Caesar’s Proto-fascism

Caesar: And in Rome, Marc Antony is to speak for Caesar. His authority is not to be questioned.

Canidius: His word will be yours. As always, Caesar’s word is law.

Caesar: Of course. But remind him to keep his legions intact. They make the law legal.

– Wanger. W. (Producer), Mankiewicz. J.L. (Director). (1963). Cleopatra [Motion Picture]. United States: 20th Century-Fox

Mussolini’s Rituals

‘Mussolini thought the Italians needed to be hardened, and he launched what he called an anti-bourgeois campaign. And among the things he banned, or tried to ban, anyway, was people shouldn’t shake hands, they should give the Roman salute, you know, raising their arm and their hand up in the air. […]

[A] man named Achille Starace, was kind of his circus master, who kept coming up with these ideas of rituals, mass rituals and other kinds of rites that he thought would make the Italians ever more devoted to their duce, which is the kind of Latiny term of leader that the Italians used to refer to Mussolini.

In fact, Mussolini required being referred to as DUCE, D-U-C-E,[1] it’s spelled, and it had to be written in capitals in the newspapers by the 1930s. It couldn’t just be written in the normal way.’

– Kertzer, D. (April 24, 2015) ‘Pope And Mussolini’ Tells The ‘Secret History’ Of Fascism And The Church. NPR.

[1] duce; ‘leader’ from Latin duco, meaning ‘I lead’. E.g. Il DUCE ha sempre ragione; ‘the leader is always right’.

IKEA Effect

People attach greater value to things they have made themselves than if the very same product was produced by someone else. This cognitive bias is known as the IKEA effect.

Creating something yourself boosts people’s feelings of pride and competence, and has the added effect of showing off their competence to others. This can lead to an overly subjective view of a project.

Chandler: [Rips his jacket on the large wooden tv unit.] Wow! That ripped! That ripped real nice!
Joey: How many times I have to tell you! You, turn and slide! You know, turn and slide.
Chandler: Oh you don’t turn and slide, you throw it out! I’m tired of having to get a tetanus shot every time I get dressed!
Joey: Well, we’re not throwing it out! I built this thing with my own hands!
Friends (1997) Season 4, Episode 2; “The One with the Cat” [No. 75]

The Laws of Reward

(Part I, Chapter VI)

‘Although we usually call reward and punishment the two hinges upon which all government turns, yet I could never observe this maxim to be put in practice by any nation except that of Lilliput. Whoever can there bring sufficient proof, that he has strictly observed the laws of his country for seventy-three moons, has a claim to certain privileges, according to his quality or condition of life, with a proportionable sum of money out of a fund appropriated for that use: he likewise acquires the title of Snilpall, or legal, which is added to his name, but does not descend to his posterity. And these people thought it a prodigious defect of policy among us, when I told them that our laws were enforced only by penalties, without any mention of reward. It is upon this account that the image of Justice, in their courts of judicature, is formed with six eyes, two before, as many behind, and on each side one, to signify circumspection; with a bag of gold open in her right hand, and a sword sheathed in her left, to show she is more disposed to reward than to punish.’

– Jonathan Swift, Gulliver’s Travels (1726)

Conversations: Orlando

There is every reason to assume that, in a period of time leading up to the mass shooting in Orlando, Florida, the perpetrator was dealing with severe feelings of repression and rejection from both men and women. In time, these feelings were converted into anger, which he then directed specifically at homosexual men, culminating in the shooting of 102 people, of which 49 were killed. Although we know the he was not aided by a terrorist organisation, it is obvious that, in the weeks leading up to the shooting, the perpetrator found comfort in hate-driven dogma which not only intensified his anger, but also justified violence. It is therefore reasonable to assume that the perpetrator must have been filled with confused anger and pious indignation when he legally purchased a semi-automatic assault rifle two weeks before the shooting. Can the reasonable worries expressed by reasonable people be any more graphically illustrated by the events that followed? Continue reading

Repression From Desire

Nothing optional—from homosexuality to adultery—is ever made punishable unless those who do the prohibiting (and exact the fierce punishments) have a repressed desire to participate.[1]

Shakespeare touched upon this phenomenon in King Lear, when Lear reproaches the policeman who is whipping a prostitute because of his lust for her company:

Thou rascal beadle, hold thy bloody hand!
Why dost thou lash that whore?
Strip thine own back;
Thou hotly lust’st to use her in that kind
For which thou whipp’st her.
King Lear (Act 4, Scene 6) Continue reading

Conversations: Moderates and Morality

Even if a belief in God had a reliable, positive effect upon human behaviour, this would not offer a reason to believe in God. One can believe in God only if one thinks that God actually exists.

Good point. Even if atheism led straight to moral chaos, this would not suggest that the doctrine of Christianity is true. Islam might be true, in that case. Or all religions might function like placebos. As descriptions of the universe, they could be utterly false but, nevertheless, useful. The evidence suggests, however, that they are not only false but dangerous.

Slow down! Most Christians, Jews, Muslims, et cetera, cannot be categorized as fundamentalists. In fact, when talking about the good consequences that religious beliefs have on human morality, most people of faith follow the example of religious liberals and religious moderates. Consider Christians the world over, rather than say that they believe in God because certain biblical prophecies have come true, or because the miracles recounted in the Gospels are convincing, liberals and moderates tend to talk in terms of the good consequences of believing as they do. Such believers often say that they believe in God because this “gives their lives meaning.” Continue reading