Friday, December 26, 2008

Manners, Customs, Anarchy And Me

I'm not too sure if I'll let comments run on this; while the Og-and-Billy Show is fascinating when they're not getting personal, it draws the unruly.

A question often asked of anarchists is, what, in the absence of The State, would restrain men's baser impulses?

The simple, surface answer is, the same things that restrain them (or fail to) now. It's a snappy reply but there's not much there. Most men do not refrain from rape because they will be caught and punished; most people do not avoid short-changing others because it is illegal and your sister's favors are not for hire because the Vice Squad is likely, eventually, to haul her in. Indeed, you are now in about as good a position to poison the water supply of your city as any slapdash terrorist -- and consider, the traffic would be less and many jobs would be left open; you have much to gain. Do you seriously entertain that the you and your fellows have not yet done so only due to the likelihood of arrest, trial, imprisonment and execution?

It seems unlikely. While humans are governed largely by self-interest, mature humans tend to take a longer-term approach to "self-interest." Mature humans tend to deal fairly -- or not terribly unfairly, and more or less so to the extent they see them as peers, members of the same tribe -- with others. And past that, they extend a degree of courtesy to others and recognize it when it is given to them. Immature and/or criminal humans do not -- unless you count it a handshake to pick a man's pocket.

What keeps people from "doing unto others" first and hardest is as simple, as apparently trivial as courtesy. Customs. Manners. Those things which must (or must not) be done vary between our different tribes, clans and septs but they always exist. From a High Tea to an outlaw biker rally, there are acts and words of some sort which are observed by those who would take part pf the social interaction; the lout who flouts the social graces and calls it "honesty" makes of himself something less than human.

Looking back to times when the hand of Government fell less heavily on the individual, one finds situations refined and coarse; and while in general the individual had less to fear from crime in the 19th Century the the 21st, he or she had even less to fear in areas where good manners were more widely used and respected. London -- then well-armed, as shown by accounts of The Tottenham Outrage[1] -- was safer than Deadwood. Same species, better manners. Greater awareness of manners even among those who had little or no use for them.

Humans have very few instinctive behaviors; we're born knowing how to suck and in my darker moments, I suspect that's about as far as some people get. Proper manners -- yes, O Rosseauian "Natural Man," that terrible, horrible hypocrisy that lets enemies sit down at table and try to flay each other verbally, pleasantly, instead of reaching for their knives -- is one of humanity's better inventions, ranking with fire and the wheel; the traditions that preserve and transmit our customs and manners are as essential to our progress as was the domestication of animals and the invention of soup.[2]

* * *

Speculative thought about the shape society might take is common to all varieties of political thought and it is not uncommonly shown through rose-colored spectacles. From the "Worker's Paradise" to the high-minded Progressive dreams of Georgist single-taxers to L. Neil Smith's delightful visions of an anarchist/minarchist America, it's all painted so very lovely. Me, not so much; my kind of anarchy takes property rights as fundamental and leaves plenty of room for grotty little factory towns, mean or evil bosses and lazy workers. The indolent would be free to starve, the incompetent to seek their own level and it would be no paradise. --You'd have more choices of doom, mostly, and my own line of work would very likely get less respect and pay worse than it does now. But people would have better manners -- or not, and be held back by the lack. Make of that what you will.

* * *

Philosophically, I am something of a lightweight. There's not a lot of rigor to my thinking; Ayn Rand would've dressed me down but good and turned her back. This does not bother me; we can't all be Immanuel Kant and I'd as soon not. Roberta-X-ism is not a movement and it couldn't be.

* * *

This blog is something I do for my own amusement. It's all over the place -- fools are mocked, I natter about guns and shooting, post fragmentary stories not quite about slices my life or other lives I've glimpsed and whatever else it strikes me to do. Sometimes I'm wrong. Other times I'm not. I blog for fun and I would even if no one read it or commented on it. This is my place and visitors can either play by the very few rules, or they can leave.
1. Itself a fine example of the rude actions of the sort of "Anarchist" that is a blot upon the word -- and the world.
2. Snicker all you like -- before soup, the elders
died when their teeth gave out, somewhere around 30 years old. Not a lot of time to learn much -- and even less time in which to pass it on.


Kevin said...

Sorry to see that the poo flinging monkeys have found your blog.

They are seemingly drifting from gun blog to gun blog in a sad attempt to garner readers for their lame rantings and converts to their sad brand of fanaticism.

