Saturday, 29 March 2014

Moral Government, Pt. 1: Rights are earned, never given

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
-- The Declaration of Independence, 1776 
"Ah, yes, the 'unalienable rights'. Each year someone quotes that magnificent poetry. Life? What 'right' to life has a man who is drowning in the Pacific? The ocean will not hearken to his cries. What 'right to life has a man who must die if he is to save his children? If he chooses to save his own life, does he do so as a matter of 'right'? If two men are starving and cannibalism is the only alternative to death, which man's right is 'unalienable'? And is it 'right'? As to liberty, the heroes who signed the great document pledged themselves to buy liberty with their lives. Liberty is never unalienable; it must be redeemed regularly with the blood of patriots or it always vanishes. Of all the so-called natural human rights that have ever been invented, liberty is least likely to be cheap and is never free of cost.
"The third 'right'?- the pursuit of happiness'? It is indeed unalienable but it is not a right; it is simply a universal condition which tyrants cannot take away nor patriots restore. Cast me into a dungeon, burn me at the stake, crown me king of kings, I can 'pursue happiness' as long as my brain lives- but neither gods nor saints, wise men nor subtle drugs, can insure that I will catch it."
-- Lt. Col. (Ret.) Jean V. Dubois, excerpted from Starship Troopers 
The Folly of "Given" Rights

There is perhaps no idea quite so pervasive, or quite so destructive, as our modern notion that we have "rights" to certain things simply by virtue of existing, or reaching a certain age, or completing a certain form. We are taught almost from birth that each of us has an inalienable right to vote- to decide the fate of our fellow men- on the basis of simply reaching the age of majority. We are conditioned to believe that there is no great effort required of us to secure this right- no sweat of the body, no toil of the mind, no sacrifice of the spirit. And we are told that any attempt to take away this "right" is a violation so severe that it cannot possibly be countenanced and that he who even suggests such a thing should be burned at the stake, or at the very least in effigy, forthwith. (I exaggerate minutely.)

To which I reply: nonsense and other comments. There is no such thing as an unearned right- and rights come with attendant responsibilities. If you will not uphold those responsibilities, you do not deserve those rights. It is just that simple.

It has taken me years of often painful and difficult study to understand something that our ancestors seemed to understand almost without being told: rights of any kind which give men power over each other MUST be earned.

The Cost of Rights
"Value has no meaning other than in relation to living beings. The value of a thing is always relative to a particular person, is completely personal and different in quantity for each living human..."
"This very personal relationship, 'value', has two factors for a human being: first, what he can do with a thing, its use to him... and second, what he must do to get it, its cost to him. There is an old song which asserts that 'the best things in life are free'. Not true! Utterly false! This was the tragic fallacy which brought on the decadence and collapse of the democracies of the twentieth century; those noble experiments failed because the people had been led to believe that they could simply vote for whatever they wanted... and get it, without toil, without sweat, without tears."
"Nothing of value is free. Even the breath of life is purchased at birth only through gasping effort and pain".
-- Lt. Col. (Ret.) Jean V. Dubois, excerpted from Starship Troopers
Consider something so simple as the right to life, and its perfect and congruent opposite, the right to self-defence. Can you honestly tell me that these rights are simply "given" without cost upon any man at the moment of his birth?

Of course not. They are earned- simply by virtue of that very act of birth. You were born after considerable effort on the part of your parents, in almost every way. Your parents had to expend the energy to have sex in order that you be conceived- and I know enough married couples to wonder at just how enjoyable that duty really is for some of them. (I really must apologise here if I made you spit coffee or throw up- no sane person wants to think of their parents doing... uh... that.) Your mother then had to carry you for 9 months, at considerable cost in terms of time and energy to herself. She then had to give birth, which is (so I am told) a messy and nasty process involving considerable pain and no small amount of misery. You were born into this world in the midst of blood, water, and a lot of screaming. (Again, that's what I'm told.)

Your life, in other words, was bought. It was secured through pain and temperance. It didn't happen by accident- even if you were the product of a one-night stand "whoopsie". (Once you actually do some reading you'll understand just how amazingly complex and non-random the process of conception really is.)

Your right to defend your life is no less costly. No one comes into this world knowing how to handle a gun or carry himself in a fistfight. You have to learn how to defend yourself, and that means learning how to handle a weapon- or how to become one. Doing so involves an opportunity cost- you must pay in time or money, or both, to earn your right to defend yourself.

You can certainly cede that right to others- most people do, by insisting that "someone else" protect them- but even that is not free. If you choose this, you must be willing to pay a price of some kind so that others might put their lives on the line for you- whether through taxation, or sending your sons to become soldiers and policemen and firefighters, there is a price.

You can continue in this vein with any right that you care to name: 
  • The "right" to free speech? You have no such "right" without earning it. Your speech is not protected just so that you can say whatever the hell you want. You have to prove that you have something worth saying in the first place, and that you can say it responsibly- the classic (though blatantly misused and misinterpreted) example of yelling "fire" in a crowded movie theatre when there is no fire comes to mind here. (The Supreme Court sort of forgot about that second part.)
  • The "right" to associate with whoever you want? You have no such right without first proving that you're not a psychopath who would as soon murder a man for setting eyes upon you as shake his hand. This is fortunately an easy hurdle for most people to pass, but as Hispanic and especially black youth slides ever further into barbarism, it will not remain that way.
  • The "right" to practice your faith without interference? Does your faith involve persecuting others for their beliefs? Does it involve destroying the basic dignity, both physical and spiritual, of other men? Does it result in warfare and economic stagnation? Then what possible right could you have to practice such an openly barbaric creed?
  • The "right" to a trial by a jury of your peers? Can you prove that you are not a liar and a cheat, that you will not bear false witness against others, and that you will not perjure yourself before your peers? If you cannot prove these things, then you are not fit to judge others; therefore, you are not fit to be judged by others.
  • The "right" to live as you please? Have you first proven that you are not a danger to yourself and others? If not, you have no such right.
  • The "right" to live in a society of laws? Brother, if you believe that such a society can be secured without cost, you're a drooling imbecile. A society of laws does not come about by accident or wishful thinking. It is built through often terrible, backbreaking, heartbreaking cost. A society of laws endures only as long as its people want it to endure by agreeing to abide by those laws. The moment that compact breaks down, you no longer have civilisation or law; you have barbarism.
No matter what right you care to name, there are equal and offsetting responsibilities that come with these rights. The relationship is as straight and as clear and as clean as any algebraic equation- right paired with duty, action paired with consequence.

