Why Ethnic Strife Will (Probably) Never Cease

By Jin-yeong Yi

James Gillray - Pitt and Napoleon carving up world

“What then is my property? Nothing but what is in my power! To what property am I entitled? To every property to which I—empower myself. I give myself the right of property in taking property to myself, or giving myself the proprietor’s power, full power, empowerment.

Everything over which I have might that cannot be torn from me remains my property; well, then let might decide about property, and I will expect everything from my might! Alien might, might that I leave to another, makes me an owned slave: then let my own might make me an owner. Let me then withdraw the might that I have conceded to others out of ignorance regarding the strength of my own might! Let me say to myself, what my might reaches to is my property; and let me claim as property everything that I feel myself strong enough to attain, and let me extend my actual property as far as I entitle, that is, empower, myself to take.”

—Max Stirner, The Ego and His Own

Recognizing something as imaginary is not inconsistent with personally valuing it for its utility. For instance, I like the idea that the computer I purchased in the store is my “property” and that there’s no obligation for me to share it with anyone else. However, if someone were to take “my” computer away from me, I would grudgingly acknowledge that that person has done nothing wrong and has no inherent obligation to return it to me. Luckily for me, neither would it be “wrong” for me to report the theft to the police or find some way to steal it back, but either way I would have no objective “moral law” that I could appeal to. (It wouldn’t be wrong for me to appeal to such an imaginary law, but I would be philosophically inconsistent if I did so, now wouldn’t I?) That’s why I appreciate the concept of “the right to property” and human “rights” in general, as well as the laws that protect them, even while recognizing that these don’t actually exist in reality.

Besides the fact that politics ultimately boils down to proclivity and predilection, which in turn boil down to personality, the elephant in the room of today and yesterday’s political arena is that “sovereignty” itself is a human construct. No individual or group owns any piece of land, no matter how many pieces of fancy cotton paper they gave in exchange for it, or how long they’ve occupied it, or what they’ve accomplished with it.

Even if there were inherent rights and an objective moral law, I think it’s safe to say that humankind would never agree as to what those actually are. And so it is unlikely that the disputes about which nation owns what piece of land (with its imaginary label or labels) will be resolved peacefully. Does “North America” belong to those of European ancestry, or to the Mexicans, or to the Amerinds? Does “Palestine” belong to the Israelis or the Palestinians? Does “Taiwan” belong to the Chinese or the Taiwanese? Do the “Liancourt Rocks” belong to the Koreans or the Japanese?

Answer: none of the above. We can cite as many historical and legal documents as we want, but at the end of the day, a human construct is a human construct. And before I am accused of being a Kumbaya cheerleader, let me point out that the notion that the earth belongs to “all of us” is also false. The way I see it, the reality is quite the reverse: the earth belongs to no one.

With that said, I do value the concept of countries. I reject John Lennon’s vision of “all the people sharing all the world.” I enjoy the idea and the reality of global ethnocultural diversity; of there being distinct languages, cultures, and peoples in different parts of the world; and I think national sovereignty, though a human construct, is necessary for protecting and preserving this diversity.

But it may also turn out to be our undoing. Ethnic strife will probably never cease so long as humanity exists. As it’s a game whose rules were invented entirely by humans, it should come as no surprise that the rules always seem to be changing, that the goalposts always seem to be moving, and that there’s no real agreement as to what the rules are and where the goalposts are in the first place. Although cooperation is always an option, I expect that current and future issues will be resolved in the oldest and most straightforward way of settling disputes: through force and violence.

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Long-Awaited StarCraft Writeup Released

By Jin-yeong Yi

Ma Jae-Yoon salute

Part 2 of Ver’s writeup on sAviOr (Ma Jae-Yoon), “God of the Battlefield,” was released last Wednesday, ending a wait that lasted nearly 2 years.

If memory serves, Ma Jae-Yoon, perhaps the most popular and successful Zerg player of all time, has been compared to Adolf Hitler on a number of occasions, not only on account of his career as a ruthless Zerg warlord, but also on account of his appearance. Given his role in the notorious match-fixing scandal that may have been the primary reason for the decline and fall of the professional Brood War scene, one might say that the comparison was only made all the more fitting.

