Playing the Indian Card

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Civilization 101?

Norte Chaco panorama: where civilization began in the New World.

Most of the first world civilizations seem to have developed in deserts; or rather, along river valleys in deserts: the Nile in Egypt, the Tigris-Euphrates in Mesopotamia, in the Indus valley in India, along the Yellow River in China. In the New World, the first known civilization was on the northwest coast of Peru, an area that is “extremely arid, bounded by two rain shadows caused by the Andes to the east, and the Pacific trade winds to the west.”

At first glance, this seems odd. Why would settled agriculture have developed here? Deserts are relatively infertile areas. They are hard to farm. They are impoverished areas in agricultural terms. These places where agriculture first developed are far from the best farming areas today.

Some have theorized that the need to work together to develop irrigation works was the impetus to create the first complex communities. But this does not quite work. When you don't have much in the way of weaponry, hunting big game can also often require coordination. Mastodons will not stand still to be beaten with sticks. Indians like the Beothuk constructed and maintained miles of high fencing to channel caribou or buffalo into traps. Buffalo hunts required great coordination. Yet they never developed cities, or writing, or complex forms of government. Surely there are other circumstances that require social coordination; yet the civilizations arose specifically along these dry river valleys.

Mohenjo-Daro, Where civilization began in India.

I see another possible factor. Among hunter-gatherer societies, constant war was the norm. Constant total war allows little leisure to develop new ideas or technologies.

A community surrounded by desert would, in the course of things, have relatively little contact with hostile neighbours; there was little game nearby to hunt. Granted, people passing through a desert might want to fight for a water source, but if they have to cross a desert to get to it, they would be few in number, easy to see coming, and unlikely, as hunters, to see a compelling reason to stay around. You could probably bargain with them rather than having to fight. If you had to fight, you would probably win.

Ur: Where civilization began in Mesopotamia.

And so those people along the river valley, although poor, might have had the tranquility to work out those irrigation works in the first place, and the ability to preserve them intact, and the time to develop writing systems, architecture, and all that followed.

Monday, July 09, 2018

There Is a Right and Wrong

Somebody visited W.C. Fields in hospital, on his deathbed, and found him reading the Bible. They expressed surprise.

“Just looking for loopholes,” he explained.

And that is the story of much of human life, and much of human history. Everyone wants to be good, but without that difficult bit about doing good. Civilization itself may be seen as the struggle against that tendency, and civilizations have been successful to the extent that they have pulled it off: the ability to accept the difference between good and evil, and to act accordingly. Societies of any kind work to the exact extent that everyone follows the Golden Rule, to “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

The temptation is always very strong to simply deny that there is good and evil—that lets you completely off the hook. That is why you hear people using terms like “inappropriate” or “negative” for human deeds instead of “wrong” or “evil.” Modern psychiatry and psychology is founded on the premise. You read—as I just have—references to the “myth of pure evil,” claiming that most people who commit terrible acts, even mass murder, do so in the sincere conviction that they’re on the side of the angels. Perhaps they simply “lack empathy” because their brains are wired differently.

“I wanted to understand how ordinary people got caught up in doing these things,” the present author says. “I came to realize that those who come to do evil don’t view it as evil. Evil is in the mind of the perceiver. Most of the Nazis thought they were doing noble work.”

No. This reduces the human person to an automaton, without free will.

If there really were no such thing as evil, if it really were in the mind of the perceiver, all punishments for crime would be no more than the persecution of minority opinions. It would mean we had no right to judge the Nazis at Nuremberg, or to punish anyone at the International Court of Justice for personal peccadillos like mass murder. It never really mattered whether the Nazis won, or we did. Everyone died for nothing.

There is no way Himmler, for example, had a sincere conviction that he was on the side of the angels. Nor those below him. That was why they invented the gas chambers. They found it too troubling to see their victims shot. Better to do it all out of sight, so they could pretend to themselves it was not happening.

