Tag Archives: society

Being Right Vs. Winning An Argument Vs. Ben Shapiro

There’s an old saying that I just made up a few seconds ago, old being a relative term.

“You can either win the argument by merit or be right in principle, but only one matters in the long run.”

It sounds cynical, but it’s something I think most people realize at some point in our lives. The truth is a harsh mistress and it’s rarely the sexy kind. Truth is the kind of mistress that has no safe word, never offers any lube, and rarely gives overt warnings. When she wants to whip us in our most sensitive areas, she’ll do so without asking for permission or a second thought.

I’ll ease up on the BDSM terminology because I’m trying to make a serious point, one that’s a lot more relative in the era of “alternative facts” and “fake news.” More and more, we’re learning the hard way that our caveman brains aren’t equipped to seek truth. Survival and reproduction are our primary imperatives. Truth is optional, at best, and an afterthought at worst.

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It’s for that very reason that public debates or major speaking present a false sense of perspective that exploits our caveman brains. It gives the impression that the truth can be presented in a slick, concise, and easy-to-digest message that helps us make sense of the world. That kind of certainty in an world of cheap knock-offs and practical jokes is more valuable to our psyche than gold, diamonds, and good Wi-Fi.

I say that as someone who finds a lot of entertainment value in debates. For a time, one of my favorite things to do was to look up debates between scientists and creationists, which always seems to bring out the best and worst of our caveman brains. They nicely highlight how real, functioning human beings can hold such radically different viewpoints, as well as the excuses they’ll make to cling to those viewpoints.

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I won’t get into all the absurdities behind creationist debates. That’s not what prompted this post. The primary inspiration for this topic came from the recent news surrounding Ben Shapiro’s recent speaking gig at UC Berkeley. By every measure, this incident highlights all the problems with such debates better than any creationist ever could.

For those of you who don’t know who Ben Shapiro is, it’s not too hard to know what he’s about. He’s a fast-talking, quick-witted talking head in a media landscape that’s full of them. He specializes in espousing staunch conservative principles and you could make the case he does it better than almost any other conservative, at this point.

Personally, I like Mr. Shaprio’s style and I agree with some of the points he makes and not just because he makes them well. Many of them are points I’ve come to embrace on my own accord in trying to make sense of this crazy world. However, as much as I respect the man and his principles, he does embody a dangerous phenomenon that is becoming more prevalent in the digital age.

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It’s one born from that not-so-old saying I mentioned earlier about being right versus winning an argument. They are not the same thing, but they’re easy to confuse, thanks largely to our caveman brains.

Think back to the Simpson Filter in appealing to large swaths of people. For the Homer and Marge Simpsons of the world, winning the argument is enough to win them over. They leave the truth for the sad, lonely, and miserable Lisa Simpsons of the world that nobody listens to.

Ben Shaprio, and others like him, are highly skilled at using the Simpson Filter to get their message across. They’re slick, compelling, and charismatic in the sense that they check all the boxes that appeal to our tribal instincts, which I’ve noted before are a major source of conflict.

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By appealing to these instincts, they don’t have to be completely right. They don’t even have to be half-right. They just have to get people thinking and feeling that it’s right, so much so that they won’t bother checking the facts, doing some research of their own, or even giving it a second thought. Why would they? Ben Shaprio comes off as so smart and so knowledgable that he’s done the thinking for us.

Therein lies the biggest problem, though. By focusing on the argument and not the truth, it’s easy to conflate the two. Ben Shapiro is not a scientist, an economist, a politician, a philosopher, or even a used car salesman. He’s just a commentator, who happens to be exceptionally well at commentating in an articulate manner. That’s a valuable skill, but it’s not the same as being correct.

This actually played out in another event that occurred earlier this year at Politicon 2017. At that event, Ben Shapiro debated Cenk Uygur, another professional commentator who is at the opposite end of the political spectrum. Like Shapiro, I respect Mr. Uygur and agree with some of his positions. However, he is not as skilled a debater as Mr. Shapiro.

If you watch the debate, listen to the crowd, and note the speaking styles of both men, it’s not hard to see who has more skill and experience in that field. If you read the comments and look at the reactions, most agree that Mr. Shapiro won that debate. I’m sure it’s not the first debate he’s won, nor will it be the last.

That’s just it, though. Mr. Shapiro could win a billion more debates against a billion other people much smarter than Mr. Uygur. He could go down in history as the most skilled debater in the history of the human race. It still wouldn’t change one inescapable fact.

The real world, as in the world that operates outside our caveman brains, doesn’t give two whiffs of dried wolf shit about who wins a debate or by how much. Reality still operates under the same facts, rules, and principles. People still operate in ways that are at the mercy of their caveman brains and their collective circumstances.

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Ben Shapiro could convince every person on this planet that Ronald Reagan was right about everything, that the Jewish religion that he practices is the only correct one, and that everyone whoever worked for Hillary Clinton was an alien spy. That still doesn’t change reality. At the end of the day, the truth is still that same harsh mistress that will whip all our asses without warning.

That’s why, in the long run, it doesn’t matter how many debates Ben Shapiro or others like him win. It doesn’t matter how well they craft their message. In the long run, if their ideas don’t line up with reality, then reality will eventually win out. It always does. People die, take their ideas with them, and leave reality to sort out the rest.

Now, I don’t doubt for a second that Mr. Shapiro is sincere in his beliefs. I also don’t doubt that his opponents, like Cenk Uygur are just as sincere. That’s why I wouldn’t classify them as professional trolls, such as the Ann Coulters and Lena Dunhams of the world.

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They don’t say what they say, just to provoke our caveman brains and draw attention to themselves. They aren’t outright con-artists either, like certain televangelists. They’re just good at conveying their ideas and making them feel legitimate. Unfortunately, that’s as far as they can take it.

Ben Shapiro, Cenk Uygur, and everyone like them may think they have the answers. They may even believe that their way will make the world a better place, as a whole. They’re not entirely malicious in attempting to convey their points, but they are misguided.

There’s also a danger to their approach, conflating debates with truth. They present the false impression that an issue like politics, evolution, and economics can be resolved through simple debate through a series of talking points. As anyone who has worked with a tax attorney knows, that’s just not how the real world operates.

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The world is complicated, complex, and chaotic. No human brain, or collection of human brains, is equipped to make sense of it. Some of these issues aren’t just complex, either. They’re impossible to resolve because there just aren’t enough resources for everyone.

A skilled debater, like Ben Shapiro, is good at convincing people there are quick fixes. The world can be improved simply by adopting the policies of his favorite ideology. He may convince you, me, and everyone around you that he’s right.

The truth, however, can never be swayed by fast talking, fancy rhetoric, or skilled arguments. At the end of the day, it will stay on the side of the harsh mistress that is reality. In the short term, the Ben Shapiro’s of the world will be able to bask in many victorious debates. In the long term, however, the truth knows whose asses will be stinging in the end.

