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A Swede in Germany

Archive for April 2022

Nazis V: Leftist self-perception/-portrayal vs. reality

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One of the most disturbing aspects of the Left is the great difference between self-image/-portrayal* and reality—with the difference between their image/portrayal of their opponents and reality not far behind.**

*Chances are that most Leftists genuinely believe in this-and-that, that they have been mislead by others and are only thinking and repeating the opinions of others. Correspondingly, it is important to keep the difference between self-image and -portrayal in mind when we look at individual Leftists (as opposed to the Left as an abstract).

**This includes issues around Nazis and Nazism, like an inability to see similarities with an own position and the Nazis’ or an identification of opponents with Nazis based on too superficial criteria and/or misrepresentation. However, it is by no means limited to issues around Nazis. Indeed, while this text is important to the overall Nazi series (especially, to counter “We on the Left are pro-X and the Nazis are anti-X! The Nazis must be Right-wing!” thinking), it will not contain much on Nazis.

There appears to be a radical disconnect between what the Left claims to believe, support, want to do, etc. and what it actually believes, supports, does, etc. While often allegedly being in favor of e.g. freedom of speech, the rights of the individual, justice for all and opposed to e.g. oppression and unwarranted special treatment* based on group, their actual beliefs, as revealed by actions** or a closer inspection of claims and statements***, very often show the opposite. I have seen far more intolerance,**** sexism, racism, disregard for civic rights, the-end-justify-the-means thinking, and other unhealthy attitudes on the Left than on the non-Left over the years.

*I deliberately use a vague and generic term, as a wide range of special treatments can be relevant. I am tempted to simply say “discrimination”, but in the Leftist abuse of the word, it might have too specific connotations, while the correct use might include cases that actually are warranted. (For instance, requiring that the attendant of the women’s locker room be a woman is a case of sexual discrimination—but, until the last few years, not one that would have raised objections even on the Left.)

**Consider someone who claims to be in favor of equality—and who pushes a law for a minimum proportion of specifically women among e.g. board members . Someone actually in favor of equality would have demanded minimum proportions for both sexes. (This assuming that quotas worked well and were legitimate per se, which I very much doubt. A true equalist would have focused on equal opportunity. That is a question on another dimension, however.)

***Consider an alleged supporter of free speech who condemns everything that does not conform to a certain worldview or ideology as “hate speech”, “racism”, “sexism”, “fake news”, whatnot, and considers the censorship of such crimethink outright positive. (This often in a manner that requires bad faith and/or ignorance of the facts at hand.)

****I have intended to write a text on intolerance, Leftist hypocrisy, and the world-turned-upside-down take of Marcuse for years. I hope to get around to it shortly after the Nazi series.

A particularly common example is the claim that “we” (i.e. the Left) are in favor of civic rights, while “we” actually engage in opposition to them. Even groups that do not claim support for civic rights, e.g. Soviet-style Communists, show a similar disconnect. For instance, many Communist dictatorships have been lavish in rhetoric on their own goodness and the evil of their opponents—and have often applied words like “democracy” in a sense incompatible with the established and/or “Western” meaning.*

*Consider the German Democratic Republic (i.e. GDR/DDR). I have seen motivations for such uses, e.g. in the direction that it would matter less that the people had a say and more that decisions were made in the interest of the people—true democracy would be serving the interest of the people (even if the people had no say; after all, the people does not understand what is in its best interest), and that the Western countries would be the ones abusing the term. Such motivations have never convinced me. That the interest of the people seemed to coincide surprisingly well with the private interests of the rulers, the party, and/or the ideology did not help. It must, however and in all fairness, be said that Western democracies are often and increasingly walking down the same road, even while nominally adhering to some variation of the principle of “the people is in charge”.

Of course, the mere existence of Soviet-style Communists (and similar groups) is enough to allow a compatibility comparison with the Nazis over e.g. civic rights; however, much of the Left, especially among e.g. Pseudo-Liberals, Social-Democrats, and the New Left, appears to contain a genuine belief that “we fight for freedom; the others for oppression”, “we fight for civic rights; the others want to crush them”, “we fight for democracy; the others want to kill it”, and similar, which goes far beyond the standard “we are the good guys” that applies to virtually all groups—including Nazis and Communists. This is the odder, as the opposite is usually far closer to the truth. (Some specific examples follow below.) Indeed, I have repeatedly seen individuals claim “I belong to the Left*, because X, Y, Z”, where X, Y, and Z are attitudes quite often found among non-Leftists (notably, Libertarians) and non-Left parties, but not or much more rarely among Leftists, let alone Leftist parties. They might even be among the reasons why I distance myself from the Left! In these cases, the very reasons why these useful idiots consider themselves Left are what should make them non-Left.

*Or e.g. a specific party on the Left. With parties, it is noteworthy that such claims might have been less wrong in the past, and that a lack of awareness of a changing situation might play in. I doubt that the U.S. Democrat party has ever been the shining beacon for civic rights that is seen in its self-portrayal, but chances are that the current incarnation is worse than e.g. the 1960s incarnation.

In many ways and very often, Leftist “argumentation” can be likened to someone who climbs a high building, brings out a megaphone, and shouts at the top of her lungs that “WE ARE THE GOOD GUYS! THE OTHERS ARE EVIL!”,* “WE ARE RIGHT! THEY ARE WRONG!”, with no actual argumentation to support these claims. Should someone try to argue the points, the Left brings a bigger megaphone and drowns out whatever the opponent tries to say. And, no, this is only partially a metaphor: I have seen a great many Leftist protests/meetings/whatnot in Germany that basically consisted of an angry someone angrily shouting into a megaphone to the masses, apparently hoping to make them equally angry. This usually with a very simplistic and angry message (e.g. “CAPITALISM IS OPPRESSION!”) and a complete lack of angrym… arguments. I have never seen something similar from non-Left groupings.** Similarly, note the behavior of many far-Left freaks in U.S. colleges: when an opponent has been invited to hold a lecture or participate in a debate, he is met not with counter-arguments and tricky questions but with noise aimed at making his words inaudible or, even, attempts to physically prevent his entry—as if a U.S. college was nothing more than a Kindergarten.

*Note that this differs from the mere belief, not specific to the Left, that “we are the good guys” in at least three regards: (a) The same type of shouting does not take place. (b) The belief that “the others are evil” is not automatic. The chances that someone non-Left considers someone on the Left merely factually wrong or as having weird priorities appears to be larger than vice versa—while the chances that the Leftist consider the non-Left outright evil or morally deficient are larger than vice versa. (Note that I deliberately went with “evil” over a mere “the bad guys”, despite the lack of symmetry—a mere “the bad guys” would too often fall short of the sheer strength of Leftist sentiment.) (c) The non-Left is far more likely to actually back up their claims with facts and reasoning.

**There is a difference between “I have not seen it” and “it does not happen”. However, chances are that it is far rarer, even should it happen.

This shouting of “WE ARE THE GOOD GUYS!” is particularly dangerous, as there are many who fall victim to this claim without a proper amount of critical thinking, actual insight, and knowledge of the “other side”. Indeed, there is great reason to believe that many or most supporters of the Left fall into the category of “useful idiots”, including those who believe that the U.S. Democrats actually represent (true, non-pseudo-, non-“social”) Liberal* values. They do not: The current Democrat ideology is antithetical to the Liberalism that once was and which once gained Liberals the reputation for being enlightened. True, or classical, Liberals are now found under replacement labels like “Libertarian”.

*A similar case likely applies to “Progressive”; however, as this term is not in much use in Sweden and Germany, I have not paid enough attention to it. Still, I doubt that old Progressives, like Teddy Roosevelt and Eisenhower, would be enthusiastic about the current crop of Democrats. (In a twist, these were Republican presidents, but great care should be taken when comparing the parties over such long time frames.)

Notably, most members of the Left appear to be largely ignorant of what their (real or perceived) opponents actually believe, going, as they do, only by the Leftist claims about what the opponents believe (e.g. that they are racist). They have never bothered to look into e.g. a party program or to read the type of literature that is the basis for much of their opponents thoughts—say, something by Hayek. (Interestingly, I have repeatedly heard anecdotes along the lines “I used to believe that [e.g. Libertarians] were this-and-that; then I read [e.g. Hayek] and now I find them much more sensible than the Left.”) How many typical U.S. Democrats have ever bothered to gain even a casual acquaintance with the thoughts that underlie the early U.S. and which still is important for much of Republican thought? How many have actually read literature that challenges existing paradigms, often very successfully, say, “The Bell-Curve”? Instead, “The Bell-Curve” is condemned as “racist”* by great masses who have never read it, do not understand what it is about, and are not willing to open their minds to anything but a preconceived opinion of “racist” or otherwise “evil”.

*Indeed, not only is it not racist, but I would not even apply a political label like “Right” or “non-Left” to it.

(In contrast, during the early days of my own political awareness, I made a great point of acquainting myself with the writings of “the other side”, including works by some Swedish Social-Democrats and Unionists and some “proletarian literature”. Similarly, I spent a lot of time on e.g. Feminist blogs during my early blogging phase. To note, very, very often have I been put off by the great amounts of faulty reasoning, bad facts, personal attacks, and that general, unreflecting, and adamant “WE ARE THE GOOD GUYS! THE OTHERS ARE EVIL!” attitude. Non-Leftist books/blogs/etc. are by no means universally free of fault, but they do have a much higher likelihood of using argumentation ad rem in lieu of mere assertion and personal attacks.)

