|Fortney Reeverzaintt (not
his real name)1 has finally gone too far. The sumbitch won some
kind of lottery over in Kathmandu, and donated it to a political
hackstress who shall go unnamed. (Hint: She uses the term "my
husband" a lot—as if she expects people to buy it. Incredibly, many
actually do.) Of course she accepted every dime of it.
It took us a while to track down the Fortnster. We finally caught up with his whaht ayuss at an establishment that shall go unnamed.2 He was wearing platform shoes encrusted with dried bat guano, and a kimono; that's it. Every word of the following conversation is transcribed verbatim from our tape-recorded interview with Mr. Reeverzaintt.
VS: Jeez...what's up with the bat guano thang?
VS: You know...and the platform shoes...
FR: Oh...well the shoes are all that's left of my last girlfriend.
VS: Sorry to hear about your loss.
FR: Loss? Oh, no...I don't mean she died, or anything. I mean she split and left these behind.
VS: So...er, you wear them because...
FR: ...they fit me. She had big feet. Probably still does. And there's a certain justice in wearing them when I work.
FR: Yeah...at the bat farm.
VS: That explains the bat guano.
FR: Right...it's an occupational hazard.
VS: OK, but jeez...why do you leave the stuff on your shoes?
FR: It's a political statement.
VS: Most articulate.
FR: OK, look pal—you asked. If you don't like the answer, get lost.
VS: Well, as a matter of fact, I'm here to find out what's up with this political thing you're into lately. What was the idea behind...
FR: ...donating money to Her Majesty, The Smartest Woman Who Ever Lived? Easy... it was a case of certifiable temporary insanity. A guy sold me some Nepalese hash...said it was, like, pure resin or some bullcrap. Turned out it was dried yak shit with a couple of drops of hash oil on it.
VS: So, you smoked the stuff and that's what made you...
FR: Are you insane? I don't smoke anything. Lemmee finish the damn story...the temporary insanity came from ptomaine poisoning I got from eating dinner at the guy's digs in Kathmandu. Food poisoning is wicked, you know.
VS: Ah...that would certainly explain it. So...uh, why were you buying hash from the guy.
FR: It was supposed to be a gift to the Rajahmanyansutrabootnapanyan of Squaah, Twelfth Feh of the Royal Fehvdyeh of Hangania. I just call him "Raj". We were roomates in college. I was supposed to be trekking north toward his palace the following day, but the delirium was a two-day event, and I missed the departure window. By the time I got to the rendezvous, the guides were gone.
FR: Yeah...they blindfold you when you go up there. Nobody knows where the palace is...or at least nobody who knows is talking. Last time I was there I asked Raj if he'd let me take a picture of the palace. He agreed, as long as I made it a closeup that wouldn't allow anybody to figure out where the place is.
VS: Can I get a copy of the photo?
FR: I'll e-mail you a thumbnail of something that might be it, but that's all you're getting. (Thumbnail shown at right. It's not the Royal Palace, but Fortney says "It looks something like it.") Raj doesn't want outsiders pestering him. I mean, you can't even find Hangania on the map. Anyhow, I figured I'd send Raj an e-mail when I got back to "civilization", as they call it. (
VS: "They"? Who's they? You mean the Nepalese? You mean when you got back to Kathmandu?
FR: No, I mean when I got back to Manhattan. When I say "they", I mean the dickheads who get their "news" from the boob tube and read the New York Times...you know, yer basic "informed, intelligent, sensitive" people.
VS: I take it you think they aren't?
FR: You're free to infer whatever you want.
VS: It seems to me they're the ones who vote for...
FR: ...Her Majesty, the Bitch Box, the Secretary of Sleaze. You got it, pal.
VS: So, you must've been pretty busy during that couple of days of delirium. Winning that...what was it --- a lottery?
FR: I dunno. Some guy showed up and pounded on my hotel door, telling me I had won 12 million rupees in a random drawing based on something that happened at the airport—I bought some hooch...some kind of Nepalese rum, you know, in anticipation of the long cold hike up to the Royal Palace—and they had me fill out something that I thought was a questionnaire. Turns out, it was a lottery entry form. I won. Shit happens.
VS: But whatever possessed you to donate the bux to a political hackstress like...
FR: How in hell am I supposed to know? I was delirious, after all. Maybe it was some kind of subliminal programming. They brainwash you with that crap if you're stupid enough to listen to it. For all I know, they play it in the background during their speeches, and of course on the network news programs, and in all of Fat Ass's flicks. I'll bet lots of TV programs do it.
VS: Fat Ass? Whoozat?
FR: Michael Moore.
VS: You don't like him?
