Optimistic Cynic

Choosing to be happy sounds so corny, but I am convinced it’s the only way not to get crushed under the weight of this hard, fallen world.

How one become happy in a world filled with imperfect human beings, and while being one yourself, will differ from person to person. Some use religion. Some decide to ignore negative information. Others find that dwelling on the bad helps them cope. Still others might drown the tragedy of being alive with distractions, either electronic or chemical.

I get that. I really do. A lot of what people do depends on their fundamental views of human nature. This deep stuff, but so much of one’s world-view depends on their answer to the following question: are human beings intrinsically good, or intrinsically bad?

Note well that I did not say “evil,” but “bad.”

People can either be perfected here on Earth and it is society that corrupts us, or we are born broken somehow and need to structure society, as well as work on structuring ourselves, to mitigate these tendencies.

In other words, society has to improve, or you have to improve.

This is really a simplified version, but it helps see how each of these basic assumptions about the nature of being can influence nearly everything, from political affiliations to religious beliefs to the very kind of art one creates and enjoys.

I am clearly in the second camp–that human beings are fundamentally bad and have to be trained to be good–and yet I find this a pretty empowering view of things. In fact, gaining a greater understanding of this view, and treating others and myself in accordance with it, has helped me become happier over time:

  • We are all imperfect, but we can all improve;
  • There will never be a Utopia or a heaven on Earth;
  • We all need to be kind to each other and ourselves because we’re all broken; and
  • I’m never surprised or disappointed when people, from the individual to the species level, makes the wrong choice.

Human beings will never learn the hard lessons from history. That is a fact. This is pessimistic, but pessimism about human nature doesn’t have to translate into being a miserable person.

I have come to consider myself as an optimistic cynic. I have no illusions about humanity’s ability to navigate terrible crises before the happen and head things off. This isn’t how the overwhelming majority of us operate, personally or societally. We have a massive inborn self-destructive streak, and we’re really good at sharing this dark tendency with society at large.

But, and here’s the weird part, we’re still here. We haven’t annihilated each other from the face of the planet, despite our best efforts. Yes, many peoples have been extincted through deliberate genocide, or by being conquered and breeded out of existence, or even inadvertently through diseases. Evil stuff like this still happens, and that’s the tendency we see among those people who can’t cope with the burden of being alive: they lash out at existence itself, whether they’re a mass shooter in a movie theater or school, or a dictator directing their anger at “those people over there.”

And yet, civilization exists in many parts of the world. And it’s actually quite nice. Believe it or not, lots and lots of human beings frown upon destructive, evil behaviors. This would not be possible for as long as its been going on (albeit, in a still woefully low proportion of the global human population) if this fallen nature of humanity couldn’t be mitigated.

Our rules don’t perfect us. They keep us free, from the harmful actions of the government, from the harmful actions of our fellow citizens, and often from the harmful actions of ourselves. Laws aren’t magic, but they do express the values of a society. And I’m much happier living in a society where things like rape and murder are punishable by life imprisonment or even death than a world that tries to legislate these dark impulses from our basic nature.

Because that is never going to happen. Continue reading “Optimistic Cynic”

What Are We Doing Here?

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Yesterday, my wife said something striking about living in a city: “I feel anonymous here.” It was both a good and a bad thing–good, in that friends and family weren’t constantly getting in your business. But bad in that you didn’t feel like a part of any kind of community. You’re a little bit faceless, especially in a place like the D.C. metro area, where most people are transplants from other parts of the country, just here for work, and for a limited period of time.

I’ve writtenbefore about how it’s been difficult for me to maintain relationships with my old friends as an adult, especially now that I’ve moved over 400 miles from home. It’s proven to be even harder to make new friends. Hence the importance of social media. It can make you feel less lonely and provide a valuable connection, but is it the same as flesh-and-blood relationships?

That’s what I get into in this short video: What am I doing here? What are any of us doing here?

I think the Internet has proven to be a “town common” of sort, given that most towns and cities don’t have any such areas. Nor are we prone to trust each other much as of late. Even in the workplace, everything feels so mercenary. Connections with like-minded people are important. And thanks to technology, we can meet these people thousands of miles away.

We’re living in a weird time in history. Even two-hundred or so years into it, the industrialized world is strange. Better use the tools we have to make it more palatable.

Follow me on Twitter @DaytimeRenegade and Gab.ai @DaytimeRenegade

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Guest Post: Methodological Skepticism by Zigmund Reichenbach of All My Small Thoughts

Statue of a man thinking

Skepticism comes in a variety of styles and flavors. Some prefer the nihilistic variety, others prefer playing skeptical troll.

But fortunately for us, there’s a better kind of skepticism.

One that we can use to:

1. Uplift others
2. Make conversation
3. Become more intelligent in the process.

This variety of skepticism will be known as “methodological skepticism” (a distinction borrowed from scholar Michael Forster).

Scholar Michael Forester

This skepticism relies on a Greek concept called “equipollence” meaning “equal force on both sides” as it pertains to making arguments.

