indi wrote

I love that the worst insult they could come up with for Canada is basically "poutine sucks".

Actually, now that I think about it, them's fightin' words! Grab your hockey and lacrosse sticks everyone, and let's take those hosers down! I mean, you know, if they're okay with it....


indi wrote

There are actually several places in the world where a vegan diet is more expensive than a non-vegan diet.

For example, there are a lot of places like islands and mountain areas where farmland is extremely limited. So you grow what you can where you can, and you use animals like goats and sheep to help out with clearing plots, eating all the stuff the humans can't eat (like the parts of the crops that aren't edible like stalks and roots), and of course provide fertilizer. And then you eat the goats. And of course, throughout all of this, you're getting milk, eggs, and other by-products from the animals as well. That's how they survive, because the crops alone aren't enough.

Also, islands and coastal areas generally depend heavily on fish, again because of the shortage of farmland.

And then there are people like the Inuit in the north, where growing food is basically impossible, so they rely very heavily on meat and other animal by-products. Shipping food in is extremely expensive, and storage in any way but freezing is problematic. Meat freezes very well; veggies and fruits, not so much. And given their environmental conditions, they really need the extra fat in their diet, which is really hard to get from a vegan diet.

And of course, as others have noted, there are people in urban areas. It's not exactly a rare situation in cities that healthy produce is difficult to find and expensive... but factory-farmed meats are dirt cheap. Vegan options are frequently overpriced, if not just for the sake of ripping people off, then for technical reasons like the difficulty of preservation. Even where I am, pound-for-pound, it would be way cheaper to get most of the calories I need to survive from meat or other animal products than from vegan options. A poor person living in the city may simply not be able to afford going vegan.

I sympathize with the ethical stance of a vegan diet, but calling these people "psychopaths" - and even worse, "not normal" - is the height of first-world elitism.


indi wrote

Ditto. My dad and I turn on the 24/7 cable news and just let it run in the background most every day, and we try to watch a different one each day. Never tried RT, CNBC, PBS, or CBS, but I make that up with a bunch of Canadian channels: CBC, CTV, GlobalNews, (formerly CHCH, too).

As Canadians, we find Fox hilarious. The blatant bias compared to, like, literally everything else out there is impossible to miss. My dad used to love Glenn Beck and his insane chalkboard. Another thing we comment on frequently is that virtually every single ad on the American channels is for some sort of medication.

I generally don't consider any of those to be sources I trust for news - I have online alternatives (like Raddle!) that I prefer. But it's very interesting not only to see how Americans see themselves, but also how they report on Canadian stories. And of course, the way Canadian mainstream media reports news is almost always... interesting.

Also, while I listen to easily a dozen lefty or technically-neutral-but-commited-to-reality-and-thus-leftish-by-default podcasts, I do deliberately include at least one very much right-wing podcast. But I'm not going to name it because I don't want to give it air. It's specialized in any case, so if you're in those circles you almost certainly know of it already, and if you're not you won't miss it.


indi wrote

I had to create an account for the first time just a few months ago for work-related reasons. I interact with it on a browser set aside for Facebook only (not any of the browsers I use for other stuff), as little as possible. I really wish I could have avoided using it altogether, and I would really like to be able to ditch it entirely.


indi wrote

So you believe that there's no ethical dilemma about performing painful body modifications on those who are not able to consent, as long as it can be proven that it has more health benefits than risks?

It's not that I believe there's no ethical dilemma, it's more that I think the dilemma is both wildly overstated and simplified to the point of stupidity by opponents.

Concerns about consent and bodily autonomy, while very real, are usually taken to hysterical extremes. Parents and guardians are already expected to be the ones to provide consent in the name of children. We don't call parents "abusive" when they give their child a haircut the child doesn't like. Now, here opponents of circumcision would waffle by saying "oh, but it's just a haircut, it's not permanent"... but that's not the point. If you ran up to an adult and cut their hair without consent, that's straight-up assault. So, why isn't it assault to cut the hair of a child without consent?

(I can come up with examples of permanently "damaging" the child. But to do that, I have to point to "damage" done to an organ that most rabid anti-circumcision types never even give a thought to: the brain. Right from birth, parents are making choices "without the child's consent" that make permanent, irreversible changes to the child's brain. Everything a parent chooses to teach a child... and everything a parent chooses not to teach a child... permanently changes that child's brain, and those changes have monumental impact on their adult life.)

