Wednesday 30 December 2020

Hilaria Baldwin, cultural appropriation & institutionalized racism

 Is Hilaria Baldwin guilty of cultural appropriation? She is American and has an affinity with Spain- an economically advanced European country populated by White Christians who, some centuries ago, colonized a good chunk of the Earth. Surely, 'cultural appropriation' only arises with respect to people whose land was taken away and who may have experienced genocide or population collapse? By contrast, Tardean mimetics of a superior culture is 'the sincerest form of flattery'. No doubt, such affectations may attract ridicule. But, it scarcely ethically repugnant.

Hilaria is a Hispanophile in the same way that Frazier, from the sit-com, was an Anglophile while other Bostonians may be Francophile or Italophile or Germanophile- I'm kidding. No one is Germanophile. I only mention it because, having been born in Germany, I have a German sense of humor. What I mean is I was being ironic when I said that a person might be Germanophile in the same way that they might be Francophile. To be clear, I was saying something obviously false for humorous effect. This is not to say that I endorse either the Hegelian conception of irony or that of Schlegel because I wiped my bum on both. This was because I'd taken a dump and, so as to clean my shitty bum, I used Hegel's concept of irony as though it were a piece of toilet paper.  This is a humorous observation because a conception of irony is not in fact a piece of toilet paper.

Returning to the topic of this post, I do think that a categorical approach to issues of cultural appropriation must commence with an analysis of the 'sub-structural' socio-economic mechanisms underlying Institutionalized forms of unjust or discriminatory praxis. This is because Institutions tend to occlude the mechanisms they embody. There is little point analyzing a consciously false consciousness. It is as the sub-structural level that analysis must be directed if we are to make progress.

As a case in point, I may mention a glaring example of Institutionalized racism which I personally witnessed in the early Eighties. At that time I was involved with an organization which helped Overseas Students in London. In this capacity I was invited to a reception by an august Institution whose name I will not mention. The lady who greeted me- a picture of gentility and olde worlde charm- was of a certain age. Allowances should be made but, I confess, I was a bit miffed when she identified me as, not a South Indian man, but a Chinese woman. I protested that I am very dark skinned and thus couldn't possibly be Chinese. Also I'm a man.

 'Are you though?' she asked peering at my fly. 'Your dick falls well below the medical minimum to permit unambiguous gender identification'.

 'Fuck you know about the size of my dick?!' I exploded.

 'It's the first thing we learn at the Women's Institute. I can accurately gauge length, girth, angle of dangle and testicle circumference from 300 yards even through the thickest pair of Game-keeper breeks.' 

'That may have been true in your salad days' I replied, 'but now you can't even tell the difference between a black person and one from China!'.

'Actually, I can. I just thought that by pretending you were Chinese I'd get your mind off the fact that you have a micro-dick. Soften the blow, so to speak'.

The reason I mention this episode from my youth is that, on reflection, the thing I should have concentrated on, in retelling this anecdote over successive decades, was that a White lady had mistaken a black, South Indian, man for a much lighter complected, Chinese person. This shows that 'color' is something socially constructed. For this daughter of the British Empire, clearly, 'wogs began at Calais'. By bringing up gender and penis size I weakened my own case. In particular, the young Indian ladies I was ill advised enough to tell this tale to, showed little interest in my analysis of institutional racism or, indeed, my offer of my hand, or fist (which is of average size) in marriage. On the other hand, they were very quick to sign up with the Women's Institute. That wasn't 'cultural appropriation' or 'Tardean mimetics'. They simply wanted wanted to learn a useful skill. It is sad they all turned out utter sluts. 

Tharoor's Ishtadevata

Reading Tharoor's 'Why I'm a Hindu' continually throws up surprises. Consider the following-


Hindus are often asked, during certain ritual prayers, to imagine their ishta-devta, their personal God, or rather that way of imagining the abstraction of the Absolute in an anthropomorphic form that most appeals to them.

When you are born the family Jyotish calculates your horoscope and says what your Ishtadevta should be. You learn the name of your Ishtadevata along with your Gotra, etc, so that when having a ritual done you can give the correct response to the priest. However a lot of kids like me and Tharoor who were born outside India don't even bother to do that. Daddy or Granny or the family purohit supplies the answer while we just go through the motions. Indeed, appearing completely deracinated and gormless is considered prestigious.  

I pick Ganesh—or Ganapathi, as we prefer to call him in the South—myself, not because I believe God looks like Him, but because of the myriad aspects of the godhead, the ones He represents appeal most to me. Om maha Ganapathe namaha,sarva vignoba shantaye,Om Ganeshaya namaha…Every morning, for longer than I can remember, I have begun my day with that prayer.

All prayer commences with the invocation of Ganesha. Furthermore if Ganesha was Tharoor's ishtadevata from before he could remember anything then it must have been the one the family Astrologer calculated for him.  

I learned it without being fully aware what all the Sanskrit words meant, knowing only that I was invoking, like millions of Hindus around the world, the name of the great elephant-headed god to bless all my endeavours to come.

It is interesting that Tharoor does not mention that Ganesha is both the creator and remover of obstacles. A writer with a facile pen will write trash unless he faces obstacles. This is something Tharoor hasn't done. He has followed the path of least resistance. 

Interestingly, when Homer Simpson impersonated Ganesha, he both created and removed obstacles such that Apu and Manjula could have both a Hindu 'arranged' as well as an American 'love' marriage. As far as we know, Apu and Manjula are still together. It seems, despite Tharoor putting a big Ganesha on his wedding invites, his own matrimonial experiments have been less successful. 

There is little point invoking Ganesha egotistically unless you recognize that ego, greed, laziness are the obstacles which will prevent you succeeding in your endeavor even if, by God's Grace, it commenced auspiciously, or easily, enough.  


Chomsky & the irresponsibility of intellectuals

 Back in 1967, Noam Chomsky wrote on 'The Responsibility of Intellectuals'. Apparently, that responsibility wasn't- as the hoi polloi thought- to use their intellects for the common good- or at least not make their students, or readers, stupider than they would otherwise have been. 

Instead, Intellectuals were supposed to choose some particularly puerile fringe ideology- preferably one which had already fucked up massively- and present it in its most paranoid form. 

Chomsky, it seems, had been influenced by Dwight Macdonald- already a byword for 'having nothing to say and everything to add'. Over the next 50 years, Chomsky- whose own 'intellectual' work turned out to be utterly useless- worked hard to make himself an even more noisome blathershite. 

TWENTY-YEARS AGO, Dwight Macdonald published a series of articles in Politics on the responsibility of peoples and, specifically, the responsibility of intellectuals.

Those articles were worthless. It was silly of Macdonald to oppose a War America did not start. The President had a responsibility to fuck up the stupid cunts who had attacked or declared war on the greatest power on earth. 

The truth is responsibility only exists if a coercive mechanism actually holds you responsible for your acts of omission and commission. Responsibilities you claim to have but for which no legal basis exists are just as likely to pose a nuisance than a source of benefit to Society. Indeed, Freedom involves Hohfeldian immunities from interference by people who claim to feel responsible for your soul or your ethos or other such shite.

I read them as an undergraduate, in the years just after the war, and had occasion to read them again a few months ago. They seem to me to have lost none of their power or persuasiveness.

This suggests that Chomsky never matured intellectually. His is a sad case of arrested development. He needed to say something like 'Rereading Macdonald, I found new arguments, which I had not previously spotted, which were even more persuasive than those I was able to discern back when I was a teenager.' 

Macdonald is concerned with the question of war guilt.

War guilt had become a real thing. The guys who won the War, put some of the enemy on trial and proceeded to incarcerate or execute the worst of them. One major reason to inflict punishment through a judicial process- rather than just bayonet the bastards to death- had to do with the fact that enemy territory had been occupied, permanent Military bases had been erected there, and the successor States had been adopted Constitutions agreeable to the occupiers. In other words, 'War guilt' was no longer a matter of collective reparations or losses of territory inflicted on the losing side. It was individualized and involved a new legal concept called 'Command Responsibility'. It was also part and parcel of a complete restructuring of the polity and juristic foundations of the defeated enemy such that they would have an internal mechanism to prevent a return to militarism.

Macdonald or Chomsky may have wanted the Victors to adopt a similar judicial doctrine for themselves. But they did not do so- because they weren't as stupid as shit. The Brits didn't want to see Churchill in the dock for war crimes, nor would the Yanks put up with any such thing happening to Truman or Eisenhower. So there was no question of 'war guilt' for them. A fundamental asymmetry existed just as it does between parents and little kiddies.  It is not the case that your 5 year old is legally responsible to make sure you get to School. On the other hand, you are legally responsible for educating a child in your care. 

Responsibilities, like Rights, are linked to a vinculum juris- a bond of Law- such that they don't just cancel themselves out- with each party claiming every other party has violated its rights or not fulfilled their responsibilities- leaving nothing but a public nuisance which needs to be curbed. 

He asks the question: To what extent were the German or Japanese people responsible for the atrocities committed by their governments?

This was the question that the Victors made a determination of. They developed a juristic doctrine of War Guilt and created a legal machinery to hang or lock up those who were convicted on charges of that sort. However, it was only worth doing so because the Allies were prepared to keep troops on enemy soil indefinitely. With hindsight, there is little point maintaining such a doctrine unless permanent military basis on conquered territory are economically feasible.  

And, quite properly, he turns the question back to us:

For the Germans and Japanese, it was a fact that 'War Guilt' of various types could lead to your being locked up or executed. It was proper for them to acknowledge a responsibility which was perfectly real and justiciable. By contrast, it was foolish of Macdonald to talk bollocks about the 'guilt' of the Victors, because the thing was not punishable at all. He may as well have pretended that babies have a responsibility to ensure their Mummies get enough milk. 

To what extent are the British or American people responsible for the vicious terror bombings of civilians, perfected as a technique of warfare by the Western democracies and reaching their culmination in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, surely among the most unspeakable crimes in history.