Any right that violates this perfect equilibrium is, by definition, not a right. A right without attendant responsibilities is a figment of a particularly deluded imagination.

"Moral" and "Human" Rights
"The basis of all morality is duty, a concept with the same relation to group that self-interest has to individual."
-- Lt. Col. (Ret.) Jean V. Dubois, excerpted from Starship Troopers
Having thus summarily dispensed with the nonsensical notion that rights can be secured absent pain and toil, it is time to turn to the laughable concepts of "moral" and "human" rights as embodied in certain documents that Very Important People with Very Impressive Credentials seem to take Very Very Seriously.

There is perhaps no more ridiculous exemplar of the risible notion of "moral" rights than the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that the United Nations tries (and singularly fails) to promote as one of its greatest achievements. If you read the document, you'll find a lot of supposedly unobjectionable language about how you have "right" to an education; about how you have a "right" to get married, and how spouses have equal rights in that marriage (God's Teeth, what a joke); and perhaps most absurdly, how you have a "right" to security and medical care (and presumably rainbows and dancing bunnies too) in the event of ill health, unemployment, disability, sickness, or widowhood.

One can only presume that the people who authored such pabulum were smoking weapons-grade crack when they wrote this. I know weed-smoking philosophy and art majors in college who can come up with better ideas when they're baked than this nonsense.

Why do I write this? Simple. Go back up a bit and read about how rights cannot come without a price. The UDHR would have you believe that these rights can be secured without cost. Moreover, this document would also have you believe that you have the right to another's labour and profit without lifting so much as a single finger to earn it.

Let us take, for example, the concept of a "right" to medical care- which I think is rather relevant given the almost daily stream of bad news concerning the current Administration's utterly ham-fisted attempts to ram socialised health care down the throats of the people. When you demand a right to free health care, what you are effectively saying- whether you want to or not- is that you have the ability to demand the products of another man's labour, training, sacrifice, and time to satisfy your needs.

And if you were offering something in return for that demand, then there would be exactly zero controversy- but then you wouldn't have a right, you'd just have an economic transaction, exactly identical in spirit to the hundreds of billions of similar transactions carried out by all of the people on Earth.

The moment you start demanding such a thing as a right, without cost or consequence, though, you have completely destroyed the fundamental premise on which rights are based- that you have no right to anything you haven't earned. And since by definition the demand for free health care comes with a price that infringes upon another's earned right to the fruits of his own labours, it cannot, by definition, be a right.

A right to free health care then turns out to be nothing better than a demand to enslave another man. Would you then be surprised when he exercises his right to tell you to (perform an anatomically impossible act), since he is master of his own toil and enterprise?

The exact same logic applies to education. You have no more "right" to education than a bat has right to the concept of sonar. Your education is incumbent upon you, and you alone, to earn. There are many- probably millions- of people in this country alone who do not want to be educated, do not want to learn, and cannot be taught to learn. Do they have a "right" to demand the time, sacrifice, and labour of a teacher in order that they might waste both their time and their teacher's in the pursuit of a futile exercise in learning?

The Basis of Sound Government
Man is what he is, a wild animal with the will to survive, and (so far) the ability, against all competition. Unless one accepts that, anything one says about morals, war, politics- you name it- is nonsense. Correct morals arise fro knowing what Man is- not what do-gooders and well-meaning old Aunt Nellies would like him to be.
-- Lt. Juan "Johnnie" Rico, excerpted from Starship Troopers 
Now that we have seen what rights really are, it is time to ask how one might construct a sound and stable government from those rights. The answers might surprise you, though in the interests of time and brevity (a relative term in my case, I know), I will save the bulk of that exposition for a follow-up post.

Once you accept that rights come with responsibilities, and that those responsibilities are exactly opposite and offsetting, then you quickly realise that the only way to build a just and stable government is to accept that the same principle applies to government. If the Rights of Man must be secured through blood and toil, sweat and sacrifice, then so too must good government.

Let us dispense very quickly with the obvious objection: that a society founded by rational and just individuals would not need a government. There are three simple and unanswerable logical contradictions to this concept. The first is that men are not always and everywhere just and benevolent; therefore, a society founded on the assumption (and it is an assumption) that all men are that way will fail. The second is that even if one weakens the initial assumption that "all men are always rational and just" to the assumption that "most men are usually rational and just", you still have the problem of dealing with those who are not. This naturally leads to the need to form groups within society dedicated to protecting those who are rational and just from those who are not- which is known in simple terms as "government". The third is that even if, against all odds, such a society without government could exist and even prosper, it would be subverted and destroyed by, oh, about next Wednesday by any society that came along and imposed its views with force of arms rather than pure reason and rights balanced by duties. For further reading, I refer you to this.

The basis of all sound government must therefore be the same basis as all sound rights: duty.

Duty involves sacrifice and toil. It requires putting one's own interests below and behind those of the wider society. It involves abandoning the utterly ridiculous myth that Man's character can be perfected, and recognising his character for what it is- flawed, fallible, dangerous, and yet capable of nobility and grace and justice.

A government founded on, run by, or dictated to by any group that does not believe, with every fibre of its being, that actions have consequences and that authority is paired off equally with duty, is a government that must fail.

Such a monstrosity must be destroyed so that its actions do not endanger the earned rights of others.

By logical extension, the fact that authority and duty are paired and equal- just like right and responsibility- means that certain ideas about government simply will not work. They cannot be sustained. This means in practice that:
  • The right to vote is no more "universal" than the presence of blue eyes or black hair. Yet again, the right to vote must be earned. The authority that comes with the vote must be paired off with the duty to exercise that vote responsibly.
  • The "rights" of government are nothing more than contractual obligations with citizens. A government, by itself, has no power whatsoever. It does not exist in a vacuum, it is not created by some Deus ex machina. It is created because people choose to cede authority to that government- and they can, or should be able to, take it away just as easily.
  • Because the authority given to government is of the highest and strongest kind, the duty required to wield that authority must be equally weighty and difficult. This would immediately disqualify almost everyone from wielding that authority. And given that most people do not want to be free, and that most people are in fact idiots, this is both a very good thing and an incontrovertible fact of life.
  • Equality is no more possible in real life than gills on a bat or wings on a pig. Once you accept that most people simply will not pay the price in terms of duty required to exercise the authority that comes with it, you must also by definition reject the idea that all people are equally qualified to wield that authority. Some are better qualified than others. It's just that simple.
  • Ergo, the sovereign franchise must therefore be extended ONLY to those who have proven qualified to wield it.
And with that last point, we come at last to the most controversial and difficult idea in this entire list. We come full circle to the point from which we started. In order to have "good government", we must first have good people. Without them, government descends in very short order into tyranny and stupidity. With them, government is sound and stable.