Everyone has a conscience. Demonstrably, when a narcissist does something morally wrong, he or she knows perfectly well they are doing something morally wrong. Because they will invariably lie about it. If they did not think it was wrong, they would not. And they have plenty of empathy as well: if they did not have a well-tuned sense of how others experience things, of how others feel, they would not be able to manipulate them so expertly, which they are famous for. Their “emotional intelligence” is through the roof.

Narcissism is like alcoholism. The alcoholic knows perfectly well that taking that next drink is bad for him, and for those around him. He does not lack a conscience. He just wants it; nothing else matters as much. Same with a narcissist.

This is also why not everyone who is raised to have maximum self-esteem, who is spoiled, will end up a narcissist. Everyone has a conscience, and in the end knows right from wrong in their heart. Becoming a narcissist requires a conscious moral choice.

The essential task for either the narcissist is to get back in touch with that natural rheostat or internal gyroscope, with conscience and with reality.

Psychology in general, sadly, takes exactly that solution, and puts it out of reach. By saying there is no reality, no morality, no right or wrong, and no free will. Trapping narcissists in their narcissism, and melancholics in their despair.

Sunday, July 08, 2018

The Left Is Not about Community

A left-leaning friend who shall this time remain nameless wrote a column, which I understood as offering the proposition that the left was all about “community,” while the right was all about “individualism.” I sent him an email arguing that the premise was false, and he wrote back only the simple sentence “No, I didn't say that.”

Rereading, I still think that is exactly what he said. He wrote, for example, “The alternative to community is individualism.” So far, so good--but it sets up the opposition. Then: “The right tends to takes a vigilante response. If you don’t like something, you take individual action against it -- the lone gunman who shoots up a newspaper, a night club, a concert, a school.” “By contrast, the so-called left knows that it needs government to control the corporations it doesn’t trust. So it has to take collective action.” “So the characteristic of the left is that it organizes.”

Even if it was not, it is certainly what I have heard many times from those on the left: the left is about community, the right is about individualism. Consider Obama's statement that “government is just our word for things we choose to do together.” 

The subtext, of course, is that “individualism” really means “selfishness.” With a mental image of the cartoon “greedy capitalist.”

"Organized big business interests."

I suspect that my friend's response really reveals that my points in rebuttal to this claim were strong enough that he did not feel able to counter them. So I think they may be worth posting here.

Because the premise is wrong. Edmund Burke, for example, was all about community and people helping one another in human solidarity. And he is considered a founder figure to most modern conservatives.

“Seems to me your association of community with the left and individualism with the right does not work on several levels. Beginning with the fact that you are quoting the ideal of Canada as a community of communities from Joe Clark, who was overall on the right of the Canadian spectrum. The response of the Liberals, the party to his left, at the time, was, in rough translation, 'like hell it is.' Note that small towns, real communities, “with lots of face to face interaction,” also actually tend to vote on the right; the big cities are more likely to be jammed with leftists, and leftists are more likely to congregate in the big cities. Where nobody knows one another. It would seem that either the right values community more than the left, or communities see their own values in the right more than the left.

Leftist ideologue?

I think Robert Reich [whom my friend quoted on this] is closer to the mark when he says that the right trusts corporations more than government, and the left trusts government more than corporations. The left thinks government is necessary to restrain corporations. The right thinks private enterprise is necessary to restrain government. But either a government or a corporation is a community in the basic sense. Neither is an individual. The essential difference is not community versus individual, but that a corporation is, for all participants, basically and theoretically a voluntary association, while being subject to a government is, by and large, a forced association—you can move, but within limits. That is a different issue, voluntary or forced, not community or individual. Or perhaps it is not. I think it could be argued that no forced association is a real community, on the grounds that any real community is based on love, not power.

