Empire Killer: Memetic Entrenchment

In Guns, Germs, and Steel, a pop-history-ish book about why some cultures developed technologies that made invasion easy, a hypothesis of what amounts to geographic determinism is put forward. Whatever else you might think of the book, it raised the question of why China, with all of its early intellectual advances, failed to capitalise on their early advantage. This question is being specifically addressed here.

The book rather lamely puts forward the idea that a large united population is more vulnerable to the sort of regressive thinking that rulers may be prone to. It gives an example of early Chinese exploration towards the Americas being stymied by an Emporer decreeing no one should explore eastwards, and no one subsequently rescinded that decree. The author admits that this is an underdeveloped theory. Let assume, for arguments sake, that it is true that China has had less disparate cultures and ruling states over the centuries.

This idea applies to the fall of empires generally, so we'll get back to China. The idea is memetic entrenchment, which I think we all know deep down, but allow us to explore it here.

A meme (or memeplex, though I would argue that the term meme could be used for both) is entrenched if innovators or innovations in its field are stifled, marginalised, or simply not created. An innovation here being a superior, in a pragmatic sense rather than memetic, and one that would win out in a "fair" context.

This happens everywhere, but happens more often in large empires, and with those empires we see significant political and technological stagnation.

A non-empire example that is relatively easy to demonstrate, at least conceptually, is the tale of QWERTY keyboards. In this technological example, we can see that QWERTY did have a purpose (to prevent jams when keys were struck too close together). In future contexts where this was no longer a problem, QWERTY had memetic entrenchment. Everyone produced QWERTY keyboards and knew how to use them. Systems of production all the way down rely on QWERTY keyboards. Even if a superior, in a pragmatic sense, layout for a keyboard were released tomorrow (people suggest DVORAK sometimes, but I still only know one person who uses it routinely), it would cost a lot of retraining and retooling to switch everyone over, which presumably would cost more initially than any immediate benefit DVORAK would provide.

From this example, we see that the meme's adoption rate, which I shall call the meme's "mass", is very important to seeing it entrenched. It is easier to convince 10 people to believe some new thing than it is to convince a million (though, perhaps not in a linear fashion).

A meme's age is also important. It's been noted by philosophers, politicians, and psychologists that humans have an inherently conservative bias. However, an idea that is old, but has only a few adherents over time (an illuminati participation, say) is likely not entrenched. Thus, perhaps a measure of people-years could be introduced, a "pedigree" if you will.

Lastly, a meme has to have competitors in the same context. This has historically meant borders and shared language, but today we have the internet! However, competing ideas in the Middle East and the Americas are not truly competing. But the context of competition allows people to think outside their frameworks that they've been brought up in. Say, ideas A, B, and C are on equal footing in terms of mass and pedigree are less stable if they are in the same community than if each idea were presented in their own individual community. Stability being if a pragmatically superior idea D how likely would it be the original ideas A, B, or C are unseated or marginalised.

This is, of course, an entirely spurious assertion by me, but this was the last thought on this. The last idea could be called "relative community share".

I attempted to phrase these such that high numbers in all mass, pedigree, and relative community share results in a very tenacious meme indeed. And these memes are exactly the sort of memes that empires wind up with, simply as a natural result of certain memes winning out and becoming standardised.

This could explain, in part, the political and technological stagnation in Empires. But perhaps not. And this is, of course, disregarding the massive technological development over the last century (in a way). But then as an argument, one could argue forms of political stagnation in the USA, which is in many ways like an empire. The last constitutional amendment was a long time ago, and the USA seems to waffle back and forth on ideas that other countries have adopted a long time ago.


Foisting Identities

So, this post is about something that I saw in both Atheism and Feminism communities. I'm sure it happens in others too, but those are the most I'm involved with (or was), so here we go!

