Friday, May 12, 2017

Identity Politics, or J'accuse II

This follows on from my last post.

"In case I wasn’t somehow absolutely clear: all this stuff, this “identity politics”, is already happening and has always been happening.  Homosexuality carried the death penalty in Victoria until 1949, and even now people are denied equal treatment under the law (i.e. the ability to marry their partner) because of their sexuality. Indigenous Australians were literally not considered people under Australian law until 1967 – before that they came under the Flora and Fauna Act. Australian politicians, with support from figures in the media, are calling openly for Muslims to be banned from Australia. These people are all already grouped, and treated a certain way because of it. What you call “identity politics”, but which I would generally call “not being a cunt”, is asserting that “these people should not be treated badly based on what groupings they fall into (gay, female, Muslim, trans, Indigenous, etc.)”.

If you’re sick of Nazis, here’s another parallel: during the Yugoslav Wars of the 1990s, Serbian soldiers undertook the coordinated genocide of Bosnian civilians, including the use of concentration camps. At the time I want to speak out against it, but thankfully there’s a right-thinking and self-described individualist here to tell me that I’m “immoral, fascist and ultimately evil” for lumping these people into groups – each death is just a matter between the killer and the victim, the causes relevant only to them. Phew! For a moment there, I’d almost said that ethnic Bosnians were a persecuted minority in 1990s Yugoslavia.

“Why can’t we just treat people as individuals?!” is the cop-out phrase of someone who doesn’t want to do the hard work of making things better for people who aren’t them. Or worse, wants to prevent it from being done at all. Two women are killed by domestic violence each week in Australia, and the “individualist” response is “well, we caught the guys who did it, so problem solved”. Next week, two more women die. What you call “collectivisation” is really just basic pattern recognition. What you call “individualism” is saying that because you can’t see the problem, it doesn’t exist. One of these leads to fewer deaths, greater happiness and ultimately a better-functioning society. The other leads to bitching on the internet because they remade Ghostbusters with women."


This is a long message I wrote to a persistent critic and assured well-wisher, who I describe to others as a "lol cow" - that is, someone you keep around to milk for the lols. He's quite story-worthy (that this would buoy his malnourished ego gives me passing shudder) and in simply describing his conversational style at a party, I once met several other victims of his forceful, non-consensual concern.

This was written after I attended an ANTIFA counter-rally for the legal hearing against that surprisingly-erudite overstuffed hotdog, Blair Cottrell. The response I received from the world at large is a post in its own right, but today's subject sent me a later message enquiring after my mental well-being and recommending I give - empathy, I guess? - a break. This was my response (my response to his whole oeuvre, not just his concerned suggestion that I shut the fuck up for my own mental health):

"And I will, for once, give you the courtesy of a sincere reply.

Since you have been good enough to inform me of what I don’t understand in the world, let me give you the bird’s eye summary. What you call “identity politics” here are really just the things that you have been lucky enough not to encounter in your day-to-day life. You’ve heard people talking about persecution of women, persecution of gays, persecution of religious groups in Western society, but looking around there’s really not that much evidence to it. And you’re a rational, sceptical guy, so if you could see that evidence you’d certainly be more inclined to believe what they said. You’re not blindly attached to your own worldview, after all.

And if you’re the rational one, then by definition those who are saying you’re wrong must be the irrational ones, right? And we know they are! The Regressive Left throws the word “Nazi” at whoever espouses beliefs they don’t agree with. Feminazis are constantly encroaching on free speech and entrenching women in positions of power over men. White Knights, well, they’re just beta males who think that “virtue signalling” will get them laid. The catchall term SJW refers to people who just want to pick fights and show their moral superiority over anyone who questions what they consider “progressive”.

It’s great to throw these terms at people, because it saves the bother of treating their views with any possible legitimacy. I’m not even being particularly facetious when I say that – it’s certainly an appealing trap to fall into, and once you have it’s terribly hard to get out because suddenly everyone critiquing you has become a blustery, over-emotional, snowflake cliché. So now, when you see me posting about counter-protests or the role of geek culture in online radicalisation, you see someone who’s playing straight into the SJW playbook with its insistence on deference to minorities and blaming of so-called “privileged” groups and movements.

