June 1, 2010


me: Personal notes about politics


   " I am no politician, and still less can I be said to be a party-man: but I have a hatred of tyranny, and a contempt for its tools; and this feeling I have expressed as often and as strongly as I could."
   -- William Hazlitt


1. Personally speaking about politics
2. Personally speaking about equality (and the PR-forums)

1. Personally speaking about politics

Yesterday I said that I wanted to write some about politics, because I do believe there are several major crises - economical, political, ecological, intellectual, moral and educational crises - playing out at the moment, that may end within a few years with a collapse of civilization; I do believe both the US governments and the European states have missed many chances to do the obviously right things (regulate, regulate, regulate, essentially) the past two years; and I believe I have some useful things to say, and indeed I have written a fair amount in Nederlog, mostly in Dutch, of what could be called incidental political journalism, although the tone, style and contents are not as in ordinary political journalism, while I also have written a fairly long series on the economical crisis, that I started in early september 2008, while the Dutch politicians still all glorified in the Dutch welfare and promised more of it, in spite of clear signs a deep recession had arrived.

Also yesterday, I linked in some American stuff - The Young Turks, mostly - that is a kind of political journalism I do like [1], mostly because it is made by intelligent people who talk well and don't lie or posture overly much, and because I agree with major parts of what they are saying, or at least agree more than not, for unlike many I have no pretensions that I understand the US in any very useful very deep sense. [2]

Today or tomorrow I will reproduce here a piece "On Politics" I wrote 27 years ago in Dutch and translated two years ago because I found I still like it and agree with most of it.

It will follow in Nederlog as the next piece, but as I intend to discuss politics some more in Nederlog, in English rather than in Dutch, I should clarify a few things, and start with two major differences between me and people like Cenk Uygur, Dylan Ratigan and Chris Matthews I mentioned and linked to yesterday.

The one major difference is that, unlike them, I am not really interested in politics or politicians in any passionate way, and especially not in daily politics and in present day politicians: I think both the politicians and their policies are usually stupid and mistaken, also irrespective of party or ideology, and I think the politicians as a rule are both uninteresting as persons and are lying, posturing and cheating as politicians.

The other major difference is that I do and did not pin my hopes and aspirations on politics or politicians ever since I was 20: In my opinion, the major way to try to improve the human lot is by science rather than by politics or religion.

There are other differences, that may also be major but that are a bit less clearcut, mostly because I don't have the relevant information.

For one thing, I am rather well-read in what are called the sciences of politics, economics, history and sociology, mostly because I was raised in a very politically interested and active family and had to think my way out of that education, and because I am also interested in these subjects, but then I do not believe these so called sciences are real sciences for the most part, in the ways physics and chemistry are real sciences, and I do believe that much of the standard fare that is being served in universities that award degrees in these subject is ill-written, ill-reasoned and ill-founded, besides being boring, ugly, misleading and ideologized in many ways.

It may be that people like Uygur and Ratigan - who are quite intelligent and very well-spoken, and who are political journalists - know as much of the classics of politics, economics, history and sociology as I do, but I doubt it, not because I have relevant personal knowledge of them, but because their counterparts in Holland, at least, tend to be total ignoramuses as regards real science and real philosophy, though these do usually pretend they are not, and also because these counterparts that I do have knowledhe of are not really interested in - say - reading Keynes's "General Theory", Weber's "Economy and Society", Machiavelli's "Discourses" and Aristotle's "Politics".

Indeed, if they are interested in these men or these books, they rarely show they did read these books with any real understanding, and at least the Dutch types I know usually didn't and haven't, though they are quite capable of maintaining they did (which they also may have done to some minimal extent if they studied a social science, namely in the form of a few pages of summary and extracts).

In any case, my own consistent experience with the people that write these days about politics is that they either do not know the classical texts I think are best in the fields they write about at all or else only know of them in a second hand derivative sense, and that precisely because they never are capable of doing anything with them or like them (that I came to know).

For another difference, the vast majority of political journalists seem to be moved by a major personal interest in the ongoing politics and in the prominent politicians of their days, especially in their own countries, but also elsewhere.

