NaraVara's recent activity

  1. Comment on Philosophy without a philosopher in sight: The Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita: ancient Indian texts that challenge Western categories, yet influenced the course of modernity in ~humanities

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    Interesting take on some crucial distinctions between Western and Eastern philosophy, specifically the notion of "authorship." In particular is the idea in Hindu philosophy that great works are...

    Interesting take on some crucial distinctions between Western and Eastern philosophy, specifically the notion of "authorship." In particular is the idea in Hindu philosophy that great works are not the product of any one individual, but a collaborative effort of an entire culture that certain individuals might become a vessel or agent for. By this thinking, "authorship" becomes an act of performance as much as an act of creation, and the lines between categories like writer/reader, choreographer/dancer, or songwriter/singer become blurred.

    Among the impediments is a logistical one which reveals how, in the West, value and significance are attributed according to certain classificatory norms and not others. I don’t mean the “canon”; I’m referring to a more basic category: authorship. “Footnotes to Plato” (like Western philosophy), is, generally, as much about the philosophers as it is about the philosophy. In fact, the field of knowledge called “the history of Western philosophy” could just as easily be called “the history of Western philosophers”, inasmuch as Western philosophers are the sum total of their lives and works, and we often defer to both biography and thought when we interact with the philosophy. Each body of work has a personality, but so does its author; in almost every case, we can, literally, put a “face” to the work, whether that’s a photograph of Bertrand Russell or a fourth-century BC bust of Plato.

    What do we do with a philosophy when there’s no philosopher in sight? The absence constitutes a problem in giving, and claiming, value. Meaning and significance in Western culture are not just features of the work, but pertain to, and arise from, the owner of the work – the author is the work’s first owner; the author’s nation or culture (“Greece” or “Germany”, say; or “the West”) its overarching one. The Upanishads and the Gita, on the other hand, come to us as the New Critics said poems should: without the baggage of biography. To read them is to confront language, form and text alone, without the distraction or temptation of dwelling on the author’s milieu and life.

  2. Comment on War over being nice in ~misc

    NaraVara
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    I think it's worth pointing out that many situations that look like Culture B on the surface can be just as toxic and unwelcoming. For example: I can say, as an immigrant who has grown up in...

    Now, for all my support of culture B, I do think it's possible to go too far. Hypersensitivity and overreaction can arise from an intention to protect others' feelings against any and all issues. Fully externalized responsibility for others' feelings allows and even encourages some people to be emotionally manipulative. Overstating harm and community obligation can be weaponized to turn targets into social transgressors in need of social punishment. Victimhood can become a socially reinforced behavior in response to the powerful support and attention it draws from the community.

    I think it's worth pointing out that many situations that look like Culture B on the surface can be just as toxic and unwelcoming. For example:

    This comes with strong repercussions - the perpetrator is expected to make things right.

    I can say, as an immigrant who has grown up in mostly White communities, that I have often been told I need to "make things right" when accusing others of racism or even just being blind to racial blind spots. By doing this I "disrupted the harmony of the group." Feelings were hurt and it generally falls on the person in the minority to assuage those hurt feelings.

    And I'm sure plenty of people have been on the wrong side of those "catty social dynamics" the author talks about too. But it's not like those social dynamics stop at high school. Most of what people hate about office politics (or even forum politics in online communities) comes to the same thing. There is inevitably some series of backchannel private groups and conversations within cliques. Those cliques often discuss (intentionally or unintentionally) how to frame narratives that cast certain people in a positive or negative light. And then in the more public venues they will slyly bait or spread this information around to build up antipathy towards their targets. There is no actual redress or airing of grievances, it just becomes a sneaky sort of conflict and ostracism. In professional contexts it gets worse. You'll have people strategically lodging complaints to HR or to management, for example.

    Overall it creates a culture of "weaponized victimhood" that we're all familiar with whenever we see a video of a 'Karen' out in public. And being skilled at the performance of being wounded or aggrieved ends up carrying more weight than anything that's actually right or true or fair. People's popularity or likability within the group ends up being the determining factor behind who ends up on top of these disagreements and that has a way of reinforcing racial, gendered, or sexual hierarchies as well. In some ways, this method of conflict resolution relies on appeals to sources of authority, like police or managers, to weigh in. And it tunes people to know how to manipulate those authority figures to act in ways they want.

    That ends up privileging people with lots of secret, tribal knowledge about what those authority figures like to see and what plays well with the group overall, so people without that skill-sets that can make them well-liked or let them articulate themselves well end up on the wrong end of disagreements. Stoic or reserved people end up being made to bear more of the brunt of the emotional labor in these contexts too, because they're not being so obviously hurt by things, so people who are disinclined to complain get to be on the wrong side of every trade-off.