At least with regard to overt feminism, I used to be a bit like you. We had legal equality, I thought, so why is there still such a fuss? Everyone knows feminists were man-haters who made preposterous token gestures like calling it the Monash Wom*n’s Office so that it wouldn’t say “men”. Where was the Men’s Society? Men had problems to, and were tremendously disadvantaged in areas like dating, yet all we heard was how men were privileged at best, rapists at worst. And you know what I did? I created a Monash Men’s Society (albeit unofficially) which was open to ALL genders, and we did stuff like go to Dark Zone – it was rad. I mention this because it’s infinitely more than the “nothing” most whiny MRAs on the internet would do for their belief (short of committing a mass shooting in a sorority house, of course).

And so, despite the patient and worthy women I have always been surrounded by, I stayed like this for a while. It wasn’t until I read a single blog post by some (female) atheist blogger that I finally “got” it, or at least started to. And it wasn’t like waking up from the solipsistic nonsense of the Red Pill, where you suddenly realise that the world has always been arrayed against you by a cabal of evil women and now it’s up to you to lead the fight against them by harassing strangers online. It didn’t let me pretend that my problems weren’t my own (in fact, it made me aware of many more problems I had, but as a rational person you’ll agree it’s always good to become aware of one’s biases). Instead, it just gave me understanding, which gave me empathy, which in turn gave me the ability to listen and to hear things about lives that weren’t my own, and experiences that I would never have. And once you reach that tipping point, it just sort of keeps going, probably forever. The floodgates of your worldview are broken – only a little at first, but perspective keeps pouring in and your self-certainty slowly breaks up. It’s quite exhilarating, actually, like suddenly seeing in the full spectrum of colour.

The blog post itself came from the now-defunct Blag Hag (its author having been hounded out of the public sphere by self-declared defenders of free speech). It was written in the wake of “Elevatorgate”, another tiresome piece of internet drama in which a different female atheist blogger wrote about feeling uncomfortable after being followed to her hotel room during an atheism conference. Many were outraged at what she had written, and I (at the time) felt a piece of that same outrage. Why was she, in expressing her discomfort, implying that this man was a possible rapist? Didn’t she know how hard it was for men to even approach a woman, and now it’s being met with accusations of intended sexual assault? The concept that Blag Hag introduced me was that of Schrödinger’s Rapist, and I quote: “When you approach me in public, you are Schrödinger’s Rapist. You may or may not be a man who would commit rape. I won’t know for sure unless you start sexually assaulting me. I can’t see inside your head, and I don’t know your intentions. If you expect me to trust you—to accept you at face value as a nice sort of guy—you are not only failing to respect my reasonable caution, you are being cavalier about my personal safety.” You can read a summary of a different article about Schrödinger’s Rapist here ( and don’t worry, it’s written by a man WHO LIKES NIETZSCHE.

Suddenly I was able to see such interactions from a different (in this case, female) perspective, and with that click a lot of other things they were saying started to make a lot of sense. I started to understand the motivations behind actions that had previously seemed to confirm stereotypes of feminism. It can be hard, because you no longer have the certainty that you are right and that ideological opponents just haven’t thought it through as much as you, because now you see that these “SJW groups” (i.e. minorities) have done a lot of thinking. They’re a lot smarter than you, not because each individual is somehow special, but because really smart individuals have thought, and shared, and built on one another, and you’re only now being exposed to that. It’s often better to just shut up and listen.

So that’s the story of my journey into empathy. It’s what motivates me to do the things I do – in fact, it motivates me to do a lot more than I actually do. Attending the rally on Monday, and writing about it subsequently, was an attempt to change that inaction. And so, with that segue, it’s time to talk about Nazis. The thing about Nazis is, as a movement they stood for racial and cultural purity, ethno-cultural vilification and strongly-defined gender roles. The other thing about Nazis is, no other historical group with similar ideologies is as widely studied or popularly understood – perhaps “Ustaše thugs” would be a perfectly accurate metaphor for the UPF, but practically no one will know what you are talking about. So when I use the term “Nazi” to refer to a specific person whose public statements are unreservedly supremacist, anti-Semitic and misogynist, I’m using it with this reasoning in mind. And it’s also a reminder of what’s happened in the past – the world is up in the air at the moment, with no idea where we’ll fall. I’d rather be hypervigilant for nothing than dismissive in the face of disaster.