I will continue on that theme in my next post on the subject. Stick around for that one.

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Gear up

If you're just starting out with lifting properly, you might find yourself somewhat confused about the gear you need for lifting properly. And I don't blame you on that front. What with the explosive growth of CrossFit over the last few years, the number of BS fitness products out there on the market has grown in direct proportion to the number of people out there who just don't know what the hell they're doing.

The Didact, in the zone- do not disturb
Fortunately, the Didact is here to help you cut through the nonsense. You're welcome.

The great thing about powerlifting is that you can get everything you need to lift for like $200, tops, and it'll last for years. You don't need gloves, lifting bands, straps, branded pants, massage balls, or any of that other crap. You just need these five things:
  1. A comfortable cotton shirt. None of this ClimaCool, wick-away, high-tech polyplastic fibre nonsense. Just get a simple shirt that is neither tight nor loose.
  2. A comfortable pair of sweatpants, also preferably cotton. Again, no need for any silly excessive branding. Just wear something that stretches well, breathes, and absorbs sweat. That's all. No need to buy $120-a-pop branded crap.
  3. Decent footwear. It really doesn't matter much what you wear on your feet for squats and deadlifts, as long as you get a good planted feel from whatever you're wearing. The best way to get that feeling is to get shoes that keep the soles of your feet as close to the ground as possible. This means either flat soles or shoes that follow the natural contours of your feet. In practical terms, this gives you four options: Converse sneakers, wrestling shoes, Vibram Five Fingers, or going barefoot. Wrestling shoes cost maybe $65 for a decent pair, if that; I use them for martial arts training, but they're quite useful for powerlifting too. I use Five Fingers in my gym- I love those things- and they cost $90 a pair for the simple black ones. And I have lifted barefoot; if your gym allows it, I'd strongly recommend you do this, since you'll feel completely planted and secure.
  4. Lifter's chalk. You need chalk to help you grip properly at heavier weights for deadlifts and bench presses. If your gym doesn't like chalk dust flying everywhere, consider buying yourself an eco-ball. They're cheap, and they last at least 18 months. Each. They'll also help you strengthen your grip on deadlifts like nothing else on Earth. Don't bother with lifting straps until and unless you've reached the limits of your grip while maintaining good form.
  5. A REAL weightlifter's belt. I will readily admit that this was my biggest screwup for the last two years. I used to use Harbinger and Valeo belts, which are wide at the back and narrow in the front. Then I saw Elgintensity's video on the subject last week and I realised that I was making a huge mistake. A proper lifter's belt is uniformly wide and much thicker than those bodybuilder belts that those Captain Upper Body bro types wear in the gym, while working frantically through their Imaginary Lat Syndrome. I used a true lifter's belt this evening in the gym for the first time, and I can tell you right now- it makes a huge difference. The boost to your strength and confidence is tremendous once you realise that suddenly you can squat 315lbs (or more) for reps, down to depth, with good form, because your belt is giving you the pressure and push that you need. I dumped my old belt today and I'm never looking back.
You choose
Learning how to lift properly, and getting jacked- or at least getting strong and healthy- doesn't require you to spend ridiculous amounts of money on useless gear. Just stick to the basics, chain yourself to the squat rack (and please do us all a favour and shoot any jackass doing curls in it), master the basic lifts- squats, deadlifts, bench presses, overhead presses, and barbells rows- and then call me in a year. I promise you'll be fine.

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

The lesson of the Spartan women

Helen of Sparta
I don't remember how I came across this- my opposite number from the old homestead probably sent it to me at some point- but if you want a great argument against universal suffrage from the past, look no further than the example of what happened to the Spartans in the space of just three generations between the Battle of Thermopylae and the Battle of Leuctra:
Again, the license of the Lacedaemonian women defeats the intention of the Spartan constitution, and is adverse to the happiness of the state. For, a husband and wife being each a part of every family, the state may be considered as about equally divided into men and women; and, therefore, in those states in which the condition of the women is bad, half the city may be regarded as having no laws. And this is what has actually happened at Sparta; the legislator wanted to make the whole state hardy and temperate, and he has carried out his intention in the case of the men, but he has neglected the women, who live in every sort of intemperance and luxury. The consequence is that in such a state wealth is too highly valued, especially if the citizen fall under the dominion of their wives, after the manner of most warlike races, except the Celts and a few others who openly approve of male loves. The old mythologer would seem to have been right in uniting Ares and Aphrodite, for all warlike races are prone to the love either of men or of women. This was exemplified among the Spartans in the days of their greatness; many things were managed by their women. But what difference does it make whether women rule, or the rulers are ruled by women? The result is the same. Even in regard to courage, which is of no use in daily life, and is needed only in war, the influence of the Lacedaemonian women has been most mischievous. The evil showed itself in the Theban invasion, when, unlike the women other cities, they were utterly useless and caused more confusion than the enemy. This license of the Lacedaemonian women existed from the earliest times, and was only what might be expected. For, during the wars of the Lacedaemonians, first against the Argives, and afterwards against the Arcadians and Messenians, the men were long away from home, and, on the return of peace, they gave themselves into the legislator's hand, already prepared by the discipline of a soldier's life (in which there are many elements of virtue), to receive his enactments. But, when Lycurgus, as tradition says, wanted to bring the women under his laws, they resisted, and he gave up the attempt. These then are the causes of what then happened, and this defect in the constitution is clearly to be attributed to them. We are not, however, considering what is or is not to be excused, but what is right or wrong, and the disorder of the women, as I have already said, not only gives an air of indecorum to the constitution considered in itself, but tends in a measure to foster avarice. 

