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Archive for the ‘Philosophy’ Category

Slang terms come and go; sometimes they enter the vernacular on a more permanent basis, but more often the fade away once their season is done, and using them after that time tends to mark someone as not at all “with it”, to use one example from my youth.  But as you might suspect from someone who was invited to a conference of freethinkers, I don’t much care if young people think it’s funny when I use words like “chick”, “square”, and “dig” without a hint of irony (I’ve even been known to occasionally use “groovy”), just like I didn’t much care if adults disliked it when I used them as a kid.  There’s one term from my youth, though, which has pretty thoroughly vanished from popular use despite being as necessary now as it ever was, and perhaps even more so: “The Establishment”.  It was first used in this sense by British journalist Henry Fairlie, who in The Spectator (September 1955) wrote:  “By the Establishment, I do not only mean the centres of official power—though they are certainly part of it—but rather the whole matrix of official and social relations within which power is exercised.”  The Establishment, then, includes politicians, cops, bureaucrats, banks, well-connected corporations, institutions, academia, NGOs, the mainstream press…all the interconnected parts of the fascist regimes which act collectively to corral people into easily-managed herds.  Most people nowadays, especially (but not limited to) those in the chattering classes, like to pretend that these institutions either act separately, or can be cleanly divided into “wings”; those who buy into this fantasy think it’s perfectly reasonable to be against “capitalism” without also being against centralized government, or believe that institutions which mouth popular “woke” jargon are truly against the larger institutions which pay their bills, or imagine that a TV news network which airs propaganda for one of the so-called “wings” is different in some substantive way from one which prefers to air propaganda for the other “wing”.  But as I’ve discussed many times, this is nonsense; the machine of authoritarianism is vast, complex, and has many parts which seem separate or even adverserial to shallow thinkers, but in reality all work together (sometimes by design, but more often by necessity) to either reduce all individuals to soulless parts of that machine, or else crush those who refuse to be used thus into pulp.

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Hereticon

I have never enjoyed a conference as much as I have this one.  When I attend conferences, my main goal is to “network” and hobnob as much as possible, which is really a fancy way of saying, “yakety yak as much as possible with as many cool, interesting people as possible, as is my wont anyway but in a place where the density of such people is much higher than it is elsewhere.”  But this conference, by the direct statement of its organizers, is specifically intended to encourage that sort of thing.  Sure, there are talks and presentations, but they don’t occupy every minute of time in multiple rooms at once, with so much going on that there’s absolutely no way for any person to see even half of it even if they wanted to.  The pace is more lesisurely, and the event schedule and spaces are designed around encouraging the guests and presenters (who are often hard to tell apart) to interact with each other.  Some conferences are almost more like seminars, with an emphasis on presenters dispensing ideas and information to a receptive audience; this one is more like a big salon, with an empasis on intelligent, imaginative people talking back and forth.  Part of that is its smaller size and curated guest list, but another part was in the planning; I even had interesting conversations with the Founders Fund staff, who mingled with the attendees.  And the incredible generosity of the organization hosting the conference was delicious icing on a yummy cake.  I’m definitely hopeful of being invited again in the future, and plan to present myself next time…though as I said above, I doubt that will change my experience very much.  And that is a really good thing.

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Diary #602

I’m in Miami Beach right now for Hereticon, a new conference that was originally scheduled for May 2020 in New Orleans until it was torpedoed by the COVID shutdowns.  It was eventually rescheduled for October 2021…then that date, too, was sunk, by Hurricane Ida.  And while I’m glad the conference is finally taking place, I wish they’d been able to keep it in New Orleans.  Miami Beach, as the old song says, ain’t my kinda town, but New Orleans is where I was born, and no matter how far from it I live, there will always be a part of me there.  So I decided to fix what was broken by catastrophes, and when the conference ends on Thursday I’ll be hopping over to the Crescent City (only a two-hour flight from Miami) to visit old friends for a few days.  It meant having to pack for three different temperature ranges while yet keeping it to one suitcase (I don’t like having my luggage out of my control, so one roller bag, a large purse, and whatever I can wear is the limit), but I somehow managed. And I’ll try to get some interesting pictures to share with you.