In 1945, the Norwegian novelist and Nobel laureate Knut Hamsun wrote an infamous obituary for Hitler:

“Adolf Hitler
I’m not worthy to speak up for Adolf Hitler, and to any sentimental rousing his life and deeds do not invite.
Hitler was a warrior, a warrior for humankind and a preacher of the gospel of justice for all nations. He was a reforming character of the highest order, and his historical fate was that he functioned in a time of exampleless [unequalled] brutality, which in the end felled him.
Thus may the ordinary Western European look at Adolf Hitler. And we, his close followers, bow our heads at his death.
Knut Hamsun”

In 1977, American paleoconservative politician and political commentator Patrick Buchanan praised what he regarded as Hitler’s redeeming qualities:

“Though Hitler was indeed racist and anti-Semitic to the core, a man who without compunction could commit murder and genocide, he was also an individual of great courage, a soldier’s soldier in the Great War, a political organizer of the first rank, a leader steeped in the history of Europe, who possessed oratorical powers that could awe even those who despised him… Hitler’s success was not based on his extraordinary gifts alone. His genius was an intuitive sense of the mushiness, the character flaws, the weakness masquerading as morality that was in the hearts of the statesmen who stood in his path.”[1]

Ma Jae-Yoon, who was once one of the most beloved StarCraft progamers in the world, is now one of the most despised and reviled progamers in the world. Many if not most fans turned their backs on him after the scandal. But few, if any, deny his achievements and legacy. What if there was a parallel universe in which Knut Hamsun and Patrick Buchanan were Brood War fans and sAviOr devotees? It is quite easy to imagine what these two men might have said in defense of the Maestro:

Knut Hamsun:

“Ma Jae-Yoon
I’m not worthy to speak up for Ma Jae-Yoon, and to any sentimental rousing his career and deeds do not invite.
Ma was a warrior, a warrior for the Swarm and a preacher of the gospel of justice for all Zerg. He was a reforming character of the highest order, and his historical fate was that he functioned in a time of exampleless [unequalled] avarice, which in the end corrupted him.
Thus may the ordinary StarCraft player look at Ma Jae-Yoon. And we, his close followers, bow our heads at his ejection.
Knut Hamsun”

Patrick Buchanan:

“Though Ma was indeed unprincipled and avaricious to the core, a man who without compunction could commit fraud and embezzlement, he was also an individual of great courage, a Bonjwa’s Bonjwa in his prime, a tactical organizer of the first rank, a leader steeped in the history of StarCraft, who possessed strategical brilliance that could awe even those who despised him… Ma’s success was not based on his extraordinary gifts alone. His genius was an intuitive sense of the incompetence, the mechanical flaws, the weakness masquerading as prowess that was in the hearts of the progamers who stood in his path.”

“God of the Battlefield: Part 2” seems like a fantastic read, by the way. Not that it’s any surprise; Team Liquid writeups, while free, are of such quality as to be fit for commercial publication. Take a gander at the final two sentences:

“For Savior, there somehow always seemed space for something special, something solid, something stable. He saw that the spectacular, the stunning, and the striking are rooted in simple, subtle movements.”

Whew, how’s that for some alliteration? The man sure knows his English—and his StarCraft.

Cheers to all sAviOr fans!

Notes

[1] “A lesson in tyranny too soon forgotten” by Patrick Buchanan

The Circularity of Civilization

By Jin-yeong Yi

North Korean propaganda poster

Since North Korea is bigger news than it has ever been (which is saying something, because I don’t remember the last time it wasn’t in the news), I thought I would comment on the American Nihilist Underground Society’s remarks on the passing of Kim Jong-il:

Here at ANUS, we love all dictators.

They understand a divine wisdom: humanity is a means to an end.

Humanity as an end in itself is an unterminated question. It asks itself perpetually in tautological form what it wants to do. It doesn’t know. So it manufactures internal drama and the cycle goes on, circular logic ad infinitum.

Genius minds like Josef Stalin recognized that people were like clay to be molded into greater things. And if you trimmed some extra clay, so what? The normal person does nothing that particularly binds them to this life. “Not wanting to die is your (only) reason to live.”

King Jong-Il was another spectacular dictator. Like other critics of the society of humans-as-the-goal-of-humanity, such as school shooters, Ted Kaczynski, Pentti Linkola, Friedrich Nietzsche and others who truly saw that society was a massive failure, Kim Jong-Il shaped his people like clay. He made an empire where none was before. And if they starve? The piercing pains are just that much more meaning to life, much more than they would find while sitting in a Brooklyn apartment getting obese on fast food and imported wine between scintillating stints at their day jobs as designers or press release supervisors or whatever make-work crap passes for important in capitalism these days.

