Thursday Night Bar Fight #14: For I am your Tod, and you shall have no other Tods before me

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Tod Kelly

Tod is a writer from the Pacific Northwest. He is also serves as Executive Producer and host of both the 7 Deadly Sins Show at Portland's historic Mission Theatre and 7DS: Pants On Fire! at the White Eagle Hotel & Saloon. He is  a regular inactive for Marie Claire International and the Daily Beast, and is currently writing a book on the sudden rise of exorcisms in the United States. Follow him on Twitter.

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114 Responses

  1. Avatar Patrick says:

    Be excellent to each other.Report

  2. Avatar Jochen Mevius says:

    pretty warlike, eh?

    – Obey the voice from the wormhole, for now
    – Calm down
    – Avoid pain for others as for yourself
    – He who cares for others is a warrior
    – Make merry

    And in case they don’t listen, and still survive

    – Do not travel among the starsReport

  3. Slavery is evil.

    Never choose war.

    Women are equal to men in My eyes.

    Wash yourselves daily.

    Teach everyone you can to read.

    Buy and sell honestly; harm no honest traders.

    Honor strangers.Report

  4. Avatar J@m3z Aitch says:

    Objects cannot pass through the wormhole, but it is possible to observe and send messages to the other side
    Wait, doesn’t this require wave-particle duality, and isn’t that a disputed concept? Are we allowed to fight about physics ideas in this bar?

    the only interesting thing that has happened in Umatilla, ever.
    Hey, I was there once.

    Ok, my commandment:
    “Respect all others’ life, liberty and property.”Report

  5. Avatar Damon says:

    Dance naked for my amusement!

    Umatilla? Ugh….:)Report

  6. Avatar BlaiseP says:

    Since the hypothesis says we understand their culture well enough to determine they are literate enough to compose messages, as a linguist, the first thing I’d do is retrieve as much of what they’ve written down as societal guides as possible. Before I would send any advice back, I would couch it in their own terms. That’s what linguists and missionaries do, you know. They know better than to send in messages without context.

    But I would send this, if I knew they valued the virtues of warriors.

    Let your goal be victory, not lengthy campaigns.

    The army’s leader determines the people’s fate.

    He determines a life of peace or peril.

    Capture is better than destruction.

    Profitable victory wins without fighting.

    This they would understand. It is, as clever readers will already know, a reduction of Sun Tzu’s Art of War. From there, I could teach them other things, the wars of commerce and trade, the values of tolerating many opinions, the elegant struggles of science against ignorance, that sort of thing.

    Never play God. God doesn’t play at being God. People will only advance when they see advantages to such advancement.Report

    • Avatar Vikram Bath in reply to BlaiseP says:

      I really like Jason’s answers above, but here are mine, anyway:
      ———–
      1. Test ideas to see if they are right.

      2. Truth is that which reality obeys.

      3. Learn about your world.

      4. Some diseases are germs too small to see.

      5. Always seek to avoid war.

      6. Treat strangers as your sisters and brothers.

      7. Trade freely and honestly with all others.

      8. Do not interfere with any honest trader.

      9. Wash after you poop.

      10. Value all life as treasure.Report

  7. Avatar zic says:

    As I said above, I like Jason’s list.

    But I would add:

    Honor artists.Report

  8. Avatar Mike Schilling says:

    People are ends, not means.

    Value learning and knowledge for their own sakes.

    Stuff is not the meaning of life.

    Doubt is a virtue. Employ it wisely.

    These are my commandments; do not invent more.Report

    • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Mike Schilling says:

      People are ends, not means.

