A dialogue between Professor Corey Anton and Stefan Molyneux from 2011

A dialogue between Professor Corey Anton and Stefan Molyneux from back in 2011:

Watched it once a while back, but tonight watching it again, paying closer attention now that I’m more familiar with Stefan’s positions after having watched several of his videos over the last many months.

Pausing at 16:34, yes, Prof. Anton was getting at there what I’m wondering about too. “Why do people become so slavish to institutions?” A top-down approach will never prove sufficient, not unless the plan is to someday turn us into droids, maybe require us all to be on prescribed drugs or find ways to genetically alter future generations (good luck with such a scheme and all that can and will go wrong with it). If we’re to exist as free individual agents with autonomy and power to live productive, meaningful lives, then it really does boil down to each of us individually, because an authority can not live our lives for us, and why would we want it to? Authorities and economies cannot provide all moral guidance, and again, why would we even want them to?

Yes of course each individual is molded by the culture(s) they are raised in and who they’re raised by and all the institutions and other external factors that shape reality as we experience it. And that’s where we run into the problem of the paradox: people are not strictly individuals nor strictly members of a collective. We are both, inescapably. It cannot be helped.

The libertarian argument has been augmented to suit modern economics and all talk of rugged individualists successfully striving for the top is a rarity-turned-myth promoted by this new narrative. It’s a fantasy that will remain very far from reality for most. This idea of pulling oneself up by the bootstraps is overplayed but useful in shifting all responsibility onto individuals, furthering this trendy belief that all the power lies within our own selves and there’s no one to blame but oneself. It’s an oversimplification, to say the least.

Stefan does not argue along that line and clearly does acknowledge educational and social influences, but he steps in another hole that plenty of “anarcho-capitalist” atheists step in, which is placing so much emphasis on the ‘science’ end of things without paying much attention to the history of how humans have behaved socially. We are not merely bags of bones, flesh and DNA — we are hugely defined by our relationships with one another, but we also have these inner lives and drives created through who we are (as is always evolving, but beginning with our core personality traits) meeting with our environment and all entities and people in it, both directly and indirectly. In short, we’re complex creatures with complex needs and a complex history. For some to assume that human nature can be rather easily molded to fit the latest ideology is a scary proposition, and I don’t see how this might be grandly accomplished except through some method of compulsion. This logic is premised on the notion that humans are significantly malleable while maintaining sane states of mind. I do not agree with that assumption. Look around and ponder it.

What Stefan is proposing is a theory that we have no way of knowing if it’ll prove successful, and the odds look to be against it on several levels, particularly when it comes to thinking people only behave violently because we are taught by authority figures to do so. That’s simply not true, and in the absence of any form of government providing some level of protection and redress for aggrieved persons, it’s going to be a painful lesson to contend with. Think corporations are going to come to our rescue? Would we even want that?

But what I think Professor Anton is getting at is us striving against some of our base-level motivations and drives and transcending them so as to become the moral beings we wish to be is the only way one truly becomes moral, because morality isn’t a top-down affair, at least not beyond superficial appearances. As much as culture and environment influences each individual, it ultimately winds up coming down to each individual’s striving.

Stefan differs from this in that he seems to believe a societal overhaul along with the creation of a new culture (somehow — that part’s never clearly explained, leaving us to wonder how the chicken will manage to come before the egg?) will impel people to do what is in the best interest of this new setup. His reasoning for this seems to be that it would be the rational thing for people to support — but how often are people all that rational is what I want to know? We have an entire history of acting irrationally on plenty of levels. In fact, it can be said that humans have never acted all that rational. But now, apparently, we’re ready to become rational. Why? Because we’re capable of reasoning and therefore should be able to assess what’s within our collective long-term best interest. This notion is predicated on the idea that we humans just keep evolving to become better and better, or at least we possess the potential to be so. And to an extent I agree — the potential does exist, potentially. Stefan’s argument seems to be hinged on this, plus the idea that people will opt for a 100% non-violent society. But on that latter point I couldn’t disagree more.

One reason being that if all others choose non-violence as their response, it leaves those with the willingness to act aggressively or violently with an advantage. They will do what the rest refuse to do — they will go on the physical offense. And believe you me, that will occur. It will always occur. We can adopt defensive strategies for dealing with it, but a non-violent strategy will render folks sitting ducks. And that’s fine if one wishes to abide by a pacifist code of ethics — go for it, but don’t expect everybody to go for it.

And I’m not sure we’d want a completely non-violent society anyway. We’re aggressive beings at times, and it’s so far proven the only effective way of handling certain disputes and violations. Stefan’s concept of non-violence extends so far as to include all coercion and force. Can there be a way to hold a person against their will without the use of force? Because they will resist with force. We’re active, physical creatures — this must be accepted. It is who and what we are at the core, and I can’t think of any way to transcend this if we are to continue to care about protecting ourselves and others (which we very much do care about).

