Arranged Marriage

Earlier today I found myself in a discussion about a custom which a few cultures, such as Muslim, Indian, Hindu cultures, and others, practice.  Arranged marriage is interesting as material for discussion because I found, among Americans, a startling degree of high relativist “understanding.”  Now, there once was a time when I would have spearheaded the relativist movement decrying that “it’s not our place to judge- why is our culture better?” and all that other claptrap.  Now, I have arrived at a significantly more enlightened conclusion.

Right off, arranged marriage is on the level with slavery.  In whole, without compromise, it is just as ethically unjustifiable as forced labor.  As a matter of fact, it opens up the possibility- though I understand this doesn’t actually happen that often- for fully fledged repeat rape that is completely legal, and that would be far, far worse than mere forced labor.  If you say that arranged marriage is morally justifiable, you are stating that the use of violence by a third party to arrange a rape is acceptable.  Or, in the most generous interpretation, you are at least supporting the stripping away of freedom of association, the freedom to select sexual partners, the choice to bear children, and the right to independent living.  I don’t care if it’s the parents who are arranging the marriage- the parents have absolutely no special status whatsoever.  Imagine if it was some culture’s custom for your second cousin to be able to select your spouse, and you would be bound by that decision.  Worse, what if that cousin stood to make a significant amount of money in the form of a dowry in certain circumstances?  They say that “you may one day come to love each other.”  There’s a name for that.  It’s called “Stockholm Syndrome.”

How is arranged marriage at all different from the institution of sexual slavery?  Because the children obey the decrees of their parents?  The only reason the child is prepared to accept such terms is because their independence has already been destroyed by those parents.  Parents have absolutely no actual power over their children not derived from violence- that they couldn’t also have over anyone else, at least.  Note that I include, for example, social pain and punishment as merely a less extreme form of violence, but I also want to add that to children such small damages are still extremely harmful.  The parents are given the greatest degree of relative power that exists in the human universe, and it is their utmost responsibility to never, under any circumstances, use it.  If they are rational and persuasive and can communicate how it is in the child’s best interest to, for example, marry someone, they are equally entitled to their input as anyone else is.  But that’s a completely different situation.  Now you’re saying that the child would have made that choice on their own if they had absorbed the information their parents are providing because they honestly believe it is what they want to do.  What their reason actually is doesn’t matter- they might marry purely to make their parents rich of their own free will.  But it must be their own choice, completely devoid of coercive violence affecting their choice.  Anyone can provide you with whatever information or argument they wish.  You’re not going to take the command of some random stranger over who you should marry, you probably wouldn’t even take their advice.  However that stranger can tell you whatever advice they like on whatever terms they like, I have absolutely no problem with that.

Now, here I’m going to outline an argument for which many would call me a basket case.  Namely, that marriage itself is basically an unjustified and unethical system of forced association.  Yes, yes, I know, when you get married it’s definitely not forced association.  But “marriage” is just the application of a label to a process that was already occurring.  In cases where marriage is optional, and not arranged, the two parties usually consider themselves in love with one another to some extent- enough to marry, anyway.  So what exactly changes post-marriage?  The church gets to marry you, and the government now treats you as a combined entity.  The couple is then bound by a categorical moral imperative to never have sex with anyone else, and to “love one another until death.” I will pass on the obvious point that you really aren’t given to decide how you feel about a person.  I will also pass on the relevant observation that if humans lived to be ten thousand years old, the divorce rate would be incredible.  And I will pass on the somewhat saucy argument that your resources and finances are then intertwined, and somehow this gives (often the woman) some “claim” to the spouse’s future earnings.  Which is just the purest bullshit.  And I will ignore how the divorce process is heavily, heavily slanted towards the woman.  No, what I want to discuss is how a marriage is basically a relationship with an added technical label attached.  What I mean is that if you truly love someone, then you’ll stay together, marriage or not.  If twenty years into the future that relationship turns acidic, then you just walk away.  Why is this issue so terribly complicated?  If you want to be together, then be together.  If not, then don’t.  But why oh why oh why would you ever want to bet all your chips that mean anything on the slim chance that you are going to have a pristine relationship until death?  Talk about playing Russian Roulette with your life savings and a fully loaded gun, claiming “it’ll jam, I’m sure of it!”  Tell me, if you were going to die tomorrow, would you waste your last day getting married to the person you love?  If you were going to live to be a ten thousand years old, would you wager a donut that you were going to stay together for the entire duration?  OK, so why is it justified for however long you may happen to be married?  Alright, it may be a spiritual and social experience with family and everybody getting together and celebrating a union, but couldn’t you do that anyway?  If it’s the act of making a contract that gets you going, then for God’s sake don’t let the Church/religious body of your choice make the damn rules- they wrote those vows back when the life expectancy was 23 and you were going to live and die building a cathedral your grandchildren would never see finished because a priest told you so.  The priest then proceeded to collect a fraction of your wages to line his own and his superiors’ pockets so they could suppress all movement toward progress; scientific, political, social, anything, while the priest was busy molesting the 18 children you now have to feed because that selfsame priest forbids birth control.  Sound like a good deal?

