Hatred, Lust, Ambition, Covetousnesse, Causes Of Crime

As for the Passions, of Hate, Lust, Ambition, and Covetousnesse, what Crimes they are apt to produce, is so obvious to every mans experience and understanding, as there needeth nothing to be said of them, saving that they are infirmities, so annexed to the nature, both of man, and all other living creatures, as that their effects cannot be hindred, but by extraordinary use of Reason, or a constant severity in punishing them.

For in those things men hate, they find a continuall, and unavoydable molestation; whereby either a mans patience must be everlasting, or he must be eased by removing the power of that which molesteth him; The former is difficult; the later is many times impossible, without some violation of the Law. Ambition, and Covetousnesse are Passions also that are perpetually incumbent, and pressing; whereas Reason is not perpetually present, to resist them: and therefore whensoever the hope of impunity appears, their effects proceed. And for Lust, what it wants in the lasting, it hath in the vehemence, which sufficeth to weigh down the apprehension of all easie, or uncertain punishments.

Of all Passions, that which enclineth men least to break the Lawes, is Fear. Nay, (excepting some generous natures,) it is the onely thing, (when there is apparence of profit, or pleasure by breaking the Lawes,) that makes men keep them. And yet in many cases a Crime may be committed through Feare.

For not every Fear justifies the Action it produceth, but the fear onely of corporeall hurt, which we call Bodily Fear, and from which a man cannot see how to be delivered, but by the action. A man is assaulted, fears present death, from which he sees not how to escape, but by wounding him that assaulteth him; If he wound him to death, this is no Crime; because no man is supposed at the making of a Common-wealth, to have abandoned the defence of his life, or limbes, where the Law cannot arrive time enough to his assistance. But to kill a man, because from his actions, or his threatnings, I may argue he will kill me when he can, (seeing I have time, and means to demand protection, from the Soveraign Power,) is a Crime.

Again, a man receives words of disgrace, or some little injuries (for which they that made the Lawes, had assigned no punishment, nor thought it worthy of a man that hath the use of Reason, to take notice of,) and is afraid, unlesse he revenge it, he shall fall into contempt, and consequently be obnoxious to the like injuries from others; and to avoyd this, breaks the Law, and protects himselfe for the future, by the terrour of his private revenge. This is a Crime; For the hurt is not Corporeall, but Phantasticall, and (though in this corner of the world, made sensible by a custome not many years since begun, amongst young and vain men,) so light, as a gallant man, and one that is assured of his own courage, cannot take notice of.

Also a man may stand in fear of Spirits, either through his own superstition, or through too much credit given to other men, that tell him of strange Dreams and visions; and thereby be made believe they will hurt him, for doing, or omitting divers things, which neverthelesse, to do, or omit, is contrary to the Lawes; And that which is so done, or omitted, is not to be Excused by this fear; but is a Crime. For (as I have shewn before in the second Chapter) Dreams be naturally but the fancies remaining in sleep, after the impressions our Senses had formerly received waking; and when men are by any accident unassured they have slept, seem to be reall Visions; and therefore he that presumes to break the Law upon his own, or anothers Dream, or pretended Vision, or upon other Fancy of the power of Invisible Spirits, than is permitted by the Common-wealth, leaveth the Law of Nature, which is a certain offence, and followeth the imagery of his own, or another private mans brain, which he can never know whether it signifieth any thing, or nothing, nor whether he that tells his Dream, say true, or lye; which if every private man should have leave to do, (as they must by the Law of Nature, if any one have it) there could no Law be made to hold, and so all Common-wealth would be dissolved.

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Of Anger in Rhetoric

The common opinions concerning anger are therefore such as follow. They are easily angry, that think they are neglected. That think they excel others; as the rich with the poor; the noble with the obscure,&c. And such as think they deserve well. And such as grieve to be.. hindered, opposed, or not assisted; and therefore sick men, poor men, lovers, and generally all that desire and attain not, are angry with those that, standing by, are not moved by their wants. And such as having expected good, find evil.

Those that men are angry with, are: such as mock, deride, or jest at them.
And such as shew any kind of contumely towards them.
And such as despise those things which we spend most labour and study upon; and the more, by how much we seem the less advanced therein.
And our friends, rather than those that are not our friends.
And such as have honoured us, if they continue not.
And such as requite not our courtesy.
And such as follow contrary courses, if they be our inferiors.
And our friends, if they have said or done us evil, or not good.
And such as give not ear to our entreaty.
And such as are joyful or calm in our distress.
And such as troubling us, are not themselves troubled.
And such as willingly hear or see our disgraces.
And such as neglect us in the presence of our competitors, of those we admire, of those we would have admire us, of those we reverence, and of those that reverence us.
And such as should help us, and neglect it.
And such as are in jest, when we are in earnest.
And such as forget us, or our names.

An orator therefore must so frame his judge or auditor by his oration, as to make him apt to anger: and then make his adversary appear such as men use to be angry withal.

– Thomas Hobbes:  The Art of Rhetoric

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Twit twit To-where?

A company takeover rarely hits the front page, but for Twitter, the biggest celebrity social media site and Elon Musk, the biggest celebrity tech entrepreneur, it fills volumes. (Wondering why does little good in the fervent political atmosphere, but that stifling atmosphere has something to do with it.)

Tesla and SpaceX are utterly brilliant: we have to ask then whether Twitter can become as brilliant too.

The gossip has concentrated on how freely one may speak on the platform. It is a private company and can make its own rules.  I know that if I ran a social media platform I would be worried about what people were saying on my site, effectively (to my mind) in my name. I would want it to be respectable, and to ban way-out material like Holocaust-denial, race-hatred, loony conspiracy theories and socialism.