Identity is important, and a lot has been said about clearly identifying what you believe about yourself. However, this is about the outward aspect of identity, namely what ideas everyone assumes you align with and who you're willing to be seen with. For instance, you may internally believe in broad philosophical free speech, but if you're not willing to come out and say it and be associated with both the idea and the (unsavoury) people who espouse it (i.e. associate with the label), you probably don't hold the "free speech absolutist" identity, however much you technically agree with their position. Certainly, back to the wall you're not necessarily going to stand up for "free speech absolutists".

Perhaps you can already see how this relates, but let's bash it out.

In the Atheism community, there's a fairly standard conversation about people who don't want to commit to the label "atheist", even if they fulfil the technical description of not believing in a god. In my own experience, people behaved as though there wasn't a god, and in that manner believed there was no god. This is coming after a bunch of thought about what it means to "believe" and its relation to behaviour in a psychological context. However, most people would say that there probably isn't a god as that is a more defensible position to that.

Colloquially, people saw the term agnostic as a softer version of atheist (and, in a use defines meaning way, it is), but that wasn't their identity either. The identity is to a part of group, and their answer is just an answer to give when put on the spot. So there'd be this same conversation which was largely about the semantics of "atheism" and "agnosticism".

In some ways, I thought this was helpful. In coming out of the closet or providing a more solid framework for an identity it allowed people to explore and solidify their thoughts. However, I also sometimes saw the conversation as a means to bully or cow someone into saying I am an atheist.

Feminist circles have the same thing with regards to the term "Egalitarian". Now, I identify as a feminist (depending on the situation), but the term has had a long history back and forth about issues, racism, workers rights etc. I have also seen some writing about how modern feminism is largely about white middle class rights and recognition (a far cry from being flatly about equality). Whether or not that's true, the point is the label feminist can be contentious even outside of the dude-bro speaking circles, particularly if you are versed with the history of the term (I'm not, I just read some stuff).

Perhaps I noticed it more on Tumblr than anywhere else. People would brow-beat identities on to other people who otherwise agreed with them but not as strongly. I found the behaviour rather alienating and a part of the spurious TRIPLE EXCLAMATION MARK OMG!!! culture that made me rather bored with the site.

I think there was some personal pride with the satisfaction of "being right", but I also think it's about numbers. When people do this, they want to feel like there's more of them. Maybe this conversation is more prevalent in areas where the group feels marginalised (whether they are or are not). e.g. Atheists in the deep south of the USA are more likely to want to bolster numbers than atheists in Sweden. But in the context of bolstering numbers, do you really want to count those people who don't want to hold your label?

This can have positive aspects too. I think, however, ultimately coming out and presenting your identity should be up to you and not groups of people trying to "recruit" you.


Radicalisation: The fuck does it mean?

The thoughts displayed here are largely the result of a third year undergrad assignment, and thus should be taken with a grain of salt and assumed grandiosity.

The assignment had to do with political phenomenon that had a psychological component, and I chose radicalisation. After looking at a bunch of papers, I noted that radicalisation had no consistent academic or colloquial definition. Some of this rant is from there, but I didn't want it to overshadow the rest of my assignment.

To say someone is radicalised seems to mean something different to saying someone is radical (both in the 90s term, but also in the sense of meaning they have divergent views), and radicalisation itself seems to be related to that as well as extremism and terrorism. Counter-terrorism and police organisations tend to focus on criminality and violence, whereas academic papers focus on either individual or societal definitions which wind up being poorly defined or assumed, and refer to divergence from "the mainstream". This was altogether rather frustrating, since I'd assumed that there would be a consistent definition, what with radicalisation being so darn relevant.

So here's the definition, so that if that's all you want you can leave, and so we can pick it apart later:
Radicalisation is the process by which people oppose a mainstream belief such that they neglect their social connections.
Good. That seems worded ok. Have a couple of examples of what radicalisation is not.
In discussing this definition, one of my friends claimed she was radically against broccoli, an anti-broccolist, if you will. However, historically speaking, she had not neglected any of her social connections because of their love or consumption of broccoli. Thus, she is not radicalised.
A hypothetical person might neglect or cut off social connections because of their belief that the road system is designed to communicate with our alien overlords, but that is not radicalisation either. The belief is not mainstream, and it's unlikely that a decent portion of their social network secretly hold this belief.