Given that you were presumably moved to write by my appearance at an anti-UPF rally, it’s appropriate that you quote Sam Harris. I’ve liked Sam Harris for a long time –I enjoy his talks about neuroscience and free will, and I think some critics will quote him out of context. I’m also a staunch anti-theist who campaigned during the last Federal election for the most secular party in the running. Like Sam Harris, I am opposed to Islam, just as I am to all religions. But I was thinking the other day – what if Sam Harris was in Germany eighty years ago, and instead of Islam it was Judaism he was publicly speaking against. He could talk quite truthfully about its commands to genital mutilation, or its ingrained sexism, or any number of criticisms, and I’d agree with him. But in the context of the era a smart man like Sam Harris would have to know that he was inflaming tensions against an already-persecuted minority and providing rhetoric for those who would do much more actual harm than some snipped dicks or enforced modesty. In stoking the fire of anti-Islamic sentiment, modern-day Sam Harris is fuelling the persecution of real Americans, Australians, wherever just for being born into a particular culture – either deliberately or because he doesn’t care.

And of course, this is where the wail of “free speech” goes up. Aren’t I, by saying Sam Harris shouldn’t focus on making talking points about Islam that are in the mouths of white supremacists the next day, attempting to take away his right to free speech? How we do moan about this one inalienable right. It’s odd, isn’t it, that it’s never the right of the minority to speak or even just live without harassment, and it’s never the right of those bleeding hearts to say “don’t be racist” or “there is a worrying upswing in the amount of media time given to the views of white supremacists, given their still-relative scarcity”. No, it’s always the chap calling for genocide – whose remarks are uncritically parroted by the media, including being tweeted by a Channel 10 reporter on her personal page – who we must stand up to defend. One such champion of free speech/total stranger chastised me on my own Facebook page for going out and demonstrating against the stated beliefs of the UPF, since it made “people like [him] defend the right to congregate and speak for people such as Blair” (although he had the good grace to say it made him “uncomfortable as fuck” so it’s okay, I guess). You yourself, in response to my posting of some Tweets about links in the alt-right and geek culture, called them “completely IMMORAL, FASCIST and ultimately EVIL”.

I mean, realistically, if we are to take your “all free speech, all the time” belief (it is, after all, a fundamental basic human right) and apply it to the world, I guess things would be pretty nutty. Shit, I could just organise a group to follow someone around every second of the day, shouting whatever popped into our heads – they couldn’t do anything about it, it’s our free speech. But then we apply your long-implied “criticism stifles free speech” addendum, and now things have completely fallen apart because criticism is free speech but it also impedes speech and so we have a paradox where speech is completely free but it also isn’t. That’s only if we implement it non-hypocritically, of course; in reality, you all just scream about free speech whenever someone changes something to the benefit of a minority, or steps up to defend them.

And yet, there are other good ways of managing free speech. Much is said about the stifling totalitarianism of Article 18c of the Racial Discrimination Act here in Australia, but curiously never at the same time as the good-faith provisions in Article 18d – provisions that protect you if you can show that your reasoning wasn’t simply “to be a dick”. I can’t see when “being a dick” to someone for its own sake is ever useful, or worthwhile, and I’m sure most people can’t, which is why these critics have to dishonestly elide 18d from their polemic.

And so we come to the end of this meandering essay about the reasons I do the things I do, and why you have never once said a remotely-convincing argument in my presence. I thank you for your assuredly-sincere concern for my wellbeing, and sincerely assure you that I will take care of it without going the way of the “sealion without a cause”. I trust that as the well-thought and reasoned man you believe yourself to be, you have read all of this with a self-critical mind, and I reiterate that thought-terminating clichés and stereotypes are beneath one such as you."

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Found it!

Found that missing Facebook comment.


I was raised atheist - a liberal atheist, of course - and fought the fight. When people said "you're going to hell" I said "no, you are", and when people accused me of being immoral I said "hail Satan". Just parroting shitty things back at people - really effective activism that firmly establishes my credibility here.

Sometimes, we had to work with the radical atheists. RadAths, who saw religious influence everywhere in society, and that superstition needed to be fought, and that devoutly religious groups had a higher probability of violence than secular organisations. Their eye-rolling extremism threatened our whole movement of... what, exactly? Being occasionally snarky to religious people, I guess. Whatever didn't rock the boat at all.

