Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Yesterday I opined that the Republican presidential candidates are all either insane, lying hypocrites, or both. Just now I heard a WNYC interview with Jon Huntsman, and he sounded relatively sane and honest (if wrong about some of the obvious things).

I may not have to change my statement, though, as it’s not clear that with something like 1% of the current Republican marketshare he actually counts as a candidate.

Someone else on WNYC (yeah, I listen to them alot in the car an’ all) said that the key thing about conservatives (Conservatives?) is something like that they believe that there is a fixed moral base out there. Which pulled me up short for a minute, as an interesting statement.

Because of course there isn’t a fixed moral base out there.

There isn’t in a couple of senses: first, there isn’t some big supernatural divine being who created the universe and has opinions about the morality or otherwise of abortion, same-sex marriage, murder, and so on.

And second, even if there was such a being, that wouldn’t take away the responsibility that every one of us has to decide what’s right and wrong. Sure, one could decide that the Big Being’s moral opinions all are correct, and that one will behave accordingly, but one would still be responsible for having made that decision.

(Personally I would not decide that way; if there were a Big Being, and he did think that oral sex or dancing or chocolate ice cream was evil, I would continue to disagree with him without an awfully good argument. Might, as a matter of simple fact, does not make right.)

Now I don’t think that all Conservatives really believe that there is a fixed moral base out there in this sense, but probably an awful lot of them do, and it’s interesting to think about what the widespread holding of a false belief like that might lead to.

First of all, they will not have much respect for the project of figuring out right and wrong, which the rest of us see as one of the Important Things that we have to do. There’s just no need to talk much about it, to try different things, to have protests; just look up what the Bible (or the Original Framers of the Constitution, or whoever) think on the subject, and you’re done.

Also, they must be sort of frustrated and/or baffled. The world just refuses to behave as it should given that there is a fixed moral base! People do all sorts of immoral things, and they are not struck by lightning or turned to salt or anything. People who believe in other fixed moral bases (which is either nearly as bad as, or even worse than, not believing in any) continue to exist, sometimes even prosper, win wars, and so on. People who believe in no fixed moral basis at all have nice families, pretty clothes, and hardly ever consume human flesh at dreadful midnight rituals. Booming voices from the clouds hardly ever sound to remind us of the rules, and we have had no freshly-minted divinely-inscribed marble slabs in simply ages. How can all this be?

There’s the very popular theory that not following the fixed moral base results in punishments after you die, when you are well out of sight. But how satisfactory can that be, really? It seems so obviously a dodge, even the conservatives in question must feel it sometimes. There must be a terrible yearning for concrete evidence of the fixed moral base, for a voice that will, if not actually boom from the clouds, at least sound so very sure of itself that it makes the doubts seem less devouring.

It must be a sort of scary and lonely thing, really. And it may go quite a ways toward explaining the Republican Presidential field…

(Hm, do I wax a bit condescending there? Nah!)

And to close, here is a Blast from the Past, just because it somehow got stuck in my head earlier today. From a posting of mine to alt.hackers ‘way back in 1996, we present:

  All I Really Want
  (with apologies to Alanis Morissette)

  Well, it's stressing me out,
  The GUI is crawling and all greyed out,
  And you say wha-a-a-a-a-a-a-t a loser!
  I don't want to select anything today,
  I don't like to drag and drop you see
  But I ca-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-n't help it.

  There I go clicking before the mouse has settled down
  Slap me with another menu
  And it would use up all my core
  If it hadn't crashed already
  If only I could hunt the Wumpus.

  And all I really want is a shell prompt,
  A place to type netstat -s.
  And all I really want are free cycles,

  Do I wear you out?
  You must wonder why I'm thrashing and all swapped out,
  I'm consumed by the system's bitmaps.
  I'm like Estella
  I like to type it in and then compile it out
  I'm frustrated by your interface.

  And I am frightened by the bloated hugeness of this code,
  If only I could grep the source-tree
  And I am fascinated by the bitly-conscious man,
  I'm humbled by his hacker nature

  What I wouldn't give to find a guru
  Someone who can write tight code
  And what I wouldn't give to find a hacker

Peace, as they say, out.



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