An interesting individual example is an old colleague of mine (who has already featured in an older text; also see excursion), who was in fury over the German Pegida protesters, went to counter-protests, and saw it as justified to throw eggs at the Pegida protesters. At some point during a discussion, he suddenly blurted out that “But I don’t like the Burqa. It should be banned! I draw the line at the Burqa!”. This, however, with regard to Islam, is an opinion that a large subset of Pegida would have shared. Some of them are more strongly anti-Islam or anti-Islamist, but some are also just after (what they and he) perceived as excesses. (Many others appear to have been motivated less by feelings about Islam and more by justified disappointment with the German politicians.) Then we have the question of religious tolerance—if a Muslim woman wants to honor her religion by wearing a Burqa, who is he to forbid her?*

*The Left, Feminists in particular, often frame the burqa, the niqab, and similar as male oppression of women. That some Muslim women actually are in favor of these garments never seems to occur to them. (I leave unstated what the proportions of voluntary and forced wearings are, but it is clear that a “Ban the burqa, because sexism!” is simplistic, disrespectful, and destructive. Moreover, based on my observations of women, I suspect that other women, in particular mothers and grand-mothers, are the most likely source of any force or pressure—not men.)

A good example of typical misrepresentation is the claim that Feminism is about “gender equality” or “equal rights”. (This is also a good example of the Left claiming the opposite of the truth.) In reality, Feminism is, and always has been, a one-sided women’s rights movement, which has rarely shown much concern for men’s rights or for equal responsibilities and equal duties. (Here, I wanted to reference a recently encountered and very informative text by someone else, which likely was https://antifeministpraxis.com/2017/03/31/feminism-was-never-not-rotten/; however, this link currently leads to a message of “This domain expired”. For a semi-replacement, see a text on Ellen Key. For issues with more modern Feminism, see any number of earlier texts.)

Or take most of the alleged anti-racism movement in the current U.S., which, it self, appears to be the largest source of racism in said country. Problems include e.g. the blanket condemnation of anyone White who kills anyone Black as “racist”, no matter the circumstance and no matter the absence of proof (while making no such claim when someone Black kills someone White or Asian); citing the rate of arrest of Blacks as proof of “racist cops” without mentioning that Blacks are, if anything, underarrested once crime rates are factored in;* claims that all Whites are racist (but Blacks never can be, because power); and the presumption to interpret** “all lives matter” as a message of hate and racism, while it merely extends and critiques*** “Black lives matter”**** in a sensible manner. Indeed, a current common tactic is to label something as “Whiteness” and see it as immediately and irrevocably discredited, without the need for any actual arguments—how is that for racism?

*For instance, recently I saw a blog post or comment that began with (paraphrased from memory) “In this country, we arrest Blacks at five times the White ratio”, after which some claims about racism followed and I skipped the rest.

**Such interpretations are another major problem with the Left. Cf. e.g. tolkningsföreträde or note how the “Confederate Flag” has unilaterally been redefined as a symbol of racism by the Left—never mind the actual intentions of the many users since the U.S. Civil War.

***From what I have seen so far, critique, like dissent, is something that the Left cannot stand, and this is likely the reason for the hateful Leftist reactions to “all lives matter”—unless it is a cheap propaganda trick.

****I have great doubts that the implied message of “Black lives are not given the same respect as other lives and this must change” was justified. Nothing that I have seen so far points to a disregard of Black lives relative other lives in the U.S. of at least the last few decades—outside misleading propaganda claims by the Black movement. This with the possible exception of the Blacks own attitude, as Black-on-Black murder takes place at a far higher rate than e.g. White-on-White and White-on-Black murder.

Or take one of my first contacts, in the 1980s’ Sweden, with weird Leftist attitudes: that the Social-Democrat supporters would be noble and altruistic, while supporters of non-Left parties would just want to egoistically lower taxes and increase “klyftor”* for their own private gains. That many of the Social-Democrat supporters, in reality, just wanted to have someone else’s money, while their opponents often just wanted to keep their own earnings, or that their opponents might consider redistributions government sanctioned theft (without necessarily earning well, themselves), or that their opponents might understand more about how to run a sound economy, whatnot, never seemed to cross their minds. As often with the Left, I suspect some form of projection—“I want higher taxes because it serves me; ergo, if someone wants lower taxes, it must be because it serves him.” or, even, “[…] because it is bad for me”.**

*I cannot come up with a good English translation of “klyfta”/“klyftor” off the top of my head. The literal meaning might be roughly “ravine”/“ravines”, while the contextual use would be similar to the “divide” in “social divide”. However, the connotations of “klyfta” are naturally stronger than “divide”. The word is very popular in Swedish Leftist populism.

**The last version might seem unlikely, but I have, for instance, seen “letters to the editor” that complained about the “rich” hating the “poor”. Such ideas are certainly compatible with a Marxist “us vs. them” framework and paralleled by some supporters of Feminism and CRT. (And might be another case of projection.)

Unfortunately, such misrepresentations are often helped by e.g. newspapers, schools, and fiction (see excursion). To take just one group of examples: When I still read German papers, I encountered repeated cases of a headline like “Violence in wake of far-Right march!”, followed by a long discussion of violence, injuries, property damage, whatnot—and then, right at the end, a single shy, pro-forma, keep-a-lawsuit-off-our-backs sentence noting that the march had been peaceful until attacked by Antifa or some other Leftist group. The true, so deeply buried lede, was then “Antifa terrorists attack peaceful march!”. How many actually read such articles to an end, how many read a portion and then move on, and how many only read the headline? How many will build an entirely incorrect image of what groups are violent?* Similar distortions appear common in the U.S. as with the gross exaggerations and defamations around the “January 6” situation vs. the cavalier treatment of the Leftist/BLM “mostly peaceful protests”, which led to billions of dollars worth of damage and cost quite a few lives.

*As I have noted in the past, political violence almost always comes from the Left, be it in Sweden, Germany, or the U.S. This is likely one of the reasons why the Left is so keen on saddling the non-Left with the Nazis, as this would put one of the groups most associated with political violence with the non-Left and thereby distort the overall impressions further. It might also be a partial explanation why e.g. a White person who beats up a Black person might be condemned as “Right-wing”, even absent a political motive.

Excursion on misrepresentations in fiction:
If we look at large portions of (at least) U.S. fiction, notably screen fiction, there is enormous misrepresentation of the behaviors and attitudes of various groups in a manner that is likely to distort the worldview of many voters. (Even when we go beyond reasonable artistic licence, attempts to be spectacular or entertaining, and similar.) This to such a degree that mere coincidence or incompetence cannot explain it, leaving us with a very likely deliberate distortion, e.g. in that Feminists do not find enough male mistreatment of women in real life and are forced to use fiction to create the distorted worldview that they want voters to have. Consider e.g. the ever occurring “abusive relationship” (much rarer in real life), domestic violence as an almost exclusively man-on-woman thing (women are slightly more common as perpetrators than men in real life), the proportion of billionaires who are Lex-Luthor evil and/or out to get the poor (likely* much rarer in real life), how common White racists and White supremacists are (rare in real life; Black-on-White/-Asian racism appears far more common), how the proportions of White and Black criminals are reversed, how genius-level scientists are women and non-Asian minorities (including Blacks) far more often than in real life, how many Republicans are stupid, cold-hearted, or prejudiced (look in the mirror, Democrats!), etc. See also an older text on topics like ethics and the portrayal of men on TV.

*I do not know any billionaires first hand and I am not aware of any official statistics on e.g. how many billionaires have tried to kill Superman or take a perverse pleasure in earning money off someone else’s suffering.

A particularly atrocious case is taking a current Leftist sin and portraying it on TV as something someone on the Right (!) is currently doing. For instance, the recent second season of the (originally very promising and entertaining) TV series “Upload” switched to a theme of “rich people are out to disenfranchise poor voters so that the Republicans can win elections”, the rich people led by the “evil capitalist robot of doom”*. (I, in turn, switched off.) This while there are massive documented** attempts by Democrats to change the rules to ensure that Democrats are elected, including attempts to allow ballot harvesting, to increase voting by illegal immigrants, and to unconstitutionally*** alter voting districts to give the Democrats more elected whatnots at the same number of votes.

*Or some such. I do not remember the actual moniker, but it was similarly silly and over-the-top.

**Not to be confused with the allegations of outright Democrat cheating during e.g. the 2020 POTUS election. Unlike the above, there are no clear official records and finding out, let alone proving, exactly what might have taken place is not trivial.

***Not to be confused with the, already disputable, tradition by both parties to do so legally, nor with redistricting for legitimate purposes.

Excursion on my old colleague:
This colleague was paradoxical. Superficially, he seemed a great guy, easy to talk to, professional, always well-dressed and groomed (without being snobby), and he seemed to do a decent* job at software development. However, the more I got to know him, the more sceptical I grew. Apart from the already mentioned, I note e.g. the “John Williams” anecdote: One day, he was raving about his favorite classical guitarist—John Williams. He was a great fan: Williams was the bee’s knees, not just a great guitarist, but also the author of dozens of great movie scores! I, of course, knew who the composer was, but I had never heard him mentioned as a notable guitarist. Puzzled, I checked with Wikipedia, and found that these two were not the same. My colleague was temporarily stunned and highly disappointed, but all seemed to have ended well. (Although, I question how large a fan he could truly have been, making a mistake of that magnitude.) A few months later, he was suddenly raving about his favorite classical guitarist—John Williams. He was a great fan: Williams was the bee’s knees, not just a great guitarist, but also the author of dozens of great movie scores. For fuck’s sake!