If it’s the contract that’s significant about marriage- and that was its original purpose- then marriage needs a revamp.  Marriage was an agreement that the couple was ready to have children, and would stay together long enough to care for them until they were old enough to live on their own.  So maybe the conventional system should be rewritten- a marriage is a terminating union to last, say, 24 years and 7 months after exactly 2.2 children have been reared?  I don’t care what the agreement is, but the bottom line is that when the marriage “expires” that doesn’t mean that the couple is now disbanded, to be backed up by a goddamn restraining order.  More importantly, different people want different contracts.  What if I want an agreement that allows for me marrying 47 women simultaneously?  They can all live in my house, it’s cool.  The fundy neighbors get a little freaked out from time to time and roll by in their SUV, heads up in the sunroof screaming “WHOORES!”, but that’s OK.  Strength in numbers plus the right to bear arms….  No, I probably wouldn’t ever own a gun, but if guns are legal then the burglars don’t know that, and the probabilistic certainty of death is a fairly strong incentive not to burglarize.  But that’s neither here nor there.  Basically, why are you blindly allowing yourself to be suckered into this paradigm of morality that puts you in such a downright stupid situation?  They say that after marriage, the men become slobs, the women let themselves go, and the passion just dies.  There’s a reason for that.  Both of you think that it’s “in the bag” and that the coercive social violence of society will keep your spouse near you.

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The Dramatic Trick of Equality

Equality sounds like such a fantastic concept.  It can readily be phrased in altruistic terms, and decrying generosity never seems like a malevolent tactic.  However, fundamentally, you can’t want everyone to be equal without tacitly accepting the presence of evil.  In this essay, and by essay I am using the word etymologically derived from “to try”- I’ll try to shed a little light on the most widespread perversion of absolute morality. I am talking about the first and foremost false argument from morality in modern society.

First of all, what exactly do I mean by equality?  I think the easiest way to outline equality is to represent its opposite- a situation where the few possess the vast majority of the resources, and the many are thereby deprived.  Sounds difficult to support, doesn’t it?  But what if I said that that particular phrasing is merely a trick to more or less force you into accepting the proposition.  Something like how you can ask someone if they’re “for world hunger” and if they say yes you cook them alive, and if they say no then you force them to donate massive amounts to charity.  It is possible, however, to dislike the fact that in the world’s poorest countries many people are starving to death while at the same time putting your money to better use.  And this is certainly not being hypocritical- as a matter of fact foreign aid is nothing more than a tool used by the greater nations to obliterate the economies of the less fortunate.  To support sending money and goods to poorer nations is to cause world hunger and poverty, in the most direct sense.  Sure, it seems illogical that by sending them food you are causing them to starve.  But consider for a moment if a bunch of aliens were to arrive in the United States and start dropping super high-tech cars, no charge, for anyone who wants one.  The American car companies would be livid, at least until they went broke.  In fact these hypothetical aliens wouldn’t even need to drop very many alien tech supercars to put impossible strain on the American car companies.  The same process would hold true with food, if the aliens were to provide some form of very desirable food commodity, free of charge- American farmers would be roasted alive.  The issue with that example is that such alien food would have to be in extremely high demand relative to current food products, which isn’t really possible in the food industry.