One of the first things people notice is that it rather lowers the bar for what people consider radicalisation, and that it seems to be a spectrum. It is possible to be a little radicalised. I think this is rather important. MI6 (now SIS, the UK's counter-terrorism and homeland intelligence force) notes that radicalisation is frustratingly random, crossing religious and class lines, but this is part of what makes law enforcement's definitions quite weak. They tend to be looking at the tips of the iceberg, those violent outbursts that really are a small minority of people. The advantage this definition brings is that by turning radicalisation into a spectrum, the population can be surveyed more effectively.

But not just a spectrum, but a measurable one. While previously, such interaction would be difficult to measure with self-reporting surveys, social media data mining provides the ability to measure radicalisation for both communities and individuals (assuming regular use).

The spectrum has two axes; how mainstream the belief they oppose is, and how close the connections they neglect are.

With talk about how measurable radicalisation is, I should take pains to note that I don't view radicalisation as a bad thing. Dialectical engagement of ideas is important, but it's also not for everyone all the time. If the majority of your culture is into kitten drowning, I think you'd be justified in not talking to people because they were into it. Radicalisation does not imply violence, but rather a rift in both personal and community spheres.

The measurability is not the only advantage the definition has over most others (including academic ones).

A couple of the academic papers discussing radicalisation refer to divergence from the mainstream, whereas my definition refers to opposition to an existing mainstream view. This distinction is important, as it allows two competing mainstream views to be radicalised towards each other. By only referring to divergence from the mainstream, one cannot have, say, a radicalised Republican or Democrat, as both are mainstream views and thus neither diverge from the mainstream. I think that psychologically and socially, this form of radicalisation is similar to radicalisation that does diverge from the mainstream, in both effects and who is likely to partake in it. It also highlights the oppositional nature of radicalisation, especially when coupled with the social neglect.

A point of contention is how mainstream is mainstream? A rule of thumb is that if it is likely that a member of your social circles holds a belief. Obviously this is going to vary from person to person. We could refer to Dunbar's number here (150-ish), or other estimations of the average number of close friends. However, by making radicalisation a spectrum, it means that mainstream can apply rather broadly. My initial number was around 10% of the general population, but I'll be the first to admit that I just pulled that out of my arse and further examination is necessary.

This definition also largely encompasses colloquial usage, as well as refining and collating academic and law enforcement definitions. It also allows to identify behavioural patterns that we'd consider radicalising but don't see for cultural bias reasons. If someone's written about this before, I didn't find it in the academic papers I wrote, and I do think this is an original thought on my part. In our interconnected and increasingly loud world, I do think this is extremely relevant. I would like some input here and there.

PS: On extremism and terrorism:
Extremism: A belief that coercive force is justified in achieving one's own political ends.
Terrorism: Inciting terror to achieve political aims.
One can in fact be a radicalised extremist terrorist, but these terms should not be conflated.


Two and a Half Children

Just listened to a radio documentary about Japan's aging population, and the reasons behind it, so had a bunch of thoughts regarding that.

However, before I start, I'd just like to note that this isn't the "fault" of any individual or couple. There has been a thing in the past where the state moralises having children (Lie back and think of England, various dictators, uh... Others), which I guess is a way of trying to solve the problem albeit a heavy handed and kind of sleazy one.

This isn't really about Japan, but generally first world countries with aging populations. Arguably, Japan has one of the worst and certainly most public cases. So, let's go to work. Metaphorically.

Aging Population, bad.:
So, in a way, an aging population is usually indicative of the country having a very good run. However, having an aging population means a bunch of things economically and politically. Namely, aging populations typically have very high pension and medical costs associated with keeping old people around, and those old people provide a very powerful and overly conservative voting bloc. Retirees are not productive. They were, but they're not now. This may or may not be a problem for you, but it's also important to note that any solutions implemented will pay dividends perhaps a generation down the track, well outside the concerns of our standard four to six year election cycles in the West.

