RE: virus: In defense of heroes and fans

Gifford, Nate F (
Fri, 5 Dec 1997 11:27:05 -0500


>> From: Gifford, Nate
>> Its pretty hard to do philosophy when you're
>> starving to death ... although Karl Marx seemed to manage it.
>From: Robin Faichney
>If that's true it's highly ironic, as Marx said that material
>circumstances are totally deterministic. That was one
>of his major contributions, countering the many relatively
>idealistic (in the loose sense) ideologies of the time.

Which is why I threw him into the mix. ... The only "Marx" I've read
is the communist manifesto, and what I know about him is based on single
page biographies. But given the caveat that I'm no expert: I see a
similarity between your egalitarianism and Marx's communist vision. I AM
NOT SAYING ROBIN IS A COMMIE!!!! I am saying that both of your visions are
idealistic ... and open to predation by individuals with less idealistic
visions ... such as your average third world dictator who channels
percentages of aid for his country into a Swiss bank account or communist
party members.

>> It seems to
>> me to be born in a circumstance where you are unable to develop a
>> talent is
>> equivalent to being born without the talent.
>That equation is context dependent. Can you really say
>that to be born in a particular circumstance is enough
>to preclude that development?

Yes, I can find conditions nasty enough so that we both agree that
development is impossible: The Manila dump, Somalia, North Korea ...

>> The point being that the
>> majority of people on earth today are simply not literate enough
>> churn
>> out mind-blowing stuff.
>Not right now, they're not. Maybe. So what?

Gee, what were we talking about? What is ... or what is possible?
Currently it is impossible for the VAST majority of people to churn out
mind-blowing stuff because they are too poor, have no access to
infrastructure <like paper and pencil>, and under-educated. I'm reminded of
the stories you hear about the Grameen <sp?> Bank in Bangladesh. The Bank
makes small loans to individuals so they can improve their lives ... but
without the outside stimulus the individuals COULD NOT have improved their
lives. Typical stories are of $50 loans so a worker could buy their own raw
materials to reap the full benefit of their labor. Without the loan the
worker was stuck "share-cropping" with the person providing the raw
materials ensuring that the worker never acquired enough capital to become
self-sufficient. To return to Marx .... would we be talking about him if
not for the help of his friend Engles? The point is that when determining
the odds for producing a mind-blowing work of art you need to have the
number of artists in the numerator. The number of artists in the world will
be significantly less <by several orders of magnitude> then the world
population until someone decides to end poverty and oppression.

>> Once you have talent, and opportunity, you still need
>> For
>> instance people tell me that my wife used to be a very talented
>> player. She certainly has the time an money for lessons, but she
>> she
>> got burnt out when she was 18 or so and does not want to play
>> The
>> same could be said for whatever other talent you wish to pick to
>> generate
>> "mind blowing stuff".
>The fact that something doesn't happen doesn't mean
>it couldn't have done so.

Really? This would make an interesting debate. I argue that once
something happens IT HAD TO HAVE HAPPENED ... I argue that the past is 100%

>> So to say the people who generate the mind blowing stuff we
>> enjoy ... like Bertrand Russel or Aldous Huxley, or Douglas
>> are
>> not the vast exceptions to the rule is to <in my book> overvalue
>> great
>> amount of pure SHIT we all have to wade through in order to get
>> mind's
>> blown.
>Sorry, don't understand your point here. But the
>Huxley that's been discussed here recently is TH,
>not A (though I believe they were related).

I'm not familiar with TH and may even be attributing some of his
ideas to A. My point is that every book is not equal. Here in America there
is a contemporary "thinker" named Rush Limbaugh whom another "thinker" named
Al Franken has labeled "A Big Fat Idiot". Mr. Limbaugh's writings are often
factually incorrect and/or logically incorrect. Mr. Franken wrote a mildly
mind-blowing book countering Mr. Limbaugh's positions. Mr Franken's book is
amusing not because it's a pig roast --- but because it's a nation wide
Bar-B-Que. I would argue that given the lack of rigor in Mr. Limbaugh's
positions they can never be mind blowing ... and that the amount of energy
Mr. Limbaugh would have to expend to write a mind blowing book must take
into account the additional weight of the people he represents. I'm not
saying that Mr. Limbaugh couldn't write a mind-blowing book ... only that
given his current position in the ideosphere the chances of him expending
that energy are equal to the chances of knocking a broken glass off a table
and have it re-assemble into its original configuration when it hits the

>> It seems to me Robin, that you've been infected by some kind of
>> egalitarian meme that is distorting your vision.
>Ah, but is the distortion beneficial or detrimental?

Whose values should we use? As I remember on of Karl Marx's kids
died of TB because her daddy wouldn't get a real job. Did she think her
life was worth sacrificing for Herr Marx's compulsion to explain history?
What about Frau Marx? What about her brothers and sisters? Part of the
effect of a memetic infection is that it causes you to accept the
consequences of the infection. For instance as a smoker I consciously make
the trade-off between immediate pleasure and a longer life with perhaps a
less painful death. Even if I feel it was worth it ... what about my
employer and family who must also bear some of the costs to my health? I've
made my choice ... but an outside observer could certainly make the case
that I'm a selfish asshole....they just wouldn't convince me. Likewise, I
have tried to make the case that "canonization" is a good thing because it
encourages the propagation of memes that the "church" wishes to be

>> I suggest that you
>> alternate reading Jackie Collins and Willa Cather until you can
>> the
>> difference. Alternatively perhaps there is no reason for me to
go to
>> the
>> Rockies to ski when there is snow and hills here in Ohio.
>To say that things are different is not to say that they
>could not have been or become similar.

I will agree that we COULD build a Rockie mountain ski slope here in
Ohio if you will agree that the cost to do so ENSURES THAT WE WON'T.
Likewise, few artists wish to pay the cost for writing a mind-blowing work
of art ... making the ones who do heroes. By not saying Willa Cather is
"better" then Jackie Collins aren't we encouraging people to write like
Jackie Collins .... since its so much easier?

>Misleading analogies notwithstanding. To say that people are
>potentially equal is not to say that they already are
>so (in any particular sphere -- it is an item of faith
>for me that, in general terms, everyone is equal --
>if that makes me an egalitarian -- well, I've always
>thought I was, anyway).

I'm saying that any argument using an egalitarian premise may be
logically sound ... but runs the risk of being so disjoint from reality that
its conclusion is ludicrous. Just because Jackie Collins and Willa Cather
were writers does not make their books equally good. Likewise even though
Jackie Collins may be capable of writing a novel as good as a Death Comes
for the Archbishop does not make it likely that she ever will.

I'm currently reading a book on game theory that premises its
arguements on "utility". The author constantly makes clear that most
theorems hold true only as long as all player's use the same definition of
utility. The movie Dr. Strangelove does a wonderful job of exploiting the
ludicrousness of a narrow definition of utility. I contend that your
egalitarian views can lead to equally distopian scenarios. Perhaps the
story in "Welcome To The Monkey House" by Kurt Vonnegut where everyone is
equal is the best example of this.