      Off topic, but I find that there are few ethical rules more at odds with biological nature than this one. Ultimately, everything, including everyone, is a means to our own ends, and we use people that way even when we believe we are valuing them for themselves. I suspect we at least implicitly realize how socially fragmenting a true recognition and acceptance of that would, or at least could, be, so this rule provides a good myth to help us moderate and manage that dangerous potential.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to J@m3z Aitch says:

        It works a little better if we formulate it in a more Kantian way: people are not only means, they are also means, and therefore should be treated as such. This is both an excellent ground for the ethical treatment of people, and not obviously counter to our basic biology (particularly when you factor in cooperation, reciprocity, and other pretty basic pieces of our “nature.”Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to J@m3z Aitch says:

        Ugh, they are also ends. I need more coffee.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to J@m3z Aitch says:

        Chris,

        I get where you’re going, and I think it makes it easier for us to use as a sort of guiding myth. But cooperation and reciprocity really are–at least to a very large extent–self-regarding. We most often don’t reciprocate to those who don’t reciprocate in kind. Cooperation means I am getting something I otherwise wouldn’t–when you and I cooperate, it is a means to my end. It’s not that I begrudge your gains from that cooperation, and I may even be happy for you, but that’s secondary.

        To the extent that our biological nature does give us an innate inclination to see some–I would argue very limited–set of people as also ends, I suspect that’s a function of the social fragmenting problem of seeing people solely as means. To speak very very loosely, a small society whose members do not have the “see others also as ends” inclination would likely to lack the individually rewarding benefits of sociality, leading to lower rates of successful reproduction of that group’s members, and vice-versa for those societies whose groups do have that inclination.

        That, of course, is the contemporary group selection approach (which, contra the old debunked group selection approach, is based on the concept of inclusive fitness). But even then, at its biological basis, it’s about enhancing the individual’s probability of successful reproduction, so by its very nature it is using others in the group as a means to the individual’s end–even if that’s all completely outside the consciousness and intent of any individual.

        And of course nature and nurture are not wholly separate. By virtue of that tendency existing, it is possible to nurture its expression culturally, although within some limits. And I’m not critiquing the goal/effort of doing so.

        As a side note, this is the fundamental reason I dislike Ayn Rand. Her characters are literally not human because they wholly lack this tendency, and her philosophy of objectivism is not made for humans (maybe for sociopaths) because it denounces this inclination. The most significant moment demonstrating this is when Reardon gives Dagny Taggart the necklace of Reardon metal and emphasizes that he does so only for his own enjoyment of seeing how good it looks on her (or how good she looks wearing it, or something such), and absolutely cares not one whit whether she gets any enjoyment out of the necklace or not. Reardon sees her solely, completely, as a means to his own ends and disavows even the faintest interest in the ends of this person who, if not actually his love, is the closest he comes to love for another person, and in doing so Reardon is revealed as inhuman, not in the pejorative sense, but in the sense of literally not being a member of the species homo sapiens sapiens.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to J@m3z Aitch says:

        If we’re going down the Kant Road, might as well introduce Perpetual Peace as a backgrounder.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to J@m3z Aitch says:

        I don’t think it matters, in the Kantian formulation, if our actions in cooperation and reciprocity are self-serving, or even if there is no such thing as altruism (which is unlikely). It requires understanding — that is, we can’t just be automatons — but understanding is part of why the ends, not merely means, formulation is necessary.Report

  9. Avatar BlaiseP says:

    This wormhole needs a platitude filter.Report

  10. Kill only to defend yourself or your family.

    Take only what you have honestly earned.

    Pay your workers what they have honestly earned.

    Have sex only when it is freely chosen.

    Try to understand the world.

    Always be kind if you can.

    Never cause unnecessary pain.

    Treat everyone as you would be treated.

    Beauty is a blessing. Create more of it.Report

  11. Avatar J@m3z Aitch says:

    Do not listen to mysterious voices from the sky.Report

  12. Avatar LeeEsq says:

    1. You shall not treat people as things.

    2. You shall not treat things as gods.

    3. You shall strive not to be violent.

    4. You shall not murder, rape, and steal.

    5. You shall love your parents, spouses, and children.

    6. You shall educate your children.

    7. You shall strive to elminate poverty.

    8. You shall find joy in life.Report

    • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to LeeEsq says:

      Can I add, you shall not treat gods as gods, or is that going to get me, umm, crucified? (Sorry!)Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to J@m3z Aitch says:

        Erm — no? What sort of god would appreciate his creatures prostrating themselves, buns-up kneeling before some ill-made statue of himself? Men, not gods, wish to be worshipped. And it is men, not gods, who create these idiot religions, to put fear into the hearts of men and money into their own pockets.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to J@m3z Aitch says:

        What sort of god would appreciate his creatures prostrating themselves, buns-up kneeling before some ill-made statue of himself?