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Rooted in the Past

It’s hard to believe it has already been a year since I semi-retired, which means it’s been 22 years since I started escorting full time, 27 years since my first husband left me, and just a few days shy of 37 years since the first time I accepted money for sex.  But despite my life being different in a number of ways from what it looked like in 2015, and quite different from what it looked like in 2005, and extremely different from what it looked like in 1995 and 1985, I’m still the same person in many ways.  Obviously I’m much older and much wiser and far more satisfied with my life, even if it doesn’t look anything like 1985 Maggie would have imagined it would look.  And yet, there’s a clear line of continuity across all those decades, and even the changes which might seem major to outsiders (such as moving from librarian to whore, from Louisiana to Washington, and from nigh-total abstinence to daily drug use) are in reality rooted in what went before, in the same way plot developments late in a novel might be foreshadowed in the early chapters.  This was driven home for me just two weeks ago, when one of my cousins suddenly decided to re-establish communication after almost 30 years of none.  We were very close friends for several years in our mid-teens, but when I went to UNO and she went to LSU we lost touch as so often happens, and though we would chat amiably every time she came into the library, we both had poorly-chosen husbands to deal with and she lived on the other side of Lake Pontchartrain.  Apparently, her mother brought me up in conversation at Thanksgiving and it made her realize how much she missed me, so she contacted my sister on Facebook and we were soon playing catch-up.  Once I told her about my activism, she decided to watch the many videos available on YouTube and was struck by how little my vocal inflections, mannerisms, and the like had changed since those long-ago and far-off days when I’d ride my bicycle over to her house and we’d hang out all afternoon doing the sorts of things that seem very important when you’re 15.  Her timing was very good, because next week I’m headed to Miami for a conference, and after that I plan to stop by the New Orleans area for a visit; it’ll be good to see her again after so long, and I can’t help but wonder if this isn’t the first of a series of such returns, unexpected and yet foreshadowed, old loose threads being gathered together to serve a new function in the story of my life.

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Even as the “sex trafficking” panic implodes, those who…use…it as an excuse for violence have redoubled their efforts.  –  “Before It Gets Better

If you are a regular reader, you’ve probably noticed that I’m no longer writing new essays for those occasions I’ve observed with polemics for the past decade.  As I wrote last March, “It’s time for older activists like me to move into a more advisory role…[and] as part of that shift, I think it’s time for me to stop writing new essays on this topic, lest I grow irrelevant due to repetition.” And so, as I have already done on every other such occasion this year, I present a collection of statements I’ve previously made on this topic:

Most people are far too frightened of reality to admit that their government wantonly enacts laws and procedures whose specific and intentional purpose is to destroy the lives of anyone it has designated an “enemy of the state”.
–  “The Body Count

This jihad is no more “well-meaning” than the Drug War, alcohol Prohibition, Jim Crow or any other campaign of government violence against individuals and civil rights.  –  “Malice Aforethought

A…large…fraction of the violence committed against sex workers is committed directly by armed agents of the state, often though not always under the excuse of “gathering evidence” for our “crime” of having impure thoughts about otherwise-legal sex.  –  “Against Violence

The State…wants to send “messages” against [sex,] drugs and many other forms of pleasure; against free thought, free speech and free movement; against self-determination and self-ownership; and most of all against the dangerous idea that it does not own you and has no right to control your body, your mind or your possessions.  –  “Sending Messages

Until our society grows up and stops believing in ridiculous fairy tales about magical sex acts and ritual purity, sex workers will continue to be treated as disposable.  –  “December Seventeenth

The state, Western religions, and carceral “feminists” teach that a woman who has sex for practical reasons rather than emotional ones is robbed of her “purity”, and that an “impure” woman would be better off dead. – “On December Seventeenth

We…honor our dead not merely by weeping for them, but by fighting for the day when no more of us have to die for a sick and twisted fantasy of governmental control over the private choices of individuals.  –  “Honoring Our Dead

“End demand” and Swedish model proponents…respond to copious evidence that the approach harms sex workers by denying it, insisting that the harm is actually good…or simply dismissing it as a “price worth paying” for their fanatical dream of a society in which sex is entirely under government control.
–  “End Violence, Not Demand