The mention of avarice naturally suggests a criticism on the inequality of property. While some of the Spartan citizen have quite small properties, others have very large ones; hence the land has passed into the hands of a few. And this is due also to faulty laws; for, although the legislator rightly holds up to shame the sale or purchase of an inheritance, he allows anybody who likes to give or bequeath it. Yet both practices lead to the same result. And nearly two-fifths of the whole country are held by women; this is owing to the number of heiresses and to the large dowries which are customary. It would surely have been better to have given no dowries at all, or, if any, but small or moderate ones. As the law now stands, a man may bestow his heiress on any one whom he pleases, and, if he die intestate, the privilege of giving her away descends to his heir. Hence, although the country is able to maintain 1500 cavalry and 30,000 hoplites, the whole number of Spartan citizens fell below 1000. The result proves the faulty nature of their laws respecting property; for the city sank under a single defeat; the want of men was their ruin.
To Laconophiles (like me), the lessons of Sparta tend to be highly instructive. Ancient Sparta's form of government was anything but democratic. It consisted of an Executive branch, two Legislative branches, and a form of Judicial branch that was rather religious in nature but could really hold the others to task. It also actively encouraged a secret police charged with assassinations and spying, and was a slave-backed proto-Communist society in which martial virtues, strength, and masculine prowess were held to be the supreme ideals by which a man could live. (To the point where blokes actually had to get used to the idea of boning women when they got married. It was a weird society in a lot of ways.)

Sparta's form of government lasted longer than almost any of its contemporaries. From the time of the creation of the Great Rhetra to Sparta's eventual forced inclusion in the Achaean League during Roman times, at least 1,200 years passed- during which time the vaunted democracy of the Athenians rose to glory before quickly collapsing into tyranny and imperial overstretch. Its system survived multiple invasions, natural disasters, severe defeats in battle at the hands of the Thebans and Macedonians, and slave uprisings that very nearly shattered the once unbreakable unity of the Spartan polity.

Yet Sparta, ultimately, was undone not by its lack of commitment to its way of life, or its dedication to martial virtues, or its lack of discipline and strength, but by its lack of real men.

And this, despite Queen Gorgo's famous quip that only Spartan women gave birth to real men. (Apparently a real quote, not just a figment of Zack Snyder's imagination.)

The Spartan women were once acknowledged to be the freest in all of Greece- and in the centuries leading up to Sparta's years of glory as the de facto leader of the Peloponnesian League, they recognised and understood the responsibilities that came with those freedoms, producing the strongest sons and most beautiful daughters of all of the Greek nations. Yet, as always, their feminine natures did them in, just as the nature of women always will undermine any system built on martial virtues and a reliance on masculine strength.

The lesson for modern Western democracies is simple. If you insist on giving women the same freedoms as men, if you allow women to indulge in every form of excess without consequence, and if you fail to hold them responsible for the duties that come with those freedoms, do not then be surprised or complain when the civilisation that men built with such arduous and painstaking labour comes crashing down around your ears. 

Freedoms are not free

They come with attendant duties and responsibilities. And as the mainstream media is beginning to find out, far too late, if those who claim specific freedoms and rights refuse to uphold those duties, then they do not deserve those freedoms:
New York Times reporter James Risen called the Obama administration “the greatest enemy of press freedom that we have encountered in at least a generation” on Friday, explaining that the White House seeks to control the flow of information and those who refuse to play along “will be punished.” 
Poynter reports that Risen made the remarks while speaking at Sources and Secrets conference — a meeting of journalism , communication and government professionals held in New York City. The foreign policy reporter, who is currently fighting a fierce court battle with the federal government over his protection of a confidential source, warned that press freedom is under serious attack in today’s America. 
In a speech kicking off the conference, Risen claimed that the Obama administration wants to “narrow the field of national security reporting” and “create a path for accepted reporting.” Those who stray from that path, he cautioned, “will be punished.” 
The result is a “de facto Official Secrets Act,” Risen explained, making the current White House “the greatest enemy of press freedom that we have encountered in at least a generation.” And the media has been “too timid” in pushing back against the onslaught. 
Some of that timidity was on display at the conference. Jeffrey Toobin, a writer for The New Yorker, denied that any constitutional protections for his profession even existed. “It won’t take me long to alienate everyone in the room,” he declared. “For better or worse, it has been clear there is no journalistic privilege under the First Amendment.”
I have no sympathy whatsoever for these poltroons in the Fourth Branch. None whatsoever. These people were supposed to hold the Obarmy Administration accountable for its galactic levels of stupidity and its transparently absurd promises to the American people. For the past six years, they have done exactly nothing of the sort. From the Grey Lady to CNN to the New Yorker, people are turning away from the liberal media in droves because they are beginning to realise- however belatedly and slowly- that they simply cannot trust these fools to do their jobs.

On the broader subject of rights and responsibilities, I must say that the neo-reactionaries of my acquaintance are making ever more sense every day. One of the basic positions of the neoreactionary movement is that there is no such thing as a "natural" right. Their view is that rights must always be balanced by responsibilities- an idea made brilliantly and perfectly clear in a certain classic work of fiction which I hold in the highest regard:
Both for practical reasons and for mathematically verifiable moral reasons, authority and responsibility must be equal - else a balancing takes place as surely as current flows between points of unequal potential. To permit irresponsible authority is to sow disaster; to hold a man responsible for anything he does not control is to behave with blind idiocy. The unlimited democracies were unstable because their citizens were not responsible for the fashion in which they exerted their sovereign authority... other than through the tragic logic of history.
The freedom of the press to report what it pleases, however it pleases, comes with the attendant responsibility to hold those in power accountable for their words and their actions. Modern "journalists"- the vast majority of whom I think of as talentless hacks with very little real interest in truth- who fail to recognise their responsibilities to hold the mighty and powerful accountable are not worthy of the freedoms about which they whine and bleat so loudly. Institutions that worship at the gilded altar of press freedom, such as the New York Times and others of its ilk, have allowed the Obarmies to get away with all manner of craziness, ranging from absurd interpretations of Constitutional law, to gun-running scandals, to attempts to ram through amnesty, and now to its willingness to use drones to hunt down and kill American citizens without due process.

If they will not carry out the duties that come with their freedoms, if they will not hold even those with whom they are ideologically aligned to task, and if they will not do all in their power to resist those who would take their freedoms from them, then what possible right do they have to those freedoms?

