Thursday, February 18, 2021

TaraElla Computer System (TECS) Version 21

This version of TECS continues to feature a UI based on the idea of multiple spaces dedicated to specific types of activity. The spaces each have panels with information and/or links relevant to that type of activity, and they each have a unique wallpaper that is changeable. The spaces can be reached via buttons on the taskbar (color-coded and represented by letters in this version: H for Home, S for Studio, E for Entertainment, N for Newsroom, O for Office, T for Travel). Custom spaces can also be added (there is a taskbar button for that), or could be added during the installation of new apps (e.g. a cooking app could add a 'kitchen' space).


Monday, November 30, 2020

New Release: 1986 EP


You can get it at Reverbnation or Bandcamp for free now!

Thursday, November 5, 2020

TaraElla Films: Latest Releases


Full transcript here. 

As the 2nd decade of the 21st century progressed, something unsettling was developing. Culture and politics in the Western world was becoming increasingly polarized. I mean, people have always been passionate about the causes they support, and that’s not a bad thing. Debates inevitably become heated sometimes. But what’s new is that there was a qualitative change in the way social debates proceeded. People became strongly polarized on two extremes on many hot button issues, and they increasingly believed they could and should do everything to win. No compromises, no principles, no civility. People stopped debating in good faith, and productive dialogue started to suffer.

Also available on Vimeo



Full transcript here.

In recent years, there has been a growing crisis within liberalism. It is losing its identity, its ideals, and perhaps its very reason for existence. We can see this from several different angles.

Monday, July 13, 2020

The Moral Libertarian Manifesto

For more about Moral Liberalism, read TaraElla's books.
Where to read
Paperback and Kindle at Amazon
eBooks at Open Library (Multiple Formats)

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Why This Anti-Racist Liberal Disagrees With Microaggression Theory

Today, I'm going to talk about some comments Emma Watson recently made, in an interview she had with feminist academic Valerie Hudson, published in Teen Vogue.

Anyway, there are some very concerning quotes from Ms Watson, who is often considered a role model for young women. Let's start with this one: "I love the word microaggression. I’ve been doing therapy for years and think it’s the best thing ever, and we talk about telling the microscopic truth." I personally don't know what the 'microscopic truth' is, but I certainly don't love the word microaggression. I think it's one of the most problematic words popularized in the last ten years. According to Wikipedia, "microaggression is a term used for brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioural, or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative prejudicial slights and insults toward any group, particularly culturally marginalized groups". As you can see, the perception of microaggression is necessarily subjective, because it's rooted in perceived linguistic slights, and it counts even when unintentional.

Don't get me wrong, I'm all for ending racism, sexism and homophobia. However, I have very genuine concerns that the microaggression concept has a chilling effect on free speech, and it also encourages victim mentality in minorities, which isn't good for them. In life, the expectation of success is half of actually succeeding. Therefore, encouraging minorities to adopt a victim mentality severely curtails their prospect of doing well in life. As I always say, encouraging minorities to adopt a victim mentality is the most effective way of oppressing them. It's really not cool!

Microaggression is also a concept commonly embraced as part of a wider worldview of postmodern radical subjectivity, where reality is constructed by language, and a lack of objectivity is accepted or even celebrated. In the rest of the interview we see some evidence that Ms Watson is buying into this worldview. Here are some more quotes:
"the law is language at the end of the day and it can always be interpreted in different ways, so you need someone that has the right intention to apply it in the right way";
"it's fascinating to me that the origin story of marriage centers around ownership and power"; and finally,
"if we give Earth a male pronoun, maybe we’ll stop pillaging and destroying and killing it".

This worldview is exactly what gave us the post-truth era, where people essentially live in their own version of reality. One of the reasons for our polarized political landscape is that people on either side are reacting to a different reality, because they receive news that is neither objective nor balanced. People also lack shared values, because even once-sacred institutions like marriage and family have come under criticism. Even scientific topics like climate change take on culture war characteristics, which prevent effective consensus and action. I don't think this is progressive at all, if anything, it's regressive. Real progress comes from people finding common ground, talking over their differences, and coming up with solutions. That's what's good for humanity, that's what humanity needs right now. If we declare reality to be subjective and allow people to live their own so-called 'truth', there will be no common ground on which we can reach out to meet people who think differently than us. I think that's the core pathology of our cultural landscape today, and it's something that we should all walk away from.

Monday, February 10, 2020

'Settler Colonialism Is Behind Climate Denial'. REALLY?

Welcome to the first episode of Skeptic TaraElla, where we take a stand against unscientific beliefs that not only defy facts and logic, but also make effective political consensus and action difficult. Subscribe if you are interested.

