The idea that someone should not stay on benefits; that they should put something into the system in order to get something out of the system is unjust given the current state of affairs.
To make this point more clearly I will attempt to delineate a state of affairs in which it would be just – or fair – to not allow people to stay on benefits.
Imagine a world where there are a number of societies that run on a model similar to ours. They each have a system in place whereby people work when they can, pay a percentage of their income into a common fund so that when they are unable to work due to physical ailments or scarcity of work they will be looked after until they die or work becomes available.
In a sense you could call what these people in these societies are doing a game. The rules of which are you work for money when you can and get rewarded by being cared for when you can’t.
Now say an individual doesn’t want to play that game. In a world where he can go off and live how he wants, in a world where he CAN do that, it would be unfair of him to stay in one of those societies and live off their benefit scheme.
Just as it would be unfair for him to be a parasite upon these societies it would be equally – actually I would argue more so – unfair for those societies to force him to stay in them. This would be slavery and most people don’t want such a state of affairs. It is actually the state of affairs we are in. Most people do not realize it but in all but name we are slaves.
Our society is one from which there is no escape. We don’t chose to be born in the country we are born in and if we could easily move geographical location (which we can’t!) it wouldn’t make any difference because everywhere is playing the same game. The game players like a virus have covered the entire planet and there is no escape from them.
Given such a state of affairs as we now have it is only fair that the people that play the game give the people that don’t want to play the game an opt out. It would be best if the people that don’t want to play could go off and eke a living off the land however they see fit and live or die doing so. But the game players – that is our world society – doesn’t allow that.
To stop our society from being deeply and fundamentally a slave pen it’s only fair that we allow those who don’t want to play to not play. That is – or rather should be – the function of benefits.
Some may say “Oh but if we allow that then no-one will play. The system will break!” Good let it break!
I think there is a divine plan to reality. This is a direct consequence of my belief in determinism. You cannot believe in determinism and not believe in fate.
As to providence – that is the belief that the divine plan is for our (or my) good – I do not know about that. Sometimes I look at experience, at the way it batters us with suffering at the way life is an oscillation of good and bad, happy and sad, and I see that it seems to be designed in such a way as to produce enlightenment. That the fundamental structure of experience leads us to let go, to surrender.
That maybe it’s not that the divine plan is for us to get what we want, or even to be happy. But that the divine plan is for our surrender. On a deep level the divine plan is for our deaths.
In Buddhism enlightenment is the cessation of suffering. Nirvana is the blowing out of the candle. It is a kind of death. A death that involves forsaking our desires, forsaking our vain attempts to control reality.
I’ve studied and been a member of a number of faiths/religions. Christianity and Buddhism being the two main ones. Christianity has the same theme if you will. It is about dying to yourself, forsaking your desires and surrendering to God. It is the same thing as Buddhism except Buddhists call God nothing.
Even Islam has the same kernel. Islam’s fundamental concept is submission. If you are a Muslim you submit your will to Allah.
What ever you submit your will to it all bears the same fruit. Almost all of what we call bad in the world is caused by people striving to attain their will. Striving to get reality to conform to what they want. It seems to me that reality is constituted in such a way that if you strive to get what you want you will inevitably reach dissatisfaction. You will be constantly confronted with a dead end until you forsake your desire and walk the path which is no path which is acceptance which is surrender, release.
Our culture is built on a lie. It tries to make you believe that you have a duty to fulfill. That if you do certain things or fail to do certain things you should feel ashamed. That is implicitly it sets up a standard and then attempts to trick you into accepting that standard without your knowledge.
But who’s to say which standard – if any – is the right standard.
The thing is you’re born, right, and you didn’t choose to be born. There wasn’t a time prior to your birth where you were applying for citizenship to life. There wasn’t a form filled with boxes to tick with a signature box at the bottom. What I’m saying is that you didn’t agree to anything before you were born. You were rudely shoved into life and there you are a blinking baby covered in your mother’s juices and what do they do? They entrap you.
Duty is a consequence of contract. If you offer me something and say “If I give you this then you have to do something for me.” and you accept you have an obligation. There is a duty you should fulfill. This duty is a direct result of you entering into a contract with someone.