And as for that ridiculous assertion above that there is no Constitutional protection for freedom of the press, here is what the language of the First Amendment actually says:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
I'm no lawyer, or Constitutional scholar, but that seems pretty clear to me. Not only is the Executive branch radically overstepping its authority and encroaching on the responsibilities of the Legislature, it is acting in direct contravention of both the letter and the spirit of the Law. Is that really so difficult to figure out?

Apparently, it is, at least if you work for the New Yorker. Which also probably explains why I don't read it.

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

The utility of failure

Failure is something that is feared and disliked by anyone with half a brain. Your sense of self-esteem is, after all, measured by how well you succeed at doing something, not how badly you fail at doing it. Most of us try to avoid failure at all costs- at any cost- so that we never have to feel the sting of embarrassment and the pain of rejection that comes from failure.

There is one thing, however, that failure is very good for: it teaches you like nothing else can.

Someone wise once said that "good judgement comes from experience- and a lot of that comes from bad judgement". Very few of us are so preternaturally gifted as to wake up in the morning completely ready and able to face every possible challenge that life throws at us. We get to be good at things by failing at them, repeatedly, and learning from our mistakes until we achieve mastery.

In order to achieve mastery, you have to put in the time and effort to achieve whatever goal you've set your mind upon achieving. If you start out half-heartedly, and never learn from your failures, you'll never achieve your goals- but if you keep your head down, keep learning from your screwups, and keep showing up to put in the work, then your failures will hone your skills and sharpen your focus.

And when you start to look at failure in this way, you quickly realise that failure, in and of itself, is NOT something to fear.

This is not a call for doing something stupid, just so we are clear. Fear is a healthy survival instinct that kicks in when you're about to do something that puts your precious person at significant risk. There is no reason to take stupid risks. If you're going to start sparring with full contact, wear protective gear. If you're going to lift heavy weights, learn the right form and get a spotter, or at the very least set the rack up so that you have a safe zone that can catch the weights. If you're going to approach, either in person or online, do your homework beforehand to get the logistics right. If you're going in for a tough job interview, do some preparation the night before so that you can easily handle whatever is coming your way.

If you're going to do something dangerous or difficult, take precautions to make sure that you'll most likely walk away from it intact- and then do it.

Because the one guaranteed way to fail, every single time, is not to try at all.

If you're afraid of failing, you'll never reach your true potential as a human being. You'll never maximise your strength and fitness. You'll never summon up the courage to talk to that hot girl at the bar, or meet that floozy you met online for a cup of coffee in the real world. You'll never learn whether you can take a punch or kick. You'll never become the best version of yourself that you can be.

If you're afraid of failing, you might as well not bother starting in the first place.

But if you approach failure with the attitude that it is your teacher, and that you will learn from its lessons, then failure has no power over you. Yes, you'll screw up. You'll get your ass kicked by someone with vastly more experience than you. You'll end up hurting yourself. You'll end up making a complete ass of yourself in public while talking to that nut-bustingly hot girl. You'll end up completely blowing an interview because you got that one tough question wrong and ended up looking like an utter tool in front of your interviewer.

Big deal. There's always next time. You're a man. Pick yourself up, learn from your mistakes, and move on.

It's taken me years to get to the point where I actually look forward to challenges, the way I do now. I genuinely look forward to my next tough workout in the gym- even when I'm tired or sore, and I know I'd rather be at home sleeping, I go to the gym anyway because I'm not afraid of failing that day. I look forward to getting my ass kicked every week at my sparring classes- because I know that sparring and tag-fighting with people who are faster and better than me forces me to fix my mistakes, and because I know that even if I get my butt kicked, it's a challenge to me to improve myself. I look forward to my next big project at work because I know that there is every possibility that I'll mess something up- but I know from past experience that I have what it takes to figure it out and fix it.

And don't even get me started on how much better I am at job interviews and public speaking these days than I was ten years ago. Honestly, I wish I knew then what I know now. Back when I was just starting out with interviews, I was loud, brash, overconfident, and probably a bit grating in interviews. These days, I am quiet, measured, confident- because I know what I'm really good at and can speak to it articulately and confidently. Back then, public speaking made me very nervous; these days, public speaking doesn't worry me in the slightest, because I know my material cold.

Failure, solely in and of itself, is not something to fear. It is something to embrace- provided that you learn from it. If you don't, then you've wasted your time; another very smart person defined insanity as "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results". If that is you, then just STOP. You're not doing yourself, or anyone else, any favours by repeating the same stupid mistakes.

If, however, you are willing to learn from your mistakes, then adopt a beginner's mindset, take the necessary precautions to minimise damage to yourself should you fail, prepare yourself- and DO IT.

For if you have prepared correctly, you have nothing to lose- and everything to gain.

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Theory versus practice, style versus subtance

In theory there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice there is.
-- Yogi Berra

In the gym the other night, practically every single TV in the place was switched over to one of the ESPN channels, for reasons that I rather fail to understand. On one of those channels was showing what I later realised was a replay of the ISKA 2013 US Open karate championships:

Now don't get me wrong, the stuff that these kids (and they ARE kids, at least relative to me) were pulling off on that stage was undeniably very cool to watch. It spoke volumes for their discipline, training, and skill that they were able to pull off tricks like that with that kind of control and speed.

But ultimately, that's all they were- tricks.

They were techniques and applications designed specifically to bedazzle and impress, to amaze and entertain. They were perfectly suited for that purpose. Yet the more I watched, the more I realised that nothing they were doing was applicable in real-world combat situations, where your goal is to inflict maximum damage upon your aggressor while extracting yourself from the situation as fast and as safely as possible. Watching those kids doing backflips and somersaults and weapons demonstrations with katana and stick, I found myself wondering what they would do when confronted with a real knife attack, or a real aggressor with a gun. Would they be able to handle a situation like that?

I seriously doubt it.

It brought to mind in very abrupt fashion the vast gulf between theory and practice- and revisited a very important lesson that I think every Manospherian needs to learn from time to time. Namely, there is a world of difference between reading something on a website, or hearing about it from someone, and actually applying that knowledge in the real world.

The metric by which any knowledge should be measured is whether it is actually useful in some way. The method by which you should judge the information that you read from blogs like this one, which teach self-improvement in some way, or from PUA-oriented blogs which teach pickup skills, or any other blog for that matter, is whether or not the information thus imparted can be used for something.

If it cannot be applied in the real world successfully, then it's a waste of your time. It's just that simple. It's the difference between theory and practice, the difference between style and substance, the difference between a sales pitch and a real product.