From the legal point of view- none at all. That is why nobody was put on trial and no reparations were paid. 

The most unspeakable crime in history is my losing a Tik Tok twerking competition to a fucking 78 year old Iyengar.  The reason it is unspeakable is not just because it hasn't happened but also because I don't know the Tamil word for twerking. 

To an undergraduate in 1945-46—to anyone whose political and moral consciousness had been formed by the horrors of the 1930s, by the war in Ethiopia, the Russian purge, the “China Incident,” the Spanish Civil War, the Nazi atrocities,

in other words, a silly adolescent who didn't actually have any 'moral' or 'political' consciousness. The fucker was American. He should have been talking about the political options open to him- i.e. volunteering for this, rather than that, Democrat running for office- rather than gushing on like a school girl about far away places where you'd be this fast-talking photo-journalist and then you would bump into this wicked handsome Commissar who is like totes in love with you and then, quite suddenly, your room-mate slips you the tongue and you let her finger you and suddenly you wonder whether you shouldn't quit the cheer-leading squad and take up lacrosse at Bryn Mawr.  

the Western reaction to these events and, in part, complicity in them—these questions had particular significance and poignancy.

Coz it get you all hot and bothered and then, quite suddenly, your room-mate slips his pinky up your asshole. 

With respect to the responsibility of intellectuals, there are still other, equally disturbing questions.

No there aren't. Intellectuals need to do smart stuff not gush on like adolescent school girls or rave about Government complicity like loons in tin-foil hats.  

Intellectuals are in a position to expose the lies of governments,

No. Intellectuals are too stupid to distinguish between white lies, 'mere puffery', and alethic statements. Thus the 'lies they expose' make them look ludicrous. On the other hand, when Government's lie about money or other stuff that matters, then lawyers and accountants and 'Civil Society' can get on the case.  

to analyze actions according to their causes and motives and often hidden intentions.

The problem here is that ordinary people understand that 'intentions' need to be 'hidden' for politeness sake. Intellectuals may say- 'dude, you are lying to that large breasted woman. You don't think her views on Quantum Mechanics are fascinating and insightful. You want her to give you a titty-wank'.  But this is an 'unthought known' for ordinary people. We can easily turn the tables on the pointy heads by saying- 'Don't act so coy and innocent. You only talk about the Spanish Civil War and Stalin's purges coz you want us to get rock-hard for your tight little Trotskyite asshole. Bend over now for the good of the Proletariat!' Gaslighting can work both ways.

In the Western world, at least, they have the power that comes from political liberty, from access to information and freedom of expression. For a privileged minority, Western democracy provides the leisure, the facilities, and the training to seek the truth lying hidden behind the veil of distortion and misrepresentation, ideology and class interest, through which the events of current history are presented to us.

Yet, 'seeing through the veil' is more, not less common, among lunatics and the very poorly educated. Moreover, kids living in remote jungles in India or Amazonia can talk this type of shite even better than Chomsky. But, Boko Haram does an even better job. Peeps wot read books have already been brainwashed. Kill them all and start again.  

The responsibilities of intellectuals, then, are much deeper than what Macdonald calls the “responsibility of people,” given the unique privileges that intellectuals enjoy.

It is not a privilege to stick with a failed research program decade after decade while kids who had better supervisors get very very rich developing Voice Recognition Technology and Automatic Translation and so on. Look at Robert Mercer. He went in for 'Brown Clustering' and became a billionaire who has probably had quite a big political impact on things like Brexit and Trump's gaining hegemony over the Republican Party. By contrast, Chomsky's students have achieved nothing. Long run, Intellectuals are only as good as the Mechanisms which embody their research programs. These may be technological, or they may be legal or economic or political. If a 'thinker's' legacy is just a type of childish sulk or  paranoid antagonomia, then there was no actual thinking going on. Just the pretense of thinking. 

The issues that Macdonald raised are as pertinent today as they were twenty years ago. We can hardly avoid asking ourselves to what extent the American people bear responsibility for the savage American assault on a largely helpless rural population in Vietnam, still another atrocity in what Asians see as the “Vasco da Gama era” of world history. As for those of us who stood by in silence and apathy as this catastrophe slowly took shape over the past dozen years—on what page of history do we find our proper place? Only the most insensible can escape these questions. I want to return to them, later on, after a few scattered remarks about the responsibility of intellectuals and how, in practice, they go about meeting this responsibility in the mid-1960s.

Irma Adelman, having helped put South Korea on the path to prosperity, went to Vietnam and figured out a 'win-win' strategy. Finance land-reform- it would cost a lot less than military aid and pay for itself in terms of higher growth. The peasants then have no incentive to support the VC. Prosperity in the South leaks over the border. Ho Chi Minh gets out from under China and gets the American alliance he had always wanted. 

This was a purely economic problem and had a purely economic solution. Politics gets pretty fucked up when it departs from economic common-sense. Sadly, a lot of American Mathematical Economists were Chomsky level stupid and worthless, coz they refused to accept Knightian Uncertainty. 

 Irma Adelman didn't just lack a dick. Her maths wasn't quite quite. That's how come she could give good advice.  

IT IS THE RESPONSIBILITY of intellectuals to speak the truth and to expose lies.

No. It is the responsibility of people who are paid to find out the truth to tell the truth to their employers. Detectives, Auditors, Lawyers- but also certain Scientists and Mathematicians and so forth- have this duty but only within their domain of expertise. But 'intellectuals' don't have an obligation to talk ultracrepidarian shite any more than I am obliged to discuss the shortcomings of Voevodsky's univalent foundations program. 

Pedagogues have responsibilities to their students or publishers. But those responsibilities don't include telling the truth. A Professor who says 'my Department is shit. Get your sheepskin in something useful or prestigious' might suffer various annoyances from the College authorities even if he has tenure. True, such a Professor may move to a new field and do well there- but that tends to be the exception rather than the rule. 

This, at least, may seem enough of a truism to pass over without comment.

It is not a truism. Professors are supposed to teach whatever shite is on the curriculum.  

Not so, however. For the modern intellectual, it is not at all obvious. Thus we have Martin Heidegger

German Professors were Civil Servants. They had a long tradition of supporting the Ruler. Sadly Heidegger was too Nazi for the Nazis and thus got sidelined.  

writing, in a pro-Hitler declaration of 1933, that “truth is the revelation of that which makes a people certain, clear, and strong in its action and knowledge”; it is only this kind of “truth” that one has a responsibility to speak.

This was true enough under that regime. Obviously, once it had been utterly destroyed on the battlefield, one could go back to vaguely Catholic shite. At least that was what Scmitt & Heidi did. 

Americans tend to be more forthright. When Arthur Schlesinger was asked by The New York Times in November, 1965, to explain the contradiction between his published account of the Bay of Pigs incident and the story he had given the press at the time of the attack, he simply remarked that he had lied; and a few days later, he went on to compliment the Times for also having suppressed information on the planned invasion, in “the national interest,” as this term was defined by the group of arrogant and deluded men of whom Schlesinger gives such a flattering portrait in his recent account of the Kennedy Administration. It is of no particular interest that one man is quite happy to lie in behalf of a cause which he knows to be unjust;

Schlesinger knew no such thing. On the other hand, he did come out against the Iraq War.  

but it is significant that such events provoke so little response in the intellectual community

Yes. It is significant that the 'intellectual community' is not utterly stupid. It knows about 'white lies', and 'mere puffery' and strategic deception of a type beneficial to one's country and one's career.  

—for example, no one has said that there is something strange in the offer of a major chair in the humanities to a historian who feels it to be his duty to persuade the world that an American-sponsored invasion of a nearby country is nothing of the sort.

Because it wasn't strange at all. My guess is giving this guy a chair attracted high quality students as well as wealthy donors. To act in a self-interested way is common-place. We would be astounded if we met a person who felt she had an obligation to wipe everybody else's ass just because she is responsible for wiping her own ass.  

And what of the incredible sequence of lies on the part of our government and its spokesmen concerning such matters as negotiations in Vietnam?

What of it? Bargaining involves pretending you don't want the thing you are dying to get your greedy little mitts on. 

The facts are known to all who care to know. The press, foreign and domestic, has presented documentation to refute each falsehood as it appears. But the power of the government’s propaganda apparatus is such that the citizen who does not undertake a research project on the subject can hardly hope to confront government pronouncements with fact.

But why bother when the thing is 'common knowledge'? This is not a context where lies matter. On the other hand a criticism based on economic and geopolitical calculations might be persuasive. Propaganda fails when people realize they'd be financially better off by ignoring it. I suppose the big question was- would 'boomers' get to take over from the 'greatest generation'- bypassing the 'silent generation'-  despite dodging the draft like crazy? The answer was yes- till Biden got elected. But then Biden got 5 deferments before, like Trump, getting a medical exemption.  

Chomky wrote the following 50 years ago. How has it held up?

 ... what is one to make of the testimony of Thomas Schelling before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, January 27, 1965, in which he discusses two great dangers if all Asia “goes Communist”? First, this would exclude “the United States and what we call Western civilization from a large part of the world that is poor and colored and potentially hostile.” Second, “a country like the United States probably cannot maintain self-confidence if just about the greatest thing it ever attempted, namely to create the basis for decency and prosperity and democratic government in the underdeveloped world, had to be acknowledged as a failure or as an attempt that we wouldn’t try again.” It surpasses belief that a person with even a minimal acquaintance with the record of American foreign policy could produce such statements.  

Anyone with minimal acquaintance with 'the record of American foreign policy' will know of its 'Open Door' doctrine- i.e. that America wanted 'civilizational', not colonial, contact with the East of a mutually beneficial sort.