FR: Well I don't know him personally, but I probably don't like him. He's a pathological liar who brings the dark art of intellectual dishonesty to new lows.
VS: So, do you subscribe to the "liberal media conspiracy" hypothesis?
FR: No...I don't. It's not a hypothesis, it's a fact...and it's not a conspiracy either. They don't conspire to do it; they just do it as a routine practice. Michael Moore isn't smart enough to be a conspirator about anything. He really believes the poison he pushes.
VS: Is there no truth in it at all?
FR: Look...your question is preposterous. It's like saying, "See that pile of fresh dogshit over there? Are there any molecules in there that I could persuade you to eat?" It's not about any of the individual factoids that make up the web of deceit, any more than it's about any of the individual organic molecules that make up the pile of stinky poop. It's all about the net effect on the human condition. Dogshit is toxic, even if its constituent molecules in another context aren't...and Michael Moore's stuff is toxic too. It does violence to the truth, propagates fear and loathing, and serves no positive purpose whatsoever — other than as a symbolic gesture that feeds the darkest emotions of the people who buy into it. It's a triumph of fiction over fact... of the mass manipulation of emotions for ultimately destructive purposes.
VS: So, do you support the people that guys like Michael Moore revile?
FR: I neither hate them nor support them. They're part of the problem too.
VS: Are you saying that the conservatives don't attempt to manipulate public opinion in the same way?
FR: No...and yes. The cons have their own little fear and loathing methodologies, but they usually don't devolve as far down the road into personal attackville as the libs do.
VS: But you suggested a minute ago that the "libs" are using subliminal messages to...well, brainwash people, is really what you're suggesting. Are you saying that libs do it, and conservatives don't?
FR: Oh hell... I said "for all I know..." That means I don't know. I don't have any way of knowing whether the libs do it, but it wouldn't surprise me to learn they do. It would surprise me to learn that the cons do it. They're way too...well, conservative. They believe in "playing fair", or something like that...or at least that's what they believe they believe in. The ones I know think it would be horribly dishonest and dishonorable to do something like subliminal programming on people.
VS: Well...isn't it?
FR: Of course it is, but it's preposterous to refuse to participate in that particular form of dishonesty and dishonor, while committing behaviors that fully support so many others.
VS: Right...it's inconsistent.
FR: Exactly...which is why the conservatives ultimately get their asses kicked at the polls. If it weren't for the fact that they've got some fundamentally correct economics on their side, they'd be toast. Not that they actually apply those principles once they get in office, mind you. But they talk a good game, economics-wise, and talk is what gets them elected. It sure as hell isn't track record.
VS: What else do you like about them?
FR: Whoa...I'm telling you what's right about what they say, that's all. I don't like anything about them. They're liars and thieves, just like their political opponents.
VS: OK, then what else is right about what they say?
FR: Well, they usually support private property rights, which usually buys them the support of the most productive people in society. But of course, then the bastidges turn right around and screw the very people who voted for them. Incredible, the stupid sumsbitches keep voting for them. Party politics, you know.
VS: Yeah, I know. So, what else don't you like about them?
FR: They lose it with their religious bullcrap. Aside from their preaching to the choir of their so-called "Christian" constituency, they're hopelessly naïve when it comes to manipulating public opinion. They think that everyone should play by some kind of rules, that there should be standards of decorum, that everything should be kept...well, sort of civil. That's where they lose it; there's very little about politics that's "civil". It's a cutthroat, zero-sum game, and the cons don't play it very well. They leave themselves wide open, and their opponents go for the jugular every time.
VS: Whoa...back up. What do you mean, "so-called 'Christian' constituency"?
FR: I mean that often the people who are the most vocal about letting everyone know that they're "Christians" do not manifest behaviors that have anything to do with what Jesus of Nazareth taught.
VS: YOW! Don't go saying that out loud in too many places. It's likely to get you into big trouble.
FR: That's exactly my point. It would only get me into big trouble with phony "Christians"; it would never get me into trouble with real Christians.
VS: How so?
FR: Look, either it's a true statement, or it's not. A true follower of Jesus wouldn't be the slightest bit disturbed by such a statement if it weren't true because he would know that his own behavior puts the lie to it. But it is true, and anyone who really gets what Jesus taught knows it's true. No problem there either, because a true follower of Jesus would know that it doesn't apply to him. So any way you cut it, the statement's veracity isn't even the issue. The fact of the matter is that it's a filter: anyone who's offended by it is, by definition, not a genuine follower of the teachings of Jesus.
VS: OK...now back to this thing about libs going for the jugular, and the cons playing by some sort of...
FR: ...Gentlemen's rules?