The point of that example is to illustrate that a lot of the opposition to circumcision is by people who really haven't thought it through, and carelessly apply adult rules to children.

The ethical dilemma isn't: "it's never right to permanently alter the body of a person without that person's consent". Parents/guardians do have the right to make permanent decisions for a child... they must have that right, because a child can't consent to a medical procedure in any case. The dilemma is: "what are the powers and limits a parent has in making permanent decisions for a child?".

And generally our answer to that in most modern societies is something to the tune of imagining what the child would choose if they had adult reasoning capacities and were making the "best" choice in their own interests. The tricky part is that "best" is a pretty subjective measure, and most adults don't exactly make the most rational choices even when they have the power of self-determination. It's not exactly crazy to suggest that an adult male might look around, see most of their friends circumcised and feel the judgment of partners who are used to circumcised men and think uncircumcised penises are "weird" (I once dated an American girl who told me that), and actually choose to be circumcised. Add in cultural/social/religious norms and the likelihood even increases. And I haven't even mentioned the medical benefits yet, but think about it: if the choice is between possible penile cancer versus an hour or two of pain as an infant when you're not even going to remember it... the choice isn't as obvious as circumcision opponents think.

And what about psychological effects, have those been studied?

I don't know if that's ever been studied, but if you think about it: almost a billion people are circumcised, including many millions of Americans... yet how often has this ever been a political issue? There are way more people in the US advocating for banning abortion or gay marriage - or even legalizing ayahuasca! - than there are advocating for banning circumcision. Even men, who should be more concerned about circumcision than about abortion because the latter is really of no impact to them, care more about those other things!

And aside from simply not caring, if there really were majorly noticeable psychological effects from circumcision, they would be pretty damn obvious. There are parts of the US where the number of circumcised men is over 80%, and some even higher... and some where it's as low as 20% or lower. Across Canada, the rates go from 5% to something like 40%. You'd think if there were measurable psychological effects, someone would have noticed them by now.

The only actual counterpoints I can come up with are really just an appeal to nature, or makes an unjustified(?) assumption that not doing something without consent will always be more ethical than doing something without consent, regardless of the outcome. But accepting your position would also open the door to other possible child body mods.

Yes, it might, which is why I'm not saying there is no dilemma.

I'd agree that "not doing something without consent will always be more ethical than doing something without consent" is probably a good rule of thumb. What bothers me is turning it into an absolute rule. A good rule of thumb is almost never a good rule when applied absolutely.

It's all about balance: going full tyrannical "the state decides what's best for a child and not the parents" is just as bad as going full libertarian "parents should be able to choose whatever they want for the child without state interference". And the balance will depend heavily on the situation in question; I don't believe it is possible to make a single, absolute rule that will cover everything.

Obviously sometimes the balance will be pretty damn clear. I don't think anyone can sanely argue that a parent should be able to say: "I think this baby will look so much cuter without all those arms and legs flailing around; honey, get me the saw!" But even that is a context-dependent choice: there may actually exist a society where most people like having no arms or legs (you can imagine some kind of science-fictional world where people truck around in exoskeletons and those who grew up limbless from infancy have an easier time of controlling them because no phantom pain and so on), so in that society, a rational adult might actually be angry their parents didn't saw off their limbs as a baby. (Or hell, even without speculating about science fictional societies, I could just be completely off base because I'm blinded by my ableist biases.)

I honestly can't think of a universal heuristic that will work in all cases. But I think this one comes close: Whatever choice is made, it has to be justified as being in the child's best interest. In other words, saying "I'm going to perform surgery on this child's face because I find it ugly" is not cool, but "I'm going to perform surgery on this child's face because they have a cleft lip and that could lead to infections, speech problems, and social ostracization for the child" is... even though we're talking about the same procedure in both cases.

Male circumcision sits in a fuzzy space straddling good reasons and bad reasons. "I'm going to circumcise my boy because God (or my religion) says so" is a stupid reason... but "I'm going to circumcise my boy because it will make him better fit in with our society/culture" is much less so. Is it enough to justify circumcision? I don't think so. But when you take that and add the potential medical benefits... it's not enough to make circumcision the right choice in all cases... but it's enough of a reason to make a blanket ban seem gratuitous.

How much of a benefit does there have to be before consent is not needed?