Today's topic is a reply to a recent video from British left-wing media outlet Novara Media, titled Settler Colonialism Is Behind Climate Denial. Basically, the video mainly discussed Australia's bushfires, and the fact that Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison hasn't been taking climate change seriously. That part of the video I can agree with. Scott Morrison's attitude towards climate change is certainly pretty bad, and he should be taken to task for it. We should be unrelenting about our demands for science-based policy.

But then, the video didn't talk much about science. Instead, it took a weird turn, and began discussing 'settler colonialism'. The video attempted to link the British colonization of Australia, which occurred way before anyone knew anything about climate science, to the current climate inaction of the Morrison administration! Without taking away from the suffering of the indigenous Australians associated with colonization, I guess we can still acknowledge that the two issues are clearly separate. Climate change is a science issue with clear scientific evidence, and we should not complicate it with cultural baggage. Morrison's climate policy is clearly a function of political convenience at the present moment; it clearly does not have any link to the actions of British colonists in the past! I don't care what fancy postmodern or critical theory you use to justify your point of view; facts are facts, and it is clearly not logical to link the voluntary actions of a current government to completely unrelated historical wrongs.

So why am I so worked up about this? Because it complicates the scientific issue of climate change, making effective action more difficult. What these people are doing is that they are taking an issue with clear scientific evidence and science-based solutions, and muddying it up with cultural analyses based on postmodernism and critical theory. They are thus making climate action less acceptable for many people. They are effectively willing to risk the future of humanity, to promote their radical cultural agenda. This is clearly irresponsible.

Of course, this is also a part of a bigger picture. Critical theory and postmodernism are clearly anti-science in their orientation. These ideologies almost always de-center the objective science, making everything about social construction and cultural critique. Wherever the tentacles of these ideologies reach into, objective scientific discussion becomes impossible, and everything is turned into a culture war. We saw it with LGBT issues, we saw it with so-called gender studies, and now we're seeing with climate science.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Tolerance is CERTAINLY NOT ONLY a Conservative Value

Today, I want to a recent video Dave Rubin made for PragerU, titled Tolerance is a Conservative Value, a video that I am quite disappointed in. The title itself already looks suspicious: tolerance is a classical liberal value, and in the modern West, it should be a universally shared value of progressives and conservatives alike. Indeed, Rubin gets it right when he says in the video that America itself was built on tolerance. Rubin's angle seems to be that, in the America of 2019, only the right is still tolerant of diversity of thought, because the left has become totally intolerant. I guess that, from here, one could claim that tolerance has therefore become a conservative value.

However, this view is not only factually wrong, but also dangerous for the future of liberty and Western civilization itself. Let me explain. Firstly, while I agree that, on average, the left is less tolerant of diversity of thought compared with the right, this aggregate measure is in large part skewed by the fact that a small minority faction in the left has become very intolerant, due to the strong influence of critical theory and the conflict theory of sociology. However, the rest of the left remains quite tolerant, as Rubin should have found when he was interviewing people like Bret Weinstein, Andrew Yang, Tulsi Gabbard and Marianne Williamson. To say that the left as a whole is intolerant would be an injustice to these great people and many others. Moreover, to claim that the whole of the right is tolerant would also be inaccurate, as right-wing rejection of classical liberal values is alive and well, as evidenced by thinkers like Sohrab Ahmari and Patrick Deneen.

Furthermore, to claim the value of tolerance solely for the right is to contribute to the elite-led attempt to polarize society, which also plays into the conflict theory of sociology. As history tells us, a polarized society inevitably leads to tribal thinking, and such a society is by definition inhospitable to individual liberty. Right now, Western society is not yet polarized, but there are top-down attempts to make it so. The success of the Yang and Gabbard campaigns have demonstrated that ordinary people are in fact not politically polarized yet. But certain elites on both sides of politics continue to promote the narrative of polarization, in order to create this polarization, which would benefit their agenda in one way or another. For media elites on both the mainstream right and the mainstream left, polarization would mean more loyal audiences and more revenue, healthy political discourse be damned. For those further to the left who subscribe to the conflict theory of sociology, polarization would create the necessary conditions to support a Marxian narrative of society divided between the oppressors and the oppressed, which would be used to justify radical change, including some changes that would trample on individual freedom. In light of this situation, I believe our most important priority as freedom loving people should be to shut down polarization in all its ugly forms, and to encourage the strengthening of the social fabric by bringing people together and emphasizing their commonalities. Sweeping statements like how only conservatives are tolerant and how all progressives are intolerant certainly don't help here.