We will miss you, Kim Jong-Il. You were one of the few who understood. We must oppress ourselves or we degenerate. In this way alone, all dictators are closer to heaven than the average human could ever dream of being.[1]

The problem here is that civilization itself is arguably a circular goal. It’s definitely not for the sake of Nature. It’s clear that Nature is more than capable of taking care of herself. Nature has absolutely no use for art, music, literature, architecture, science, or even religion. She is perfectly content with her picturesque landscapes, her musical birdsong and babbling brooks, her poetic change of seasons, her finely crafted mountains and trees, her profound seas of space.

In other words, as far as this planet is concerned, only humans can appreciate and enjoy the fruits of human ambition.

At the end of the day, is not the collective as anthropocentric as the individual? If humans aren’t the “goal” of humanity, what is?

Notes

[1] See “A great man fallen.”

Atheist Elitism

By Jin-yeong Yi

Louis Carmontelle - Baron d'HolbachNiall Ferguson

“If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him.”

—Voltaire

Is atheism good for humanity? (Depends on how you define “good,” of course.) That almost all religious people would reply in the negative is a given. However, even among atheists and other secular people there are not a few individuals that are skeptical of the notion that humankind would be better off without religion. Consider this sampling of quotations:

“You yourself may find it easy to live a virtuous life, without the assistance afforded by religion; you having a clear perception of the advantages of virtue, and the disadvantages of vice, and possessing a strength of resolution sufficient to enable you to resist common temptations. But think how great a portion of mankind consists of weak and ignorant men and women, and of inexperienced, inconsiderate youth of both sexes, who have need of the motives of religion to restrain them from vice, to support their virtue, and retain them in the practice of it till it becomes habitual, which is the great point for its security. And perhaps you are indebted to her originally, that is, to your religious education, for the habits of virtue upon which you now justly value yourself.”

—Benjamin Franklin, letter to Thomas Paine

“Religion is excellent stuff for keeping common people quiet.”

—Napoleon Bonaparte

“Religion is still useful among the herd – that it helps their orderly conduct as nothing else could. The crude human animal is in-eradicably superstitious, and there is every biological reason why they should be.
Take away his Christian god and saints, and he will worship something else…”

—H. P. Lovecraft

“The principles of atheism are not formed for the mass of the people, who are commonly under the tutelage of their priests; they are not calculated for those frivolous capacities, not suited to those dissipated minds, who fill society with their vices, who hourly afford evidence of their own inutility; they will not gratify the ambitious; neither are they adapted to intriguers, nor fitted for those restless beings who find their immediate interest in disturbing the harmony of the social compact: much less are they made for a great number of persons, who, enlightened in other respects, have not sufficient courage to divorce themselves from the received prejudices.”

—Paul-Henri Thiry, Baron d’Holbach, The System of Nature

“I was brought up and remain an atheist. But to be brought up an atheist is very different from lapsing from religious faith. I’ve never had any religious faith. I have however a profound belief that, as a basis for ethical conduct, the Ten Commandments are pretty good, and that actually the monotheisms, and particularly Christianity, offer a really quite good guide as to how to live well.

By ‘well’ I mean to live morally. It’s very hard for an atheist to invent, from first principals, a good ethical basis for behavior, because actually in the natural state, human beings don’t behave well. They’re quite strongly tempted to behave badly. And we’re involved in ways that actually encourage bad behavior. We’re designed to kill strangers. We’re designed, in fact, to steal. And so it’s very important that there should be an ethical framework within which we live.

And my dilemma is that I don’t really believe in any divine policeman or any afterlife payoffs. But I do believe that we should live well. We should obey some moral code that we’re not likely to invent for ourselves.”

—Niall Ferguson[1]

I myself am undecided on this question, but I have a few things to say about it: 1) I support freedom of religion and oppose state atheism, partly because I think that the former is much better for atheism than the latter, and 2) in my view, a religious or philosophical viewpoint is only as “good” as its adherent. In other words, the outcome depends on the intelligence and character of the individual in question. If this is true of, say, Christianity, how much truer it is of atheism. Adherents of the former have doctrines and moral absolutes they can follow. Adherents of the latter are on their own.

Notes

[1] See “Niall Ferguson on Belief” on Big Think.

What is Freedom?

By Jin-yeong Yi

“Liberty? Why it doesn’t exist. There is no liberty in this world, just gilded cages.”