When it comes to martial arts, for instance, I don't care how many black belts you claim to have. If you don't have real experience sparring, you can never claim to be good at fighting. I'll tell you this from personal experience- the moment that first punch sails past your face (or in my case, whacked me straight in the temple), you very quickly forget all of the fancy techniques and tricks that you learned and focus on the simple act of staying alive. The people who are truly good at martial arts are not the dancers and showmen- they are the trained killers who can break you in two in under a minute.

The subject of health and human happiness is no different. You can claim to read as many studies as you want on the subject- they all end up contradicting each other eventually anyway. Until you actually take the plunge and go Paleo, and see for yourself just what a massive change eating fats and proteins can make to your life and health, you cannot claim to be interested in your own health.

I don't care how many fitness magazines you subscribe to. Until you prove to others around you that you can lift weights properly in the gym- and not necessarily heavy weights either- with good form and clear goals, then you cannot claim to be strong.

I don't care how many pickup sites you visit, or how many articles you've read on the subject of female hypergamy, or how many discussions you've had on internet forums on the subject of the "best" technique for getting a girl to sleep with you. Until you've put in the work, and until you've done real approaches (whether online or in person), until you've gone on real dates, until you've done real closes and gotten real lays and relationships out of the process, you're just a keyboard jockey with more time than skills.

I don't care how many textbooks on economics you've read. I don't care how many papers you've written on neo-Keynesian multipliers or weightless economies or the effects of neo-liberalisation on trade. Until you can show that your business cycle theories actually match the facts of life, then you're nothing more than an ivory tower academic.

I don't care how many lessons you've taken in Brazilian jiu-jitsu or kyokushin karate or kendo or eskrima. Until you've actually sparred, against a real, live opponent- until you've demonstrated clearly that you can hit, and take a hit, and get back up and keep fighting- then you cannot claim to know how to fight.

Never forget the vast difference between learning a bunch of very specific tricks and techniques that apply only to very special situations under very particular conditions, and learning useful knowledge that will enhance your life and keep you strong, healthy, happy, and powerful.

There is some good news. If you're just starting out in the process of freeing your mind from all of the pretty lies you've been taught all your life, then sites like this one can teach you how to do it. If you're well down that road already, then this might serve as a useful reminder of the end goal- the best possible version of you, created and built and refined through years and decades of hard work, real-world application, and absolute dedication to that goal.

But ultimately, you have to accept that the goal itself is worthwhile. And you have to be willing to do what is necessary to separate out theory from practice, style from substance, and folly from wisdom.

Friday, 21 March 2014

The phalanx

laidnyc wrote a very interesting post recently about his thoughts regarding an impending usurpation of the 'Sphere by those who seek to hijack our mad little corner of the world:
In ancient times, walled cities were built to protect against invading tribes. As populations grew, walls were built outwards in concentric circles. If they were attacked, the people withdrew behind the outermost wall. If that wall was breached, they would withdraw within the next wall, and so on, until they were forced into the center, the most heavily guarded part of the city: The Citadel. The Citadel contained all the town’s treasures and housed the most important people: the king, nobles, officers. Defense of the Citadel was the key to the city’s survival: as long as it could be held, the rest of the city could be recaptured and rebuilt. 
So what is the manosphere’s citadel? What must be defended at all costs? 
Chateau Heartiste. 
You may not like the answer, but there it is. Almost all other manosphere blogs do not matter in the least. Sturgeon’s Law defined. Now, people always have some minor gripe about CH: christians don’t like that he’s against marriage, pussies don’t like that he’s racist, reactionaries don’t like that he doesn’t speak out against suffrage, and some people hold against him that his writing quality declined a little since 2011.  But look at the cumulative: There is no greater entry point for the curious man, no better archive, no blog more skilled and entertaining at truth telling, nobody overlaps the various worlds of truth better, nobody reduces the opposition to point and sputter better than CH. He doesn’t sell products or ads or spam affiliate links. Nobody produces more value for so little cost.
With the greatest possible respect to laidnyc, I must disagree on two points.

First- and this is strictly a matter of personal opinion- I'd say that the Manosphere's real thought leader is Vox Day. I say again, that's just my personal opinion, and I come to that conclusion mostly because that's how I got into the 'Sphere. I used to be a squishy right(ish)-leaning centrist. When I ran into Vox's blog sometime in late 2007, I was at first quite annoyed at what a cocksure jerk he seemed to be. But then I actually started reading what he writes, and I realised that it's simply impossible to argue with his logic. In terms of writing style and panache, sure, Roissy has him beat six ways to Sunday. But in terms of intellectual heft and intelligence, there is no one else in the 'Sphere who produces anything like that kind of quality. Vox has been instrumental in changing my mind about a great many things, including economics, religion, and socio-sexual relations. Roissy focuses on very specific topics, and does a phenomenal job covering them; Vox covers a much broader range of topic, and does an equally excellent job.

The funny thing is, though, that knowing Vox (and I don't, personally), he does not give a flying proverbial what I think about his writing. (Or what anyone else thinks, I imagine.) I have no doubt that Roissy thinks the same thing- either you like what he writes, or you don't, and if you don't, that's your problem. Neither of them needs any of us to defend them. Vox most assuredly doesn't need anyone to defend him- he is perfectly capable of doing so on his own, and on many memorable occasions in the last five years I have seen him do precisely that on his blog, by tearing some midwit critic apart in the most brutally efficient manner.

This brings me to my second and much broader point. There is a reason why the rabbits keep trying to invade this haven. It's not because they are strong. It is because we are strong, and they are weak. It is because our ideas make sense, and theirs do not.

I have been greatly honoured over the past year to meet a couple of the 'Sphere bloggers in person- The Observer last year, and Matt Forney this year. Neither man is weak in any way. Nor are others like Halfbreed or J Sploosh or D&P or countless others. None of these individuals wants, needs, or asks for the support of others. We write for the pleasure of writing, just as we live for the joy of living.

I am not for one moment saying that it is wrong or indecent for one of our own to ask that we support another- hell, I'll probably kick a donation to Roissy myself, since I like what he writes. I am simply saying that such a thing is not really necessary, because that is not the source of our strength.

The rabbits fear us because individually, we are strong- and together, we are stronger. And that, ultimately, is why they won't win.