In another video by Stefan he talks about all money being basically on debit cards where a bank or whoever, in response to a violation, has the ability to simply cut off one’s access. Now, I have trouble seeing this as much better than the use of force. We’re talking about a State-less society here so I’m unsure who decides and enforces the laws in this sort of setup (well, obviously it’s major corporations and banks, as he eludes to), but whoever or whatever does wields an awful lot of power, more than any entity really does today. Because there he’s envisioning all money going digital and all purchases requiring some sort of card or chip, all of this taking place within a corporate wonderland. Those with the power to control access to money control everything. They control all of society and nothing really stops them from coercing us, especially not if we’re all set on remaining non-violent.

Ya’ll tell me, how does the logic go here? How might people maintain power to keep mammoth corporations in check in the absence of any form of government? Some major corporations today are already proving more powerful than nation-states, and we’re seeing what they’re driven to do.

I must agree with Prof. Anton that it seems that logic is predicated on some sort of Social Darwinist theory, which is potentially dangerous. This is where all talk of evolution winds up troubling me a bit, because the reality is, counter to what some folks like to believe, that how we best adapt to a given environment doesn’t always turn out to be in humanity’s long-term survival interests. We’re not just ascending ever higher and higher, even though it appears right now our technology indeed is.

To be returned to at a later date…

Watching and reacting to Stefan Molyneux’s “How We Are Broken”

Stefan Molyneux’s video titled “How We Are Broken”:

Let me begin by stating I didn’t realize Stefan was sick until seeing this, and my heart goes out to him and his family. That’s a very troubling state of affairs to have to contend with, yet he still finds time to share his thoughts with all of us. That shows determination. [Edit in 2016: Do note that this guy turns out to be “sick” in more ways than that. I am no longer a fan of Stefan Molyneux and have been turned off on his material for a couple years now. He goes way beyond reason that I can back on so many levels that it has become extremely difficult for me to take him seriously. Just noting that since I’ve decided to let this post remain public. Watch enough of his content and see for yourselves. And look up Tru Shibes on YT while you’re at it for illuminating excerpts, then go to his original videos in question to place it in greater context.]

Pausing at 5:59, a thought that leapt to mind while he was talking relates with the story of Jesus. A few years ago I watched or read something where there was talk of the story of turning the other cheek being misunderstood in modern times. Now, I won’t defend this claim one way or another, but I found it very interesting that it was proposed that by turning the other cheek, rather than this being a purely submissive gesture, it was intended to allow aggressors to defile themselves. The claim was that back in the day there was a taboo over using the left hand while conducting certain activities, and doing so showed oneself to be base and primitive and basically uncivilized by standards of that society.

My immediate question upon hearing that claim was what if the aggressor backhands you with their right hand? Which likely would’ve been the case in a society where using the left hand for that sort of thing would be viewed by others as degrading your own self. According to some sources, it was common to backhand someone deemed to be a lesser, like a slave or child or wife, and that hitting with a closed fist was reserved for fights between equals.

What’s interesting here is the difference in context and how much that shifts the meaning of the message, at least in this one teaching. Also, let me say that I see there is much within the Bible that contradicts other parts or that appears barbaric compared against standards of today; plus, what’s been included and excluded from the Bible and how often it’s been altered over time — all of that undermines the reliability of that text in making sense of the context in which it was written originally. We’d have to learn to read Hebrew and become scholars of the Bible ourselves in order to gain a deeper understanding of the historical and social context during the rise of Judaism and then of Christianity. The inquiry remains quite obscure despite so much talk over it, and most of us base our opinions on what we’ve read in King James or newer versions of the Bible or on the claims of others going off limited information themselves. Common as it is for people to speak as if it’s granted that we know well enough about people 2,000-4,000 years ago, the reality is we do not. To delve deep into these religions and how they’ve transformed over time would literally require scholarly devotion.

So, going with my limited, unscholarly knowledge on the subject, I’ve read that such taboos did exist in first-century Palestine. And when we consider the passage in question, along with similar others, taking into consideration views from people who have investigated older versions of biblical scripture, the message seems quite clearly to not be asking us to submit to violent rule, per se, but rather to respond in a way that is neither passive nor violently retaliatory. Excerpts from a writer who discusses this can be found here (not that I’ve read more from this author than these excerpts, nor do I agree 100% with his position as stated — it’s offered as interesting food for thought).

Just felt like sharing that. Carrying on in listening to Stefan.

Children are born rational? Lost me on that one.

