Reading List

Don’t be giving me reading. First of all, we just met. Why is it your first assumption that I know nothing? Also, it’s particularly dull if what you know I don’t know just happens to be the subject of your own books! Ha.

I’ll be sixty soon, and I’ve never been any good at anything but dreaming, which means I’ve had a lot of practice. More and more, whatever it is you think I need to learn, I’m way past it. I haven’t learned most of it – only enough to know there’s not a lot of meaning in it. I didn’t miss all the normal ideas, this idea always amazes and amuses me – what planet do some folks think I’m from, that I’ve never heard of punishment, of “teaching right from wrong?” No such human exists, not on this planet! I didn’t miss those lessons, no-one does, I simply don’t believe it, I just flat out disagree – an apparently impossible position, to many of us. I’m trying to dispute those things, trying to take away what you probably have always considered to be your “givens.”

Honestly, I think they give me reading because they think I’m in agreement and want to learn more! There was a Kids in the Hall sketch, Thompson, I think, as a guy in a bar looking for a fight, but somehow can’t manage to piss anyone off, can’t buy a fight – KITH was surreal as well as hilarious – and that’s me, cannot buy an argument, I have offered money, only a few hundred per hour, sure, but . . . to them it’s like I want to argue with oxygen, money wouldn’t make sense of it. I get that part.

We’re at something like a standoff. I’m trying to tell them they’ve missed everything and they’re telling me I’ve missed some . . . some what? Some detail of chimpanzee life? Some allele? The part where Mom explains to me that this is actually good for me, folks, that’s what I “missed,” that’s what you need to defend if you want to dispense with me.

If this is a given for you, punishments made us “good,” if these are the unassailable roots of your philosophy, I’m past that, past your roots, I don’t need more of your leaves or flowers. Moreover, if all you can do is list books and authors full of nothing but such foliage and not share or discuss the ideas therein with me, one, again, why are you assuming the teaching position? And two, it sort of suggests that you didn’t find any meaning in it either. So again, why?

I’m tired.

The world is full of people who want to tell you things whether they know anything or not. I try to talk tough and authoritative here, but I’ve been rather passive in life, basically taking that thought internally, acting as though I am most likely just one more loudmouth with no more wisdom than anyone else and so not forcing myself on anyone. The entire world did not reciprocate, but whaddayagonnado.

I am starting to see that my ideas are on the better side of quality ideas and that I’ve been shirking my responsibility, however, allowing lesser but more aggressive ideas to dominate. The Dunning-Kruger effect is like gravity, there is no real escape. It has the advantage of consensus. You only get what you settle for, and I’ve always been stuck in this problem – how to get what I want, when what I want is to not have to fight for everything? When my project is to break the dominance of the world’s fighters and establish an empire of reason?

And that Brutus guy said Caesar was ambitious, huh! This is my project, to change the world and not resort to a fight to do it, because then I’ve lost before it begins, same as every revolutionary ever. Next thing I’d be shopping for a strongman, meet the new boss, same as the old boss, world without end . . . except the end is in sight these days. I think I may have always sort of imagined the project of humanity to be just that, that that is what “human progress” was supposed to mean, an empire of reason, no? Just me?

Education is the cure, sure – but discipline is the cause. “Morality” – discipline, punishment, group social control, law – is the cause.

That’s not “talking,” that’s fighting. The fighters of the world are in charge because we’re all engaged in these fights, because in this paradigm, even in peacetime, the fight never ends, and everyone is involved – it’s been socialized. Education would be part of a better world, absolutely, but my point here for everyone is that we are not going to change the world by simply adding some better things and not removing the cause.

Fundamentalist “morality” is a great example of all the awful things we call morality, authority and/or authoritarianism of men, violent and harsh punishments, many restrictive laws, social control of women and children – and contrary to many believers’ “beliefs” these days, “fundamental” means its usual, normal thing here: what it’s all based on. Morality, in speech and scripture is some lofty ideal, but this is what it is down here on Earth, between human beings, it means the ritualized, sanctified practice of applied abuse. Educate me after and during that, sure, it couldn’t hurt, mostly, but it doesn’t make all that OK.

But that’s what every authority figure or teacher on Earth would have us all pretend, isn’t it? All of that is regrettable and sad, sure, but as long as you learn your lessons! Maybe you’ll be the generation that changes the world! Maya, the world of illusion. Of course, professor, no, I don’t think you’re lying to yourself and me and wasting all of our lives, and yes I do need an extension for my paper, if you please!