You also mention, as examples of community, churches. Right. Perfect example. But any number of polls show that, the more people are involved in a local church, the more likely they are to vote on the right, and vice versa. I believe this is true as well of just about all other voluntary associations: service clubs like Rotary, amateur sports associations, charity groups, Scout troops, and so on. Think about it. Strong evidence that, in fact, community matters to the right, and not to the left.

You almost seem to suggest that the right is somehow in support of lone gunmen. That is, of course, outrageous. To begin with, lone shooters are themselves no more likely to be from the political right than from the political left. Indeed, I think historically, the left would predominate on that score. Sacco and Vanzetti were not Republicans. I guess you admit that in saying their politics do not matter. Second, it is the right, generally, that calls for more police and stricter law enforcement, presumably to prevent just such things. The left seems generally down on law enforcement agencies of all kinds. There are now calls on the left, for example, to abolish ICE. The right also tends to support tougher penalties for such crimes.

I suspect you are basing your claim here solely on the US issue of gun rights. This is not correct: the right's argument here is that more guns in private possession will prevent such incidents, or end them more quickly; it is not meant to promote them.

Again, the emphasis on 'law and order,' traditionally heard from the right, is the political position diametrically opposite to 'vigilante action.' Which, therefore, is probably more properly assigned to the left. Isn't it the left who are always talking about 'taking it to the streets'? And surely we are seeing just such “vigilante action” currently down south, with groups like Antifa resorting to violence in support of their preferred politics. No doubt factions on the right are capable of such misbehaviour at times as well; but that is not what we are seeing most often currently.

Perhaps there is a valid distinction to be made, and perhaps you are making it, in saying that the left organizes around single issues; perhaps indeed there is a contrast here. The left organizes around single political issues; that does seem to be right. The right, by contrast, organizes not primarily for politics, but for community. Churches, bowling leagues, bridge clubs, and service associations do not exist for political purposes. The left is by this standard again more individualistic: they live as individuals and apart except in the case of some common political interest. Not sure whether this holds up, but it looks right.

At the same time, it is important to point out that “community” is not without its own problems. Whenever you define any group as a community, you are also, automatically, defining everyone else as “other.” Nazi Germany was profoundly communitarian, as was Pol Pot's Kampuchea or Mao's China or Karadzik's Serbian Bosnia. So was the KKK.

Community Barbeque
It does seem that the left currently is far more favourable toward such “group identities,” such divisions into opposing factions, than the right. I do not think this is a good thing. And I do not think these are real communities, because they divide as much as unite people.

This is one vital reason why voluntary associations, like corporations, are better than enforced associations, like governments. The former is about love; the latter is about power. Keeping membership voluntary—on both sides—tends to prevent such problems. Because the “other” can become “one of us.” Note too that by this definition, the KKK, although non-governmental, or the Nazi party, were not voluntary associations: blacks or Jews or Catholics or immigrants could not join."

Thursday, July 05, 2018

The Meaning of Life: Not 42

Not all religions are equal. Why would they be? How could they be? All religions may and must include all that is needful, but if they are different, they cannot be equal. I have studied all the major world religions, and, while I love them all, I frankly do have favourites.

Traditionally in Western thought, starting with Plato, with traces back to Parmenides, there are three transcendentals: the Good, the True, and the Beautiful. These are the three qualities that abide in all things, and to the degree that they subsist in something, give a thing its value. In other words, they are the measures of all value. Put another way, they are the proper goals or objectives of human life.

Is this an arbitrary list? I cannot feel so. It seems to me that the proposition is self-evident once proposed. One cannot seem to superimpose some other, external standard by which goodness or truth can be measured and determined to have or not have value. Other, that is, than in terms of one of the other transcendentals. And so as well with beauty. These seem to be genuine a prioris. There may be others, and others have been proposed, but at a minimum, these three.

Now, given that these three are what they appear to be, the goals of existence, a religion can be evaluated on the basis of how well it recognizes and accommodates all three in its concept of God or the sacred, and of righteous human life.