Now then this state of affairs doesn’t exist naturally. That is to say that you are not honor bound to anyone or anything. Say there is some “objective standard of morality”… So what? Why do you have to follow it?
What I’m really trying to get at is how free we are as human beings. We are born unshackled and we live our lives unshackled. We think – that is to say we have been tricked into thinking – that we are shackled. That there are restrictions to our self-expression but there aren’t.
Ultimately all they have on you is force. Some people are stronger than you are and because of this they can hurt you. Notice I didn’t say “control you”. They can issue an imperative but you can refuse to comply. They can threaten you with death and you can accept that and die. This is the fundamental dynamic.
But society is built around the hiding away of this fact. Society is sham, a glamor placed around force. It is built in such a way because ultimately it isn’t very cost effective to kill everyone who doesn’t comply. It’s better to trick them into complicity.
Mainstream Christianity is founded upon the idea of choice. Most Christians don’t really worship God; they worship the efficacy of their choice. They claim that it is God who is their Saviour but ultimately they believe that it is their choice that saves them.
This leads to hypocrisy because they believe that they have to choose to love in order to be saved. The problem is you cannot choose to love because love is a spontaneous reaction to someone.
They believe that you have to choose to believe in God. That you have to choose to believe that Jesus was the son of God, that he died on the cross and rose again in order to be saved. They believe that if you don’t believe this and choose to love God then you will go to hell.
Both of these things are things you cannot choose. You cannot choose to believe anything. Belief is a spontaneous non-volitional reaction to statements. If you believe belief is a choice then believe that I went to Mars (the planet) yesterday.
I contend that pretty much everyone who claims to be a Christian – that is someone who believes that Jesus was Christ, died and rose again – is not a Christian. They are playing a game of pretend. They are so good at this game that they have deceived themselves.
Christians have forced themselves into this inauthentic position by the idea of hell. They have created this whip with which they coerce themselves into attempting the impossible. As a result of this they become a cult that seeks to expand. Have you ever noticed how if you take the word Christian out of the phrase “Evangelical Christian” you lose none of its meaning?
It is an empty religion full of noise but lacking substance. You see them in the churches now vainly trying to mimic the current culture – distorting themselves and their ceremonies in order to appeal to the masses.
They don’t trust God for their salvation. They have faith in their ability to continue making the same decision until they die and go to heaven. Modern day Christianity is worship of the self and faith in its capacity to maintain a decision. Modern Christianity is Godless.
If you truly and fully understood someone you would find it easy to forgive anything they have done. In fact you don’t need to understand each individual for this effect; you just need to understand basic features of reality.
So recently I have been reading Nabokov’s “Lolita” and I must say I think it is an awesome piece of literature. First of all let me say something about what I think the function of literature is. Aside from pure entertainment really outstanding literature places us inside another person. Really, stupendously good literature places us in a relationship of empathy with “Monsters”. Really, really good literature – in my opinion – challenges our taboos, opinions and prejudices.
“Lolita” is one of the best examples of this. In our culture pedophiles are seen as monsters. Most people are incapable of discussing the issue with anything other than shock or extreme prejudice.
I’m not advocating pedophilia or saying that there should be a change of law concerning it. From a practical/real world perspective I believe children are vulnerable and because of that it is good that they are protected by the law. I think that pedophilia should not be expressed and if it is measures should be taken to ensure it stops. But I think it should be understood.
This is what Nabokov has done in “Lolita”. He implicitly asks the question: You didn’t choose to find mature men/women attractive, so what if you found children attractive?
There are chapters in this novel where the protagonist is asking himself just that “Why do I find children attractive? How did it come about that I find them attractive?” He seeks to give a causal narrative explanation to his sexual preference through talking about a love affair he had at the age of 6.
The interesting attempt he makes is where he just describes what he likes. I think this shows a commonalty between “normal” and “abnormal”, “retarded” and “not-retarded”. The difference is never anything objective. Everyone has a certain set of traits. You could define a person as “a set of traits”. Some traits are socially acceptable and some aren’t. Some traits allow you to function within this particular society some don’t. Some we call perverse some we call normal. The thing that people rarely acknowledge is that you do not choose the traits you have. Just as you don’t choose your family you don’t choose you.
