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2023-05-24 07:00 by Karl Denninger
in Other Voices , 299 references Ignore this thread
The Dark Side of Principles
[Comments enabled]

Once again I cast off the lines, start the engines, motor on out, set a spread and.... here come the fish courtesy of Ishmael! -- Ed


Tickerguy and I both recently wrote about how important principles are.

Anyone who lives to an honor code is a potential ally.  Or a reasonable enemy, the kind you are almost sad to defeat.  Once one of you wins, you're back to dealing with the usual scum.  

Even if someone holds different values than you, their actions are predictable and consistent.  These are critical for community cohesion.  Not this claptrap some toxic gaslighter spewed, but being part of a well-functioning tribe.  

Everyone lives their principles because they are expressed as actions. Talk is cheap, words do not matter in this case.  Do not believe what somebody says, watch what he does.  

When we say someone is immoral, it means we do not agree with their honor code, they absolutely have one!  Two destructive principles are: telling others what they want to hear and doing anything to win (lying, murder, arson).  Conmen do the former, criminals do the latter.

Once you realize values are actions and actions are values, it takes the mystery out of why career criminals behave the way they do. Their actions become predictable.  It also stops the hand wringing surrounding rehabilitation versus punishment.  They will act against you the instant you become inconvenient.  When a criminal murders you, he is living to his “virtues”.  This in no way excuses what he does, and in a just society he should be executed for the protection of others.  

This partially explains why it is very hard to rehabilitate psychopaths.  They see nothing wrong with their values.

If you do not like your current principles and reactions, change them! It’s the first step to becoming a person of good character and confidence. Live values you are proud of.

The rest of this guest Ticker is about values that build up you, family, friends, tribe, and society.  There are many excellent virtues to incorporate into your personal honor code.  Not everyone views all of them equally, nor should they!  It only takes three or four to create an honor code.  

What are your current ones, and what do you wish they were? What do you have to change so you no longer ask the second question?

Every virtue on this list makes you an asset to those around you. No matter what our honor code is, we often fall short.  No one is perfect, and no one ever will be.  Perfection is not required, only best effort. 

Each one has a dark side when it’s applied in the wrong way, when virtue turns from something that helps into something that hinders.  This isn’t to discourage anyone from living these, or to imply that one is greater than another.  There is a very important reason, which I’ll explain at the end.  

The following list is not exhaustive.  Many of you are living principles not on this list.  Keep it up, we need more like you!

Honesty: There is such a thing as too much honesty.  When your wife asks if a dress makes her look fat, it is absolutely a trap.  There is no way to get out of that gracefully.  It doesn’t matter if she’s a supermodel, there’s something she doesn’t like about her body.  The best answer is, “I always think you look beautiful!”  It doesn’t violate honesty and scores brownie points.

Too much honesty makes you a jerk. Taken to its logical extreme, it produces some of the most soul crushing statements on the planet.  An example is, “No honey, your butt and back rolls make you look fat.  The dress is nice.”

Loyalty: The best example of when loyalty is bad is following a bad leader off a cliff.  No one is under obligation to follow anyone who does not act in good faith, or does not have others' best interests at heart.

Courage: Not every hill is worth dying on.  Some are Mount Everest and others are tiny garden anthills better stepped over.  Don’t waste this rare virtue on them.  Another example is rushing into a dangerous situation without thinking through the consequences when you have time.  This might be a physical situation, or running your mouth to the wrong people.  Choose your battles carefully.  There is another phase of clown wars coming soon and courage will get a workout.

Perseverance:   Perseverance gets it done.  It may involve putting in longer hours than you’d like, going above and beyond a job description, or exercising very hard to accomplish a fitness goal. Self-destruction is a danger with perseverance. Don’t neglect yourself.  True self-care is not self-indulgence. Getting sleep and managing burnout are self-care.  Eating a pint of ice cream is self-indulgence.  Recovery days during training season are not slacking, muscles build during rest.  Attending to your well-being is a vital part of having the energy to push through hard times.

