## Thursday, 24 March 2016

### Affable Detachment

Why do I do this to myself? I read Julius Evola's Ride The Tiger recently, because someone enthused about it on a blog I read, and the Amazon reviews were positive. Evola came from a family of minor Sicilian aristocrats. He was well-read and seemed to understand what he read, which means he understood Heidegger, and that's more than most people do.

However, his book is rambling, long on critical exposition, very short on prescription and the text yearns for a return to something called "Tradition" that he never describes and which I can only assume is the way he saw the world when he was about ten. When people pine for the past, that's usually about the past they are pining for. When they were too young to see how complicated and messy the world was.

So let's say something out loud and address his real concern. There are a lot of ugly, dull and mediocre people in the world, and there are a lot of reasonably decent people who work well, love their children, tolerate their spouses and would have me heading for an imagninary appointment in twenty minutes. Some of them make a lot of money and drive nice cars and have trophy wives, and that irritated me at first and then I got over it as I understood what it takes to make that money and live with that kind of woman, and realised that I didn't want to be that guy. I want to have sex with his wife, but I want to hand her back afterwards. Most men are fine as colleagues at work, or for specific purposes and events, but not as someone I would want to spend a whole day with. I am easily bored and my vanity won't let me be seen with ugly people. Call me shallow, superficial and a jerk. I accept that.

The question then is how those of us who feel that way live. Surrounded by people that we would help in an emergency (if we could help at all), and regard as fellow citizens due the politness and consideration they deserve, but who we would actually want as a fixture in our lives, how do we live? How do we deal with the ugliness, triviality and tedium that can suddenly descend on us if we sit in the wrong place or with the wrong people?

The old-school answer involved the phrase "aristocratic detachment", which conveys an idea of formal politeness combined with distance and a visible reluctance to become involved or stay in any group or conversation, with the suggestion that one has an elsewhere to be soon. The catch with aristocratic detachment is that I still have to be aware of the ugliness, medicority and the irritation that always accompanies the discovery that an attractive woman is also an air-head.

That's way too much effect for the world to be having on me. I'm going to go for "Affable detachment”.

Affable detachment is what we do when we realise we cannot go on and on being disappointed and dismayed and disgusted. So we stop hoping for anything from the world and it no longer tires us out with its banality, ugliness and inconvenience. We find our own interests in the huge range of sciences, arts, crafts and participative sports and training, that are available in this post-modern capitalist economy. Those interests are what gives us the value in our lives.

Affable detachment is recognising the awful ("land whale trying to sit next to me on the train") and then carrying on with your life so that you don't think about it because you have something that interests you to occupy you. It is the art of tuning out the world when it does not deserve our attention. We do not ignore it because it is hateful, we ignore it because we are giving our attention to something we like more. That’s the real difference between affable disengagement and aristocratic detachment. We don’t begrudge the "real world” with its “real women” and “real men” and “real relationships” for not interesting us. Affable detachment turns the outside world into a giant art gallery with a lot of very tatty performance and installation pieces. We have to walk through it, but we don't have to buy any of it and take it home.

Noise-cancelling earphones help, as well as something to read or a computer to type on. Also a place of your own, and a gym membership.

One thing we affably disengaged have in common with the aristocratically detached and Rational Males, is that women are an enhancement to a man's life, but not its centre or purpose. I’m not going to expand on that now.

This does not mean we don’t have friends and confidants. We can and often do. We don’t expect any of the next three hundred people we meet to be either. Just as we don’t expect any of the next three hundred females we pass by to be even remotely sexually attractive and available. Just as we don’t expect the next programme on television to be worth watching, or the next single from the next over-produced girl singer to be worth hearing. We do not live in despair at never finding love, or sex, or friendship: we understand that those things are rare, and it is very unlikely that the next person we meet will provide any of them.

Affable detachment is easier to do when I'm employed in a job I find okay, with enough money coming in to pay the bills and some over for fun and savings, working somewhere that's half-way reasonable, having quiet, unobtrusive neighbours, and a daily routine that doesn't force me into lengthy contact with oafs, dummies and fuglies.

