Four Arguments for the elimination of Television

by Jerry Mander

is one of those books I would hardly recommend for anyone. I must admit I didn’t read it to the end but read two thirds of it which means I have earned some right to say something about it.

The argument that TV makes it possible to have the masses have almost the same thoughts or be exposed to the same story or image can be said of newspapers or any media that has a wide circulation. An argument can also be made that Jerry makes his people robots, that they can’t chose when to hit the off switch on their TVs or whatevers.

Jerry’s argument against TV is not limited to TV programming but includes the TV as a medium. And it does seem to me that he would not make allowance for using TV to watch youtube or any docuseries. TV is bad and that is the end of story. If he was writing the book today, would he make the same argument against smartphones and many social media apps that have the potential to be addictive. They may not be harmful.

Since I had not made an appearance on the world stage in 1978, I don’t know how ads were done then but as we speak, there is very important function that ads play in our lives. Without ads, I wouldn’t know whether HP has produced a better comp with much better graphics card and that I should replace my workhorse or maybe where I can bury myself in unhealthy meat burger with honey, cheese, onions and I don’t know what else they put in it. While on ads, an argument can be made that some ads cause harm. Should they be allowed to play on TV? I would say no. But that’s me.

TV is useful for education. And I think it can serve democratic ends though this can be difficult when the TVs and newspapers are owned by oligarchs who may not be interested in democracy or as we have seen with the American media engineering consent for war among the citizens.

Jerry talks of bias embedded in the TV medium but i think bias cannot be avoided in any medium. It can be reduced through objective reporting or allowing for the airing of dissent. And there is bias even in newspapers, books and internet articles.

The only thing going for the book is that it is easy to read though I don’t think it needed to have so many pages. His message could have still been argued in fewer pages.


Skin in the game

By N. Taleb.

If you want to be provoked, maybe even annoyed by something you have read, then this is a book to read.

Having said that, if an author has said they have written a standalone book, it makes no sense when one feels every few pages is a sales pitch for previous books of the same author. We are not trying to read all your books, just this one, so go slow on the sales pitch.

Taleb hates Hillary Clinton, Steven Pinker, Dawkins and many others. I wish he could treat this is a separate subject or give an explanation. I think Pinker is misleading us on his claims of us living in the most peaceful times. I am not interested in doing the hard work presently, though.

He is right that those who make policies should have some skin in the game. Think for example, the idiots who make pronouncements about our non existent public transport have a driver paid for by a tax payer. They never get inconvenienced by their stupid regulations. Had they been forced to use public transport, we would have better service. To this extent, and in many others, Taleb has a point. The adage that if someone’s pay is dependent on them solving a problem, they are unlikely to solve it, applies here.

As for his use of aphorisms, I don’t think he succeeded. This work sometimes appear disjointed, random and doesn’t flow so coherently.

He makes a good case for skepticism about GMO and further that sometimes there are simpler solutions to the problem that GMO proponents are trying to solve. Looking at the people dying of hunger in Baringo (where Moi who was president for 24 years hails) is evidence that the problem is infrastructure and political will. To solve the problem, one would need to improve access and plan for adverse weather. But when you have idiots and thieves in charge, you have people die from starvation. Well, they voted for the idiots, anyway. It’s a problem they have a hand in, too.

Have a good weekend everyone. Read a book, if you can. If you can’t, drink a beer, take a walk, make love! Do something, don’t just sit.

Berkeley’s arguments against the materialists

As found in his book, the three Dialogues between Hylas and Philonous against the skeptics and atheists

In this book, the question addressed by Berkeley is about reality, that is, about what is. He starts by telling us a skeptic is one who doubts of everything.

In the first dialogue, the two want to settle the question of whether a thing can be said to exist without being perceived. Here is a dialogue between the two

Hylas: To exist in one thing and to be perceived another

Phil: I speak with regard to sensible things only. And of these I ask, whether by their real existence you mean a subsistence exterior to the mind and distinct from their being perceived?

