Saturday 23 March 2024

What is the GOOD?

 Trevor Watkins 23/3/24

What defines a GOOD life? 

There are many good answers.

The answers are different for everyone.

The answers change with time and circumstances.

Some answers are “gooder” than others.

But, Is there an absolute good?

Definitions

Here are some words that some people apply to a good life (you'll find many of these in facebook

posts from your laid back friends)

Love, pleasure, courage, wisdom, knowledge, free time, truth, humility, chastity, wealth, health,happiness, freedom, common interest, family, survival, genes, species, reproduction, challenge, power, success, opinion of others, security, long life, eternal life, friends, companionship,comfort, order, chaos, pride, honour, purpose, legacy, religion, planet, beauty, justice, novelty, well-being, surfing, god


We can simplify the list by dividing it into categories:

  • Feelings

    • Love, pleasure, happiness, security, comfort, family, beauty, well-being

  • Virtues

    • Courage, wisdom, truth, humility, chastity, honour, purpose, justice, authenticity

  • Survival

    • Family, reproduction, genes, long life, eternal life, health, legacy

  • Success

    • Wealth, power, challenge, opinion of others, pride

  • Intellect

    • Wisdom, knowledge, truth, challenge, order, purpose, novelty

  • Existence

    • Freedom, free time, life, self actualisation, surfing

  • Service

    • Family, common interest, friends, companionship, religion, justice, god

  • Nature

    • Chaos, ecology, species, planet, animals


Is there some minimum standard of good?

  • Planetary survival

  • Species survival

  • Personal survival


Is there some common standard of good?

  • Food

  • Water

  • Sleep

  • Sex


Most should agree that

  • Family & friends & freedom are good

  • Love, pleasure, happiness, beauty, wisdom, well-being are good


But amazingly, some don’t… such as 

  • Christians 

  • Muslims

  • Nationalists

  • Nazis,

  • Nosey parkers & know-it-alls


Not all agree on the importance of 

  • Security

    • Never more alive than when faced with the prospect of death

  • Health

    • Smokers, drinkers, drug takers

  • Safety

    • Extreme sports, surfing, rugby, boxing


Some believe that there should be no suffering, no pain, no conflict, no fear.

We should have peace, tranquility, harmony and order.

And this should be unchanging and eternal, and the same for everyone.

However, this describes death, which not all believe is good.


Lets look at the bigger picture. What is Nature's plan for the universe?

  • Increasing chaos (entropy)

  • Probably followed by contraction and compression of everything

  • Finally resulting in a very unstable marble


So much for the big picture …

Historic views

Plato

The highest form of knowledge is the Idea of the Good

Humans have a duty to pursue the good, through philosophical reasoning

Epicurus, father of hedonism

All we need for happiness is food, shelter, clothes, friends, freedom, thought

Believed that physical pleasure (bliss, contentment, relief) is the ultimate good.

He preferred pleasures of the mind to bodily pleasures

He advocated moderation as the surest path to happiness.

Utilitarianism of Bentham and Mill

Prioritized the good by considering pleasure, pain and consequences, based upon the maxim of utility; “That which is good is that which provides the greatest happiness for the greatest number.”

Popular even today, but deeply flawed.

Modern views

The ultimate good exists and is globally measurable

Economic Freedom of the World index

Gross National Happiness index

Genuine Progress Indicator

The good is "That which increases the quality and quantity of choices available overall."

Free time is the most fundamental good

The success of society as a whole

A single person's life is not important in itself

The flourishing of all sentient life - life itself is of intrinsic value


What is the greatest good?

God Knows.

As a disembodied spirit, separate from time, space and worldly concerns, I would guess the acquisition of perfect knowledge

As a living human being, here and now, Enjoy the ride!

My personal view

3F Principle

Family

Their love, safety and well-being

Freedom

Free time, free choices, free thoughts, free acts

Fun

Friends, sports, hobbies, travels, adventures, entertainments, achievements



Friday 22 March 2024

What is freedom?


Trevor Watkins 22/3/24

What is freedom for me? As a long time advocate of the freedom philosophy, it is important for me to have a clear and unambiguous answer.  

Freedom is the opportunity to think, talk and act on my choices in pursuit of the “good”, within certain constraints. Freedom is limited by harm or the threat of harm. Freedom without limits is Licence. Freedom without practical constraints is futile.


What is the “good” is a matter of extended philosophical debate, from Plato, Marcus Aurelius, Epicuris and many others, including me.  It is not necessarily that which benefits you, or pleases you or society. It varies widely from person to person. Most people can barely articulate it. But it is what gives your life meaning. It is your most important value.


Here is a partial list of what many describe as their “good”:


Love, pleasure, kindness, courage, wisdom, knowledge, free time, truth, humility, chastity, wealth, health, happiness, freedom, common interest, family, survival, genes, species, reproduction, challenge, power, success, opinion of others, security, long life, eternal life, friends, companionship, comfort, order, chaos, pride, honour, purpose, legacy, religion, planet, beauty, justice, novelty, well-being, surfing


For me, after long consideration, I decided that the “good” for me is the 3Fs, Family, freedom and fun.