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The (Dark) Secrets Of The Millennial Mind

In recent years, it’s become a popular past-time to hate millennials and anything associated with them. Browse any non-pornographic part of the web for more than five minutes and you’re bound to find some angry anti-millennial rant about how their hashtags, safe spaces, and compulsive need to take selfies is ruining the planet.

I tend to roll my eyes at those articles, just as I tend to roll my eyes at any rant that bashes a particular generation. I’ve read enough random crap and talked to enough bitter old people to know that every generation bashes the other to some extent.

The World War II generation whined about all the hippie types in the Baby Boomer generation. Those same Baby Boomers whined about the brooding, selfish, cynical, I-don’t-care-and-I-don’t-need-anybody attitudes of Generation X. In many respects, the millennials are just next in line. It was bound to happen because it’ll always happen, for as long as old people complain about young people.

Never mind the fact that the millennial generation is the most education generation of all time. Never mind the fact that the millennial generation is the most diverse generation of all time and are coming into a world with the lowest crime rates in modern history. Let’s also not forget that, unlike any other generation before it, millennials are the first generation to have unlimited, near-universal access to information.

No matter what type of world the millennials inherit, or what sort of advantages they have, older generations will find a reason to complain about them. It’s not so much that young people actively rebel against old people, as we see in one too many teen movies. It’s more the fact that they’re young and old people are older. I know that sounds inane, but that’s usually the heart of the issue.

Young people don’t have the same life experiences as old people. They can’t understand their perspectives because they haven’t lived them. Their world, and how they see it, is just so different and that frustrates older people because they can’t relate to it. Some will try, but successes will be limited, at best. As such, every generation is going to seem strange, deviant, and/or frustrating to one another.

I’ve certainly experienced this myself, at times. I think everyone has to some degree. They’re young, they talk to an older person, and that older person tells them all about how much better their generation was. They overcame so much more and did it without the aid of smartphones. Somehow, that makes them inherently better and then they wonder why young people tune them out.

In general, I try not to have those kinds of arguments because they’re pointless. As someone who falls in age range of a millennial, I know there’s nothing I can say or do to convince an older person that my generation is as good or better than theirs. That’s not not an argument anyone can win. It’s also pointless, in the grand scheme of things.

However, I do feel as though the millennial-bashing has gotten out of hand in recent years. It’s not so much that older people are complaining about millennials constantly texting on their phones. It’s more a matter of them conducting themselves in such a strange, erratic way that neither Baby Boomers or Generation X can make sense of.

Anyone who has worked with millennials knows this first-hand. This new crop of young adults are incessantly needy, easily offended, and overly emotional about trivial issues. They are the kinds of people that John Lennon, Kurt Cobain, and Madonna would’ve made fun of at every turn.

Now, I’m not going to try and dispel every myth and stereotype of the millennial crowd. Again, that’s not an argument anyone can win. Since I am a millennial, though, and I’ve worked with many my age, I feel like I can offer some context to the general weirdness of my kind.

I have to warn you, though, that context has some dark undertones. Even other millennials don’t always understand it. In a sense, there are some distressingly subversive forces that inspired many of those annoying stereotypes that other generations despise. Some of them have a basis in events that took place long before their time. Some have a basis in simple human nature.

Whatever the case, the mind of a millennial isn’t all hash-tags and cat videos. It’s actually governed by some pretty dark forces that older generations don’t even try to understand. While I doubt this will earn millennials sympathy from Baby Boomers or the Generation X crowd, I hope it provides some critical insight.

With all that said, here are five dark secrets of the millennial generation. These aren’t necessarily guarded secrets, but they are very much a factor in how they see the world. If you know or work with millennials, I sincerely hope this fosters a greater understanding.


Secret #1: We Are Paralyzed With Uncertainty

This is the first and most critical secret that every generation, including millennials themselves, need to acknowledge. It will help make sense of so many of the weird, annoying things they do, albeit for less-than-flattering reasons.

If you’re wondering why uncertainty is such a big deal to us, then stop for a moment and think about how much or how little you knew about the world in your youth. Before the age of computers and smart phones, your world was small. Everything you knew and needed to know could fit in your street, your city block, or your farm. The only uncertainty you dealt with was what you would have for dinner.

For millennials, the world is much bigger and much more accessible. They are connected, plugged in, and in tuned with mind-bogglingly huge amounts of information, from news to personal insights. On top of that, and this is worth repeating, they are the most educated generation of all time.

While that’s great for trivia games, it does have a major side-effect. As a result of so much education, millennials are basically walking examples of a Socratic Paradox. The more they know, the more they realize they don’t know. It’s a byproduct of learning more than what your limited brain can handle.

I’ve felt this first-hand. Just getting into something like superhero comics is daunting when you start to learn how vast and convoluted their history is. That’s just comics, though. Apply this to the world, as a whole, and millennials are utterly paralyzed by knowing so much and realizing how much more they need to know.

That’s why it’s not uncommon to hear millennials constantly asking for clarification, certainty, or reassurance. They think they know, but they don’t know for sure. With so much information, as well as growing trends in “alternative facts,” it’s almost impossible to be totally certain of all the information at a millennial’s disposal.

Keep that in mind next time a young person is constantly checking their phone. It’s not that they’re detached or inconsiderate. They’re just plagued by uncertainty of not knowing what’s going on, what’s happening with their friends, and how everyone is reacting to them. All that uncertainty kind of requires them to be plugged in all the time and it can be exceedingly stressful, among other things.


Secret #2: We Have (Extreme) Trust Issues

This feeds directly off the crippling uncertainty that millennials deal with. It’s not just a by-product. It’s an inescapable obstacle that comes with being educated, informed, and connected.

Millennials have serious trust issues. I’m not talking about the kind of paranoid, conspiracy theory, the-CIA-put-a-chip-in-my-brain type trust issues either. The extreme trust issues that millennials have is more subtle and, in many ways, a side-effect of trends that began in previous generations.

It was the Baby Boomers and Generation X that began rebelling against authority. They were the ones that started youth protests, giving the finger to authority, and brooding with unending cynicism. They helped exposed leaders and icons as hypocrites, crooks, and frauds.

They exposed multiple presidents as liars. They exposed celebrities as monsters. They exposed the corruption of once-cherished institutions. While all that might have been important with respect to pursuing justice, it also created a world where millennials cannot or are very reluctant to trust anyone.

Thanks to all the information at a millennial’s disposal, they can find out that great figures of history were also racist slave-owners. They can find out that beloved scientists and inventors were bullies. They can find out that the celebrities they love are real assholes. In essence, they can’t trust anyone to be true or genuine.

You want to know why superhero movies have become so huge with millennials? Well, that’s because they have no real-life heroes anymore. They’ve all been destroyed or discredited. They’re basically stuck with fictional heroes. That’s all they have left.