I am not or only in a superficial usually satirical way: The vast majority of the political decision-making of my own time, in my own country and elsewhere, I regard as both morally wrong and intellectually mistaken and as doubly unfounded, namely neither theoretically nor empirically, and the vast majority of the politicians I regard as uninteresting and as not really intelligent or civilized. [3]

The differences between me and others here is mainly that this holds across the political board for me: It does not vary with politics and politicians, even if I have preferences, that I sometimes do have. But fundamentally, the policies that are implemented seem to me usually as wrong and mistaken as the politicians pushing or opposing them, besides of which I know from my own experiences [4] that most political decision-making happens behind the scenes (that I am not behind), and is done by persons I cannot respect at all, neither intellectually nor morally, usually also for disrespectable reasons (such as corruption or dishonest politicking, if not a disagreement about the policies or values).

The persons who are actively and passionately interested in politics usually have some political axe to grind and also have strong personal interests in various politicians.

As a rule, politicians do not interest me, because they are obvious conmen who cannot possibly know what they pretend to know and act on, and indeed are politicians, in my opinion, because they are morally reprehensible people who made careers by lying, posturing, and by aiding and abetting crooked politicians that in repayment eased their ways into political power, and because, even if they are fairly smart and have a facility for plausible talks and self-presentations, they are, in my eyes, clearly not the best nor the brightest, since if they were they would not be politicians but scientists, philosophers or artists.

This estimate of mine seems mostly fair also because I do not have quite the same estimate for earlier times, in that it seems to me that people like Burke, Disraeli, Gladstone or Churchill had more ability and style, and probably also a more extensive and demanding personal education, than any modern politician of my days I know of. [5]

But this estimate of mine is also related to my personal values, in the sense that two of the things that turned me radically away from politics when I was 20 are that I then came to see that being a politician and doing political things just is not the kind of thing that I think is interesting and worthwile for a truly intelligent man, apart from dire necessity in times of social crisis: much of everyday politics and politicking just is boring and sleazy, and besides I just am not interested in exercising power over people as a political leader, again because most of the daily work seems an utter bore to me, incidentally just like most political types one would then have to meet and make deals with, and because I do not like the responsibilities that are involved, and indeed believe that no man can do modern politics on a state-level decently, fairly and rationally, for lack of time and knowledge. [6]

Three final personal differences are that I do not follow leaders, and instead think for myself, which also covers the facts that I do not feel alliances with any political party or group, whereas the vast majority of men consists of followers, who also like to follow leaders, and do so with pride and conviction; that I personally do not believe that ordinary men can contribute much or anything to change the world outside their direct living environment (where they usually also fail to get things arranged as they want), other than as cannon-fodder or minor statistic; and that for me politics and religion are both fundamentally flawed, mistaken, irrational, unreasonable and unscientific, though the degrees differ with the politics, the religion, the time, the place and the leaders considered.

These are some of the things that make my personal orientation towards politics different from that of most.

2. Personally speaking about equality (and - indirectly - the PR-forums)

Another difference between me and others in regards of politics and ethics is that I am honest and forthright about my total lack of belief in universal human equality, although this disbelief has nothing whatsoever to do with any racism, chauvinism or nationalism, all of which I detest and despise: It concerns individual and personal qualities, or the lack thereof, exclusively.

The problem, as I see it, is mostly and mainly that whereas it was quite possible to hold rationally and reasonably at the time of the French Revolution that when ordinary men would be released from their subservience to the ruling classes or castes, and would be given the freedom to stand on their own legs and given a vote in the building and running of society, if not personally then via their spokesmen or representatives, and also would be free and helped in necessary in the development of their own personal talents, that then they would in majority make rational choices and show reasonable behavior, both in social and in personal terms, and rather like many of the philosophers of the 18th Century held was possible for themselves, has mostly been shown to amount to an illusion: Ordinary men are not like that.

This outcome of democracy has been shown to be an illusion by many thinkers, starting with De Tocqueville and Mill (who like me wanted to restrict the vote to educated people, instead of giving it to all adults), and including Mosca, Nietzsche, Pareto, Burnham, Orwell and others, and it also has been shown to be an illusion by the course of history after the French Revolution, and in particular in the 20th Century, where it was shown that unprecedented mass murders are committed as a matter of course by the vast majorities of ordinary men, for no other reasons than chauvinism and conformism, or simply for being ordered to do it.