However, coming from the opposite end, having a large population of drooling idiots (babies) is also very costly. Schools, lost productivity, daycare, specialty products and so on make having a high proportion of under-working-age children in the population a rather costly endeavour. Of course, if the whole state and population are in agreement to make that sacrifice (rare), then they can go ahead and do that. But they should also be prepared for a lot of negative side effects of a stagnant economy.

So, one wants to have a balance. Enough new working age citizens in proportion to the non-working-age citizens. BUT HOW!?

Immigration vs Birthrate:
It's fairly obvious to anyone with an internet connection or at least two friends that some people have a problem with immigration. Some say this is "subtle" racism, since they don't care about the Anglosphere immigrating about, but let's just take the statement at face value.

Immigration is cheaper than having children. Particularly skilled immigration, people with degrees and capital. Some people may or may not have a problem with that (I'm sure some do), but for the continuation of the state and as an economic boost, a large number of skilled immigrants is very effective; see the USA during and after the Second World War. Certainly, other than language barriers, skilled immigrants can get to work almost immediately after arriving, unlike babies, who can't even make sandwiches. Not in this economy.

However, this is ultimately reliant on how attractive your country is to skilled immigration, which is something you (as citizen Prime) cannot guarantee. Political instability, resource economics, speculative bubbles, and I'm sure many other things outside of a state's control (however much they try) affect how attractive a country is.

So a country should at least have a steady birthrate that promotes at least population maintenance, if not growth.

Of course, how sustainable an amount of growth is is up for debate. Only the most die-hard environmentalists would suggest an active culling of the human population, but many do advocate a lowering of birthrates. The countries with the highest birthrates are not what we're talking about, but on a global scale it is a valid point.

For the purposes of this discussion, I'm going to be using a rough ideal figure of 2.5 children per couple, partly for the old joke about the nuclear family, but also for 2 people per couple plus change for population shock (wars, natural disasters, mass emigration, the plague). This isn't advocating demonising people who have no babies or few babies either (by choice or by inability), but rather about promoting a culture in that roughly that many children is "easy" to have.

Also, I dislike mum culture, but that's just me and has little to do with this.

Work/Life Balance:
So, a primary reason for wealthy first world countries having aging populations is that during a generation's most fertile years, there is a massive focus on establishing a career. Even with the historical victories of feminism, there is this perception that taking time out for having children will damage one's career. Enough has been written about that (and this isn't an indictment of feminism, but rather the reactions of work culture around it), so switching tacks.
Personally, I want to get into the games development industry (specifically design). However, there is this fairly pervasive culture that if you're not spending 15 hours a day at the office, especially during crunch time, then you're not being a "team player". While it is an extreme example, such work cultures exist in abundance particularly where worker protection is fairly weak (say, the USA or Japan). The expectation that young people cannot both have a child and work on their careers (due to competition) drops the birthrate during the early stage of adulthood.

A lot of countries have worker protections for parenthood and pregnancy, which is a step in the right direction. Having children shouldn't be in direct competition with career growth, but allowing businesses to entirely make that decision directly results in precisely that.

School and Daycare:
Its educational purpose aside, the K-12 schooling system also functions as a daycare, and a lot of child rearing is done there. It suits the state if schools are a place children want to be; belligerent children are more expensive both down the line as well as immediately in disciplinary costs. The whole school problem especially in impoverished regions of first world countries is not one I would attempt to solve here, but defunding schools and public education is likely not the answer. Part of parenting should be done at home, but it's pretty stupid to reject the idea that schools do not provide at least a part of parenting there. Both need to work in concert as problems from one can bleed into the other, both broadly and culturally, and when just considering the individual.

The standard schooling "day" is shorter than the working day, which means that some focus should also be given to daycare (or some other structure should be used?).

I've noted before that internet culture (as a broad thing, there are smaller cultures within it) is extremely individualistic, even compared to Western culture (again, an overarching culture, just go with it). This fairly obviously reduces childbirth rates as you don't owe your child anything, any expectation otherwise is "entitlement" on the part of the child. People just find it simpler not to have children.

