Thursday, June 23, 2011

How to Deal with All Politicians

Once upon a time, not so long ago, there was a large, peaceful, free, very prosperous village. One day, a horde of quite brutal and even smellier barbarians rode into the village, stole some of the girls and gold, and otherwise made merry by killing and destroying, then rode away.

The villagers fought back, only not that well, and did kill some of the barbarians, but lost more than they slew.

After the attack, battered and bruised and bleeding and wondering how to meet this new menace, the villagers held a meeting and asked for suggestions.

The Wise Old Man of the village, who was pretty smart, and had traveled far and wide, and thought a lot and learned much, made one suggestion: “We have to kill every one of them.”

A murmur ran though the villagers. “Many of us will die!” one cried.

“Indeed,” said the Wise Old Man. “But I will tell you what will happen if we don’t rub out all of them. Sooner or later, these barbarians will get tired of raiding us and losing their body parts. So what they will do is conquer us.”

The villagers fell silent, waiting.

“They’ll enslave everyone,” the Wise Old Man continued. “We’ll spend our lives working for them until we drop dead. They’ll rape our daughters, sometimes our sons, occasionally our dogs, and they’ll build castles with prisons and torture chambers. We’ll spend our lives being tortured and impoverished.”

“How can you be so sure this will happen?” one villager asked.

“If you’ve been around as much as I have,” the Wise Old Man said ominously, “and seen what I’ve seen, you wouldn’t ask that question.”

“What will happen next?” another villager wondered.

“These thugs will set themselves up as royalty,” the Wise Old Man explained, “and we’ll be their slaves. They’ll tell us they are our protectors, as tyrants always do (as Plato and Aesop and Jesus noticed), but in reality they’re just cruel, blood-thirsty, power-mad tyrants. They’ll even tell us God put them in power.”

“Blasphemers!” blurted a villager.

“You got that right,” said the Wise Old Man wryly.

“It sounds just awful,” a villager said. “How long will it last?”

“Until we rise up,” said the Wise Old Man, “and vlad them on sharpened poles. If we don’t do that, our enslavement will last forever.”

“This is terrible!” chorused the villagers.

“It’s even worse than it sounds,” explained the Wise Old Man. “Someday, people will even rationalize their slavery as a good thing. The na├»ve ones will call it ‘patriotism’ and the big mouths that support our enslavers will be called ‘court intellectuals.’”

“You sure do know a lot,” said a villager admiringly.

“Someday,” the Wise Old Man said, “I’ll tell you about the difference between the Economic Means and the Political Means, or why the growth of ‘government’ always destroys the culture and the country and always leads to collapse. But what really works best is telling stories like what I’m doing now. Show, don’t tell, I always say.”

“What did you say these people call themselves?” a villager asked. “Royalty?”

“At first,” said the Wise Old Man, “but in the long run they’ll call themselves politicians.”

“What an awful name!” the villagers gasped in horror, some clapping their hands over their ears. Even some children started crying.

“The worst name there is,” the Wise Old Man said. “Mass murderers, warmongers, torturers, liars, thieves, counterfeiters, cowards, traitors, sex perverts – and they always claim they’re doing good things for us. What can possibly be worse than a politician?”

“Uh…” said the villagers. “Well, if you put it that way…nothing.”

So the villagers armed themselves, and practiced and practiced, and next time the barbarians rode into the village the villagers slew every one of them, losing many of their own in the fight. But they won.

So the village continued on, large and peaceful and prosperous, and every time a barbarian horde got it into their heads to raid the village, the people of the village, armed to the teeth, killed every one of them.

And so the villagers lived peaceful and free and happy and rich forever after.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Wannabe Ninjas

The time: right about now. The location: these days, just about any place in the United States. The characters: an accountant, a Chevy Cavalier, a poodle, and several police dressed completely in black, just like ninjas in a cheap kung fu film.

Wannabe Ninjas: BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM!

Accountant (getting out of car): What the heck is this? (He looks down and counts all the holes in him.) You idiots just shot me 54 times! I'm not going to survive this, you know! And I've got a wife and two young daughters!

Head Wannabe Ninja: You're a drug dealer!

Accountant: I am not! I'm an accountant! See the horn-rimmed glasses, the pocket protector and the tidy little mustache? You've got the wrong guy!