To reword what you're asking in another way that really highlights the problem: "How much control should we give the state over deciding what's best for children, rather than parents/guardians?"

The correct answer is - I hope obviously - not "total control", which is why a total ban on letting parents choose something that appears to do very little harm and even has some medical benefits feels like it's going too far.

For the record, because I don't think I've stated my own personal position: I am very opposed to circumcision of minors (without a medically justifiable reason, of course). I think it's stupid and barbaric. I think all the cultural, social, and religious justifications are stupid and not worth even considering. I acknowledge the medical benefits (and that's a new thing; just 5 or so years ago, there really wasn't enough evidence), but I don't think they're enough to justify the procedure. (In this, I am backed up by the Canadian Pediatric Society, which used to recommend against circumcision completely, but after the new evidence came in, now just recommends against routine circumcision.) I am not circumcised and neither is anyone in my family, and I would never even consider doing it to a child under my care.


Given that there are proven medical benefits, and given that there are no medically-proven harms, and given that it's such an important custom in some cultures, I don't believe a complete ban on it is justified. In fact, I believe keeping it legal would be better, because then the procedures could all be done safely in a hospital. And doctors could warn parents of the potential risks, so at least they'd be getting both sides of the issue, and not just "everbody in my culture/region does it, so I'll do it to". (I would say banning non-hospital circumcisions is fine, though.)

My own personal opposition to it doesn't give me the right to dictate to others, and I don't really have any solid science or reason to back me up. I don't like it... but without the evidence or logic to back me up, I can't justify forcing my beliefs on others in this case.

Besides, rates of circumcision are dropping rapidly worldwide. We don't need to ban it. It's going away on its own. People are figuring out for themselves that it's a stupid and barbaric practice. At this point, banning it might even be counterproductive. Sometimes the best way to fight a regressive ideology or practice is to simply step back and let it die of its own stupidity.


indi wrote

The rhetoric from both sides of this debate is often downright histrionic. On the "for" side people roll out either incredibly stupid arguments ("I want him to look like his father") or way oversell the medical benefits. On the "against" side, you get people who mindlessly call it "child abuse" because they can't really be arsed to give it any serious thought.

I've had to research this quite recently because there is someone trying to start a court case in Canada to get it banned. I've never been a fan of circumcision, and I'm not circumcised myself so I have no skin in the game (pun intended). But after doing the research the conclusion I came to is that while it's not something that should be done routinely, outright banning it is too far.

The reason why is that unlike with female circumcision (aka, female genital mutilation) there are actually quite a few medical benefits from circumcising penises. Most of the benefits are fairly slight - like a minor reduction in the likelihood of getting HIV when condoms are much more effective - but they're not completely zero. I don't have the list of benefits in front of me right now, so don't trust my memory, but recent research has shown that it reduces risk for: HIV, HPV, penile cancer, phimosis (obviously), and more. Furthermore, the evidence so far is that most of the benefit comes from early circumcision... so if you say "just wait till they're old enough", that won't work.

That all has to be balanced against the risks of the procedure. The one most of the frantic "against" people freak out about is decreased sensation, but that's actually something that hasn't been proven scientifically, so it's not a real risk under consideration. There are risks of complication during the procedure, as with all surgery. And of course, there is the issue of permanently altering the person's body without their consent.

So never mind all the people freaking out on the "for" and "against" sides. This is really a question of balancing risks. A caretaker and a medical professional have to balance the pros (reduced risk of all those ailments) against the cons (risk of the procedure, the fact that you're permanently altering the child's body). Right now, according to all the best science we have, it's too close to call. You could reasonably go either way, especially considering other factors. (For example, certain conditions may make it far too dangerous to do the procedure... on the other hand, taking into account the conditions the child will likely be raised in, the small benefits of circumcision may become very important.)

That's about where every medical organization in the world is at right now. In fact, there are several that said the procedure shouldn't be done at all a few years ago... but have changed their tune with the new data. The current recommendation from most medical organizations is that it shouldn't be done routinely... but it shouldn't be banned. Obviously a lot more quality research is needed, and maybe when more evidence comes in, the pendulum will swing firmly one way or the other. But for now, the science says: it's not usually recommended, but could be considered in some cases.

And because I base my own position on science and evidence, that's where I stand on the issue too.


indi wrote

I think this is a case of "everything looks like a nail". The resource curse doesn't really apply in this situation... not without a whole lot of shoving square pegs into round holes and then squinting at the results.