    I've always felt more comfortable in Culture A settings because I'm good at defending myself, both physically and logically/verbally. I have the skills to excel in a straight up conflict where the relationships are known and prejudices are out in the open. It's clear what to expect from everyone else, even if the thing you expect is for people to be ignorant or shitty. Culture B, where all the tensions are cloaked and the conflicts are carried out in secret are much harder to deal with for a newbie or a foreigner. If you don't know the secret resentments and relationships you can't figure out who to be open with and who resents you. If you don't know the approved terminologies and shibboleths, or you don't know who is in or who is out of various cliques you very easily could find yourself wrapped up in a storm of rumors and accusations against you that you can't stop.

    6 votes
  3. Comment on Signs you're a Black character written by a White author in ~books

    NaraVara
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    This starts to seem like they're really bending over backwards to avoid just. . . hiring more women.

    In 2018, screenwriting software developers began incorporating functions that allow writers to analyze their scripts for gender representation. Software with such functions includes Highland 2, WriterDuet and Final Draft 11.

    This starts to seem like they're really bending over backwards to avoid just. . . hiring more women.

    3 votes
  4. Comment on Full employment in ~tech

    NaraVara
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    What this really reflects is a (not at all unjustifiably) pessimistic assessment of our political system's ability to actually do these things. People evacuating and restarting elsewhere can...

    You know, instead of simply still-costly but significantly-less-costly coastal defence infrastructure.

    What this really reflects is a (not at all unjustifiably) pessimistic assessment of our political system's ability to actually do these things. People evacuating and restarting elsewhere can happen on its own over the long run through individual action. People building massive earthworks and levees and other coastal defenses, however, take coordination and massive amounts of infrastructure spending that our dysfunctional government has, time and time again, demonstrated that it simply will not do with any level of effectiveness.

    As long as 70% of the Senate is elected by 30% of the country who (mostly) live in landlocked interior states, I don't know any other way around it. They refuse to even admit there is a problem and they will refuse to allocate the money to do anything about it. Look what happened to New Orleans after Katrina.

    It's not unprecedented for major cities to simply depopulate in the face political breakdown and climate/disease pressure. This is basically what happened to most of the MesoAmerican civilizations just before the Spanish arrived. The opportunities of the city go away and the city-dwellers go with them, resigning themselves to a markedly lower standard of living than what they had before.

    10 votes
  5. Comment on Uber to acquire Postmates for approximately $2.65 billion in an all-stock transaction in ~tech

    NaraVara
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    Company that loses money hand-over-fist with no viable pathway to profitability other than "automation" and "monopoly" acquires other company that loses money hand-over-fist in an effort to. . ....

    Company that loses money hand-over-fist with no viable pathway to profitability other than "automation" and "monopoly" acquires other company that loses money hand-over-fist in an effort to. . . what exactly?

    I get that the markets are happy about this because they think once the platform battle is over and the dust settles the winner can use their monopoly power to actually turn a profit. But the market is dumb. Any price level that's actually cash flow positive is going to price most of the user-base out of actually using these services. There is no way this business model survives without subsidies.

    7 votes
  6. Comment on Ashoka's Moral Empire in ~humanities

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    In the Khyber valley of Northern Pakistan, three large boulders sit atop a hill commanding a beautiful prospect of the city of Mansehra. A low brick wall surrounds these boulders; a simple roof, mounted on four brick pillars, protects the rock faces from wind and rain. This structure preserves for posterity the words inscribed there: ‘Doing good is hard – Even beginning to do good is hard.’
    The words are those of Ashoka Maurya, an Indian emperor who, from 268 to 234 BCE, ruled one of the largest and most cosmopolitan empires in South Asia.

    1 vote
  7. Comment on What's something that's a "really big deal" that has fallen out of public awareness and discourse? in ~talk

    NaraVara
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    Honestly technical skills have always been easy enough for me to learn through self-study. I never really understood why formal education needs to emphasize it. I got a lot more out guided...

    I’d just like to point out that you don’t need to study a lot of logic, rhetoric, and ethics for it to make a difference. Just brief introductions to let you know what’s out there can be very useful.

    Honestly technical skills have always been easy enough for me to learn through self-study. I never really understood why formal education needs to emphasize it. I got a lot more out guided discussion and graded written papers from experts in humanities that I couldn’t have done on my own.