And part of the problem, as I see it, is that by now, what with the almost always flattering public media and the democratic vote for all adults, irrespective of education, intelligence, income, reputation or what not, has led to an enormous amount of cant and posturing about the equality of all to all, that nobody really believes (everybody prefers himself and his friends or family to other human beings, when it comes to personal choices, and likes those folks better than other folks) but the vast majority much likes to pretend to, because their desire for equality consists mostly in the desire that nobody - other than sports starts, Media Celebs, and political and religious leaders - be evidently any better than they themselves are.

I think this is both a delusion and a lie, even if I am in principle in favour of equal rights in most respects, and not because everybody is equal, but much rather because everybody is different, and it would be neither fair nor wise to provide unequal rights to persons because they have unequal personal excellencies or fitnesses for particular tasks. (Note that I am speaking of legal rights applying to all here rather than personal preferential treatments or salaries for individuals, that normally do tend to involve some personal compensations or remunerations for some of one's personal characteristics, education, efforts etc.)

Also, it is dangerous for a society that is fair and equitable for most, for no one really feels himself or herself to be the equal of others and neither wants to: Women and girls want to be more beautiful than others; men and boys want to be stronger than others; both sexes want to be richer, more powerful, and receive better treatments than others; and thus it has always been, since no human being can think the thoughts of another, or feel the feelings of another, or share all the interests and concerns of another, and no human being has all or most of the special talents and gifts that are present in some individuals of the human species, while the vast majority of human beings does not have any special talent or gift, and that almost always not through a particular fault of themselves, but due to Nature's unfairness to many, for Nature gives to few what most desire, and does not give more than one or a few great talents to any one, and that by rare incident only.

And the social danger is that the many without any talents will deny the few with talents the practical possibilities or rights to exercise these talents as they should be exercised, in the eventual interest of all, because the many without any special talents are envious of the individual benefits this may bring, and rather have all fit the same mould forced upon all, than help the few to shine brighter than others through the use of their personal talents [7] - except for the fact that, since modern societies are sick in this and other respect, in case the personal talents suit the personal prejudices and biases of the masses of ordinary men, which generally means a talent for sport or a pretty face, may be rewarded for many millions a year, and in the same society where excellent  mathematicians and physicists can't find jobs or tenure, and if they do at very low incomes, and where any writer or thinker is admitted, admired and paid only if he articulates the prejudices, interests and concern of some large group, and especially is not paid if he chooses to write painful truths (at least: before being very old and very well-established while also being a member of a dominant political or pressure group).

I have written considerably more on these lines in Dutch, since the Dutch society is quite consciously based since four or five decades on the teaching that it is the prime moral duty of every Dutchman to be an ordinary man, which is the highest praise on can get in Holland, and which is the moral ideal of the vast majority of Dutchmen [8]: To seem to be no better than anyone else (except in riches, facial and physical beauty, and sportsmanship); to publicly proclaim daily that it is highly moral and desirable than no one seems to be any better than anyone else (except in riches, facial and physical beauty, and sportsmanship); and that in actual fact any and all human beings are the perfect equals of any and all other human beings (except in riches, facial and physical beauty, and sportsmanship, which - of course! - is publicly due to their individual meritorious hard work, and not to their being born in a certain way, since that would seem to be most unfair to those who weren't).

What is true is that this democratic mode of egalitarian levelling varies rather a lot between societies and individuals, though it currently and since post-modernism is a dominant mode of thought and valuation in the Western societies, where very many social changes have been implemented on the ground that the proposed measures would contribute to the equality of all to all - which indeed also, in some cases, such as where race or caste is concerned, or where there are unequal salaries for what is really the same work, is fair or desirable by my own principles (since I also do not believe anything in the way of racial inequalities or of humanly unequal castes: all relevant human differences and qualities figure on a personal and individual level, and not on that of groups, classes, nations or races).

Mostly though, this spirit of levelling is reprehensible, is based on envy, and is unfair, among other things because those with talents or gifts that please the masses are paid millions, while those with other talents or gifts are merely discriminated and repressed for reason of being different from the average.

