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Tag Archives: society

I hear all the time that you can’t escape capitalism, that it is all pervasive, that it is somehow part of the nature of things.

Surely, this is false in an obvious way — there was not capitalism in prehistory for one, but, more to the point, each and every one of us lives “outside” capitalism for some moments. But it is very true in a sort of gut-feeling way — we feel we can’t escape capitalism. Why is this so?

In short, capitalism is an excuse for us exerting power over other people, and even if we could resist capitalism, we can not avoid this excuse. And, by the way, “avoiding” is very different from “resisting”. Read More »

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There is an experiment called Prisoner’s Dilemma Game, and if you have to learn one thing form it, this is:

Absurd situations lead to absurd behaviour.

Explanation: The game is one interaction between two players that choose either «cooperate» or «exploit». Both cooperate, both win big. Both exploit, both are screwed. But if just one exploits, he wins big and the guy gets even more screwed. It is a dilemma because you always want cooperate-cooperate, but if you know the other guy is exploiting, you’re better off exploiting too, but if you know he is cooperating, you are also better off exploiting, so you always get the worst outcome possible.

But another, different take on the thing, is that some situations are just outright completely screwed. There are some games that are unwinnable. If you put someone in a game like this, you have no idea what he will do.

The Wire has a tremendous scene where the bad boys at school get rounded up and put on a room just for themselves, and a teacher and a psych try to get to them. And the kids just don’t say anything. When they do speak it is just to comply to the expectation of speech, but there is no meaning. It is scary.

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One expression of contemporary common sense is that we are all seeking comfort. It seems so obvious, in a way, but it also feels completely wrong in many other ways, and i puzzle a lot about what exactly makes this particular idea so tempting.

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Plainly and simply, the only reason why you can’t forward open marriage as a generalized social practice is that it is complicated. So, if you could make everyone have open marriages, that would solve 87,0317% of the world’s sentimental problems (and salvage the concept of “family” in such a way as to produce social harmony to boot). But the level of maturity required for that to work is such that, in case you had it, you could also achieve peace through any number of other schemes. Read More »