    Things with clear right and wrong answers are very amenable to be a autodidact on, but an education is supposed to be more about teaching how to cultivate aesthetics and values in a way that lets you understand what you think and why. I think STEM educated people who try to learn softer subjects tend to bring that same mentality to other subjects that doesn’t fit.

    5 votes
  8. Comment on It's a great time to be an American in ~misc

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    Even embodied labor isn’t really reducible to “time spent” though. Ditch digging to nursing is a bad example there. A better one would be that an MFA takes about as long as a nursing degree, but...

    There's the thousands of hours of study and training to be a nurse or other skilled worker, and if you look at things statistically, there's even more work going in to supporting enough people for one of them to come about with unusual artistic talent.

    Even embodied labor isn’t really reducible to “time spent” though. Ditch digging to nursing is a bad example there. A better one would be that an MFA takes about as long as a nursing degree, but nurses are still way more in demand than a Masters in Fine Art.

    The trouble is, once you get past what’s needed for pure subsistence it’s basically impossible to quantify how much things are worth because value is inherently subjective. The whole point of modern, industrial society is to not have to be fixated solely on subsistence.

  9. Comment on Trump erodes America's foundation. This Fourth of July, I pledge to rebuild it in ~misc

    NaraVara
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    That’s just not true. It’s tilted heavily towards formal non-affiliation, while the independents have increasingly been ideologically leaned heavily towards The Democrats. This is more a...

    But the constant swing between Republicans and Democrats has been heavily trending Republican since the 80's.

    That’s just not true. It’s tilted heavily towards formal non-affiliation, while the independents have increasingly been ideologically leaned heavily towards The Democrats. This is more a reflection of dealing with liberals and leftists being like herding cats while Republicans are fiercely partisan. But that’s an intensity thing, not a numbers thing.

    5 votes
  10. Comment on It's a great time to be an American in ~misc

    NaraVara
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    If you’ve never actually studied economics how would you know this? You’re just working on hearsay from other people with an anti-intellectual bent. This is like saying anyone can be a doctor as...

    but those particular aspects mean that almost everyone can have a somewhat valid stance regardless of their background.

    If you’ve never actually studied economics how would you know this? You’re just working on hearsay from other people with an anti-intellectual bent. This is like saying anyone can be a doctor as long as they have a body. It’s not any different from anti-vax rhetoric. It doesn’t sound like it comes from a place of any real understanding of the disciplines involved. Social sciences aren’t natural sciences and that’s not a goal they have. Sociology is complicated and understanding human behavior is too. You can’t wish away the inherent complexity and ambiguity because it’s ideologically inconvenient.

    There shouldn't be any such thing.

    This is a Marxist concept that doesn’t mean what you seem to think. Review Das Kapital.

    LTV is a more egalitarian way of determining value, as the value of a good is directly proportional to the hours of human life spent making a product.

    The point of a metric isn’t to be egalitarian, it’s to be accurate. Hours of human life doesn’t reflect value, it just reflects time spent. Having people dig ditches and fill them up again for no reason isn’t useful labor so why value it the same as an hour spent doing something useful? By the same token, an experienced ditch digger’s hour is worth more when digging ditches than a nurse’s. But a nurse’s hour of healthcare work is worth more than a ditch digger’s. The labor time isn’t the meaningful element of the value chain, and if your valuation scheme is useless for actually making decisions about who to send where or how to allocate resources then it’s not actually good for anything.

    By ignoring the labor value (instead just accounting for wages)

    Wages aren’t a measure of value either. Utility of the production is.

    8 hours of a person's life holds the same value no matter where they live.

    What about 8 hours of a fresh out of school entry level worker versus a highly trained and educated worker? How about an 8 hour cello performance by YoYo Ma versus 8 hours by me (who has no musical training)?

    Sadly, it’s simply a fact that Ariana Grande adds more utility to more people’s lives in a 3 hour performance doing what she does best than I do in a full workday doing whatever I do best. People just don’t care about me very much, so I don’t think it’s particularly unfair that she gets paid more. Now there’s plenty of exploitation that comes from monopoly power over productive capital or logistical capacity, but none of it comes from people valuing hours of time differently. Distinctions between types of earned income aren’t even a major driver of inequality, that mostly comes from distinctions between earned and unearned income.

    5 votes
  11. Comment on Trump erodes America's foundation. This Fourth of July, I pledge to rebuild it in ~misc

    NaraVara
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    I mean, it’s a 4th of July speech. I’m not sure it’s the time or place to be expecting a TED talk on all that ails the country.

    worry about messaging so solely focused on Trump like this. It completely ignores the system that put him there.

