Mr. Chipman, I’m concerned for you. This isn’t a snide sarcastic comment or an attack on your person. I am worried about your well-being, especially when you go around saying things like this:
“So when I see something broken/flawed in society and am looking at solutions to fix/improve it, I could care less whether a solution is philosophically Capitalist, Socialist, Objectivist, right-wing, left-wing, Libertarian, Authoritarian, whatever – all I want to know is if it will work and what will the immediate effects be. Beyond that? There’s an imperfect world to keep improving and a better tomorrow to get to, and I’m for using every tool in the damn box (and inventing some new ones, when necessary) to get there. Fortune, after all, favors the bold.”
-Moviebob, Another Long Collection of Thoughts
I wrote a response.
Full disclosure: the following post below was originally posted as a multi-part comment on Bob’s blog post linked to above. I waited for my comments to pass moderation status and appear publicly. As of this posting (Hong Kong evening time, 22/10/2014) these comments have not yet appeared on the post in question; I feel that it’s important that my response is read by anyone who cares to. Please try to think of this response as being in no way connected to the ongoing GamerGate controversy; I am not going to go back on my words and spew about the GamerGate movement any more on this blog out of a belief that there’s far too much said already and I stand by that.
What I wrote below should apply universally regardless of affiliation or beliefs, and I hope years from now there are people who will read this and think very carefully how they view the world. I believe it’s extremely important to not just me but people as a species, and the Universal Theory of Pocky – one of the core tenets of this blog.
Addendum: the link here is also required reading although it is tonally inflammatory. Proceed with caution.
Bob, let me preface my position by saying that we come down on opposite sides of the fence where this is concerned, but I don’t want to comment on or about the #GamerGate fiasco any more. There’s been far too much of both reasoned discussion and shitslinging on both sides for it to reach any form of peaceful resolution, and both sides have codified their arguments to the extent that nothing I say on the topic will change anyone’s mind.
However, what I do take issue with is this ideology of yours.
I don’t want to know how you managed to grow up and become an adult while still having that ideology inside your head. I’m extremely disturbed by the fact that you think like this, and I’m absolutely terrified by the fact that you live in a country that counts itself among the few with the power to call down a saturation-scale nuclear bombardment as well as precision drone strikes anywhere in the world. For reference, I live in China, a country ruled by a singular government party that openly flaunts human rights and spews corruption, lack of basic human decency and state-sponsored propaganda from every orifice.
I am not going to argue about whether or not society is broken. I believe it is, in many, many ways. But I’m not here to argue that, or even discuss in what ways.
Bob, everything – everything in the world is a matter of perspective. Our perspective will always differ because we are all different individuals. Your seeming inability to understand this point suggests a blatant lack of sympathy and a limited, extremely narrow and self-centered worldview that judges everything on your own personal value system. You believe the system is broken. There’s enough evidence for that, and I won’t fault you for that either. However, the kind of unflinching arrogance you display – here, and elsewhere – out of a belief that you can use ‘every tool in the box’ to ‘fix/improve’ society scares all kinds of unholy hell out of me, and the fact that you can state with such conviction that the ends justify the means makes me more worried for the world, and individuals like yourself who share these thoughts.
Society is made up of people. What you have just stated terrifies me so much because if my reading comprehension is not at fault, I have concluded that you believe in ‘fixing’ people.
I don’t hold to that.
The very idea that you can ‘fix’ society this way has been the driving force of every single ideological clash since the dawn of human history, from the Crusades to World War 2. And the fact that you can’t see it is extremely worrying.
I used to. When I was young and naïve, I thought about changing the world. Changing people, changing society for the better, and forcibly enacting the change I wished to see in the world. I saw it as some great injustice, and some great crusade. It was my personal mission to right the wrongs I saw in front of me. I modeled my traits and personality after the superheroes I idolized; people with a belief in comic-book black-and-white. I was right, and others were wrong, and as someone with more power than others it was my responsibility to right wrongs.
This went away as I matured, and the world revealed itself to be far less clear-cut than my comic books. When I was a child, I thought like a child. Good was good and bad was bad. It didn’t matter that I was only making moral judgments based off my own personal point of reference; it was just easier to see the world this way, to categorize everything I saw as good or bad and to relate to them as such. I knew nothing of the world, and for ages I resisted anything that threatened to challenge this immature worldview.
But the easy path is in itself a trap, and only a Sith deals in absolutes. The far harder path is to admit that one’s perspective of the world is not perfect! I am a human being, and imperfect by definition. What gives me the right to judge and condemn others based on my own value system and enforce that system on others?
Your statement above scares me not just because you’re advocating acting for change, but because you’ve breezed right past the question of whether or not you should. You believe so firmly in your own moral superiority that it’s not even an issue for you. You’re so caught up in your own self-righteousness and whether or not you can, that you haven’t even stopped to consider whether or not you should – in your own words, ‘all I want to know is whether it will work’. You could care less about where a solution comes from philosophically – I beg to differ. It is crucially important to understand where that solution comes from philosophically, because only when we’ve fully understood that solution can we use it as a starting point to act upon the world. There’s another word for imposing our will on others in this manner, off of a value system based off of our own, highly limited view of the world. That word is tyranny.
Imagine, for the sake of argument, that from an ideological standpoint I believed in the public execution of individuals with a household income of over $300,000 annually on a regular basis. Their earnings would be evenly distributed among the rest of the population. Statistically, this would mean less income inequality.
According to your statement above, you would not only condone such behavior, but work towards making it a reality, simply because it provides an immediate benefit from an economic standpoint (evens out the inequality curve and redistributes wealth). Leaving out, of course, that these individuals are all people, and to forcibly carry out these assassinations with or without the consensus of the larger governing body would be murder under the regulatory laws of most countries.
I am genuinely concerned that you hold such dangerous ideals, but I wish you all the best regardless. From my own experience, holding such values means you’ll either become embittered with the lack of change you’ve enacted in the world so far, or constantly be fighting those you perceive to be the enemy, not realizing you’re helping perpetuate a system where you are theirs.
I’m going to ask you to do something difficult, Bob. Please try to understand. Please try to understand that there are people out there who do not share your value systems, and like you, they are people. You may judge them, you may condemn them, but please do not consider them any less people than you are. The second you sink to dehumanizing someone and acting out against them simply because they do not share your views of the world or consider your well-meaning advocacy for change good in their eyes, you’ve become the imagined monster you wish to slay.