There are some circumstance where affable disengagement isn't going to work. Stuck with a shrew for a wife, or a bully for a boss, or with a drink problem, or a lack of employment or money, for instance. There are things that sensitise us to everything else in the world. I've been there, and if you are, you have my sympathy. In the end you have to change your circumstances, or wait for the boss to move on and your shrew to die or divorce you.

It sounds like some utter slob could be affably disengaged. Well, that's not likely. Affable detachment works when you have a justifed sense of self-respect and don't need other people to notice and validate you. (This is different from getting good reviews around annual review time, but if you can't do that without compromising yourself you need to change employer.) So you will be in shape, exercise, eat well, dress becomingly but modestly, and all that good stuff. Slobs know they are, and so they know everyone else knows they are, and shrugging that thought off is not easy. It's a lot easier not to be worried about what other people are thinking when the chances are they are thinking "what a good looking older man" (women) and "He's a boss. You can tell just by looking." (men).

You can seek promotion, play Texas Hold’Em, make art or music, write books, study for a PhD, climb mountains or do whatever else you want to do. In fact, that’s the whole point. That you have something in your life that gives it direction and value to you, and that you don’t get your validation from outside, from the gang, from the admiring glances of other men as you walk in the room with Anna Ewers on your arm, or from Ms Ewers herself. Prizes and recognition follow commitment and achievement. This week’s blonde, and this year’s CEO Of The Year “award”, are not prizes awarded by peers but liabilities.

If I'm spending all day being as little connected to and affected by the world as possible, will I still get aroused when she appears? Yes, because I'm still scanning the world, I'm not ignoring it. When someone appears who does arouse me, I know it immediately. Happened to me recently, and every time it does I feel disappointed in myself that I didn't approach her. There are many women I look at and think "Well, yes, if it was easy" or fit them into a particular fantasy and don't have a moment's regret that I didn't approach. As with women, so with jobs, clothes, music or anything else. If it's what you want, you will feel it when you see it. And you won’t like yourself if you don't go for it. We don’t stop hoping, we just quit bitching and moaning when our hopes are disappointed.

## Monday, 21 March 2016

### Wanted: Mainstream-Friendly Nationalism

Nationalists are portrayed as rough, nasty, working-class, with bad taste in tattos, tend to regard flags as clothing, and are just plain lunatic-fringe. Need I say 'Nigel Farage' to make my point? What presently defines Nationalists is a dislike of the foreigners who have taken their jobs and council housing, filled the schools with children who don't speak English and whose parents make demands for special treatment, and generally lowered the native's standard of living towards their own. Nationalism is driven by hate and that's not a look most people want to wear.

Nationalism needs to be mainstream-friendly. Which means it needs to be re-phrased as a positive ideology that loves all people, but gives economic, political and and social preference to native-borns. It needs to spell out policies that explain how a child born to two UK citizens is going to get a useful education, a starter job, and within five years a job that pays enough for them to see some kind of future involving partners, children and home ownership. Because if it doesn’t, then the ordinary people won’t feel as if it is addressing their real needs.

There are two truths about the labour market: a) every migrant or offshored worker takes away a job that a national could have been trained to do, and b) someone decides to hire the migrants and offshores the jobs and it ain’t the working man. Reducing and discouraging the use of migrant or offshore labour is only a third of the solution. Another third is making the national population employable. And the final third is having employers making products and providing services that are valued enough to let them pay a decent wage.

An employer that really can’t make a profit unless they pay under minimum wage is either making a product that no-one much wants, or doesn’t know how to present it so that they can charge a decent price for it and so pay their workers. (The truth is that employers who complain about wage rates are mostly just plain greedy. The bosses see that £1/hour as money they personally could be getting. If adding £1/hour to their workers’ wages really will sink the company, it probably doesn’t deserve to be floating.)