Hylas:  I mean real absolute being, distinct from, and without any relation, to their being perceived.

Phil: Heat therefore, if it be allowed a real being, must exist without the mind?

Hyl: It must

The dialogue continues to cover taste, odours, sound and colours, matter, extension, solidity and so on.

At the conclusion of the first dialogue, Hylas admits that he no idea can exist without the mind to which Phil tells him that by his arguments he denies the reality of sensible things since he made it consist in an absolute existence exterior to the mind.

Following Hylas’ above concession, Phil in the second dialogue suggests to him that

[..]to me it is evident for the reasons you allow of, that sensible things cannot exist otherwise than in a mind or spirit. Whence, I conclude, not that they have no real existence, but that, seeing they depend not on my thought, and have all existence  distinct from being perceived by me, there must be some other mind wherein they exist. As sure, therefore, as the sensible world really exists, so sure there is an infinite omnipresent spirit who contains and supports it.

I don’t agree here with Berkeley, the world is my idea and the argument for the existence of an omnipresent spirit that contains and supports the world is unwarranted.

After the above comment by Phil, Hylas says

What! This is no more than I and all Christians hold, nay, and all others too who believe there is a god and that he knows and comprehends all things.

Phil disagrees with him, he argues

Men commonly believe that all things are known or perceived by god, because they believe the being of a god; whereas I, on the other side, immediately and necessarily conclude the being of a god, because all sensible things must be perceived by him.

In saying this, Phil declares a triumph against atheism and goes ahead and says

But that–setting aside all help of astronomy and natural philosophy, all contemplation of the contrivance, order, and adjustment of things–an infinite Mind should be necessarily inferred from the bare EXISTENCE OF THE SENSIBLE WORLD, is an advantage to them only who have made this easy reflexion: that the sensible world is that which we perceive by our several senses; and that nothing is perceived by the senses beside ideas; and that no idea or archetype of an idea can exist otherwise than in a mind. You may now, without any laborious search into the sciences, without any subtlety of reason, or tedious length of discourse, oppose and baffle the most strenuous advocate for Atheism. Those miserable refuges, whether in an eternal succession of unthinking causes and effects, or in a fortuitous concourse of atoms; those wild imaginations of Vanini, Hobbes, and Spinoza: in a word, the whole system of Atheism, is it not entirely overthrown, by this single reflexion on the repugnancy included in supposing the whole, or any part, even the most rude and shapeless, of the visible world, to exist without a mind? Let any one of those abettors of impiety but look into his own thoughts, and there try if he can conceive how so much as a rock, a desert, a chaos, or confused jumble of atoms; how anything at all, either sensible or imaginable, can exist independent of a Mind, and he need go no farther to be convinced of his folly. Can anything be fairer than to put a dispute on such an issue, and leave it to a man himself to see if he can conceive, even in thought, what he holds to be true in fact, and from a notional to allow it a real existence?

Their dialogue continues to tackle MATTER. Here Hylas is forced to concede yet again that what is commonly known as matter doesn’t exist. Phil says in part

HYL. Hold, let me think a little–I profess, Philonous, I do not find that I can. At first glance, methought I had some dilute and airy notion of Pure Entity in abstract; but, upon closer attention, it hath quite vanished out of sight. The more I think on it, the more am I confirmed in my prudent resolution of giving none but negative answers, and not pretending to the least degree of any positive knowledge or conception of Matter, its WHERE, its HOW, its ENTITY, or anything belonging to it.

PHIL. When, therefore, you speak of the existence of Matter, you have not any notion in your mind?

HYL. None at all.

PHIL. Pray tell me if the case stands not thus–At first, from a belief of material substance, you would have it that the immediate objects existed without the mind; then that they are archetypes; then causes; next instruments; then occasions: lastly SOMETHING IN GENERAL, which being interpreted proves NOTHING. So Matter comes to nothing. What think you, Hylas, is not this a fair summary of your whole proceeding?

HYL. Be that as it will, yet I still insist upon it, that our not being able to conceive a thing is no argument against its existence.