And we can use this form of skepticism in a very “judicial” manner–meaning we can use to build up the arguments of our “opponents,” test our arguments against this “iron man”–for strawmen are intentionally weak arguments designed to set us up for moral grandstanding–and see which argument wins. Continue reading “Guest Post: Methodological Skepticism by Zigmund Reichenbach of All My Small Thoughts”

Guest Post: Staying Authentic in Trying Times by Avtomat Khan of Hidden Dominion

We’re at an interesting crossroads in society. For those of us who has been around or studied politics for a long time, it doesn’t really seem like it used too. The political polarization of society has shifted.

Sure, there has always been some violence, and much debate–but now it seems like it has coming to a boiling point. A “point of no return” where discourse has taken a backseat to “you’re on my side, or you’re out.” Where someone’s feelings matter more than fact.

The culture has shifted. Instead of focusing on merit and the important issues of liberty, the focus is on virtue signaling and power.

Where if you don’t get on the bandwagon, it takes off without you.

Many people in some industries such as Hollywood or Silicon Valley have to agree with whatever their superiors or colleagues are supporting. If they don’t, they’ll be out of work. More and more industries are starting to turn this way. Some companies will even fire employees strictly for posting non-PC comments on the Internet.

Not only this, but now many people are losing friends over political or moral viewpoints? What has happened to us that just disagreeing has become such a terrible event?

I like to think of this part of our current history as the “Modern Regressive Era” or “The Trying Times.”

There are a lot of reasons this has come to fruition. And based on my opinion, a large chunk of that responsibility comes from people giving up and feeling hopeless about being able to change anything.

It’s easy to feel hopeless. It doesn’t require any work. All it requires is for you to forsake all of your values.

But these trying times aren’t here for you to give up and lose all hope. They are here to test your resolve, and most notably, your courage.

But don’t get me wrong. We’ve all been there. It’s hard to cope with an uneasy future, and that feeling that nothing you do could help.

It’s difficult feeling like you don’t have control.

But the fact is: You DO.

Society may seem and act like a machine. But it’s not. It’s a human invention. And like all of our inventions, it’s malleable. It’s based on us; we make up the machine.

And the only way to edit it, is to edit ourselves. The best way to do this, is through the virtues of authenticity and courage. Continue reading “Guest Post: Staying Authentic in Trying Times by Avtomat Khan of Hidden Dominion”

Make America Humble Again?

While neighborhood-scouting in the tony areas of Northern Virginia with my family, I saw a house proudly decorated with signs reading the following:

MAKE AMERICA HUMBLE AGAIN

I wasn’t able to get a picture since I was driving, but here’s how they looked: They weren’t homemade, so I know there’s some enterprising company wishing to express this sentiment (which only seems to arise when a Republican is president, but I digress), and there are obviously people who want to pay for this sentiment. 

The text was meant to simulate something, a name-card, maybe, reading “Make America ________ Again,” like a political mad-lob. The word “humble” was written in a cursive script in the blank space, and the whole thing was on a pinkish background. 

Not the sign, but the closest picture I could find.

The signs got me thinking about the concepts “America” and “humility,” which is a persuasion win on both the signmaker and the sign-hanger’s part. 

But given what I know about America specifically and geopolitics at large, was America ever humble?

It’s the same way people wonder if America was ever great (hint: It still is, but mostly in relation to most everywhere else). 

America began life as a gigantic “Eff You!” to the most powerful empire in the world. 

It prevailed against incredible odds, and somehow survived the difficult decades after, to emerge some two centuries later as the world’s only superpower.

It’s kind of hard to be humble with a history like that. 

Look, we all know it’s not going to last. All empires–because that’s what America is, like it or not–have their ups and downs. And they change forms. 

Look at England, for example. It’s not the same country it was in 1066, or even 1966.  And yet it persists. 

America isn’t even that old, and we already don’t exist as founded. We haven’t for a lot time. 

America as founded died a long time ago, and is now firmly in the “smells funny” phase.  Continue reading “Make America Humble Again?”

The Paradox of Manhood: Thoughts on “Red Pill,” Mastery, and “Being a Man.”

Men: Are you a “cuck”? Are you a “beta”? Does the life you’ve been living got to go?

Have you been “red pilled,” or are you still “blue pilled”? Is our increasingly feminized society beating you down? Are you a victim of circumstance? Do you even know what the hell it is I’m talking about?

I described the “red pill” in my post “World of Illusions: 5 Lies We Tell Ourselves (And What to Do About Them)“:

[“Red pill” is] named after a scene in the popular sci-fi movie The Matrix, which came out when I was still in high school and good God do I feel old. Anyway, the idea is that everybody else is duped and that you are not.

Being “red pilled” isn’t necessarily a bad thing in my opinion, but it can lead to blind spots because

it creates a false sense of security whereby one thinks they are always right. Since few things are “always right” except for the fact that nobody is ever “always right,” this creates dangerous blind spots. You might reject, or not even seek, evidence, or take potential risks seriously, because you already have The Answer.