*He did not deserve the label “good”, but the sad truth is that even a “decent” puts him well above average. This both in general, as the software industry is flooded with developers with too little brains and/or the wrong attitude for the job, and in this project in particular, as it was a government project where most of the “internals” were below the industry average. (He and I were both “externals”, lent from private companies.)

In another instance, we discussed some topic around Evolution.* He seemed about to set off on an angle demonstrating a complete lack of understanding of how Evolution works (a very, very common flaw among Leftist self-professed believers in Evolution). I tried to correct him, but he interrupted me to claim that he knew what I was going to say and that he already knew all that. He then launched into a five-minute monologue, proving that he had not understood the point that I had wanted to explain and drawing conclusions that simply did not hold water.

*I do not remember the details, unfortunately. His error might have been related to the difference between a simplistic “survival of the fittest” vs. a take based on reproductive success over generations. (Survival is not the Evolutionary prize. Reproduction is. Indeed, many life-forms have a reproduce-and-drop-dead take on affairs. Survival without reproduction might on occasion be a second prize, if it helps a close relative reproduce, but then so might death with the same help to the relative. Bees provide examples of both types of second prize.)

Written by michaeleriksson

April 30, 2022 at 12:31 am

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House from Hell / Construction noise

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Looking back at this week, there has been in excess of two hours of construction noise, including drilling, on Monday and Tuesday, likely* something similar on Wednesday, and right now (Friday) there has been a persistent hammering for more than half-an-hour and counting. (Small blessing, Thursday did not contain any major disturbances.)

*I left the building for in excess of two hours once the disturbances started up again.

This in what appears* to be a continuation of works than originally began more than six months ago and in a house which has suffered more than a year of construction noise over just a few years time—much of it covering entire workdays, much involving such loud and persistent noises that it was impossible to remain in the apartment, and much intruding even upon the weekends.

*There is, of course, a possibility that work in one apartment ended and work in another began.

Written by michaeleriksson

April 29, 2022 at 8:56 am

Further misadventures

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Warning: The following serves mostly as stress/tension release. With one thing and another, the Nazi series will likely see an interruption until late next week.

After my long period of problems (cf. earlier texts), things were really beginning to look up again, a day here-and-there with construction works notwithstanding. True, I had partially bought this improvement through slacking off, neglecting my writing and reading, letting the mail mount up again, and not, for now, getting to the bottom of a few outrages (notably, the inexcusable behavior of building management and the local chimney sweep, where I have put off very thorough complaints for over a year)*.

*If and when I get around to them, I might also write a few blog entries on the topic. Chances are that you will not believe me, because the situations are so utterly absurd. (And those complaints are on a very different level from the ones in this text.)

Still, things were locking up, I was beginning to get my energy back, writing was beginning to look good again, I was beginning to read heavier material, and I had the new project of researching emigration from Germany (which by now borders on being a Leftist dictatorship).

Then the screen of my newish computer just dies…

(Fortunately, just a few hours after the latest full backup. I have hopes that the issue will be repairable, as it might simply be a loose contact somewhere, but there is no guarantee, notebook repairs are often disproportionately expensive relative the original price, and there is not telling how long this might take.)

This, then, amounts to less than four months of use, while its predecessor might have worked for four years.

The next day, yesterday, I went to the local Mediamarkt to look for replacements*. Again, a bit of good luck among the bad—had this happened a little earlier, Mediamarkt might have been closed or off limits due to Covid restrictions.

*As shown both now and around New Year’s, notebooks are highly troublesome when something goes wrong, as the user has to start almost from scratch and he can be restricted in his work for days. With a desktop, I could usually just buy a new one and spend five minutes switching hard drives, while a mere monitor issue could be solved by just replacing the monitor. (Yes, notebook hard drives can also be replaced, but they are much trickier to access, might differ too much in size to fit in another notebook, and the driver situation can be trickier, which makes for more work post-replacement.)

I walked, as I always do, the few kilometers, but finding myself more tired and lacking in energy than I would have expected from such a distance. Too much time indoors due to a mixture of COVID-restrictions, low temperatures, and (during last summer) prolonged bronchitis have really damaged my fitness. (And then we have the question what this might imply for the future. If I fail to compensate through that much harder work, it might very well be a few years of my life when I am in my eighties.)

I walked around Mediamarkt, looking for suitable specimens, beginning, close at the entry to the second floor, with a set of marked-down-due-to-damage computers. Marked down? Maybe, but, apart from the Chromebooks, they were still more expensive than I cared for, and I had the slight fear that some mixture of stampeding inflation, bottlenecks for various chips and whatnots, and market segmentation* would make the affair far more expensive than intended.**

*E.g. in that only Chromebooks and various Android devices can be had cheaply, while a “grown up” computer goes for massively more. Chromebooks et al, however, are not suitable for my current purposes.

**A few years back, I wrote about an atypical lack of progress or even regression in terms of bang-for-buck when it comes to computers. At that time, the decades long trend towards ever more bang for the buck was temporarily broken. A reason for this might have been the vastly increased demand for smartphone components.

I walked over to where the regular items were found, easy to spot and well displayed—and so expensive that I could not believe my eyes. The cheapest (!) went for 900-something Euro, while the median might have been in excess of 1200.* As a comparison, my first notebook, bought in, maybe, 2000, went for less than 3000 DM or around 1500 Euro. (Yes, this was a low-end specimen and there have been more than twenty years of inflation—but there have also been more than twenty years of technological progress.)

*Reservation: I go by memory and did not take exact mental notes. The general idea holds, even should I have the details wrong.

Then, the day seemed saved: in a much less visible aisle, I found a handful of notebooks at much more moderate prices, of which I picked two (of different models) for a total of less than 900 Euro. These, while low-end, were even of better bang-for-buck than the last time around.*

*Which points to the broken trend having resumed in the interim. Imagine my relief.

Sadly, the year is 2022 and the notebooks still all came with a useless and price-increasing Windows installation. Again: 2022—not 2002. This shit should be long behind us.

I went back home on foot and, having a bad conscience about my fallen endurance, picked a road a little longer and much hillier. (Wuppertal has no end on hills, if one picks the right or, depending on perspective, wrong path.) The result: For the first time in years, even with my building in sight, I had to stop to get my breath back—and the last time around I had a loud both heavier and more awkward to carry.* Halfway up to the third floor, I had to halt again—also for the first time since that heavier-and-more-awkward load. Once in my apartment, I put my notebooks down, kicked off my shoes, dropped my jacket to the floor, too tired to hang it, and then I laid down on the floor, myself, where I spent several minutes. Now, I am not saying that this day would have been an outright pick-nick in the past, but… Two years ago, I would neither have had to stop, nor would I have found myself on the floor afterwards—and I suspect that I would have held a higher average tempo.

*The sum of bag and notebooks might have been around 5 kg, maybe less. (Weight is an area where there really has been progress.) To my very vague recollection, the prior event, involving furniture, might have been at 16 kg, but, in all fairness, over a shorter and flatter course.

After a brief excursion, at snails-pace-by-my-standards, to buy food, I spent most of the remainder of the day feeling really lousy, as I do after an overexertion. The intended high point of the day was a Tex-Mex pizza from the local store (one of my favorite dishes). I put it off until the evening—delayed gratification and all that. Twenty-five minutes in the oven, as I like the pizza crispy and firm, and it should have been good to go. But no. I tried to fish it out onto a teller with a fork, as I always do and which has never failed me in the past. This time, very unfirm dough split around the fork tines and the pizza landed in a heap on the oven lid. I tried to grab the heap with the fork and a hand, and the fork just went through it again, leaving nothing that could reasonably be eaten.*

*I do not know what the problem was. A possibility is that I had not turned one of the knobs far enough, but, if so, I should have noticed it when I turned off the oven—as I always have on the very few prior occasions when a knob has been short of the mark.

Today, I began the installation of Linux (Gentoo). Here things grew tiresome again. For starters, I had, around New Year’s, downloaded the installation manual* to an e-reader—which should be perfect right now. But no. When I opened the document, the font was on the small side, so I picked a larger one. The result: The reader locked up in “hour-glass mode” for so long that it went into power-save** mode before the document had reloaded. Once done, simply going from page 2 to page 3 caused another massive delay, after which the power-save mode was reactivated. After turning the thing on again, I was still on page 2… After several repetitions, I tried to go back in size, as things had worked to begin with. The reader worked for half an eternity, went into power-save mode—and was, surprise, still using the larger font afterwards. Several repetitions brought no improvement.

*Note that Gentoo is a distribution for somewhat more proficient users, and that there is a lot more manual work and own decisions to make than with e.g. Debian.