Compassion: This virtue is in short supply after the past three years.  The Karens demonstrated a complete lack of it with their jackbooted approach to mandates, and the purebloods are exhausted. The world needs compassion now more than ever.  The dark side is enabling.  Compassion means helping others help themselves.  Enabling makes the doer feel good at the expense of destroying another.  It’s not compassionate to give someone drinking themselves to death their last bottle of booze.

Work ethic:  There’s enough lazy parasites in America right now.  What’s wrong with working hard?  What happens when you’re working for a cock sucking, dishonest boss?  They reap the benefits of your virtue at the expense of society.  You might also be violating some of your other principles.  Work hard for those who share your values, they deserve it.

Authenticity:  When I asked people what this one meant to them, the short answer was always “being themselves.”  The round-hole world always attempts to shave edges off the square pigs so they’ll fit in.  Those square pegs build companies and countries.  Authenticity is a rare and valuable trait.  There is significant danger when somebody who doesn’t have a solid sense of self adopts it. They express it by morphing into whatever another person wants them to be or constantly changing their social media bling to The Current Thing.  The most extreme cases are duped into the trans movement. They consider someone they can never be their “authentic self.”  The long-term consequences are chilling.

Humility:  There is enough arrogance in the world, being around people who are gracious, appreciative, and humble about their gifts is refreshing.  These gentle souls will always let others shine. If you are one of them, don’t be a doormat and hide your light under a bushel basket.  

Intellectual curiosity: Some people have to be the smartest person in the room. At some point, no one cares what they have to say.  Knowledge is only useful when those who hear it and apply it. Wearing out an audience with endless one upmanship means they tune out good information when they need it.

Self-awareness: Self-improvement is a lifelong task.  Whether it is learning a new skill, or improving some psychological aspect, self-awareness is vital to progress. The downside is too much introspection.  Don’t waste years navelgazing instead of acting.

Mutual respect in relationships: Respect is crucial in any relationship. Do not waste time on those who will never reciprocate and violate your values. 

Gratitude:  The world is so dank right now, we are surrounded by so much doom porn, it’s easy to forget there is still plenty of good too.  Taking a moment to acknowledge goodness and joy is vital for the soul. However, looking for the silver lining instead of seeing a situation for what it is mires grateful people in muck and prevents them from completing their goals.

Integrity: Integrity is adhering to a code of tribe building behavior. If you like your principles, and live them, you have integrity.  The danger is living values you don’t like and destroy the very thing you attempt to create.

Truth: I am the way and the truth and the life (Jesus Christ in John 14:6). Whether someone follows Jesus, or seeks the Truth in different ways they embark on a path whose end they will never reach. One danger is purity spiraling, or getting hung up on the goal instead of the journey.

Wisdom:  We never know what we don’t know.  The quest for wisdom is a journey, not a destination.

Peace: Blessed are the peacemakers (Jesus Christ in Matthew 5:9). A gross miss application is siding with the loudest person in the room just so the fighting stops.  When this happens, the innocent are trampled underfoot, the exact opposite of peace. 

Beauty:  Clown world is ugly.  Walmart, Target, chain restaurants, and the ultimate basic business: Starbucks.  Any town in America looks the same with its endless interchangeable beige buildings.  Injecting color, vibrancy, personality, and life into the landscape is a valiant goal.  The dark side of this is being superficial and surrounding yourself only with pretty people.  Beauty is skin deep, but ugly personalities go to the bone.

Why did I take the time to examine each principle?  Within the past year I deliberately chose three and began living them.  Almost instantly, life became a living hell because drifting along was no longer an option.  No more slacking off at the slightest difficulty.  No more running away from problems.  No more lying to anyone, most of all myself.

Why was I miserable?  What went wrong?  Had I chosen poorly?  Was I doing it wrong? In some cases yes, which inspired today’s missive.  But there was something else.