The fact is that it is only with determinism being true that we have any hope. People mistakingly believe that if free-will is false then there isn’t a point to doing things. That is for those that wish to change like say an alcoholic who wishes to recover or an angry person who wishes to become calmer. They mistakenly believe that free-will means the ability to change – or at least that determinism and the ability to change are mutually exclusive.
If free will were true then it doesn’t matter what you do now because it doesn’t determine what you will do in the future. There is no point in denying yourself the object of your unwanted addiction now because whether or not you deny yourself now will have no bearing on whether or not you will be able to deny yourself in the future. But the fact is if you deny yourself a cigarette all day today, and all day tomorrow and continue for about 7 days you’ll find it incredibly easier to deny yourself cigarettes in the future. And if you don’t hang around where there is the temptation to smoke. How can this be true if determinism is not?
I have heard people argue against determinism saying things like “Oh but then you give them an excuse to continue. If determinism is true then alcoholics can justify their drinking by saying “oh it’s not my fault; it’s determined””. What they fail to understand is that the alcoholic – firstly – doesn’t have to justify what he is doing. If he wants to drink excessively and doesn’t want to stop then he isn’t going to stop. If you go and berate him about it then he may give justifications to get you off his back but the reason he’s doing what he’s doing is because he wants to.
See it’s the wanting that is important. It’s the wanting that we have no control over. But once a person wants to change then he can change. There are certain things he can do now that – because determinism is true – will effect his behavior in the direction he wants later. But that change of heart – that event when one desire becomes stronger than another desire and thus starts change – is a gift. It comes without being sought (if you seek it then you’ve already got it!).
These people who hammer on about free-will don’t really care about the individual in need. They care about being able to point the finger, to cast the blame, to make themselves feel better than others.
But if free-will were true then we’d live in a truly hopeless world because no matter what actions I take today to better myself they aren’t going to have any effect upon my future behavior. If they did then you can say “My actions today determine my actions in the future”.
Freedom is a consequence of determinism. Well freedom in any meaningful sense. There are certain levels to the meaning of freedom and some of these levels are impossible. Not only are they impossible but they are inconceivable – that is they are impossible to think of. But the types of freedom we all want, the types of freedom we all care about are absolutely compatible with determinism. In fact I would go so far as to say that for us to have the freedoms we really care about determinism must be true.
So what are these definitions for freedom that we all care about? One is being able to do what we want. Sure we can’t do every single thing that we want. For instance I want to be able to fly unassisted but the laws of nature will not allow it. That is to say that there are certain aspects to reality that impinge upon and restrict my will from the outside. I am restrained by gravity from floating. Everyone allows this. But I can try to fly unassisted if I want. That is to say that there is a desire that arises internally and expresses itself in my behavior.
I think a lot of people have the absurd idea that if determinism is true then we are forced to do things we do not want to do all the time. This is not so. Or rather nature – that is reality – is constantly coercing us to do things we do not want to do. We need to eat after all. But I think people believe that there would be some deeper level of coercion. That somehow our will would be caused to change against our will which is absurd.
Most people only have a hazy idea of what free-will is. This is partly down to the fact that free-will is an inconsistent concept but mainly down to the fact that down the ages it has been the main-stay of the Christian faith. (By which I mean the orthodox – or rather mainstream and prevalent – version of Christianity).
There are two problems Christianity has had since its inception in it’s commonly known form. The first is the question: How can evil exist if God is good? The second is: “How can a loving God send people to hell?” The crux of the mainstream response to these questions is free-will.
Evil exists because people have free-will and People go to hell because the use their free-will to reject God.
But what does free-will mean? For the Christians it has to have a very specific meaning. Free-will is a theory of choice. It is a theory of choice that states that human choice is undetermined. The our decisions arise solely from us. That we are the only entities responsible for our choices.