In fact, tourism was an incredible benefit to the island, for at least half a century (and probably longer). Where things went wrong really had nothing to do with the tourism industry. If it were possible to continue as it had in the past, the island would be much better off than it is now.

What went wrong is a combination of political incompetence and corruption, and the disastrous effects of the financial collapse. I guess they figured relying too much on tourism alone was a bad idea, so for many years there was a concerted effort to become the money centre of the Caribbean... and most of Central and South America too. On an island small enough to walk across and back in a day (no exaggeration, I did it as a child, and it only took part of an afternoon) there were so many banks and other financial companies I don't think anyone was able to count them. The island is now a "tax haven". There are several buildings now where when you walk inside, there is a single desk with a secretary to answer the phone, and walls just covered with the plaques of hundreds... maybe even thousands... of foreign companies that, in theory, have their offices in that building. Some of them are big names, too, that you'd probably recognize.

While this wasn't great - just as anywhere else, that kind of industry only makes the rich richer, and does fuck all to help anyone else - things only turned bad when the financial collapse hit. It's not an exaggeration to say that pretty much destroyed the whole island's economy. That lead to two things: a sharp rise in crime, which naturally forced most hotels to turtle up, and generally caused a need to segregate tourists from the (crime-riddled) locals; and lots of locals losing their livelihoods, which led to many of them turning to foreign investors for cash, and thus selling off local properties. That's what turned the tourist industry sour.

So no, I don't agree that tourism was the cause of the island's woes. On the contrary, I think tourism could have saved it. It was other factors that turned the situation bad, and that hurt tourism and turned it from the "good" form to the "bad" form. Tourism was not the disease, it was the vital organ harmed by the disease. If it were possible to fix all the crime and for locals to buy back all the hotels and bars and stuff so tourism could bounce back to the way it was before, that would probably be wonderful for the island.


indi wrote

I grew up in the Caribbean, and on an island whose primary resource was (and probably still is) tourism. When I was young, the tourist industry was very different than it is today.

Back then there were basically no exclusive resorts. Some of the fancier ones were "exclusive-ish", in that if you just waltzed in off the street and wandered around, the security guards would basically harass you to move on... but if you were actually there for a purpose (and weren't causing trouble or harassing the guests) they would leave you alone. And it wasn't just a matter of the guards being nice; in fact the hotels were quite happy to have locals come in and use their facilities. Bars and clubs (inside the larger hotels) would welcome locals who came in and partied with the guests (because locals' money was just as good as tourists'), I think I swam in the swimming pools of just about every hotel on the island at one point or another and even went to events organized at hotel pools, and when I joined the tennis club at one school I attended, we walked over to a nearby resort to use their courts (naturally guests got first dibs, but I can't ever recall that taking up more than two courts, and they had three).

Mind you, I'm not saying things were perfect. If you weren't going to cause trouble you could walk into virtually any hotel on the island... but you had to look "civilized". In other words, you had to make it a point to look and act the way an American or European would expect... not the way you'd walk around "normally" when you were in primarily local-frequented areas. So yeah, there was definitely an aspect of imperialism involved. And a certain level of racism that kinda goes with it.

And tourists were encouraged to go out... just about anywhere on the island. There were tourist hot spots of course - like the botanical gardens, for example - which would be mostly frequented by tourists. But the majority of the spots tourists would go to visit - like the fish market, downtown with all the produce vendors, the department store which sold souvenir trinkets alongside furniture and everyday clothing, the harbour (right in the middle of downtown) - they were all places where locals would go to do their own business. It was just... normal... to be walking down the street in the city shoulder to shoulder with locals on their way to/from work, and tourists either off a cruise ship or staying at one of the hotels.

And that even extended to celebrities. Because, by law, there were no private beaches. It was simply illegal to block off the beach in any way. (It might still be; it's been a while since I lived there.) So there was nothing stopping locals from lounging on the same beach the people staying at the top-tier resorts were at. I actually bumped into several huge stars - Schwarzenegger around Terminator 2 time, for example - who were just... chillin' on the beach. And there was sort of an unspoken social rule for locals not to harass tourists, so the most you'd do is a wave if you happened to make eye contact. I didn't really appreciate it at the time - not until I moved to North America - but it was actually astonishingly egalitarian.