Tickerguy wrote..
I have often been told over the years -- long before I began writing a column here -- that if I'd just change my tone more people would listen.  Well, perhaps they would.  But perhaps I don't care; from my point of view presenting my view of an issue as I see it is far more-important than whether you like how or what was presented.

Tickerguy’s recent post reiterated the fact that people cajoled him for decades because he lives his principles.  “Change the way you say things, you’ll get more of an audience.” No, what they’re asking is for him to violate his honor code for their comfort.

Remember the living hell?  Much of it was from putting in hard work to change.  But almost instantly, other people expected me to violate principles for their benefit. I refused. That too was difficult the first few times it happened.  It took a psychological toll.  

Then those people left my life.  The coof wars left me with very small social circles, living principles shrunk them further.  I’m now in the process of rebuilding better relationships. 

Not every day is rainbows and sunshine.  

No matter how dark the day or when I questioned if it was worth it, there was always one bright spot.  It turned out to be a light at the end of the tunnel instead of a train: No more waking up in the middle of the night agonizing over honor code violations. Because when it was time to make a choice, I didn’t take the easy way out, but principled action.

Maybe you have already been through this process of winnowing down old friendships and making new ones.  Maybe you don’t like your principles and are ready to change them.  Those who walk the difficult path ahead of us inspire and help, and we in turn to those who follow.

Exploring the downsides of virtues is important because change is always hard and it’s easy to quit when pain begins.  Are you frustrated because clown world pushes back, or because you have found the dark sides of your principles?  Keep fighting clown world, it’s worth it.  May you meet honorable and virtuous people wherever you go.

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Spitcher2 113 posts, incept 2018-05-17
2023-05-24 08:21:49

Fidelity. To the your core directive and guiding principles. To an unwavering, savage and primal devotion to scientific methodology.
Invisiblesun 735 posts, incept 2020-04-08
2023-05-24 08:21:55

Poignant essay, beautifully written. Thank you.

I am one who has had to learn to soften my elbows. The improvement being not to insert my opinion less but to express my observations in a way that invites thought and not argument.

And yet I wonder if I am too loud or too timid. I was recently sitting in my Sunday School and the softball question was raised " Have you ever been an outcast?" It never crossed my mind or that of my wife's to say Yes! For a year this very church said we were not welcome unless we violated our conscience of what we knew to be true.

Maybe silence is the better part of valor. Maybe forgiveness means letting go. Or maybe I should have said something to help those who supported that tyranny to resolve to never do it again. Can there be two right answers?

We need to be ever learning and when we discover a truth about ourselves or others we need to take special care of it. The journey is long, make it a good one.
Cmoledor 2k posts, incept 2021-04-13
2023-05-24 08:22:09

Always a great read Ishmael. Nothing here today is wrong. As usual.

The whole world is one big fucking scam
Full throttle till the end. Ocdawg
Take the stick you tried to beat me with and go fuck your own face. Ishmael
Rickysa 2k posts, incept 2007-08-22
2023-05-24 10:49:45

Wonderful piece of only qualm would be:

Keep fighting clown world

which is just me personally, not a disagreement with the premise.

No need to make a list of the insanity in the world today, but a rabid group of ardent believers that 2+2=5 (and who will not/cannot accept any challenge to that belief) has left me truly believing that we may be living in the onset of the tribulation of the end times.

I just can't see any other explanation of the actions of the masses other than the presence of true evil taking hold of society.
Greenacr 804 posts, incept 2016-03-15
2023-05-24 11:11:31

One of my core values is treating others as you want to be treated and trying to pay forward with courtesy and respect to others. I sometimes think if more people acted this way that it would be a better world.