Assistant Wannabe Ninja (whispering to Head Wannabe): He's right. We're in the wrong neighborhood. Hell, we're in the wrong city!

Head Wannabe: Doesn't matter. I say he's a drug dealer and that's all that counts. None of you guys worry; nothing's going to happen to us. We're cops and we're above the law.

Accountant (looking in car): You shot my poodle.

Head Wannabe: He tried to attack us.

Accountant: Seventeen years old, blind and toothless? I don't think so.

Head Wannabe: I say he tried to attack us! What do you guys say?

Wannabes: We all have toothmarks!

Accountant: Look at all the holes in my car!

Head Wannabe: You tried to run us over.

Accountant: The car's broke! I was waiting for a tow truck!

Head Wannabe: I say you tried to run us over. What do you guys say?

Wannabes: Look at the tire marks all over us!

Accountant: You guys are a joke! Where's your warrant?

Head Wannabe: Warrant? We ain't got no warrant! We don't need no warrant! We don't have to show you no steenkin' warrant!

Accountant: Let me see your badges!

Head Wannabe: (BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM!) We don't need no steenkin' badges either!

Accountant: Ack! Gack! (topples over, exits)

Assistant Wannabe: He's dead, Jim. What are we supposed to do now?

Head Wannabe: Cuff him! Can't take any chances even if he is dead! It's the rules!

Assistant Wannabe: What about this dead dog?

Head Wannabe: Cuff all three parts of him.

Assistant Wannabe: Think we should put a gun in his hand to make it look like a good shoot?

Head Wannabe: Naw. Ain't nothing going to happen to us anyway. Why waste a good throw-down?

Assistant Wannabe: Think we should at least put drugs in his car? I mean, he was innocent, you know. We might get into a ittle trouble here.

Head Wannabe: Nope, don't worry about anything. Nothing's going to happen to us as long as we say he tried to run us down, or we thought his cellphone was a gun, or he made some kind of threatening move like blinking an eye.

Assistant Wannabe: God, I love the War on Drugs!

Head Wannabe: Me too! Hey guys, isn't this great!

All the Wannabes: (firing machine-guns into the air like a gang of drunken Mexican bandits): Yay!

Five Minutes After the Rapture

Ralph: Dum de dum dum, dum de dum dum.

Sam: Hey Ralph, look at all this stuff lying all over the sidewalk.

Ralph: Weird…clothes, shoes, socks, keys, wallets…some guy’s dental fillings…a glass eye… an artificial foot…somebody’s heart transplant flopping around in the street…a busted-open suitcase full of martial aids…what is going on here?

Sam: Maybe it’s the Rapture. I heard about it from some guys used to go to tent revival meetings, fall over backwards and start twitching and babbling. One even told me his cowboy boots flew off.

Ralph: Yeah, speaking in tongues and “getting saved.” Hillbilly kitsch.

Sam: Look, a brand-new Lamborghini!

Ralph: What’s this in the front seat…a $2000 custom-made suit, a toupee with a three-inch pompadour…wallet full of credit cards…we hit the jackpot! It is the Rapture, and now we get all this stuff!

Sam: What ID is in the wallet?

Ralph: Reverend Billy Joe Bob Hargis. Look what else is here…a gross of cute little multi-colored condoms, a notebook with dozens of call girls’ telephone numbers, some amyl nitrate, a copy of “Gay Boy Toys” magazine with the pages stuck together….

Sam: I remember reading about this guy’s house in the newspaper. Cost $20 million, a pool, helicopter, all the trimmings.

Ralph: Damn! And now it’s ours! Hot diggity dog!

Sam: I heard he’s got a safe in his house with millions of dollars in contributions he never reported to the government.

Ralph: The sheeple sure are suckers.

Sam: Buncha brain-dead zombies who believe in Jesus-the-Terminator, who’s going to bring slaughter and destruction to the world because they think that’s how he’s going to save it. That’s Christian?

Ralph: I always remember Jesus putting down the corrupt and the hypocritical and the greedy and the perverted. Ah, forget them nuts, they’re all gone now. Think of all the porn and guns and booze I’ve heard this riff-raff has in his mansion! Not to mention his collection of women’s underwear!