In fact in this theory our decisions are uncaused causes. They arise from nothing. The second you allow any cause in – like say the self – then the whole thing becomes determined and human responsibility vanishes. If the self causes the content of the decision then why is the self the way it is? From a prior decision perhaps but that way leads to a regress to a point where the self couldn’t make a decision – as a fetus or sperm and egg.
So if we allow the self to be the cause of the choice responsibility and free-will vanish. But what happens if we don’t? We are surely left with chaos. We are left with a randomness that makes the roll of a dice look like an accountants heaven. We are left with an uncaused cause. With choices that spontaneously pop up out of no-where and as quickly vanish. How can the self – disconnected from choice – be responsible in that case?
To a lot of people the idea of free-will seems to be the reason for action, the justification for action. I have been to Christian meetings where they have criticized a sect of their religion called Calvinism by saying something like “If our actions are determined then why should we do anything at all?!”. This is usually said in a humorous way and everyone laughs knowingly.
I’ve even heard this argument used by someone who I deem to be quite intelligent. I was in his car with him when he said in reply to what I was saying about determinism “If I don’t have free-will then why don’t I just take my hands of the wheel and let the car crash? What’s the point to doing anything if I don’t have free-will?”
To ask the question “Why don’t I do x if I don’t have free-will” is self-refuting. You are claiming free-will is a causal reason for you not doing ( or doing) x. But my intention here isn’t so much to refute the idea of free-will but to show how the reasoning most people use to bolster it is really reliant upon some despicable assumptions. They seem nice and laudable on the surface but when one gets into them they show themselves to be really quite inimical to living life joyfully and authentically.
What are the hidden assumptions behind the question “Why should I do anything if I don’t have free-will?” That one of the main reasons you do anything is because you are responsible for it. All well and good right? We want people to act in a responsible way so that they act… well responsibly as in they don’t cause harm or damage.
But let’s rephrase that: The main reason you do anything is because you want to be praised or blamed for it. That means that the main motivating factor in your actions and decisions isn’t the sheer fun of it but that by doing so you avoid the boos and gain the claps! It means that you don’t really help the old lady across the road because you feel that she needs help; that you empathize with her suffering and because of that you help her. Oh no you do it because by doing so people will think you are a good guy!
The assumption underlying the question is inimical to a life lived joyfully and authentically because it means that the main motivating factor for you is to squeeze into some shape. You are a slave to other’s opinions or rather your belief concerning what their opinions consist of.
I didn’t fit in at school. I know that seems a bit of a clichéd maybe even trite thing to say but in my case it was true. I just didn’t know how to behave.
You know that kid who always goes to far? Well that kid was me.
I was bullied and ostracized and I bullied. Now I’d like to say that this was the result of my suffering at the hands of other children and partly I think that to be true but it isn’t the entire truth. I think that we all have to face the dark side within each of us at some point, that bit we’d rather wasn’t there, that bit of us that squished ants as a child. I just faced my dark side at a young age.
I believe that the dark side in us – the bit that we are ashamed of – is generated through social interactions. We seek the respect of our peers and at some level this makes us feel ashamed and this shame/guilt causes us to act in horrible ways. At least that was how it manifested in me.
I was a prostitute for popularity at school. I’m not saying I ever did anything sexual for popularity but if the thought or opportunity arose that I could exchange sex for popularity then I would have undoubtedly grasped it with both hands. Alas I was a boy and unpopular… even scavy and luckily for me homosexuality was not socially acceptable.
But because I wanted to be popular I would do almost any dare. Funnily enough I never learnt that doing dares didn’t gain me popularity no matter how many times I fulfilled a dare only to be laughed at and mocked for doing so. The level of my blindness then baffles me now.
There would even be times when I would be misbehaving in class – acting from the intention to gain popularity – and all the other children would be telling me to stop but I wouldn’t stop because I thought I would then look silly and people wouldn’t like me. Tough I thought that inchoately it was the thought.
The experience of school taught me a lot though. I remember going to school in the morning with the intention of being good, of not bullying people on a “lower popularity setting than me”, and not caring about what other people thought. But despite this intention I would always go home feeling ashamed of myself because I hadn’t lived up to that ideal. This taught me how little control we truly have and how love isn’t just a nice thing to do it is the most appropriate response to ANY person.