VS: ...I dunno, yeah --- something like that. It sounds like you're saying that the cons are kind of cluelessly assuming that the libs will play the politics game with a sort of "honor among thieves" attitude, but the libs don't actually do that. Izzat right?
FR: Not exactly. They both play the game with the "honor among thieves" attitude, but they each define "honor" differently.
VS: Hmmm...so you're saying they use different semantic stores. But that's a prescription for chaos.
FR: Welcome to the world of politics. And those are the people to whom the human species has conceded the role of "leadership" in civilization.
VS: Well, yeah...that's a much bigger problem, but I want to stay focused on the political realm itself here. If everyone defines something as basic as "honor" differently, then for all practical purposes, you might as well say that there really is no "honor among thieves".
FR: No, I might as well NOT say any such thing. Just because I think someone's principles suck doesn't mean that they have no principles.
VS: It doesn't?
FR: Of course not. The question is, are their principles absolute in any sense.
VS: What do you mean by "absolute" principles?
FR: I mean that they are immutable and that they apply universally within a specifically defined context.
VS: I thought it meant that they're immutable and that they apply universally... period.
FR: If that's what you mean, fine, but you asked me what I mean.
VS: OK...fair enough. But if I accept your definition, then basically you're saying that there are no absolutes, and that everything is relative.
FR: I'm not saying anything of the kind. I'm saying that every possible action, process, idea, or principle exists within a context. That means a finite context. To say that a principle applies universally implies an infinite context. First of all, you have no way of knowing whether something applies in an infinite context. What's more, no human mind is capable of apprehending an infinite context—at least not in what we call the physical universe—so in order to make sense of things we carve up the universe into finite chunks---contexts---and then we define our semantic structure within each context so we can actually communicate about it. That's how we establish meaning. There is no meaning without context.
VS: But what about principles that transcend context?
FR: Name one.
FR: Truth isn't a principle; it's a property...a characteristic. You can only establish truth by observation, and all observations are relative to the context in which you make them.
VS: So, then you're saying that it's impossible to be objective.
FR: Of course it's impossible. Objectivity is a myth. The human species has run itself through quite a gauntlet in the quest to find some kind of objective reality—a quest that culminated with the quantum revolution in physics. So far, the score is Subjectivity, a zillion; Objectivity, zero.
VS: But isn't there a deeper physics beyond quantum physics?
FR: There's always a deeper something beyond something else. The question is, how much time do you want to spend figuring it out for yourself? For most people, the answer is "None" when it comes to heavy-duty physics. They don't want to invest the effort. They want somebody else to pre-digest it for them, and then cough it up in a 30-second sound byte. Just like you're doing now.
VS: So? What's wrong with that?
FR: Nothing—only you can do it on your own time. The M-theory guys write books, ya know. You could read 'em for yourself.
VS: Name one.
FR: The Elegant Universe, by Brian Greene. Snoop around Amazon.com...or Google for M-theory.
VS: Are you recommending that book?
FR: Recommending it for what?
VS: Are you recommending that people read it?
VS: Then why'd you mention it.
FR: Because it's a good example of pre-digested "deep shit" that will make people who don't know a damned thing about science feel much smarter after they read it. That's what the self-described "enlightened" masses really want—something that makes them feel like they're enlightened. They don't want to actually grok the science of it all. In fact, that M-theory stuff isn't actually science in the first place.
VS: Why do you say that?
FR: Because they can't use it to predict anything that they can test by experiment, or by observations of any kind. They've hypothesized the existence of a multidimensional domain in which observations are not possible. Great...so what have you got? It's fact-free bullshit. It's incredibly clever bullshit, mind you. The math is utterly elegant...exquisite, in fact. But without the ability to make corroborating observations of predicted phenomena, it ain't science.
VS: I want to get back to the political stuff for a minute...
FR: I don't.
VS: ...well, just humor me for a couple of minutes. Were you saying a few minutes ago that there's no such thing as "honor among thieves" when it comes to politics?
FR: Not from the libs' perspective, there isn't --- at least, not when it comes to elections.
VS: How are elections different from the rest of politics?
FR: Elections are about grabbing power. That's the brass ring. They'll kill for that. But the day-to-day business of political shenanigans works differently. In that arena, there are unwritten laws about keeping your end of the bargain in all the back-room deals these guys make. You can't constantly screw everyone all the time or eventually you'll go down in flames.
VS: So are you saying there really is honor among the political thieves, or not?
