Posts Tagged ‘politics’

By Richard Martin

I’m developing a new concept I call “encroachment syndrome.” I call it a syndrome as an analogy to a medical syndrome, where signs and symptoms appear together in individuals, without necessarily implying an understanding or acceptance of common etiology. I don’t mean to imply any form of medical disturbance or illness, either physical or mental. I use it merely as a metaphor.

Encroachment syndrome describes overlapping belief networks, to the effect that national and/or global elites (or other nefarious actors, usually hidden) are trying (and in some cases, succeeding) to encroach on individual rights and liberties, especially the right to earn a livelihood and to control one’s own body. Many of these beliefs appear to form networks of mutually supporting concepts, phrases, memes, narratives, stories, and explanations. They tend to overlap or appear in combination in individuals, who then tend to share these beliefs, mainly through online interactions and social media, which reinforces them and creates a community of belief.

Here is my initial take.

1. Resistance to Covid vaccine mandates. Notice I didn’t say “anti-vaxxers,” which refers to people who are against vaccines in general. Many people were inconvenienced, offended, skeptical, and/or fearful of the Covid vaccine and vaccine mandates. Many weren’t/aren’t against the vaccines if they are not obligatory and don’t threaten their livelihood. Some Covid-vaccine resisters even took the vaccines and boosters themselves as well as vaccines for other conditions. They just viewed it as a major encroachment on personal liberty and contrary to the Hippocratic Oath. I’m not saying they’re right or wrong, but that seems to be the motivating belief.

2. Against support and material/financial/military assistance of Ukraine. Individuals who promote this belief network mostly adhere to Russian talking points about how the Russian invasion of Ukraine is supposedly NATO’s fault. I won’t elaborate further, but you can read more in these articles: On Tankies and No, NATO Isn’t Responsible for Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine. This appears to stem from a fear of the war in Ukraine expanding into a world war because of US- and NATO-led support for Ukraine. I don’t think it is an irrational fear, but it appears to stem from disinformation and uninformed sharing of social media snippets and poor knowledge of history and strategy. It should be addressed by providing valid background knowledge supported by sound arguments that also address probabilities. See the following article on How to Argue Properly.

3. Supported and/or participated in the Truckers’ Convoy last winter in protest at government vaccination mandates and cross-border travel restrictions, especially as applied to Canadian truckers whose work involves driving to and from the USA. The basic issue wasn’t that people were against Covid vaccination per se, but rather the negative impacts on the truckers who chose to not get vaccinated. It was compounded by general dissatisfaction with pandemic shutdowns and the economic disruption and impoverishment this caused for many Canadians. This was all leveraged and amplified by what appeared to be Russian agitprop to exploit the situation. I wrote about this in February 2022: The Current Situation and What Is the Link Between the Russia-Ukraine Crisis and What Is Happening in Canada.

4. Anti-wokeness. Many people believe that there is an attack against traditional Western institutions and culture underway, fed by Marxist ideologues and activists. I won’t go into this more at this point, but suffice it say that I personally agree with many criticisms of wokeness. And please don’t ask me to define wokeness. Look it up for yourself.

5. Anti-globalist/anti-WEF beliefs. This is too complex to go into here, but it is also part of the syndrome. My current thinking is that it appears to stem from a deep-felt fear of losing one’s autonomy, of being infected by mind viruses, memes, and other “contaminants,” including of the physical body and the body politic. I am in the process of developing these ideas and will write more about them when ready.

6. Global financial system. The final phenomenon that is part of the encroachment syndrome I’m proposing is the belief that political and social elites control the global financial system to exploit ordinary people. Many bitcoiners fall into that category, though not all. Moreover, this appears to be a minority position. I personally hold Bitcoin as part of my portfolio and believe it has a lot of utility that will continue to develop and evolve. Here are some links about Bitcoin: Riot Platforms Brief on Bitcoin to White HouseThe Bitcoin Revolution and What It Means for Africa; and Bitcoin and “Crypto” in General: The Crux of the Issue.

I don’t mean to belittle any of these belief networks. I’m simply observing a concurrence of phenomena, many of which appear to have some grounding in fact and evidence. I don’t agree with the victory lap some of the vaccine resisters are taking right now because of conflicting scientific evidence regarding the efficacy of the Covid vaccines. It’s still too early to tell and the weight of evidence remains in favour of the vaccination campaigns. Whether the lockdowns and compulsory vaccine mandates in some institutions and organizations, public and private, were warranted, should be a matter for scientific debate and further research. This can’t be settled by social media sharing and one-upmanship.

Most of the belief networks do not yet appear to have spawned any social or political movements, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t or won’t. Also, I don’t think using a label like “alt-right,” “far right,” or “conspiracy theorists” is helpful. Such tactics result in conflict rather than understanding.

I will write more about this and related matters as my thinking develops.

