I’m a Confused Hypocrite

“Identity is the Ur-form of ideology.”
~ Theodor Adorno

I was considering my confused identity.

I typically identify as a liberal, but I always mean that in the broadest sense. First and foremost, I’m psychologically liberal. This means I’m generous in attitude, if not always perfectly so in practice. More specifically, I am or seek to be: open-minded, curious, not ideologically dogmatic, lacking in group loyalty (especially in terms of groupthink, although I’m strong in personal loyalty to those I care about), tolerant of differences, tolerant of cognitive dissonance (tolerant of the differences within myself and hence tolerant of my own confused identity), etc.

I’m accepting of ambiguity even as I’m desirous of clarity. I’m critical of hypocrisy and try to avoid it, but I know that I fail. I’m inconsistent and it seems to me all humans are inconsistent. Inconsistency isn’t problematic as such. Rather, it is the unawareness of one’s inconsistency. I try to lessen my sin of hypocrisy with a dose of humility.

One of my favorite sayings is that, “It’s complex”. That is my way of saying that, although I have many opinions based on what I hope is good info and careful thought, in the end I just don’t feel all that certain about lots of things. I could be wrong, to put it lightly. No doubt, there is more that I don’t know than I do know.

On a more personal level, I’m both an idealist and a philosophical pessimist. I’m a radical skeptic (zetetic), which translates to my being skeptical of even skepticism. I’m an equal opportunity agnostic. I question and doubt everything, and that can be a quite demoralizing attitude at times when coupled with my streak of depression. I’m agnostic about belief and unbelief. I sometimes identify as an agnostic gnostic, just for shits and giggles.

All in all, my liberalism is one of the most central aspects to my identity. It is at the heart of my confusion. In ideological terms, I have many tendencies and concerns. I’m equal parts: progressive, communitarian, civil libertarian, social democrat, “rat park” municipal socialist, and on and on.

I’m socially globalist/internationalist (a humanitarian or maybe better yet a Gaian), but I simultaneously lean toward minarchism in my politics and anarchism in my economics (e.g., anarcho-syndicalism). Yet I’m not against big government or big anything on principle. It’s more of a practical emphasis, of wanting to bring the world back down to the human level, to the level of lived experience and living reality (non-human included), of personal relationships and communities, of a sense of place and a sense of home.

On the other hand, I can’t say I’m against such things bureaucracy or technocracy, per se. Nor am I necessarily opposed to capitalism and big biz. I really don’t care about such things in and of themselves. What I do care about is democracy and hence freedom, which to me are always most fundamentally personal and interpersonal, not mere abstractions or theories.

If any particular ideological system can be made to align and support democracy and freedom, then more power to it. I don’t feel I’m in a position to predict what new forms and directions society might take, but I wouldn’t mind a bureaucracy and technocracy of the variety portrayed in Star Trek: The Next Generation. As for capitalism and big biz, I just want a genuine free market which means a democratized and socially responsible economics, whatever that may be (obviously, present capitalism and big biz fails that standard to an extreme degree).

My biggest concern is about externalized costs, the free rider problem, and the precautionary principle (all of which I consider to be most fundamentally conservative-minded and so, at least superficially, opposed to my more typical liberal predisposition). More than anything, I’d like to live in a society that (1) is wise and (2) is not self-destructive. Our present society is highly dysfunctional and I feel that I have internalized much of that dysfunction. I’m a confused person because that seems like the inevitable fate right now of any person who is self-aware and of a concerned attitude.

I want to live in a world that is worth caring about. I want to live in a society that considers me worth caring about.

Because I’m a liberal, I’d like to believe such a world and society is possible. The disconnect from what I’d like to believe and what is present reality is more than a bit disconcerting. It’s downright irritating and frustrating. It would be easier to be righteous than confused, but I’m never able to maintain an attitude of righteousness for very long. Righteousness is more tiresome than even depression.

My inner child just wants the bad people to stop doing bad things. But my cynical adult self points out that I’m part of this problematic society. How can I be anything other than confused and hypocritical? How can I not fail my own idealistic standards and aspirations? Still, apathetically accepting the status quo of soul-crushing misery and injustice would be a far worse fate.

An Amusing Example of Hypocrisy

I comment on a lot of videos, but I feel particularly compelled to comment when someone states something that is misinformed, is illogical, is a bad example, et cetera. That was the case yesterday when I responded to a video by MrHerrIQ (Why Leftists do not debate rightwingers even when they attempt to?).