 Schelling certainly understood that this doctrine was a 'focal point' for coordination games in International Relations. America needed to show it was continuing this policy. As a matter of fact, the Vietnam War could end because Nixon opened the door to China. McNamara, repenting his role in the War, helped put China on a path which lifted hundreds of millions out of poverty. It is important that Biden & Harris continue to send the sort signals Schelling was sending. Why? Focal solutions to coordination games are important. It is worth investing in not just cheap talk but also costly signals so as to preserve their salience. 

Chomsky, poor booby, still doesn't understand the importance of Schelling's work. He doesn't get that a convention need not be alethic to be useful. Or perhaps he does. Having failed in his own field, he decided to spend the rest of his long life shouting 'liar!' every time anybody said 'Good Morning' on the grounds that it wasn't actually Morning somewhere in the world and, anyway, how can you say Morning is good when trillions of poor brown people are being beaten, robbed, sodomized and subjected to aggravated acts of fellatio and cunnilingus by Wall Street Capitalists?               

Nobel Laureate Thomas Schelling helped change International Relations for the better by introducing new game theoretic concepts. He was a responsible intellectual because he talked about stuff he knew on the basis of an improved Structural Causal Model from which everybody could benefit. Chomsky was and is an irresponsible intellectual because he talks about what he does not know and which he has no Structural Causal Model for He is simply some sort Manichaean nut-job who believes he is an Old Testament prophet.                                       


Tuesday 29 December 2020

Shashi Tharoor and Brahma-Sutra 3.3.37:

 Tharoor writes, in his book "Why I'm a Hindu'-

Hinduism is also unusual in seeing God, Man and the universe as co-related.

This is nonsense. Brahma Sutra says there is reciprocity of meditation between worshipper and worshipped. But there is no interdependence. There may be synchronization (i.e. like Liebniz's Occassionalism) for 'materialist' Purva Mimamsa but there can be no 'correlation'. 

In which type of esotericism does 'correlation' arise? Gnostic theurgy- i.e. Magic. 

The reason all World Religions reject 'correlation' or 'interdependence' between Creator and Creation is because this licenses any and every type of Magic and Superstition. I prayed to Christ for a BMW but didn't get one, so I'll try sacrificing my first born to Ba'al. Maybe that's the God I'm correlated with.

We are dependent on other people for some things vital to ourselves. But, so long as we have sufficient 'theory of mind' or 'emotional intelligence', our interactions are governed by protocols involving reciprocity of a cognitively complex or psychologically deft or dexterous type. 

As the philosopher Raimon Panikkar

Whose Dad was a Nair, like Tharoor, and who wrote vacuous shite in the Sixties- as did Aubrey Menon whose Dad too was a Nair. But, hey!, everybody was writing vacuous shite in the Sixties more particularly if, like Panikkar, they were Catholic Priests drummed out of Opus Dei or not actively involved in the Vatican Bank or other such splendid anti-Communist initiatives.

has explained, in Hindu thought, God without Man is nothing, literally ‘no-thing’;

Fuck off! God without Man is still the Creator of the Universe in which Man may appear only to be 'cancelled.' Pannikar had shit for brains. That's a good thing if you want to teach at Harvard Divinity School or become a Professor of Religious Studies at Santa Barbara. Pannikar was actually less shite than Raghavan Iyer who had preceded him there by about a decade. Come to think of it, Tharoor is less vacuous than Pico Iyer. But that's not saying much. 

Man without God is just a ‘thing’, without meaning or larger purpose;

said a fuckwit teaching useless shit in Amrika-ka

and the universe without Man or God is ‘any-thing’, sheer chaos, devoid of existence.

Wow! Chaos is devoid of existence is it? Who knew?! 

In Panikkar’s explanation, nothing separates Man from God: ‘there is neither intermediary nor barrier between them’.

Which is why you mustn't jerk off coz your jizz is bound to get in God's eye. 

So Hindu prayers mix the sacred with the profane:

No they don't. Hindu prayers are purely sacerdotal though no doubt they, like anything else, coud be subject to a profane, not to say pornographic, hermeneutic

a Hindu can ask God for anything.

Only in the sense that a Christian or Muslim can do so 

Among the tens of thousands of sacred verses and hymns in the Hindu scriptures are a merchant’s prayer for wealth, a bankrupt’s plea to the divine to free him of debt, verses extolling the union of a man with a woman, and even the lament of a rueful (and luckless) gambler asking God to help him shake his addiction.

No. These are uncreated, context less, portions of Divine Revelation. Different hermeneuts may interpret them differently. Parrikar, as a Christian priest, may have chosen an interpretation which showed his Daddy came from a primitive country while his Mummy, thanks to Franco, was much more advanced. 

Prayer and worship, for the Hindu, are thus not purely spiritual exercises: they enhance the quality of his life in the material world, in the here and now

This may be true of votaries of Voodoo. It isn't true about Hinduism- at least for Brahmins. Tharoor, as a Nair, may say 'look, our people only pretended to follow Smarta Religion or Advaita Philosophy. Parrikar, whose Daddy was Nair, reveals the truth about us. We think Hinduism is about exchanging prayers for material benefits. At any rate, that's why I'm a Hindu.' 

Sunday 27 December 2020

Agnes Callard questing Meritocracy's fewmets

Agnes Callard asks in the Boston Review- 

Why are people more inclined to hold genetics responsible for (lack of) mental health than for (lack of) academic or intellectual achievement?

By definition, lack of mental health aint something you choose (though it may be the result of your choices). But sensible people don't want 'academic or intellectual achievement' because the thing is shit. Actual achievement, on the other hand, is something we want. I'd like to be rich, not a Professor of Chrematistics. I'd like to be smart, not a fucking academic. Speaking generally, we want to minimize what has to be 'achieved' relative to the yield in terms of utility or Social Welfare. Why? The former is costly. The latter is beneficial. As a Society we are better off working out ways such that less has to be 'achieved' relative to the desired outcome. It would be quite an achievement for me to achieve physical fitness. If some Scientist invents a type of nanobot which could be injected into me so that I become physically fit without any effort, then- ceteris paribus- Society is better off. 

The reason genetics is implicated in mental illness or physical disability is because reproductive success is impacted. Only if kin gain an equal or greater benefit will the gene responsible maintain itself in the population. By contrast 'academic or intellectual achievement' may track stupid shibboleths specific to a culture but which are unlikely to be related to reproductive fitness or survival value. 

Callard takes a different view-

I think this is less puzzling than deBoer and Alexander contend. There is a significant difference between these two cases. It is a scientific truth that a person’s life outcomes are, in a great variety of ways, a function of her genetic endowment (not just in matters of intelligence, however defined, but in many other behavioral and physical features, too).

This is not a scientific truth. It is not even a Scientific hypothesis. If it were we'd know, or have a pretty good idea, what changes to 'genetic endowment' to make- by changing DNA- such that our son will be a great mathematician whereas our daughter will be a beautiful ballet dancer. This is not to say that Scientific progress towards finding a Structural Causal Model for this is not being made. Once it is up and working, then ethical decisions will have to be made. Till then, mere blathershites exercise themselves over such matters so as to delude themselves that they have 'achieved' something. 

Nonetheless, the science of genetics cannot tell us what the ethical consequences of this truth are—

Truths have no 'ethical consequences' whatsoever unless it really is true that Imperative Statements can be reduced to Alethic Statements by some mechanism and thus no fact/value distinction obtains. This may be true of a deterministic or occassionalist Universe. It can't be true for a species which has always faced a radically uncertain fitness landscape. 

and more specifically, science cannot tell us that the ethical consequences of this fact are uniform for all traits.

Nor can anything else. Ethical consequences are in the eye of the beholder but that eye sees whatever it likes.  

So even if, from a genetic point of view, mental health and intelligence were equally heritable,

this can't be the case. Mental illness represents an extreme dysfunction independent of the incentive system. Intelligence, however, is a function of non-biological incentive/opportunity matrices of an idiographic sort. 

that wouldn’t entail that our ethical responses to those facts should be the same. And in fact they arguably should not be.

Our ethical responses should not be stupid unless we are actually being paid to be stupid virtue-signaling cunts and wouldn't be able to pay our bills any other way.  In this particular case, it suffices to say 'go fuck yourself you worthless cretins who can neither make me smarter nor cure me of my congenital Onanism'.

Questions of mental health, weight regulation, or substance abuse are normatively bipartite: the relevant outcomes are either normal or abnormal.

Nonsense! They are all on a number of spectrums. I may be normal weight for my height and age and occupation as a Mall Santa but this is not my ideal weight as a Beyonce impersonator. 

Achievement, by contrast, is normatively tripartite: it can be subnormal, normal, or supernormal.

It can be anything you like. Fucking retarded. Iyer level retarded. Really really shitty. Retarded by Iyengar standards. Boringly average. Piquantly average. Ironically mediocre. Actually not shitty at all. Genuine. Fucking Aces. Iyengar level Aces.  

In the bipartite cases, we are faced only with the need to avoid blaming people for the subnormal condition,

why blame people for anything other than their causing you harm of some sort?  

whereas in the tripartite cases we want to avoid blaming for subnormality and, in addition, we want to be able to credit and praise supernormality.

No we don't. I get my face slapped when I seek to shower credit and praise on peeps with super-normal boobage.  

In the bipartite cases, we get everything we want by ascribing outcomes to genetics—but doing so in the tripartite cases would thwart one of our (ethical) goals.

It is not ethical to have such goals. What we want is a Structural Causal Model such that genetics can be altered to improve outcomes. That's all that matters.  

Let me illustrate with the case of athletics. Everyone knows that athletic achievement has a strong hereditary component, yet it is clear that we do not think of it as “entirely due to genes” or even “due to genes plus luck.”

It has to do with available incentives. When Jews were poor refugees, corralled into crime ridden ghettos, there were plenty of Jewish prize-fighters and baseball players and so on. As they moved into the suburbs, Jews would joke about their lack of athleticism- a caste mark of lower middle class status. With prosperity, Jews might excel at sports if that is what they wanted to do. But wealth means that one's time has a high opportunity cost. We would expect the rich to be talented amateurs in a variety of elite sports but to disdain professional status. 