Obviously, this is well outside a state's control, and cultural changes are fairly slow to begin with, so let's move on.

Financial Cost:
Raising a child from birth costs a lot of money. More than MANY cars. Again, this doesn't stop all parents, but it stops a decent number. The state should subsidise the childcare costs, especially as digital methods of achieving intimacy become more prevalent. Indeed, one could envision where all costs of childcare (within reason) would be covered by the state. However, such a subsidy should have diminishing returns, such that the cost "evens out" around 2.5 children. This is a fairly less hamfisted method of population growth management than China's one child policy.

Cultural Shifts:
Talked about this above, but in Japan the combination of rising feminine equality and the existing "family" culture and work culture all clash to conspire to reduce the birthrate significantly. Personally, I agree with Feminism's goals, but its sudden (comparatively) rise next to the fairly stable ideas of a family unit have reduced birthrates. Again, this is a cultural thing and not something the state can influence directly, but by limiting a worker's participation in the workforce (say, to 8 hours a day, 5 days a week), it both benefits the worker and the future of the country a generation down the line, while keeping in line with progressive cultural shifts clashing with older ideas about gender roles in society.

Communal Living:
This sort of relates to the individualism above, but specifically an area that the state can encourage (though by no means enforce). It appears in the west we want to live by ourselves. Studio apartments, single family units, and so on all suggest this. However, it is fairly obvious to anyone who's been through the grinder that living with friends is cheaper. Historically, families lived in the same house, thus allowing a child to have more than two "parents", in the sense that not just the biological (or legal) parents raise the child, but the grandparents, aunts, and uncles all help raise the child.
I do wonder if such a situation could work with friends instead of families. Say, three couples in one house, all doing a bit of the housework and picking up slack in child-rearing if, say, one of the parents has a really long work day. This is, of course, the most out there idea I'm proposing in this blog post. Something that would encourage this softly is by addressing tax and welfare on the individual rather than the household, as this would encourage bulk purchasing of groceries and cheaper rent.

Anyway, I write all this out as someone who doesn't really like kids. Apparently I'm passable at babysitting though. That's probably irrelevant.

Also, it would be noted that I talk about the state and the country a lot. Population stability is important for a country, but in subtler ways than direct economic concerns, and typically has a turnaround of one generation or so.


Thoughts on the Qualities of Power

Idle thoughts about how power (as in, the ability to coerce or influence people) arises very naturally in social situations, and consequently any system in which people interact with each other. I would like to try to avoid ascribing moral opinion to this. It's just a thing that I apparently think happens.

Thought 1: Power structures are inevitable.
People are different. Not just physically, but mentally. They hold different beliefs, have different personalities, differing amounts of mental fortitude, forcefulness, charisma and so on. This means that some people are inevitably going to be more popular/personable/domineering than others. Such people have more opportunities to get more friends, learn to be more confident, practice socialising and so on.
In the context of power, they simply have more of it. And social clout such as this tends to feed on itself. Someone with this sort of soft power is less likely to be ignored by other people, and is much more likely to be a trendsetter or decision maker in the group. This should all feel very high school, and one can definitely see formations of cliques using these patterns.

Social systems like friend groups or community clubs tend to be anarchic, but this sort of social power is inevitable even in very official or "grown-up" systems. Dick Cheney was, during the 2000-2008 Bush Junior (BuJu!) administration, more personally powerful and forceful than George W. Bush.

Thought 2: Power structures are unstable
When people are in positions of power, they will be able to promote their beliefs and their personality through that power. Sometimes they don't, but really, if you believe something, you'd rather other people believed it also. Conscientiously, it is the "right" thing to do.

However, the powerful person's personality is magnified, and any flaws are increasingly highlighted. This causes resentment, and also gives a target for other would-be powerful people to attack. But the community as a whole splinters as people "grow out" of the community, without directly attacking the powerful person. This removal of their power base doesn't necessarily mean that their power has collapsed, but it does move around a bit.

