Set in Stone

First the thought hit me that we’re all revolving doors for someone else’s money, then the lyrics to this song began running through my head.

There ain’t much set in stone in here


The point of arguing is not to argue or encourage a verbal conflict, but to help someone reason well within a certain context. Even if this sounds arrogant, it’s what any discussion which endures disagreement automatically does. It is only in failing to see this that a person may forcefully try to get another to agree with them — that is, they do not help another reason properly but instead force an overlap where there should be guidance. 


In gentrification, a wide view of the contradiction of liberals can be viewed. While decrying the damage we do to the environment, they amass in larger urban areas where a significant amount of waste is produced; while decrying republicans for not caring about the poor, they coalesce in neighborhoods where the poor have been pushed out; while complaining that we ought to house the homeless and take care of immigrants, they live in places that were once affordable enough for them; while bemoaning a history of colonialism, they have invested in the pecuniary enrichment of modern colonizers; while saying minorities are unjustly punished for crimes they only commit because of systemic oppression, they help ensure that oppression will continue as minorities are forced to find other places where there is an influx of poverty and crime. And so on.

I read an article from LA Weekly today. It gave me some hope, along with an article LA Times published on (here I fawn a little over the p-word being a pejorative) how “‘Progress’ is wrecking LA Neighborhoods”. This is what needs to come out more: news outlets which Liberals are likely to read need to put this fact plainly into the face of Liberals. The latter is one I find especially bonafied because it may be some rosy-eyed Liberal’s first taste of skepticism about “progress”. Maybe it will just pass from their mind. Maybe not. I can hope.

Either way, take a look at them. One cannot, I believe, seriously contend that they care for the poor and vulnerable people when they have moved to a big city to live in the remnants of what was once the very homes of the poor. Here’s the most important part of the first article:

“Gentrification is a process — it’s not a single person,” said one of the marchers, Melissa Castro, a recent graduate of Mills College who lives at her parents’ home in the neighborhood. “How do we get our public officials to come out in person publicly and say they do not support what is happening?

“We all want to see Boyle Heights become a more beautiful place,” she continues. “The problem is they haven’t done that for us in the last 50 years. So now we have to wonder who they’re making it pretty for, and will we be here in five or 10 years to enjoy it.”

Earnestly, Castro briefly offers a glimpse of the real harm and deceit of gentrification. It of course harms the people who are being forced out by raised rent, but it also raises a question that can only be answered once Liberals realize they are being deceived. Who is the community being improved for? If we are to celebrate lower crime rates in certain areas, how can we truly believe this is a gain when the people who experienced it for so much of their lives won’t even be there to enjoy the absence?

This points to a larger point I’d like to draw out some day: not only are Liberals doing much of the harm to the very people they want to help, but they’re benefiting rather grandly from that exploitation.


For Your Consideration

I have just read a rather entertaining article over at Current Affairs proponing sortition — random selection — as an alternative to elections. Highly suggested read. The main problem I have with sortition is that, like jury duty, it would be difficult for many people to accommodate the requirements of being in congress. I’m sure plenty would love to do it, if they had the time. But many more would probably feel they needed to just stick with their job. This of course might be irrelevant, for I’d still expect randomly selected congresspersons to get paid. Still, leaving their job for months or years couldn’t really go over well. This is an idea worth considering though.

Certainly, there are arguments to be made in favor of elections. There’s something that feels right about having a legislature elected by public vote. This is, after all, the gold standard for democracy around the world: a previously corruption-ridden state “becomes” democratic as soon as it holds free, fair elections. We have a general sense that a legislature, because elected, must therefore “represent” the people who voted for it. But in what sense does it represent them? Demographically? We all know that isn’t true. Take our current Congress, which is 80% male, 95% college-educated, and 50.8% millionaires. The population it “represents” is 50% male, 30% college-educated, and 5% millionaires. That’s not even close.

Well, you might say, the legislature doesn’t need to be an exact demographic mirror of the population, so long as it matches them ideologically. If your Congressman (or Congresswoman, but probably Congressman) puts forward the kinds of policies that you yourself would wish to see advanced, why does it matter whether you and he happen to have wildly different backgrounds? That would be an excellent argument, if Congress usually put forward policies that Americans agree with. Alas, it does not. One Princeton study estimates that, statistically speaking, the preferences of 90% of the American electorate have a “near-zero” impact on policymaking. And a number of highly-publicized legal reforms with a broad popular mandate, such as closing the gun show loophole, have never made it anywhere near the President’s desk. How is that possible in a “representative” Congress?

The obvious answer is that Congress is not representative of the population in any meaningful sense. (Of course, many of the reasons why this is so are obvious: high educational and financial barriers to entry, out-of-control campaign spending, grossly disproportionate donor and lobbyist influence, party-controlled nominations, obsessive focus on reelection prospects, etc., etc.) But ah, you might say, that’s not what’s meant by “representative.” A legislator isn’t someone you expect to think like you: he’s someone you empower to think for you, because he is specially qualified for his job.

But consider the fact that this is nonsense. First, nobody actually believes that our legislators are especially qualified people. (We might note in passing that over 40% of Congress are lawyers, reportedly viewed by the public as the least useful profession in America, in terms of positive contributions to societal well-being.) And the idea of outsourcing our thought processes to them is horrifying in the utmost.

The spirit of democracy would be much more prevalent. Sortition could do wonders for self-government, that old idea that people really know what the hell they’re doing with their own lives and actually do it.

I recently revisited a quotation from Spe Salvi, Benedict’s encyclical which played a major part in my conversion to Catholicism, where he mentions faith not as a suspension of disbelief or the neglect of fact, but an understanding of something less than apparent. Indeed he references the scripture, which puts it best, that faith is the “evidence of things unseen.” Now, sight doesn’t just mean invisible. It also means unknowable.The belief in such a thing then creates something real at the moment. Hope works the same way.

I bring this up because we do not know where our society is headed, despite the transhumanists and scientism’s faithful believing it’s on the up and up and we’ll all be satisfied by increasingly easily attained pleasures. We do not even know for certain that we’ll be working at the same place next year.

But we certainly do have hope that certain things will happen. That is because hope is not a characteristic of faith but an article of the human heart. When we have hope, we have something to work towards, as evidenced by a builder who makes plans ahead of time.

The article is quite risible in places, and downright disillusioning in others. But I primarily wish to note that it’s a humble hope. It gives a name and support to something we could consider working for. That’s important for us to do.