—Aldous Huxley

For me, the fundamental problem of life is not suffering or “sin.” The problem is unfreedom. From my perspective, this world is fundamentally a prison. Prison is not so much a place as a state, a state in which freedom is restricted in any way. In this sense, prison extends far beyond the gray walls of the buildings in which offenders of the law are confined. Schools are part of this prison. So are places of worship. So are offices. Supermarkets. Restaurants. Libraries. Movie theaters. Hospitals. Malls. Bars. Casinos. Airports. Roads. Beaches. Forests. Mountains. Tropical islands. Even home sweet home is, at the end of the day, a glorified jail cell. A free-range prison is still prison. No matter where we are or what we are doing in our waking lives, we are slaves to time and space, our imaginations shackled by the immutable decrees of nature.

This state of unfreedom is not limited to a particular geopolitical region or era. If the historical record speaks the truth, there was never any “Golden Age” in the past, and it seems most unlikely that there will ever be one in the future. While I am not indifferent to the earnest and unceasing efforts to improve the human condition, I recognize that the best I could hope for from the sum of all ideological, military, and scientific victories is a more comfortable incarceration. You can’t redeem a prison, even supposing that you manage to eradicate war, poverty, ignorance, and corruption and develop technology that is indistinguishable from magic. The invisible yet palpable metaphysical walls and shackles that deny us true freedom would still remain. The only real redemption is escape.

Along with everyone else, I am serving a prison sentence that will come to an end only when I die. Any sentence here is a life sentence. I recognize that in all likelihood nothing I do will ever change this. No matter how my fortunes change, those vicissitudes will always occur within the context of a metaphysical Shawshank. Even if all the world’s wealth were to fall into my lap tomorrow, the most I would be able to do is purchase a more luxurious corner of this prison in which I exist. I would be comfortable, but not free.

What is freedom? When we think of freedom, we often think of political rights or something along those lines, when real freedom would be existing in a state where there is no need to bother with politics in the first place. Indeed, per my definition, real freedom would mean existing in a state where there is no need to bother with anything at all, even the laws of nature. In other words, true freedom is being able to do anything you can imagine yourself doing–to be a God.

I don’t believe that we will ever know an existence outside of prison. But since hope, unlike belief, does not require justification, I continue to hope that liberation does not mean extinction, and that I and everyone else will one day live life as free men and women. I may be wishing for the impossible, but I don’t think I would be able to settle for anything less.

Therefore I Pray to Politics to Make Me Free of Politics

By Jin-yeong Yi

“The theory that the universe is run by a single God must be abandoned, and that in place of it we must set up the theory that it is actually run by a board of gods, all of equal puissance and authority. Once this concept is grasped all the difficulties that have vexed theologians vanish. Human experience instantly lights up the whole dark scene. We observe in everyday life what happens when authority is divided, and great decisions are reached by consultation and compromise. We know that the effects, at times, particularly when one of the consultants runs away with the others, are very good, but we also know that they are usually extremely bad. Such a mixture of good and bad is on display in the cosmos. It presents a series of brilliant successes in the midst of an infinity of bungling failures.”

—H. L. Mencken

“Liberty of the people is not my liberty!”

—Max Stirner, The Ego and Its Own

Arthur Schopenhauer, whose pessimistic writings arguably rival the Book of Ecclesiastes, deliberately paid little attention to politics. As he put it, he minded “not the times, but the eternities.” While I sympathize with this way of thinking, I tend not to ignore politics for the same reason that I don’t ignore the rat race. I recognize that these things affect me directly, and that if I want myself and the people around me to at least be comfortable in the prison in which we exist, I’d do well to devote a reasonable amount of time and energy to them. This is simply one of those “necessities” that come with the “real world,” or what I prefer to call the “lowest common denominator world.” Each of us is a God or Goddess of our own world, but we’re forced to exist in a common world where no one is truly in control (though just about everyone fights for control). In this common world, politics is one of the mechanisms by which the conditions of our common prison can be improved or worsened.

So I do my part, as infinitesimally trivial as that may be, reasoning that doing something is better than doing nothing. I vote, and I advocate any ideas and policies that appear to be the best bet for creating an optimum balance of individual freedom and collective stability, as well as an environment in which the arts and science can flourish. Whether my politics can be called liberal or conservative or libertarian–or a mixture of these–is not terribly important to me. Whatever I may be out of practicality, I am fundamentally an individualist anarchist in spirit–for me, true freedom would not come through politics but from being relieved from the necessity of bothering with politics in the first place.