After a very long time, people die. In the case of sociopathic leaders, they usually don't place rules of succession in place (caring for neither their family nor their community, thanks Ghengis). But even without death, there is this constant cycle of shifting power structures, which makes George Orwell's party in 1984 relatively short lived, in spite of its claims.

Plying power is also exhausting for most people.

Quite often, attempting to keep one's power structure stable results in increased instability later on, as though dividends were paid in full. Repression, historically, may have worked briefly, but would require more and more repression later until it became unsustainable.

I'm not entirely sure what the point of all this is. I have a decent number of friends who'd want an abolishing of all systems (weirdly, both libertarian and communist), or see inefficiencies in this bureaucracy or that. I suppose I'd tell them that if they were going to come up with a set of moral rules (or their own system), they should be aware of these two thoughts. Power can be used responsibly, for good, for personal gain, or for a lot of other things. But a large number of political system's failings can be boiled down to not understanding people (or being unwilling to admit the existence of soft power), and that even if you have good people in power NOW, that doesn't mean tomorrow's leaders will be good. Power checks are necessary.


The Lonely Academic Left

Perhaps the greatest victory of conservative politics in the West was convincing the working classes to vote against their own interests. The reasons for this vary significantly, but the point of mentioning in this is to contrast it with the left, in particular the educated left.

Universities have been a place for progressive thought for quite a long time, even if the political activity there waxes and wanes around it. The political views of students and staff wobble around in a (comparatively) tiny melting pot, and from there shape the political landscape a generation down the track. Economists tend to be fairly right-leaning, but are typically not as extreme as their political or pundit counter-parts. Engineers are apparently prone to extremism. No real thoughts on that last one.

The relationship between the powerful people in politics and the people that put them there is rather convoluted. Even in a representative democracy, there is almost always a political class that does not have much osmosis with the population at large (usually, is in bed with law and economics, which to be fair is what politicians spend most of their time legislating). Behaviours like pork-barreling and public relations seek to address this.

The Academic Left (if you'll forgive the rather broad brush) tends to want to be sincere. Even after their philosophising is successful, there will tend to be a split as the more politically minded groups are more comfortable with lying or black-bagging or whatever else.

Asking "What have labour unions ever done for you? Why are you paying that $2 per week?" isn't lying, per se, but the motivation is tremendously insincere, however effective it is. I won't defend every action of labour unions in the history of such unions, but they have had a fairly large hand in combating massive inequalities in power and wealth.

The Academic Left is a far cry from the people they claim to support. Assuming their claims are sincere, they are still from a much wealthier background and are much more educated than the working classes. Even today, with our relatively high social mobility, there is still a (metaphorical) wall there.

This is not new. A case study can be made from the Narodniks of the mid-19th century. Attempting to hold themselves to a higher moral code, the Narodniks made the mistake of romanticising the peasantry. The peasants were hardworking. Loyal. Rugged. Honest. Not machiavellian, but not stupid. The Narodnik strategies were based around these assumptions, and found themselves arguing with clannish, simple, illiterate people who didn't really understand the Narodnik philosophy, let alone find themselves agreeing with it.

The opposite case can be viewed at the moment, with a combination of the Academic Left and internet culture. Those on the left are condescending and act divisively towards reactionary conservative groups (say, MRAs, libertarians, whoever). This is done without the goal that such people might one day change such beliefs, or if it is fails to use tactics that would convert belligerents (e.g. "educate yourself" is satisfying to say, especially after having been asked the same question repeatedly, but on its own doesn't actually encourage anyone to educated themselves).

Both strategies alienate their target audience, namely people who the Academic Left want to change their beliefs. Perhaps this could be seen as an extreme group form of the idea that neither belligerence nor idealisation will make a person like you more. The opposite faction, the Academic Right (for what its worth) has taken public relations much more to heart.