As this second dialogue ends, Hylas says in submission

I acknowledge you have proved that Matter is impossible; nor do I see what more can be said in defence of it. But, at the same time that I give up this, I suspect all my other notions. For surely none could be more seemingly evident than this once was: and yet it now seems as false and absurd as ever it did true before. But I think we have discussed the point sufficiently for the present. The remaining part of the day I would willingly spend in running over in my thoughts the several heads of this morning’s conversation, and tomorrow shall be glad to meet you here again about the same time.

The third dialogue is continuation on matter and god and at the end we hear

PHIL. I do not pretend to be a setter-up of new notions. My endeavours tend only to unite, and place in a clearer light, that truth which was before shared between the vulgar and the philosophers:–the former being of opinion, that THOSE THINGS THEY IMMEDIATELY PERCEIVE ARE THE REAL THINGS; and the latter, that THE THINGS IMMEDIATELY PERCEIVED ARE IDEAS, WHICH EXIST ONLY IN THE MIND. Which two notions put together, do, in effect, constitute the substance of what I advance.

HYL. I have been a long time distrusting my senses: methought I saw things by a dim light and through false glasses. Now the glasses are removed and a new light breaks in upon my under standing. I am clearly convinced that I see things in their native forms, and am no longer in pain about their UNKNOWN NATURES OR ABSOLUTE EXISTENCE. This is the state I find myself in at present; though, indeed, the course that brought me to it I do not yet thoroughly comprehend. You set out upon the same principles that Academics, Cartesians, and the like sects usually do; and for a long time it looked as if you were advancing their philosophical Scepticism: but, in the end, your conclusions are directly opposite to theirs.

PHIL. You see, Hylas, the water of yonder fountain, how it is forced upwards, in a round column, to a certain height; at which it breaks, and falls back into the basin from whence it rose: its ascent, as well as descent, proceeding from the same uniform law or principle of GRAVITATION. just so, the same Principles which, at first view, lead to Scepticism, pursued to a certain point, bring men back to Common Sense.

The three dialogues are arguments against materialism and are an attempt to establish the existence of god as was shown above where Phil argues there must be a universal mind that perceives all things. I don’t see why this is necessary. There is no justification as I said before for coming to the conclusion of there being a mind that conceives everything in the universe.

I recommend that if you have time this year, you should make it one of your to read books, regardless of your beliefs or non beliefs.

Atheism among the people pt 2

by Alphonse De Lamartine

I want to continue to show that the author of this book is misguided on his understanding of atheism and atheists.

Instead of this, Atheists and demagogues united to persecute religion, to revenge themselves for the old persecutions of the priesthood. They profaned the temples, violated conscience, blasphemed the God of the faithful, parodied the ceremonies, cast to the winds the pious symbols of worship, and persecuted the ministers of religion.

I have not read the writings of Diderot, Rousseau, Voltaire who are among those very active at the height of the French Revolution among others but I have read Thomas Paine who writes about the French Revolution in the Age of Reason and Rights of Man and I can say without a shred of doubt that they asked the populace to profane the temples. Someone will have to show me that this was the work of atheists and not the peasants who were tired of the despondency of the priestly class.

When the ignorant People no longer saw God between them and annihilation, they plunged into the boundless and bottomless abyss of Atheism, they lost their divine sense, they became brutal as the animal, who sees in the earth only a pasture ground, instead of the footstool of Jehovah.

Can this responsibility be put at the court of atheism. In the Rights of Man, Thomas Paine, asks the people to spare the life of the king but kill the position. He pleads that the man’s life be spared. It is not atheism at fault, but the system hitherto that bred so much hate in the people who ought to take responsibility. We can’t shift blame.