Now the issue with such discussion is that the last paragraph was an argument from effect.  They have their place, but arguments from morality are much more significant.  Fundamentally, an argument for equality needs to prove that everyone wants some x, and also that the redistribution of x is morally acceptable.  The most common equality argument is about economic inequality.  In such a case, the proponent makes the case that everyone wants money- which is for the most part valid- and that the redistribution of money is morally justified.  Their problem is that clearly this structure of argumentation doesn’t hold up to generalization.  For example, I propose that everyone should have an equal number of pet snakes.  Everyone wants snakes, and the redistribution of snakes is morally justified.  Clearly false.  OK, how about a more controversial example?  Everyone wants… women!  No, not going there, just joking.  A more realistic example: food.  Everyone wants food, and the redistribution of food is morally justified, therefore a third party should decide what food you get.  None of these arguments hold, but for some reason many people are willing to make an exception for money- even putting aside for the moment that “redistribution” as a concept is essentially never justified.  If it was voluntary then it would be called a “gift” and if it’s not voluntary then you’re using coercion backed by violence.

Equality contains within it the vampiric seeds of parasitism and violence.  In order to ensure equality, guess what you would have to do?  Worse, who says we all want the same thing?  In the above example, not everyone wants to own a pet snake.  If you want a pet snake then you can see to it yourself.  Creating a committee for the allocation of pet snakes is the absurdist end of the spectrum, and would clearly fail.  But why should other committees function any differently?  Basically the idea of a committee is that a central organizing party can distribute better than each individual’s own time and effort- which is of course nonsense.  If it were the case then such committees would appear everywhere, take over the stock market, and rule the world economy.  Which doesn’t happen precisely because the committee can’t outthink the market.  So those with a little power will do their damnedest to put more resources under the sway of a committee because then, to some extent, they control a few more resources.  So, basically, if you’re arguing for equality, you’re saying that a centralized agency is the best method of achieving equality because otherwise those who want more of any specific commodity, or for other reasons are better able to acquire certain commodities will end up with more of those commodities.  Naturally gifted artists will take up art, those who own profitable farming land inherited from their parents will use it for farming, and those who want pet snakes will be prepared to pay more for them than people who don’t.  But, because we must avoid the accumulation of too much artistic ability in any one person, or of too much production capacity in one property, or in too many pet snakes per household, we need committees X, Y, and Z.

So this brings us to power.  Power is not just desirable for equality by redistribution, it is fundamentally necessary.  If nobody has the power to actually redistribute resources, then it can’t happen.  And if everybody has the power to freely redistribute resources then a couple greedy people will simply take everything else for themselves to squabble over for all eternity.  So, says the pro-government debator, we must have some people with the power to redistribute resources, and some people who don’t.  This is a very key point.  So you’re saying that in order to produce equality of resources we have to produce a large disparity of power.  To me, that sounds just silly.  However there are many people who would just nod and go “yeah, that makes sense.”  Well, what exactly is power?  Power is the ability to get what you want despite resistance.  The more resistance you can overcome, the more power you have, by definition.  Now, note the critical second piece.  Power is the ability to get what you want despite resistance.  This is clearly a necessary component because otherwise the forces in question would simply be inexorable in one direction or the other.  And please don’t give me any of this crap about power gives you the power to get something you don’t want, because if you’re intentionally aiming for what you don’t want you are A) stupid, and B) getting what you were trying to get- which is what you wanted in the important sense.  Power therefore necessarily provides indirect control over anything which you might want- we can consider it like an even more universal form of currency because it necessarily includes whatever powers currency can bring, as well as others.  The power to make decisions affecting others provides a very special kind of resource- politicians enjoy this kind of power all the time- others will pay you to make decisions in their favor.  They will give you resources so that you will say a few words and endow them with even more resources taken from third parties.  By giving power to anyone, you break your original goal of equality in absolutely irrevocable terms.