I can definitely see some people refusing to cheapen their own values to promote their causes, but ultimately cultural changes are driven by such promotion. Be it yourself or someone else, someone has to do that "dirty work".

I don't know how to fix this. But it might resonate with some people. Haven't posted in a while. I have a pile of ideas but very little follow through at the moment.


Rationalism Fetish

Something I've noticed a lot, especially in online communities, atheist communities, and geek communities, is a "rational ideal" that the members often purport themselves to adhere to.

Quite often, however, these so-called "rational" people will do irrational things, though they think of themselves as rational. Or at least, they say they are being rational. We cannot truly know what they think of themselves.

When talking about video games, and that the reasons people playing games do so for emotional reasons (usually those highs and lows, as well as social thingy), one guy piped up that he did not play games for emotional reasons, but rather for the apparently 'rational' reason of getting better at the game. Ignoring the fact that the satisfaction of getting better at a game is an emotional motivation, and also the psychological concept of "flow" as part of learning, this one person also got intensely emotional about games, publicly, and enough such that those near him feared for their own personal safety (see fps_doug for a staged version of that sort of outburst).

In another example, I take from the online atheist communities. A lot of words are said about converting the brainwashed masses, but ultimately many of those communities are about commiseration and smug self-satisfaction, neither of which lend themselves particularly well towards deconverting any religious individuals that wander on by. This bait-and-switch wrt rational lip service is rather frustrating for those that actually want to play the conversion game, so to speak.

And last example, Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality. The story itself does occasionally touch on rational methods of one sort or another. However, the story is mostly about the transhumanist victory over death and the author smugly pointing out flaws (real, perceived, or invented for the purpose of 'beating') in the Harry Potter setting. The humour sometimes works.

What this appears to be is a culture of "Rationality" worship, without really understanding what that may or may not mean or acknowledging the adherents own failures of achieving their ideal.

It's similar to the American Government's lip service paid towards freedom. It makes them "look better", without any kind of sincerity.
Being "rational" is only important if it allows them to "win". Which, I suppose, is kind of rational in its own way. It is only about looking good.

In a way, this is "Rationalism" fetishisation, similar to the American "Freedom" fetishisation. But, at some point, one has to eventually stop jerking off and look at the cold dead disappointment in one's hands.

Addendum: After waking up and mulling over a few more thoughts about this:
I'm not saying rationality is bad. It's a perfectly fine thing to aspire to internally. However, you have to be wary of people who claim to be doing things for rational reasons.
Nathaniel Branden, one of the formative figures in the Self-Esteem movement and Ayn Rand groupie, said this of his affair with Ayn Rand:
"Ayn Rand thought that she was being irra- that she was being rational about anything or everything she did. So, it would have never occurred to me to ask if she was being rational about that. If she were here, I can feel her , she would say 'Why yes, do you think I would do something if I didn't think it was rational?'"
Ultimately, the affair exploded in her face. But her (apocryphal) claim does need addressing. The vast, vast, majority of people are not rationality calculators that are determining if an action is "rational" or not. They mostly follow learned behaviours of one sort or another, or fall to their baser emotions.
There are, of course, people who say they're not like that, and while I cannot actually see into their heads, they are likely to be rather abrasive people of one sort or another and unlikely to be the supreme rationalists they so want to be seen as.
Emotions are shortcuts to conclusions and behaviours. Being rational is hard. It's far easier to do or think things for emotional reasons and rationalise them later. To take a tale from the opposite side of the religious story, I've talked to a lot of religious people who said they rationally looked at their religion and others and just so happened to decide on the one that their community and parents brought them up in.
Ayn Rand smoked. Even if she was doing it because the nicotine fix was useful to her, there are healthier ways of injesting nicotine to reduce the risk of cancer/smelling like cigarettes. But she stood by death sticks to the bitter end on claims of rationality.
I suppose the moral of the story is to look inward and see if you're doing this, and also be wary of those that claim the "rational" high ground. Reasoned discourse is one thing, particularly when publishing papers, but if they're just making that claim in a normal or online conversation, be warned.