He seems like he might have the capacity for making a good argument, but he wasn’t making one in this video (to be fair, he does admit that he is ranting). I pointed out some problems with his argument. For example, he said that leftists just repeat themselves (which he bases on his claim of having debated a thousand leftists and having won all of these debates in recent years). I pointed out my own experience that, yes, I do often repeat myself in arguments with rightwingers (I’m not talking about the average conservative) because it often seems they don’t understand or acknowledge anything only stated once. I also pointed out that the data shows that liberals (the same as his ‘leftist’?) are the most educated demographic and that most scientists identify as liberals… by which I was implying that there might be an intellectual inequality between liberals and rightwingers which might explain communication difficulties.

By the way, if I sound condescending, please realize I’m responding to a video that was condescending to all leftists. Take note that I usually don’t generalize about all conservatives. Instead, I try to speak about specific demographics such as ‘rightwingers’ (to be more specific, US ‘rightwingers’)… which I often define in the context of the psychological research about Right-Wing Authoritarians (RWAs) or, in other contexts, as the far right which in the US population usually means the social conservatives and fundamentalists (anyway, the research shows a correlation in the US population between RWAs and social conservatives), although the label ‘rightwingers’ can sometimes be used to more loosely apply to the radical right such as anarcho-capitalists, objectivists, and militant libertarians (these latter groups often don’t identify as conservatives). However, it would appear MrHerrIQ is using the ‘rightwinger’ more generally to refer to all right-leaning people (in all countries?) which isn’t how it’s typically used in the US. Also, his use of ‘leftist’ leaves me uncertain since to me that implies someone on the far left. So, I don’t know if he means all people who lean left or if he means the far left (Communists? Marxists? Anarchists?). My sense is he means the former because he is speaking very generally, but some of his comments could be interpreted as specifically referring to just social liberals (which isn’t how I would define ‘leftist’). I think in one of his videos he mentioned English isn’t his first language and so maybe he doesn’t understand the US context for these words… which might explain some of his frustration considering the YouTube viewership is a largely American audience.

Another commenter pointed out an even more obvious flaw to the argument: It was just a straw man from start to finish, although it’s hard to know if he was making a straw man argument as I’m not sure exactly that he was presenting a false argument or just a false portrayal (he seemed to conflate his idea of a liberal with his perception of the behavior and arguments of liberals; and, so, his dismissive portrayal of how liberals supposedly argue was seemingly being presented as a disproving of the argument of liberalism in general)… to put it simply, I was confused by what he was even trying to communicate. He presented his argument using only his personal experience which he didn’t even go into detail about… and then using these vague references he made a generalized portrayal of all leftists (Are these self-identified ‘leftists’ or his he assuming to know who is and isn’t a ‘leftist’?). To put it in simpler terms, his argument was that leftists suck at argument because he doesn’t like leftists and they’re stupid losers.

If the straw man fallacy doesn’t apply, there are potentially many other fallacies that could be applied to various aspects of the presentation of his argument (as well to my interaction with him in comments and private messages): appeal to ridicule, fallacy of distribution, psychologist’s fallacy, reification fallacy, accident fallacy, cherry picking, fallacy of composition, hasty generalization, association fallacy, sampling bias, ad hominem, appeal to emotion, weasel words, poisoning the well, et cetera. I don’t know. It would be difficult trying to analyze in detail (sentence by sentence) the precise logic or lack thereof within his argument… and I don’t feel that motivated.

He is free to have his opinion, but I was hoping he would expand on his argument using more objective evidence (and, of course, a more clear presentation). In particular, a simple definition of terms would’ve been helpful along with maybe some demographic data to clarify exactly the group of people he is talking about (I’m assuming the demographic labeled as ‘leftist’ would be different depending on the cultural context of different regions of the world… and I don’t know the country this guy lives in or what his personal experience has been with so-called ‘leftists’).

I was wanting to give him the benefit of the doubt. I realized he might only be referring to leftists from his own country, although he seemed to be generalizing about some hypothetical ‘leftist’ that exists beyond any specific context (which I might accept if he was speaking about liberals in more psychological terms in reference to scientific research). I’m fairly sure that what he thinks of as ‘leftist’ isn’t how most US liberals think of themselves. So, I was prepared to have a debate about possible cultural differences of how we perceive labels and how we interact with those who are different.