Lots of men–especially younger men and those burned by divorce, infidelity, or the law stripping them of their rights to see their children–describe themselves like this, seeing the “true” nature of women and the system, and acting accordingly. They also tend to wear fedoras and–

All right, enough snideness. I’m not going for the low-hanging fruit. You might think it hypocritical that the guy who wrote about men being trapped in a cage of safety or being afraid to take risks is poking fun at the men’s right movement or whatever you want to call it.

morpheus-the-matrix-red-pill-and-blue-pill

Well, for starters, I sympathize a lot with these men and their movement. It is a rational, foreseeable reaction to insane third-wave feminism run amok. So I hope that they take the jokes in the spirit in which they are intended.

Second, I’ve never accused women as a whole of being responsible for the degradation of manhood, or the ruination of Western civilization. After all, a lot of men have a vested interest in this as well. Divide and conquer so you can grab power, whether it’s by race or by gender or any other way we distinguish people and pit them against each other. The kicker is that the people who push these destructive ideas and foster animosity and distrust between men and women usually don’t even live the way they expect us to. What hypocrites.

But I’m going to speak to the men, because it is a gender I have more experience being. And while I have some sympathy with men’s rights activists and the MGTOW (men going their own way; that is, men foregoing women, sex, and reproduction as a way of protest) movement, on the whole it makes me sad.

Yes, a lot of laws and societal norms are stacked against men’s interests, but this is not the work of womanhood as a whole. It’s the work of activists, men and women, who want to reshape society into something more in tune with their personal political beliefs, many of which go against human nature. And second, I feel for guys that have had a bad experiences with women–we all have–but it makes me sad because to give up on a relationship and potentially having a family is very tragic indeed.

Also, it’s sort of the thinking that the stereotypical man-hating bull-dyke radical lesbian feminist decried by the men’s rights crowd is presumed to think, turning to that life due to bad experiences with men.

Anyway, as somebody who has teetered on this edge of “going his own way,” only to reclaim himself, and also as an older member of a generation struggling to know and understand what “being a man” means, I’m here to share the insights I’ve faced in my struggles. And I can boil it down into three key points:

  1. Don’t be a pleaser
  2. Become a master
  3. Women are not your enemy

Continue reading “The Paradox of Manhood: Thoughts on “Red Pill,” Mastery, and “Being a Man.””

The Three Political Phases

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As a part of the attempt to tie everything in life together, from time to time one needs to focus on politics.

Politics is garbage. I understand this. But it pays attention to me, so I need to pay attention to it. Politics forces me to care, because I would like to have at least a little say in what’s going on.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve noticed my own shift in my relationship to politics, moving from the emotional end of the spectrum towards the more pragmatic. Of course, emotion still plays a part, and it’s all on a sliding scale, but I have identified three distinct phases that can be seen as milestones on this journey.

But first, let’s talk about where this touchy relationship with politics stems from. I’m not going to talk about individual issues or policies, just politics as a concept.

Emotion Über Alles

The funny thing about politics is we like to pretend that it’s some sort of dispassionate battle of ideas, where we are hashing out the best way to govern ourselves, maximizing liberty and equality for all. This is a total fallacy.

Any view of politics that posits man as a rational being is destined to fail. Politics is emotionally charged, just like everything else us humans do. Here’s an example: You can take a Democrat’s positions, ask a bunch of self-described Republicans if they agree with them without telling them where they come from, and you will get a whole bunch of them agreeing that the positions are good. But when you tell them that those are actually the talking points of some Democrat politician, they’ll say no way and turn the ideas down.

See? Emotional.

And yet eventually, you do come to a point in life where all you wants is for what works to happen. For example, look at the refugee situation in Europe. It is clear that the European Union’s immigration and border policies are not working, and in fact are actively harming life in its member countries. In fact, they’re a catastrophe, leading to a spike in terrorist attacks and sex crimes, and generally destroying social cohesion and the European way of life. And yet what are many European leaders doing? Keeping on the same course while doing nothing to stop the harm to their own citizens. It’s no wonder that the people of Europe are so fed up with their elite’s refusal to do what actually would help Europe: control their borders.

See what I mean about politics paying attention to you?

Yoshitomo Nara Life Is Always Hard Lets Move On.jpg

The same happens here in the United States too; don’t kid yourself. In addition to immigration, we have questions about taxation and regulation, foreign labor, military interventionism, healthcare, and just about everything else you can imagine. No leader likes to admit mistakes (this notwithstanding). Did George W. Bush ever admit that going to war in Iraq was maybe not his best idea? Has Barack Obama ever admitted that Obamacare, or getting involved in Libya didn’t quite work out as promised? Of course not. Admitting failure is anathema to a politician. It’s anathema to most of us, actually. Because we are not rational human beings.

From top to bottom, from the leader of the free world to the down-on-his-luck panhandler down the street, we all largely react on emotion. Which brings us to the three political phases, moving from the emotional and rigid to the more nuanced. And I’ve noticed this shift in most people my age.

Here are the political phases as I’ve identified them. Continue reading “The Three Political Phases”