Parents pass their beliefs on to their children. That’s the way parenting tends to operate, though some do a better job of passing on quality principles, whereas others use religion and tales of fire and brimstone to command obedience for its own sake. But to say that parents do not possess the right to raise their young to share in their worldview is false, and this creates a tricky situation. I don’t know where the lines should be drawn, but I do know that outsiders, even the majority, do not reserve the right to dictate to all parents how they must raise their children. When we start talking like that, we forfeit any real notion of freedom. Now, I may agree that we can attempt to impress on one another when we do not agree with teaching and parenting methods, but can a reasonable person assert that children should be protected from enduring religious upbringings? What about healthy spiritual beliefs being handed down to children? Where could the line be drawn here? Are children to ONLY be raised in accordance with what’s scientifically-tested and child psychologist-approved?

See, as much as my own upbringing turned me away from wanting to have kids, it’s talk like that that weirded me out the rest of the way. Rights. How might we go about determining these rights are being violated, and then how might we react? Send in CPS and social workers to remove the children from their homes, even where physical abuse or neglect isn’t present? See, that’s where Stefan’s views really break with my own, and I can see the tyranny behind his message, regardless of what he may be envisioning. I understand his desire to protect children from unnecessary suffering and mistreatment, but it takes a leap of faith to believe public resources stepping in will much improve the situation in many cases. I understand he considers himself an anarchist who takes serious issue with our government, wanting to see it done away with altogether, but then who will then be made responsible for protecting children’s welfare? Will enough law enforcement remain intact to tackle this issue or will corporations step up to the task? And what does it mean to be free if the outside world has the ability to determine for you what is and isn’t taught to your own young children?

It’s a sticky debate, because we obviously do step in when abuse and neglect is reported, and perhaps that’s the right action (though sending kids off to foster care, where they face a higher risk of sexual abuse, comes with a host of problems all unto itself). But when it comes to teachings, words and ideas, religious or otherwise, can we claim it proper for adults to police each others’ “crazy shit”? When it comes to raising children, he argues the answer is yes, but I wonder how that could be enforced within a setup where all use of force is recognized as wrong.

In fact, I don’t comprehend his vision of a completely non-violent, non-forceful society and individuals therein. That strikes me as so non-human at its core, and I presume the means of achieving such a societal goal will require altering people severely in an attempt to fit this idealized mold. Because we’re prone toward violence and irrationality at times, and we do pass along our beliefs, whether right or wrong. How else do you get around this reality? How do we do away with all irrationality while retaining our humanity?

And how might we effectively deal with psychopathy and sociopathy without any use of force? I get that he’s hoping through changing our ways that we will create fewer psychopaths and sociopaths, but this assumes that all such ways of being are due to abuse or neglect, and that isn’t always the case. What about in cases of organic brain damage brought about through an accident? What about the child who’s abandoned during their fragile formative years by a parent who dies? (In that latter case, I actually know someone like that who was very young, maybe 3 or 4, when his mother suffered a brain aneurism while caring for him at home one day and died in his presence. It was hours before his father returned home from work to discover the situation. His father was never abusive, yet this boy grew up to become a pyromaniac and then a kleptomaniac, landing him in Boystown during his teenage years. I met him in his 30s and learned of the carnage he had done to everyone in his family and to his ex-wives and his children. Yet he was never a victim of abuse or neglect and had many opportunities afforded to him that he squandered, preferring instead to live as a predator on others. Just pointing out that even the best intentions don’t always produce a positive outcome, we being unable to control all possible variables. This man is a criminal, through and through, and always will be until someday he is stopped. That will require force. I’m not sure how to get around that.)

There’s a point where idealism loses me. I have trouble seeing as bad all that’s lumped into his categorization — to me there are so many shades of gray to where I’m careful to not paint all aggression or all forms of violence or even all existent forms of government as wrong and bad and needing to be completely done away with. It all depends, though I can see where philosophical guidance here is of the utmost importance. It’s just a matter of what philosophies we adopt and follow.

Personally, I cannot imagine a life free of every single form of coercion or force, and I’m not so sure I’d want to. But at the end of the day, it probably doesn’t matter. The future is coming regardless of what I or anyone else happens to think, and it looks like it’s going to get worse before it gets better. That’s enough to say tonight.

Showing appreciation and loving — Stefan Molyneux’s interview with Warren Farrell

Pausing at 11:54, I really liked what Warren Farrell said about how the process necessary for our survival (to be defensive) is the exact opposite of the process required to nurture love (to listen to your loved one without getting defensive or going on the attack). Kinda like the yin-yang — that’s how life balances out. Amazing, isn’t it?

Pausing again at 42:04. Wow. Great discussion they’re having! This came to me right on time — I need to hear every word and let it sink in. Thinking about asking my mate to please watch it through as well, though he’s not one to take much interest in computers. It would be nice, so I’ll try. This video generates a lot of thoughts and ideas, very timely.

Because I’m still learning in the love game. Admittedly. And I’ve made more than my share of mistakes. Oh yeah. My social awkwardness is of an odd variety apparently. Ha  Truth be told.

But great discussion, highly recommended!