Alas, that wasn’t to happen. I noticed today he had left a response to me:

@MarmaladeINFP
“I don’t exactly follow the argument being made,”
1)This is my experience with leftists in debates, 2) What is yours? 3) Why do you think this is?
“I know that the research shows that liberals are on average higher IQ and higher educated.”
Since the 1960’s cultural-revolution, education has gotten liberal so this could be a chicken and the egg scenario with a-political high IQ individual being influenced by leftists. However if high IQ select against itself, it lacking in value.

So, I clicked on the link to the comments page. He had removed all of my comments along with all of the comments of those who disagreed with him. I just had to laugh. I hadn’t seen such blatant hypocrisy in a long while. He was making an argument about why leftists don’t debate rightwingers. And, when leftists try to debate him, he removes their comments. I wonder if he has enough self-awareness to even realize the hypocrisy of this.

After laughing, it did make me feel a bit sad. He obviously is frustrated about not being able to communicate to those who are different than him. But, because of this frustration, he has given up trying to communicate those who are different than him. So, he has resigned to find comfort in his preferred reality tunnel and block out all the voices that disturb him.

If he just seemed mean-spirited or uneducated, I could dismiss him. But he seems intelligent. I always find it sad when I meet someone (even a stranger) with potential for intelligence who is afraid of intelligent debate. I’m not sure why it makes me sad, but it does. Maybe it’s just a matter of seeing yet another example of wasted human potential. We humans have so much potential and yet look at the world we collectively create with all of its conflict and suffering.

I’m included in this. I too waste potential. I wish I was a better person. I wish I knew how to debate rightwingers, how to communicate to communicate well to people in general. But I fail at this as most people fail.

– – –

I would share my comments to him on his video, but he deleted them. In order to add some more context, here is a message he sent me:

Put yourself in my situation.
I’ve debated a thousend leftists and the last 300 has not impressed me enough for me to find that it’s a netgain for me. If you want to debate me, you have to somehow ensure to me, you’re legitt.
You wont lose your face, your facade wont break.
You will be honest and admitt your shortcommings.
You will not repeat youself and reconstruct your argument.
You will abide by the rules of logic.
No red herrings.
You will not be passive aggressive, sarcism could be argued to be appealing to ridicule and it’s just mere autosuggestion at most.
Make your own points, I shouldn’t have to dragg them out of you or ask of you what assumptions you are basing your argument on.

If you can do this, I will have a yellow card, red card system. I tolerate 1, possibly 2 fuck ups. Nothing more. I used to but not anymore.

What is it that you would like to argue about?
Leave a PM on youtube and I will get into contact with you when Im available.

Perhaps you’re the one, who knows.
From where Im standing I doubt it, but if the shoe was on the other foot, you wouldn’t blame me.

My response:

You’ve debated many people. So what? I’ve debated many people. Many people all over the web have debated many other people. It happens all the time. You aren’t special.

I have to ensure you? (By the way, you probably mean ‘assure’. I think I heard you say that English isn’t your first language.) Why don’t you assure me? You are the one who deleted my comments. I didn’t delete your comments. As an outside observer, your actions look like hypocrisy. But you claim you aren’t a hypocrite. Why should I trust your words when your actions imply otherwise? How do you accidentally delete that many comments (something like 10 or 20 of them)? It doesn’t seem possible. So, unless you can explain that to me I don’t feel assured.

Yet, your tone here is that of condescension. You will condescend to allow me to debate you if I follow your rules. So, should I condescend to overlook your apparent act of hypocrisy?

Anyway, your rules seem to only serve the purpose of your trying to avoid debate. Why are you afraid of open and fair discussion?

For example, one of your rules is: “You will not repeat youself and reconstruct your argument.” This would be a difficult rule to follow. English isn’t your first language. So, there might be many miscommunications. Also, does it count as repeating if I state again comments you’ve deleted?

Another example of one of your rules is: “You will not be passive aggressive, sarcism could be argued to be appealing to ridicule and it’s just mere autosuggestion at most.” This is purely subjective. Do you have to prove I’m being passive aggressive or sarcastic? Or is it merely your personal perception? Why do I have to conform my behavior to your subjective biases? Also, once again, what about miscommunications? I assume you come from a different culture than I do. How am I supposed to know what is considered passive aggressive or sarcastic in your culture?

