Benjamin Studebaker

Yet Another Attempt to Make the World a Better Place by Writing Things

Tag: George Orwell

Why Rebellions and Revolutions Don’t Work Very Well

Throughout the history of civilization, there have been people who have been tasked with providing the necessities of life–growing the food, collecting resources, making the tools, and so on. There have also been people who don’t do this kind of work, who instead have lots of free time. These people have free time because other people provide their necessities for them. In this sense, the first group of people serves the second. The precise social mechanic governing this service has shifted over the years. In the early days, the first group of people were slaves of the second group. Slavery was an astounding social invention–it made it possible for some of us to have large amounts of free time, and we used that free time to do art and science and high politics. But slavery only worked by denying the vast majority of people access to that free time. It precipitated largescale inequality. This made it difficult to sustain. The slaves were unhappy, and unhappy slaves are unproductive. The slaveowners eventually discovered a secret–happy slaves are more productive than unhappy slaves. And to make the slaves happy, you had to tell them a story about how they were free. Into this space steps capitalism, and the employer-employee relationship. You are free to work for any master–but you must work for one, or you won’t earn enough to make a living. The masters have pooled the slaves and shared them, and told the slaves this makes them free. And for the most part, the slaves buy it. Except when they don’t. This piece is about that.

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Gaslighting Philosophers

Perhaps you remember last year when American football player Manti Te’o was catfished. An acquaintance of Te’o pretended to be a girl named Lennay Kekua, and Te’o became convinced that he was in an online long-distance relationship with this individual. When Kekua “died of cancer”, Te’o was devastated, and his devastation grew larger still when he discovered that the entire relationship was a lie, that Kekua was not a real person at all. Catfishing happens when the perpetrator manipulates over the course of an extended period of time a victim’s sense of reality to make the victim believe he is in a relationship with a non-existent person. It is a form of gaslighting, a devious strategy by which perpetrators systematically undermine victims’ notions of reality by systematically manipulating them into mistrusting their own senses and experience. My claim today is that there are philosophers who are engaged in gaslighting on a grand scale–those who believe that truth is a social construct.

 

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Robert Webb vs. Russell Brand

The other day, I wrote a piece commentating on British comedian Russell Brand’s argument against voting. Now another British comedian, Robert Webb (of Peep Show fame) has written an opinion piece for New Statesman criticizing Brand’s position. The irony that a critical issue in political theory is being debated in front of a wide audience for the first time in years by two comedians is not lost on me. All irony aside, as a serious political theory person whose interest is the political system and what’s wrong with it, so I want to have a look at Webb’s argument.

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With Apologies to George W. Bush

Guess who’s back, back again? Palin’s back–tell a friend. Sarah Palin, John McCain’s 2008 running mate, has given another speech, this time for the Faith and Freedom Coalition, one of those conservative 501(c)4’s that has so often been in the news lately. What do I find interesting about this Palin speech? The fact that, 5-10 years ago, parts of it could have been made by your average democrat.

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