By Richard Martin

I now consider it a high-probability, high-impact risk that China has conducted and continues to conduct influence and subversion operations against Canadians, the Canadian government, politicians and perhaps key officials. I will develop my reasoning in a blog post, but the following can be considered the tl;dr version for now.

From a Bayesian perspective, as new evidence emerges, we must revise our estimate of probability. In addition, we must also consider our background knowledge from the historical behavior of the CCP and other evidence.

For example, if we assume that we have no prior knowledge of CCP’s capabilities and intentions, the initial evidence is only about potential interference. Let’s say 50/50. If we add other evidence, and each is also 50/50, or even slightly more likely under the assumption of CCP intent, the odds in favor of CCP’s harmful behavior and intent are still not overwhelming.

But if we now add our general knowledge of Communist China, the CCP’s capabilities and past behavior, and stated goals, the prior probability of the Chinese subversion, elite capture, and coercion hypothesis increases substantially. Additional evidence in support of this hypothesis would add little to our overall assessment of probability.

The question then becomes what evidence would disprove the hypothesis, and the null hypothesis of non-hostile Chinese intent can be dismissed. It is now up to those who claim that there is nothing to see here or that it remains below a threshold of concern to provide the evidence and arguments for this claim. In other words, it is time to prove that China is not hostile, rather than the other way around.

by Richard Martin

The far (alt) right and the far (radical) left are pretty much identical in worldview, strategy, and tactics. The main distinction is ideological. The far left is internationalist and anti nationalist, while the far right is nationalistic and anti internationalist. Other than that, they are mostly twins.

They are both authoritarian.

They both reject or manipulate electoral politics.

They both use propaganda as a weapon and view truth as relative.

They are both cynical and nihilistic.

They both believe vehemently that the world as it is is profoundly disturbed or off kilter.

They are both anticapitalist.

They are both anti élitist.

They demonize their opponents and enemies, especially each other.

They accuse their opponents and critics of being insane, irrational, and/or inhuman(e).

They are against traditional religion.

They are against traditional hierarchies.

They are personalist ideologies that elevate their leaders to heroic or divine status.

They both elevate favoured groups/classes in society while attacking and victimizing those they hate.

They both rely heavily on mob action and direct, violent action.

They are both totalitarian and authoritarian.

I could go on, but I hope you get the picture.

© Richard Martin

By Richard Martin

What is the radical centre? For most people, the centre is associated with moderation. There is no real way to characterize the conventional centrist position other than to say that it eschews extremes and claims moderation. Unfortunately, most centrists tend to hold non-principled beliefs. They take a smorgasbord approach in supporting various political and economic positions. A bit from this party, a bit from that, some left, some right, maybe more or less of either. This isn’t to imply that centrists are unprincipled. My claim is merely than in most cases they don’t base their positions on well articulated principles and axioms.

There is nothing inherently wrong with that type of centrism. It’s just that it can be vulnerable when the political and social wind changes. Moreover, while conventional centrism draws on left and right policies and beliefs, most centrists would be hard pressed to express why they have decided to believe something in the political or economic sphere. It’s impressionistic and intuitive, based on what seems right at the time. I believe conventional centrists are actually mostly apolitical. They don’t adhere to political, economic and social positions from specific, well-articulated principles, which puts them up for grabs by politicians and activists of the left and right.

Instead of conventional, unprincipled, improvised centrism, I’d like to propose the concept of a Radical Centrism. To call it Radical is to say it articulates positions from clearly articulated principles or beliefs. Radical means “root.” If you have stong principles and they are well articulated with an understanding of how they influence beliefs and actions, this makes one more resilient in the face of changing opinions, political rhetoric, and even brow-beating by activists of all stripes. Furthermore, it provides a counter to confirmation bias, the well-known logical fallacy of seeking evidence to confirm an existing belief, rather than trying to determine the logical implications of one’s principles and axioms.

This is different from conventional centrism which is mostly apolitical, picking and choosing from a menu of options and positions articulated by the political Left and Right (whether moderate or extreme). On the other hand, it is Centrist because it places the Individual at the centre of things. Call it selfishness or egoism, the reality is that everyone is selfish. That’s how we exist and thrive. In other words, Radical Centrism is unabashedly individualistic.

As a matter of fact, Individualism is the number one principle and axiom of Radical Centrism. Only individuals exist. Collectives such as “society,” “race,” “class,” etc., only exist to the extent that they form patterns of behaviour and action of individuals. To quote Margaret Thatcher, “There is no such thing as society.”

This entails methodological individualism in the human sciences, such as economics, politics, ethics, etc. I could go even further and claim metaphysical individualism, but that more extreme stance is not needed to draw useful inferences and conclusions that are relevant to reasoned discourse and action.

I’ll be adding more principles over the next little while. In the meantime, feel free to comment and add your own thoughts. I’d like to get a dialogue and conversation going on this. Please refrain from emotion and rhetoric and try to keep things civil.

© 2020 Richard Martin

#radicalcentre #personalfreedom