And yet another example is your last rule: “Make your own points, I shouldn’t have to dragg them out of you or ask of you what assumptions you are basing your argument on.” This rule is utter nonsense. Every single comment any person makes has an infinite number of assumptions it’s based on. This also comes back to the issue of culture and language. How am I supposed to know what assumptions you care about or what assumptions you are or aren’t aware of? Do you hold yourself to this same standard? How am I supposed to know all the assumptions you are holding in the context of all your rules?

All in all, your rules are unrealistic and unfair expectations. I suspect that is their purpose. No one could follow all those rules. Or, rather, one could only follow all those rules to your satisfaction if they happened to share all your assumptions, all your values, all your beliefs, and all your cultural biases. Have you considered that this might be at the bottom of your frustration with interacting with those who are different from you? You seem to want others to conform to your expectations and your worldview. Have you considered that it might be more fruitful if you were willing to meet people in the middle, willing to compromise, willing to understand new perspectives?

I have no doubt that, from where you’re standing, you doubt it. You’re frustrated because you’ve set yourself up for frustration. And then you blame others for your frustration. It seems like a no-win situation. From where I’m standing, I have plenty of doubts about both your actions and your words. I don’t know you and so I don’t really care who is to blame. I’m not blaming you for anything, but you do seem to be blaming others. Why do you keep telling me to see things from your perspective? Why don’t you try to see things from the perspective of others? If you actually understood the liberal view, you wouldn’t be blaming liberals. So, why are you blaming liberals for your lack of understanding of the liberal view?

I’m being honest with you here. I’m not attacking you. I’m just calling them as I see them. I’d love to try to have a fair and rational discussion with you (I’ve never liked to ‘debate’ per se), but you’ve so far given me no assurance that you’re even interested in trying. All your comments seems to show that you see everything in terms of being about you. That isn’t a helpful attitude. Even so, if you’re willing to seek a middle ground of understanding, I’m all game. But if you just want a battle of egos, a pissing match, a game of rhetoric, then no thanks.

On a side note, I suspect your real frustration has nothing to do with liberal vs conservative, nothing to do with politics or ideology of any kind. I’ve studied psychology for years, specifically personality types. I’ve seen these kinds of communication difficulties many times. If I had to make a quick (and, of course, rather superficial) guess, I’d say you are probably what is called in MBTI an NT (iNtuition Thinking) or to be more exact I’d guess an INTJ (Introverted iNtuition Thinking Judging). I’ve found most conflicts of communication are at least partly if not mostly grounded in psychological issues. I learned a lot about myself and about others by studying personality types and trait research. It’s easy to blame others. It’s much more difficult to come to self-awareness and self-understanding.

After that, he sent me a message that was pages long and so I won’t quote it here, but it was just a continuation of what he had already said. Basically, he was saying that going by his own experience he knew that he was intellectually superior to most people and that he had grown tired of debating the lowly leftist masses. Here is my response to that long message:

Reading this new message, I feel even less assured. You believe you are right and you believe you are intellectually superior to almost everyone. I don’t hold such arrogant assumptions about myself. And I tend to not like to interact with people who are that arrogant.

Also, your arrogance seems naive. You say you’ve won all these debates. But how do you know? Did you declare your own victory? Maybe those you debated also had the exact same opinion about themselves. Maybe even others told them that they had won.

The only thing that you’ve made clear is this. No matter what I say, you will claim I broke one of your rules. No matter how well I argue, you will simply claim you won. It’s not that you’re tired of debating. It seems you’re tired of even trying to debate.

Why not drop the arrogance? Just relax. You seem to be taking everything too seriously. The reason I don’t like debate is because I’ve found closed-minded people love debate. I like people who enjoy learning. In particular, I like people who like learning new perspectives. But you’ve given no inkling that you actually understand others or want to understand others. In such a situation, how can useful or pleasant communication even be possible?

Just the fact that you generalize about all ‘leftists’ shows a lazy intellect. It also demonstrates that you are unlikely to treat respectfully anything I present. You assume you’ve already got my type figured out, but going by your own words I’m not sure you understand leftists at all. If I tried to discuss/debate anything with you, I’d probably just end up being more fodder for your self-fulfilling prophecies. Think about it. Who will decide who wins the debate? You will, of course. And, since you haven’t admitted to losing a debate in years, why would you admit any such thing now? In your eyes, I can’t win for losing.

You seem intelligent, but there is something about you that seems self-enclosed almost to the point of narcissism or something. I don’t know if I’d be able to break through the protective barrier you are hiding behind. Honestly, I don’t at the moment see it’s worth the effort.