Also, this spirit of levelling as a rule does not lead to a happier or more diversive and interesting human society, but to a more unhappy, more forced, less diverse, less interesting and more totalitarian or authoritarian society.

Finally, although it is quite obvious that it is in the interest of all that the few who are born in a society with some rare but useful talent get the opportunities to develop and profitably use this talent, in a socalled democratic society this tends to cause problems, because it is seen as unfair by the vast majority of the untalented, except in case of those talents - sports, physical beauty - that the masses appreciate in majority, in which case they normally get remunerated, rewarded and admired totally out of proportion. [9]

P.S. As I hinted in the title of part 2, this is also what happened on the Phoenix Forums, and indeed what happens elsewhere, and especially where this can be done anonymously:

The few who stand out are brought down or removed - or at least: not protected - by the majority that does not stand out, for no better reason than that the majority is not willing to tolerate anyone larger than they are in their own  environment (except in sportive and filmic excellencies loved by the masses), and will as a rule use any means - though usually morally worded ones - to trip up, bring down, or eject anyone clearly better than the rest in some respect most of the rest would have wanted to excel in themselves, but don't.

It seems to me that, therefore, it is unwise - it has been shown to me, quite convincingly - for anyone out of the ordinary to write for or partake in any large anonymous forum: One's personal qualities will rapidly involve one in problems, troubles, envy, backchat etc., and to a much larger extent than in ordinary life, for all these small revenges of small people are now totally anonymous and can be perpetrated without any sanction. (Alternatively, and as most gifted people do: One can lie, and lie, and lie that, really - trust me! - one is just as good as anybody else, which is completely credible also as long as one hides one's talents, and merely uses others for one's own purposes.)

And as mathematicians say, these levelling activies are mainly functions of the size of the group and the anonymity of its members, while as moralists say, they are human-all-too-human.

And as I mentioned the Phoenix Forums, I shall also mention that today the owner of it all has started a new improved version of the rules, that indeed sound much less draconian, now that is a bit too late. (And with the moderators as are I have few and little hopes on real improvements, and besides most of the members that made the Phoenix Forums special have moved mostly - it seems - to another and private forum, where they can be among themselves without fear of uncontrollable immoderate "moderation").

As to ME/CFS (that I prefer to call ME):

1. Anthony Komaroff

Ten discoveries about the biology of CFS (pdf)

3. Hillary Johnson

The Why

4. Consensus (many M.D.s) Canadian Consensus Government Report on ME (pdf)
5. Eleanor Stein

Clinical Guidelines for Psychiatrists (pdf)

6. William Clifford The Ethics of Belief
7. Paul Lutus

Is Psychology a Science?

8. Malcolm Hooper Magical Medicine (pdf)

Short descriptions:

1. Ten reasons why ME/CFS is a real disease by a professor of medicine of Harvard.
2. Long essay by a professor emeritus of medical chemistry about maltreatment of ME.
3. Explanation of what's happening around ME by an investigative journalist.
4. Report to Canadian Government on ME, by many medical experts.
5. Advice to psychiatrist by a psychiatrist who understands ME is an organic disease
6. English mathematical genius on one's responsibilities in the matter of one's beliefs:
   "it is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon
     insufficient evidence
7. A space- and computer-scientist takes a look at psychology.
8. Malcolm Hooper puts things together status 2010.

"Ah me! alas, pain, pain ever, forever!

No change, no pause, no hope! Yet I endure.
I ask the Earth, have not the mountains felt?
I ask yon Heaven, the all-beholding Sun,
Has it not seen? The Sea, in storm or calm,
Heaven's ever-changing Shadow, spread below,
Have its deaf waves not heard my agony?
Ah me! alas, pain, pain ever, forever!
     - (Shelley, "Prometheus Unbound") 

    "It was from this time that I developed my way of judging the Chinese by dividing them into two kinds: one humane and one not. "
     - (Jung Chang)

See also: ME -Documentation and ME - Resources

P.P.S. ME - Resources needs is a Work In Progress that hasn't progressed today.


[1]  One of the striking things for me is the incredible levels of make up and neatness most so called anchormen and anchorwomen show, as if a plastic botoxed exterior is necessary to be taken serious by anyone who is not an intellectual, as may very well be the case.