…… under the names of Fourierism, of Pantheism, of Communism, of Industrialism, of Economism, and, finally, of Terrorism.[….],–there is a single one of these philosophical, social, or political sects, which is not founded on the most evident practical Atheism; which has not matter for a God; material enjoyments for morality; exclusive satisfaction of the senses for an end; purely sensual gratifications for a paradise; this world for the sole scene of existence; the body for the only condition of being; the prolonging of life a few more years for its only hope; a sharpening of the senses to material appetites for a perspective; death for the end of all things; after death, an assimilation with the dust of the earth for a future; annihilation for justice, for reward, and for immortality!

I don’t know if there is evidence for another world apart from this one here, if there is evidence for anything separate from matter and where death isn’t the end of life. I may entertain the thought that I would see my adorable late mother again, but I just don’t think this is true. I don’t know why someone should have a problem when people are told there is no evidence they will exist beyond the grave since there is no evidence they existed before they were born.

What People is there who would become fanatics, only for their own destruction; renounce their moral nature, their divine souls, their immortal destinies, only for a morsel of more savory bread upon their table, for a larger portion of earth under their feet? No! no! enthusiasm soars aloft, it does not fall to earth. Bear me up to Heaven, if you wish to dazzle my eyes; promise me immortality, if you would offer to my soul a motive worthy of its nature, an aim worthy of its efforts, a price worthy of its virtue! But what do your systems of atheistic society show us in perspective? What do they promise us in compensation for our griefs? What do they give us in exchange for our souls? You know,–we will not speak of it.

We show you there is no need to be deluded. We promise no false hope. We ask that we live our life here to the fullest, and go on to say should there be heaven we will learn to live there as we did here. We never were prepared for life here, we were born ignorant of everything around us. The only thing I think we could do from the moment we were born was to cry to show our distress. Everything else we learn through very painful moments and sometimes through fun moments. This is all we offer and it, I think, is more realistic and honest.

Atheism and Republicanism are two words which exclude each other. Absolutism may thrive without a God, for it needs only slaves. Republicanism cannot exist without a God, for it must have citizens. And what is it that makes citizens? Two things,–the sentiment of their rights, and the sentiment of their duties as a republican People. Where are your rights, if you have not a common Father in Heaven? Where are your duties, if you have not a Judge between your brothers and you? Republicanism draws you in both these ways to God.

Here duties refers to duty to god. Is it true that sans god we have no rights? Aren’t we then slaves to this heavenly being or is there something I don’t understand?

Thus, look at every free People, from the mountains of Helvetia to the forests of America; see even the free British nation, where the Aristocracy is only the head of liberty, where the Aristocracy and Democracy mutually respect each other, and balance each other by an exchange of kindnesses and services which sanctify society while fortifying it. Atheism has fled before liberty: in proportion as despotism has receded, the divine idea has advanced in the souls of men. Liberty lives by morality. What is morality without a God? What is a law without a lawgiver?

Had he read the Rights of Man he would not have used the monarchy in Britain as an example of just government. He lived too early, he would have had to show us who gives god law or why god should be exempt from being given law. He presents the same argument advanced by WLC that there can be no objective morality without god. Is there objective morality to begin with?

While the great men of other nations live and die upon the scene of history, looking towards heaven, our great men seem to live and die in entire forgetfulness of the only idea for which life or death is worth any thing; they live and die looking at the spectators, or, at most, towards posterity.

The great men of France to me died a noble death.

Now let us compare the deaths he lists

Sidney, the young martyr of a patriotism, guilty, because too hasty, died to expiate the dream of the freedom of his country. He said to the jailer, “May my blood purify my soul! I rejoice that I die innocent toward the king, but a victim resigned to the King of Heaven, to whom we owe all life.”

with this

See Mirabeau on his death-bed. “Crown me with flowers,” said he, “intoxicate me with perfumes, let me die with the sound of delicious music.” Not one word of God, or of his soul! A sensual philosopher, he asks of death only a supreme sensualism; he desires to give a last pleasure even to agony.

and this

Listen to Danton, upon the platform of the scaffold, one step from God and immortality:–“I have enjoyed much; let me go to sleep,” he says;–then, to the executioner, “You will show my head to the People; it is worth while!” Annihilation for a confession of faith; vanity for his last sigh: such is the Frenchman of these latter days!

then tell me which you think is the most beautiful way to die given the circumstances?