Beyond a lack of heroes and leaders who aren’t total frauds, millennials are so flooded with information that they have a hard time trusting the source. Everything seems biased. Everyone has an agenda. There’s fake news everywhere and nobody seems to know what the hell is going on, which I’ve noted out before.

So when you’re dealing with a millennial and they seem detached, that’s part of the reason. It’s also why they seem misinformed and misguided. They don’t know what or who to trust because every generation before them has given them way too many reasons not to. Add unlimited access to abundant information, fake and real, and how can anyone expect them to trust anything?


Secret #3: We Are Drowning In Debt (That We Can’t Escape)

This is one of those quirky issues that does get reported fairly regularly, but not everyone truly grasps the implications. It’s an undeniable fact that millennials are the most indebted generation of all time. A lot of that has to do with the growth of student loan debt, which recently surpassed credit card debt. There are all sorts of factors that led to this growth, but I want to focus on the effects for this.

Now I’ve seen some Baby Boomers and Generation X people roll their eyes at this issue, claiming that young people are stupid for taking out so much debt, just to get a useless college degree in underwater basket weaving. When most millennials hear that, though, assume they’re gritting their teeth to hold back their blinding rage.

That’s because a huge consortium of parents, guidance counselors, and raunchy movies have glorified college as this important next step that ever young person needs to take after high school. If you don’t take it, then something must be wrong with you. You must be stupid, lazy, or unambitious.

Since so many young people now feel inclined to go to college, that drives up demand. When anything is in that much demand, it gets more expensive. That’s just basic economics.

As a result, millennials have no choice but to take out student loans to go to college, just like the older people said they should. Then, those same people give them crap for taking out so many loans in the first place.

Beyond the frustration, those debt loads can be downright debilitating. When I was in college, I had a friend who had around $120,000 in student loan debt. In years past, that wasn’t a student loan. That was a goddamn mortgage. That means there are entire generations of people coming out of college who basically have to pay the price of a house without being able to live in it.

On top of that, millennials still get crap for having to live with their parents. They are in multiple no-win situations, both in terms of stigma and their overall futures. Unlike most other forms of debt, student loans cannot be discharged in bankruptcy. A millennial is stuck with it, no matter what they do.

If that weren’t enough, and it’s already too much, the job prospects for anyone without a college degree are abysmal. If you don’t have a college degree, then your ability to get a job that keeps you out of poverty is very low. Sure, you can point out that Steve Jobs and Bill Gates didn’t go to college all you want, but they never had to pay off a goddamn mortgage before they were 25.


Secret #4: We Have No Margin For Error (Or Offense)

A lot has been made about how easily offended millennials are. That’s how the term, snowflake, actually became an insult. Now, I don’t deny that young people take political correctness way too far. I’ve even talked about it a few times on my blog. However, like most things, there is a context and it’s kind of dark.

A big part of the millennial desire to not offend anybody comes from the self-esteem movement that began before they left the womb. An entire generation has been conditioned to have a bloated sense of confidence in a world where they can’t trust anyone, are constantly uncertain about everything, and have huge debts to pay. Naturally, that’s going to cause some inner conflict.

It’s not just that millennials hate bullies, racists, sexists, and bigots. For one, millennials are a far more diverse cohort than their predecessors, thanks largely to the efforts of previous generations. They have to be a bit more sensitive and understanding to others who are different because there are so many different perspectives to consider now. Millennials have to temper their sensibilities in order to get along.

Beyond that, and this is where it gets dark, the consequences of screwing up are enormous. Entire lives have been ruined by one off-hand tweet. A single off-hand comment has ruined reputations. In a generation that’s plugged in and connected all the time, nothing you say or do goes without scrutiny. You can’t have any private sentiments. If you do and they’re somewhat problematic, then you’re in trouble.

It’s another reason why millennials are so obsessed with their online life and how people perceive them. They live in a world where one text, one tweet, or one offensive image that they shared on social media can destroy their reputation, their friends, and their livelihood.

People get fired for offending others. Peoples’ lives are ruined, both financially and socially. When you’re young and you have a massive amount of student debt to pay off, you have to walk on egg-shells every day because if you mess up, there’s little recourse. Once something happens and it’s documented on the internet, it’s there forever.

Millennials didn’t create the world that made such hypersensitivity necessary. They also didn’t create the technology that they obsess over either. They were just born into a perfect storm, of sorts. If they dare rock the boat in any direction, then they’re tossed overboard without a life preserver.

Remember this next time a millennial obsesses over offending or not offending someone. It’s not just out of hypersensitivity. It’s basic survival. Older generations who have already carved a place for themselves can afford to be offended, literally in some cases. Millennials don’t have that luxury.


Secret #5: We (Have To) Rely On Our Passion

With every new generation comes new circumstances and with those circumstances comes a need to adapt. The Baby Boomers had to adapt to the generation that won Wolrd War II. Generation X had to adapt to the generation that protested Vietnam. The way they adapted shaped a great deal of their culture and identity. With millennials, it’s no different.

With the other secrets, I’ve described a pretty rough set of circumstances for millennials to adapt to. They’re uncertain, can’t trust anyone, drowning in debt, and living in constant terror of offending someone in a way that will ruin their lives. How can anyone adapt to that?

Well, human beings are nothing if not adaptable. It’s one of our most defining traits. With millennials, the options are limited, but they’ve made the most of them by becoming a very impassioned, very vocal generation. Whereas the Baby Boomers had their rebellious streak and Generation X had their cynicism, millennials have their passions to guide them.

By that, I mean the millennial crowd will put a lot of passion into whatever they do, be it protesting pronouns or posting videos of their cat. Due to debt, uncertainty, and trust issues, there are a lot of boxes they need to check before they commit to something. That’s part of why millennials aren’t getting married and why they’re having less sex. They can’t afford to be too casual, literally in some cases. There needs to be passion.

That’s why millennials will make a big deal about making whatever job or hobby they enjoy having some sort of passionate undertone. It’s how they can fill the many gaps left by so much uncertainty and such limited trust. It’s also how they can justify working a job that they know probably won’t help them pay off that massive debt they have. Without that passion, why would they bother?

The most tragic part of that element is that having such passion is really the only option millennials have in some cases. It’s a big part of why they’ll make such a big deal about certain issues that seem trivial to older generations. The older crowd has options. Millennials don’t.

Having passion, and a lot of it, is a big part of how they drive themselves. Sure, they can get annoying about it. I’ve lost track of how many overly passionate arguments about Wonder Woman’s costume I’ve heard on comic book message boards. When that’s all you really have, though, then that’s what’ll drive you.


While I doubt this will make millennials seem less annoying to older generations, I hope it provides some insight into what makes this generation tick. I don’t claim for a second that these insights are definitive. Millennials, like every generation that came before it, are a diverse group of people full of many variations, some more annoying than others.

However, this is their situation. This is how the world is shaping them. It’s a never-ending struggle, one that’s sure to plague the next generation just as much. I’m sure millennials will find an entirely different set of excuses to whine about that generation. I don’t doubt those excuses will be every bit as petty. I just hope I can sell enough of my novels by then to not care.

