These came to me today feeling completely original. It seems unlikely but if true, I think they’re pretty good. Don’t forget your attributions kids!

Forgiveness is the best revenge.

Wounded pride is the hardest material in the world.

If there is forgiveness why isn’t there forgetness?


“We do not have to visit a madhouse to find disordered minds; our planet is the mental institution of the universe.”

“When we treat man as he is we make him worse than he is. When we treat him as if he already was what he potentially could be, we make him what he should be.”

“I find the great thing in this world is, not so much where we stand, as in what direction we are moving.”

“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, the providence moves too. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way.”

― Johann Wolfgang von Goethe


Ok, we need to talk about this. This is a spider setting up a cozy little home.

Essential steps and the abilities they require (require of Something, not necessarily of this exact spider)

  • What made him do this, “I need a place to sleep.”? (Executive function: I better get this done)
  • What makes him choose this one shell out of many? Did he check it out for size? (Critical thinking: This one will work better than those)
  • Did he set up that block and tackle lifting system ahead of time? (Foresight: I’ll need this in a few minutes)
  • How did he know “That’s about enough” after wrapping the shell for lifting? (Predicting outcomes: This is enough to haul it up without falling)
  • Do spiders have imagination and logic? (Creative thinking: Hey…those things would make good houses!)

Most people would say “It’s instinct, it’s just instinctive behavior” putting the issue to rest. Here’s the definition of instinct “An innate typically fixed pattern of behavior in animals in response to certain stimuli”.

Instinct sounds meaningful but it isn’t. “Instinct” is a tautology, circling the question. Semantically it says “Yes, that behavior is a thing.” or “I don’t know why or how, but they all do that” or even “That’s what it is, but we don’t talk about that”. The word instinct is a placeholder description, not a real answer. Saying Instinct shuts off questioning without providing answers, it is an empty box labeled “behavioral presets”. The classic Darwinian answer to “But how, why?” would be “Spiders that behaved this way were better at surviving and reproducing. That is why the behavior was retained”. Continue reading


“Less well known is the paradox of tolerance: Unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance. If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them. — In this formulation, I do not imply, for instance, that we should always suppress the utterance of intolerant philosophies; as long as we can counter them by rational argument and keep them in check by public opinion, suppression would certainly be unwise. But we should claim the right to suppress them if necessary even by force; for it may easily turn out that they are not prepared to meet us on the level of rational argument, but begin by denouncing all argument; they may forbid their followers to listen to rational argument, because it is deceptive, and teach them to answer arguments by the use of their fists or pistols. We should, therefore, claim, in the name of tolerance, the right not to tolerate the intolerant. We should claim that any movement preaching intolerance places itself outside the law, and we should consider incitement to intolerance and persecution as criminal, in the same way as we should consider incitement to murder, or to kidnapping, or to the revival of the slave trade, as criminal.”

― Karl Raimund Popper, The Open Society, and Its Enemies


A society based on freedom and liberal humanism must value tolerance just to exist. But it must value itself more highly than any culture or alternate system of government if it is to survive. When the Mohamed cartoons controversy arose we were faced with another culture protesting the rules of our own. There were threats of murder, and outraged demands to change our rules on their behalf. Demands to essentially to add a dogma of Islam (not depicting Mohamed) as an amendment to western values from now on.

The west responded with a mix of:

  1. Cowardice: “OK! Done.”
  2. Nationalistic grumbling.
  3. Assholes taunting Muslims by burning Korans.
  4. Liberal appeasement, which volunteered to alter our way of life because other cultures naturally take precedence.
  5. Indifference, the deciding vote of many disputes.
  6. Worry by those who know that there are no take backs when you hand over any part of your autonomy.

The conciliatory impulse when someone is (or even seems) deeply offended is to apologize and seek accommodation. It’s a good impulse because peace is good. In seeking peace you ask what will make it right.  The clear message from the Islamic protesters was: “You aren’t allowed to do that, it must never happen again.” Claiming the right in a non-Islamic, free speech culture to determine not only what they see in newspapers but what everyone else sees too.