Of course, it may be that Jewish women's traditional preference for erudite grooms has pushed up Jewish academic performance and intellectual achievements. This is the problem when we speak of genetics. Since reproductive strategies are likely to have a genetic basis, the proper way to judge outcomes is by looking at joint reproductive success of the kin of the 'mentally ill' or 'super-normal' individual. 

Athletic stars serve as inspirational figures for young people who take them to represent the possibility of making something great of oneself.

Nonsense! They offer entertainment value as well as a sort of 'participation mystique'- i.e. the vicarious taste of triumphs far beyond one's capacity. It is a different matter that aspiring athletes are inspired by a particular star but then aspiring cost and management accountants are inspired by those who risen high in that line of work.  

Nature might give you height or quick reflexes, but athletic excellence also requires years of concerted effort.

The effort is not what concerns us. It is the 'intestinal fortitude' that is displayed under intensely competitive conditions. It is that element of drama which makes spectator sports so enthralling and addictive.  

By dint of this effort, we think of the stars as having earned their accomplishments.

No we don't. We understand that the dramatic nature of the competition in which they are involved leads to a disproportionate amount of public interest which in turn means that advertisers throw money at the stars. We have an instinctive understanding of the relevant 'Power' or 'Pareto' Law which determines earning in such fields. We know that movie stars and sports stars and so forth gain disproportionate 'economic rent' because part of what makes them celebrities is the belief that they earn fabulous sums. In other words, inflated remuneration is part of their productive function. We gain more utility from seeing a footballer who earns millions than an equally agile youngster who hasn't yet been signed.  

There is no tension between thinking that most people are not cut out for athletic accomplishment and thinking that the ones who succeed do so on the strength of their efforts.

But 'athletic accomplishment' is merely a matter of public taste which itself is a product of a well oiled publicity machine's incessant myth making. It is not something objective about the world. There is great tension between thinking ordinary people understand that show business works differently from the bread and butter sort and pretending that people are cretins who don't understand that remuneration works differently in the entertainment industry- which includes sports and even some so called 'public intellectuals' who prattle puerile shite of Callard's sort so we can laugh at their imbecility. The reason for this is that inflated remuneration is itself what adds value and endows 'celebrity status'. 

To recognize and admire and credit the winners, you don’t need to think that an athletic failure—myself included—is to be blamed for insufficient effort. Kindness to athletic losers doesn’t need to be bought at the price of indifference to athletic winners.

But athletics of the sort where admiration is involved is not utilitarian at all. We are not kind to athletes who fuck up. We make fun of them even if we ourselves are as utterly unathletic.  

We have some say in how our lives go, and yet our lives are also subjected to forces outside our control. Which part of this story do we emphasize?

Why bother telling stories? Or, if forced to do so, why not throw in episodes featuring acts of fellatio performed on you by Margaret Thatcher or Angela Merkel? Personally, I find that only such portions of my narrative command attention when, weeping into my whiskey, I seek to regale my fellow drunken bums with the tragic tale of my decline and fall as a Cost and Management trainee Accountant.  

The question of who we praise and who we blame is not a scientific question, but an ethical one;

No. It is merely a question of tastes & preferences or mental pathology. 

there is no way to answer it except by deliberating seriously about the kind of society we want to live in.

Nobody seriously debates utterly inutile shite. What is the point in our all agreeing that we want to live in a society where everybody is nice and naughtiness is smacked on the bum and sent to bed without any supper?  

In that spirit, I want to propose a new candidate for what the “the compassionate, sympathetic, progressive position” should look like.

Please say it should look like it stuck its head up its arse purely in the spirit of scientific inquiry.  

First, we should incline toward crediting people for their achievements as being genuinely their own, the justly earned fruits of hard work and diligence, deserving of pride and a sense of accomplishment.

Why? What good would it do? Would it not be better to just be nice to people instead of crediting or debiting them as if that is what we are paid to do?  

Second, we should incline toward explaining away failures on the basis of genes, socioeconomic obstacles, bad luck, and so on—things beyond their control—in such a way to make clear that the attitude called for in response to failure is sympathy and readiness to assist.

Why not just be sympathetic and ready to assist without making it conditional on our interlocutor being an abject loser who, we tell her, has terrible genes and comes from a rotten section of society. Also she smells bad and when she smiles, strong men back away in horror. This isn't her fault at all. God hates her. She never had a chance. We sympathize and are ready to assist her- though this readiness will never turn into actual assistance- because we are truly wonderful beings- even to a worthless sack of shit like her. 

The successful should be proud of themselves, and when they see others fail, they should think: there but for the grace of God go I.

No. The successful should get on with doing useful stuff. They needn't be proud of themselves. When they another fail, they are welcome to help that person do better without being an almighty dick about it.  

People rarely, if ever, deserve to fail,

unless they actually do fail in a fair test- the only context where 'fail' is meaningful- in which case there is something they could consciously have done differently to alter the outcome. I deserved to fail my driving test because I knew it was probably a bad idea to get drunk just before it commenced. 

but people typically deserve their successes.

only if success correlates to their doing the right thing. I didn't deserve to get crowned Beyonce impersonator of the year because I didn't know who Beyonce was. Anyway, Daddy- who happened to be Judging the contest- has a history of insinuating that I am effeminate and probably make my living in London as some  crapulous type of catamite.  

The fact is, Tyche- Luck- is something we congratulate a person for having because it is something we want for ourselves. But Luck is never deserved. 

To prove that this asymmetry is coherent, consider the ethos among a group of striving friends. When one of my academic friends faces a professional setback—a paper rejection, a fruitless job search, being denied tenure—the rest of us respond with sympathy and compassion.

Because you want to stay friends. The question is how long will you keep up this sympathy and compassion after you gain tenure and she ends up as a cocktail waitress. 

We do not say, “This was your fault for not working hard enough.”

But ought to do so, if that is the truth.  

Except under truly extraordinary circumstances, we do not take ourselves to be in the business of blaming, faulting, and condemning our friends.

Precisely because they are friends. But such friendships peter out.  

But when that same person achieves some triumph, we would typically congratulate her for the fruits of her efforts.

Unless we have a penis in which case it is de rigueur to say 'I suppose it's true what they say, lucky at professional advancement, unlucky in having a tiny dick.'   

We credit her for her accomplishments without blaming her for her failures.

Till she tells us to fuck off. We aint foolin nobody. 

One should not assume that this situation must boil down either to amiable exaggeration of someone’s role in her triumphs or to well-meant but deceptive downplaying of her responsibility for her failures. There need be no white lies involved in our response, because it is ethically correct to respond asymmetrically to the role of chance in success and failure. The simple fact is that you can praise a student for his A without blaming him for his C. And this is, in fact, usually how you should act.

No. Telling students to get the fuck out of Collidge and start earning already is, almost always, the ethical thing to do. 

Kindness to athletic losers doesn’t need to be bought at the price of indifference to athletic winners.

Give both a blow job by all means- if that's what you like doing. If it isn't why not get on with your own life?  

I believe we should credit all achievements, including those of the privileged: the talents of the rich do not magically develop themselves.

Or we could get out of the crediting and debiting business- unless paid good money to remain. 

But we should also recognize that when people had to overcome substantial obstacles to get where they are, they objectively achieved more, and deserve to be even prouder of themselves.

Why? Will our noses fall off if we don't? The fact is most people don't like being told they have overcome substantial obstacles to get where they are. Rather, they are flattered by the suggestion that they were born with superior endowments. This was one thing the Royal Family were actually quite good at. When confronted with some ghastly darkie who had turfed them out of one of their Colonial possessions, they simply pretended he too was some sort of retarded regal cousin rather than a Mission School educated, Solicitor's clerk who had schemed and lied and cheated his way to the top. 

Let me conclude by bringing these philosophical reflections on achievement to bear on our socioeconomic system for distributing material rewards and social status—for it is at this edifice that Sandel’s and deBoer’s objections are ultimately directed. The argument I have given offers a way of separating our answer to the question of how we should distribute pluses such as riches, honors, fame, and recognition from our answer to the question of how we should distribute minuses such as poverty, shame, suffering, and precarity.

Does Callard really think cretins like her distribute 'pluses' or 'minuses' to any save their own equally retarded students? But even there, is it not the case that one or two retards will get some sort of return on their investment while the rest will have been shamelessly swindled?

Ordinary people understand that a Society on the brink of collapse will still distribute 'pluses'. The smart play is to refuse them. Poverty and Suffering, though, are distributed mainly through 'Games against Nature'. Having a better Structural Model of the underlying Economic process is what generates 'pluses'. Callard type shite, however, is productive only of 'minuses'. Growth is worth pursuing. Equity is a chimera which kills the golden goose of its own mixed metaphors. Let Agnes Callard or Magnus Mallard quest its notional fewmets. After all, that's what they get paid to do.

You can think that everyone deserves a decent life and also think that some people deserve more than that, in virtue of what they have achieved.

In which case your notion of living a 'decent life' involves, to a greater or lesser extent,  accepting a deferential Society. At the margin, this is indecent unless a reflexive equilibrium of a certain type obtains. But, if we evolved by Natural Selection, this can't be the case. Thus Callard's assertion is either 'cheap talk' or a mischievous type of stupidity. 

Depriving someone of the basics needed to live a decent life is a form of punishment,

No it isn't. A punishment is something which it is costly to inflict.  

and arguably no one—except perhaps one guilty of grievous wrongdoing—deserves that.

but, by the same argument, no one deserves not to be able to levitate, or live forever, or create a Universe more to their liking. 

You can think that everyone deserves a decent life and also think that some people deserve more than that, in virtue of what they have achieved.

Why stop there? Why not also believe everybody deserves to get beejays from everybody else in Imaginationland?  