Sam: You know those Evangelical preachers. Either they’ve got videos of themselves with two 12-year-old blonde girls, or else it’s meth and man
ass.

Ralph: This is great! God really did take those crap-for-brains fundies, the ones trying to return us to the 13th Century. Thank you, God, even if you never did get me the pony and flame thrower I wanted for Christmas!

Sam: Fanatics of whatever religion, they’ve done nothing but impede progress. All think they’re right and anyone who disagrees with them is evil. Especially when they get political power, that’s a sure-fire recipe for disaster. And that’s with a capital D.

Ralph: Yep. Religion, politics and war – the three legs of Satan that he uses to walk to and fro and up and down in the world.

Sam: Dibs on the driver’s seat! Vroom!


Reverend Billy Joe Bob Hargis: You call this the Rapture?

Satan: For those left behind it is. You want an ice cube?

Yay for Fido!

The year: 2084.

The place: any city in the USA.

Characters: Father, Daughter, Baby, Fido and a Few Shadowy Characters.

Father parks his 1986 Yugo at a curb and exits the vehicle with Daughter, Baby, and Fido the Chihuahua.

Police Officer (emerging from the shadows. He is a clone, as all the police are in 2084. He has a narrow head and squinty lop-sided eyes and bears strong resemblance to George Bush): Hold it right there!

Father: What? What did I do?

Officer: I have to search all of you and the car for a bomb! It's a new Global UN law passed this morning.

Father: I haven't heard a thing about it.

Officer: That's not my problem. I have a job to do and orders to follow.

Father: Orders to follow, huh? (He places his left forefinger under his nose, shoots out his right arm at a 45% angle, and goosesteps in circles.) Sieg Heil! Actung! Verboten!

Officer: Huh?

Father: Adolph Hitler? Nazis? Stormtroopers?

Officer: Huh?

Father: Forget it. I'm a comedian practicing a comedy routine.

Officer: Whatever.

A police van screeches around a corner. It stops and four police officers jump out. They remove the tires from the Yugo, place the car on concrete blocks, put the tires in the van and screech away.

Father: What was that about?

Officer: We have to search your tires for bombs.

Father: Those are brand-new tires! They might even have rubber in them! It took me a year to save for them! The economy's been bad for 80 years, you know, what with the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Syria, Sudan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and all those other places I can't remember! I think you guys just stole my tires!

Officer: Complain to the government.

Father: This is outrageous!

Officer: I'm just keeping the country safe. (He squints at Baby.) There could be a bomb in that baby!

Father: Right.

Officer: I have to check. (He grabs Baby and prys open its mouth.) You got a bomb in there?

Baby: Gaga googoo.

Officer (upending Baby and shaking it up and down): Cough it up!

Baby: Wah!

Officer: I guess you're okay. (Hands Baby back to Father.)

Baby (glaring at Officer): Pfffttt!

Father: Baby!

Baby: Gaga googoo!

Officer (squinting at Fido): There could be a bomb in that dog!

Father: It's a Chihuahua!

Officer: Plenty of room for a bomb. He needs a body-cavity search!

Fido: Yikes!

Father: This is ridiculous! It's insa -

Daughter: Daddy!! Look at what the bad man is doing to Fido!

Father (placing his hands over Daughter's eyes): Don't look, honey!

Fido: (eyes bugging out like poached eggs) URK!!

Officer: Dang! (shakes hand) He's stuck!

Fido: (bouncing up and down like a yo-yo) YEOW!

Officer (shaking hand harder) There he goes! (Fido does a somersault through the air and lands in Daughter's arms.)

Fido (glaring at the Officer): Grrr! GRRR! GRRR!!

A man walks by wearing a three-foot tall turban. There is a loud ticking sound coming from it.

Father: Did you see that? I think he's got a bomb in his turban!

Officer: Since when are you a trained police officer?

The man rounds the corner. Seconds later there is a gigantic explosion. An axle with two tires on it lands in the street.

Father: Look! Two tires! Can I have them?

Officer: Don't get smart.

Father: Can we go now?

Officer: I guess. You better watch yourself. And the dog, too. He better watch himself...or you...er...you know what I mean.

Father, Daughter, Baby and Fido cross the street. Fido is walking upright on his front paws like a circus acrobat.