On this score, I think Catholic Christianity has to ge the highest score, objectively. It is the one, to my eye, that most fully emphasizes all three aspects of life and of the divine: the faith, the morals and the ceremonials and sacramentals. I felt this in a deep, intuitive way before I thought to apply the doctrine of the universals, but the doctrine of the universals confirms it.

Take Islam first, as a comparison, since it is so much in the news. I find it bereft of a proper appreciation for Beauty. It is deeply suspicious of the arts: of painting, music, dance. Walk into a mosque, and there is very little there but bare walls. To me, this makes it feel barren and lifeless. 

Radha, image of the devotee, with Krishna.

Now take Buddhism or Hinduism. They seem to avoid the issue of the Good. They lack a strong moral dimension. Buddhist seems stronger on the Truth, Hinduism on Beauty, but both are relatively lacking in moral emphasis. To me, this makes them feel ultimately unserious, ephemeral. For East Asian culture in general, this lack is made up for by Confucianism, which emphasizes the Good without touching much on the True or the Beautiful. A relative lack of emphasis on Beauty in Buddhism is made up for in East Asia by Taoism. Bundled together, they work well. On the other hand, transporting Buddhism to the West without the other two does not work out well.

Judaism seems to me pretty solid. In theory, it should resemble Calvinism or Islam in discounting Beauty, since it shares their iconoclasm. But this does not seem to be the case, at all. Within Judaism, this seems to remain a prohibition against images of God, not against the arts. Which is, indeed, a separate and unrelated position. Judaism has a rich tradition of sacred storytelling. To the extent that a minority culture can, it also has a rich tradition of sacred music, sacred dance, and so forth. The only problem with Judaism in this regard, perhaps, is that it is ethnically and culturally based, and not easily available to us non-Jews.

Calvinism, within Christianity, seems to me to sadly lack both the Good and the Beautiful. No art, anything that smacks of art is of the devil; and no free will, so no moral issues. It seems to me only marginally religious. The Episcopalians, with their doctrinal looseness, seem to me weak on the Truth issue; it seems as though to them Truth does not matter, as long as you have Beauty. In Canada, the United Church as it now exists is similar, but without the Beauty. Good is all that matters. And so forth for other denominations.

To be fair, I can think of one area in which I find Catholic Christianity relatively lacking, and one or two other traditions stronger: humour. There is, within Christianity, a sense of scandal at laughter in a religious context. It feels blasphemous. I think this is wrong; Christianity is uptight here. It deprive God of some of his true personhood. Buddhism, by comparison, is full of jokes. Judaism enjoys a good knock-down argument with God, which seems to me healthy. Islam has the comic figure of Nasruddin. Hinduism has its “theology of play.”

Perhaps humour counts as a fourth transcendental: the Good, the True, the Beautiful, and the Funny.

And I feel there is a fifth transcendental, on which Christianity excels: Love. Or perhaps love is better defined as the proper response to the transcendentals, that of absolute attraction, of seeking them with your whole heart and your whole mind, to the neglect, if necessary, of everything else. I think it is fair to say that love is an important element in all religions: in Buddhism, in the doctrine of the Bodhisattva, in the figure of Guan Yin. In Hinduism, in the figure of Krishna, in the doctrine of bhakti yoga. In Islam, in Sufism and the Sufi poets. In Judaism, in the concept of the Shekhinah; you see it in Song of Songs.

But you can't beat the Christian formulation: God is Love.

The Coming American Civil War

Statehouse control by party as of 2018.

There are a lot of people saying that events are moving fast, and the US is on the verge of civil war. A poll shows that a third of Americans believe this. Who would have thought this five years ago? Not I.

But it is not going to happen. Or if it does, it will be a very short war.

To begin with, the Republicans control all three branches of the federal government. So the Republicans are not going to start it. It has to be the left. And the left, conversely, has no legal federal power base, then, does it? It cannot start as a dispute over power between the executive and the legislature, as civil wars have generally started in England or France.