Once again, let me stress that I'm not saying any of this was perfect. Some beach vendors did harass tourists with high-pressure sales bullshit, so there was a cycle of crackdowns where police would patrol the beaches and give shit to anyone who "looked local" and seemed to be getting to close or too friendly with tourists. And there was always this unspoken undercurrent of imperialist undertone where the locals were the "lowers" and the tourists were the "betters"... and you weren't supposed to mingle too much with those outside of your class. For example, there was a big scandal at one point when a major R&B star started dating a... well, basically a beach bum (I don't know if he actually was a beach bum - I just got that impression from the coverage, and I am well aware of how biased the coverage was); while it was quietly acknowledged that there was a bunch of people who "preyed" on tourists as "vacation boyfriends/girlfriends" (sometimes in exchange for cash/gifts, sometimes to rack up your score, sometimes just for the thrill of it), it was just outrageous that a tourist/local relationship would be taken seriously.

So I'm not saying that things were perfect... but they weren't that bad. Things changed in the years since, though. The island has been mismanaged badly, and the economy is way, way down and crime is way, way up. That's meant most resorts have either folded completely or been bought by overseas franchises and so on. And most of them became much, much more exclusive, and much more hostile to locals using the facilities. Tourists are much less likely to just wander freely around the island, because of the crime, which has further tanked the economy.

I think u/Jessica hit the nail exactly on the head in their comment. There is good tourism and bad tourism, pretty much as u/Jessica described. And I observed mostly good tourism... not perfectly good tourism, but fairly good nonetheless... and it was wonderful. Going to parties as a kid, I'd rub shoulders with a revolving door of visitors from all over the world, and we'd trade stories and cultures and have fun together. And it was really a great equalizer, because whatever social stratification visitors may have had in their home countries, they were all just "guests" on the island - whether they were a celebrity or a salaryman back home, none of that really mattered on the island. And I presume the visitors had a good time, too, because I remember one of the boasts of the island's tourism industry was one of the highest (if not the highest) repeat-customer statistics in the world.

I can't give the final word on whether tourism can be ethical or not. I just wanted to give the perspective of someone who grew up as a local in a tourist destination. Tourism really made the island a better place; even ignoring the economic benefits, without it we would have been insular (no pun intended) with no real way for the locals (who were mostly too poor to travel) to experience other cultures. (That may be a moot point now, with the Internet and modern communication technology.) We also wouldn't have had as much motivation to recognize, and thus celebrate and preserve, our unique culture. I can't tell you whether tourism on a whole is ethical or not. But I do want to encourage you from thinking of the tourist destinations, and the locals there, as more than just victims. Yes, there is some level of victimization by imperialism from richer countries. But I think when tourism was done well, it did far more good for the island than ill.


Reply to comment by indi in How do you have fun? by elyersio

indi wrote

Shut up and take my money.

Seriously though, that actually sounds like an awesome idea. I'd be curious to see if it's actually implementable.


indi wrote

A big part of Google's results personalization algorithms is your location. So it's not all that dubious for results to be skewed like that in some particular location. Like Sweden, for example.

Speaking generally though, I don't find it the least bit surprising that searches for things like "holocaust" or "did the holocaust happen" turn up a lot of Nazi shit. They're the ones who are most likely to be talking about it. And it's not just about Nazis and anti-semitism: searches for racial stuff will probably more likely turn up racist sites, feminist issues will probably more likely turn up misogynist sites, and so on. Just think about it: people who aren't misogynists (for example) don't really have all that much motivation to talk about feminism all the time, because for them, it's a totally non-controversial given... but for misogynists, it's a perennial bug up their ass, so they're going to complain about it all the time, and share links back and forth with other misogynists to fortify their hate with like-minded affirmations and supportive conspiracy theories. Likewise, anyone who's not a complete fucknut doesn't feel a need to discuss the Holocaust all that often... but for Nazis and deniers, it's always on their mind.

This has nothing to do with whether or not Google is the great Satan of privacy destroying data collection; it's a completely obvious and even unavoidable outcome of any attempt to automatically rank a site's relevance to a search term. By just about any measure you can imagine other than a "bullshit/not-bullshit" scale - frequency of mention, number of visits, number of inbound links - a hate site is going to rank high on the relevance score for a controversial term. Any AI intelligent enough to decide whether a site is truly legit or not will have to be an AI that makes value judgments... that is, something that literally thinks for you. Is that what anyone really wants?