FR: I guess it's closer to the mark to say that there's no honor between different kinds of thieves, is really the precise way to articulate it. It's especially true in elections, where the conservatives are about as smart as concrete when it comes to manipulating public opinion. They just don't get it. They try to argue the issues on an intellectual level, and the libs take it right down to the level of the limbic brain, where the emotions rule. It's characteristic of that process that the person who is thinking with the limbic brain doesn't realize it. They think they're eminently rational, but they're running on pure imagery that plays to the base emotions — threats to survival and security, malevolence, tyranny — stuff that people get passionate about with so much self-assuredness that they simply don't question the strong emotional component. They believe that they're right to trust it, and that's precisely how they get manipulated.
Anyhow, the libs are masters of manipulation in that arena. The cons don't know how to play in the big leagues where the libs play, where there are no rules, no holds barred, and the goal is utter destruction and devastation of anyone who opposes them. Those are the rules they play by.
VS: So it's sort of like the deal in "Atlas Shrugged"...
FR: Yeah...something about the bigger thug winning out over the little thug. How does that go...?
VS: "In any contest where force is the arbiter, the murderer will always win out over the pickpocket."
FR: Bingo! In the game of politics, the cons are the pickpockets—the minor league hoodlums—and the libs are the murderers—the serious, hard-core, major league hardball players. A perfect analogy.
VS: I don't think many liberals would approve of that analogy.
FR: Yeah, well...the truth hurts.
VS: So, I take it you are of the opinion that politics is beyond hope.
FR: Well, you can call it an opinion if you want, but the truth is that it's a FACT that politics is utterly success-proof. It solves no problems...period. All problems in human interaction ultimately are problems that involve coercion -- Party A is interfering or threatening to interfere with Party B against Party B's will. The only solution that politics knows is to use coercion either to aid or to inhibit one side or the other. So the alleged solution is built on a further application of the very problem itself!
VS: Well, when you explain it that way, it's obvious that it's a process that shoots itself in the foot.
FR: And it does precisely that every time. How much evidence do you need before you finally admit that it doesn't work? It doesn't work because it CAN'T work. You can't solve a problem by proliferating it further. It's the single greatest blindness of the human species –– the single greatest threat to our survival.
VS: You probably know that most people won't agree with that.
FR: Whatever...like I care what most people agree with. Most people are afflicted with the very blindness itself. That's why politics has such a huge market share as a means of dealing with problems in human interaction. So what? Just because billions of people believe a thing, that doesn't make it true. The truth is that as long as most people believe that you can solve problems in human interaction using coercion, we are still living in desperately ignorant times.
VS: But what I mean is that most people will insist that the greatest threats to the survival of humankind are...you know — environmental concerns, nuclear weapons, chemical & biological agents, overpopulation, global warming — the usual stuff.
FR: I can't help what most people insist. Their analysis is superficial...trivial, even. All those problems—the things you call "the usual stuff"—are symptoms, and all attempts to solve them using political means are futile at best. More likely, they'll exacerbate the problems.
VS: So what will solve the problems?
FR: Oh no...I'm not going there.
VS: Why not?
FR: It's a Catch-22. If I explain it in detail, no one will listen. If I condense into a 10-second sound byte in 15 words or less, either they won't get it or they won't believe it.
VS: Which, I presume, means that you can do it that concisely?
FR: Actually, I can do it in 7 seconds, in 14 words.
FR: Nope. I'm not playing. Go find someone else to be fodder for the smart-asses.
VS: Bullshit. People are going to read this, and you know damned well what they're going to be saying right about now: "Dude, either you know the solution or you dont. If you do, why wouldn't you disclose it? I think you're bullshittin' me..." So why don't you want to cough it up?
FR. I already told you why: They're not gonna believe it. More precisely, they're not gonna understand how the solution is connected to the problem. It won't make any sense to them. So forget it.
VS: So, you're saying they're all idiots?
FR: Oh Jeeziss...where'd that come from? No, I'm not saying they're all idiots.
VS: Well, what else do you expect them to conclude when you say they won't get it? I mean, that's pretty condescending.
FR: Oh fer cryin' out loud! It's nothing of the sort. I'm not saying that they don't have the intelligence to understand it...sheesh! All I'm saying is that the solution isn't obvious. In fact, it's so UNobvious that it doesn't make any sense out of the context in which it shows up as the natural resolution to the same old bullshit that the human species has been beating its head against for the entire 6,000 years of recorded history...and probably before that. No, definitely before that. If we had figured it out sooner, I don't think we'd have forgotten it.
VS: OK, and that same old bullshit is...
FR: What're you, new? I already told you...the problem is that you can't solve problems in human interaction using coercion, and the problem is recursively entrenched by the use of coercive methods—namely political states—in a futile attempt to eliminate coercion by using coercive methods. It cannot possibly work. What part of that don't you get?