 And—this is what comes of accepting the asymmetry I’ve been arguing for—you can think that person A deserves material or social rewards for achievements that person B had no chance to produce (say, for genetic reasons, or due to sexism, or pure bad luck).

while also thinking that Mother Theresa, quite deservedly, is engaging in 69 with Mahatma Gandhi and every virtue signalling blathershite deserves to watch nothing else for all time. 

The fact that chance played a role in A’s success does not invalidate our rewarding him for it.

Why the fuck reward anybody unless that is what you are paid to do? It is one thing when as a Federal Boob Inspector, wearing the official t-shirt, I get my face slapped when I attempt to reward young ladies, but it is quite another when the FBI fails to pay me for my arduous services.  

But the fact that we can and should reward A does not entail that we are permitted to punish B for her lack of success.

Unless that is what we are paid to do. 

B deserves a decent life, even if she never earned the rewards we (justifiably) give only to A.

B deserves to watch Mahatma Gandhi go down on Mother Theresa- at least, if that is an essential component of her living a decent life.  

Because deBoer and Sandel take aim at the legitimacy of dipping below decency,

without showing how the thing could be done- they are virtue signalling blathershites, not decent thinkers at all 

they do not give any independent argument concerning the desert of those in the upper half of the distribution of outcomes—but that is really where meritocracy resides.

No it doesn't. Under Knightian Uncertainty, Infomation asymmetry etc, Merit will always be mixed up with Luck. No canonical factorization can exist. 

Meritocracy is about rewarding success, not punishing failure.

Nonsense! Meritocracy is about position of power being allocated according to credentialized metrics of merit. But, this is an ideographic matter subject to hysteresis. It is not ergodic. It has no canonical representation.  

Consider the famous “motivational” speech from the 1992 film Glengarry Glen Ross:

Why? The enterprise was the real estate equivalent of a Boiler Room. A whistle blower could have had the place shut down. Its promoters could have faced heavy fines or even jail time for unfair business practices.

We’re adding a little something to this month’s sales contest. As you all know, first prize is a Cadillac Eldorado. Anybody wanna see second prize? Second prize is a set of steak knives. Third prize is, you’re fired.

Why do we watch movies about shady business practices? The answer is that it is the competitive element which makes the the thing a thymotic agon. It is dramatic. We all know that the way to get rich is to work hard at boring shit. But, for entertainment, we watch movies about intensely competitive criminal enterprises which actually have a negative real return. The same thing happens in Callard's branch of Academia. She herself will be a 'super-star' and do well while a lot of people who were smarter than her end up taking a big loss on their time in that shite branch of Studies. But, if Callard had done boring but useful stuff she would now already be a lot richer than she will end up being. Of course, this would not be the case if she weren't a sociopath. But she is and so she should have set up a hedge fund or produced 'foamware' or been a patent troll or something of that sort.

All of us feel a jolt between second and third prize.

No we don't. The thing only matters in what is basically an 'entertainment' industry. Gangsters can get rich if they stop playing the role of gangsters and act just like Cost and Management Accountants who don't give a sit who gets first prize for Double Entry this year.  

That is the moment when “meritocracy” gets twisted and deformed into something punitive and vile.

Yes, yes. We know. Everybody should get a prize just for participating. Back in 1992, my Mummy packed me some chutney sandwiches and gave me a big bottle of orange squash. I put on the Chelsea strip she had bought me from a market stall. Then I went to the football field nearest me- Stamford Bridge, as it happens- and asked to play for the Home Team. I was willing to share my chutney sandwiches and Orange squash. Also, I had brought along my own ball- albeit one smaller than regulation size and made of plastic. 

Sadly, 'meritocracy' had been twisted into something punitive vile. I was not allowed to play. That's how come I'm not now married to Posh Spice. 

If our system of distributing meritocratic rewards to achievers depends on distributing degrading punishments to non-achievers,

Like me being brutally manhandled and thrown out of Chelsea Football Ground even though I volunteered to let the custodial staff there suck my cock.  

that is a strike against our meritocracy,

A 'meritocracy' where Callard is considered smart is no meritocracy at all. 

not against meritocracy itself. Insofar as meritocracy ends up not only determining the extremes of success

But, it can't do that. Nor can Aristocracy or Democracy or Theocracy. Why pretend otherwise? Forms of Government or Resource Allocation or principles for determining Hierarchical positions do not, can not, actually determine outcomes any more than Madoff's Ponzi scheme actually made his investors very comfortably off in all perpetuity.  

but also condemning non-achievers as worthless, that is a corruption of meritocracy, to be condemned alongside better-recognized corruptions such as racism and sexism.

Merit is a criteria for distinguishing worthless types of achievement- e.g my arduous poetastering lucubrations- from, it may be, entirely effortless types of achievement. A lady named Mary Elizabeth Frye- as I found out by Googling- wrote the poem that comforted me when I attended the funeral service of my neighbor. The Academy may not recognize Frye as having merit as a poet. But she does. The Academy doesn't. 

This is why I say that Sandel and deBoer have conflated an accidental imperfection of one (punitive) mode of meritocracy with a critique of meritocracy itself.

Conflation is the only way to critique something which can't exist.  If an accident is imperfect the essence can't be perfect nor can the thing have a canonical- or 'intensional'- representation. Thus what Callard says is gibberish.

Of course the ethics of success is full of knotty problems.

No. Success is Alexander to every Mussar or Gordian knot.  Isonomia, or that reciprocity by which the material needs of alterity constitute ipseity's spiritual needs, prevails by Success's sword stroke. But Alexander didn't become Great by reason of pluses or minuses awarded him by Aristotle. 

It is not easy to draw the line between what is given only on the grounds of talent and effort, on the one hand, and what belongs to all, regardless of achievement, on the other.

Not easy for Callard- sure. But easy enough for Accountants or Economists- at least in the short run. The thing is actually less complicated than plumbing- which is why a good plumber has a higher hourly rate. 

The question “how much is enough for a decent life?” is difficult to answer,

Fuck off! Precisely because we are human beings, we are hardwired to quickly reach consensus on such matters.  

and on top of the intrinsic difficulty, the answer shifts over time.

Again, this is a problem we are fucking genetically hardwired to solve quickly and heuristically. However, the canonical representation of the solution is 'regret minimizing' and coarse grained and pretty much 'anything goes'. But Arrow-Debreu is worse in that respect.  

Education is, and perhaps will always be, a battleground, and one way to interpret Sandel and deBoer’s proposed policy interventions is to see them as

stupid virtue signalling blathershites. There is no other rational way to see those ignorant, stupid, careerist, cunts. 

disagreeing over where to draw the line in that arena. DeBoer’s suggestion that we become willing to exempt some twelve-year-olds from further schooling is a way of drawing the line relatively low—high school is already “extra”—whereas Sandel’s suggestion of lottery-based college admissions draws the line high: even college education should not be allocated on the basis of talent, promise, or achievement.

So, these cunts propose shite of a sort which advertises nothing but their own stupidity and political irrelevance.  

Constructing a non-punitive meritocracy is not at all straightforward

Yet it happens spontaneously, absent market failure, in every utile profession or branch of industry. Incentive Compatible Mechanism design can always establish public signals for improved correlated equilibria. If some worthless cunts want to speak of this as 'meritocracy' why object? They have no power or influence.

—any more than constructing a non-racist or non-sexist meritocracy, or one that is not biased in favor of the rich. But it is a worthy project

Just like building a perpetual motion machine.  

because a non-punitive meritocracy holds out the prospect of combining—not merely in words, but in reality—our desire for cooperative communitarian harmony with our commitment to individual excellence and achievement.

not to mention our ardour for Niceness as opposed to Naughtiness 

Sandel and deBoer urge us to sacrifice the latter at the altar of the former.

Coz sacrificing first born babies at the altar of Ba'al was such a swell idea

But that wouldn’t be necessary if we could achieve both goals. A kinder, more compassionate, more progressive—which is to say, less punitive—meritocracy would give us the best of all worlds.

only if all who deserve to view Mother Theresa suck off Mahatma Gandhi are enabled to do so as part of a minimal provision for living a decent life.  

For both authors the fundamental question is not about how to tinker with our current system at the margins but what kind of ideal we should set our sights on—even if it is not necessarily immediately realizable. DeBoer’s book ends with a panegyric description of a post-revolutionary Marxist “utopia” of which he acknowledges: “Some will, no doubt, call this fantasy. They will say that such a society cannot exist.” But this vision is predicated on a mistake: he assumes that we have to give up on meritocratic rewards in order to free ourselves from the scourge of meritocratic punishment. I say, as long as we’re dreaming, let’s dream bigger.

Such that Mahatma Gandhi has such a ginormous cock that only Mother Theresa has the boobage to adequately titty-wank him. 

This is the problem with masturbatory Political Philosopy. Whatever boring shite it strokes itself off to can always be judiciously augmented by a properly funded program of academic research on Pornhub.

Friday 25 December 2020

Ernst Gellner's crazy notion of Nationalism

In the Fifties and Sixties, some shite White pedants were forced to teach people from ex-colonies utterly worthless subjects like 'Political Science' & 'Anthropology'. Since these Whites couldn't say- as their predecessors had- Nig Nogs got zero brains and thus can never rule themselves or have 'Nation States' and so forth- they were obliged to say 'Nationalism is imaginary. It is created by Literacy and 'Print Capitalism' and other stuff you Nig Nogs obviously lack. Please don't eat me. Have a nice PhD instead.' 

Why did Black and Asian people put up with this shite? The answer is that they were credential seeking shitheads whose existence was entirely parasitic. Thus, it paid them to pretend to give credence to worthless White shitheads who, ludicrously, also claimed to be 'Liberal' or 'Left of Center'. 