But then postmodernism appeared! I'll give you a moment to finish recoiling and hissing. Postmodernism means that science is wrong and therefore is the greatest enemy of atheists everywhere. Probably. I've only read other anti-postmodernism thinkpieces on the subject, but they were frothingly angry so they were probably right.

And now this new wave of so-called atheists were smuggling postmodernism in under the guise of "intersectionality", which means we have to listen to people who aren't like us and say different things sometimes. Now they're critical of not only the religious, but of the other atheists who are blatant white supremacists and who threaten to rape their female critics.

Oh, and the trivial bullshit! People (people who are definitely unbiased and NOT selling a regressive agenda day in, day out) assure me that these intersectional atheists all think religious iconography on clothes and religious imagery in video games are the worst things ever and so focus only on the destruction of clothes and video games. These knuckleheads probably don't even think everything exists in a vacuum, completely unconnected from everything else.

Atheism has lost its way and should not have public respectability until it remedies this - that is, returning to the days when we treated our worldview as objective truths (just like science!) and people who had different perspectives to offer were properly ignored.

* * *

I added a comment underneath, too.

Postmodernism is a well-supported philosophical school that occasionally overreaches - "the scientific method is an instrument of oppression and has no more value than gazing into a crystal ball!"

Atheism is a well-supported philosophical school that occasionally overreaches - "religion is the root of ALL problems in the world and should be replaced with Sam Harris podcasts".

Every philosophy has its idiots, but only one of these makes people scream like a fucking banshee when you mention it.

Postmodernism: fear it, fear it.

Following on from my previous post, I was reacquainted with Areo magazine this morning when not just the Rationalist Society of Australia, but also Progressive Atheists Inc., shared an article entitled

It fascinates me how either organisation feels they can live up to their name when this is just one amongst many anti-feminist articles posted by both. I feel I have a partial answer, though, and it is the name of this very post. Postmodernism seems to be the original sin de jour (irony intended) that invalidates anything it touches, and horror at its nefarious infiltration seems to be behind these rejections of worthy and progressive causes. I'm not sure whether it's the exact same thing as "cultural marxism" or simply a similar kind of crucifix to these socially-useless vampires, but they recoil the same regardless.

My response to this post on Facebook was to write a parody article - one that has subsequently disappeared from the comment section. It was entitled "Why I No Longer Identify as an Atheist" and parroted the same shoddy logic used by this piece in its attempt to call feminism unworthy of respect. I'll post that here if I ever get it back. In the meantime, let's just look at the original article.

From the outset, note the picture that accompanies it: women with determined faces, arms raised in solidarity and wielding placards that attack the accusation that they were responsible for their own rapes. Now remember that this is an article criticising the modern feminism that these women represent, and therefore we are supposed to dislike these women - the picture was chosen to evoke contempt in the reader. Mouthy, humourless bitches, all of them; that's the mindset we're supposed to be in before we begin to read the article.

It doesn't get particularly better from there. The author demonstrates her old-school feminist chops with some remarkable examples of activism. She:

  • "won a personal battle to take woodwork at school instead of cookery"
  • "[informed] my boss that he was a “good boy” when he called me a “good girl”"
  • "[refused] to say anything apart from “cheep” to any man who referred to me as a bird." 

Thus, we cannot reproach her authority on the acceptable limits of feminist praxis: she's already done all three of them.

This is contrasted with the nefarious "RadFems", who hold outrageous and definitely-not-demonstrable ideas of "patriarchy" and "gendered violence". If your idea of feminism has any theoretical backing deeper than "sexism is bad" then I'm afraid you too are an overzealous, man-hating RadFem, deserving only of "eye-rolling" and patronising placations. But at least you can take comfort that you are not the true villain of the piece (unless you are that also) because you are not infected by postmodernism (unless you have been also).

Yes, the creeping threat of postmodernism has infiltrated even precious, milquetoast "liberal feminism": it's called "intersectionality". The experiences of individuals are now given consideration, as if (preposterously) the one-size-fits-all version of social change might not fix everything for everyone equally. After all, the author is a well-off, educated woman and (liberal, bird-cheeping) feminism's worked for her, so there's really no reason to think that this wouldn't be a panacea for everyone else.

