Mid-Summer Update

After a solid two or so months of growth, the garden has stalled—which is normal for the Texas Summer; now the game is simply trying to keep everyone alive until the weather turns. Recent storms have ameliorated the struggle, but it’s still going to be a long, hot August. If I can keep half the peppers alive, that will be a triumph. The aloe and other succulents will surely make it.

While the sunflowers have come and gone, and even much of the ground cover is brown, this next month is a good time to invest in building the soil, so I’m adding spent coffee grounds and other organic material, while continuing to water like normal. I will add fish skins, once I finally get around to cooking fish (when it’s this overwhelmingly hot I just feel like eating bread and fruit, mostly).


Reading Nietzsche at the RNC

“Beware of those in whom the will to punish is strong.”


I thought this week was as good a time as any to pick up Nietzsche again; the rise of Trump’s “law and order campaign” reminded me of Nietzsche’s warnings about just such a danger, i.e. a messianic cult with an insular ideology of restoring some vague past glory while punishing some out-group(s) for soiling it—especially with “Make America great again” sounding so eerily similar (albeit not identical) to the messaging of the National Socialists in the ’30s.

It’s worth noting that there is apparently a correlation between belief in free will and the desire to punish, which I’ve written about here. Of course Nietzsche was critical of both. But what would he say about the RNC? Well let’s see, there’s already been a show trial, complete with a call-and-response “guilty!” chant reminiscent of the Inquisition, a plagiarized speech (about the virtue of hard work, ironically), and the invocation of Lucifer as one of many—and some even more demonized—political enemies (I guess Ben Carson has not read his Voltaire). I think it’s safe to say that Nietzsche would be fairly appalled, although he may have chuckled at the billboard for the movie “God’s Not Dead 2” (I haven’t seen the first one), if it had been posted as planned.

That the fundamentalist Right needs to insist that God is not dead (no show trial for his murderers either, shucks) is, however, an indication that doubt continues to creep in among the ranks of the Crusaders. Nietzsche, were he able to address them, might remind them that most do not have the courage to face what they really know, deep down. And so the circus continues.

A Downside of the Marketplace of Ideas

From “Why bad ideas refuse to die”:

There is certainly some truth in the thought that competition between ideas is necessary for the advancement of our understanding. But the belief that the best ideas will always succeed is rather like the faith that unregulated financial markets will always produce the best economic outcomes. As the IMF chief Christine Lagarde put this standard wisdom laconically in Davos: “The market sorts things out, eventually.” Maybe so. But while we wait, very bad things might happen.

The article is about how conspiracy theories, like the resurgent flat-Earth theory, continue to thrive in an environment full of—indeed, constantly bombarded by—information that should sink the ideas once and for all. These kids of theories survive for all kinds of reasons (comfort, intrigue, a desire for cohesion in a cold, indifferent universe), but one reason, as I wrote about here, is that many conspiracies really did happen. From the article:

And we should not give in to the temptation to conclude that belief in a conspiracy is prima facie evidence of stupidity. Evidently, conspiracies really happen. Members of al-Qaida really did conspire in secret to fly planes into the World Trade Center. And, as Edward Snowden revealed, the American and British intelligence services really did conspire in secret to intercept the electronic communications of millions of ordinary citizens. Perhaps the most colourful official conspiracy that we now know of happened in China. When the half-millennium-old Tiananmen Gate was found to be falling down in the 1960s, it was secretly replaced, bit by bit, with an exact replica, in a successful conspiracy that involved nearly 3,000 people who managed to keep it a secret for years.

And for all of them that are suggested that didn’t really happen, there are hundreds of other theories that just as well could happen, given the power, corruption, greed, and inhumanity of most modern governments. I can’t remember where I read this line, but it stuck with me: the lizard-people theory is resonant mainly because the people in the corporate-military elite are so different from the rest of us that they might as well be lizards.

The Earth really is round, though.