Just ban them, it is your place. I know you and Tam would not abide their lack of manners in person, so we all will understand if you bounce them out on their collective ears.
And throw Og a cookie, he seems to be down in the dumps.

alan said...

Well said Roberta.

Heh. Word Verification: "hated"

tanksoldier said...

I take more of a Heinlein-esque approach to the behavior of homo-sapiens.

They do whatever works. If thievery and stealing work, that's what they do. If muggings and vicious assaults work to help them survive, that's hat they do. Only when you make it LESS productive to injure others for self-gain do most homo-sapiens follow other paths. Not due to morality, but due to self-interest.

Some rare few rise above the human animal condition. These human BEINGS act with enlightened self interest to make the world a better place for their progeny... but it's still self-interest.

True altruism tends to NOT be a survival trait.

phlegmfatale said...

You do your blog exactly like I'd do your blog if I were you. :P I blog for myself first and foremost, and I'm honored some folks enjoy reading it. However, I'm not tailoring what I say to fit someone else's standards, and I'm glad you don't either-- though your blog is much more elevated than mine - I learn a lot here.

You're fabulous, baby. May the critics squirm.

Arcadia Iris said...

I think blogging for yourself is one of the top reasons to do it. It's why I quit when I no longer got any personal satisfaction from it and realized I was continuing to do it only out of a sense of obligation to the handful of readers I had. And they understood, as they'd been my steady handful of readers long enough to understand a bit of what makes me tick.

I love reading your blog, and am only sorry I didn't start the first time I saw it linked on Tam's blog. I learn a lot here, whether it's some fact I didn't know before, or simply learning about how another person sees a topic. You write with intelligence, humor, and are only judgemental in ways I think a person nearly has to be to stay mentally and emotionally healthy. (Recognizing when others are idiots sets a standard one should then live up to in their own life, as opposed to people who are of the "if you're not like me, you're just plain wrong and evil" judgemental mindset.) Whether I agree with any given post or not, your thoughts are a joy to read. Some days, you simply make me feel less alone in whatever it is that makes some people think I'm a genius and others think I'm some kind of sideshow freak. Honestly, thanks for sharing. :)

Turk Turon said...

Excellent essay!

I love the Tottenham Outrage. That's back when Britain was Great. Nowadays there's poor Tony Martin.

WV: remer - a palindrome!
Why do they call it a "palindrome", anyway?

Roberta X said...

Wow! Thanks for your nice responses. I'm still working on saying it better but I'm convinced having some standard of civil behavior is critical to a functioning society. An increase in rudeness, cheating and petty theft is often cited as a symptom of a declining society -- but it I think it is a cause.

Anonymous said...

"An increase in rudeness, cheating and petty theft is often cited as a symptom of a declining society -- but it I think it is a cause."

Of what? More rudeness, cheating and petty theft? Or does all that then run to terror-famine, Nanking and Auschwitz?

Consider that cheating and petty theft are political acts. They are driven by ethics. The very same thing goes for all the manifestations of the state seriously considered by anyone who takes up these issues. It is the ethics of environmentalism that drives the political manifestation of CAFE standards. It is the ethics of altruism that drives the political manifestation of the welfare-state. It is the ethics of power that drives the political manifestation of BATF. I think most people here would see those manifestations as obviously decadent, but that's what they are: manifestations and not causes.

Neither are rudeness, cheating and petty theft.

Carteach said...

Firstus.... You blog as you wish. I do so, and perhaps most bloggers do. It's a vision of anarchy in itself, without the rough spots.

Secundus.... I'll not do philosophy before morning coffee, but I tend to agree with tank soldier to a degree. RAH worked some societal ideas that I could agree with.

Thirdus... (g).... Please keep blogging any way you please, and sharing it. I enjoy it!

Roberta X said...

(I thought the meaning was obvious: the things cited are, in my inexpert opinion, a cause of societal decline).

But say they are "merely manifestations." ...This means they're okay, then?

--When did rudeness, theft and cheating become "political?" Since it got fun to get crosswise of folk, since the use of the Queen's English as "terms of art" or jargon or in-group cant bent words far from their common definition? Then everything's political and the word, stretched so thin with over-definition, has ceased to have useful meaning.

I am sorry, Mr. Beck, but I'm not buying it. There are things which transcend politics. Things like the shared norms of civilized behavior. When those are lost, the obvious exercises of political power to which you have so aptly pointed become brutal.