If you wish that this revolution should not have the same end, beware of abject Materialism, degrading sensualism, gross Socialism, of besotted Communism; of all these doctrines of flesh and blood, of meat and drink, of hunger and thirst, of wages and traffic, which these corruptors of the soul of the People preach to you, exclusively, as the sole thought, the sole hope, as the only duty, and only end of man! They will soon make you slaves of ease, serfs of your desires.

I need education on the relationship between communism and atheism.

Are you willing to have inscribed on the tomb of our French race, as on that of the Sybarites, this epitaph: “This People ate and drank well, while they browsed upon the earth?”

Give me this epitaph any day and I will rejoice in my grave.

No! You desire that History should write thus: “This People worshipped well, served God and humanity well,–in thought, in philosophy, in religion, in literature, in arts, in arms, in labor, in liberty, in their Aristocracies, in their Democracies, in their Monarchies, and their Republics! This nation was the spiritual laborer, the conqueror of truth; the disciple of the highest God, in all the ways of civilization,–and, to approach nearer to him, it invented the Republic, that government of duties and of rights, that rule of spiritualism, which finds in ideas its only sovereignty.”

I don’t want! We can either serve god or humanity and not both. Look at the good book of what it says concerning having two masters!

Seek God, then. This is your nature and your grandeur. And do not seek Him in these Materialisms! For God is not below,–he is on high!

What stops god from making this any easy by just showing up. Is it too hard for him/it/she to just appear to put the matter of his existence or non-existence to rest?

Atheism among the people

by Alphonse De Lamartine

I have finished reading this short book and I disagree with it in its entirety. I will show why I disagree and since it is a big topic we will have it in sections to ensure the length of each post is not too long.

And whenever I have thus questioned myself, I have thus answered myself:–“I love the people because I believe in God. For, if I did not believe in God, what would the people be to me? I should enjoy at ease that lucky throw of the dice, which chance had turned up for me, the day of my birth; and, with a secret, savage joy, I should say, ‘So much the worse for the losers!–the world is a lottery. Woe to the conquered!'” I cannot, indeed, say this without shame and cruelty,–for, I repeat it, I believe in God.

Do we need to believe that there is a sky-daddy watching over us to care for others? Is love, for whatever it’s worth, only conceivable when we include of an imaginary daddy? Are we not capable of just loving one another knowing we are all human, children of accident and soon or later, for those who are lucky, we will be gone?

This elementary, gross, instinctive, involuntary belief in God, is not the living, intelligent, active, and legislative faith of humanity. It is almost animal. I am persuaded that if the brutes even,–if the dog, the horse, the ox, the elephant, the bird, could speak, they would confess, that, at the bottom of their nature, their instincts, their sensations, their obtuse intelligence, assisted by organs less perfect than ours, there is a clouded, secret sentiment of this existence of a superior and primordial Being, from whom all emanates, and to whom all returns,–a shadow of the divinity upon their being, a distant approach to the conception of that idea, which fills the worlds, and for which alone the worlds have been made,–the idea of God!

Here I agree with those philosophers like Nietzsche and novelists like M. Twain that animals look at man and wonder how far he removed himself from his nature how he suffers to the extent that he created a god to worship!

Faith, or reasonable and effective belief in God, proceeds, undoubtedly, from this first instinct; but in proportion as intelligence develops itself, and human thought expands, it goes from knowledge to knowledge, from conclusion to conclusion, from light to light, from sentiment to sentiment, infinitely farther and higher, in the idea of God

Isn’t this a contradiction. To talk about faith and reasonable in the same sentence. I think as human thought expands so does the desire to believe decrease. The idea of god becomes more vague as our knowledge increase and as we learn about the evolution of gods.