As a case in point, Ernest Gellner's theory of nationalism was obviously false. It is not the case that those who consider themselves to belong to the same Nation necessarily want to belong to the same political unit. This is because idiographic considerations determine the optimal size and scope of political units. Only when such considerations change would a Nation- e.g the German or Italian nation- wish to have a strong Nation State of a unitary type. Nationalism is merely the wish to see one's own people flourish. This may be best done with autonomous cantons, perhaps with external alliances of opposite valency, or it may require a strong center accessing economies of scale and scope in the provision of public goods. 

It is not the case that Nationalism is "primarily a political principle which holds that the political and the national unit should be congruent'. On the contrary, Nationalists may want the 'political unit' to include strategic or resource rich territories populated by 'lesser' peoples who may, in consequence, espouse a purely defensive Nationalism which, however, does not wish to link up with the territory of others of the same language. 

Differences in Ideology or type of economic system or political tradition may militate for the splitting up of a Nation. The recent campaign for 'Calexit'- i.e. California's secession from Trump's America- is an example.

 Gellner must have been aware that Taiwan and Hong Kong had plenty of Chinese Nationalists. But, they did not want Beijing to rule over both in an untrammeled fashion. We can easily imagine a Communist German or Korean whose Nationalism involved wishing their country to remain divided so 'capitalist forces' in the majority region did not strangle Socialism. 

For the older view of Nationalism- that of Ernest Renan, for example,- which stressed shared political history, Gellner's dictum becomes a tautology. Nationalism is the political principle which holds that the political unit should be the political unit. Switzerland is the classic example- and a scandal for Gellner's theory. 

The reductio ad absurdum of the Benedict Anderson, or Ernest Gellner, or most subsequent theories of Nationalism is the oft quoted dictum- “Nationalism is not the awakening of nations to self-consciousness; it invents nations where they do not exist”. (Gellner 1964: 169)  Gellner's example of a nation invented out of thin air is Estonia- a country greatly respected in Europe for its economic success and splendid Human Welfare indicators.

There are some very clear cases where modernism holds true. Take the Estonians.

Who speak an Uralic language unlike their Slavic or Baltic neighbors.  

At the beginning of the 19th century they didn’t even have a name for themselves.

But they spoke a different language from their neighbors as well as their oppressors. Speaking the same language is enough to have a notion of ipseity. Only when speaking to an alterity does one need to identify oneself as belonging to a different nation.  

They were simply referred to

by whom?  

as people who lived on the land, as opposed to German or Swedish burghers and aristocrats, and Russian administrators.

So what? They knew themselves well enough. People on my street may refer to me as 'the bloke wot lives in the house at the end of the street'. Gellner may think this means I don't have a name for myself. I don't have 'self-consciousness'.  

They were just a category, without any ethnic self-consciousness.

Suddenly, I decide to invent a name for myself. I start writing books and creating art-work which I sign with my own name. I have been brilliantly successful in creating a vibrant identity.  

But since, they have been brilliantly successful in creating a vibrant culture which can be seen, very much alive, in the ethnographic museum in Tartu. The museum has one object for every Estonian-and there are one million Estonians. Obviously Estonian culture is under no threat, although Estonians make a fuss about the Russian minority which they have inherited from the Soviet system. Estonians have a vital and vibrant culture but it was created by the kind of modernist process

which occurred when the Uralic language speaking groups split up and went in different directions. This modernist process may only have begun 13,000 years ago.  

which I apply to nationalism and nations in general.

Because tiny Estonia, which has suffered so much at the hands of rapacious, or ideologically demented, neighbors, really is typical of 'Nationalism and Nations in general.' The truth is the Estonians are exceptional in the manner they managed to cling on and are exemplary in the manner in which they have made the most of their opportunities since the fall of the Berlin Wall.  

If that kind of account holds true for some nations,

It doesn't. 

then the exceptions which are credited to other nations are redundant.

No. A theory is false if there is even one counter-example.  

The central fact of the modern world is that the role of culture in human life was totally transformed by the cluster of economic and scientific changes since the 17th century.

Sheer nonsense! The central fact of the ancient world was that the role of culture in human life was totally transformed by the cluster of economic and scientific and religious changes which occurred since ancient times began. Indeed, the central fact about all facts is that they were totally transformed by stuff which was going on contemporaneously.  

The prime role of culture in agrarian society was to underwrite a people’s status and identity-to entrench their position in a complex, usually hierarchical, relatively stable structure.

This was also the prime role of ignorance and scratching one's arse while chewing on a a piece of straw. What underwrites Gellner's status and identity? It isn't culture. It is earning a living by talking worthless shite. But that is a function, not of culture, but stupidity, ignorance and an atavistic belief in the wisdom of senile nutters.  

In today’s world people have no stable position within a structure.

Fuck off! We have much more stable positions within political and economic structures which won't suddenly disappear. I fully expect to receive a pension and to die in a hospital. I don't expect to be kidnapped, sold in a slave market in Algiers, get gelded and end up as an Eunuch attendant upon the Sultana whom I so please with my tongue that I end up the Grand Vizier till the Bulgars invade and then, by another dazzling reversal of fortune, I rise from Venetian Galley Slave to the position of Avignon's Anti-Pope.  

They are members of ephemeral professional bureaucracies which are not deeply internalised.

The Confucian bureaucracy certainly proved ephemeral in the early Twentieth Century as did the Japanese bakufu some fifty years previously. Tibet's theocratic bureaucracy disappeared. But the ICS turned into the IAS and is going strong. The Chinese Communist Party's bureaucracy doesn't seem ephemeral at all. But, it may turn out to be. What are not ephemeral are useful vocations and productive enterprises howsoever carried forward. Economics has explanatory power. Gellner's shite was meaningless garbage.  

They belong to increasingly loose family associations. And what really matters is how they can incorporate and master high culture.

Fuck off! Having 'high culture' is what makes you shit at getting rich or defeating  invaders.  

By that I mean a literate codified culture which permits context-free communication, community membership and acceptability- that is what constitutes a nation.

Communication is never 'context free'. There is no 'i-language'. True, Turing found a way to specify a 'context free' Language. But, no CFL can be a natural language in the semantic sense. From the point of view of Syntax however, it may have a context free representation. 

Essentially, Gellner is saying 'Nig Nogs may have gotten independence but they are too poor to have 'High Culture'. So they aren't really Nations at all.' This was one step up from saying 'only us Whites are human. Everybody else is a two legged donkey'. But, one step was all it was.

It is a consequence of the mobility and anonymity of modern society

as opposed to ancient times when vast folk-wanderings occurred and hordes and counter-hordes kept warring such that lots of people no longer remembered their own names but were simply known as 'Skull-Crusher' or 'Rapes-a-lot'. 

and of the semantic, non-physical nature of our work that makes mastery of such culture and acceptance within it the most valuable possession a man has.

Fuck off! Gellner had to show up for work and mark a lot of exam scripts so as to draw his salary. This was physical- albeit inutile and demeaning- work. 

It is a pre-condition of all other privileges and participation in society.

No it isn't. This fucker would still get his pension provided a Doctor could show he had a pulse.  

This is what automatically makes a man into a nationalist, because if there is no congruence between the culture in which he is operating and the culture of the surrounding economic, political, and educational bureaucracies, then he is in trouble.

But Nationalism exists even if such a congruence obtains.  Equally, no Nationalism necessarily arises where it does not. 

It is true, under Imperialism or foreign rule, the natives may be humiliated. But the response may not be Nationalistic at all. A 'segmentary', caste-type, accommodation may be preferred. On the other hand, if a 'resource curse' obtains, a separatist Nationalism may arise even amongst an indigenous population of markedly superior status so that Sovereign Wealth be entirely expropriated by the 'sons-of-the-soil'. Actually, this might also be done by a heterogenous population. The Boston Tea Party was about various different types of European dressing up as Red Indians so as to create mayhem for, it must be admitted, a sound enough economic reason. 

He and his offspring will be exposed to sustained humiliation. Moreover, the maintenance of the high culture, the medium in which society operates, is politically precarious and expensive. The state is the protector, usually the financier- or at very least the quality controller-of the educational process which shapes people into members of this high culture. This is a process of creation- my equivalent of that event of 6000 BC when humanity was suddenly brought into being.

So, Gellner is about as scientific as Bishop Usher. Why did anybody study under this cretin? Having got their worthless PhDs, why did nobody acknowledge that the fucker was fucked in the head?  

Thursday 24 December 2020

Kipling's Jews in Shushan

 To give equal tongue to Torah, to shake Akiva's Shekinah from Sisera's slumber
Ten is the Minyan's Deborah number
But Male & Adult- at least for such Zion as is its own Masonry, Free,
Till the too Choosy Chosen, to Calcutta, flee.

Midons! Thy Empire endures however ricketily furnished
Where but, between Men, brotherhood is burnished. 

Since the time of Ezra, for Scribes, Mountains ceased to flow
Yet to do sajda to Muhammad see how merrily they go!
Such is the Gospel of Elahi Buksh
& Darkening the minds of but savants- all Fiat Lux

Socially dead, not just distanced, I yet laugh, pray and play
Memory my Minyan, not just this Christmas Day

Wednesday 23 December 2020

Mike O'Brien & alimony for squirrels

Mike O'Brien writes in 3 Quarks
Do rights exist? That strikes me as a nonsensical question.

But it isn't at all. Rights reliably exist if there is a protocol bound juristic process which results in their enforcement through an incentive compatible bond of law. They can be analyzed in a Hohfeldian manner and are likely to give rise to public signals which in turn promote correlated equilibria.  

Is there a moral state of affairs that is usefully analogised by “rights” discourse?

No. A legal or otherwise juristic state of affairs, not itself 'moral', may feature 'moral' clauses. However a purely 'moral' state of affairs does not feature 'rights'- i.e. does not give rise to Hohfeldian immunities- because morality is intensional and recursively categorical. It does not have any uncorrelated asymmetries.  In other words, the Moral Law applies irrespective of any individuating circumstance. It is pure 'Akreibia', without any 'Economia'- i.e. discretionary, or administrative, leeway. 