VS: There's no part of that I don't get. I know what the problem is; I'm trying to get you to cough up the solution.
FR: How about if I tell you a story that accomplishes the same thing? The people who are smart enough will get it, and the ones who aren't will just stay safely confused.
VS: All right...shoot.
FR: Let me go back to the point where you were talking about how most people perceive things like environmental stuff, nuclear bombs and other mass-murdering weapons and whatever else you called "the usual stuff" as the greatest threats to the species' survival. Isn't that what you said?
VS: Close enough.
FR: OK...let's start there. The thing that makes all "the usual stuff" get all the attention is the fact that we have much more powerful technologies available to us today than we did 100 years ago. It's the power granted by our access to those technologies that makes the threats imposed by "the usual stuff" appear more urgent. We can wipe ourselves out in much shorter order now, so the various ways in which we can get that job done look like they're the problem.
But they're not the problem; they're only symptoms of the problem. We're running around like chickens with our heads cut off, each person insisting that this or that is the most urgent problem, or the greatest threat to the survival of the species, or "the planet".
VS: Well, those things make finding a solution more urgent.
FR: Of course they do. But that's precisely why we can't allow ourselves to get distracted by all "the usual stuff". It's not the problem.
VS: So, are you saying that we have made no progress of any kind using political methods?
FR: Show me the evidence that any permanent progress in any of the symptoms you mentioned is directly attributable to political processes. You can't, because there isn't any. We still have war, we still have crime, we still have disease, and hunger, and rampant poverty, and all kinds of injustice. The human species has made significant progress toward permanent solutions in one area only, and no others.
VS: What area is that?
FR: Scientific progress—specifically in physical systems. We have developed great advances in physical technology, but when it comes to societal technology, we're still in the Dark Ages. We're still using coercion to try to solve problems, and that is the problem!
VS: So how do we make progress in the societal domain?
FR: All progress in that domain comes from the change in consciousness of individuals.
VS: Uh oh...sounds like you're going "spiritual" on me. If that's where you're going, maybe it's time for a drink.
FR: It has been time for a drink for the whole time we've been sittin' here, dude. Are you buyin'?
VS: Sure. What's their strongest stuff here?
FR: Barley tea.
VS: WTF? No Scotch?
FR: Dude...mosta these guys are Tibetan monks. They don't do booze.
VS: Oh...well then in that case, let's go back to the consciousness thing. It's obvious that a "change in the consciousness of individuals" is the solution, but that's no help. I mean...how do you make it happen?
FR: Well, I don't make anything happen. But if someone were inclined to TRY to make it happen, it certainly couldn't be done with politics.
VS: Granted. So what's the solution?
FR: System constraints.
VS: Huh? What do you mean?
FR: Look...what are all these problems that everyone's so concerned about. They're symptoms — examples of a much more fundamental problem that you can characterize very simply as destabilized systems. War, epidemics, crime, poverty, injustice—these are all examples of destabilized systems. Human interactions go unstable because they can go unstable.
If you want stabilized interactions between humans, you need to provide them with a context in which stabilized interactions are the most probable outcomes. The reason we have problems in human interaction is because we've set up our systems of interaction in such a way that the problems can happen in the first place. More precisely, we have failed to set up our systems in such a way that the problems can't happen...or at least so that the probability of them happening is practically zero.
VS: That all makes perfect sense, but isn't that precisely what we've tried to do with our systems of government?
FR: Of course it is. It's just that we don't have any "systems of government" that can possibly get the job done.
VS: You mean the coercion thing?
FR: I mean the coercion thing. It's the wrong kind of system constraint, because it makes interactions go unstable. In fact, coercion is destabilized human interaction. The presumption that legitimizing it by vesting it with the legal "authority" of the political state doesn't vest it with any moral authority. It's still the kind of interaction in which there are winners and losers. That means instant instability. It doesn't work. You can't solve a problem by proliferating it. You have to use the right tool for the job. No matter how hard you try or how sincere and noble your intent, you can't tune a piano with a jackhammer.
VS: Fine...but we're back to talking about the problem. I thought you were going to talk about the solution...
FR: Look, I've already told you the solution in principle a couple of different ways. I'm done. Get your secretary to transcribe your little tape, study the transcript, and if you have any questions, you know where to find me.
At that point, Mr. Reeverzaintt stood up and walked out of the room. That was the end of the interview.
Since then, we've studied the transcript, and we think we get it. At least, we're busy asking and answering our own questions. Good thing, too...because we don't know where to find Mr. Reeverzaintt. When we ask the monks what happened to him, they just say, "He gone."