Fido: Ouch! Ouch! Ooch! Ooch! Ouch! Ouch!

All step onto the curb across the street. An Officer appears from the shadows.

Officer: Stop right there!

Father: Now what?

Officer: I have to search all of you for bombs!

Father: The guy across the street just searched us!

Officer: He's Homeland Security for the south side of the street! I'm Homeland Security for the north side!

Father (putting hands on head): It's a madhouse!

Officer: Huh?

Father: Charleton Heston? Planet of the Apes?

Officer: Huh?

Father: Forget it. I'm a comedian practicing a comedy routine.

Officer: Whatever (squinting eyes) The dog's first!

Fido: ARRRGGGH!

Officer: What the -- yikes! Oh no! Wait, stop! Help! Mommy! Daddy! HELLLPPPP!!!!"

Father: Wow! I didn't know he could do that!

Daughter: Yay for Fido!

Fido: Burp.

The Twisted Mind of Philip Roth

I don't know how the churlish and ignoble Philip Roth remains upright, the way his moral compass is spinning so madly. The author, who made his name with the more-than-a-little-semi-pornographic "Portnoy's Complaint," which titillated a 12-year-old me and my classmates so much the teacher confiscated the book, has now with his last novel (I hope), "The Plot Against America," used this farrago of vitriol to spin himself right into a place where good is evil, and evil, good.

I'll wager that George Orwell would have seen Roth's book as an example of Lies are Truth, Ignorance is Strength and War is Peace (and in Roth's case, Cowardice is Bravery). The novel is odious, libelous and just plain disgusting -- especially the grotesque and sickening comments about a murdered baby. Maybe we need a neologism: "libelodious." More cheerful is the idea of using Roth's name, as in "He Rothed him," meaning "a truly dishonest and reprehensible man told blatant and transparent lies about a good man."

The man libeled is Charles Lindbergh, who was about as close to a true hero as America produced in the 20th century. Roth libels him as a frothing-at-the-mouth anti-Semite, and a crypto-Nazi just waiting, faster than an eyeblink, to turn into the hillbilly version of Hitler.

Roth also libels America, which he apparently believes is always on the verge of toppling into a kinder, gentler Nazi Germany. Actually, he libels everything west of New York City as a horrifying, undifferentiated mass of drooling, gap-toothed, tobacco-juice-spittin', banjo-playing, five-year-old-girl chasin' troglodytes jes' awaitin' to lynch Jews from the nearest tree.

The focus of evil in Rothworld is Kentucky, a place which to him takes up 90% of Flyover Land. I get the impression Roth truly believes that if he was to ever leave Brooklyn, everyone west of it would have eyes about an inch apart, and drag their knuckles on the ground when they weren't picking their noses, farting in church or hitching their crotches up in public. I guess he believes Kentucky is the breeding chamber for those hundreds of millions of Morlocks overrunning America.

"The Plot Against America" is actually an excruciatingly bad science-fiction novel, of a sub-genre called "alternate history." Roth should have stayed with his specialty, "autobiographical pornography written by a dirty-minded neurotic Jew who cruelly verbally abused his ex-wife and her daughter, was a drug addict, and checked himself into and out of mental institutions."

In Plot, Charles Lindbergh beats FDR for the nomination in 1940, and becomes President. Now would have happened if this eminently sane event had come to pass? Lindbergh, a true patriot who was an anti-interventionist in the mold of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, would have kept the US out of World War II. There would have been peace, Roth forbid.

Instead,in Roth's confabulations, Lindbergh instantly turns a compliant America into the Hillbilly Reich, the inhabitants of which immediately start whoopin' and yeehawin' because they don't have to send their sons to die in another European war, and instead let their anti-Semitic bloodlust, which Roth thinks is in their DNA, take control of their 70 IQ heads.

Roth will have none of this peace-mongering. He writes of FDR, who really was a semi-fascist and pro-Communist, as a great President unfortunately voted out of office by people who should have been grateful he was going to get them disassembled as cannon fodder by the hundreds of thousands.

He also cheers Lincoln and Woodrow Wilson as great presidents. Apparently, Roth has no education at all.