A 'moral state of affairs' features moral claims. But those claims may themselves be immoral. A parricide may plead for a merciful act of fellatio from the Judge on the grounds that now he is an orphan, his toothless old dad can no longer be intimidated into doing the needful. The claim here is that Morality requires a Father, or other authority figure, like a Judge, to suck off a psychopath. 

Such claims may delight some.

Now you’re talking. I’m not sure that there is, or that any objective state of moral affairs can be objectively shown to obtain, but at least rights talk seems to be an activity that morally interested, language-using beings can engage in with useful results.

Only if there is an actual protocol bound juristic process with an 'incentive compatible' enforcement mechanism. Otherwise, one might as well talk of how Newton's Laws apply to 'scientifically interested' people discussing not a physical orgy but an emotional one. 

We can talk about how people have rights, and what obligations those rights impose on how people are treated by others.

Just as we can talk about their superpowers or ability to turn into different animals 

We can talk about how animals have rights,

and why squirrels have Scottish accents while dogs talk Cockney.  

and what obligations those rights impose on how animals are treated.

as well as how much alimony a squirrel is owed if you accidentally married it while walking in the park and now want a quickie divorce so as to form a Civil Partnership with a terrier who sounds like Bob Hoskins. 

We can even talk about according rights to trees, mountains, and legally incorporated businesses, if we want to.

Indian Law certainly allows for that possibility.  

But the trees don’t know they have rights, nor do the mountains, nor do the animals.

Nor do small children or people in comas. Nevertheless, the Court can appoint a Guardian or other Agent for such people so that their rights may be enforced.  

And, given the dismal state of moral and civic education in many places, nor do many people.

Moral and civic education does not matter. The Law does.  

If they don’t think of themselves as having rights (or, furthermore, lack any clear concept of legal or moral right), and don’t experience any special treatment or status as rights-holders, what does it matter if some philosopher or judge believes them to have rights?

The philosopher does not matter unless he can convince an actual judge in a justiciable context.  

One argument in favour of maintaining a theory of rights, even when it makes no practical difference to putative rights-holders, is that the efficacy of rights discourse is bolstered by understanding and applying concepts of rights consistently, even in futile instances.

This argument also explains why it is useful to analyze how you came to accidentally marry a squirrel when what you really wanted to do was to form a Civil Partnership with your neighbor's dog.  

This is a practical argument for treating rights deontologically; the spell only works if we all pretend that magic is real.

But if the magic is real then you are married to a squirrel which is currently berating you in a Glaswegian accent.  

I’ve heard presentations by lawyers who are very effective advocates for animal rights, but are completely agnostic about whether concepts like rights accurately represent moral truths.

No concept represents a truth of any type- not even the concept of truth. But then it is also the case that a map is not a territory nor is the word 'dog' itself a 'dog' even if you say 'dog' in a Bob Hoskins accent and then bark vigorously.  

A perhaps non-obvious comparison to make here is to professional wrestling’s code of “kayfabe”, an unwavering performative commitment to fictional pretence that, though plainly false, creates real experiences and reactions for those who share in the lie.

Why not simply say the thing is staged- it is theater?  

The audience in this case isn’t duped by falsehoods, but rather is enriched by adopting a picture of the world which includes more than facts.

So, blathershites talking about animal rights are just 'virtue signaling' hypocrites- i.e ham actors or muscle bound professional wrestlers pretending they are Cannibals or KGB agents or villains of a yet more exotic stripe.  

The discourse of rights is also enriching, by providing new qualities and entities with which to populate our moral picture of the world. But there is a danger that it can crowd out other analogies and conceptual schemes which may be more apt and efficacious for improving some moral matter, and beyond that there is a danger that rights discourse can over-extend itself at the expense of its own coherence and credibility.

It is true that my constantly haranguing you about how much alimony you owe that squirrel you accidentally married in the park may 'enrich' you. It may cause you to question your sexuality or choice of profession. It is certainly likely to motivate you to find someone else to hang out with. But, to speak of 'coherence' or 'credibility' in this context is to gild the lily somewhat.  

Rights talk is, I think, a particular kind of language game.

It has no rules. It is not a game. It may be a type of bullying. It is generally a nuisance.  By contrast, legal proceedings featuring rights are not games and are not purely linguistic, though protocol bound utterances of an agonistic type may feature. 

It’s a transposition of “ought” statements into “is” statements, allowing people to talk matter-of-fact-ly about matters of value.

Magic and Mendacity have the same property. You are married to a squirrel, dude! That means your dick must be a lot smaller than mine coz my wife is a whale.  

It has a legalistic structure, whereby those entities with rights have standing to make claims, and to advocate their own interests against the competing interests of fellow rights-holders.

No 'legalistic structure' arises save where there is an incentive compatible enforcement mechanism. True, a Mafia Godfather, rather than a Judge, may dole out Justice. But that Justice, whichever way you slice it, is costly. It is a proper subject for Economics, not Philosophy or 'language games'.  

The fact that this language tracks legal concepts closely

is not a fact at all. Language can track animal noises pretty damn closely, but this does not mean my saying 'woof fucking woof' makes me a dog.  

means that it is tractable in systems of law, and a moral claim is easily translated into a legal claim.

Nonsense! To turn anything into a legal claim involves complicated issues of how it may be justiciable, which jurisdiction applies, what damage has been caused by a rights infringement and how an obligation holder may be compelled to make good that damage. 

(Insofar as most legal systems have existed in the shadow of religious moral codes, was it not always thus? Ponder that.)

If immorality is considered an offense against God, the Nation, the King, or the People, then there is a 'rights violation' when you jerk off in private. You can be punished for breaking the Law. 

Since the Law is costly to enforce, those paying for it find it convenient to give themselves Hohfeldian immunities from it. Thus your 'right to privacy' may defeat God, or the People's, right to punish you for playing with yourself in a disgusting, obscene, manner. 

This picture works for people who are able to advocate for themselves, and the granting of rights is presumed to have a kind of enabling effect on the rights-holders, allowing them to use their standing to pursue the full penumbra of their rights.

Nonsense! The greatest lawyer in the world does not want to be constantly defending himself in Court against alimony demands brought by me on behalf of various squirrels of my acquaintance.  

This idealized picture doesn’t work for all humans, though.

It does not work for any humans. Even the greatest lawyer in the world wants to be protected from nuisance law-suits. But this entails the non justiciability of moral claims save by contractual stipulation. Absent this condition, no judicial enforcement mechanism could be incentive compatible. 

Not everyone is competent to understand their rights, let alone defend them against other rights-holders with opposing interests.

Almost everybody isn't- which is why lawyers exist.  

But we can at least imagine that if they did understand their rights, they would defend them in certain ways, and so we accord them rights even if the practical exercise of those rights is derogated to others. This might be thought of as assisted personhood.

No it might not. 'Laches' still arises. If you sleep on your rights, you lose them. Nobody gonna assist your personhood if you be a lazy sod. 

But then there are cases where a human being has no ability whatsoever to exercise their personhood, and indeed we may question whether they are persons at all.

What matters here is whether someone has the motivation and means to act for them. But this is equally true of animals, plants, rocks, rivers etc.  

Such cases, like people who are comatose or severely cognitively disabled, are often brought up as objection to anti-speciesist arguments for according animals rights on the basis of their sentience.

Yet, humans, throughout their history, have given greater rights to some animals and inanimate objects than it did to people existing at that very same place and time. Sentience does not matter. It may, by a 'legal fiction' be bestowed on anything at all.  

If the basis of rights-having is some measure of conscious experience,

Then Magic and Mystagogy must be true, in some sense. Changing your consciousness gives you superpowers. That's how come I know which squirrels you accidentally married and how much alimony you must pay to each.  

rather than simply being human, then some humans are vulnerable to losing their rights when they fall below a certain functional threshold.

No. They are vulnerable to being unable to assert them, without assistance. 

The dilemma is between a consistently species-based distribution of rights that includes all humans but excludes all non-humans,

In which case I can eat your dog and have sex with your cat 

or a consistently capacities-based distribution that excludes some humans but includes some non-humans.

In which case, by destroying your capacities- or ensuring they never develop- I can bite chunks off you and eat them while fucking you in the ass. 

The truth is, there never has been any such dilemma. The Law is founded on 'Oikeiosis'- ties of belonging corresponding to uncorrelated asymmetries - and represents the 'bourgeois strategy' in the Hawk Dove game. 

I think this is a weak objection, and I’m baffled by the effort expended by animal rights advocates trying to find ways around it.

But, you are as stupid as shit.  

Comatose people don’t have (moral) rights

So anyone who roofies you is doing nothing immoral by fucking you to death 

because they can’t play the language games that turn rights concepts into behaviour.

No 'language game' has this property. Coercive enforcement of Judicial- or self-regarding- decisions has this effect. However, there may be non-coercive- purely 'reputational'- mechanisms which militate to the same end. Still, the optimal strategy is to punish those who shirk a duty of retaliation. Tit for Tat is eusocial. 

We continue to treat them as rights-holders because to do otherwise seems monstrous,

Fuck is wrong with a thing 'seeming monstrous'? Hulk seems monstrous. He was my favorite super-hero. Dragons are monstrous. But that's what kept kids, like Butters, glued to Game of Thrones despite the vast number of disgusting penises and testicles which filled the small screen for episode after episode. 

and because there is a shared interest among non-comatose people in preventing the repeal of anyone’s rights.

Actually, we are pretty selective about this. I will phone the police if I see a girl passed out on the street. Indeed, I actually did stand guard over one such girl till the cops arrived- but I show no similar concern for myself when attractive females stay over. If they choose to ride me hard and put me away wet, I hope no busybody will interfere. 

Both of these considerations are more compelling than preserving the conceptual coherence of “person” and “rights”, I suppose.