All we can do is try to improve our little sphere of influence
Ingar 541 posts, incept 2017-02-14
2023-05-24 11:11:48

Years ago I met a retired Marine Corps drill instructor. He was still a poster boy for the corps in his early forties. I asked him why he had retired after only 20 years when he was still in great physical condition. He said that he felt that as he couldn't do the physical training that he felt the trainees needed, it was time to quit. I guess Senator Feinstein or Mitch McConnell didn't learn that lesson in life. The Marine also told that the drill instructors were required to have a psychological evaluation annually due to some previous training abuses by a few rotten apples. He recounted that one Navy psychiatrist asked him how many guns he owned. He replied "twelve sir". The psychiatrist asked no more questions and wrote one and a half pages about the sergeant and dismissed him. How could he come up with that much material from one question?

Perhaps the gang of 535 and all candidates seeking to enter that club or be the president should have an annual psych exam. Perhaps that would weed out some of the psychopaths, but I suspect the more clever ones like Dick Cheney, Bill Clinton, Black Jesus, Chuck Schumer, or Adam Schiff could evade being diagnosed as a psychopath. I'm not sure of there's an IQ threshold for being a psychopath, but if there is one, George Dubyah Bush probably wouldn't make it.

Thanks for the article. It's beneficial to occasionally take an inventory of our standards and values.

K5555 149 posts, incept 2021-04-18
2023-05-24 12:08:39

Ingar, in clown world, I think all those whom you list would pass the exam with flying colors. All of us here, on the other hand, would fail...

From the movie Blast from the Past,

Adam: "I think I'm being chased by a psychiatrist."
Soda Jerk: "It happens."

Or, from 1984, "How many fingers am I holding up, Winston?"

Fight like you are the third monkey on the ramp to Noah's Ark and it is starting to rain.
Vernonb 3k posts, incept 2009-06-03
2023-05-24 12:09:20

Enjoyed this immensely.

I have been told I am one of those "strong" "problem" personalities. I don't go around purposely trying to vex people.

What offends me is people that somehow believe you must compromise to "get along." Someone attempting to force a compromise of true virtues deserves the lashing by tongue or strap. These people are not your friends. Divest yourself of such people.

Core principles must never be compromised . This world already had too many hypocrites. Compromise enough and you might as well not exist.

"Mass intelligence does not mean intelligent masses."
Vernonb 3k posts, incept 2009-06-03
2023-05-24 13:05:37


Think to much about your actions and you will become a neurotic.

I can assure you Christ himself would have not responded with a mealy-mouth response and would have had no issues telling these modern day pharisees where to shove it!

In fact I sure a few "be damned" would be thrown in there.

Why are you still attending this den of vipers?

"Mass intelligence does not mean intelligent masses."
Daedwards 120 posts, incept 2010-06-10
2023-05-24 13:22:39

Great missive, Ishmael. Also a timely reminder that we need to look carefully at the core principles of those in our inner circle and do some housekeeping if needed. My own inner circle has shrunk to single digits as of late.

Half-stupid is still stupid. (TickerGuy)
Raven 13k posts, incept 2017-06-27
2023-05-24 13:35:13

Well written, compliments. For the most part i agree.

We are also dealing with a message for the people most likely not to follow it.

These are those who cannot change, and those who will not change.

"This guy is fantastically annoying to listen to, but he has some interesting info..." -- Rangeisshot April 26, 2023
Sonoran_monk 3k posts, incept 2021-08-16
2023-05-24 15:25:31

The Psychology Today link is interesting because liberals are less group oriented than conservatives, but they will virtue signal for various out groups and their values since that is a Machiavellian power grab to make themselves seem compassionate. Of course they will do nothing about it themselves but rather want others to be forced to carry out their brilliant ideas. For the good of other people's children of course.

To paraphrase Nietzsche, beware that, when fighting clowns, you yourself do not become a clown.

A reminder from Miyamoto Musashi from the end of his Way of Walking Alone:
You may abandon your own body but you must preserve your honor.
Never stray from the Way.
Raven 13k posts, incept 2017-06-27
2023-05-24 15:25:45

There are things which can change, and change they do.

They are called values.

Morals do not change, although people incorrectly consider values to be the same. They are not.

One must find his moral core. It will be difficult as we have been taught to value concepts and things and not consider personal, deeply held moral principles.