The real problem here is not Google, it's the misconception that scoring high on a search rank is a measure of the quality of some site's information, and not merely the popularity. It's like going to a library and thinking the most authoritative books on a topic are the ones with the most eye-catching covers. Google's page rank is not a proxy for verisimilitude. And it is certainly not an excuse to turn off your brain and not do any critical analysis of whether a site's data is trustworthy.

Blaming Google, as the article does, is missing the point entirely. What we should be alarmed about is people so clueless about the way information works that they take articles like this one seriously.


indi wrote

Historically it always has been.

I've already explained why history is a poor guide for what might happen in the future.

But I could make the point in a much more pithy way by pointing out that, historically, no armed revolution has ever produced an anarchist society that lasted for more than a couple years.

How does attitude affect the outcome?

I've already explained that, too. It's not "attitude", it's preparing for a fight that's the problem. I don't mean "mentally preparing", I mean literally preparing. If you prepare for a fight against a state, then even if the state has no other beef with you, the state will treat you like an enemy.

That's assuming the media apparatus and historians don't whitewash your struggle, and that the opposition doesn't utterly snuff out any adherents who actually have a chance of acting on the ideas. Observe any number of peaceful protests where adherents were tried, beaten or even killed, only to have the memory of the public look favorably still on the oppressors, or at least have the message of the protesters scrubbed of any nuance that goes against official narrative.

I've also already explained why that reasoning doesn't fly. If you have an educated, informed population, propaganda doesn't work. Most propaganda is based on logical fallacies, so a population trained in spotting them are less vulnerable (this is the reason why I advocate for teaching reasoning skills in early education). And of course, there's the issue of outright lying, but that's mitigated by modern communication technologies that allow people to either record what actually happened, or get the various stories of what happened directly from the people who were there.

Once again, you're looking at history but ignoring the future. It was easy in the past for regimes to spin or outright rewrite incidents, and control the story the public heard. Even when there wasn't straight-up state media, media outlets tended to be controlled by state collaborators. But that's no longer true; now anyone can publish whatever they please, and reach everyone. States no longer control the message, and that's arguably what's caused all the populist chaos of the last few years. The "media apparatus" is dying; the Internet - the land of anarchic, free communication - is killing it. We're not there yet, but that's where we're going.

Just look at what's happening in the world today. In many cities, we're actually getting police to wear frickin' body cameras to record everything they're doing! Yes, yes, yes, there are still problems we're dealing with, like cops "forgetting" to turn them on or just "losing" the footage. But these are the early days, and we're already seeing cops being held to account by what their cameras captured. That is the future; a future where information is trivially captured, stored, and shared, and the excuses of the state for hiding crimes will no longer fly. Again, we're not there yet, but that's where we're going.

Most of the public in the US probably does not know that Martin Luther King, Jr. was a self-described democratic socialist.

In my opinion, the US is a poor example of modern social progress. Most of the public in the US doesn't know their head from their asshole.

But for those of us who aren't chin-deep in our colons, the truth is out there, and we can get it if we want. We can find King's speeches. We can even view videos of them. We can access his writings freely. We can talk directly to the people who knew him and marched with him. All of those things were either totally impossible or very difficult just 30 years ago. It was easy for states to spread stories of King being a free-market capitalist because the average person couldn't track down the evidence to refute it... now it's pretty much a click away for everyone - hell, with a smartphone, you can literally fact check the claim as you're hearing it, wherever and whenever you are.

That's all new stuff, and we haven't perfected the art yet. Most people still haven't figured out how to use the Internet properly, and the end up trapped in ideological bubbles (and companies like Facebook and Google are not helping; quite the opposite). We're still figuring all this out... and it's possible that I'm wrong and we'll never figure it out, and the future is one where we all live in balkanized ideological echo chambers. But that doesn't seem sustainable to me. I believe that it may take a generation or two, but we'll figure this instantaneous access to all information thing out, and when we do, states beware.

It must be anticipated is all I'm saying. Human history is filled with countless examples of rulers being unrepentant dicks to the people below them. Who's to say it's going to be any different now just because some governments are more "civilized"?

I'm not sure we're actually disagreeing. You say "anticipated", but that's a vague word with two very different meanings. I can anticipate an attack by recognizing the possibility and choosing a different route to avoid it... or I can anticipate an attack with a preemptive strike while walking directly into it.