**Due to the minutes of waiting. The battery, to avoid misunderstandings, was fully loaded.

I gave up and began the installation on the first notebook. Just as I recalled, the installation medium did not contain the installation instructions (a bizarre choice, especially considering how little space would be needed), and the central “man” command for displaying other documentation was equally missing. Fortunately, “cryptsetup” was present and I could mount my (encrypted) backup drive, where I, among other needed things, did have a copy of the installation guide. From here on, things went much smoother than around New Year’s; in part, because I had some experience; in part, because I could forego a number of steps and just populate most of the hard drive from the backup drive. However, there were still quite a few curses, due to the incompatibilities of the defaults in the installation shell and my own ingrained-in-my-fingers preferences. Some obscure errors held me back for a while, because I had forgotten to manually add a “/tmp” directory (which I do not backup), including that tmux refused to start.*

*And why is it so hard to give decent error messages? Pretty much the first rule of writing error messages is to indicate what object caused the problem. It should never be e.g. “File not found!”, but “File XYZ not found!”. Ditto, never “Access denied!” but “Access to XYZ denied!” (unless the object is obvious from the interaction).

Still, apart from some issue with the sound,* I had a working computer and a working Internet much, much faster than last time around—and i decided to carry on with the second, too, today. (Originally, intended for tomorrow.)

*A missing driver, likely. I will look into that later. The device is found by “lspci” but is not in e.g. the “/dev” tree.

But no. While it definitely has a functioning hard drive, as it managed to boot into the pre-installed Windows when I was a little slow with entering the BIOS. However, when I tried the Gentoo installation, this hard drive simply could not be found. There is not even a “/dev” entry. If I have the energy, I will troubleshoot tomorrow, but in a worst case, I might have to replace the boot-image for the installation. Absurd. Again, the year is 2022 and interfaces should be sufficiently standardized that something like that simply cannot happen.

(I also have some misgivings about the keyboard layout. As I noticed during my brief experiments, a few keys had been moved out of position in a manner that could be extremely annoying to the touch typist. Another first rule, and another one all too often violated—if you design keyboards, keep the touch typist in mind, not just the hunt-and-peck typist.)

Written by michaeleriksson

April 23, 2022 at 9:52 pm

Nazis IV: Preliminaries on proof, subjectivity, etc.

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For natural reasons, the current area is one in which proof, in any real sense, is hard to come by. We cannot, for instance, put a Nazi on a set of scales and see whether he is more or less Leftist than a Communist. Maybe a very, very extensive and thorough scientific investigation could provide conclusive proof of this or that, but, if so, this might involve several decades of work.

Among the many complications we have that even a somewhat specific ideology, e.g. Communism, can vary considerably over time and from country to country, based on what the current intellectual fashion is, based on who the current local leader is, etc. (The same applies to Nazism, but to a lesser degree, because core Nazism was restricted to a comparatively short era, a single regime, once in power, and a single leader, Hitler, for most of that era.) Building a consistent image of the Left in its entirety is far harder or outright impossible—and it is entirely impossible for the more heterogeneous non-Left.

Then again, much of these problems go back to a stubborn insistence by most debaters (and Leftist debaters, especially) to force everything onto the extremely limited and misleading Left–Right spectrum. If it had not been for this stubborn insistence, chances are that I would never have started this text series, because it would have been utterly obvious that the Nazis cannot and should not be grouped with e.g. Conservatives and Libertarians. Ditto that we cannot and should not group various political groups together based on e.g. nationalism, while leaving every other aspect of their politics aside.

Moreover, it was the Left that began this game by trying to pawn off the Nazis on their opponents. No, dear Left, if you want to use the Left–Right spectrum, then the Nazis are yours.

I know what I know, but I cannot give a mathematical proof and I will understand the reader who sees too much “argumentation by assertion”. I can only recommend him to read up on his own and ask him to remember that the same claim of “argumentation by assertion” applies to most of what the Left ever “argues”—including the claim that the Nazis would be Right-wing. What he finds when he by-passes the Leftist propaganda and the weak efforts of journalists might surprise him.

Absent firm proof, I must to a large part simply relay my own impressions of various groupings, gathered over more than thirty years and referring to countries like Sweden, Germany,* the U.S., and the erstwhile Soviet Union. The source of my impressions varies. I have lived for more than twenty years in each of Sweden and Germany, I have read the news, known supporters of various parties in person, read party programs, read books (including on history), debated on blogs, etc. The U.S. has been a great personal interest of mine for the last six–seven years (and of some interest before that), and I have read many thousands of pages of books, Wikipedia articles, newspaper articles, opinion pieces, blog entries, … (And had, again, been involved in many blog debates before this period of interest.) As to the Soviets, my exposure has been lower, but still, I suspect, considerably above average for someone born outside the Soviet sphere of influence—and what I have to say on the matter is unlikely to be very controversial or unexpected.

*Both Nazi-Germany and the DDR were gone by the time I was, respectively, born and moved to Germany. However, the geographic proximity and the constant reminders through e.g. German media have given me a considerable interest in both, and I would put my knowledge and understanding well above the native German average among (important!) those who have no personal experiences.

I also know enough of many other countries to have a varying understanding of relevant history and complications—and the trends of the aforementioned countries appear to hold. Consider e.g. the Leftist economic disasters in Venezuela and Zimbabwe, the horrors of China under Mao, or the damage that PC/Feminist influence has done in the other Nordic countries. I am also aware of the complications around Franco and Pinochet. As to the latter, with “complications” I do not mean the evil deeds, quite contrary to my own values, that were performed by their regimes, but the issue of how to classify them and where they might fit in e.g. a discussion of Left–Right, where-do-the-Nazis-belong, or similar. Here, I might at some point have to read more deeply, but Pinochet seems more of a personal dictator than an ideological figure, and another poor match for the Left–Right spectrum, in my impression so far, and the sometime classification as Fascist might be more a matter of his methods (“Fascist” as generic slur for an authoritarian or whatnot regime) or his overthrow of a Socialist or Communist regime* (“Fascist” as a generic slur for someone the Left does not like). Franco is somewhat similar (if, maybe, more ideological and with a different ideology), but with the complication that he did not rise to power through a coup, but through a civil war (again, against Socialists/Communists)—and it must be asked what of his actions were a result of this civil war** and what might have had another background. His opponents in the war, contrary to typically one-sided portrayals in Western media, might well have been the greater evil-doers. (Have a look at e.g. Orwell’s “Homage to Catalonia”. Note that Orwell, despite some of his writings, was a dedicated Socialist and actively participated on the Leftist (!) side in the war.)

*Notably, Salvador Allende was, by all appearances, “pulling a Venezuela” on Chile.

**To re-iterate from [1]: war crimes follow automatically whenever there is war.

(A counterpoint, where I also might need to do more reading, is whether the Castros’ Cuba and the Kims’ North-Korea could, similarly, be more personal dictatorships than true Communist dictatorships—and whether they have more or less in common with Pinochet/Franco than with e.g. the Soviets. Of course, unlike Pinochet/Franco with Fascism, they have openly and unmistakably claimed to be Communist and/or Socialist.)

Written by michaeleriksson

April 21, 2022 at 3:56 pm

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Nazis III: Various takes on “Law and Order”

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In many cases, Left vs. non-Left positions can be clouded by semantics (note how most parties agree that justice, fairness, equality, whatnot are good, but disagree on what the corresponding words imply).

A particularly interesting case, with an eye on the Nazis/Fascists* is “law and order” and similar ideas and formulations,** as calls for “law and order” are sometimes equated with a call for a Nazi/Fascist society.

*The explicit inclusion of “Fascist” here is warranted by this, in my impression, being the more common accusation, while carrying the same intent and implications as the “Nazi” accusation. Otherwise, cf. part I, I leave the related topic of Fascism out.

**For brevity, I will stick with just “law and order” in the continuation. This should not be seen as a restriction of my intent.

Now, law and order can, when taken too far, degenerate into something akin to a “Polizeistaat” instead of a “Rechtsstaat”.* More easily, the balance between civic rights and e.g. crime suppression can tip the wrong way. (Consider e.g. Feminist-driven reductions in due process when rape is concerned or the many calls for fewer restriction on surveillance by the police. Note that such calls quite often come from the Left.) However, we need to be clear on what the respective speaker actually intends by e.g. “law and order”.

*German expressions for, respectively, “police state” and something somewhat approximately implying “rule of law”. (The implications are, in my eyes, not identical, but there is no established exact translation of “Rechtsstaat” into English. The recurring reader will have noted my repeated uses of the German expression in the past.)

For instance, a Conservative might have his eyes on “I and my family are protected from crime”, while someone who has been robbed thrice in the last year, as can happen in a sufficiently bad neighborhood, might simply want to walk the streets without fearing for his life and limb.* These might call for more police on the street or harsher punishments for criminals, but are usually far away from a police state in their intentions (and in the likely results).

*Generally, note that the political priorities of various groups are often strongly influenced by their own experiences and the problems that they are exposed to more often. It can really pay to understand the actual motivations of a particular priority.

In contrast, many politicians* seem to mean “I and my fellow politicians are protected from disgruntled voters” or “law and order ensures that the people does what we tell them to do”.** Here we have an actual danger to the Rechtsstaat and an actual risk of achieving a police state.

*Not necessarily Leftist; although, the Left seems to be worse than the non-Left in e.g. the U.S. and Germany.