'Conceptual coherence' is only desirable where it adheres to the correct, Muth Rational, Structural Causal Model. But, that is an idiographic matter.  

This is fine. Coherence and consistency are

attainable ex poste for any deontology or system of imperative logic whatsoever. That's an implication of the Spilrajn Extension theorem or Yoneda lemma or the simple fact that such things have survival value on an Uncertain Fitness Landscape. 

unattainable in any idealized moral theory that tries to comprehend our moral intuitions, because our intuitions are often incoherent and inconsistent.

This does not matter at all. Decision theory has purchase provided there is enumerable recursivity or at some level of granularity, 'revealed preference' has a representation as a poset.

We are large. We contain multitudes.

Nonsense! We are small. But, with respect to aught Loveable or which showed Love to us, we contain Gas Chambers of Cosmic proportions.  

The living world, too, contains multitudes. Most of them can’t play the language games that have come to dominate the enforceable systems of moral belief called “law”.

Very true! Few microbes or potted plants can instruct a Solicitor to commence libel proceedings against squirrels who claim to be married to them. 

The distance between the idealized form of “rational person”, and the existing life forms subject to maltreatment , is too great for any concept of rights to bridge without snapping.

Nonsense! The Hohfeldian conception of Rights can apply to inanimate objects. 

It might be the case that self-representation, assisted or not, in a system of equal rights is the best practical option for protecting the welfare of human persons,

No. This can't be the case if agent heterogeneity and Knightian Uncertainty obtain.  

even if many of those persons lack some understanding of the kind of entity they are supposed to be and the kinds of rights they are able to exercise. It is plausible, or perhaps just tolerably inaccurate, because enough paradigmatic persons exist to ground the idealized type in reality, and from that core we may extend rights by a logic of relevant equality. Thus, groups which were once denied full rights eventually won equal status by winning recognition as equals in those relevant capacities. (Of course, the denial of status also denied many the opportunity to demonstrate those capacities.)

This is nonsense. Which group has won 'equal status'? Women? Nope- hasn't happened. Bleck peeps? Don't make me laugh. 

The extension of equal rights to all sexes made sense because there are no morally relevant differences between the sexes.

There are 'morally relevant' differences between women who give birth to itty babies and fat fucks like me. It is not the case that Legislation aimed at removing discriminatory practices themselves suffice to 'extend' equal rights. Incidentally, the ERA has not been ratified in the US for this very reason.

The extension of equal rights to all ethnic groups made sense because there are no morally relevant differences between ethnic groups.

There are morally relevant differences within those groups and these may subsist between groups as well. Once again, anti-discrimination laws are not the same thing as the provision of 'equal rights'.  

The extension of equal rights to animals would not make sense in this way.

Yet some animals, in some jurisdictions, have 'equal rights' in some respects. I am not allowed to keep a badger as a pet anymore than I'm allowed to own a tinker.  

But neither, I think, would the extension of different rights to animals, matching their morally relevant differences. The universal extension of human rights was morally compulsory as well as logically so, because of how people exercise rights to win and keep what is proper to them. Extending rights to animals doesn’t give them anything that they can use.

Yes it does. By prohibiting the killing or keeping in captivity of endangered species, as well as by securing their habitat by law, the same function is served as by laws relating to genocide or enslavement of a vulnerable group. 

The truth is, the Law is a service industry which has to pay for itself. Every jurisdiction which ever existed gave some justiciable rights to animals and plants and rivers and so forth while denying them to some class of humans. A flock of birds which flew to Britain may have certain rights which could be enforced by a Court such that they and their progeny flourish in their new domicile. A bunch of human being who entered the country illegally may be deported.

Rights are also important in their negative capacity, blocking others from treating rights-holders in certain ways. In this sense, granting animals rights does grant them protection against abuse, so long as the humans who recognise their rights respect them, and the humans charged with enforcing animals’ rights do so effectively. But here’s the rub: you could do the same thing for trees, or rocks, or paintings.

But this is exactly what happens the world over. Try wiping your arse of an oil painting in the National Portrait Gallery. You will go to jail. Things may or may not have rights just like people. Whether they can or can't speak is irrelevant.  

Rights are not proper to non-language-having forms of life, even if they are an intelligible way for us to structure our beliefs about how we should treat these life forms.

Only a cretin would think that how we treat 'life forms' depends on whether they have or don't have language. Itty babies don't have language. Nor do I when of strong drink taken. But good people will look after a baby, or a mate who has had too much to drink, just as they look after their puppy dog or pussy cat or horsie or moo-cow etc, etc.  

To use a pet aphorism, “If it’s stupid and it works, it isn’t stupid”. What’s the harm in shoe-horning animals into a person/rights conceptual scheme, if that’s what it takes to get actionable legal protection for their welfare?

The harm lies in creating rights which are not linked to an incentive compatible remedy under a vinculum juris. The effect is the same as telling people they have won the lottery and should go claim their prize from the local Mafia boss. If his henchmen beats the fuck out of you, it just means that he will pay you double if you just persist a little longer.  

In the short term, I’d say there is a risk of provoking undue resistance from people who assume that “rights” for animals will mean “equal rights”, and that chaos and absurdity would follow. But the value of using “rights” as a readily accepted currency in the infrastructures of law and politics probably outweighs that resistance.

No. When you take a word which has a legal meaning and give it a different meaning based on fantasy, then all you have done is work a public mischief. Currently, because I have ten pounds in my Bank Account, I have a right to write a check for ten pounds. Suppose you say to me 'Have you heard? You have the right to withdraw ten thousand pounds from your Bank if you have ten quid in there already'. Either I ignore you as a fool or I end up committing a fraud by issuing a check which is bound to bounce. 

In the long term, however, I worry that the expedient “kluge” of extending rights to animals will forestall an evolution in moral thinking.

This is true. Instead of saying 'Equal rights for Animals! More Cats in the Cabinet! More dogs in the Department of Defense' there should be 'evolution in moral thinking' such that activists can simply shit into their hands and fling their feces about.  

The antagonistic model of rationally self-interested persons with competing rights claims is already too narrow for human cases.

No it isn't.  

It has a seductive parsimony, but it achieves this by restricting its focus to cases where the moral subjects involved can hash out the details by themselves.

Fuck off! Moral subjects can get lawyers and go to Court and Judges can make determinations of Law and Juries can make determinations of fact.  

As we expand our scope of moral concern, we find ever more questions that are one-sided, rather than antagonistic between formal equals, and require restraint imposed from within by substantive principles, rather than from without by rights-bearing interests.

But this also happens if we narrow our scope of moral concern or just acquire some for the first time. The fact is 'concern' is not agonistic. Certain issues in Law & Economics may be, but this is not necessarily the case for Ethics and Morality which, more often than not, are concerned with gratuitous or unilateral actions. 

The more deeply rights discourse becomes embedded as the universal model for moral reasoning, the less able we are to address asymmetrical moral conflicts.

Which is why 'moral reasoning' has always been wholly independent of Law & Econ. This silly man is merely pointing at a worthless academic availability cascade which is adversely selective of stupid blathershites like himself.  

The granting of rights to trees, and fish, and rivers, gives these beings a new status but also a new vulnerability, as rights exist in a matrix of contestation.

No they don't. They exist in a matrix of protocol bound juristic processes such that contestation is minimized by stare decisis and Legislative Codification.  

Whether or not their rights will win them a better existence depends on the legal and political support made by rights-comprehending humans on their behalf, without their knowledge or behest. What matters is that people have standing to force other people to treat animals in a certain way, however these people may understand their obligation to do so.

No. All that matters is 'incentive compatible' mechanism design- if the thing falls within the purview of Law & Econ (i.e. opportunity cost obtains)- or else, moral suasion or Tardean mimetic effects- i.e. a runaway process of preference reconfiguration such that some activities or markets become 'repugnant'. 

Ultimately, the only check on our behaviour towards non-persons (and moral persons without effective legal protection) is our own conscience.

No. The only check on our behavior is the fitness landscape.  

This conscience functions better when fed with accurate representations of the world, rather than idealized legal fictions.

Nonsense! If 'accurate representations' are available, the conscience has no role. Why? That 'accurate representation' would include an account of the actions of a moral superior or else provide a template for superior moral calculation. Indeed, as the story of Moses and al Khidr in the Quran shows, seemingly unconscionable behavior may be militated for by omniscience. 

To see animals and other natural entities as they are, oblivious and vulnerable to the operation of our rationalized systems, is to recognize the need for a morality of inequality and asymmetry.

No it isn't. Seeing things as they are does not cause any sensible person to recognize the need for worthless bullshit.  

Given that these vulnerable beings cannot tell us what they are due,

but I can. There's a squirrel says you owe her a buttload of alimony.  

it behooves us to exercise a generous caution in avoiding harm. Dare we call it grace, or charity?

Dare we mince around a biker bar wearing an evening gown and a diamond tiara, telling all and sundry about our 'grace' and 'charity'?  

Animal rights advocates are correct in supposing that a lack of equal status for animals puts these beings in grave danger.

Though, it is a guy in an evening gown mincing about a biker bar who is in more immediate danger. 

Rectifying unjust inequalities of status

e.g. the size of the ferret one has thrust up one's rectum 

is one path to moral improvement,

Is it though? 

but not all inequalities are unjust.

nor are any equalities just solely for that reason. There is a 'second best theorem' type consideration here. 

Another path to becoming less morally monstrous is to address why we treat unequals so badly, and to articulate a coherent case for doing better.

But this path may lead us to become more, not less, morally monstrous if- like the author- we are as stupid as shit 

Maybe that case is as simple as “inflicting suffering is bad”.

That is not a case of any sort. It is a claim of a jejune type.  

Do we really need to subject this notion to a tortured metaphysical translation in order to make it compelling?

Of course we do. There's a squirrel suing us for alimony. Also, that ferret of an attorney it sent around is doing a number on our insides. With hindsight, it was a mistake to cram it up where the sun don't shine.