So we could start a priori from the libertarian perspective, or we can follow through on the logic of equality until we reach the problem of the application of power.  This contradiction then leads us to conclude that the only true form of equality is where everyone has the same level of power- which necessarily precludes the existence of a government.  Or, you can say that it is justified to have a rich, powerful elite in the government, but then you’re contradicting your original argument for equality.  You can factor in whatever tricks you like about elections, but then you run into the problem that an election consumes resources- so campaign donations from the rich and from interested companies or special interest groups only gives them a fully sanctioned avenue to use political power.  You cannot escape the integral relationship between power and resources.  Power, that primal feeling of dominance, is corrupting because in evolutionary terms it’s incredibly advantageous to be corrupt as hell!  Using nothing but a word to get free resources?  We’re programmed to seek such a position, it’s so ingrained in us.  Not only that, but we’re programmed to enjoy it, and then we’re programmed to be corrupt.  Power is liquid resources in a way that money can only numerically imitate.  So it is absolutely impossible to mandate equality, and any attempt to convince you otherwise must quite obviously present itself to you as an attempt to convince you with empty, generous-sounding contradictions that appeal to your humanity so that they may take your money, and your freedom.

Pseudo-Logic

It’s been a month since my last post.  Basically, I just haven’t been motivated to write essays, and time has been scarce.  Now, on to the topic.

It is in fact frighteningly easy to construct an extremely convincing argument. An argument that seems pristinely logical, and almost undebatable. However, such arguments invariably conceal their inadequacy in either an incorrect human perception of the world, or an error in the method of human thought processing, usually in language.

For example, the cosmological argument for the existence of God. For those of you who don’t know what this is, it is as follows: 1) All things which exist were at one point formed, created, etc. 2) All things that are newly formed have a cause which resulted in their formation. 3) The universe exists. Therefore, the universe has a cause for its existence, and therefore supposedly there must exist some thing which caused the universe to exist.  Theologians would tell you that that thing must be God.  This is sound logic…. until two inches before the finish line.  To say that therefore this first cause must be God is to get it backwards.  Basically they’re saying that whatever that thing is, they’re going to call it God, and that because the word is the same it is therefore the same entity as featured in their sacred texts.  This is stupid.  I am perfectly willing to cede the point- the universe probably has a reason for existing, and I am even willing to allow you to call that first cause God.  However as soon as you start to argue that therefore Jesus saves because it’s written in this book that God created, you’re simply being irrational.  This is further evidenced by the fact that you could feasibly use that justification to support any religion- even the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster can say that whatever first created the universe they will call the FSM, and that therefore His Noodly Appendage is present on earth.  The rational extension of the cosmological argument is that all we can assume about an entity or natural process that resulted in the formation of the universe, for now anyway, is that it’s pretty significant, and is capable of forming a universe.

Here’s a great one: the ontological argument for God’s existence.  I have referred to this before, but this is a good place to cover it in more detail.  The argument runs thusly; 1) You can conceive of an entity, that which no greater can be conceived.  To restate this in useful English, there exists some thing you can conceive of that is so awesomely awesome that you can’t think of anything more awesome than that thing.   2) A thing which exists is necessarily greater than something which does not exist.  And 3) Therefore you can conceive of something greater than the entity that which no greater can be conceived, by the necessary addition of the property of existence.