An apt metaphor for the workings of the 'Sphere would probably be the classical Spartan phalanx. The Spartans were the most feared soldiers of their- and possibly any- era precisely because while they were individually terrifying warriors, when banded together, side by side, they were virtually unmatched. They fought for what they believed in- for ancient rights and freedoms, for martial virtues, for their lands and their people. They lived lives of honour and discipline (yes, I realise I am glossing over certain ugly details here). An individual Spartiate was a citizen-soldier who was a truly formidable opponent in battle- but when banded together with his brothers in the impenetrable unity of the phalanx, he became unstoppable.

It is the same with the 'Sphere. Individually, each of us has strengths and weaknesses. We all think differently, we act differently, and we believe different things. But on the important issues, we are united, we are strong, and we act with common purpose. We believe in ancient freedoms; we support martial virtues; we argue for what we believe in.

That is why they fear us- because we are strong. That is why they seek to tear us down- because despite our vast and numerous differences, we are still united.

And that is why they will never succeed.

Through Knowledge, Victory
Through Victory, Unity
Through Unity, Peace
Honour, Valour, Allegiance, Excellence
Today, Tomorrow, Forever
From Earth, For Earth
Together We Rise
Together We Prevail
Forward Unto Dawn
-- Adapted from the poem "Forward Unto Dawn"

The lessons of the Didache

Someone- let's call him A. Reader for now- emailed me with some reading material a little while back and asked for my opinion on it:
I have been meaning to contact you for some time to ask if you've ever read an early Christian work called The Didache. I figure your site name is a reference to Didact from HALO but after reading Ghost Rider and your thoughts on Christianity I wanted to pass it along in case you had not. It's a little red pill in its own right. [Didact's note: that's a serious understatement.] I grew up Baptist but left the church years ago. I stick with my faith for the very reason you stated in the post: it seems the closest. It puts a stop to a lot of things man stumbled over in four previous ages.

Churchianity is a blight on God's Word. [Didact's note: Yep. Same guy.] There are very few church oriented people with whom I can have a good discussion about faith or God. All of my male Christian friends seem to be more like indentured servants than husbands. I can't abide it much. They think I avoid them because I am a loner. But they're friends so that isn't the case.
It took me rather longer than I would have liked to get around to reading this, but I'm quite glad I did. It never ceases to amaze me how much wisdom is buried within well-known documents from antiquity.

There is no better cure for the insidious rot of Churchianity than actually, y'know, reading the source material. The odd thing about Churchians is that they seem to interpret Scripture in the manner that they think it should be interpreted, rather than in terms of what the source material actually says. This allows them to perform the most astonishing contortions of reason and logic.

It's a lot like the way Muslims can read the Koran and argue that Islam is a religion of "peace" because it promises that after the world is subjugated through fire and steel, it will be peaceful.

But I digress.

On the subject of the Didache and its contents, I agree with Mr. Reader's assessment. For those who haven't read it, the Didache is sort of like that head-shrinking lecture that a strong and upright man (usually your father) gives you sometime in your late teen years to remind you not only what it means to be a man, but what it means to be a good man. The text starts out with the usual stuff that every Churchian likes to spout- be humble, be meek, turn the other cheek, give without thought of reward, all that stuff which Churchian parents like to din into male children to stop them from being men.

But then, right after the first section, the real point of the text begins to come out, and the bits that Churchians keep forgetting come to light in powerful free verse.

The Didache does not simply teach proper, humble behaviour. It teaches the difference between right and wrong, between good and evil, and between sin and redemption. It teaches of the need of parents to raise their children well. It teaches of the need for children to honour and respect their parents. It frames the basic relationship between Man and God as one between a clumsy and often wayward but still endearing child and a loving, infinitely patient, yet firm and unbending parent. It teaches of the need to see the world for what it really is- a world in sin, flawed and fallen, yet still worthy of redemption if Mankind tries to elevate itself above its most base impulses. And perhaps most importantly, it destroys forever certain lies and illusions that sustain the Churchian- the notion that it is wrong to judge a man, for instance, or the notion that the Lord's patience is infinite for sinners, is dispensed with in quite peremptory fashion in the text.

If you read the Didache- I mean, really read it for what it is- you'll notice that it essentially expands upon the Ten Commandments, and breaks down into the same basic themes:

  • Be humble, be patient, be good to those who have earned goodness;
  • Do not lie, cheat, steal, murder; do not commit sodomy, pederasty, perjury, or adultery;
  • Let your words be backed by deeds, never be a hypocrite, and walk with humility before the Lord;
  • Be a bringer of peace and happiness, not discord and rancour;
  • Start the day off right, and be thankful for that which is good and green in your life;
  • Never listen to false prophets*;
  • Share what you have with those who have earned it, those who are good, those who keep the Word;
  • Above all, respect yourself, respect your teachers and parents, and respect the Lord.
In no way, shape or form does any of this contradict what we in the 'Sphere have been saying for years now. Yet the interesting thing about the Didache is that at first glance it tends to sit fairly uncomfortably with certain sections of the Manosphere (or whatever it is you want to call us weirdos). A lot of the red-pill crowd tends to be either agnostic or Christian, with a very few atheists sprinkled about here and there; there isn't a whole lot of room for hardcore atheists in a group like this that openly rejects the Utopian fantasies of the Left.

The reality is that there is no discrepancy. If you read the Word, and really understand what it says, you'll quickly come to realise that the Apostles of Christ preached many of the same ideas and in much the same vein as modern thought leaders like Vox and Roissy.

The lesson remains the same, throughout time and space: a man who is strong, upright, courageous, honourable, and humble before the Lord, and who respects himself and his masculinity, is a man worth being.

* No, Tempest, not you- that guy.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

The futility of higher education

One of the more painful consequences of imbibing regular doses of Cold Hard Truth is that you find yourself actively questioning everything you were taught when growing up by those you love the most. As you get older and (hopefully) wiser, and as you continue down that endless and often lonely road of self-improvement, sooner or later you're going to find yourself rejecting what you once thought were gospel truths.