It is sometimes argued that in the face of naked power, manners are foolish excess. To accept this reasoning so is to join the oppresser, to become no more than an animal, a weak primate far out of its natural habitat. It makes us prey, vulnerable and ready to lash out to any perceived threat no matter how slight.

Persons who are polite leave themselves -- and, yes, their foes -- valuable "wiggle room." Space in which to be more than an animal, more than a brute with a crude spear. Space in which to, at the very least, back away from one another and put our attention to more productive endeavors.

The warrior is louder and makes a more immediate impact, but civilization is created by the builders and traders, by those who hew wood, forge metal, spin and weave.

Our culture is presently and unhealthily obsessed with door-kickers, with literal-minded boobs coldly enforcing well-intended laws, with blunt and confrontational persons "being real." If these trends continue, we shall get a taste of the barbarian's reality, bloody and raw. I would prefer not to do so.

When the State -- or its agents -- consider themselves to be above not only the law but not bound by manners, all manner of badness occurs; you read young Mr. Balko's blog, so I am sure you can cite plenty of examples where "please," "thank you," and taking the time to ring the doorbell to say, "Excuse me, I have a warrant for John Doe of 1234 Main Street," instead of firing a flashbang through the window of 1324 Main St. would have prevented a great deal of difficulty.

When individuals take rudeness as proper behavior, it invites further impropriety in reaction and only escalates awkward situations.

The State is often an ass; we need not behave likewise.

Anonymous said...

"But say they are 'merely manifestations.' ...This means they're okay, then?"

No. It points out that the problem cannot be addressed until it is identified.

"When did rudeness, theft and cheating become 'political?'"

To begin with: I only cited two of those three. And they've been rationally identified as political matters for about twenty-three hundred years. All the principles and implications can be found in Aristotle's "Politics", which is the first comprehensive statement of the subject in Western history.

"There are things which transcend politics."

I know, Roberta.

I wrote to you about one of them this morning.

Anonymous said...


Saying "it's my place and I have a right to..." is a cop-out. Certainly it's true, but hiding behind your rights doesn't itself justify anything as being right.

og comes here and "flings poo", as one of your other commentors accused Billy of, by dropping a most uncivilized load couched in civilized tones, and Billy counters with a civilized response in only mildly unpleasant tones. Which is worse, vicious ideas or vicious tone?

The cause of social decline is the former. Why do you think your vaunted Victorian age didn't last?

You've chosen to blog about issues that are very literally life and death concerns, and ideas matter greatly, no matter how pleasantly they are presented. If you're not up to the consequences of it, you have every right to ignore them, but it doesn't make it right. Enjoy the trite fluff and platitudes that will fill your comments. I will now GTFO. (you know, euphemism and abbreviation still communicate the meaning, and doesn't make it any less (c)rude.)

perlhaqr said...


Yeah. Well, side effect of being on the bleeding edge of any political discourse (if anarchism had a lot of adherents, it wouldn't be bleeding edge) is a higher than average proportion of people you wish would stop claiming to be on your side.

Mr. Nikoley would seem to fall into that category.

Ah, well, back to trying to convince people that respect for personal sovreignity is worthwhile. Perhaps I should change my userid to "Sysiphus".

Roberta X said...

I'm sorry, did anyone notice any poo on Kyle?

Hellooo? This is The Internet. It's all fluff, except the parts where you buy stuff, sell stuff and/or get ripped off. Real life is-- Look, you go up the basement stairs, past Mom in the kitchen and out the door. Out! Yes, it's chilly, but open the door anyway. See? That's real. The poo is real too -- oh, did you step in it already?

"Life and death..." Sheesh. No, that was the time four young men robbed me at gunpoint and stupid me, I didn't carry a weapon other than my feet and it turned out they ran better than me. Opinions and info on a screen? Not real life. Fluff. I don't care if it's about home-brew phosgene or sure-fire World Peace, it's fluff. It's only real if you push back from the keyboard and go DO.

"Life and death." Ever been pinned up against the wall by a hand at your throat, the hand of someone you loved and trusted? Internet tough guys -- I've had all I can take of you.