My forum, I think, would not last long, turning away so much custom

The value of Twitter, financially, is in the volume and variety of commentary and bile spewed out on it, which produces data which can be sold. In the old days, a company with a product to sell might hire a marketing consultant to go round knocking on a hundred doors: now fora like Twitter have the unfiltered brainspills of millions of customers available to analyse. In a decade or so, marketing departments might learn how to read the data properly. Bans and threats of bans will skew the data. Liberating speech is a most noble motive: it should also be a profitable one.

The new owner might just leave Twitter ticking along with a few adjustments to its policies, and commentaries have made that assumption, with perhaps too a few tweaks like adding an an ‘edit’ button. It works as a business model at the moment. That is thinking very small though, and Twitter is shrinking so business-as-usual means decline.

At the moment it works on the surface with simplicity. You might think that no revenue stream goes untapped, but it looks flat, suggesting that there is more that could be done to expand the Twitworld in more dimensions and bring in more facets than ever before. I would not know where to start, but I am not Elon. It is only a petty sideshow for him, but if he shows that vision for which he is famed, his new sideshow may become something so good that even I might be interested in it.

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Closing the web – 2

The Online Safety Bill causes more despair as I plough through it. The thing is, I actually want to see a workable law against online harms; but this is not it. It means well and it tries, but whoever wrote it was not up to the task.

I wrote before that the Bill is badly written tortuous, self-contradictory, tautologous and recursive. If this were resolved, it might become legible and so be considered properly. (This could be done by handing it to a half-decent commercial lawyer: they produce water-tight documents that are more complicated in concept every day.)

It cannot even agree with itself on what that key concept, “harm” means: at one point it is “psychological harm amounting to at least serious distress” (Clause 150, about a new offence of “Harmful communications”) and at another it is “physical or psychological harm”, followed by a tangle of subjective provisos (Clause 187).

Part 3 and 4 contain duties of care, which are not actually too bad – impossible day to day for anyone but a major company, but that is whom it is aimed at, and it cuts two ways – protecting vulnerable users, but also protecting free, democratic engagement, and user empowerment. That will be interesting.

The proposed offence of “harmful communication” in Clause 150 should be struck out at once.  Nadine Dorries has expressed repeatedly her opposition to the cancel culture and wokeist attacks on free speech, but she is now giving them a perfect weapon. It will make a criminal of anyone who says online anything another person seriously does not want to hear: if a man has built his whole outlook on life through the filter of socialist preconceptions, showing him the folly of those ideas will destroy him, so that will be a crime. Those who built their lives on more personal fantasies, quite fashionable these days, are never reticent about how “harmful” it is to be challenged or doubted.

An important principal is contravened by this Clause:  no criminal offence should have indeterminable boundaries based on criteria entirely subjective to the whim of a magistrate or civil servant. No one can then know if he or she is a criminal.

I have more sympathy with the “fake news” offence in Clause 151. It will make  crime of many party political materials, but perhaps that is for the best.

The real problems, for all the positives, come from the incoherence and incomprehensibility of the Bill, and how open it is to abuse in the detail of the delegated powers.  A real, probable risk is that service providers faced with the illegible duties will ban and bar as a default in order not to be caught. Crippling fines for allowing “harm”, where there is no fine for banning the innocuous, must lead to a supercharging of online cancel culture.

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Deposing our heroes

It is a celebration, but Palm Sunday may be the most uncomfortable date in the Church calendar for what it tells us about ourselves, and that we do need telling.

It is an odd Sunday in the Church of England, with the vicar getting us all to wave branches – few palm-leaves in our leafy shires but anything from the garden will do – as an imitation of the adulation shown to Jesus as he rode humbly and as a king down to Jerusalem. The hymns, uplifting and triumphant (and if I stay silent in my pew it is not for any disapproval of the  soaring hymns but that they insist on demanding a vocal range far outside what I can manage).

The triumphal procession down the Mount of Olives touches on many  and various ideas, each mind bringing its own ideas into what must have been a clamorous event.  Hobbes even used it as an illustration of sovereign authority:

the Kings word, is sufficient to take any thing from any subject, when there is need; and that the King is Judge of that need: For he himselfe, as King of the Jewes, commanded his Disciples to take the Asse, and Asses Colt to carry him into Jerusalem, saying, (Mat. 21. 2,3) “Go into the Village over against you, and you shall find a shee Asse tyed, and her Colt with her, unty them, and bring them to me. And if any man ask you, what you mean by it, Say the Lord hath need of them: And they will let them go.” They will not ask whether his necessity be a sufficient title; nor whether he be judge of that necessity; but acquiesce in the will of the Lord.

We can wave a branch from the garden in pale imitation of the excitement of that day, but what does it says of us that we should imitate those who cried ‘Hosanna’, knowing that the words turned within a week to ‘Crucify!’; and there is no separating the two, so the readings begin in triumph and end in torment. It would be comforting to believe the voices that said each were different, but looking about us and within us, we know they were not.

Anything about us and even the great affairs of state, the wars, the weeping, the justice and the peace, are petty compared with those days. They reflect us all the same. We are ready to raise up heroes and repose in them our hopes and trust to do what we have not done for ourselves to transform the kingdom or the world – but no man or woman in that place can please all his supporters’ expectations, and in Congreve’s words “Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned”. Now for writers hailed as champions, or celebrities or politicians, being raised up is just the ready the beginning of a fall into being the subject of the worst execration from acolytes feeling betrayed.

If they could reject even the Son of God, who can stand? They did not crowd the hill slope to worship the revealed Christ but to press upon him their own expectations, each individual’s, as we seek to make God in our own image.

That he was saluted King when he entered into Jerusalem: That he fore-warned them to beware of all others that should pretend to be Christ: That he was taken, accused, and put to death, for saying, hee was King: That the cause of his condemnation written on the Crosse, was JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWES

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