I hate this argument with a fiery passion.  I despise whoever cooked this sucker up to delude countless people.  I actually despise this argument even more than Pascal’s Wager, which we’ll get to in a moment.  I can’t think of a single aspect of the ontological argument that holds any validity to anyone not already prepared to just plain assume that God exists.  In the first premise, basically you’re saying “OK, OK, think of the greatest thing ever.”  “Alright.”  “Now wouldn’t it be awesome if that thing actually existed?”  “Indeed.”  “OK, therefore it exists.”  Such complete, utter, blind, stark-raving insanity!  Secondly, not only is this bullshit, it’s also clearly illogical bullshit.  What about a weapon ten thousand times more powerful than nukes that detonates whenever someone blows their nose?  I can conceive of it, but such a thing is certainly not better for not existing!  Naturally good things may be better if they exist, but bad things are better if they don’t exist.  This should be obvious even to the most psychotically rabid and deluded fundamentalist in their quest to exterminate evil.

Alright, I can’t talk about that any more.  Pascal’s Wager.  Pascal’s Wager is essentially that, according to the Bible, if you are an atheist then you shall be punished in Hell for all eternity.  However, according to the Bible, if you’re a good Christian then you shall go to Heaven and live in bliss for all eternity.  Pascal’s Wager is essentially pragmatic religion: if the Bible is telling the truth, then you had better believe in it.  However, if the Bible is false, then there is no penalty in believing in it.  Therefore, you should be a Christian.  I loathe this argument.  First of all, if you claim that religion is harmless, then you’re simply nuts.  If you claim that religion causes no suffering, and does not oppress those least able to resist it, does not create poverty and suppression, and does not persecute intellectuals, strangle freedom, take your rights and property, invade the minds of you and your children, and does not murder with righteous delusion, then you’re just not paying attention.  Secondly, Pascal’s Wager as an argument fundamentally proves that those trying to persuade you really don’t care on a fundamental level about the beliefs.  They don’t care why you believe, or even what you believe, as long as you do what they say.  At their core, the upper echelons don’t do stupid things for their religion like take vows of poverty or place restrictions upon themselves.  Religious leaders and officials are taking a free ride, and piety is the prerequisite of their profession.  It adds nothing to society but a bunch of bureaucrats needing support, but nevertheless those selfsame officials acquire a large amount of wealth and power.  They’re just milking the cow.  If you gave them the choice of “convert or die” they would convert because they’re pragmatists.  The subsection who would prefer to die helps their PR, but they don’t matter- in fact the officials have no problem telling the radicals how to be holy- “give us your money.”

Intelligent design I will not get started on along the conventional lines because they’ve everywhere.  What I will posit is that we have witnessed evolution.  And I’m not talking about species of birds’ beaks changing lengths.  Go look up genetic algorithms.  Download any one and tinker with it.  Evolution is simply a fact.  You cannot argue with it.  To say that “it’s just a theory” is playing pedantic word games because gravity is “just a theory.”  To say that we haven’t witnessed it is to be stupid- to say that you don’t “believe” in evolution is to claim that you don’t believe in genetic algorithms.  It is not a conspiracy to erode your faith in God by distributing these computer programs that are rigged to optimize agents to their environment.  If you really want to, you can write the numbers 1 through 100 on sheets of paper and discard all the numbers from 1 to 50.  What’s left?  The numbers 51 through 100 are “fitter” for their environment.  True, that was only one iteration for those who actually know what’s going on with evolution, but we have to take it slowly.  The use of antibiotics depends critically on an understanding of evolution.  We can see microbes evolve in real time.  Breeding implies evolution, for crying out loud, and the Bible is redolent with bloodlines and heredity.  True, if the Bible were accurate then we would all be born of incest, a crime punishable by death again according to the Bible, but hey.

Pardon the anti-religiosity.  I didn’t set out to just vent with this post.  However I have recently been dealing with people who have deliberately impaired their own ability to think, and I suspect that it is integrally related to their religion even though they are distinct in mentally systemic terms.  There is no sense in becoming angry at such people- it isn’t even their fault.  The only real answer is to simply be curious, and to ask them very fair and reasonable questions when the opportunity arises.  They probably won’t ever remedy their thinking, but I suppose they should be free to be delusional if they so desire.  I guess I’ll just have to take that advantage and use it to earn more money.