Nor does the left have a decent power base in the statehouses, as was used to start the last US Civil War. Republican domination at state level is also overwhelming. The only area of contiguous states where Democrats are dominant and so conceivably might vote to separate is the West Coast: California, Oregon, Washington, Nevada, Hawaii.

Not a large base geographically; much smaller proportionately than the Confederacy. And they could be brought to heel in southern California pretty quickly by turning off their water, which largely comes from the interior. The rest is perfect for blockade.

There is a geographically smaller Democratic pocket in the Northeast: New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Vermont—and not New York. Any part of it could probably be sliced through to the sea by a tank column in a day. Sherman never had it so good.

So there is no territorial base from which to launch a Civil War.

Someone suggested the dissident left coast might help themselves by joining Canada. This would be a suicidal move for Canada, so surely Canada would not consent. To begin with, the US West Coast would demographically swamp Canada, so that, being a democracy, Canadians would thereby lose control of their country. Secondly, it would give the rest of the US license and justification in international law to invade and take over Canada--something they could probably do militarily in a week. Canada as a communications and transportation network is one long thin ribbon that could be snipped by a force from below the border at any point.

The big cities might rise up in revolt, as municipal governments, at the municipal level. This can cause havoc in a nation like France, with One Big City and the government in residence. It is not going to hold up in a country like te US, with many large cities and none very dominant. If New York rose, Washington could respond in force. If Washington rose, New York could respond. If both rose, and Chicago and LA too, some of the ten largest cities are pretty conservative: Houston, Phoenix, San Antonio. Even if all the biggest cities rose at once, they could not coordinate. They could not supply. Each could be cut off and picked off fairly easily in turn. Any city, sans hinterland support, is easily subject to siege. The American Revolution was won with New York firmly in British hands.

The only way it could happen, therefore, is by someone on the left first staging a coup, or a revolution. Someone would have to illegally seize the levers of power in Washington. And hope, improbably, that others accepted this and went along, obeying orders.

Most times, when that sort of thing happens, it is the military who does it. Because it must be done by force, and force is more or less a militay monopoly. If it is not the military, if, for example, it is some angry mob, the military must at least stand down and not defend the government. This is always the critical point in any revolution: the government calls in the troops, and the troops refuse to fire on the demonstrators. Or, as in the case of Tiananmen, they do show themselves prepared to fire, and the revolt is over.

In the US, the military, and the police forces as well, can be assumed to have mostly Republican sympathies—both the brass, and the average man on the ground. The left has long been hostile to the military, and to the police, and now very vocally to ICE. If one faction or one cabal of officers tried anything, they would probably soon be crushed by the larger part of the force.

Okay, it is true, in the US, the military has less of a monopoly of force than in most countries. Thanks to the Second Amendment, America has an armed citizenry, able to protect its rights in extremis.

And what are the political sympathies of most US gun owners? Who is bigger on defending the Second Amendment?

Even if the military stood down, in the US the armed citizenry would likely rush in to defend the government.

Perhaps the civil service could try to seize power—the “deep state,” with their military arm being the secret service, the FBI. There are rumblings that the FBI has gone rogue, and has been acting illegally.

Yet if it came to that, FBI agents are basically cops, and many if not most will have shared sympathies with the cops on the beat, who tend Republican. Nor,even if united against them, could the FBI or civil service stand against the actual military in any open confrontation. Any more than Beria could have stood against Zhukov in the lunge for power after Stalin died. It would be handguns against tanks and bazookas and aerial bombardment, in effect.

So no, we are not going to see a civil war.

What we are seeing, accordingly, is hysteria on the left. Because they are acting violent, calling for violence, and talking civil war despite the fact that they could not win one.

They have visibly lost touch with reality.

And it looks as though the general public has begun to notice: this emperor is exposing his nakedness, and folks are starting at last to point and snicker. There seems to be a big movement in just the last few days or weeks, on YouTube, of people videoing explaining why they are “walking away” from the left.