Many European politicians acceded instantly, deploring the cartoons, many in the media acceded to cowardice really but cloaked as respect for feelings. There have been roughly 200 deaths related to the cartoon controversy since 2005 and anti-blasphemy laws have sprouted up in many places giving more control over speech to those who feel offended. Tolerant European societies began dismantling their foundations partly from fear of religious thugs and partly out of the desire to be nice people and not cause offense.

This hardly constitutes the death of a tolerant culture, but it was surrendering the autonomy of a tolerant culture to the demands of an intolerant one. This is “proof of concept” for Popper’s thesis.  What possible polar corollary can we dream up where Europe is offended by an Islamic meme and Islam is sorry and wants to make it right?  There is no such situation. In fact, throughout Islamic cultures, things we would find outrageously offensive are common-place: Horrible anti-semitic cartoons are daily fare, hateful denouncements of everything in the west and hope for their prompt destruction is the stuff of coffee chat on TV.

All impulse to appease travels one way, and that is through the hole in our cultural defenses wrought by tolerance. The values we thrive on and hope to leave in place for the future will be further weakened by the culture of being too “nice”. Our cultural immune system recognizes certain hot topics for special handling. We maintain our Nazi defenses, we recognize that this hateful speech is something to be watched cautiously. We also recognize that it would permanently fracture society if we cripple free speech to silence Nazis. The problem now isn’t recognizing an overt enemy but a more subtle one. We are vulnerable on our left flank to the idea that all cultures are at least equal; and that any culture that has suffered insult or injury from the west at large deserves to have a say in our own. The welcoming tolerance of pluralistic cultures must be maintained, yet for it to be maintained it must have limits.

Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote: “We should be eternally vigilant against attempts to check the expression of opinions that we loathe and believe to be fraught with death unless they so imminently threaten immediate interference with the lawful and pressing purposes of the law that an immediate check is required to save the country.”

In other words, it ought to take a matter nearing our imminent destruction to make us consider hitting the pause button on freedom of speech, not the first complaint raised against it.

UPDATE: Insulting Prophet Muhammad not ‘free speech,’ ECtHR rules





iran79This is a picture of women protesting the forced Hijab in Iran days after the 1979 revolution. Don’t forget this and the fact that they lost this freedom when you are defending the Hijab.

Is it really too hard hard to hold two thoughts in mind at the same time? You can be tolerant toward emigrants AND see the ways their culture is anti-women (and gays, and freedom of speech). Your ancestors saw these things in OUR culture and fought them, not to success, but to an ever threatened improvement. It’s obvious that right wing Americans consider equal rights for women to be a political football and very much in play.

Progress is never a settled issue. Ignoring the things your own mothers hated having forced upon them, while claiming a feminist perspective is cognitive dissonance. Other cultures are not wiser, purer, better than us. It’s like saying you can’t understand what food tastes like. Taste it.

Also… The image to the right does not represent my opinion, I’m critiquing it. hkapology
This is a logical fallacy, a false equivalence on several levels.
It aims to equate honor killings, a socially accepted, cold blooded, ethically based rationale for murdering a family member with a sampled statistic for north american murders of women.

1. We consider murder a horrible crime with no religious or other mitigation. Where honor killings are practiced they are seen by some as murder and by many as a cultural/religious obligation.
2. They also have regular horrible murders, which the article ignores entirely, satisfied with the math it’s done so far.
3. In standard Islam, a man is committing no crime by beating his wife. In fact it is a cultural norm approved by religious authorities.
4. Ultimately what does the article wish us to think? It seems that the idea is to neutralize any outrage at honor killings by saying to ourselves: “I live in a flawed place too, Who am I to judge?”

And don’t forget in Islamic courts , known in many places as “THE court” women’s testimony counts half or even a third as much as a man’s. The cultural norms we are talking about display a pattern of treating women as goods and chattels and should be despised by people who are happy to see that idea stamped out here.
It’s astounding to me that a woman taking a theoretically feminist stance would write this letter which plays out as becoming an apologist on the subject of honor killings. I could imagine virtually the same letter being written by a conservative Islamic cleric.

There is a huge taboo on disliking and judging  any culture except our own. Hating OUR culture is a given in politically correct circles. I have no comfortable seat on this subject, as the right wing tends to only like “our culture” in the same way the people with gluten allergies like baked goods. If there’s a conclusion, it’s that when you separate something from the political scrum around it, you can see it’s merits and failings for exactly what they are.