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Why Fascists Want To (And Need To) Control Your Sex Life

Whenever I bring up a topic on this blog, be it advances in biotechnology or news on the “Wonder Woman” movie, it’s only a matter of time before I explore the sexy side of that topic. Sometimes that also involves the kinky side, but sometimes sexy and kinky aren’t mutually exclusive issues in certain topics.

Now, when it comes to issues of fascism and totalitarian governments, it’s hard to make that too sexy. However, it’s hard to discuss these issues without also discussing the implications on our sex lives. Even the most repressive governments still need people having sex o they can make babies that will eventually become works, soldiers, etc.

Throughout history, the government has always had some interest or policy in our sex lives. From state-sanctioned fertility festivals in Ancient Rome to rigid traditions in Ancient China, there’s always been some amount of government between the sheets. So those yelling for government to get out of their bedrooms probably don’t realize just how long it has been there.

For the most part, a government’s only real interest in your sex life extended to whether or not you were producing children that would become soldiers, workers, and tax payers. Beyond that, it could care less what you do with your genitals and how you do it. Those governments usually lacked the power, resources, and will to micromanage.

There were some exceptions, primarily with the sex lives of rulers and aristocrats. Since preserving the royal lineage was of the most vital importance, often leading to massive upheaval in a kingdom, they had to micromanage to some extent. If they weren’t producing heirs to the throne or to inherit the family land, then that was a problem. The entire premise of “Game of Thrones” is proof of that.

However, the world has changed a great deal since the days of kings, feudalism, and fertility rituals. Industrialization, modernization, and a better understanding of how our sexy anatomy works has changed how the people and the government approaches matters of sexuality. Sure, some people in government still have a poor understanding of certain lady parts, but our knowledge is more comprehensive for the most part.

It’s because of that knowledge, though, that a fascist or overly authoritarian regime has an even greater interest in controlling your sex life. At least the kings and emperors of the ancient world lost interest at the part where your sex life made the babies that would become soldiers and workers. Modern rulers with a keen interest in controlling a population know to go much further than that.

The best example of this is how Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy approached its citizens’ sex lives. For these governments, it wasn’t enough for people to make babies that would become soldiers and workers. They had to make perfect, super-babies and a lot of them. That whole “master race” ideology wasn’t just about subverting minorities. At some point, they need to have the race they prefer to propagate.

Sometimes, they did this through incentives. Giving birth to a healthy, racially pure baby in Nazi Germany came with all sorts of benefits. However, those benefits sometimes hid the heavy hand of the state. Women in this society were not expected to work. Their sole focus was supposed to be on producing more racially pure babies.

It wasn’t much different or better for women in Fascist Italy. While it didn’t rely heavily on concepts of genetic purity or racial supremacy, there was this ideal espoused by the state. The perfect woman, in their eyes, was supposed to be poor, subservient, and doing everything she could to give birth to as many babies as possible.

Beyond simply controlling the population, these fascist states also sought to control the nuts and bolts of family life. There was only one ideal family structure and one form of acceptable sexual activity. Any citizen that deviated from it in any way, be it homosexuality or watching certain types of porn, was prohibited.

Again, it goes several steps further than the prudish policies we sometimes get in non-fascist states. In America, we had policies like the Comstock Laws that effectively made talking about sexual issues a crime. Even today, issues surrounding sex education, which are prescribed by the government, are subject to plenty of controversy.

However, it’s that very presence of a controversy that highlights just how different a fascist state approaches sexuality compared to a non-fascist one. Say what you will about America and western governments. At least it’s possible to have a debate about sexual issues. It’s not always productive, but having that debate won’t get you killed.

The same can’t be said in a fascist state because controlling sexuality isn’t just necessary for population control. It’s a primary component of maintaining its overall power. A fascist state, by definition, needs to exercise a lot of control over its people. In general, people don’t like to be controlled. History shows it’s hard to control people. Even organized religion is finding this out.

For any fascist state to maintain control, it needs to be able to control the two most important drives in human beings, namely survival and reproduction. It needs to make sure that the citizens are completely dependent on the state to fulfill those drives.

It’s somewhat easier to confiscate food and use hunger to keep people in line. If someone is hungry, they’ll say or do anything to get a good meal, especially if a government dangles it in front of them as incentive.

The same applies to sex. Through policy, policing, and public shaming, it can dissuade people from exercising their sexuality in ways that the fascist state does not sanction. Like hunger, those who are horny will do anything they can to fulfill that basic drive. Some religions have already weaponized this drive. A fascist state would make it part of a larger system.

It’s because of that systemic approach to sexuality that it’s hard to claim that modern conservatives or liberals are seeking to control sexuality on the same levels as a fascist state. I know I make a lot of jokes about Rick Santorum’s views on sexuality, but he’s never favored creating an entire bureau of government to ensure that people have only the kind of sex that he approves of.

I also make a lot of jokes about how sex-negative radical feminism is making us more sexually uptight. While those on the more extreme liberal side of the spectrum may protest and shame those who dare exercise a form of sex they don’t like, they don’t actively ask the government the manage the sex lives of others.

That’s not to say both sides don’t have ridiculous, harmful, and often detrimental views of sexuality. They’re just not even in the same hemisphere as a fascist state, which would use human sexuality as a method of controlling its population.

It’s not just that a fascist state tends to be inherently prudish and tradition. It has to control things like sexuality because it has to control the people to achieve its goals, be it stability or some sort of racial agenda. So if and when the day comes when you need government approval to have an orgasm, you’ll know you’re living in a fascist state.

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George Orwell, 1984, And The Perfect Totalitarian State

There were a lot of reasons I hated high school. I’ve listed more than a few of them on this blog. Somewhere on that list, but nowhere near the top, involved the books I had to read. To say they weren’t very sexy would be like saying a baseball bat to the head isn’t a very good massage.

However, every now and then, my English and social studies teachers managed to assign a book that didn’t make me want to make me stick my head in a deep fryer. One of my favorite non-sexy books of all time, which also happened to be a homework assignment, is George Orwell’s “1984.” It’s a book that always seems relevant and insightful, albeit for all the wrong reasons.

When I read Orwell’s depiction of the ultimate dystopian future, I see it as the ultimate thought experiment, of sorts. Orwell wrote this book in the 1940s, a time when there were actual, dystopian totalitarian regimes operating in the world. Sadly, one of them was a chief ally during World War II.

He had a lot to reference in his time, much more so than we have today. Other than North Korea, most people today aren’t as familiar with rigid, totalitarian governments. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, there’s an entire generation of people whose idea of a totalitarian regime is relegated to detention at a high school. They can’t even begin to fathom the kind of world that “1984” described.

That’s a good thing in some respects. In a sense, those governments are almost impossible these days. The rise of the internet, modern technology, and complex geopolitics makes it next to impossible for a regime to be as totalitarian as “1984.” North Korea comes close, but even that regime is wholly inept compared to Big Brother.

