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Legs of Mann

It's striking how important social ties have been in moving me around CMU while I was here. After my first job, every next one has been through a co-worker or friend. I've done my share in this too, also recommending at least 3 people to Google's headhunters who ended up working there. I'm amused to do it again one last time on the way out. I may be very dissatisfied with my social life here, but I'm happy to have been able to do things for people and to have (sort of) been part of the community. I'm not amazed by CMU, but I do like many of the people I've met here. I mainly regret not fitting in, but I haven't really fit somewhere for a long time nor have I had my desired social role. Perhaps I'll find my place someday.

I wonder about living for the future; maybe I've been doing that too much. I seem to have a lot of things in my "when I settle down" bag. I probably can take a lot of them out and give them a go now; if I keep putting them off, perhaps they'll either never happen or be things I'll regret not having done earlier.

The anniversary of the day known alternatively as Nakbah and Israeli Independence Day was a few days ago.

While my historical analysis leads me to lean towards seeing it as Nakbah (「Disaster」), the relevance of that analysis is, this long after the fact, of questionable relevance. Celebrating the foundation of the modern State of Israel is as distasteful as celebrating Thanksgiving, but the catastrophe is done, and simply trying to undo it would create similar injustice to its formation.

That said, we should reject both:

  • Israel's 「Right to Exist」
  • Israel's 「Right to Exist as a Jewish State」 (much more reprehensible than the first)
No states have a right to exist. They're created typically by force of arms and historical accident, and they persist so long as nobody feels it's worth the effort/risk of overthrowing them and manages to do so. No people have a right to a state. Any notion of an identity might be dreamed that would distinguish a people (are you Yugoslavian? Serb-Croat? Macedonian? People not only define themselves, they define everyone else by whatever criteria they choose). There is no coherent notion of a people, and so we must not honor any claims that every people merit a state. This is not to say that we reject independence movements, but rather that it's hard to support or oppose them from the ground of broad principles.

I hold that the notion of a state specifically "for the Jewish People" is an ugly thing, as ugly as any other state that claims it is for an ethnoreligious group. The Zionist movement, either in its original secular-socialist form, or in the modern use referring to Israeli nationalism, is to be rejected as yet another form of tribal nationalism.

Recognising Nakbah is preferable to celebrating Israel, but we should be wary of impractical solutions that make the world worse. Being tough on Israel (requiring systemically removing its lobbyist power in American electoral politics) and pushing it for reform are productive. Calling for a complete end to Israel is not acceptable, particularly if it leads Israel towards political regression in the direction of the low standards of its neighbours.

I am bothered whenever terrible political events happen in the world and the first/last/only response by the UN or US is to urge restraint. Urging restraints is very easy; one doesn't actually take sides, all one essentially does is wish that bad things would happen. That's worthless, and sometimes it's not even a good sentiment. On occasion, a long injustice can be corrected through periods of brief violence; I believe the current efforts to remove Qadaffi are a great example. People will die in the conflict, but there is the chance of removing a terrible leader and introducing a less-bad government. Restraint in this case is undesirable; it is best to urge victory to the rebels, and if possible to help out.

Recently, Kep gave me some nice terms for two aspects of my metasystem of values. As I've spoken about before, In my metasystem, we weave our values into four frames:

  • Morals - Conclusions we are willing to use up to violence to enact/defend
  • Ethics - Conclusions we're willing to use up to strong social pressures (shunning) to enact/defend
  • Pragmas - Conclusions we're willing to argue for
  • Preferences - Things we don't care to press on others
I deliberately conflate the things Kep seperates: reach and grip:
  • grip - How strongly we value the conclusion
  • reach - How broadly we would have the conclusion enacted/defended/enforced
It's a functional conflation, in that I want to root my metaframework above power politics, in a way that links it both to notions of personal character (what goes into each framework? How populated is each?) and sets the stage for an interesting discussion of personal and societal ethics. For those purposes, the distinction is a late nuance rather than a fundamental split. Yet, it's useful to have the terms for when that distinction becomes meaningful.