As for FDR, he maneuvered the Japanese into attacking Pearl Harbor by cutting off their oil and sending the Flying Tigers against them in China. There is substantial evidence he knew Pearl Harbor was going to be attacked -- indeed, he moved the fleet there from the safety of California -- and wanted war with Japan so Stalin (whom he called "Uncle Joe") wouldn't have to fight a two-front war against the Germans and Japanese. If Roth knows about any of this, I'm sure he doesn't believe it. Or if he does believe it, perhaps he agrees with it.

Lindbergh, who was a fine writer and speaker, is portrayed as having even less ability to speak than the stumble-tongued George Bush. He starts a program with the improbable name of "Just Folks," in which Jewish city boys are sent into the country to be Nazified. One of Roth's relatives returns from this hillbilly Dante's Inferno with a taste for ham and bacon, the Devil's Food, which, Roth, gasping in horror, claims destroys his ability to draw and also makes him enjoy picking tobacco and milking cows. Another is forced to move to Kentucky by the federal government, and almost instantly becomes so retarded he can do little more than intone, "Do you like cookies and milk? I like cookies and milk."

Still another, a mother, is murdered -- it's hard to write this with a straight face -- "alongside a potato field" in the Hell-on-Earth know as -- brr!-- Paducah, Kentucky! Leaving her poor son with no parents at all!

Roth also spends an entire chapter on his cousin, who lost part of his leg in the war. He spends that chapter writing in exquisite detail of his cousin's swollen, oozing, scabby, and -- to Roth's oh-so-delicate little-girl sensibilities -- horrifying stump (this is when he's not telling us about his cousin's masturbatory spraying of semen all over the place as he watches little girls though a basement window). The chapter title? Not surprisingly, "The Stump."

Roth is not only terrified of the Midwest, which in his mind starts one millimeter west of the Hudson River, he also swoons in horror at Catholicism, with its "witchy" nuns and "mortician-like" priests.

And, I'll have to admit, I've never read a novel in which all those Catholic Nazi hillbillies infesting Kentucky join the Ku Klux Klan and the American Nazi Party, then break out the kerosene-soaked crosses they've been hiding in their basements, which they hurl at anyone who they think looks like a Jew.

There are even anti-Semitic riots in St. Louis, a place in which I have lived, and where the only semi-riots occurred when the German consulate hung a Nazi flag outside their window, and the gathered crowd got so upset the police had to be called. But Roth does not know these things, having created history out of his head.

The novel is preposterous and surreal to the point of hilarity. Anti-Jewish pogroms in Cleveland? What next, death camps run by the Simpsons, with Lisa as She-Wolf of the SS?

I won't give the ending away, except to say that a cackling Roth gets to engage in his version of genocide against all those inbred 'Tuckians. I'll also say he has gotten the truth backwards and upside down, and in doing so has written a truly repellent anti-Christian, anti-American, anti-human novel, one of the worst I have ever read. If he's got the ability, the man should be ashamed of himself.

At the end of his career Roth shows himself to be as he started it -- paranoid, hate-filled, envious, narcissistic, utterly self-absorbed and utterly self-deluded. As a novelist he will be forgotten. As a decent and honorable man, he never was one.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

How to Prevent Yourself from Being Brainwashed

Since it is the nature of people to understand stories more easily than most anything else, I will tell one. Let's call it a fairytale.

Once upon a time, not so long ago and not so far away, there was a large, prosperous village than unfortunately had an idiot for a king. Unfortunately, his advisors were idiots, too.

Down the road a bit was another village, one that was tiny and poor and not a threat at all to our large, prosperous village. Somehow, the Idiot King, along with his idiot advisors, got it in their heads the poor, tiny village had a insane homicidal maniac for a king. Along with that, many of the people in the village were also supposed to be insane homicidal maniacs.

"They are evil and are going to attack us for our goodness," exclaimed the Idiot King. "We have to attack them first in self-defense. How do we get the public to march off to war?"

"We will use propaganda," said one of his idiot advisors. "The techniques have been around for a long time and even an idiot could use them."

"Really?" asked the Idiot King, who was generally quite incurious about most everything. "Then it should be easy for us."

"There are four main techniques for successful propaganda," his advisor explained. "First, we have to stress emotion over logic, but convince people they are being logical."