You say I came to you. Yes, I did. And then you deleted my comments. You responded that it was an accident and that it was only 8 comments. I still don’t see how 8 comments could be deleted accidentally. It just doesn’t seem logically possible. I could understand accidentally deleting 1 comment, but 8 comments is no accident. My allegation of hypocrisy still stands and you have yet to refute it. From my perspective, such hypocrisy is a sign of your character. I can only assume that if I were to discuss/debate with you that I’d expect more of the same underhanded behavior.

If you hadn’t deleted my comments, we could already be having a discussion/debate. I offered you evidence in those comments. You dismissed that evidence and you didn’t even offer any evidence in return. I just don’t know. meh


Hypocritical Critics of Government

Many Libertarians and Tea Party protesters like to claim that taxation is theft. The idea is that the Federal government does nothing to earn that money. It just takes our hard earned cash and then takes credit for redistributing the wealth. So, no value is added. This argument is so weak as to be laughable.

First, of course value is added. The Federal government adds the following values: oversight and regulation; services and goods provided or guaranteed (e.g., public roads, internet, public schools, state universities, utilities, military, police, emergency services, postal service, medicare, medicaid, disability, 40 hr work week, overtime, safe working conditions, child labor laws, abolition of slavery, Constitutional rights and freedoms, jury of your peers, etc); and on and on. Yes, the government redistributes wealth in doing all of this. So?

One response is that, no matter how good the benefits may seem, taxation is still theft.

One argument is that we have no choice in being taxed, we aren’t freely giving to the government. My response is that each of us is as free to leave the country as we are to leave our jobs. In some countries, people aren’t free to just leave, but that isn’t so in the United States. You can seek citizenship or asylum in another country. You can disappear into the wilderness and no IRS agent will track you down in the wilderness.

The other argument is that, even if we are free to give taxes or free to leave this society that is funded by taxes, the government still hasn’t earned the money it redistributes. Just because politicians provide services and goods that keep the public happy, it doesn’t mean politicians have the right to our money in the first place. Why not have a voluntary tax? To be honest, it’s as voluntary as your job. If you don’t pay your taxes, there are legal consequences. If you don’t show up for work, there are consequences as well. Did your employer earn your labor? No. We live in a society where we are forced to work or else be homeless, and the opportunities for self-employment are few and difficult (with most small businesses failing because our capitalist system favors big businesses).

Similar to the politician, what does the owner or CEO of an international corporation do to earn so far beyond the worker who actually makes things in the factory? Nothing tangible, for sure. Also, what does the international corporation do to earn the resources it takes from nature which took thousands or millions of years to form? Nothing. Like the politician, they just took it. Why has it been standard practice for both corporations to swindle land from the indigenous or else terrorize them into leaving? Didn’t the indigenous people earn those natural resources for having lived there for thousands of years?

Why is it that those who criticize taxation tend to do so in defense of capitalism and often even big business? If you think the actions of politicians is unfair, then to be fair you should also consider unfair the actions of business owners, CEOs and upper management. To be honest, it’s the workers who actually make things, who keep the economy going. In the past, prior to capitalism as we now know it, the person who made things was the typically same person who sold it and profited from it.

If government is theft, then capitalism is even greater theft. Politicians make relative little money as politicians, but business owners and CEOs make massive amounts of money. The only reason politicians do the bidding of corporations (i.e., owners and CEOs) is because politicians know they have highly profitable corporate jobs waiting for them (as lobbyists to encourage other politicians to further do the bidding of corporations).

So, there ya go. One can still criticize the government for not being perfectly fair, but if you don’t apply the same criticisms to capitalism you’re a hypocrite. Of course, many (specifically Libertarians) will gladly admit our capitalist system is imperfect and unfair, but they’ll make the unfounded claim that it’s not real capitalism, it’s not a free market. Well, it’s the only capitalism we’ve ever had. Yes, there has been an occasional experiment to implement a different capitalist system, but no such experiment has been implemented on the largescale and the experiments on the smallscale don’t tend to last long. If you’re going to defend capitalism based on an ideal, then it’s hypocritical to criticize those who defend our democratic government based on their own ideals.

I covered all the possibilities I could think of, but no doubt the pro-capitalist/anti-government types would have further arguments about why their idea/ideal is better than the ideas/ideals of everyone else.