so dose progress in one form or another. While the slow march to economic equality has seen many setbacks we stand on a technological presupposes that will hopefully demonstrate the need for humanity to look critically at our economic systems (and our governmental systems). The current global socioeconomic systems as we have in place are ill equipped to deal with a world where each citizen has an un-told power at his fingertips. As we become more connected with one another hopefully our understanding of each others suffering will force us to make more empathetic decisions. As this plays out over the next two or three decades and will be a slow and pleasant transition, and certainly nothing to fear.

On counter insurgency:

A bit topical today, how do we prevent “terrorist” from killing people? First we need better definitions, as the quotation marks show I believe there is no universal definition for this word and more importantly I believe how we define ( or have failed to define) it has cost many a life low these last few decades. What am I talking about:

The FBI defines as follows: 18 U.S.C. § 2332b defines the term “federal crime of terrorism” as an offense that:

  • Is calculated to influence or affect the conduct of government by intimidation or coercion, or to retaliate against government conduct; and
  • Is a violation of one of several listed statutes, including § 930(c) (relating to killing or attempted killing during an attack on a federal facility with a dangerous weapon); and § 1114 (relating to killing or attempted killing of officers and employees of the U.S.).

So the FBI has a requirement that killing or attempting killing of government officials/employees is terrorism, (loosely defined). That being our own government’s definition of terrorism, and terrorism being illegal, I pose a question: What exactly is our justification for killing and attempting to kill Yemeni government personal? Seeing as how this activity is a violation of U.S. statute and more importantly fails a basic logic test: if we really want to stop terrorism, how is engaging in terrorist activity on a national level logical? In short I doubt it is, if stopping terrorism is really the goal. From Vietnam to Syria and all the places in between, we ( the U.S.) have not done any of the following: made the world a safer place, protected lives, established sustainable order. We have done the following: made a SHIT TON OF MONEY and KILLED A LOT OF PEOPLE. You are free to argue the semantics around that affirmation, but while what constitutes a safer world and order can be argued, the premise stands: our actions on the international scene are clear. Moreover now that we have seen so many wars a pattern is becoming evident to event someone as dull as myself: this stuff is straight out of Orwell: communist, terrorist, a vague threat from overseas… Let’s get something straight: hunger and heart disease have claimed more lives that terrorism ever has or will, but waging war on these are not endeavors that will pad the paychecks of our leaders, and moreover these are issues that can bring humanity towards common goals. While our leaders speak about the importance of these things, their actions are not in line with actually solving these real and far more pressing problems, because: All important social systems ( election, government, economy ext..) run on conflict, our ruling class NEEDS AND WANTS conflict, and go figure look what we see play out on a global stage.

The point to this rant is this: The U.S. has ZERO moral ground to go murdering foreign nationals, imagine if china killed 200+ Americans in a suburb of Chicago, and simply claimed they were “plotting to kill Chinese” would we accept the Chinese intelligence service’s phone transcripts as proof? Would we simply ignore it? Now imagine further that the U.S. government said it was OK, those killed were indeed terrorists, and the few killed children were an unfortunate but acceptable level of collateral damage. Think here…. While I myself would simply keep to blogging(I’m a care bare), what are the chances that some of us would try to take revenge on the Chinese? What if they drone struck 2 towns? 3? Actions like this inspire and create terrorists! This is not a secret and the U.S. government dam well knows it. While all our elected officials speak about peace look at our actions! We are actively 1. Violating our own laws and 2. Creating an entire generation of terrorists!

To find reason for this madness one must just follow the money, in-equality is not an easy thing to promote and maintain, but those on the mega wealthy side of the equation need conflict in order to keep the system going. So to answer my own question, how do we stop “terrorists” from killing people? We start by taking terrorism off the list of acceptable actions on our own part. Second, going back to my example of China drone striking your town, what would it take on China’s part to quell the call for revenge? Could it be quelled? How long would it take for the hatred to die? If we really want peace we cannot allow this schism between out beliefs and our actions to continue, it will be a hell of a process, but the peace process will never event start until we stop…