The propaganda which drives this moral panic paints all prostitutes as pathetic, childlike victims suffering from mental illnesses which render us unable to make decisions for ourselves, thus justifying our abduction, imprisonment, deportation, robbery and rape.  –  “A Day Against Hate

The laws criminalizing our profession allow weak-minded men (and even some women) to convince themselves that since we are “criminals” we don’t deserve to be treated like human beings.  –  “The Red Umbrella

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The Limits of Resolution

My own suspicion is that the universe is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we can suppose…I suspect that there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamed of, or can be dreamed of, in any philosophy.  –  J.B.S. Haldane, “Possible Worlds” (1927)

If you’re anything like me, you were already tired of the “We’re living in a simulation” nonsense before it even got as widespread as it is now.  The idea that what we perceive as reality might not actually be real goes back at least to Plato’s cave and the Hindu concept that the universe is the dream of Brahma, but for the genesis of its current popularity we must turn from the sublime to the ridiculous, namely the movie The Matrix (which stole both its name and its central concept from a 1976 episode of Doctor Who and many of its details from the works of Philip K. Dick, most notably Ubik, but does justice to neither).  This currently-popular version of the philosophical exercise postulates a creation with the grandeur and inescapability of what we might call the “primordial simulation” models (wherein the “simulation” is either the natural state of the universe or was created by an eternal demiurge far beyond the comprehension of any being within the simulation), yet residing within some physical realm at least resembling the “simulated” universe in which we are imagined to exist.  Expressed more succinctly, the modern “simulation” fantasy as typically conceived imagines a simulacrum of a universe created by some finite being or beings for some definable purpose and existing within some physical instrumentality.  And such a model is, due to those arbitrary limitations, pure claptrap.

The problem with this version of the idea lies in the very concept of a “simulation” as a thing that requires a “simulator”, rather than recognizing it a state intrinsic to the mathematical structure of the cosmos itself (a la Plato) or else as a product of a form of existence as far beyond our comprehension as the totality of the universe is beyond any given individual who might ponder their state of existence (as in Hindu cosmology).  But the Matrix-style simulation fans aren’t imagining an open-ended, intrinsically unknowable system; quite the opposite.  Instead, they postulate a very complex but still finite formal system, resident within something like a supercomputer (albeit an immense and very advanced one).  However, no formal system can adequately describe itself*, which means it also cannot adequately model itself; any simulation of this sort must therefore be of dramatically smaller scope and lower resolution than the world in which its simulating mechanism resides, just as no fictional world or electronic simulation within our world can ever be as large or complex as our world.  If our universe were truly a finite simulation within a knowable, physical system, there would be some point, probably but not necessarily on the scale of the infinitesimal, that we would be able to perceive the limits of granularity.  Sooner or later, our instruments would reach a point at which the resolution of our universe was no longer sufficient to allow us to subdivide structures into still-smaller parts, and given that our theoretical models already extend down to phenomena smaller than a billionth the size of the smallest particles we can detect, which are themselves far tinier than the electrons whose movements define the contents of our own computers, I think it’s safe to say that isn’t likely to happen.

*If you’ve never studied Kurt Gödel’s incompleteness theorem, here’s a very accessible book which might help you to understand both its narrow implications for mathematical modeling of phenomena and its philosophical implications for the universe as a whole.

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Anyone who wants to understand how the US grew to be the most carceral nation in the world by a very wide margin need only look at how the vast majority of Americans  – from politicians to cops; from the “right” to the “left”; from old to young; from overeducated to undereducated; from east to west; and from the most anthill-like cities to the most sparsely-populated countryside  –  all believe that the best way to “send messages” to people they don’t agree with (on anything other than mob rule and “might makes right“, of course) is to lock human beings in filthy cages for decades, no matter what the offense or circumstance, and that it’s OK for both cops and prosecutors to lie, deceive, threaten, and break every single rule of law, ethics, morality, and human decency in order to accomplish the goal of cramming as many humans into those cages as possible.  Moreover, the voices screaming most loudly to do this to other humans are always those who also loudly espouse contradictory positions, such as belief in the sanctity of all life or that human society needs to care for all its members.  These barbarians, who make up something over 90% of the population, love belching out their high-sounding ideals about defunding or disempowering armed authority, or about “saving children” from bad thoughts, until it’s someone they dislike being thrown into the machinery of the state and ground to a pulp in order to fertilize the growth of the massive fascist system they, their parents, and their grandparents and great-grandparents helped build.  And the absolute worst are those posing as “anti-fascist” or “Christian”, whose actual belief system is clearly Holy Hypocrisy.