**Note e.g. the extremely disproportionate, anti-democratic, and anti-rechtsstaatliche clampdown on “January 6” protesters, while Antifa terrorists and BLM rioters, hitting mere citizens, have received slaps on the wrist. The main explanation for this might well be a matter of anti-Republican abuse of governmental power and/or an attempt to give the Democrats their “Reichstagsbrand”; however, chances are that the reaction is partially driven by how “close to home” the protests were—and this could explain why the outrage against the clampdown has not been larger among the leading Republicans.

A good example of this is the repeated claims by (then-Chancellor) Merkel and some other German politicians that the Internet must not be a “rechtsfreier Raum”*, by which a naive German citizen might happily think that he will be protected from fraudsters and be able to use the services of police and courts even on the Internet. In this, he would be doubly naive, because (a) even in the real world his ability to do so is extremely limited,** (b) what the politicians actually appear to mean, based on suggested and actual law changes, is that anonymity must be removed from the Internet, so that the government can keep tabs on him, and that the Internet must not become an escape from the too far going German restrictions on free speech.***

*Approximately, “area/space/room without law and order”.

**One of the reasons why I reject the notion that Germany would be a Rechtsstaat in the first place.

***Another reason. I note e.g. that there was a set of raids against citizens about a month ago, which included searched apartments and confiscated computers—because the targets were suspected of having insulted politicians. Note: Germany 2022—not the DDR in 1982, not the Nazi-Germany of 1942, but the “regular” Germany of 2022.

The police and other law-enforcement organizations often put their own interests first—catch the criminal and all is good. This is somewhat understandable, but ultimately too dangerous. (As it always is, when a single concern is given priority over everything else, even should it be with good intentions.) We also need to consider the effects on other parts of society, the risk of abuse, the often implied violation of the presumption of innocence, how a rise in convictions almost invariably implies more innocents being convicted (not just more guilty), etc. If things go wrong here, we can truly and rapidly land in a police state.

What then might a Leftist voter intend? Well, firstly, he is unlikely to speak of specifically “law and order”, as it has more Conservative or other non-Leftist connotations; however, per the above, “similar ideas” apply. Going by various actions, articles, forum comments, whatnot by members of the U.S. Left, I strongly suspect that it often amounts to “the law protects the Left from the non-Left (but not vice versa)”, “all those evil White supremacists are prevented from lynching* poor Black people (but poor Black criminals must not go to jail—they are victims of society)”, “we can put Trump in jail for being Trump”, etc. More internationally, gross abuse has been quite common in various Communist dictatorships,** while even more moderate versions of the Left seem to have a strong tendency both towards hypocrisy (different rules for the Left and the non-Left) and use of governmental power for their own purposes—if rarely to the degree displayed in the current U.S. Note e.g. an (older text) on a German law that is explicitly directed towards Right-wing extremism, instead of e.g. political or ideological extremism. (The odder, as Germany has a much greater problem with Left-wing extremism than with Right-wing.) Or note that many Nazi** symbols/greetings/whatnot are illegal in Germany, while corresponding Communist ones are perfectly legal. Or note that the German Verfassungschutz is attacking the considered-Right*** AfD, while leaving Die Linke, a far Left direct descendant of the SED, alone—respectively, that they are publicly criticized when they are not hard enough on AfD and when they are not soft enough on Die Linke.

*Here and elsewhere, note that the image of both White and Black behavior (and e.g. male and female behavior) is often highly distorted in the minds of Leftists. Consider e.g. the absurd claims of “racist murderer” against Chauvin and many others—even if we follow Chauvin’s jury and call it murder (which, frankly, still seems unreasonable to me), there is not one shred of evidence of anything racist. In many other cases, the alleged racist murderer has been acquitted even of murder, as with e.g. Zimmerman, and, again, not one shred of evidence for racism has been provided.

**In conjuncture with the misguided claim that the Nazis were Right-wing.

***Unlike with the Nazis and some other parties, I do not necessarily disagree, if we allow the use of the flawed and simplistic Left–Right spectrum (but we should not). However, based on how other parties are treated, I suspect that the typical establishment/mainstream-media/whatnot estimate has not arisen from a holistic view of their overall opinions. Instead, it stems from their take on issues like immigration.

Now, as an exercise for the reader, please compare and contrast the above takes on law and order with a reasonable description of the Nazi take.

Written by michaeleriksson

April 17, 2022 at 9:07 pm

Nazis II: Preliminary remarks on comparisons over time, importance of baselines

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Looking back at the Nazis (and, m.m., a great many other groupings) from a modern point of view, there is always a danger of mistaking a more general characteristic of the day for a Nazi characteristic.

As an analogy, Hitler’s toothbrush moustache was not his invention, or historically rare/specific to him, or a Nazi symbol—it was a fashion that Hitler (and Chaplin, and Oliver Hardy, and …) adopted. That it has fallen out of popularity might be mostly a matter of the association with Hitler,* but chances are that it would have disappeared from the scene anyway, just like the 1970s’ horseshoe moustache did. Barring the current association with Hitler, it might even have made a comeback at some point in time—like fashions often do.

*Another possibility is that it is today associated with Hitler, because it fell out of fashion and he might be the most famous carrier from a modern perspective.

Similarly, popular worldviews, opinion corridors, societal standards, whatnot, all change over time and in a fashion-like way; and we cannot say, in a blanket manner, that “the 1932 Nazis thought X and the 2022 Left thinks Y’; ergo, they are incompatible”. Instead, we must consider both historical Leftist opinions and the general baseline of the respective day. In particular, if either of the 1932 and 2022 Lefts though X, it would be sufficient proof of compatibility; however, the opposite would not be proof of incompatibility. Whether Leftist support in 1932 or 2022 would be the stronger argument might be up for discussion, however: If both, say, Nazis and Communists held opinion X in 1932, it would make for a fairer and more direct comparison, but it is also conceivable that both were “fashion victims” of the 1932 baseline (as if Stalin, too, had picked a toothbrush moustache), which would make the comparison less relevant. Of course, to make matters more complicated, if both were fashion victims, it might be unfair to associate either with X.

(However, we must not overstretch the reasoning: An argument like “belief X can be Leftist, after all—witness 1932” weakens the “Nazis are Right-wing” claim further, but it does not automatically imply “the Nazis did not truly think X” or “if the Nazis had survived until today, they would long have abandoned X”. The latter two claims might or might not be true, or they might be true for one issue and not another, but there is no guarantee—and it is irrelevant for my point. What matters is what implications belief in X had at what time and who shared or rejected that belief.)

To detail exactly which opinions/methods/whatnot should be seen as more “historical” than “Nazi”, and/or where they were Nazi but must be partially seen in the light of the baseline, would involve speculation and might require considerable research, but I note that hatred of/prejudice against e.g. Jews and homosexuals was quite common (including on the Left),* that nationalism was much more common than today, and that warfare for the purpose of territorial expansion has been historically unremarkable (no matter how frowned upon it is today)—certainly, the Soviets, too, occupied large areas of land before WWII broke out respectively before the German–Soviet part of the war (including the remains of Poland, parts of Finland, and the Baltic states).** By the end of the war, they had gobbled up half of Europe. Also note that the Nazis learned a lot from the Soviets, including how to perform large scale incarcerations and exterminations.** (Read e.g. “The Black Book of Communism” and see what went on in the Soviet Union before Hitler was even in power.)

*To boot, I have always been a little uncertain to what degree the Nazis’ anti-Semitism was a true core issue, a personal fixation of Hitler’s, respectively, a way to gain popular support and/or have a convenient scape-goat or enemy in propaganda.

**And note how differently both cases have been treated with regard to Nazis and Communists by both the “West”, in general, and the Western Left in particular.

A particularly important case is eugenics: It is true that proponents of eugenics are much more likely to be found among the non-Left than the Left today. However, this has not historically been the case, and the current Leftist aversion is almost certainly caused by the Nazis, be it as an irrational overreaction or as a deliberate attempt to build distance to the Nazis. Eugenic ideas were, in fact, very popular (throughout society and the political spectrum) before the Nazis—including in educated and “progressive” circles. Active users included my native Sweden under Social-Democrat governments. And, no, eugenics and genocide are very, very different things. It just happened that the Nazis chose genocide to achieve a (likely misperceived-as-)eugenic goal. The problem with the Nazis was certainly not the idea of eugenics—but the methods used and the naive target.

Excursion on catastrophic one-off, few-off events on public opinion:
The Nazi impact on eugenics parallels the unfair deterioration of the reputation of nuclear power: The Chernobyl accident* was a once in decades event even at the time it happened. Since then, we have seen close to another four decades come and go without a similar accident. Nevertheless, it has given nuclear power an entirely undeserved reputation and hampered the development of nuclear power ever since. Attitudes seemed to be turning as time passed—and then came the Fukushima** incident. While much smaller, this set attitudes back to the prejudiced scratch. Never mind that Chernobyl and Fukushima together did far less damage and caused far fewer deaths than fossil fuels do every single year.

*Caused by a mixture of (already then) outdated technology, human errors, deliberate non-adherence to security protocols, and a lot of bad luck.

**Caused by an enormous natural disaster, which did far more damage than the nuclear incident. (Use of “incident” is deliberate. The connotations of“accident” are all wrong here.)

In both cases, eugenics and nuclear power, something highly beneficial when used correctly, has been condemned as irredeemably evil, must-be-abolished sins in large swaths of the unthinking or irrational population. On a more individual level, there are, e.g., many who have an irrational fear of flying, stemming from well-publicized major crashes, while the relative probability of death per passenger mile (or a similar metric) between different modes of transport is not considered.