It is in fact intersectional feminism that is logically inconsistent - why, "a Western liberal feminist can, on the same day, take part in a slut walk to protest Western women being judged by their clothing and accuse anyone criticizing the niqab of Islamophobia"! Objecting to policing women's clothing on the same day they object to policing women's clothing?! Truly, postmodernism has turned the very world upside down.

Yes, intersectionality has now made it so that all feminists do anymore is tolerate and negotiate people's cultures, sexualities, genders, ethnicities and so on, rather than chirruping at cheeky men and other practical, time-honoured steps to advancing gender equality. They take it to such extremes that they call gay pride marches near Muslim neighbourhoods "racist" and other outrageous claims the author is not going to provide any evidence of. From there, blah-blah-blah man-hating, blah-blah-blah culture-of-victimhood. These accusations are true because the author says they are, and boy do they convince.

The article concludes with the author's summary of intersectional feminist beliefs. These include:

  • That the UK and US are patriarchies that perpetuate rape culture 
  • That "emotional labour" and "cultural appropriation" are real issues 
  • That women can't cope with people being mean on the internet 
  • That only racists criticise FGM and honour killings 
  • That video games and scientists' shirts are "vital feminist issues" 

It's a list carefully distilled from the most hysterical of online anti-feminism (Anita Sarkeesian! Ethics in gamer journalism! Regressive left!) and combined with a sneering acknowledgement of actual feminist issues. So basically, a list that misses the point so hard it couldn't even hit its own enormous straw-man.

Overall, then, a fairly useless article. To quote another Facebook commenter: "This article could almost be retitled "Why Millennials Suck Because I Got Old"."

It's occurred to me, and I'll check once I've posted this, that it's probably the same author as the previous shrieking screed about postmodernism. So... fine, she can have a hate-boner (hate-ladyboner #feminism) for it all she wants. But why are these mainstream "progressive" and "rationalist" groups giving her such prominence? The answer, I suspect, is once again the title of this essay.

Je Suggere

Let us glibly pass over the fact that this blog is no longer defunct. I need somewhere to post all the essays I pass off as Facebook comments, before they slip over the event horizon and are lost forever in the supermassive black hole of internet content.

This, here, was my response to an article shared by the Rationalist Society of Australia. They shared it from Areo magazine, who seem to be some sort of thinkpiece mill for self-congratulatory "progressives", and we'll be hearing from them again soon.

The article is entitled


and continues that charming blend of overwrought hysteria and jackhammer-subtle sarcasm throughout. Presumably they thought that without ironic inverted commas around "intellectuals", the audience might get confused and show these ideas some respect.

My comment (as overwritten as everything I have ever done) on the Facebook post was:

The author of this article seems interested less in a philosophical critique of postmodernism and more in bemoaning the effect it has had on the neatly-ordered worldview of 20th century modernism (which is an argumentum ad consequentiam, right out of the gate). More tellingly, they’ve sidestepped the issue (the big one, always on the mind of the postmodernist school) that many of history’s worst atrocities were committed by the Enlightened nation-states of Europe, an observation that goes far beyond “Hitler was an atheist” fallacies. Colonialism was bad, yeah? Really bad. France, with its republican underpinnings and spirit of laicite, was massacring its North African subjects on the day WW2 ended in Europe, because their celebrations also included a call for independence (note also that, earlier, the liberation of Paris had to be delayed slightly until an all-white French battalion could be found to do it). Australia itself, privileging its rational and Enlightened culture, was kidnapping Indigenous children into the 1970s in order to cure them of those unworthy native cultures. Part of the justification for land-seizure during the colonial period was the liberal idea that if land was not being worked (i.e. farmed in European style) it should be turned over to those who would.

That last instance, in particular, shows how liberal Enlightenment philosophy is not a guarantor of human rights beyond reproach, but rather a particular doctrine and product of its time that is as open to criticism as any other. Intellectually, and removed from the actual horrors of its abuses, Enlightenment liberalism sounds pretty great; democracy, rights, egalitarianism. To a product of the Western tradition, such as an Anglo-Irish citizen of Australia, it’s also a pretty easy swallow since it is already part of their identity – the thought that it might not simply be the way of things does not readily leap to mind. The problem is when these ideas are therefore advanced uncritically and dogmatically, on the grounds that they are so obviously “correct” (and thus superior to other, unEnlightened philosophies). That not only creates a cultural hierarchy with Western Europe at the top, but justifies its forcible export and defence over the lives of others. This is an ongoing effect of cultural supremacy: America, with Australia’s assistance, spent the Cold War propping up or even establishing brutal autocracies (including the Taliban) in the name of combatting illiberal Communism. In the last fifteen years, we bombed the shit out of Iraq and fucked it for the foreseeable future with the (soothing and retroactive) justification of “bringing democracy”.