"Works for me," said the Idiot King.

"Then," the advisor continued, "we have to demonize the enemy, but convince people the enemy really is evil."

"That's because they are!" frowned the Idiot King.

"Third," said the advisor, "tell people that by destroying the enemy the world will be safer, and will lead to a better world for us and them."

"It certainly will!" exclaimed the Idiot King joyfully.

"Fourth," the advisor continued, "idealize yourself, your country, your government, your military. By idealizing yourself and devaluing the enemy they can be transformed into evil monsters 'attacking us for our goodness.'"

"The things you can learn just by listening," the Idiot King said admiringly.

So the Idiot King and his idiot advisors told the people of the village (many of whom were idiots themselves) that the tiny poor village down the road was inhabited by monsters!! Evil, insane homicidal monsters who would go to any extreme to attack our large prosperous village and destroy it.

So of course many of the people of our large prosperous village grabbed their pitchforks and clubs and axes and marched down the road, attacked the poor tiny village, killed the King and many of the inhabitants.

Many of the inhabitants of the poor tiny village fled into woods, and when they caught one of the invaders of their village they killed him.

"This is really surprising," commented the Idiot King, puzzled. "I thought they would welcome us as liberators, throwing flowers at us and maybe even the women showing us their boobs."

"You'd think so," said his advisors, just as puzzled.

One of the inhabitants of our large prosperous village was a four-year-child who had no home so he slept with the village dogs to keep warm. Though this child was poor and homeless, an idiot this child was not.

"If the Idiot King has asked me," the child told his dogs, who listened attentively, "I could have told him his attack wouldn't work. For one thing, you can conquer a country on horseback, but you have to dismount to rule."

His dogs nodded their approval.

"If people weren't sleep-walkers," the child said to the dogs, who looked impressed, "they'd never believe anything their government says."

"Uh huh," chorused the dogs.

The child thought for a while, then said, "If people want to prevent being brainwashed and falling for propaganda, perhaps they should use logic over hysterical emotion. Perhaps knowing some logical fallacies might help."

"Post hoc, ergo propter hoc," said one of the dogs.

"'Because of this, therefore that'," said the child. "Just because something precedes something doesn't mean it causes it. You must analyze the situation and discover what the true causes are."

"Yep," commented a dog.

"Perhaps," the child said pensively, "we should never allow ourselves to demonize anyone. There is no one in the world who is pure good or pure evil. Unfortunately, in politics, everything is with good or evil, with no shades of grey."

The dogs smirked, knowing they were better than humans in that way.

"And never believe in Utopia," the child said thoughtfully. "It's always based on the belief in getting rid of those evil people. 'The butcher is held in great esteem in Harmony,' I read somewhere."

The dogs listened in awe.

"Never idealize your government, your country, or your military," pondered the child. "All such idealizations are hubris, and hubris is always followed by nemesis—destruction."

"Pride goes before destruction," one of the dogs added. "And a haughty spirit before a fall. That's in the Bible somewhere."

"Someday people will smirk at people who in the past believed in witches, monsters, dragons, and so on," the child finished. "But they'll be no different than we are, because, if brainwashing and propaganda can be defined in one sentence, it's convincing people monsters are attacking our village, so we have to kill them."

"You're pretty smart for a human," one dog said.

"Like anyone's going to listen to a four-year-old child," the child observed.

"Or a dog, for that matter," said one of the dogs sadly.

The Good, the Bad, and the Half-Asleep

It was Aristotle who observed there are two kinds of ignorance: when you’re ignorant and know it, and when you’re ignorant and don’t know it. The second kind of ignorance is the dangerous kind, because people who are ignorant and don’t know it usually think they’re smarter and more knowledgeable than everyone else (as Rousseau wrote: "One is misled not by what he does not know but by what he believes he knows").

This ignorant-and-don’t-know-it is what makes the afflicted so dangerous. It’s as if they’re using arrogance to cover up stupidity.

Someone not knowing they’re ignorant is a fugue state – the person is in a deluded, half-asleep state but unaware of it. Many people know they’re not totally awake, because to be totally “awake” you’d have to know everything, to know what theologians call the Mind of God. For humans that is of course impossible.