I note a parallel with “not perfect; ergo, useless”, maybe as “went wrong once; ergo, too dangerous”.

Written by michaeleriksson

April 16, 2022 at 6:30 pm

Nazis I: Non-Marxist does not imply Right-wing, some preliminaries

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Pre-amble: An intended single text dealing with the Nazis and the (misguided) classification of Nazis as “Right-wing” or “far Right” is getting out of hand; notably, with regard to preliminaries. I have decided to break it up into several smaller parts (of which this is the first). Note that I still consider the result one text with regard to my “publish at most one text per week” policy. (As to the premature timing—yes, the fucking construction noise is here again.)

A core problem is that variations of Marxism and quasi-Marxism* has for many decades, maybe more than a century, dominated what is considered Left** so thoroughly that the possibility of a non-Marxist Left is not sufficiently considered and that the non-Marxist are incorrectly considered non-Left merely by dint of being non-Marxist. Note that Marxism includes Social-Democrats, many other Democratic Socialists, and the New Left—not just Communists and (non-Democratic) Socialists.***

*In the remainder, I will rarely bother with the differentiation between “true” or “classical” Marxism and the quasi-Marxism that colors e.g. much of the current U.S. Left, where a class conflict has been replaced with e.g. a race, sex, sexual preference, or “gender identity” conflict.

**Possibly, outside the “Center-Left” and earlier not-yet-so-extreme versions of Pseudo- and Social “Liberalism”, say, the earlier U.S. Democrats.

***To make matters more complicated, there have also historically been non-Marxist versions even of Communism and Socialism. Indeed, the Nazi party/the NSDAP was formally die Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei—the National Socialist German Workers’ Party. (Using a translation from Wikipedia. I might have used “Labour Party” over “Worker’s Party”.)

More sensibly, the Left should be divided into axes like democratic vs dictatorial/totalitarian/whatnot, nationalist vs internationalist, Marxist vs. non-Marxist, and maybe more, with an additional potential division, especially among Marxists, into what enemy groups are demonized, used as scarecrows, oppressor* images, or similar.** In this more sensible framework, there is no need to artificially ship of the Nazis to the wrong end of the Left–Right spectrum. Instead, they are Left, with additional sub-categorizations like dictatorial/totalitarian, nationalist, non-Marxist, with Jews, Marxists, and Capitalists as enemy groups (or, maybe, as a subset of the enemy groups). As a comparison, your typical Communist dictatorship might be/have been Left with sub-categorizations like dictatorial/totalitarian, internationalist, Marxist, with Capitalists, the U.S., and non-Marxists as commonly occurring enemy groups. (With some variations. I suspect that the “internationalist” part often did not apply or was sometimes for show.) A modern day Gender-Feminist might be considered Left with sub-categorizations like internationalist, quasi-Marxist, with men, the Patriarchy, or Western Civilization as common enemies. Said Gender-Feminist would likely be nominally pro-democracy, but show a tendency towards the dictatorial or totalitarian in practice (witness much of what goes on in e.g. the U.S. or Sweden).

*And what groups are considered the oppressed.

**Note that the last part likely takes care of the Old Left vs. New Left division.

Important: My own use of “Left” (and variations) will usually either gloss over this division or refer to “Left” in a mostly Marxist sense. This is a little sloppy, but saves me constant formulations like “the (quasi-)Marxist Left” and “the-Left-except-for-the-Nazis”. The alternative would be to use ad-hoc terms to overcome the semantic issues, which would likely (a) lead to a harder-to-understand text, (b) result in inconsistent use by me.

I will probably leave the topic of Fascism out of this text series.* This for several reasons, including that “Fascism”/“Fascist” is usually used in a manner entirely disconnected from the original ideology and that the Left has a long history of referring to even other parts of the Left as Fascists, as with e.g. Communists vs. “Social-Fascists” (i.e. Social-Democrats) and Stalinists vs. Trotskyists. At the same time, almost any opponent that the Left has disliked has been in danger of being called “Fascist”, based on that dislike and not ideological analysis—note e.g. the “Antifaschistischer Schutzwall” (i.e. the Berlin Wall) and the recurring condemnation of Capitalism as Fascism. Indeed, we would have to differ between at least three wildly separate and largely incompatible meanings, namely the original ideology, the general and often hyperbolic slur (especially as applied to governments, police forces, and authority figures—including “mean” teachers), and the slur for things that the Left does not like.

*Except as far as Nazism is considered a special case of Fascism, which is dubious, large similarities notwithstanding. (Social-Democracy is not a special case of Communism either, nor vice versa.)

However, if we do look at the original ideology and/or Italy under Mussolini, large parts of this text series will apply and a similar argument is likely* to hold—either the Fascists were on the Left (and a non-Marxist Socialism) or the Left–Right scale is so useless that the classification of non-Left parties as Right or Center is grossly misleading. As an aside, the Fascist movement was an offspring of the syndicalist movement, which is usually considered far Left even by large parts of the Left.

*I have not done the leg-work to say for certain.

Written by michaeleriksson

April 15, 2022 at 5:55 am

The ubiquitousness of evil and the thin veneer of goodness

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This week’s text was intended to deal with the highly odd classification of the Nazis as a Right-wing movement, but recent readings make me postpone it in favor of some further thoughts on evil. (For older texts on this topic see, among others, [1], [2], [3], [4].)

Firstly, I have repeatedly seen pro-Russian and pro-Ukrainian writers complain about alleged war crimes by the “other side”. (Including some heated discussions on whether the Russians or the Ukrainians were behind the Bucha killings.) This complemented with discussions of other war crimes in other wars and by other parties. (Including a common sentiment that “the U.S. is no better than Russia—look at X, Y, and Z”.) Here, the simple truth is that war crimes follow automatically whenever there is war, sometimes on the level of individual soldiers or units, sometimes on the level of official policy.* Some wars and war parties might be worse than others, but a war without war crimes is not yet, and might never be, realistic.**

*Note e.g. the extensive bombings of both German and Japanese civilians and civilian buildings and infrastructure during WWII—by the side almost unanimously considered “the good guys” of that war.

**And if it ever is, it might be in a near machines-only setting, which could increase the risk of wars going on for decades, because the civilians are not disturbed and outraged enough. This might then open the doors for a “Nineteen Eighty-Four” scenario or give us A Taste of Armageddon.

Secondly, yesterday, I read Wikipedia’s take on the Murder of Sylvia Likens. To understand exactly why what happened did happen might involve an entire book and still remain speculation; however, there is a fair chance that a stupid/mean* adult woman and a group of children pushed the borders of what was acceptable and, in some sense, normal further and further, step by step, over several months, until early spankings had turned into horrifying humiliation, life-threatening starvation, and a foot to the head. When poor Sylvia was dead, one of her tormentors cried and cuddled her.

*And, maybe, one who might have turned out differently with a different prior life.

I strongly suspect that the time frame involved made the events easier, that the change of “normal” made something acceptable that would not have been so, if suggested up front. Moreover, chances are that the number of involved individuals spread the responsibility too thin, making them mere members of a group.* That most of them were children did not help, as they might have looked at the sole adult and concluded that what she considered acceptable was acceptable. (The lower intelligence, lack of maturity, and poorly developed moral compass of children hardly helped.) Then again, I do not say that it took so long for their preferences to change (it might or might not have)—the issue is at least partly what preferences they dared implement. (Consider the murder of James Bulger or the attempted “Slender Man” murder to see how fast things can go.)

*To tie in with my previous text. A single individual saying “This is wrong!” can make a difference where a dozen silent group members cannot. As a counterpoint, a sufficiently strong group norm of “This is wrong!” and a dozen speaking group members can be even more valuable—but here there was no positive norm and reliance on such norms opens the door to manipulation through changing the norm (cf. portions of the below).

In both cases, war crimes and Sylvia Likens, we have the fundamental problem that the veneer of civilization and “goodness” of most (all?) humans is quite thin. So thin, indeed, that I must consider claims like “humans are born good” and “humans are good by nature” highly naive. Looking at children, such claims border on the absurd—children, contrary to what would be expected, were these claims true, are extremely lacking in ethical understanding and concern for others.* Now, scratch at that veneer. Have group members tell each other that this-or-that hitherto unacceptable act is acceptable. Have propaganda tell them that Russians/Ukrainians/Jews/whatnot are evil (and, therefore, without rights), killed their grandparents (time for vengeance), or out to destroy them (better strike preemptively). Apply group/peer pressure, remove personal responsibility, lead by (negative) example, … If the veneer does not crack fast, just be patient and push the borders little by little.

*The more so the younger they are. Those too young might even lack a “theory of mind” (an un-expression that I use under protest) or be so solipsistic as to not understand the personhood of others.

To this, we must also note complications like many or most humans having a natural sadism and interest in violence, as demonstrated by Roman games and many modern movies. And, no, this is not a matter of violent men, with women being radically different. Look at the many female perpetrators around Sylvia Likens, consider the French tricoteuses, note how often a mobbing boss, driving employees to tears, turns out to be a woman, or consider the many mentions of women having an interest in horror and murder stories. Women are not just often bloodthirsty but can have a great tendency to be mean and cruel to (above all) each other.*

*Indeed, if off topic, meanness in adults is something that I would associate much more with women than with men. As to “toxic masculinity”: The toxic women that I have met have likely outnumbered the toxic men—despite how many more men I have encountered in the office, in college, etc. A better target for disapproval would, then, be “toxic femininity”.