However, I believe there’s a unique value, of sorts, when it comes to understanding what makes a totalitarian regime work. I also think there’s value in knowing the tenets behind it, the ways in which it operates, and why it takes hold in the first place. Even in an age of people protesting the removal of the McRib from McDonald’s menu, we’re not immune from the threat of a totalitarian regime.

With that in mind, let’s dig a little deeper into Orwell’s extreme thought experiment that played out in “1984.” If you haven’t read the book or had even worse English teachers than I did, you might not be familiar with Big Brother, how it operates, what what it represents. You might have heard the term, but you might not be familiar with what it is.

For the sake of providing context, here’s a quick video from the Alternate History Hub channel on YouTube. It’s a channel that focuses primarily on alternate history scenarios, which I’ve touched on before, but it also provides remarkable insight onto other subjects. Given how many totalitarian regimes are involved in alternate history, it makes sense to explore the ultimate extreme, as it played out in “1984.”

It’s hard for most people in the industrialized world to imagine a system like this. The idea that facts, history, and the very thoughts we think are all controlled by this all-encompassing, all-powerful government seems insane. It’s hard to imagine living in a world like that. It almost seems impossible. In a sense, it is.

No government in history has ever come close to wielding the kind of power that Big Brother does in “1984.” Some have tried. There’s the first emperor of China, the sun king in France, and our old frenemy, Joseph Stalin. They only ever succeeded in part and often failed in the long run.

That’s because, as we’re seeing with the ongoing health care debate in America, human beings are impossibly chaotic creatures. We all have so many different needs and wants. We’re all petty about different things and apathetic towards others. No two people are completely wired the same. We all think different thoughts for different reasons, sometimes with downright kinky undertones.

It’s because of all that chaos/diversity within the human condition that no government can hope to achieve what Big Brother achieved in “1984.” It would require so much power, so much micromanaging, and so much information that it just wouldn’t be practical for any one human or party of humans.

Again, that won’t stop some from trying and that’s where Orwell’s thought experiment becomes relevant. In looking at the structure of Big Brother, we can observe the nuts and bolts of the perfect totalitarian regime. We can see what the ultimate fascist is seeking when they want to create an all-power, completely centralized government.

Impossible or not, the features of this government reveal some common themes that have a basis in the real world. Those are themes worth understanding because they help us know when someone is trying too hard to emulate Big Brother. Without getting too deep into the book, here are the key features of a perfect totalitarian regime.

  • There’s a single, unambiguous ruling party and no opposition of any kind

  • The ruling party makes up a small percentage of the population, never more than one or two percent

  • The members of the ruling party rarely, if ever, interact with the public directly

  • The public consists of two classes, a professional middle class that never makes up more than a quarter of the population and a working lower class that usually makes up over two-thirds of the population

  • The middle class is educated to some degree, but wholly controlled by the ruling party and is completely dependent on them for their livelihood

  • The lower class is uneducated, under-informed, and easily manipulated

  • All economic activity is controlled or guided by the party, ensuring the middle class has just enough to do their job and the lower class has just enough to propagate

  • The ideals for family structure and social structure are imposed by the party with any variations being deemed deviant

  • The lower classes are allowed to be more deviant and decadent in order to keep them content with their state

  • The middle class is held to a higher standard of conduct to ensure their loyalty and submission to the party

  • The flow of information, the accepted knowledge of the world, and the entire history of the state is dictated by the party and accepted by the masses

There are probably more features I could list, but these are the core elements of Big Brother and the society we see in “1984.” Now, some people will attempt to apply these features to whatever state, country, or office environment they’re in at the moment. Some might actually apply, but never to the same degree as Orwell depicted.

The biggest takeaway from these traits, as well as the themes in “1984,” is how a society structures itself in the face of such overwhelming control. At the top, there’s always a ruling class. That class has only one primary purpose, which is to preserve its power. From the Galactic Empire in “Star Wars” to the battle for the iron throne in “Game of Thrones,” preservation is always the top concern of a totalitarian regime.

Part of preserving that power means relying on a professional middle class, of sorts, to deal with the bureaucracy and administration of the state. It’s in this area where totalitarian regimes tend to be most vulnerable. History has shown that authoritarian states like Nazi Germany were anything but efficient, which in turn undermined the ruling party’s primary goal.

It seems like a paradox, but it’s more a matter of pragmatism. A state needs people to run these massive, complex machinations to maintain so much control. To not impose such control would mean granting people freedom and that’s dangerous to any ruling party that wants to preserve control.

This is why those in these middle class professions are subject to such greater scrutiny. A poor, unemployed man taking a piss on a street corner creates no controversy. However, if a highly educated professional did that, it would be a major scandal. We often see this in how major corporate scandals play out.

In a sense, the lower classes have more freedom in this system than the professional middle class. That’s because the ruling party doesn’t really care about them. They don’t have to because they’re not a threat.

Uneducated, lower class people are too stupid and gullible to really pose a threat. So long as they work and breed, the ruling party has no reason to micromanage them. They don’t care if they have orgies in the streets, drink paint thinner for breakfast, or wear horse masks to work. Their only purpose is to work and breed. If they do that, then the ruling party couldn’t care less.

In a sense, the ruling party will always be at odds with a certain segment of the population. In order to exercise control in an authoritarian regime, there needs to be a sizable number of loyal, competent underlings to carry out the functions of the state. Finding people who can act as such underlings with perfect loyalty is difficult, if not impossible.

It’s hard to say whether Orwell knew this on some level. Keep in mind, he was heavily influenced by what he saw around him, a massive world war and the rise of communist states. Perhaps he had studied how powerful, repressive governments had operated in the ancient past and saw parallels in the present. Perhaps he saw that as an inevitable recourse for humanity.

I choose to have a more optimistic, albeit cynical view of human affairs. I don’t believe a system like Big Brother could ever take hold in a world where people can’t even agree on pizza toppings, let alone a singular vision for human civilization. I also don’t believe any government is equipped to exercise the kind of control that Big Brother did in “1984.”

However, that still won’t stop some from trying and the very process of trying can be very dangerous. Seeking order within the chaos is a very human trait, but one that can easily get derailed by pettiness and corruption. That’s why Orwell’s lessons in “1984” are more relevant than ever and may always be relevant to some extent.

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On Fascism (And Why It Fails)

Brace yourself and temper your outrage because I’m about to talk about fascism. No, I’m not talking about the kind of fascism that teenagers whine about whenever they have a strict teacher in high school. I’m not even talking about the kind of fascism that that certain people attribute to college professors, LGBT rights, Hollywood, the NRA, the Catholic Church, and Negan from “The Walking Dead.”

Today, I’m going to talk about actual, real-world fascism and how it functions. I’m also going to talk about why it tends to fail in the long run and why it’s become such an empty term. Now, I know that means putting a big target on my ass and daring the more vocal parts of the internet to take a shot. I like think my ass is harder and more durable than most so I’m prepared to take that chance.

