Arbitrary - Part III: Conversation
They: "It's disgraceful the way Bush has embarked upon this war in Iraq, justifying it with lies and all that."
Me: "I think he's a democrat in disguise. He's setting us up so we run screaming into the arms of the other party."
They: "Why would he do that?"
Me: "He could make a lot of money, among other things. If he knows the Democrats are going to win, he can have his stock portfolio bought in advance. And who's the Democrat candidate going to be? Probably a former business partner or his. He's set."
They: "The city must not care at all about its gardens. Look at this damage!"
Me: "Gardens don't win elections. Large masses of illiterate people who want new pickup trucks do."
They: "Well, that seems uncharitable. I like to place trust in my fellow humans."
Me: "When you go to a mall, you ignore most people because you wouldn't want them as your friends. In fact, for a hundred people who pass you, probably only two or three interest you. If you're like almost everyone I've met, you think most of the people who pass you are stupid -- you have a kind of distaste for their ostentatious dress, their ignorant conversation, their bad personal hygiene or other signs of less than sterling intelligence. But all one hundred vote. And the 97 you don't like have more influence than the three who do."
Me: "Didn't we just get a new sports stadium this month? Oh, and tax breaks for oil companies. I'd like to be a shareholder at one of those. Maybe I'll buy some stock and get rich so I can run away to the hills and laugh at this disaster from a distance."
They: "I'm glad President Clinton has improved race relations."
Me: "He's certainly got all of government working hard to promote minorities. The problem is that this takes away their authority over themselves as a cultural group, so you get people who are going to resent those they see as having done this in the future. We're going to have to pick a culture as a nation and even if we choose a hybrid culture, we're cutting them out of the equation. So they'll be pissed."
They: "Well, at least now they have jobs... they're going to have more money and that will end the epidemic of inner city poverty. We don't have any more race riots."
Me: "We've deferred the issue. Through all of history, can you name a single place where different ethnic groups coexisted peacefully? At some point, decisions need to be made, and they're going to end up favoring one group or another, so ethnically-mixed places collapse in warfare."
They: "Well that's just racist."
Me: "It's practical. I haven't said I don't like minorities. I've said that ethnic groups don't mix. Whether that's two white ethnic groups or a darker and lighter one is academic. I notice you haven't provided a historical counterexample. Is that because one does not exist?"
They: "They made a record drug bust last night. I'm glad they got those creeps off the streets."
Me: "More creeps will come, because drugs are a hot commodity. People want to pay money for them, so someone will provide them, and then we'll call them a creep and put them in jail and they'll be replaced."
They: "Good people don't use drugs."
Me: "That's irrelevant -- someone is paying for them and someone will rise to the occasion. That's capitalism. In fact, it's even a form of democracy. Voting with dollars. Your fellow citizens want drugs, but somehow we're afraid to admit that as a society. Why are we so dishonest?"
They: "These gay rights groups piss me off. They want to make marriage legal between two men, or two women. That entirely violates the sanctity of marriage."
Me: "Why is government involved in legislating marriage, if it's so sacred? You're letting some bureaucrats determine the bond between two people in love? Maybe it's a terrible idea to mix government and religion. Or even culture and government. Heck, maybe government isn't the solution after all. If government wasn't involved in marriage, your church could decide who was eligible to get hitched."
They: "But then in some places, gays could get married..."
Me: "That has always been true. Just keep them out of your community."
They: "But that would be intolerant!"
They: "I don't understand why these slimy, conniving conservatives are trying to make abortion illegal. That's going to put us back in the dark ages."
Me: "You're right -- it's a stupid idea. They should just outlaw excessive sexual relations like was done in traditional societies."
They: "But what about our freedom? That will make women vassals of the kitchen... slaves to the stove... our careers, our freedom would be gone."
Me: "What does sexual freedom have to do with your ability to get a job? And how many sex partners do you need? Look at what feminism and sexual liberation has gotten us: a higher divorce rate, fewer smart people breeding, and most of our women ending up divorced lonely and self-hating in their forties. That's progress?"
They: "Without sexual freedom, we might be limited in our choices, and that would be bad."
Me: "Is that a single choice or fifteen dozen choices? People aren't making choices. They're settling for convenience in lovers like they are in everything else. They've made love a joke by making sex a commodity. Are we really happier? You think you think you want freedom -- but are you really thinking? You want a good life, a sane life, but that requires fewer random choices and more thoughtful ones. Did you want to date, childless, for the rest of your life or be an irresponsible parent? Admit that you're going to die and at some point it makes sense to settle down and have some kids. If you're going to do that, you want family built on something better than wondering which of your spouse's 500 previous lovers he or she is thinking of when they choke out a name during orgasm."
They: "Environmentalists are preventing Global Oil from building the new plant. That's terrible because it would have created 30,000 jobs!"
Me: "You're right. They shouldn't be preventing the factory now. It should be built into the system from the start that we respect nature and don't do anything destructive. Global Oil has been planning to build this plant for five years, and only now have the environmentalists spoken up."
They: "But what about the 30,000 jobs?"
Me: "There's always plenty of jobs for people who have a brain. This plant is not creating new jobs as much as transferring them here. And how many of those who are hired will be local people?"
They: "Well, they'll spend their money at local stores."
Me: "How important is that in exchange for altering your community? These people come from all over, and they're going to hang on to their ways of doing things. Soon this place will no longer be its own thing, but a collection of people and ideas from elsewhere."
They: "Oh, well it's always good to get new ideas."
Me: "New ideas? No, these are ideas that have been in place in other places for a long time. In fact, probably since time began. There are no new ideas, only new combinations, when you think about it. We haven't invented a new system of government, philosophy or language since the time of the Greeks -- we've recombined what we have. All we have now is new technology. But I've got to ask: do you care more about new ideas, or the profit these jobs are bringing in? We should figure out whether we're talking about getting rich or what's best for the community here."
They: "New ideas, new faces, new money will help the community!"
Me: "By replacing it with the same stuff every other city is made out of. Great. Now, instead of being a place with its own character, its own culture, and its own way of life, we'll be like a little chunk of New York or San Francisco. Except we won't be those places, so we'll always be second rate. Living in a second-rate town to which you've got no allegiance... well, let's just say we're not giving our citizens any incentive to behave themselves. It'll become another trash dump like any other."
They: "Well, some people will get enough--"
Me: "Some people? I thought we were thinking about what's best for the community. Who cares about making a few people rich? Think about all the good people you know: they want steady jobs and a comfortable living, but they're not addicted to money. They found a way to make enough and have time for their families and non-job pursuits like learning, being outside, experiencing life, growing spiritually. Isn't that more of a foundation of a healthy community than a few jerks getting rich and us importing 30,000 dummies to work dummy jobs?"
They: "The people have voted--"
Me: "The people are thinking just like you: they see money coming in and they salivate Pavlovian. They're not thinking about the good of the community, or the future, or even whether this is actually going to benefit them. They see dollar bills and assume it will come to them. Weren't you saying earlier today that most of the people you meet are stupid? That's who is voting. And you want to trust that?"
October 13, 2007