The sometime claim or perception that the Nazis were a unique evil in human history is utterly faulty. What set the Nazis apart from a great many other perpetrators in human history is scale of and competence at e.g. extermination. Even here, however, they were preceded by the Soviets, whose methods the Nazis adopted and adapted—and they were followed by the likes of Mao and Pol Pot. For that matter, the Allies began large-scale bombing of civilians before the Nazis … Or take the ancient Chinese mass-slaughter after the Battle of Changping. Or consider the allegedly noble savage, who appears to often have been more savage than noble. Or consider some of the acts of Nero and Caligula. Or consider the Milgram experiments, which illustrate the thinness of that veneer so well.

Going by all that I have seen so far, true goodness is almost inconceivable without a deliberate set of ethical principles, overriding human nature and lived consistently, even when they do not favor their holder. (Note some similarity with the Categorical Imperative, which, however, is potentially more far going.) The nature of these principles can vary. The ideal is a sturdy set of self-developed principles based on thought and understanding, but this is beyond most, as most will not even be aware of the benefits. However, a solid set of good* and adopted values provided by someone or something else might be a great help. (Many have done well with the Bible.) The point is that there must be a clear concept of right-and-wrong, not e.g. good-or-bad-for-me, us-vs-them, it’s-what-everyone-else-does, or it-seems-like-fun. Certainly, mere childish or animalistic drives must be suppressed when an ethical decision is called for. (Consider some of the pains of Sylvia and how they appear to have given a thrill or entertainment of some kind to her tormentors.) Ditto emotionality and attempts to “reason” by use of feelings or cheap sympathy**. Leftist biology-denialism and “tabula rasa” thinking is a particular danger, as it destroys the awareness of what lies below.***

*This raises the question what constitutes good values, which makes for a tricky decision. (Or even the problem of realizing that a decision is needed, for those who reflect too little and would need to adopt values.) Many who search, today, grab at values that are very far from good by any reasonable standard.

**For instance, a great many adults, especially women, have assumed that the crying child is in the right and the non-crying in the wrong, without looking at the facts of the matter. Similarly, the better (adult) sob story often wins in politics.

***The first step to overcome a weakness is almost proverbially to realize that a weakness exists. Denying the biological, and often far from civilized, underpinnings of human nature is as dangerous here as trying to find a sound diet while denying the need for proteins.

Then again, here we have a problem: as I have often noted, the typical human is stupid and we cannot rely on “human goodness” arising among the stupid. Worse, even the intelligent can fall short if they lack the self-discipline or self-insight, have failed to think on related issues, or are simply very young or lacking in experience and exposure to different perspectives.

To wrap up some additional points before this text grows too long:

  1. The veneer is vulnerable to drugs that weaken reason, lower inhibitions, or otherwise bring the brain into a state where it is less likely to apply ethical principles.
  2. Similar claims apply to unusual and unusually stressful situations (including war).
  3. It is important for the individual to stand up for what is right, even in opposition to opinion corridors, peer pressure, “nudging”, etc. We might disagree on what is right and wrong in a given situation, but caving to the other side for poor reasons is a recipe for failure and a good way to let evil win.
  4. The common Leftist and/or quasi-Marxist division into us-vs-them, oppressor-vs-oppressed, and similar is a good way to create the type of hateful thinking and artificial tension/conflict that leads to so much evil. Look e.g. at the 20th-century Communists or large parts of the current U.S. Left and/or New Left.

Excursion on the self-proclaimed good doing evil:
The above deals largely with cases that seem obviously evil. However, as I have often noted, evil is often done in the name of good—and is never more dangerous than when it has the guise of good. (And, as also repeatedly noted, this is one of the reasons to be very wary of the Left.) Moreover, the keyword is often “seem”—what is obvious to a neutral third-party need not be so to those involved in e.g. a conflict. A current Russian or Ukrainian soldier might well think that a particular obviously-evil-to-us act is for a good cause or the infamous “greater good”.* Soviets, Nazis, whatnot all had plenty of idealists and true believers. It cannot be ruled out that economy destroyers like Mugabe, Chávez/Maduro, or Biden genuinely believe that they are doing something good. Etc.

*And, in all fairness, it might often be that the local soldier on the ground knows something that the foreigner in his ivory tower does not.

Excursion on charity, etc.:
An interesting problem is the common conflation of “being good” with e.g. being charitable—while neglecting the much more important aspect of respecting the rights and interests of others. Consider e.g. an industrialist who rips off his customers through misleading advertising and a substandard product, but who spends half the ill-gotten gains on charity: in what way and in what universe is he a better man than one who delivers what he promises and foregoes the charity? Or consider the mother who pounces on a child with the demand that this-or-that toy* be shared (especially, when it is not her child): Yes, maybe, sharing is the right or kind thing to do,** but what example does she set for the child? She violates his rights and interests, denies his right to determine how to handle his toys, and teaches him that what the one has, the other can use and take at his leisure. Her demands are not an act of goodness but of evil. (To boot, they are likely to backfire and upset the child or create reactance.) Or who is the better person? The hardworking (and heavily taxpaying) office worker who spends his weekends with his family—or a welfare parasite who collects unemployment, without bona fide attempts at finding work, but who also volunteers in a soup-kitchen on the weekend?

*Assumed to be his. When it comes to e.g. communal toys owned by a daycare or toys (voluntarily!) borrowed from a third party, the situation might be different.

**But there is not necessarily a guarantee, and the sharing might often come with a price for the child, as not all sharing is cost-free. Consider sharing with someone with a tendency to break or mistreat toys, sharing building blocks when every block is needed for the envisioned building, or sharing a toy in a manner that interrupts the storyline of the ongoing play.

Excursion on “the banality of evil”:
My readings on Hannah Arendt are superficial and second-hand; however, her idea of “the banality of evil” is somewhat overlapping, in my limited understanding, e.g. in that someone could perform an evil act in a largely unreflecting manner, say, “because this is my job”. (And a great many, seemingly normal, humans do, if on a lesser level than Eichmann. Take your typical modern German civil servant, for example.) The core of the above lies elsewhere, however: it is not a matter of banality, but of a lack of understanding for others and of concern for their rights, of limits on behaviors that are weak and easy to manipulate, of major bad* egoism/opportunism/whatnot, etc. Terry Pratchett once wrote something along the lines of** “evil begins with treating people like things”. I do not necessarily agree, finding this claim too general,*** but it seems a good description of the overlap between the above and “the banality of evil” (again, in my limited understanding).

*I see nothing wrong with some forms of egoism/opportunism/whatnot, e.g. that one tries to win while abiding by the rules, even be it with a within-the-rules cost for others; however, trying to win outside of the rules is another matter. Consider e.g. the business methods that different used-car salesmen might apply: The one offers a car at a certain overblown price, hoping that the prospective customer buys, while being (a) truthful and open about the car and all modalities, (b) willing to discuss the price, should the customer want to haggle or be unwilling to buy. The other offers an equivalent car at an equivalent price, while lying like a, well, used-car salesman, refuses to take “no” for an answer, and pesters the prospective customer into buying at that overblown price.

**His phrasing might have been different, but the idea was this.

***Consider e.g. the minimal difference in attitude that many, myself included, show between paying for groceries after a long day in the office with, respectively, a human cashier and an automatic self-service station. They might both be equally “thingy” in the moment, and might remain so over repeated interactions over months, but they would still warrant radically different treatments, respect, and rights in a situation that called for it. (To me—not necessarily to the banal Eichmann.)

Written by michaeleriksson

April 12, 2022 at 4:16 pm

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The importance of the individual and the individual vs the group

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One of the core realizations for a sound worldview and a sound approach to e.g. civic rights is the value of the individual, the value of individual rights/rights for the individual, etc. Below, I will discuss some related topics. (The many topics not discussed include e.g. the ethical need for individualism, the benefits of individual responsibility for both the individual and society, and the benefits of not blocking individual ambition.)

If we look at this from the most common (if usually implicit) conflict of perspective, the individual vs. the group*, it can easily be seen that there are few or no non-trivial crimes** against the group that are possible as long as the individual is protected, while the opposite does not apply. Indeed, a good strategy to stomp on the individual would be to take away his individual rights in favour of group rights, while the group can easily be attacked by removing the rights of the individual group members. It might even be disputed whether it makes sense to speak of a crime against a non-individual (with semantic reservations, see excursion).

*I use a deliberately vague term, as many different types of group can be involved. Consider e.g. the individual vs the people, the “class” he belongs to, the ethnic group he belongs to, the team he is on, … (Juxtapositions with groups that he is not a member of are, obviously, possible, but not relevant to today’s topic, except in as far as they are often used as excuses to limit rights.)

**Used in a wide sense, not necessarily restricted to formally illegal actions.

Consider genocide:

First, I would note that “genocide”, in my eyes, often is a euphemism, which reduces a million murders to a single crime and a single eight-letter word, adding insult to injury. We already have a saying, with variations, that “one death is a tragedy; a thousand deaths is a statistic”. Just applying the label “genocide” and forgetting about those thousand, million, whatnot individual tragedies, individual lives destroyed, individual murders, … Well, that borders on being a crime in it self—and arguably one that helps to complete the genocide.