To be clear, I am not an idiot; I am well aware that states can and have reacted violently to having their authority challenged. I am also not saying anything even remotely like that governments have become more "civilized". I know what governments are and what they have done... and what they might do in the future.

What I am saying is that populations today have tools to monitor and control their governments that they didn't have in the past. In the past, guns (or the threat of guns) were the only practical tool to keep a government in check. The average person either wasn't educated enough to get into power or understand what power was doing, or informed enough to keep tabs on power. That's changing. We're still not there, but in the future with initiatives like open government and open data, the average citizen could keep close tabs on the minutia of what's going on in the halls of power. Even today, we're already exercising more control over our governments than people only a few generations ago could have dreamed of. I see no signs of that trend slowing down.

I am not saying that governments today are more "civilized", I am saying that we are civilizing governments; we are forcing "good" behaviour on them. They are not any better or different (in principle) than they've ever been. What's changed is that we have the tools now to keep government on a much tighter leash.

And following the trends and considering foreseeable future technological developments, as time goes on we'll get even more and better control over our governments. Which means that when the day comes when we decide we no longer need them - or, at the very least, we decide we no longer like the way they're currently working (supported by mercenary capitalism, for example) - we may... and I stress may... be able to use the control we have to get what we want non-violently.

What I am saying is that should be our goal. That's what we should work toward. We should not be blind to the possibility that the government will respond violently, but we should not assume that's inevitable. If they do... and only if they do... then we should start considering adding violence to our tactics. But violence should not be a tactic in our playbook unless and until they use it first. We should not start collecting guns until they use them first.

It's the difference of "anticipating" violence between considering the possibility of violence... versus expecting violence. It's the difference between choosing a path without violence, knowing that if that path becomes blocked you will have to change to a new path where you resort to force... versus choosing a path where you believe violence is inevitable. It's the difference between "we may never need guns, so let's not bother with them until and unless we do"... versus "we'll probably need guns, so let's start stockpiling them now". Choosing the latter path will provoke the government so you will almost certainly never end up with a non-violent revolution that way. Choosing the former path may lead to a non-violent revolution... but if the government does respond with violence, there's no expiration date on a revolution, so you'll always have plenty of time to prepare for war in response.


indi wrote

By opposing them you will always be treated as a combatant, regardless of means. They will always scale to violence if it is necessary to maintain control. There is no threshhold where they will decide not to use violence unless they know they will lose. A well-educated and agitated populace in a capitalist state with a well-developed military will not be enough to coerce them. If all peaceful means fail, they will with absolute certainty resort to overt violence. It is inevitable.

That may be true... or it may not.

If you assume it's true and prepare for a bloody fight... you will get one, whether it really was true or not. And with all the things I mentioned, there is a very good chance you will lose, if not completely then at least badly enough to push your eventual victory back a few years (which could happen over and over). Even if you do win the battle, you will just be the latest bloody coup to seize power, which will put you on the shakiest of ground. Your new order may survive, or it may not, but if it does it will be bucking the historical trend.

If you assume it's not true and you're wrong, then you will have prepared a peaceful movement only to have it met with violence. At that point, you win. Even if you lose in the short term, you win in the long term. Regimes that use violence to suppress peaceful opposition never last. They will just build up more and more resentment until eventually either the population en masse will be inspired to join you in a now-very-much-justified violent revolution, or rots and dies under the weight of its own hypocrisy and illegitimacy as empires are wont to do.

If you assume it's not true and you're right, you win. You get a revolution, and no blood needs to be spilled. That would be a revolution to be proud of.

So the strategy that wins is to build a non-violent revolution. Note that I'm not advocating absolute non-violence; I'm advocating non-violent tactics for as long as reasonably practical: if the regime actually does respond with violence then you can justifiably respond in turn. But until that happens, threatening violence is counterproductive. I question the reasoning of anyone who advocates building a better world through murder.


indi wrote

If a communist candidate is running for public office and they have a real chance of winning, then the bourgeoisie will do anything they can to sabotage the communist's campaign. At first, they might try a propaganda campaign to discredit the communist. If that doesn't work, they may try to invent a scandal, or forge some documents to disqualify the communist from the race. They may try to bribe the candidate into maintaining the status quo. They may try to assassinate the candidate while making it look like an accident. They may "cook the books" to make it look like the communist lost the election when they really won (like in Russia in 1996), or, as a last resort, they may initiate a military coup to physically remove the communist from power.