Family

Their love, safety and well-being

Freedom

Free time, free choices, free thoughts, free acts

Fun

Friends, sports, hobbies, travels, adventures, entertainments, achievements



Sunday 25 February 2024

Manifest lies

Manifesto season is upon us. Every man and his dog has a heartfelt and lengthy manifesto, words filled with sound and fury, promising everything, delivering nothing. Not one is honest, Not one lists the things you can’t expect, the stuff you must do if you wish to succeed, the sacrifices this will involve. 

As a voter and citizen of South Africa, what should you be looking for in a political party and its manifesto?
How about a track record of delivering on promises? Fat chance.
Perhaps honesty? Do they promise stuff that everyone knows is unachievable, like free medical care for all, or free tertiary education, or land redistribution without compensation. Extravagant ideas, but not a snowball’s chance in hell of being implemented.
Do they skip over the nasty bits, like crime, unemployment, infrastructure collapse?
Do any of them promise to leave you alone? To let you keep your income. To raise your kids as you see fit. To protect you from the bad guys. To stop interfering in every aspect of your life. To do less, rather than more.


On 29th May I might vote for a party with the following manifesto. I just haven't found it yet.


We will not harm you.

We will not steal from you.

We will respect you.

We will not lie to you.


We will not solve all your problems, you must do that.

We will not give you special advantages, that is not fair.

We will not fix everything, because that is too hard.


oooOOOooo


The Individualist Movement is not a party, and it is not contesting the elections. It is a group of South Africans who believe in individual freedom. However, we do have a manifesto, which follows.


The Individualist Manifesto is short, less than a page. It consists of 4 short sentences, propositions that anyone can understand. Its aim is to provide words that will protect the rights of each individual within a society, without exceptions.  It uses profound but simple words, like harm, consent, respect, property, rule of law.

The Individualist Manifesto


Render no harm without consent, except in self-defense

Respect those who respect you

Recognise property rights

Resolve disputes by jury


Governments, businesses and other individuals would have to seek consent from each and every individual before causing them harm. They would have to respect the independence of their citizens and customers. They could not take their property without their consent. This manifesto would protect the integrity of every individual, poor, rich, powerful or weak.  


This is hopelessly utopian, many would say. Yet we live most of our lives within these rules. If you are not causing harm, you expect your neighbour to respect your privacy. You do not expect your neighbour to decide what you may eat, or say, or how you must behave, in public or in private. You do not expect to be robbed, or attacked, or held captive. If you or your neighbour behaves unreasonably, you expect  to be judged for this. 


For some reason this only becomes utopian when government gets involved.


The Individualist manifesto does not promise grants, or houses, or jobs paid for by some unspecified others. Mostly, it specifies what individuals or groups may not do. 


If you are averse to lies, if you do not seek to profit at the expense of others, if you simply wish to be left alone, then this is the manifesto for you.


For more information, or to become a member, visit the Individualist Movement website at www.individualist.one


Trevor Watkins is the founder of the Individualist Movement, the author of two books, and a contributing author for the Free Market Foundation. He publishes on a blog at libertarian.org.za.  The views expressed in the article are the author’s and not necessarily shared by the members of the Foundation.


Saturday 27 January 2024

Why do we take photos?

 Trevor Watkins 11/01/2024

We used to take photos for the same reason that the rich commissioned portraits. It was a narcissistic quest for immortality, a visual representation of our place in history,  no matter how ugly, or irrelevant. To remind subsequent generations that we existed,  that we looked like this, that we had some influence in our brief time.


Nowadays we take photos because we can. Endlessly. Mindlessly. Often pointlessly. The act of recording images has been trivialised.  The awkward, stilted selfie replaces the carefully constructed portrait. The carefully posed family photograph, with no one smiling and everyone dressed in their Sunday best,  is a relic of the past, an anachronism. Rather like our modern youth, who know everything and understand nothing, we record everything, but look at nothing.


Why should we take photos?  To remind ourselves of happy or interesting times, and to share these images with others. To remember friends and relatives, past and present, near and far. To record important events such as a wedding, or a sports competition, or an award.


Social media has turned photo taking into an insane effort to live in the public eye no matter how silly or boring. Instead of grand achievements we record and distribute what we had for breakfast. We update our many followers with the most minute and vacuous details of our lives.  This is overweening narcissism gone mad. It is a form of mental illness. 


When I toured  Europe as a youngster way back in 1972, cameras were clunky and film was expensive. I could afford only 36 exposures. I was extremely thoughtful about what I photographed and who.  No doubt I missed many great shots. But those 36 photographs are amongst my most treasured possessions.  I often take them out and look at them just for the sheer pleasure of it.

The modern photographer drowns in a sea of mediocre moments captured without consideration.  When you have 300 photographs of your trip to the beach last weekend,  how can you find the one or two decent ones?