        I’m pretty sure we know what sort. Fortunately its rational self-interest in good publicity could be appealed to by a wiser being.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to J@m3z Aitch says:

        You’re the political scientist. This planet is much like ours, except it suffers from perpetual war and no laws. The one follows from the other: laws can only work when they’re enforced. Religions emerged as a first draft of how man ought to behave. Granted, religion bears about as much relationship to political theory as Astrology does to Astronomy but religions’ absolutes about Thou Shalt Not have given rise to much, if not all, of what follows.

        Most of what I see in these well-meaning lists doesn’t address the issue at hand. Wars happen because they can’t be prevented. What might prevent wars? Laws, of course. Nations exist in a fundamentally anarchic relationship to each other for each nation enforces its own laws and they all differ from each other, as religions differ from each other.

        We have only traded one set of unworkable absolutes for another. The nation-state has replaced religion but has not given us any more peace, precisely because here on this planet, it has not given us common purpose.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to J@m3z Aitch says:

        I was trying to work in an anti-idolartry commandment. Treating things as gods is the defintion of idolatry.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to J@m3z Aitch says:

        Treating gods as things is most of the problem. Religions, like states, are the creation of men. Look at us, poor miserable, stupid saps, treating our constitutions like Holy Writ, everyone looking at the same document and none of us can reach the same conclusions. A handful of High Priests is tasked with interpreting these hoary old documents, cabals of politicians are constantly attempting to harness their mandate to their own selfish ends — and war is still with us.

        Mankind gets the governments he deserves, as surely as he created gods in his own image.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to J@m3z Aitch says:

        Religions emerged as a first draft of how man ought to behave.

        And upon the rise of agriculture and food surpluses were quickly drafted into the service of defending those who’d taken it upon themselves to control the distribution of those food surpluses. I’m a Marxist, believe it or not.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to J@m3z Aitch says:

        Heh. Marx said he wasn’t a Marxist. Thing is, you have actually read Karl Marx. If only some of these self-described Marxists would read him, they wouldn’t be jumping to conclusions, for Marx never did. He attempted to describe what he saw.

        Egypt’s religions did a fine job of controlling and redistributing food and other resources. I’m given to understand there were periodic purges, attenuating corruption, It was a uniquely efficient structure, the government administrators acting as a check on the religious cabals, with the Pharaoh as a god incarnate. The levels of corruption varied with the effectiveness of the government, it certainly wasn’t perfect. And there were lots of wars of conquest and occupation, most of them useless and ineffective. Also costly.

        I do believe you’re a Marxist, James. I’m one, too, though it’s rather like my relationship with Christianity. I choose to read Marx — and the Bible — for myself, interpreting it all in what little light I’ve been given.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to J@m3z Aitch says:

        What most Marxists, as well as most anti-Marxists, don’t really grasp is that Marx was a classical economist–he intentionally did an internal critique of economics rather than attacking it from outside (as has been pointed out by folks smarter than me, he wrote one of the greatest tributes to capitalism). While he made a few crucial errors that cause his conclusions to be rather bungled, his perception of states of affairs was often quite sharp.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to J@m3z Aitch says:

        And Marx was quite willing to be wrong, to be corrected, to enter new facts into evidence. He was a first-rate capitalist. I swear, if some clever prankster were to effectively plagiarise Marx, every Capitalist Roader would praise it to the skies.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to J@m3z Aitch says:

        I’m a monotheist, so I should have put in “There is one God.”Report

  13. Avatar roger says:

    The Eight Divine Proclamations:
    1) Life is constant problem solving
    2) Learn to enjoy solving problems without creating worse
    3) Take care of yourself, your family and community
    4) Do not harm others to help the above
    5) Cooperate with your fellow man to solve problems
    6) Compete constructively with each other to cooperate better
    7) The details are yours to discover or create
    8) Flourish!Report

  14. Avatar Glyph says:

    People, people. Pop culture has taught us all we need to know here.