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While the antics of the new god-king are likely to be less openly clownish than those of the deposed one, all of the other problems…will remain.  –  “War Party

Twice every year, I remind my readers that the best way to actually honor deceased veterans is to stop making so damned many of them.  But in the US, that is a forlorn hope, and as I predicted a year ago today the newest US Emperor is just as dedicated to murdering children as his predecessors.  When I first started this blog, for the first few years I used this day to tell the stories of whores in wartime, including Mata Hari, the women of Nazi-occupied Paris, and the whores who cared for wounded soldiers during the seige of Dien Bien Phu.  But after that I began to turn toward commentary on warfare in general, or rather the modern business of warfare that has put US “defense contractors” among the wealthiest corporations in history and has helped to create the modern fascist system embraced by the majority of advanced 21st century nation-states.  And so, as I have this year for the other occasions I usually recognize with essays, I wish to share selections from previous essays.

The world’s one remaining empire is engaged in…many endless, pointless wars whose costs would have staggered the Rothschilds, whose lack of clear imperial goals would have confused a Caesar or a Napoleon, and whose sheer, mindless carnage would have nauseated the Spartans.  –  “War Without End

The ideas that humans could ever become sated with bloodshed, or that all violence springs from some evil “other” which need only be defeated to bring lasting peace to the world, are still popular among soft-headed naifs to this very day; they are close kin to the childish belief that the “right” people can be trusted with power over others.  –  “To End All Wars

Obviously murdered kids are happier when taking the last ferry ride if they were shipped down to the Styx by order of a woman; this is what extremely stupid people call “feminism”.  –  “The Resistance

The American use of the day to honor veterans both living and dead, whether they participated in a war or not, actually subverts the original intent of a day to honor those whose lives were senselessly lost in the greatest sustained campaign of carnage the world had to that point ever seen.  –  “Armistice Day

Up until a century ago, nobody pretended to be surprised by [soldiers’ need for sex] or subscribed to the ridiculous delusion that it could or should be prevented somehow.  –  “Camp Followers

While [wars are] going on, politics takes a back seat to reality and the necessity of dealing with the sexual energy of fighting men can no longer be subordinated to the bluenosed sensibilities of repressed civilians.  –  “Remembrance

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Absolutely no one can be trusted with power over others, and a tyranny which claims legitimacy via the charade of “democratic elections” is no more legitimate than any other because it still claims the “right” to inflict violence upon those who want nothing to do with it and have done nothing to harm anyone.  –  “No True Anarchist

I never thought I’d be doing this blog for so long I’d start repeating myself, yet here we are; this year, instead of attempting to find a new way to say that which I’ve said countless times before in countless other essays, I’ve decided to observe each of the occasions on which I generally publish philosophical essays (Screeds? Polemics? Jeremiads?) with a selection of linked quotes from previous such occasions.  On July 4th I wrote:

Empires rise, thrive, decline, and fall, to be replaced by younger ones which then decline and fall in their time.  The history books are littered with their names, and even before Man learned to write there were other, elder realms (albeit of smaller size), stretching back into the mists of prehistory; there may have even been civilizations before the present Age of Apes which rose, fell, and eventually faded even from the hazy glass of mythology, leaving not a rack behind.  Likewise, the future will be riddled with empires, in[cluding many]…on worlds yet unsettled circling nameless stars in constellations invisible from the Earth…

And so, as I have already done on other occasions this year (and will again on Thursday), I present a collection of statements I’ve previously made on this topic:

Posturing politicians pretend to be the sworn enemies of other politicians, only to play kissy-face with one another when they don’t realize there’s a camera around.  –  “The Grand Illusion

There is not and in fact cannot be any such thing as “legitimate” authority, whether that authority is chosen by elections, lots, birth, examining goat entrails, or pulling swords out of lakes.  –  “Illegitimate

Some of you may pooh-pooh the idea of people running their own lives, working together for mutual benefit without the help of “leaders” or “officials” or “organizers” or bosses or commissars or bureaucrats of any kind; some of you refuse to accept that government is at best a barely-necessary evil, and in most cases just a plain evil.  –  “Anarchy?