Soon, I suspect, it will no longer be socially acceptable to be openly leftist: it will be like publicly declaring immaturity or stupidity.

Monday, July 02, 2018

Solidarity Forever

Marx Brother?

I am a Democratic Socialist.

I might not have known that, had I not watched an interview last night with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the congressional candidate who just scored an upset win in the NY Democratic primary. She identified herself as a Democratic Socialist, and, when asked by Stephen Colbert what that means, said it meant three things: everyone should have access to health care, regardless of income; everyone should have access to post-secondary education, regardless of income; and everyone should have a roof over their heads, regardless of income.

I wholeheartedly agree with all three of those assertions, and never knew they had anything to do with socialism. Milton Friedman, too, felt that post-secondary education should be at no cost to the student: an obvious matter of equality of opportunity. Richard Nixon was the first to attempt universal health care in the US. It is the right in Canada, notably Hugh Segal, who are advocating a Guaranteed Annual Income. As to the very idea of a “social safety net”―you can trace that back to that wild-eyed radical, Bismark. A Marxist friend of mine claims that Marx himself was opposed to welfare.

There seems to be some sort of miscommunication here. If this is what Democratic Socialism is, we are all or almost all Democratic Socialists. Except possibly for the Marxists. What we disagree about is only what we can afford, and how most efficiently to achieve it. Surely I am missing something here?

I think Ocasio-Cortez must be deliberately falsifying her position, rather than expressing ignorance. There are obvious issues like abortion, free speech, and freedom of religion, that really do divide the contemporary right and left, which she does not mention.

Sunday, July 01, 2018

Vietnam and Afghanistan

The way we were...

Saw a documentary on the Vietnam War last night. It is remarkable how memories of Vietnam, once such a pressing issue, at least to those of us who were young, have faded. For a time, the trauma of Vietnam seemed overwhelming, and the end of American domination in the world. It was, the Americans thought, the first war they ever lost. God had deserted them; or they had deserted God. When Reagan a decade later send a few thousand marines into Grenada, the world gasped at his recklessness. After Vietnam? Unthinkable!

And now Afghanistan has dragged on as long, and nobody notices.

My opinion of Vietnam has not changed; not since I read the Pentagon Papers in 1971. I don't think the Americans were wrong in any moral sense to go in. It would have been better for the South Vietnamese had they won. But it was foolish. Just look on a map. First off, they could never invade North Vietnam, or, the Korean War informed them, they would be engaged in a land war in Asia with China. That would be the world's worst-case scenario for American arms, it being a distant sea power. As a result, they were committed to a purely defensive war; they could not win, only hold the line. Unless the North Vietnamese decided to give up, they had to lose.

Worse, South Vietnam is little more than one extended border. Insurgents could slip over that border at any time, at any point. No part of the country could ever be secured. The only way the US could fix that problem was to invade and conquer Laos and Cambodia, which would be a clear act of aggression against neutral countries, a flagrant violation of international law, and would damage US prestige as badly as or worse than losing the war.

All of this was obvious before the US went in.

I do not blame LBJ for going in; he was already committed, and to pull out would have meant a huge loss of American prestige. I do not think you can blame Kennedy either. His hands were similarly tied by prior commitments. You can blame Eisenhower. First, at Suez, he kicked the slats out from under the French and British empires. He forced them out of the game, and so out of Indochina. Then he committed the US to preserving the status quo under which the French left. He put America's head in the guillotine, and pulled the cord. It just took a few years for the blade to fall, and by then he was out of office. Anything after that would have been a grievous loss of American prestige, with perhaps disastrous consequences: the domino effect everyone worried about. The US would have shown itself an unreliable ally.

So why doesn't Afghanistan provoke the same public angst as Vietnam did?