    I mean, it’s a 4th of July speech. I’m not sure it’s the time or place to be expecting a TED talk on all that ails the country.

    6 votes
  12. Comment on It's a great time to be an American in ~misc

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    Even modern economists who are sympathetic to Marxian views, like Pilkington don’t really subscribe to it. The gist of it is that there ends up being so much special pleading and semantic...

    Even modern economists who are sympathetic to Marxian views, like Pilkington don’t really subscribe to it.

    The gist of it is that there ends up being so much special pleading and semantic caveating for it to make sense that it has no practical utility for actually valuing things, which is the whole point. If you can’t use it to derive prices or allocate resources it’s not even a useful abstraction. It doesn’t help us determine exchange value or use value at all.

    And it’s not even necessary to still understand the concept of surplus labor, so I really don’t get why online Leftists get so hung up on this particular shibboleth. At some point it just starts to look like a form of anti-intellectualism against economists. It’s a much more diverse discipline than Leftists online seem to think it is, probably because their idea of “what economists think” is based on arguing online with undergraduates who don’t know much past the basics. Most of the criticisms of the field seem to be stuck on where things were in the 90s and early aughts and don’t seem to have assimilated any new criticisms since.

    1 vote
  13. Comment on It's a great time to be an American in ~misc

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    I am cracking up right now 🤣

    I am cracking up right now 🤣

    1 vote
  14. Comment on It's a great time to be an American in ~misc

    NaraVara
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    You are definitely going to have trouble convincing people of something that’s been thoroughly debunked by economists from multiple opposing schools of thought. The Wikipedia page lists several,...

    we're still having trouble re-convincing people that the labor theory of value is correct

    You are definitely going to have trouble convincing people of something that’s been thoroughly debunked by economists from multiple opposing schools of thought. The Wikipedia page lists several, and it’s not even exhaustive.

    Turning a page means making something new, not fealty to the ideological commitments of a bunch of dead, Eurocentric Hegelians from more than a century ago.

    3 votes
  15. Comment on It's a great time to be an American in ~misc

    NaraVara
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    “Unraveling” makes it sound like we’re restoring something by scraping off some barnacles or touching up some scuffs. But this is a total overhaul we’re in need of. Full modernization of the...

    unravel 40+ years of bad decisions

    “Unraveling” makes it sound like we’re restoring something by scraping off some barnacles or touching up some scuffs. But this is a total overhaul we’re in need of. Full modernization of the administrative state and a transformation of how we approach governance. It’s time to usher in a new chapter and shrug off baggage from the past.

    9 votes
  16. Comment on It's a great time to be an American in ~misc

    NaraVara
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    I too watched Hamilton yesterday :-p “Raise a glass to freedom. . .”

    I feel strangely optimistic for the US' future, for the first time in years.

    I too watched Hamilton yesterday :-p

    “Raise a glass to freedom. . .”

    3 votes
  17. Comment on Black Lives Matter may be the largest movement in US history in ~news

    NaraVara
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    This was the sentiment. When this is all over none of them will admit to having been party to this, but this article went insanely viral even among suburban centrists right before the election....

    I am dumbfounded as to what needed to be shaken up

    This was the sentiment. When this is all over none of them will admit to having been party to this, but this article went insanely viral even among suburban centrists right before the election. Even the it is not that bad takes didn’t disagree with the core of the premise, just the degree.

    They wanted to flip over the apple cart in the hopes that when the dust settled and the pieces were rearranged it would be in a way that reversed these seemingly inevitable demographic and cultural trends they found disturbing.

    They may not have wanted to face the reality of what their hopes would mean in the real world, but that article summarized exactly what those hopes were.

    9 votes
  18. Comment on Black Lives Matter may be the largest movement in US history in ~news

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    There’s also the fact that our leadership is completely incompetent. Even Dubya could have said something pleasant sounding to defuse the most heated tensions and try to facilitate compromise....

    There’s also the fact that our leadership is completely incompetent. Even Dubya could have said something pleasant sounding to defuse the most heated tensions and try to facilitate compromise. Trump is incapable of doing anything but adding gasoline to fires.

    He got an object lesson in how civil society works in a democracy. The power doesn’t rest in any particular politics office nearly as much as people like to imagine, it’s in the constellation of community groups, non-profits, companies, various parts of the federal bureaucracy with their own agendas, etc. Trump didn’t get it, so it galvanized in a way it never has before because it’s never been pushed like this before. Because previous Presidents understood what happens when you push like that.

    In a way, we should be grateful that it got pushed in something with this kind of broad social consensus. If it was something more contentious I fear it would have turned uglier and faster.

    7 votes