Values are tested against moral core.

Values change with things as simple as the passing of time.

Perhaps there is a reason that we were taught that there was an American Value System. It allowed interests to keep redefining it for profit and control as the situations required.

As the days go by and the various denizens prove every day their lack of overall moral principles, one wonders if it is worth it to value the American system and society as it is.

One can still use things which one does not value. Valuing something is placing a personal interest in it as opposed to a transaction or exploitation.

One finds his morals to find himself. Do not be too concerned if one's morals are not too nice. They are you, and only for you, serve them first and only, then everything else.

One finds his values in that around him which is consistent with his morals.

We have been taught to value things whether it be family, community, USA, The Flag, service, teachers, whatever trope in a lie designed to fool us into thinking that these things and their servants also value us. They might in some cases, however most of the time it is to use us in our innocence.

Having a house, home, is a value. No, it is a tool. Same with a family as it is a cultural tool. Broken tools are either discarded, fixed or replaced. Family tries to use culture as a justification, however a tool does not validate another tool, and a broken tool is just that, useless. Morals validate tools.

Church is a tool which only provides value if it is consistent with its people's morals. Yet, going to church has been sold by small "c" conservatives as a cultural value and a good in and of itself for four decades. It has not done much good in this form, but looks good and is part of the lie of American Values.

Tools do things. People have been told that simply doing without moral center is good. Work hard, have a house, have a family, tolerate family, support the military, praise and honor teachers, etc. They are doing things in the same way that many religions have physical movements and positions as part of their ceremonies. It is easy to feel holy when one is acting holy.

Americans have been taught to feel that they are doing the right thing instead of determining if it is the right thing. They are made into tools and make others into tools.

Determine if anything is the right thing by your morals before you do anything associated with it.

Perhaps you will notice that you are not really that nice of a person. Who cares? At least you will know. And, guaranteed that most will realize that they do not really fit in with the Values which they are supposedly supposed to embrace.

Moral discussions of Principles put it all on the table.

I can tell you what happens. People consider some of my morals bad. Why? Because i am not useful to them, their system or expectations. They cannot profit from me directly or indirectly. Who is selfish?

People are bothered by some of my higher morals. Why? They know that by default i reject them, their system and expectations. They cannot profit from me directly or indirectly. Who is selfish?

Different morals expressed are escalating probabilities which remind people that there are more out there inconsistent with their plans.

It is also proof, and this is true, that there are people out there such as me who view the other as nothing more than tools. I value them for the ability to exploit them perhaps according to my morals. Nice thing is that they cannot know for sure, but i do.

It is time for us to drop all of these American Values plans and figure out how to live together with just enough morals in common.

I can assure you that this is liberating.

It is easy to be carefree when you do not care.

"This guy is fantastically annoying to listen to, but he has some interesting info..." -- Rangeisshot April 26, 2023
Metalqueen 315 posts, incept 2021-09-10
2023-05-24 15:58:45


I have very strong opinions on End Times theology and consider it a giant pile of shit to put it mildly. There are a so many people throughout history who have lived through MUCH WORSE than we are going through now. Imagine going through the Black Death, the Mongol invasion, Hitler, Stalin, various famines and plagues etc. It must have felt like the end of the world to them too. The current bullshit is horrible but is also hyper amplified due to mass information overload.

The Book of Revelation has been twisted in so many ways and over so many eras who knows what it really is talking about. And the so-called rapture was made up whole cloth by a guy named John Darby who was likely British intelligence. It is a con intended to keep certain people from fighting back.

Then again I consider the whole idea of prophecy to be stupid and self-destructive. What is the point of fighting for change if the future is pre-determined? To the point of this essay I would say these kind of beliefs are the dark side of faith.

Make smiley building great again!
Metalqueen 315 posts, incept 2021-09-10
2023-05-24 16:33:22


Very well put. It is liberating.

I have always had a sort of I dont give a damn attitude that is at its essence one of my core values as you describe. The last 3 years have highlighted this value as a positive not a negative as I have completely avoid the virtue signaling and fake compassion of the sheep.