Og and Billy have what amounts to a religious disagreement: Og figures we're too evil to endure without external govenment and Billy figures if we are bad, then our institutions will be bad, too. Pared down to that, it appears we're thermodynamically doomed: can't win, can't break even, can't quit the game. Life is, however, a local, short-term reversal of entropy: we keep tryin' stuff and in the long run, nobody is in charge of anything but themselves. Yeah, it's more fluff. Turtles all the way down. Go outside, reverse some entropy and, damn you, smile. It's what I intend to do next. After a shower.

Anonymous said...

Hi Roberta,

You have my sympathy. It’s always good to try to be fair and be consistent. But having a blog is not a ‘pure’ idea based purely on ‘logic’. Sure, you write about things that are important to you. But being consistent? Heh… I’d challenge anyone to be a purist in any form of logic.

But it is also is a community of readers. You have long-term readers, short-term readers and everyone in between. Occasionally, short-term readers like to do drive-bys: they blast a long-term loyal reader or maybe even the blog-master herself using their logic or tone. But they are not as invested in this blog as you or your long-term readers are. They could… just move on to the next blog just as easy. They have no bond or rapport to you or your ‘Tribe’.

So, by being ‘fair’, you are tested: The drive-by may have a point in regards to the integrity of your logic(or not), but at what cost to you and your community? And if you are ‘unfair’ to the drive-by, what cost would it be to your beliefs?

I am sure you know where I stand just from the way I wrote this comment. J

Anonymous said...

…And Billy, the rudeness you initially displayed to Og was wrong (you swung first). I don’t think you’ld like it if you were blasted like that when you were being sincere in your beliefs.

I’m surprised that you’re in your 50’s and haven’t learned civility to people you don’t know. Unless it was a political maneuver on your part, of course… (I’ve seen this kind of behavior in the office…).

Anonymous said...

Nice Response to Kyle, Roberta.

Sorry to hear you were robbed (and at gunpoint - yikes!!!).

Yea, the internet isn't real, is it? Its only words.

One thing I like about it is the pleasant exchange of ideas, rapport and ... even bonds I get with other people here.

Its too bad the atmosphere is a little poisoned here. You seem like a nice lady. :)

Anonymous said...

"I don’t think you’d like it if you were blasted like that when you were being sincere in your beliefs."

Well, that's what you think, then.

"I’m surprised that you’re in your 50’s and haven’t learned civility to people you don’t know."

That is patently ridiculous. I know what I know about him and it is plainly obvious in what he writes.

Look: you people don't have to take ideas seriously.

You will live them seriously, nonetheless and one way or another.

Anonymous said...

"I don’t think you’d like it if you were blasted like that when you were being sincere in your beliefs. Billy: Well, that's what you think, then."

Hmmm... a word-fighter. Which is an oxymoron as there is no point in conversing with a 'word fighter'.

"I’m surprised that you’re in your 50’s and haven’t learned civility to people you don’t know. Billy: That is patently ridiculous."

You could start by asking for a little more depth as to why Og believes what he does.

Saying that my opinion is patently ridiculous outright is not a way to continue a conversation either.

Them's Fighting Words. Them's Troll words. It gets you banned eventually.

You really don't learn from your past mistakes, do you?

Richard Nikoley said...

"Mr. Nikoley would seem to fall into that category."


One immediate detectable difference between us is that I have no idea whether I would "wish [you] would stop claiming to be on [my] side."

Same goes for Roberta.

For one, I am an individualist, but that's a philosophical (and biological) distinction for another day, perhaps.

In any case, as I reserve judgment on such matters until such time as I've attained certainty in accordance with my own values, meaning: not the "side's" values -- whatever they are (feel free to tell me, though) -- I won't say one way or another what may or may not "seem" to me to speculatively be.

I think I learned this lesson back in around '91, in snail-mail correspondence with old friends, a year or so after concluding that rational anarchism was the only possible political position fully consistent with individualism, a principal grounded both in evolutionary biology and the rational nature of man.

tooldieguy said...

I enjoy your blog Roberta, Hopefully I can make one of your blog meets when I'm in that part of the country.

Stay safe,

Roberta X said...

I think we've now all seen How To Win Friends And Influence People. Or at least Win Internet Arguments. So, boys and girls, just what is your prize? No, don't tell me, tell yourself.

Mr. Nikolay, you have said your say, now please follow Kyle in departing, never to sully yourself with my pathetic, loser blog again.

Mr. Beck, please read your mail. --And I can't help but notice there is no provision for comments on your blog. Could it be you dislike fuss on your front stoop? So do I.

These deliberations are now closed. If you've more to say, use your own blogs.