[2] Indeed, I have the possibly peculiar trait that I believe I do not really know a country if I haven't been there and don't know many statistics about. In this sense I do know Western Europe (more or less), having been in most countries for some time at some point in my life, and having read a European "quality paper" daily since decades, wheras I never have been in the US; rarely read US papers (other than the New York Times, the New Yorker, and the Scientific American, and that not regularly); while I am not well aware of most statistics about the US, nor did I have a TV since 1970,. which might - perhaps - have given me some more superficial knowledge.

[3] What I mean by "not being civilized" I have explained fairly well in Dutch here:  Wat is (persoonlijke) beschaving?

[4] I do know a fair amount of how Amsterdam and the University of Amsterdam were run between 1970 and 2010, and by what manner of people, for what manner of motives - but this is all quite difficult to explain, especially to foreigners, because it is quite peculiar and odd (both institutions function as a sort of Labour-lieges for Labour-worthies since the end of WW II, in actual fact, where very well-paid jobs with very much power are and have been given to mostly totally worthless and corrupt people as rewards for political services rendered to Labour) and because it has been and is systematically lied about since decades.

[5] Here I should note that while I can confidently say that most of the education offered in Holland on all levels, in almost all subjects, in almost all schools and all universities the past 40 years has been quite bad, and quite a lot worse than in the 100 foregoing years, I am less confident about the so called great universities outside Holland, such as Cambridge, Harvard and MIT (a polytechnic, nominally, but let that be), where the level of education certainly has not fallen to the same extent over a broad spectrum, if at all.

This I am quite confident of - what I am not confident of, as I am about Holland, where the level of - the leading members of - the elite, including the PM and parliamentarians, just is considerably lower than it used to be until ca. 1965, is how this would and did effect American or English politics.

However, there also most minor universities seem to have been much blighted by the cancer of postmodernism, which implies that the level of ability in society and in governance and among civil servants must be lower than it was before, in terms of real knowledge of real things, at least, as is the case in Holland.

[6] It may be possible to do politics decently, rationally and reasonably on a city or village-level, namely, where the people who are ruled by the politicians are both able to get a fair estimate what these politicians are personally like and up to, and a fair estimate of what is factually possible and what has been done and not done in political decision-making, but on a state or supra-state level this is no longer possible: Too many people and institutions are involved in the decisions, while the politicians on those levels are no longer real persons but media-creatures.

[7] Thus, in Holland over the past decades, in which the standards and amounts of education have effectively halved, during the same time all official titles of scholastic activities of any kind have been reworded in terms that were before that only used for universities: Even in Kindergarten the exams children of 4 take now have the name that 40 and more years were used only for university examinations; almost all schools, of whatever kind, and especially the lower kinds, are now called "colleges"; all attending to any kind of education is called "studying" a.s.o. a.s.f. - how envy and levelling take their tolls if left unchecked or praised for striving for "equality"!

Also, it is noteworthy that hardly anybody protested against this the past 40 years, and that the vast majority took pride in these changes in the names of things, as if thereby the injustices of reality were somehow undone, healed and solved that way, as many indeed seem to somehow believe.

[8] THE Dutch Norm Above All Norms is the oft repeated "Act normal, for then you act madly enough" - the conformists and the apparatchik's supreme value of all values. Likewise, it was upon instigation of the Dutch government that the Dutch troupleader in front of Srebrenica in 1995 said, on camera also, and to the Serbian general Mladic:

"There are no good guys. There are no bad guys. Mladic is my colleague. Please don't shoot the piano-player."

(Result: Over 8000 murdered, though no Dutchmen, happily.)

[9] It really is a sign of cultural sickness if excellent physicists or mathematicians cannot earn more than a small fraction of what their political leaders receive, who in turn receive far less than the sports idols, "media celebs", and industrial and financial CEOs.

But that is the sort of culture I am and have been living in for nearly 50 years now: One of "Umwertung aller Werte" by "Entwertung aller Werte", that is: One of "Revaluation of all values" by "devaluation of all values", namely to the level, extent and reward that the masses democratically are willing to concede, and that all only really practisable (and maintained willingly) in monetary terms, as some sort of reward, usually for being normal.

Maarten Maartensz

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