People who understand their limitations and ignorance can be considered humble in the true sense of the word: not debasing yourself, just understanding how limited you are and how easy it is to make mistakes, which is inherent in being human.

The Greeks defined humility as Sophrosyne: "Know thyself," and "Nothing in excess." The more one “knows thyself” the less susceptible to propaganda he’ll be, and believing in Pure Good and Pure Evil always leads to excesses, because it invariably leads to dehumanizing “the Evil” as subhuman or nonhuman monsters.

On the other hand people who are ignorant and don’t know it, and instead think they know what they are talking about (and what they are doing) can be considered arrogant, or afflicted with what the Greeks called Hubris, and the Bible, Pride.

These days, the term for Hubris or Biblical Pride is “narcissistic grandiosity.” It’s only been noticed in the last century that people with this affliction split things into “all-good” and “all-bad,” into pure good and pure evil.

I have met some of these people and the havoc they wreak is astonishing. All have certain traits in common. The main one is, “It’s always someone else’s fault, never mine.” Another is that they never notice the trouble they cause.

When you get groups of people together they always, under stress (say, an attack such as 9-11), regress to narcissistic infants. They, or their tribe, or their nation, is all-good, and those they define as their opponents or enemies are all-bad. And there the problems start.

Since no one, or no tribe or nation, is all-good, or perfect, whatever flaws they have are projected onto their opponents. The word for this is “scapegoating,” which comes from a practice by the ancient Hebrews in which they projected their sins onto a goat and then drove it into the wilderness, believing their sins would disappear.

An example not so long ago is when the perpetually confused George Bush referred to the Evil Ones who attacked us “for our goodness.” Then the “Evil Ones” returned the favor by calling the United States “the Great Satan.”

In politics everything is either good or evil, with no shades of grey (just as in politics people are never murdered – they are collateral damage, obstacles to be removed). When the belief in either-good-or-evil is wedded to the force and fraud inherent in politics, along with the infantile narcissism and simplistic thinking inherent in the Mob, it is no wonder politics has slaughtered more people than everything else in the world put together.

As deluded as an individual can be, groups – tribes, Mass Man, the Mob, whatever name you call them – are truly the problem. As Jules Monnerot wrote, “There is no such thing as a collective critical facility.”

Jacques Ellul, Monnerot’s contemporary and author of “The Technological Society,” wrote, “Propaganda’s chief requirement is not so much to be rational, well-grounded and powerful as it is to produce individuals especially open to suggestion who can be easily set into motion.” This can only happen when people are not aware of what propagandists are trying to do to them.

The Masses are ruled by their feelings; they follow leaders not principles; and they are susceptible to the most simplistic propaganda in which they see their in-group as Good and the out-group (always insane homicidal maniacs) as Evil.

In the 20th Century, the two worst scapegoating philosophies were Nazism and Communism (and contrary to the accepted wisdom, Communism was ten times as bad as Nazism). The estimate of war deaths in the 20th Century range from 177 million to 200 million people, almost of them due to those two ideologies.

In Nazism, there were the all-good Aryans and the all-bad non-Aryans. So genocide was committed against the non-Aryans. In Communism, there were the all-good Communists and the all-bad non-Communists. And again -- genocide.

This “all-good” and “all-bad” split applies to religion, at least to the more primitive, dangerous, fundamentalist monotheistic religions, the kind which thinks there really is a Devil. Of course, since one is convinced they have God on their side, their opponents must have the Devil on theirs (in fact, be the Devil), so it’s okay to rub out all of them.

Religion at least has a decided tendency to oppose Hubris; wisely, they consider it the worst of all sins, since it is the basis of all others. There is no such tendency in politics (which celebrates war, i.e., mass murder), which is why politics has caused so much trouble throughout history.

On the libertarian side, the only narcissistic ideology is Objectivism, which is a political/religious cult. It splits people into Rand’s perfect all-good heroes and projects all problems onto her sub-human “looters” and “parasites.”

I consider it a law of human nature than when people split things into an all-good and all-bad, pure good and pure evil, it’s automatic that the unacknowledged flaws of those who define themselves as good will be projected onto those they define as evil, with, at the worst, an attempt at genocide against them.

Unfortunately, it’s been the history of the world. It’s what comes from people being half-asleep and not knowing it.