    1.) The Prime Directive dictates that there can be no interference with the internal development of alien civilizations (see #5)
    2.) Relax, Don’t Do It
    3.) 42
    4.) Never Eat Yellow Snow
    5.) Strange monkeys, speaking through interdimensional wormholes, distributing rules, is no basis for a system of government (see #1).

    I think they’ll be all right.Report

  15. Avatar Stillwater says:

    Before it does, we will send them a list of laws – commandments, if you will – on which to build a fledgling civilization.

    Will I have the power to enforce these laws with punishments of various kinds – instant karma? deferred karma? locusts? hell? I ask, because if I have no recourse to punishment then I’d just as soon make this my one and only commandment: don’t use religion to justify any laws or social norms!Report

  16. Avatar Jaybird says:

    Obligatory:

    Let nobody know how much money you’re carrying
    Never let them know your next move
    Never trust anybody
    Never get high on your own supply
    Never sell where you sleep
    Never give credit
    Don’t mix family and business
    Always Be Strapped
    Stay away from the cops
    Avoid selling on consignment unless circumstances are perfectReport

  17. Avatar Kazzy says:

    Heh… my students and I just finished our rule making process. The results:

    1.) Take care of bodies.
    2.) Take care of feelings.
    3.) Take care of materials.
    4.) Listen to the teacher.
    5.) Work hard, have fun, and learn.

    I’d probably go with 1-3 and 5.Report

  18. Avatar Chris says:

    You are alive and wonderful.

    Life is people.

    Love life at all times.

    Things other than people are only important to the extent that they help you to love life, or put differently, never elevate stuff over people.

    Violence is the opposite of love.Report

  19. Avatar Kyle Cupp says:

    Love.
    Love well.
    Love and do as you will.
    Will the good for others.
    Don’t cancel Firefly.Report

  20. Avatar KatherineMW says:

    …I don’t know that humans are qualified for this. I’m opting out.Report

  21. Avatar Pinky says:

    I like a lot of the choices here. Considering the state of the hominids, I would go with at least these three commandments:

    Treat others fairly (or some other 8-or-fewer-words paraphrasing of the Golden Rule).
    Follow fair leaders.
    Obey fair laws.

    Considering how potentially un-libertarian the last two are, I’m hoping that I’ll get some kind of reaction from you guys.Report

  22. Avatar Jaybird says:

    So I imagine that the goal is to get these people to be the dominant species on the planet and their culture the dominant one for Roman levels of dominance?

    Let’s go with eight of the oldies but goodies:

    Don’t shit where you eat
    Diversify your workers: soldiers, farmers, merchants, smiths, etc.
    Create and keep a common culture and language
    Trade is always to be preferred to war
    Sometimes you need a war to open trade
    Allow locals to keep trivial local customs, gods
    Replace ideas that work poorly with new ideas
    Expand, expand, expand, expand, expand, expand, expand, expand.Report

  23. Avatar Shazbot3 says:

    1. Most of your leaders should be women.

    2. It is good to disagree about ideas.

    3. There is no free will, so be forgiving.

    4. Only use violence to lessen overall violence.

    5. Avoid violence as much as possible.

    6. Race, gender and sexual-orientation don’t matter morally.

    7. It is irrational to believe in supernatural things.

    8. Economic laws should protect the worst off.

    9. Inherited wealth and position is not deserved.

    10. All conscious creatures deserve to be treated well.Report

    • Avatar Pinky in reply to Shazbot3 says:

      I hate to go for the obvious one, but if there is no free will, what’s the point of telling someone to be forgiving?Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Pinky says:

        Perhaps your telling them to be forgiving is a cause (perhaps the first) in a causal chain that leads them to be forgiving with a greater probability than if you hadn’t told them to be forgiving.Report

      • Avatar Pinky in reply to Pinky says:

        Why would you want to do that? If there’s no free will, there’s no reason to pick sides between slaughter and non-slaughter. Your humanitarian or hominidian instinct has no more moral authority than an undigested bit of beef. I guess you could say you’re compelled to act on it, but then I’d have to ask why I should bother to read it, if it carries no more information than a seizure.Report

      • Avatar Shazbot3 in reply to Pinky says:

        You are grossly oversimplifying things.

        What is left of morality when we admit (or believe, whatever) that there is no free will is a tricky question. And it depends on what you mean by “free will” and whether you are a compatibilist or libertarian (not of the political sort, but the metaphysical sort).

        Sam Harris is a popular intellectual with a book on this, and it is an important question in hardcore-academic philosophy. Let’s not pretend to hash it out here.

        Let me revise my commandment to avoid all these worries about free will (though I’ll have to go way over 8 words)

        3. People almost always act as they are determined to act by their upbringing, environment, and inborn dispositions, so be forgiving because people (almost always) can’t do better than they are doing, because they are just doing what they were determined to doby forces acting on them and on them that aren’t in their control.Report

      • Avatar Pinky in reply to Pinky says:

        I get that the eight-word limit requires simplification. I do think that telling a violent, primative civilization that no one can control themselves is going to lead to a world of hurt.Report

  24. Avatar DavidTC says:

    1. Help others as much as possible.
    2. Don’t hurt others or use them as slaves.
    3. If leaders tell you to hurt others, disobey.
    4. Mingle often with other tribes and races.
    5. Don’t assume anyone’s situation is their fault.
    6. Don’t allow families to keep inheriting money.
    7. Don’t waste the planet’s resources.
    8. Neither mate has control over the other mate’s body.

    (Let’s see, that’s all the moral ones, let’s help them a little in other ways.)
    9. When sick, wash hands and cover mouth.
    10. See something, think of the explanation, test that.

    Incidentally, WRT to #8, I see a lot of people trying to make rules about LGBT and stuff, and have apparently missed the fact that a lot of homophobia is stuff to do with gender roles, and gender roles is stuff to do with men owning women, and frankly if we just nip _that_ in the bud they’ll be at a lot less stupid place later.

    Likewise, a lot of violence is due to Othering, and if we can actually make a world where ‘Hang out with other societies’ is a rule, we’ll have stopped a lot of that.

    The point isn’t to make rules aimed at _fixing_ our problems. Primitive societies don’t _have_ our problems…they have stupid patterns of behavior that, thousands of years later, became our problems.Report

  25. Avatar Burt Likko says:

    Do as you please, save harm none else.

    What others have harms you not.

    Own your possessions, lest they own you.

    People are never possessions.

    Happiness is why you are alive.

    Do not fear death, nor fear this voice.

    See the world for what it is.Report

  26. Avatar Alan Scott says:

    Imma call BS on the 8 word limit. Of the actual 10 commandments, only 3-5 clock in at under 8 words (“Thou Shalt have no other Gods before me” and “Thou Shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife” are sometimes commandments on their own or sometimes combined with other passages, breaking the 8 word limit). Of course, the short ones are some of the best.

    There are some cool suggestions on here. My first thought was “Thou shalt wash thy hands”.