I was going to talk about this a bit sooner, but with the 4th of July holiday and all the freedom-loving festivities that come with it, that just felt out of place. I think that since we’re done celebrating freedom, it’s worth taking a moment to examine the opposite end of the spectrum.

I know people like to throw the word fascism around like middle fingers in mid-day traffic, but it does have a definition. That definition has been twisted and amended many times over the past half-century, so much so that the word evokes so many different connotations.

For the sake of this post, I’ll be using the definition from Merriam-Webster’s dictionary. It offers a fairly concise assessment of what it entails.

A political philosophy, movement, or regime (such as that of the Fascisti) that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition.

Under this definition, America and most developed countries are not fascist. No matter what some kale-eating hippie or Jerry Falwell wannabe theocrat may claim, the systems and laws in place are antithetical to fascism.

Western countries have codified laws and traditions that value individual rights, protect minorities, and restrain central government power. Now, that’s not to say it’s perfect in practice. There are plenty of examples, historical and contemporary, that of inequality and oppression by the government.

However, those examples are more a product of misguided groups of people and inherent systemic corruption. To call an entire system fascist because of those instances would be like calling an entire swimming pool dirty because a few people spit in it. With fascism, the entire pool is spit so there’s no need for cherry picking.

Thanks to the cruel mistress that is history, we have a few well-known examples of true fascism that even vegan hippies can agree on. By most objective measures, Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany are the alpha and omega of all things fascist. If fascism were music, these two would be Elvis and the Beatles.

These governments were repressive, authoritarian, corrupt, and powerful. They could do whatever it wanted to its citizens and act however it wanted on a national stage, not giving a damn about public support of any kind. There was no hesitation to lie, cheat, and mislead the people. In these governments, people are either pawns or cogs in a machine. The very notion of freedom might as well be as fanciful as a unicorn fart.

There’s no question that these fascist governments did a lot of damage and caused a lot of suffering. There’s also no question that their actions scared and traumatized an entire world. They revealed to a modern world that wars between despots and industrial powers was truly horrific. Most human beings tend to avoid such horrors. A massive world war was enough to make everyone hyper-vigilant of all things fascist.

It’s in this heightened mentality where I think it’s worth having some perspective about fascism. We hear pundits, politicians, and protesters throw that word around, as though it’s the rhetorical equivalent of an “avoid critical thinking” card. It’s an easy label to throw around, but it rarely sticks because actual fascism is actually pretty frail.

In a modern context, fascism is different from the kings and despots of the ancient world. In those times, corrupt and blood-thirsty kings could only get away with so much. A kingdom and a nation state, complete with modern infrastructure, are two very different things.

A king needs to only hold a kingdom together and fight off the occasional invader. A nation state has to deal with bureaucracy, social welfare, and legal issues. No matter how big a king’s castle is, there’s just no way to manage all that in a modern context. There needs to be some sort of system in place.

A fascist government tries to centralize that system and organize it in a simple, stable way that definitively benefits certain persons or groups. Nazis sought to benefit a favored race. Italian Fascist sought to benefit a favored class. The argument could be made that Stalinist Russia and the current regime in North Korea are fascist in nature. I would tend to agree with those claims.

The goal is almost always the same. A fascist government directly and overtly attempts to control and centralize power for a select group of elites. It’s for this very reason that fascism tends to fail in the long run or never succeed in the first place.

Now, don’t go cheering and waving American flags just yet. That’s not to say that fascism inevitably falls under the glowing light of freedom, democracy, and bald eagles. That’s a romantic idea that makes for great war movies and comic book characters. It’s not necessarily reflective of real-world machinations.

The biggest flaw in fascism is its attempt to control and manage an entire state. That’s not just difficult. It’s impossible for any ordinary human or groups of humans. Our caveman brains can barely control when we get horny. How can we expect to control an entire government, let alone one meant to benefit a specific group of people?

The short answer is we can’t. The long answer is that such centralization and power requires a lot of bullying, corruption, subversion, and back-stabbing. That’s why you have Nazi Storm Troopers and Stalinist purges. It isn’t just because powerful people get a thrill out of ordering rampant death. They need to scare, bully, and intimidate everybody into going along with their agenda and being completely loyal.

That’s a huge problem though because, as I’ve pointed out before, it’s impossible to know how truthful someone is. You can never know who is truly loyal and who is plotting against you. That’s why men like Joseph Stalin were obscenely paranoid, which guaranteed that allies and enemies alike would die by his hand. Without those allies, any system is inherently weaker.

On top of that problem, there’s also the issue of the terrified masses who live under a fascist thumb. Say what you will about whiny protesters complaining about weed, but at least they’re willing to tell the government what they don’t want to hear. In a fascist system, the impoverished masses will likely keep their mouth shut and only tell the government what it wants to hear.

That may help a paranoid fascist get through the day, but it limits their ability to make it through the year. That’s because in a complex world, having incomplete facts tends to be a huge detriment. If nobody is willing to tell a fascist ruler that their rusty old trucks with canons are no match for drone strikes, then that’s going to be a problem.

That’s why, contrary to what the History Channel and video games may claim, fascist regimes like Nazi Germany were never close to winning the war. Between major blunders and micromanaging, there was never a scenario that didn’t involve time travel or aliens that would’ve allowed them to win.

That’s because a fascist regime can’t trust anyone, be it military generals or the public. At some point, the ties break down and the system just can’t handle it. They can delay the collapse, but they usually can’t stop it. It’s remarkable that Nazi Germany lasted as long as it did, given all the assassination attempts.

It’s the dirty, but unavoidable secret of almost every fascist governments. They function only to live another day, rather than build a future. Some are better at it than others. Castro’s Cuba has managed to survive for over a half-century, albeit with significant support from other neighboring countries.

The same goes for North Korea. The only reason that country still exists is because China doesn’t want a failed state on its border. At this point, North Korea can only endure, but not build. As the old dynastic cycle in China often proved, a system concerned only with survival tends to collapse in the long run.

I say this not as a way to undermine the horrors that fascism has and could potentially unleash on this world. It is a real danger in a world that’s full of crazy dictators and obscene corruption. However, it’s a danger with an inherent weakness and an expiration date. It’s one instance where you can depend on caveman logic to win out in the end.

It may not inspire the kind of ravenous patriotism that Americans tend to enjoy. However, it does show that, despite protests the contrary, there’s a lot to appreciate about our current system. It’s not perfect, but it’s building towards a better, sexier future more so than any fascist government ever will.

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Why You Should NOT Take Documentaries Too Seriously

Throughout my life, I’ve gone through various phases where I become immersed in certain genres of movies. For a time, I was really into slasher movies. Then, I picked up on the distinct sex-negative themes of those movies and lost interest.