It was almost as obviously dumb from the start. Afghan conditions defeated the Soviet Union, when it was the second-greatest military power on Earth. And a heck of a lot closer for resupply than the US. They defeated the British, when they were the greatest military power on Earth. And a heck of a lot closer to their base in India. Why, other than insane hubris, would the US (and NATO) attempt the same folly? Afghanistan is mountainous—perfect for guerilla warfare, so good for it that local governments have never been able to maintain control. Back in the Sixties, Afghanistan was still famous, as it had been throughout history, for bandits. The roads were never secure. Its natural state is constant total war. It has no seacoast—a huge logistical problem for a sea power like the US. And this also means that it is all border, through which insurgents can always pass in and out. The long border with Pakistan works just as did the Ho Chi Minh Trail. And NATO cannot invade Pakistan to do anything about it. 

The American war aim, back in 2001, was to punish the Taliban for refusing to hand over Osama Bin Laden and for hosting Al Qaeda bases. That mission was accomplished within two months. The US should then have handed the reins of power, such as they were, to their local allies, the Northern Alliance, and pulled out. This is how the British or French used to do it back in the days of empire; this is good old “gunboat diplomacy.” Send in a mobile force, burn down the Summer Palace, and withdraw in good order. Lesson taught. If they go back and do it again, go in and do it again.

US White House after Royal Navy raid, War of 1812.

Anything else is, if you will pardon the term, colonialism. You really do not have to stay and take over the country, do you?

But Vietnam was a much bigger conflict: it required the draft, a lot of unhappy involuntary soldiers, and a lot more casualties. Afghanistan is far less fierce.

In fact, it is so relatively placid that there may be real, material reasons for NATO to want to stay, even if the conflict is unwinnable. It might still be useful as a live-fire training and testing ground for NATO arms and tactics. In case of and more serious conflict, having forces recently battle tested is a huge advantage.

Unfortunately, real people are dying. I'd still pull out. With a strike force waiting on Diego Garcia.

Monday, June 25, 2018

The Absent Crisis of Unemployment

Everyone has recently been worrying about the loss of jobs with automation. Especially the hi-tech guys. They have been saying we will need to introduce a guaranteed minimum income to take care of all the people who will soon be thrown out of work.

But, strangely enough, that is not yet happening. Instead, in Canada and the US, there is a labour shortage. Unemployment is on a downward trend.

Self-driving trucks were about to kill off the single most common job in North America, truck driving. Instead, I read that, at least for now, there is a serious shortage of truck drivers.

What's going on?

Perhaps the same thing that went on during the Industrial Revolution. It looked as though a lot of people were going to lose their jobs to machines then too. That's more or less the basis of Marxist doctrine. Everyone expects an apocalypse of poverty. Yet the opposite happened: lots more jobs for lots more people. And better jobs, with higher pay.

There is a logic behind this. Automation makes the actual production of goods, or delivery of services, cheaper. As goods become cheaper, more people can and will buy them. The overall wealth increases. The fact that fewer people are employed making each item is more than counterbalanced by the fact that more items are made and sold.

It may be happening again this time.

I was really beginning to doubt that it could. After all, this time, it was not just manual jobs that were being automated, but at least on the near horizon, professions as well. What's left?

What's left, perhaps, is creativity. Maybe everybody becomes an “artisan” of one sort or another.

Postmodernism and Intolerance

A map of postmodern logic. Escher.

Postmodernists will represent their own position as one of tolerance, because everyone gets to believe “their truth.” But this, if you will excuse the term, is the opposite of the truth.

There is nothing intolerant about believing in or asserting a truth, because the act of doing so does not and cannot impose that truth on anyone else. It cannot compel another to believe. They are still equally free to believe in or assert something else. I can say that the Catholic Church teaches the truth, and this does not do a single thing to interfere with any Muslim or Hindu in the practice of his religion.

Postmodernism will not, on the other hand, tolerate any assertion of absolute truth of any sort. It wants to shut up and shut down both Muslims and Catholics, and everyone else except Postmodernism. No alternative position is tolerated. This is the ultimate intolerance.