Liberalism didn’t free slaves in Revolutionary America, it didn’t free slaves in Revolutionary France; it was the pleasant face of incomprehensible sadism in the Congo Free State. If postmodernism says that modernism is NOT the objective pinnacle of philosophy and understanding, despite what is often assumed by its beneficiaries and cultural descendants, it’s difficult to empirically prove otherwise. Since this article traced postmodernism back to Nietzsche, consider that his “God is dead” proclamation was a challenge to the rational, not the superstitious, to justify their philosophies when they couldn’t appeal to divine mandate for support. Until we can provide that justification with the empiricism we revere, it’s hypocrisy to claim rectitude over others – which is admittedly a deeply unsatisfying state of affairs, but that’s why we philosophise. Postmodernism’s biggest fault may be its deference to cultural relativism rather than battling on in search of that justification, but on the other hand maybe we shouldn’t inflict a philosophy of monocultural supremacy on others with the promise that we’ll find the evidence for it one day. That seems pretty rational to me.

Postscript: it might be tempting to argue that those who abused liberalism weren’t practicing it correctly, or were cynically manipulating it for unEnlightened goals. Firstly, it may be worth noting that even John Stuart Mill felt that despotic colonialism was a way of giving “savages” the discipline to be capable of self-government – something that I didn’t know until researching this post and that really bummed me out. Secondly, we rationalists rightly criticise religion for precisely this manipulation of ideology, since what’s written down on paper matters far less than how it is actually practised.

Post-postscript: Following on from the wartime France example in the first paragraph, did you know that there were well over a hundred thousand Chinese labourers on the Western Front during the Great War? That indigenous peoples from every empire volunteered to fight on behalf of their colonisers in order to prove their worth? That those colonisers were, in turn, very reticent about using these subalterns (though not enough to actually stop them killing and dying on their behalf) lest they have to acknowledge that worth post-war? Race-based deconstruction of prevailing (read: Western) historical narratives – which are conferred the status of objectivity by the modernist Enlightenment tradition – actually brings us closer to the truth of what happened.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

On arrogance.

Today's thoughts:

This is being written at 3am, and will as such be written at the corresponding level of intellectuality. Apparently that's actually a word.

As I compiled my last post (just now) I re-read it and thought "well, it would be only too easy to construe this - and, from there, everything else on this blog - as incredibly arrogant and unreadably self-satisfied". Oh, so "unreadably" isn't a word?

I wanted to acknowledge that, indicate that I was aware of it and hopefully show that it isn't actually the case. First of all, I like to write with florid prose. Almost all of my writing, whether it's this blog or university assignments, is created with myself as the primary audience member. Not so much for the content, but for the pleasure of what is being said - and believe me, I do enjoy being that audience member. Jimmy Carr quips that when people ask him who his favourite comedian is, he says "me... I know it sounds arrogant but on the other hand, it is exactly my sense of humour". I'm hardly my favourite writer, but I take huge pleasure in developing and honing the ways I communicate, and I find writing is the best way to do that.

Second, and this is probably more important - as time has progressed I have become more jaded and more cynical with intellectual debate. Whilst in the past I bent over backwards to acknowledge opposing viewpoints and different interpretations, which I still think is a necessity when writing polemic (for exactly the reason that this post is about), I have found my beliefs and assertions calcifying as I've tired of fruitless and unproductive back-and-forth. Time for a long-winded tangent.

Take, if you would, the allegory of the blind men and the elephant: three blind men encounter an elephant; each one tries to comprehend the creature based on the limited data they have available (one feels the trunk, one the legs, one the tail). This is often presented as an explanation for the overabundance of religions in the world today - many minds all experiencing different facets of the divine. However, this allegory falls apart when one points out that the blind men could simply pool their data and by working together comprehend the elephant. That's obviously an corollary for science, not the ecumenical movement.