At another time, I became immersed in documentaries. Not surprisingly, that interest also coincided with me getting a subscription for Netflix, a service that puts you in immediate contact with documentaries of all kinds. From government conspiracies involving aliens to stories about porn stars after their career in porn ends. There’s something for everyone is what I’m saying.

On top of that, I also went through a phase where I was pretty big into government conspiracies. It wasn’t just that I believed them to some extent. It was the story around them that fascinated me. Given my love of telling stories, which has since manifested in some sexy novels, it checked all the right boxes for me.

It’s true. There was a time when I actually believed that the government was covering up evidence of an alien presence on this planet. There was also a time when I genuinely believed that the government colluded to manufacture wars from Vietnam to Iraq. I actually believed the government, and people in general, were capable of such confidence. I’ve since learned to temper my expectations.

While I’m no longer a fan of documentaries, I do watch them from time to time. However, I watch them with an overly critical eye. With every documentary I see, even if it has a message I agree with, I still assume that it only offers a tiny part of the story. Chances are a good chunk of this message is a result of cherry picking, clever cinematic, and outright lies.

Now, that’s not to say that the people making these documentaries are total frauds. I don’t doubt for a second that Michael Moore and Morgan Sporlock genuinely believe in the work they’re doing. They wouldn’t sink so much time and money into it if they didn’t. However, these men have agendas. That’s the flaw in every documentary.

This leads me to what specifically inspired this post. Last week, I couldn’t sleep so I decided to fire up Netflix and find some random show. Usually, certain documentaries help make me sleepy, usually the ones that narrated by soft British voices from the BBC. For some reason, I ended up watching a new documentary that came recommended on my list. It was called “What The Health.”

The premise of the documentary was simple. Pretty much all the food you enjoy eating, from fast food to candy to beef jerky to fried eggs, is terrible for you. It’s not just bad for you health-wise. It will give you cancer. I swear on Pamela Anderson’s tits that’s the actual message.

Kip Andersen, the director of this documentary, has a simple message. If your food has any animal products, then you might as well be sprinkling plutonium on your food. It’s also worth mentioning that Kip Andersen is an ardent vegan with a very pro-vegan agenda. He is to health conspiracy theories what Alex Jones is to government conspiracy theories.

That’s not to say that “What The Health” is completely devoid of facts, but it is very much an extended slate of pro-vegan, anti-meat, anti-corporate, pro-hippie propaganda. Even by liberal standards, this documentary is pretty slanted. It would be like a anti-gun control documentary that claims not having a gun makes your penis small, your tits shrink, and your asshole itch. It’s that bias.

Again, I don’t doubt for a second that Kip Andersen believes in what he’s saying. He comes off as the kind of guy who just obsesses so much over his health. That’s what gets him up in the morning. That’s what makes his dick hard at night. What sexy novels are to me, health is to Kip Andersen.

The problem with that, which also happens to be the problem with every documentary, is that it’s produced with an agenda in mind. The size and scope of that agenda varies. There are some documentaries that try to be objective. Most of those produced by PBS tend to be fairly balanced, but even they can fall into the same Alex Jones trap every now and then.

What bothers me about documentaries like “What The Health” is that it’s produced in a way that really preys on our caveman brain’s biggest flaws. There’s just no way to shrug off something like cancer. Pretty much everyone, myself included, knows someone who has suffered from cancer. According to the CDC, cancer killed nearly 600,000 people in 2014 alone. The suffering these people endured cannot be understated.

The problem is that cancer is such a complex disease. There are all sorts of genetic, environmental, lifestyle, disease, and chemical factors that go into it. There’s no one single virus, one single gene, or one single food group that causes it. The human body is too complex, as anyone who has ever studied the female orgasm can attest.

The message “What The Health” sends is not only horribly skewed to the hippie end of the political spectrum, but it’s downright misleading. It gives the impression that cancer and disease have a singular cause. All anyone needs to do to avoid is to just shun animal products, become a vegan, and eat cardboard for the rest of their lives. The fact that this is the same lifestyle as the director is just a hell of a coincidence.

I won’t deny it. “What The Health” does a damn good job of painting itself as credible. However, every documentary does that to some extent. They parade out all these doctors and experts in the field, making bold claims that they can legitimize with their PhDs and titles. However, it’s worth remembering that, as smart as these people are, they’re still human.

It’s also worth remembering that doctors do get things wrong more than we care to admit. There’s also a distressingly large amount of medical research that turns out to be wrong. Like I said, the human body is extremely complex and our caveman brains aren’t wired for that kind of complexity.

On some levels, Kip Andersen and Michael Moore exploit those flaws in our brains. They know how to craft a message that seems credible. They craft a slick, polished narrative that appeals to certain fears and misgivings that everybody has to some degree. They create a false or half-true narrative that preys on our desire to understand the world.

What often happens is that they’re very selective about the information they present. In a sense, they’re taking advantage of the same paradox I pointed out with health care. It’s not just very difficult to offer all the facts in a simple, two-hour documentary. It’s physically impossible. There isn’t enough film on a reel or enough seconds in two hours to convey all that information.

As a result, the message in every documentary is incomplete. In some cases, they’re so incomplete that someone else will try to verify those messages, only to find out how wrong they were.

This actually happened with Morgan Sporlock after his hit film, “Super Size Me.” That movie, much like Kip Andersen, had a very clear agenda. It was anti-corporate, anti-fast food, pro-nutrition. Sporlock even put himself in the line of fire, eating nothing but McDonald’s for 30 days. The proof seemed so clear and apparent.

Then, another documentary called “Fat Head” by Tom Naughton tried to replicate Sporlock’s experiment. There was just one glaring problem, though. The math didn’t add up. He literally could not eat as many calories as Sporlock claimed in “Super Size Me.” You can push an agenda all you want, but if the math doesn’t add up, you’ve got a problem.

On top of that, other people have done similar experiments and come up with different results. A science teacher armed with none of Sporlock’s movie-making resources was able to eat nothing but McDonald’s and actually lost weight. When there’s this kind of inconsistency on all sides, chances are there’s something missing from the story.

Again, I don’t believe that these people do what they do entirely out of malice and greed. Some might, but I choose to have a higher opinion of people in that respect. I think Andersen and Moore sincerely believe the messages in their documentaries, just as creationists ardently believe in their message, despite all the evidence to the contrary.

Now, you can choose to side with men like Moore, Sporlock, and Andersen on various issues. That doesn’t make you a bad or foolish person. However, it’s important to understand that documentaries are not the same as verified, scientific research. They are movies, made for the purpose of telling a story and gaining an audience. They may contain some elements of truth, but they will never tell the whole story.

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Politics, Safety, And The Impossible Paradox

political_debates_in_the_usa_by_brokenteapot

As I’ve said before, I really don’t like talking about politics. I’ve learned over the course of my life, often the hard way, that nothing makes people less comfortable, less horny, and more insufferable than politics. It couldn’t have less sex appeal without involving a clogged toilet, a dead rabbit, and Sean Hannity.