A mainstream-friendly Nationalist would emphasise good business practice, a living wage, be tough on greedy businessmen (who are very often the ones employing migrant and offshore labour), talk about training and work acculturation, and about the life people want to lead. And every now and then throw in the condition that the people who were born here get first-served. They would blame the people who are actually to blame: bad, incompetent, greedy businessmen and the politicians who support them. And they would praise firms that pay well, make products people want to pay for and employ and train nationals.

Try these for size...

When every British citizen who is able to work after suitable training (and in some cases also acculturation) is working, then employers can import Bulgarian builders and Australian programmers. Foreign workers - imported or offshored - are allowed only to companies with training programs that will make the employment of foreign workers un-necessary in two years.

British citizenship is for people born in the UK both of whose parents are British citizens. If one or other of the parents isn’t British, they can sort out the child’s non-British citizenship for themselves. British citizens who marry non-British citizens can bring their spouse to the UK, but nobody can marry into citizenship. When they get divorced, the non-citizen partner has to go home.

Everyone is welcome to come to the UK and enjoy the cultural, scenic, recreational and educational opportunities available. People with huge fortunes who want to buy property and spend their money in the UK are welcome. Paying a £350,000 annual fee (offset against their tax bill) for enjoying the benefits of honest civil servants, policemen and judges, plus the other benefits of the British State, will be no problem for them.

Non-citizens have to go home when they run out of money or can’t find work (after, say, four weeks) after their current employer lets them go. Family go with them: they have a right to a family life, but not to choose the country where they enjoy that right.

Anyone, British citizen or not, who pays their due taxes in the UK gets all the benefits that the UK State provides. Except unemployment.

Any foreign national who commits a crime gets sent home, with their family. They can appeal once they have landed at the other side. The jury says “Guilty” and the accused and her family are going home the same day. This works retrospectively for people who have already settled in the UK. If they are broke, we’ll pay the costs of sending them all back. They don’t get to come back in again. Any assets they have can be seized to pay the fines and costs. Note that since entering a country illegally is a crime, illegal immigrants will be sent home immediately. (And no legal aid for handling immigration issues and appeals. Everyone has a right to legal counsel, just not for free.)

The British Government will place the interests of its citizens first in all policies, negotiations and legislation. (Now there’s a radical idea!). Once the people believe that, the amount of ill-will and all-round cussedness for which the English are noted will decline. Within the decade.

## Monday, 14 March 2016

### Read Andrew Gelman, He Is Our Master In Everything Statistical

I’m doing this to prove I’m still alive. I’ve been working hard on my Riemann-Roch essay when I haven’t been, you know, doing the day job and hefting iron, and this weekend, giving the ornamental grasses their winter savaging and keeping the lawn from getting out of control.

If you’re remotely interested in the philosophy of science, statistics, or read science articles in the press, or even research in medical, sociological and psychology journals, or you're into business analysis and insight, or are likely to believe “studies” that prove people with more facial hair are likely to be more sexist, then you need to be reading Andrew Gelman’s blog, and especially this paper on the Garden of Forking Paths. A few weeks of doing so, and catching up with the previous posts, will soon set you straight. I would go so far to say that you should not read one more newspaper “science” article until you understand the idea behind the Garden of Forking paths. Also read his contribution to the ASA report on p-values.

Professor Gelman is the only other person I’ve read who references Imre Lakatos, who was a philosopher of science at the LSE in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. Recently, as with this post Professor Gelman has been hitting his stride on the issue of low-quality and junk research. That particular post is as polemical, prescriptive and on-the-money as anything Lakatos ever wrote.

He has serious technical chops, having co-created a Bayesian inference language called STAN, and co-authored the first textbook on Bayesian statistics I’ve found convincing. He also has serious common sense and if you don’t believe a statistician can demonstrate sprezzatura then read this.

(Now I’m going back to trying to be sure that, just because I can embed a Riemann surface into a complex projective curve, doesn’t mean that it is a projective curve. I think it means that Riemann surfaces are like cross-sections of projective curves.)

PS: The title is a light-hearted reference to what Gauss said about Euler: "Lisez Euler, lisez Euler, c'est notre maître à tous."