The reason I brought it up, though, was to provide an example of the kind of people who have taken the wind out of my fair-minded sails. Assuming that we are all blind and groping at the elephant of existence (I've danced around myriad opportunities for crass humour ever since I brought the bloody animal up) the people I've run out of time for are those who won't participate in the collaborative process. Who aren't willing to shift their position, who aren't willing to even question it. Please believe me when I say no one judges my beliefs more harshly than myself, and that by abandoning the convention of politeness - it makes for a good editor - I know that I've removed a potential barrier against this kind of regressive certainty.

I'm working on it, but in the meantime and in my own space, I'm not going to stop calling things as I see them , just like Christopher Hitchens taught me.

Mr Gabriel Syme fights Nietzsche's battles for him.

Today's thoughts:

I was fossicking around on Facebook and found this picture a friend had put up last year. At the time it prompted a most remarkable outpouring of hate from a most remarkable bell-end, which in turn prompted me to respond in kind. It's a good summary of his works - I think - regardless of how unnecessary and pretentious it is to argue Nietzsche for several hundred words on Facebook.

Some samples of the intellectual offerings, first of all: well as the charming assertion that "I'm not sure you could describe Nietzsche's later works as "thinking". They're completely unintelligible to even the most experienced of minds!"

Ha. Well. We know better than that, don't we?

I replied:

For someone who considers Nietzsche's work "unintelligible", you certainly seem to think you know it better than the man himself. It may alarm and surprise you to learn that not everyone merely attaches themselves to a dogma - perhaps the benefit in Nietzsche is not blindly following his writings but contemplating what they mean. Trying to understand what at face value seems so utterly alienating and repellent is a practical intellectual exercise that raises our consciousness and strengthens us as individuals.

I couldn't help myself, and came back a little while later with the following. You can see how overzealous I'm getting by my first sentence:

Since I can't stand the butchery of Nietzsche's incredible and revolutionary philosophy, I'll offer my own interpretation:

Nietzsche's view of reality is that no objective moral standards exist. There is no metaphysical authority and no meaning to our own lives. Our perceptions, our values and our desires are all subjective, and therefore to shape the world as we wish it we are required to inflict this subjectivity on others (this can take some contemplation to understand, but it's well worth the time). This is what Nietzsche called "will to power".

Moralities are ways of harnessing and restricting this will to power. When you tell people to repress their desires - we're not attaching a "good or bad" label to such an action at this point - in favour of following a set code of ethics and meaning, you are restricting their own agency, freedom and individuality. Perhaps this is necessary to create a functioning and cohesive society, perhaps not - at this point, it's just an observation.

"Slave moralities" like Christianity are so called because they do not allow individuals to enact their will to power. Everyone is a slave of the overarching system which has been set in place. Like a piece of clockwork, the system of morality has been fashioned and then set in motion, and everyone becomes a slave of its beliefs and dictates. A "master morality", which Nietzsche himself preferred (but we do not have to), is one where individuals rise above the system and create their own moralities. Nietzsche did like the idea of the strong and exceptional - those who could think for themselves - being freed from moral constraints, but to equate this with Social Darwinism and presumably thus Nazism is to miss the point so far that I suggest no one need listen to you on this topic until you've shown yourself capable of anything more than pointless, ad hominem ranting.

And then a few minutes later:

You know, I felt bad about my rather angry closing remark, but on re-reading this whole discussion I think anger is the right response.

Free-thought cannot be stifled by doctrine, no matter how "insane" they may be considered by their peers - references to Galileo at this point seem very apt. We can't read Nietzsche if we're conservatives, because any attempt to question the status quo must be quickly suppressed.

If we're name-dropping philosophers, everyone should read Hannah Arendt's lecture "Thinking and Moral Considerations". In it, she shows that heinous crimes such as the Holocaust are not the result of dangerous thinkers, but by the masses of people who *fail* to think. Please, for the love of whatever banal and unoriginal god you may insist on following, spend as much time as you can questioning everything and everyone. And if you don't agree with me... good. Why not?

No replies after that. So, I guess I.. won? Arguing on the internet, Special Olympics, all that.

By the way, if anyone wants to plagiarise this for some school/university essay, go ahead. Formal attribution is not required. And yes, high schools do teach Nietzsche. I supervised last year's VCE Philosophy exam, amongst others, and the big N was most prominent on the paper. Surely Year 12 is the last period of someone's life you want to spend dissembling their hierarchies of structure and meaning.