Sometimes dead things are dragged off and devoured by creatures from elsewhere, but very often they rot where they fall and give rise to new life right there in the same soil.  –  “Remember, Remember

We make government positions attractive to sociopaths by heaping accolades and privileges upon them; instead, those positions need to be made so repellent that nobody will stay in them for very long.  –  “Wildfire

I’m not calling for a revolution; I’m saying that a revolution is inevitable, whether we like it or not.  –  “To the Ground

The rulers, rather than admitting the systemic problems, prefer to treat government as a colossal game of hot potato, eternally passing the ball forward in the hopes that it will be in someone else’s hands when the music at last stops as it inevitably must.  –  “Cleansing Fire

Western cultures in general, and the US in particular, have become so obsessed with the end of Our Way of Life, that we’re willing to discard everything good about it to avoid that end.  –  “Sic Transit Gloria Mundi

The American political system has failed; the two officially-sanctioned parties are merely two wings of the same vulture, and their members are too locked in groupthink to make the radical changes which need to be made to save this country.  –  “Revolution

Governments need to be reminded (at least annually if not constantly) that they only hold power by the sufferance of all the people, not merely the majority, and that the overthrow of any government by a disgruntled minority is always a possibility.  –  “Guy Fawkes Night

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I…have followed in the footsteps of my many-times-great-grandmeres by offering to others the wisdom that mortality is not a thing to fear, but rather a blessing to accept when it comes to us in the fullness of time.  –  “The Mysteries

Every year on this day, I write about the inevitability and goodness of Death.  Every year on this occasion, and in innumerable other essays, tweets and statements, “I have reminded my readers that every single thing in the Cosmos is mortal, and will pass away in its time.  [Organisms and empires alike] rise, thrive, decline, and fall, to be replaced by younger ones which then decline and fall in their time…crumbling into dust and passing first into memory, then legend, and eventually beyond the horizon of sentient knowledge.  The wheel turns inexorably, and all there is to say about it has already been said countless times; there is, I think, little point in saying it again…”  And so, as I did earlier this year and will again on Friday and next week, I present a collection of statements I’ve previously made on this topic:

That experience of being a stranger in one’s own community, of being treated like a living oracle, like a weird visitor back from the underworld with divine wisdom to share…that, I think, is the experience which defines the old. – “Let There Be Dark

Western culture’s impending demise is being driven by tyrants whose destruction of freedom and justice is enabled by the masses willing to give them any power in exchange for their impossible promises to delay death, both personal and cultural, just a little longer.  –  “Eros and Thanatos

Death is what gives life meaning, and fighting excessively against it is as childish and futile as the behavior of a toddler who refuses to let another child take his place on the carousel once his ride is done.  –  “Thanatopsis

People believe what they want to believe, and some of them even seem wedded to the delusion that they can indefinitely avoid this riverbank, though none ever has since the dawn of the world.  –  “On the Riverbank

When [the Reaper] at last come to collect me it will be a rendezvous rather than a capture, a meeting (whether anticipated or unexpected) of old friends rather than the cornering of a terrified animal by a hunter who has never in the history of the world ever failed to run down his prey.  –  “A Necessary End

Sex and death are our constant reminders that for all our pretensions we are still animals; no wonder those uncomfortable with that fact try to disguise and sanitize both of them, to hide them from the children and speak about them in whispers, to bind them in legal codes and bury them under layers of ritual.  –  “Even This Shall Pass Away

Death is the one great universal experience, the sacrament shared by every dynamic thing from the most ephemeral of microbes to the stars and galaxies themselves, the inescapable conclusion to every form of existence not already dead in its immutability.  –  “The Dance of Death

You will die, and so will I, and there is absolutely nothing any of us can do about it…yet vast numbers are so obsessed with this simple and indisputable fact that they waste much of their time on Earth in a struggle they absolutely cannot win.  –  “The Day of the Dead

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