Second, consider the practical implementation of a genocide. To (literally) kill a people as a group is not possible without killing the individuals of the group. To (for a less literal killing) imprison them, deport them, remove children from their parents to raise them as “one of us”, spread a local group thinly over the entire country in order to break resistance and assimilate them, etc. is not, or only to a limited degree, possible without crimes against the individuals of that group. Prevent the crimes against the individual and the group is protected. (But, in reverse, a law that ensures the survival of a certain group, its culture, lifestyle, whatnot, does not protect the individual, as long as there are other individuals from the same group left.)

Notably, the rights of the individual are the more important, the worse the crime. For instance, exterminating a group requires crimes against the individuals, while merely attacking e.g. its culture can to some degree be done without a great individual attack. For instance, whether any individual member of group X sees his rights violated if a state-run museum for the history or culture of X is closed, can be disputed.* However, here we can see that the attacks are already quite weak and only likely to have a major effect in such a long-term that they might miss the target. For instance, if** the culture present in the museum is still lived in society, shutting down the museum will have little effect; if it is not still lived, how large an impact did the museum have on the preservation of the group’s (former) culture? (And to what degree do group members visit such museums compared to, literal and metaphorical, tourists?)

*I would tend to say “no”; however, those likely to say “yes” are, I suspect, disproportionately likely to also be the type to invoke the greater good to violate individual rights in other contexts. (Note e.g. the current “postcolonial” Left.)

**Note that culture, traditions, way of live, etc., can change drastically in just a few decades, let alone centuries. (At least in even semi-modern societies.) Unless we force the members of group X to live in a certain “traditional” manner, which would also be a crime, chances are that the way of life would be severely altered in just one or two generations, anyway.

From another point of view, neglecting the individual, individual rights, and individual characteristics easily leads to an inappropriate thinking in terms of groups.* (Especially problematic in the fictitious, quasi-Marxist, oppressor–oppressed relationships that the “New Left” pushes so hard.) Yes, the individual can have pragmatic benefits from favoring his group, but not enough that he should blindly follow it like a brainless little sheeple. Certainly, Blacks should not vote for Biden because of some claimed obligation to a self-appointed “Black party”, nor women for Hillary because-Hillary-is-a-woman.** Falling for their rhetoric in this regard would just be silly, and often contrary to the interest of the individual Blacks and women. Similarly, a Libertarian member of the working-class should not vote for a Leftist party because it claims to support “his” interests. Etc. Vice versa, with an eye at current events, to punish Russians for being of the same ethnic*** group as Putin or Germans for being of the same ethnic*** group as Hitler is absurd.****

*Which, to return to genocides, can increase the risk that someone attempts a genocide considerably. Indeed, if someone does think in terms of individuals, not groups, the chances that he proposes a genocide are negligible.

**Arguably, no-one should vote for them—period. That is a different topic, however.

***For want of a better word, noting that I am uncertain whether the current anti-Russian sentiment is mostly based on citizenship or ethnicity, and noting that Austrian Hitler was German in the older sense of “member of the German people” but not originally in the newer “citizen of Germany” sense. The Russian division into two words (russkiye, rossiyane) is laudable.

****For the time being, I remain agnostic on the rights and wrongs of the Ukraine-situation, and I would not, at least at this time, draw a comparison between the two. Many others have chosen another road, and mistreatment of individual Russians in the West is rampant.

Similarly, why should the individual adopt the group’s behaviors? For instance, should I live on herring and potatoes, and leave pizza and pasta to the Italians, just because I am a Swede? (Of course, by now, the typical Swede eats more pizza and pasta than herring, which shows further how limited and limiting “traditional” behaviors, preferences, whatnot, can be—and how irrelevant they can become over time.)

Similarly, different groups often have different distributions of characteristics, but individual variation is usually more important. Stereotypes are there to help us make decisions when little or no information is available—they should not override more detailed information, nor make us too lazy to search for more detailed information.

Excursion on crimes against non-humans:
During the writing of this text, I stumbled into a few distracting semantic issues (see below). These do not change the general idea, but could lead to confusion or, should I remove the confusion, an overly long text. I hope that the reader will keep his mind on the big-picture idea, not details of word use.

Notably, (non-human) legal persons can be victims of crimes in at least a legal sense and I do not object to such uses of “crime”. (Unlike with e.g. the Swedish free-speech hostile legal nonsense of “hets mot folkgrupp”,* approximately “incitement against population group”, which implies that a certain action or statement would be a crime against e.g. a racial/ethnic/religious group—punishable even without an individual victim. Also note the difference between crimes against, on the one hand, entities, e.g. the state of Sweden, and individuals, e.g. individual Swedes, vs., on the other, the idea of crimes against Swedes as a group/people.) However, the nature of such crimes is somewhat different and, arguably, a crime against e.g. a corporation only does harm by proxy, by harming individuals, notably owners, employees, and customers. Then there are common and established formulations like “the store was robbed”, where there is (a) no guarantee that the store actually is a legal entity separate from its owner, (b) “store” will often refer to the actual locale. Such uses are irrelevant to my discussion, but might be too concrete to consider metaphorical. Throwing a wider net, there might be jurisdictions where animals** can be victims of crimes (and everyday use might include animals, even absent a law), while a non-literal interpretation of “crime”, per the above “wide sense”, might validly include a “the painting was destroyed by the vandal”. Then there are metaphorical uses like “crimes against science” or “crime against art”, to which I have no objections, while the acceptability of e.g. “crimes against humanity” might depend on whether the intent is metaphorical (potentially acceptable) or literal (missing the point in a manner similar to “genocide”).

*A good example of why it is important to put the focus on individual and actual victims, not on abstract groups as hypothetical victims.

**Then again, I have not necessarily restricted myself to human individuals. Here another semantic problems arises, including issues like when what animals might or might not be included or how a hypothetical extraterrestrial visitor should be treated. Let us think in terms of humans and sweep these complications under the rug.

Excursion on the “greater good”:
When done correctly, a “greater good” reasoning, which often amounts to a real or claimed good of the group/people/whatnot, might be acceptable or even beneficial. Consider e.g. someone who is willing to spend his own time and money or risk his own life for what he perceives to be a greater good. (Assuming, of course, that the actions taken do not have unjustified negative effects on others. Suicide bombers are a good counterexample.) However, those who invoke the “greater good” almost invariably want to make impositions on others. “We need to take your money for the ‘greater good’.”, “You must put your life on the line for the ‘greater good’.”, etc. This approach disqualifies the idea and gives us great reason to be wary of anyone who invokes the “greater good”, especially against the individual. (The situation is the worse, as the individual at hand need not agree that the supposed greater good is a good at all. Quite often, the alleged good presented to me has been something that I would consider outright bad, as with many or most governmental programs.)

Written by michaeleriksson

April 9, 2022 at 1:51 pm

Our elites / Follow-up: Some unfortunate words and uses

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A belated-because-too-long excursion to Some unfortunate words and uses:

A potentially problematic word, and one which should be used much more rarely, is “elite[s]”:

Many of the sources that I read make complaints about e.g. “our elites” or “our ruling elites”. (For various, usually correct, reasons ranging from poor results to a “rules for thee, but not for me” mentality.) Sometimes, the use appears ironic, e.g. when someone with a known low opinion of the competence levels of the “elite” uses the word—and that might be, barely, acceptable. Similarly, sometimes a clear implication of “self-appointed elites consisting of Dunning-Kruger victims” shines through. (Such writers also often use “midwit” or some other more suitable term.) Less acceptable are many uses that seem to take “elite” largely at face value, often with implied or stated ideas of “if only the elites could walk a mile in our shoes” or “[some negative thing] proves that rule by an elite is bad—we must let the people have a greater say”.*

*Note, with an eye on the below, that I do not disagree with the idea that even a true elite might benefit from that mile or that even a true elite needs some type of democratic check.

The latter presuppose that the “elites” actually are elites by a meaningful standard, which is, mostly, a faulty assumption. By all means, a typical U.S. senator (or similar figure in the country at hand) is likely to be above average in both intelligence and education, but the step from there to a true (intellectual) elite is quite large. If we look at some famous U.S. politicians, are Biden,* Hillary, Harris, Pelosi, AOC, or even Obama persons of truly great intellect?** If so, they have hidden it well, as they appear unimpressive even by the standards of politicians. The situation among Big Business leaders (another group often included in these “elites”) might be better, but is still not what it could be—and an increasing proportion of “diversity hires” on the higher levels does not help. Do not get me started on large parts of the academic “elite”.

*Even discounting his apparent severe mental degradation.

**The examples are all Democrat. This because (a) the problem almost consistently appears to be worse on the Left, (b) the Democrats are currently in charge (=> ruling elite), (c) the aforementioned sources tend to be more negative about the Left. Many cases can be found among e.g. Republicans too, however.

Correspondingly, to take current political “elites” as a sign that rule by (real) elites would be a bad thing is incorrect. Speaking for myself, I would be much happier and much more willing to trust or comply with politicians if they were true elite. (And I am on record as a proponent of e.g. IQ cut-offs both for voting and for holding office.) Many of the problems we have arise simply from non-elites presuming to make decisions for others—many of whom are more intelligent, educated, informed, whatnot, than the self-appointed nannies.

Written by michaeleriksson

April 5, 2022 at 12:27 am