    Here’s a set of commandments that sets up a simple democracy. My hope is that it will also combat sexism and racism:

    1) Five shall lead the village
    2) One shall be woman, chosen by all women
    3) One shall be man, chosen by all men
    4) One shall be man, chosen by all women
    5) One shall be woman, chosen by all men
    6) One shall be a stranger from another tribeReport

  27. Avatar Shazbot3 says:

    My amended rules for a more caveman society:

    1. No groin kicking. Except Dave.

    2. He or she who smelt it, dealt it.

    3. No poop eating. This means you.

    4. Rapists must be burned alive.

    5. Use your words.

    6. It is better to die than kill.

    7. The no poop eating is serious.

    8. One day aliens will attack. Be ready.

    9. The best defense is to be united.

    10. There is a God and He hates you.

    All in all, that list is better than Moses’s list.Report

  28. Avatar Pinky says:

    OK, how about a different take, based on the four cardinal virtues:
    1) Think well before you act.
    2) All your actions should be fair.
    3) Don’t lose yourself in fear of pain.
    4) Don’t lose yourself in pursuit of pleasure.Report

  29. Avatar Tod Kelly says:

    I have to say, I’m a little surprised that none of our religious commenters just paraphrased the original 10 Commandments. I wonder what it says about us as a species when all of us, even the most devout, are pretty sure we can do God one better.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Tod Kelly says:

      They show up. They’re reworded… but they’re here.

      I want to say that all of them have been pretty much covered, though not all in the same list.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Jaybird says:

        Yeah, there’s no doubt they do all show up – here and there. But it’s still interesting to me that no one said, “Hey, the Big Guy said these were the important ones, so we should probably stick to them.” Everyone tweaked, subtracted and added at least a little.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

        You know what? I was wrong. Nobody included a “keep the Sabbath holy”.

        Nobody’s got a day off.

        The other nine are here, though.

        I did notice that the overwhelming tendency was to deal with the implicit issue of “what will this society look like in 4000 years?” rather than “how can I make sure that these people survive for 100?”Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Jaybird says:

        Yeah, which is why Jason’s early-on commandment about hygiene stood out as particularly brilliant to me.Report

      • Avatar Pinky in reply to Jaybird says:

        I was thinking about this. I had two problems – neither of which I thought would be very interesting to write about, but here goes anyway.

        First – do we know if these beings have souls? They’re described as like us, but more war-like and without laws. We’ve been pretty war-like – what are these guys like? With regard to laws, they stem from the human sense of morality and need to organize, I’d guess. What is a human without morality or mental order? I wouldn’t even know how to approach the idea of God in addressing creatures like that.

        That occurred to me when I was thinking about the Sabbath for their law. The day of rest is such an important thing for the human psyche. But was I simply projecting to include it for them?

        Then that gave me my second problem. What if God shows up? If I’ve told them to set aside a day for God, and then they encounter God, have I given them rules that would be hard for them to reconcile with divine teachings? Extrapolating on that point, do I have the right to give them a religion at all? Sure, the Sabbath serves a human purpose, but its true object is God. About half the commandments deal with our relationship with God, and if I don’t even know if they have souls, how can I tell them how they should relate to God?

        I did include one of the commandments indirectly. The duty to honor your father and mother can be extended to the whole notion of obedience. That was the basis for my commandments to obey just authority and just laws. Beyond that, though, I didn’t specifically address the commandments. Now, when Jesus was asked to explain the law, he said to love God, and love your neighbor as yourself. I think we all included something about loving your neighbor.Report

    • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Tod Kelly says:

      The hypothetical is exact: they’re like us except that they’re constantly at war and have no laws.

      The Ten Commandments, the Sermon on the Mount, the Diamond Sutra, the Egyptian Book of the Dead — they emerge from specific cultures. How would those be translated into other cultures? Missionaries face this problem all the time. Translating the Bible, how do you translate terms like “grace” and “repentance” into some Bronze Age culture’s language? What if they don’t have the concept of “sin”? Many cultures don’t. They categorise it as a sort of selfish insanity, which isn’t far from the mark, philosophically / ethically.

      No, I wouldn’t send these Warlike People the Ten Commandments. “Thou shalt have no other gods before me” might sound like I’m God and I’m not. Nor do I think converting ’em is wise, either. It would only infect them with our excuses for warmaking, many of which, most, come to think about it, are religious in nature.Report

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