For Asians, there are very few sacred cows more highly venerated than that of the college education. In my opinion, there is no sacred cow that more thoroughly deserves to be turned into hamburger. Almost from the time you're old enough to understand the idea of education, Asian children are indoctrinated into thinking that more education is always and everywhere a Good Thing. Indeed, if you're Asian and you're reading this, then what I'm about to write is going to sound as if your dad is speaking to you through this blog:
  • From the time you're old enough to read, the virtues of hard work and focusing on your studies are dinned into you (this, by the way, actually is a good thing)
  • Any grade less than a B (or a B- in case your parents really like you) is cause for parental heart palpitations
  • If, heaven forbid, you should ever find yourself called into the principal's office for any reason, it's treated as a Very Serious Matter requiring the entire family to sit down and hash it all out to make it clear that what you've done is Totally and Completely Unacceptable
  • Girls? What the hell are girls for anyway??? They get in the way of your college admissions essays!
  • What do you mean, you want to go outside and play?! You've got a test to study for!
  • If you don't get into at least one Ivy League/top 10 university, you've wasted 12 years of hard education!
  • "Fun" is what you have AFTER you've completed your studies! And after you've gotten married and raised kids! And after you've spent your best years working in a good respectable stable job! (Uh, come to think of it... what is this "fun"???)
For the sake of keeping a good conscience I should point out that, to my immense relief, my parents never quite went as far as all that when I was growing up. What I have written above, however, is merely stereotyped and somewhat exaggerated behaviour on the part of Asian parents- not for nothing, after all, did Amy Chua write her book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. There can be no question that education is valued extremely highly among Asians, particularly of Indian or Chinese extraction, because for hundreds- if not thousands- of years, it has been seen as the key to a better life and higher social status.

That is no longer the case.

If colleges today were what they once were intended to be- repositories of learning, hallowed halls of training for a very select few who had the wit and the will to do great things, engines of innovation, that sort of thing- then going to university would indeed be a good decision. However, anyone who has spent more than a week on the campus of a modern university will know full well that, in large part, universities are no longer about teaching people, about exploring the mysteries of God's creation, or about training people to think rigourously.

When I was about 14 years old, I read a book by a chap named Peregrine White called The Idea Factory: Learning How to Think at MIT. That book was my glimpse into what I thought a university education is supposed to be. I thought that going to university would be teach me how to think- how to solve problems, how to understand the world around me, how to be the best I could be at whatever I eventually did. In fact, when I actually went to university, I quickly came to realise that much of what I was being taught either didn't make much sense in the modern world, or was flat-out wrong. And all the time, I had to deal with the constant steady drumbeat of leftist indoctrination that has become so prevalent on modern university campuses.

Modern universities do not exist to teach you how to think. They exist to teach you what to think.

I will readily admit that there are exceptions. If you study a hard science, or a true art like mathematics, or engineering, then chances are that you're going to be way too busy to deal with the sort of pseudo-intellectual garbage that passes for leftist cant on a university campus these days. Classic example: during my Master's program we would often have to take classes in the university's School of Social Work. (Yes, I am sorry to say that the university had such a thing. Along with a School of Public Policy. There were- are- a lot of things wrong with that place.) Walking into that building was like entering the Twilight Zone, where normal things don't happen very often. You would walk in and see posters lionising Hugo Chavez and calling for "action rallies" or "solidarity marches". (Isn't the latter a euphemism for a painful bowel movement?) We would get there, go for the lecture we needed to attend, and then GTFO as fast as we possibly could to the relative safety of the computer lab or the Mathematics department.

The reality confronting the modern young man is that university is going to be, by and large, a giant waste of your time and money. You will get a far better education simply through constant and dedicated reading. Over his lifetime, my father's uncle amassed a truly awesome collection of books and textbooks, which for decades were housed in the upper floor of my grandparents' house back in the old country. As my father remarked the last time we were there, a man could get a truly phenomenal education from simply reading through that entire collection. The same is true of my parents' house- it is filthy with books. A modern man could easily achieve the same effect by simply reading through his local library. In my case, my lifelong love of good books has translated very well into e-books; I actually read probably twenty times more e-books than I do regular paperbacks or hardcovers these days. Never before has more knowledge been available for a lower cost than in the modern day.

With all of the accumulated wisdom of thousands of years' worth of human experience and understanding just a mouse-click away, is dropping 60K or more on a year's tuition and room and board really worthwhile if you're studying anything other than a hard science?

I will concede that there are certain disciplines where, if you want to progress, the only choice is university. If you love mathematics, or the sciences, or computer programming, then yes, university is (probably) for you- and you've got the added benefit of studying a subject which translates into actual, real-world skill and monetary reward. That route has certainly worked out very well for me personally; I studied Mathematics & Economics as an undergraduate and Mathematical Finance as a postgraduate, and on the whole things worked out all right. (Unfortunately, I've had to spend the last 10 years unlearning everything I learned about economics, but oh well, c'est la vie.)

If, however, your aim is to study history, or economics, or (God help you) English literature, and then... find a job of some sort, well, I've got bad news for you: that sort of wishy-washy thinking is a luxury that neither you nor the rest of society can afford any longer. Most of what you will be taught will be wrong anyway, so why bother?

One of the hardest things I've ever had to learn is that there is no classroom substitute for hard-earned, real-world experience. There is no faster way to learn how inadequate your education has really been other than getting out there and trying to make something of yourself. If you try to delay that time of reckoning by instead wasting four years- or five, or six- in university, then all you're doing is depriving yourself of the kind of hard-earned common sense that could save you from years or even decades of pain and suffering later in life. University will not teach you anything these days except for an inflated sense of self-importance.

If you are in high school right now (unlikely if you're reading this blog) and you're thinking of going to university, think hard about the alternatives. Go to a trade school and pick up real work experience. Start your own business doing what you want. Learn how to write computer code. Hone your writing skills as a blogger. Read as much as you possibly can. But whatever you do, for heaven's sake, don't delude yourself into thinking that you "deserve" to go to university. You don't, because your motives for going there are wrong.

If you're already in university, think very hard about your choices afterwards. The (mis)education that you receive will potentially blind you to the alternatives available to you in life. If you live and study in New York, for instance, you would be forgiven for thinking that the ONLY possible careers are in finance and banking. This is simply not true; in fact most of the kids who graduate and go into finance quickly realise how much they hate it and end up leaving after a few years, from my experience.

The bottom line is that university is an investment. It is not a right. You should go to university for the right reasons- and make no mistake, most of the "reasons" that young people have for going to most universities these days are simply wrong. Think about the alternatives first, so that you don't find yourself ten years down the line drowning in debt that you cannot default upon, with a piece of paper that is worth less than the value of the ink on it.