My point is that, while Rubin has been correct in stating that there is a real threat to classical liberal values, this threat can be minimized by discouraging polarization and strenthening the social fabric. On the other hand, to encourage polarization would be to create the very conditions that would lead to a further erosion of freedom. Therefore, by making a polarizing statement, Rubin has, in my opinion, ironically contributed to the very problem he wants to fight.

Friday, September 6, 2019

Cancel Culture and Free Speech

Welcome to Moral Libertarian View, a program where we discuss news events that are worth looking at from the point of view of the Moral Libertarian idea, that is, every individual should have Equal and Maximum Moral Agency in their lives. I hope you subscribe if you are interested.

Today, I want to take another look at the ongoing drama surrounding some comments made on Twitter by Natalie Wynn of ContraPoints. I've already responded to the substance of the comment a few days ago, so I won't be looking at that now. What I want to explore is why a few comments from one personality have gotten some parts of the internet so fired up, and what implications this may have for the rest of society. Since we last looked at the issue, the conflict between supporters and critics of Natalie has only gotten worse, and Natalie even disabled her twitter account. Meanwhile, even many normally 'woke' people have looked on in disbelief, commenting along the lines of, 'if ContraPoints is not woke enough for you, then you've really got a problem'.

Many also said something about the 'cancel culture' of the left having gone way too far, which of course, I totally agree. If anything, I think the latest incident shows that the situation for free speech is even worse than just a few years ago. Back in 2016, it used to be more along the lines of cancelling men who questioned contemporary feminism, but today, apparently a trans person talking about something that triggers her own gender dysphoria has also become fair game. But then, I had actually been warning people about this possible development even back then. This escalation is actually inherent in the postmodern and critical theory ideologies that are used to justify restrictions on speech in the first place. Furthermore, if we don't have a serious conversation about it, I can guarantee that it will get even worse.

Basically, the core problem lies in the belief that some speech is harmful, and should not be allowed. This idea is probably influenced by several sources, including the postmodern belief that discourse itself is power and hence capable of oppression, and the general critical theory-inspired view that certain common ideas represent a repressive cultural hegemony of the interests of the dominant classes. Furthermore, some increasingly influential conflict theories of sociology, which are inspired by the Marxian idea of society and history based on class conflict, are often used to justify the repression of unwanted speech by so-called privileged groups. As to who is privileged and what speech is harmful, there really is no clear definition or limit. As I said, back in 2016, it was men with 'male privilege' criticizing feminism; today, it's apparently conventional trans women with so-called 'passing privilege' criticizing the radical practice of 'pronoun consciousness'. In both cases, there's no fair judge of what constitutes harm; those who shout the loudest get to determine what's harmful, and the only justification needed is the identification of some kind of privilege. It's really an endless slippery slope.

The thing is, 'cancel culture' not only leads to a toxic society; it is also inherently against morality itself. According to the Moral Libertarian viewpoint, everyone should have equal and maximum moral agency because nobody is always right, and therefore, nobody should have the definitive moral standing to override another's agency. It logically follows that nobody has the moral standing to judge whether others' speech is harmful, and nobody has the moral standing to limit another's agency on the grounds of 'privilege'. It logically follows that the free speech position is the only consistently moral position. Therefore, from a Moral Libertarian viewpoint, the only morally sound way to counter speech you consider 'harmful' is by arguing against it rationally. At this point, you may argue that those voicing their opposition to certain speech are doing just that. But then, this wouldn't be the case if they clearly aren't interested in participating as equals in the arena of ideas, for example when there are calls for the de-platforming or cancellation of certain individuals. While the latest outrage against Natalie has not reached that level, those participating in the outrage clearly aim at stopping Natalie from saying similar things again, therefore it's more like a de-platforming than a debate in essence. Furthermore, the mass mobilization of outrage to overwhelm the capacity of one individual to respond is also inherently against another important rule in Moral Libertarianism, that where groups should never be allowed to combine their share of agency to overwhelm other individuals, lest there be a tyranny of the majority.

All this may sound like theoretical stuff, but as history has shown us again and again, the violation of Moral Libertarian principles always brings about actual harm. Hyperwoke left-wing circles are increasingly being compared to Stalinist dictatorship with its purging of anti-revolutionaries, and I don't think it's an exaggeration at all. In fact, the limitation of free speech and banning of certain ideas has already harmed society by creating an imbalance in the market of ideas, causing the public conversation to be biased in the direction of those with certain agendas. For several years now, many of us have been worried about what this might mean for dissident academics, critics of intersectional theory, or even non-custodial fathers, for example. Right now, the pronoun conversation is similarly being tilted towards the agenda of a certain brand of postmodern feminism and its goal of deconstructing gender, and against the needs of gender dysphoric trans people, as well as an increasingly confused general public. I fear that this won't end well at all.