I don't disagree that the aristocracy will try all those things. My objections is that those things cannot possibly work if the proletariat is informed, educated, and able to communicate freely among themselves. If the people are mad enough about the government that they're willing to take up arms and shoot their way into power... then they'll surely be mad enough to ignore propaganda and other bullshit ploys. A candidate or two can be disqualified, discredited, or even assassinated, but - again, if the people are serious enough about change to go to war over it - the movement can still prevail.

To be clear, I'm not saying there can never be a situation where we'll have to take power by force. What I'm saying is that so long as they don't use force, we shouldn't have to either. If it get to the point where they're attempting an armed coup... then yes, definitely, we'll have to fight back. But so long as there exists - even if just as theatre - a peaceful way for a unified proletariat to seize power, our strategy should be to use it. Arms should only be considered after they've taken all peaceful options away, not preemptively on the assumption that they might.

An army with 40-year old weapons could still beat an army with modern weapons if the first army vastly outnumbers the second.

This is what really bothers me about this line of thinking. If we really do vastly outnumber the aristocracy, armed conflict should be unnecessary. We don't live in the world of Che Guevara or Mao Zedong anymore. We live in societies that are much better educated, much better informed, and much more able to connect, communicate, and organize than the populations of their countries were. And we live in societies were the aristocracy is already afraid of us - that's why they're trying so hard to keep us confused with Faux News, economic hardship, and dazzling, distracting, commercial product junk. Running elections and maintaining a pretence of democracy is no longer optional; they need to keep up at least a show of being under the people's control in order to prevent us from getting serious about exercising it. So what we need to do is get serious about exercising it.

The other thing that bothers me about that line of thinking is that it doesn't scale. Technology is not linear, it's exponential. A thousand years ago, a well-equipped army could be overrun by a group a thousand times larger only armed with 4000 year-old weaponry (it would be a case of primitive gunpowder weaponry like fire lances against huge numbers of bronze swords, bows, and chariots); five hundred years ago, a well-equipped army could be overrun by a group a thousand times larger only armed with 400 year-old weaponry (muskets and longbows against huge numbers of primitive gunpowder fire lances, rockets, and bombs); a hundred years ago, a well-equipped army could be overrun by a group a thousand times larger only armed with 40 year-old weaponry (primitive tanks and aircraft against huge numbers of rifles and primitive machine guns). As time goes on, though, the bracket narrows. A well-equipped army a hundred years ago (a WW1 army) would flatten a group a thousand times larger if they were only armed with flintlocks.

If you extrapolate forward, that means that there will come a time when a well-equipped army could be overrun by a thousand-fold larger group armed only with 4 year-old weaponry... but the army would obliterate a thousand-fold larger group armed with 10 year-old weaponry. Obviously we're not there yet... but we're close. Guns are already pretty passé; a single person in control of enough sophisticated, autonomous drones could wipe out an army of a thousand armed with even the most powerful, military-grade guns. And as technology advances, it could get to the point where a single person could wipe out an army of billions (for example, by creating a virus that only they are immune to, then releasing it).

Even today, technology has advanced to the point that the tactics you're talking about are iffy... but in a few decades we could be at the point where they are completely unworkable. Holing up in a jungle? Please. A single satellite pass or drone overfly and you'll be spotted, and then they could just bomb you out with chemical weapons. Hiding in the cellars of supporters right in the cities? Come on. Police could simply sweep suspected houses with sniffers that can pick up little bits of DNA like dead skin cells - or they could check the hands of suspects for molecular traces of gun oils or explosives. They could plant bugs the size of sand grains everywhere and use AI to suss out key people or words, so that no secret planning is possible. And so on and so forth.

That's all science fiction now, but may not be for long.

So you do you beat all that? The answer is simple: don't give them justification to treat you as combatants. Plotting to overthrow the aristocracy by violence is painting a bulls-eye on your face; you're giving them the justification they need to violently suppress you. But organizing a non-violent political movement? They can't move against you without tipping their hand and revealing themselves to be an illegitimate dictatorship... which would spell their doom.

Armed revolution may have made sense in the past, but I don't see a future where it is going to be possible for a people to murder their way into a better world. Guns are not going to help us. Education, communication, and the sharing of information is what's going to win the day.