I was thinking about the news one recent day, and I started to wonder why so many dictatorships spend so much time, money, and energy suppressing their populations. I thought something like “if I had any urge to be a tyrant, I’d prefer to be the absolute ruler of a rich nation than a poor one, as there would be many more resources and fun things for me to own and do than otherwise.”

As I continued mulling on this concept, I realized that if the citizens subjects were convinced that they were actually free, then they wouldn’t even be a threat to my rule, not realizing that they were being oppressed. In fact, only really stupid dictators wouldn’t see this; the ones who saw the world from a zero-sum perspective.

It struck me immediately that if I could think of this, then many smarter and more ambitious people had to have already not only thought of this, but implemented it, and I should be able to look around the world and see evidence of this in existing countries.

Suddenly, and sadly, the history of U.S. foreign and domestic policy since the end of the second world war made a lot more sense.

Believe me, I know how paranoid this sounds, I don’t claim it’s objectively true, and I don’t plan to haul this theory out at get-togethers for the rest of my life. I just wanted to type it out to get it out of the cabinet of curiosities that is my subconscious mind.

Old nerd

Back in the 1970s, when I was a teen-aged nerd, being a nerd was horrible. People made fun of you, you couldn’t talk to girls, you probably had bad clothes and bad glasses.

Being a nerd when you’re in your 50s is entirely different. You’re probably being paid for many of the qualities that made you a nerd in the first place.

There’s no need to (attempt to) hide your nerd status, since everyone around you already knows you’re a nerd and accepts you for that. Besides, there’s a lot more social acceptance for nerds and you are also probably hanging around with–or are married to–other nerds.

You may also find that you just don’t care as much what people think of you!

I guess that I’m a centrist now

My friends in party X assume that I’ll agree with them that the adherents of party Y are credulous buffoons because they follow the—presumably evil—leadership of party Y. It would be easier for me to do so if I’d not seen that party X’s membership is just as credulous. Years ago, I’d never have thought of myself as a centrist, but it seems to me that most people are far from either party’s extreme position, and mostly want to be left alone. At any rate, I remain unimpressed with either party’s fanaticism.