Modern tools such as Google photos can do truly amazing things - scary facial recognition capabilities, unlimited albums, intuitive search, easy sharing. And like most Google software, some truly dumb holes.  So there is no hierarchical tree, just an endless list of albums.  No tagging facility. No process to identify and remove duplicates. A clunky process for adding descriptions. 

Nevertheless, it is free and generally better than all its competitors. I have used it for years and have maybe 10,000 photos (no easy way of counting). Being somewhat obsessive-compulsive, I recently decided to organise all my photos. 


After 3 weeks of duplicate removal, photo straightening, description adding, I finally asked myself WHY? Unless you have visuals of the Kennedy assassination, your photos are not that interesting to others. In the past your parent’s friends used to impose their  “Our trip to France” slideshow on you  in exchange for a nice dinner. But you  quickly tire of repetitive shots of Notre Dame cathedral from 20 angles. Nowadays you don’t even get the dinner.


All those photos I curated so carefully are mostly boring.

Who owns your photos?

The South African POPI act

  • Any person may photograph any other person without their permission, in public spaces.

Black and white

  • You, if they were taken on your device by you. You are the copyright owner.

  • You, if they are on a storage medium curated by you (hard drive, memory stick, Google photos, your cloud account)

Grey areas

  • Google claims the right to use your photos stored by them. (Just check the “Images” section of Google search.)

  • Someone else using your camera?

  • The subject(s) of the photo? With or without consent.

  • If consent to use specific photos of specific people has been given, can it later be withdrawn? Whose responsibility is it to locate and remove such photos?


  • The owner of the thing photographed? For example, a secret design.


  • The social media platform you display your photos on?

  • The state, for certain classes of photos (military installations, child porn, compromising pictures of politicians)

Mental photos

Years ago I developed a technique for taking “mental photos” which I use regularly and have passed on to my own children. When you are in a happy or profound moment, put aside your camera and make a conscious effort to record this moment in your mind’s eye. Observe the scene closely, the texture of the light, the small distinguishing features, details of the background. Snap your mental shutter, expose your living film, cement this specific memory with care and deliberation.  Like old-fashioned film, you can’t accommodate too many of these “photos”, so make them worthwhile. When you get this right you can bring those images back to life in an instant. 


You are your own camera.







Friday 26 January 2024

Reality sucks

Trevor Watkins 26/1/24

The only thing for sure is that you are here, that you are alive, that this world is full of wonders.

- Spinoza

Reality is the state of things as they actually exist. 

Reality determines the future and explains the present. 

Faith, hopes, dreams, good intentions are all mere commentary. 

Reality is the truth, the red pill, harsh and uncaring. 

The truth is based on unequivocal evidence. Evidence is based on thorough investigation. 

Reality is persistent, consistent, repeatable, predictable, and provisional.

To identify what is real you must use reason, logic,  insight, and a healthy dose of scepticism. The scientific method provides a useful guide.

Realities

You, your past, your experiences, your free will

your parents, your ancestors

your hard assets, gold, land, resources

your age, gender, height, weight, location

death, disease, disaster

government, rules, taxes

the world, other people, other places, other things, the universe

your uniqueness, individuality, and occasional stupidity

mathematics

spontaneous order

Possibilities

your future

your children

your hopes, dreams, earnings, achievements, stories

Love and conflict

Catastrophe

Fame

Uncertainties

your nationality, race, skin colour

your IQ

your relationships

religion

ideologies (capitalism, communism, socialism)

imagination, perception

history

promises, contracts

your bank balance and possessions

language

anything dependent on others

hearsay

things that are too good to be true

Why is this important? 

Because your survival depends on it. In the past, only our ancestors who understood the very real difference between a lion and a buck survived and bred. But reacting to every rustle in the grass as though it was a lion was not a good survival strategy either. You had to know what was real and not real. 

Nowadays our existence is based almost entirely on what science has revealed. Our food, health, energy, communication, transport – all based on reality, not wishful thinking.

And yet, outside of science, we live in a demon-haunted world, as Carl Sagan famously said.

The world is dominated by regimes that reject reality. China’s government still espouses the frequently failed Marxist ideology, as does our South African regime. Muslim countries persist with unworkable religious ideologies. Much of Europe cannot reconcile their socialist tendencies with the reality of budget deficits. And many Western countries are flirting with truly insane “woke” policies and ideologies that reject reality. 

How do we change our South African reality?

Like an alcoholic we must first accept our reality before we can hope to change it. 

Some South African realities

We are bound to a failed and unworkable ideology

Our finances and institutions are at the point of collapse, 

Most of our polity is corrupt.

Half our population is uneducated, underfed, unemployed, untaxed.

Crime is rampant and unpunished.

We live in a pretty country.

The grim reality is that these items are probably unfixable in the short term. Ideologies only change when their supporters die, of old age or in a revolution.  

Unfortunately, our South African reality sucks.







What is the GOOD?

  Trevor Watkins 23/3/24 What defines a GOOD life?  There are many good answers. The answers are different for everyone. The answers change ...