For the most part, I try not to get too political on this blog. I’d much rather be talking about comic books, sex robots, and Leslie Knope. However, there are times when I feel compelled to say something about a particular issue. I often do that with gender issues like feminism because that indirectly ties to the sexier topics I talk about. I try not to take too strong a position. More than anything else, I try to give perspective.

That’s what I did with my post about the health care debate. I tried to be fair to both sides. I tried to frame the issue in a way that both Michael Moore and Ted Nugent could appreciate. I didn’t offer any easy fixes. I didn’t try to denigrate one political ideology over the other. I just tried to point out the inherent flaws in the issue itself.

In the course of writing about that particular debate, I wanted to apply it to a few other issues. However, I quickly realized that there was no way I could do so in a single article and remain concise. When I write on this blog, I tend to assume that part of the audience is drunk, horny, or some combination of the two. That means I can’t drone on for too long, even though I have a habit of doing that when it comes to comics.

Health care is just one issue. Granted, it’s an exceedingly complex issue, but it’s still one issue. The underlying argument I made was that, beyond the complexity, both sides of the political spectrum have the same goal. The problem is that what they want isn’t just logistically difficult. It’s physically impossible.

It’s another hard truth, one that I’d argue is even harder than the truth surrounding O.J. Simpson. Sometimes, even when the politics involved have a noble goal, the particulars of an issue are just beyond our capabilities as humans to produce. We humans can do all sorts of amazing things, from the Great Pyramids to solar-powered vibrators. However, we are a species of many limits, many of which we often fail to acknowledge.

This leads directly to an even bigger picture, of sorts. It also involves something that’s currently impossible in a world without superheros, super-powers, or computers that can’t be hacked for hilariously stupid reasons. Until we start enhancing ourselves, it’ll remain impossible for the foreseeable future.

I call it the impossibility paradox because most people, regardless of their political persuasion, act as though the impossible aspects aren’t there. They’re often smart, driven people who are every bit as driven as their ideological opponents. They work so hard to accomplish something that’s physically impossible. Then, they’re surprised when they come up short.

On top of that, the people they claim to represent or help get upset with them because they didn’t accomplish what they promised. Never mind that what they promised was never possible to begin with. Human beings just aren’t that reasonable, even if they like to pretend that they are. Everybody is still subject to the constraints of reality and, like a moody dominatrix, it doesn’t mind telling us who’s dominant.

Now, apply that dynamic to what might be an even bigger issue than health care for some people. Whether you’re gun-toting conservative or a pot-smoking liberal, most agree that a central function of any government entity is to keep citizens safe.

No state, kingdom, or Dungeons and Dragons guild can survive without providing some level of safety. People, society, and the economy can’t function unless there’s some level of safety. Nobody wants to make iPhones and exchange brownie recipes if there are barbarian hordes just a few miles away, ready to raze your home to the ground.

Since the dawn of civilization, every functioning society has had to provide some measure of safety and protection to its citizens. In exchange, citizens pay taxes to the state so that it can have the resources to perform these duties. Ideally, they’ll use those taxes carefully in accomplishing this goal. In the real world, however, nobody will ever say with a straight face that all taxpayer money is spent wisely.

However, this is where even the anti-government, Ron Swansons of the world have to face another cold, hard fact of reality. It’s every bit as inescapable as the health care debate. Even if, however unlikely, a government spent every penny of taxpayer money wisely and dedicated every resource into ensuring safety and security, it still wouldn’t be enough. That’s because of one simple truth.

“Nobody knows ALL the facts and nobody CAN know all the facts.”

If that sounds a bit too similar to the advice I recently gave on making sense of the world, then bear with me. There’s a reason for that. It’s similar, but not the same because the scope of the issue is different. Every issue takes on twisted, often frustrating new dimensions when politics enter the picture. Just ask Major League Baseball.

When it comes to safety, though, there’s an inescapable complication that has plagued every government entity that ever existed and will continue to plague governments until our robot overlords take over. To provide safety, you need to know everything about a situation and have the resources to deal with it. Unfortunately, or fortunately for privacy-minded folks, nobody can know everything about a given situation.

Nobody can know for sure when and where a terrorist attack will occur.

Nobody can know for sure whether or not a rival nation is plotting against them.

Nobody can know for sure whether a handful of countries are colluding to undermine them.

Nobody can know for sure whether that weird-looking guy walking down the street is about to go on a shooting spree or just skipped laundry day.

There are just so many unknowns in the world of geopolitics. There are a lot of unknowns for individuals as well. Hell, we still can’t figure out just how useful or useless pubic hair is. How are we supposed to know everything about the threats to our safety and sovereignty as people?

That’s just it, though. We can’t know. It’s physically impossible for any one human or group of humans to know everything about a certain situation, individual, or threat. Sure, the CIA could bug your phone and hack your browser history. That may even give them plenty of reason to believe that you’re conspiring with a hidden network of BDSM enthusiasts to take over the entire state of Montana.

At the end of the day, though, even the CIA can’t know for sure and that has proven costly throughout history. No agency, no matter what they call themselves or what sort of fancy acronyms they use, can know everything about a situation. I’m sure they’d like to know. If you’re of the mind of Alex Jones, you might even believe they’re working with aliens to remedy that.

Even if they did have some way to read all our thoughts, there’s still the matter of sifting through random daydreams and outright plots. Honestly, who hasn’t contemplated whipping out a can of lighter fluid and setting a coffee shop on fire because they got your order wrong? The difference between those thoughts and real action, though, is huge.

I’m not saying that governments and police forces should give up trying to keep people safe. We still need some measure of safety in order to function as a society. The problem is that because of this safety paradox, we end up in these brutal cycles that only make us more fearful. It goes like this.

  • Some strange, complex, dire threat is out there and the media blows it up to scare people

  • The people demand action from their politicians and authority figures

  • Those politicians and authority figures try to respond, if only to maintain their hold on power

  • Those politicians and authority figures fail to provide perfect safety because doing so is impossible

  • The public gets upset with the existing people in power and looks for alternatives

  • Some new power-seeking people enter the picture, making impossible promises to fix impossible situations’

  • The citizens, desperate to fix the impossible problem, put these people into power because anything seems like an improvement over the status quo

  • The people who made the impossible promises, predictably, fail to deliver and generate another round of disillusion

  • The cycle starts all over again

This is part of why congress’ approval rating is so low. It’s also why western countries keep cycling through political parties, constantly voting new people into office in hopes that they’ll find a way to solve impossible problems. In every case, they are unable to deliver. Most people don’t see the impossible logistics, though, so they just look to the next power-broker who can deliver.

For now, we’re very much at the mercy of impossible situations and the people who claim they can solve them. Some of these situations will become less impossible as we develop better tools. Until then, though, let’s be mindful of the impossible demands we make on those we entrust with our safety. It’s often when we have impossible standards that we doom ourselves to unlimited disappointment.

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