No! God is not a mere notion, an idea, an evidence;–God is a law,–the living law, the supreme law, the universal law, the eternal law. Because God is a law on high, he is a duty on the earth; and when man says, ‘I believe in God,’ he says, at the same time, ‘I believe in my duty towards God,–I believe in my duty towards man.’ God is a government!”

This is indeed new! To consider the idea of god as a law and a government. I will wait for the god believers to explain what this law is, there never seem to agree on many of its aspects.

The love of the People, the conscience of the citizen,[ ……..], from any thing but that single sentence, pronounced with religious faith, at the commencement, in the middle, at the end of all our patriotic acts:–“I believe in God!”

I refuse to accept that we can only love brother if we love god. In fact I contend we don’t love our brother enough when we love god, when we see love as a duty to god and not to our fellow-man whom we can injure.

Therefore, Atheism in the People is the most invincible obstacle to the establishment and consolidation of that sublime form of government, the idol of all ages, the tendency of all perfect civilization, the dream of every sage, the model of all great souls,–the government of the entire People by the reason and conscience of each citizen,–otherwise called the REPUBLIC.

To claim that atheists can’t love, can’t fight for social justice, can’t defend human rights is an insult to all atheists. Everywhere atheists are saying we deserve to treat each with kindness. Atheists are the number one humanists world over. We say and write that you are free to worship, to believe as you do as long you don’t make it public policy. It is in the mostly religious states where basic freedoms are denied, where LGBT rights are not guaranteed and so many other ills that can only be tied to religion.

Must I demonstrate to you so simple a truth? Can you not comprehend, without explanation of mine, that a nation[…..]–do you not understand, I say, that such a People, having no God but its selfishness, no judge but interest, no conscience but cupidity, will fall, in a short time, into complete destruction, and, being incapable of a Republican government, because it casts aside the government of God himself, will rush headlong into the government of the brute: the government of the strongest, the despotism of the sword, the divinity of the cannon,–that last resort of anarchy, which is at once the remedy and the death of nations without God!

If this were the case, then Scandinavian Europe where the god idea is receding much farther from the public life would have collapsed. It is however interesting to note that it is in the very religious countries where there is a wide gap between the rich and the poor. In the church the pastor lives well while the parishioners support his bad habits.

Alas! it is not that God has denied this sense to these men of figures, of science, and calculation; but they have blinded themselves, they have cultivated the other senses so much, that they have weakened this. They have believed too much in matter, and so they have lost the eye of the spirit. These men, we are told, have made great progress in experimental science, but they have made good, evil, to the People, by saying to them, “We, who are so high, we cannot see God!–blind men! what do you see, then?”

Here he argues against atheistic scientists. He does not show that something besides matter exists. Just goes on to repeat the same line I hear everyday, that we lovers of science are blind. I contend if his god is so powerful, who is at fault here? The scientist who hasn’t been able to find a reason to keep holding the god idea or the powerful god who has failed to convince the scientist? Be the judge.

Thus these men count for nothing the forms of worship and the forms of government. They are neither followers of Brahma, of Confucius, of Mahomet, of Plato, or of Rousseau; neither absolute monarchists, constitutional royalists, nor republicans. They are of the politics, and of the religion, in which they can manufacture most, buy and sell easiest, trade the best, multiply fastest! Their civilization is traffic; their God is the dollar! This sect, useful in administering intelligently the affairs of commerce, has been a shadow over intellectual civilization; for it has forgotten heavenly things, and, in forgetting them, has contributed to make the People also forget them.

Please show me a pastor who is not concerned with growing his flock to increase the dollar and I will show you a fool. I can’t speak for everyone, what am certain of is my god if I were to have any is not the dollar.


Thus spake Zarathustra

Well I just finished reading this book by Nietzsche. I have read two of his books so far and this to me was a bit of a difficult read but I was able to see his thoughts on morality, his relationships with colleagues, philosophers, women, freedom and other issues and most of all how I he saw himself in relation to all this.

The most enduring thing I will always remember is when he says to be superman, you must surpass man. He is asking we be eagles.

It’s a great read.