Definitely food for thought.

Make smiley building great again!
Rollformer 2k posts, incept 2013-02-13
2023-05-24 16:34:01


I met a traveller from an antique land,
Who saidTwo vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. . . . Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal, these words appear:
My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

Heartlander 2k posts, incept 2021-02-25
2023-05-24 18:58:31

A dark side of compassion and responsibility towards others: Listening to the wrong people about how best to care for others.

This was why good, decent people were persuaded to wear masks and deprive themselves of oxygen and inhale microplastics into their lungs, increasing their own risks of respiratory diseases and cancer, not to mention mental illness.

This was why good, decent people were persuaded to stay away from church and to avoid visiting their older, "vulnerable" relatives.

This was why good, decent people were persuaded to be injected with an untested, experimental genetic concoction....

All of it was "for the good of others."

I have a dear relative and a dear friend who are now paying the price with their own health for having simply wanted to protect the vulnerable people around them. Their only mistake was believing the people who told them that those injections were the way to do that.
Invisiblesun 735 posts, incept 2020-04-08
2023-05-24 20:23:38


Why are you still attending this den of vipers?

Because I don't want die an old, lonely man. Church is a place where one has a casual acquaintance with most attendees, and out of those a few become trusted friends. I'm not saying church is the only place to find good people, but it has worked for me.

And, yes, one also finds annoying people at church. But church is less expensive than the yacht club. I suppose I could try a bowling league, but having watched The Big Lebowski I'm not confident I'll find my kind of people there.

Vernonb 3k posts, incept 2009-06-03
2023-05-24 20:57:33


To each his own. Just thinking about the long term ramifications. I have been alone most of my life till I met the woman who would eventually become my wife in 2017.

I might have been alone but never truly lonely. Loneliness is a state of mind I have never been truly lonely. I know I am never truly alone as a believer in Christ. Perhaps it is par for the course for those that desire as much self-reliance as possible.

Old concepts taught to me early is " to thyself be true." "What profit a man to gain the world but lose his own soul?"

Desiring the best for you.


"Mass intelligence does not mean intelligent masses."
Tsherry 12k posts, incept 2008-12-09
2023-05-24 21:32:04

That's some good stuff there.

When everything appears to be going in one direction, take a long, hard look in the opposite direction.
Packetcap 1k posts, incept 2021-07-23
2023-05-24 22:16:45

This one is saved and will be shared with the kid. Very good ticker!
Mjeff87 2k posts, incept 2021-11-22
2023-05-25 08:31:12

I'd combine authenticity and self awareness into one broader category. Self esteem. And that's something I see lacking in almost everyone I know, even including my own wife.

Outside of my very small inner circle, I am one of my own best friends. Yeah, I've got some faults but me and myself are working on them. But I don't acquiesce or otherwise try to blend (go along to get along) to anyone. I am who I am, and if you don't like that...that's ok with me honestly. I'm perfectly happy with myself regardless of what anyone thinks of me.

Be happy with yourself.

Si Vis Pacem, para Bellum

You'll get less than you desire, but more than you deserve
Ronniemcghee 410 posts, incept 2012-07-28
2023-05-25 08:31:19

On the walls of my office (pre retirement), which was often visited by others, were two posters. I wanted readers to know some basic information about my principles when they entered.

The first poster read ~ Don't make excuses. Make progress.

The second poster read ~It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.

Very interested to know the about the sayings other posters have around their work or home spaces. In case anyone doesn't mind sharing.

@K5555 ~ Sometimes you gotta give chase.
Radiosity 1k posts, incept 2009-03-05
2023-05-25 13:51:04

@Greenacr "One of my core values is treating others as you want to be treated and trying to pay forward with courtesy and respect to others."

The old saying:

"Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

Unfortunately, most people these days seem to live by the similar but very different:

"Do unto others BEFORE they do unto you."

So long, and thanks for all the fish.
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