So, if you know of something I can read, someone out here ahead of me that I can learn from, someone whose answer for everything isn’t a deterrent or a law or a fight or a political or economic system or a new set of rules that we need to enforce, sure, talk to me. It’s COVID-19 lock-down time, I would purchase something to read if I could imagine something that would help but I’m stuck writing because the only writer of which I am aware that can satisfy my need for what I now see as reality, is me.

I know there’s plenty of stuff that rebels against Judeo-Christian morality, and no doubt plenty that critiques collectivist morality and every other sort too, but social control in general? Not saying there’s no reason for a dearth of literature “against morality,” reasons abound – I just think we’ve made an awful mess of things and we need to review our reasons, make adjustments. Also, there is some of this sort of talk in Buddhism, religion tries – or perhaps monastic life is a sort of a shunt, removing such introspection from the social mainstream. Plus there’s the odd one like the Marquis de Sade, not examples that seem to help the cause, perhaps.

R.D. Laing must be one too, but it didn’t seem to have been the point of the ones I read. Maybe, maybe I just wasn’t there yet.

You want to be with the weirdos on these subjects, popular ideas are clearly not working, clearly what is popular is what we are trying presently! I would direct you back to the beginning of this conversation, maybe you weren’t here yet, where I said things are not alright, otherwise I’d smile more and maybe even shut up once in a while.

Iain McGilchrist, author of The Divided Brain, said it, that our social control measures stress us out and engage our autonomic response that puts our left hemisphere in the driver’s seat, attenuating or overriding the right brain’s “big picture” function. He seems to be a rare case like myself, a person who simply followed a train of thought and let logic and reason take him where it would, and if it exposes our law and order as the cause of our troubles, he’ll tell you so too.

Now, I understand that there is a whole world full of literature and thought out there about how we’re civilized and controlled and altruistic and domesticated and educated and all that and the other side of that meme debate is we are still wild apes, still that creature that we and the chimpanzees were five million years ago, still with all that aggression and those drives and all that, I am aware of this dichotomy, if it deserves such a clear description.

It’s a false binary. In the first, the control worked, we’re all good now – so I guess the previous century of world wars didn’t happen or the present nightmares either. In the second, apparently evolution is a conscious, constant, minute to minute struggle like treading water and millions of years just disappear when a fight breaks out, as though when the whole world evolved, of the millions of things, only this one ape’s urge to fight did not. We don’t really use that gene or something, and when we “need” to fight, we bring it out of the closet, like that?

We’ve evolved when we want to say so and we haven’t when we’d rather say that is more like it, and again, on the dull and predictable side, wouldn’t you say. “We’re all good now” – I hear it like I hear “I was spanked and I’m fine,” and that’s exactly how we should all hear that. You have huge wars constantly. You’ve destroyed the Earth. You are not fine.

And by coincidence I’m sure, you are the only “moral” creature, the only creature who thinks abuse and pain are “good for you.”

 

 

Jeff

March 28th., 2020

Secrets

All your efforts are doomed, I’m sorry.

You’ve got it all backwards – I mean, a lot of us don’t have any version of it at all, but those who think they do, even those who have looked deeply and found the buried “truth,” I’m sorry, you’ve got it all backwards.

The best thinkers of the past, the ones who saw through the common sense of their times and places, yes, even them too. Of course, that’s who we’ve all been listening to and following, no-one is listing history’s worst minds as their influences, are they, and this is the world we have, so this is obvious.* Humankind has it backwards. It’s clear there is some basic assumption, probably more than one, that we simply have wrong, because all our great ideas turn to crap, and I mean communism and capitalism alike, as well as everything else, ether side of almost every issue. The great dichotomies are a ruse, the meaningful thing is not the difference or the dividing line in almost every case. More often the meaning and the power is in what is common between them.

I don’t want to lie and boast and say Only I can fix it. Of course I can’t fix it. All I’m saying is, I seem to be the only one that can even see it.

An example anyone can see, “Communist” Russia under Stalin VS Capitalist America under Trump. Two leaders of utterly incompatible economic systems? Does that seem relevant? Or two fairly identical alpha chimp dictators atop oligarchies, killing their own people? ToMAYto, toMAHto?

Everything we try turns to crap because of that alpha, of course, because of the chimpanzee hierarchical system we all live under. Both systems were conceived as attempts to control the alpha swine, democracy, communism, both were attempts to replace the alpha with a “reasonable senate of men” – betas and on down, I think we should read – and in both our examples they failed and we’ve reverted, allowed the alpha to re-establish himself.

That was an example, this isn’t the cause yet.

The example that sat me down this time was the internet, I had Niall Ferguson’s series on the TV, and I was reminded of what a democratizing force the web was supposed to be, all of humanity’s information at your fingertips (saw some McLuhan recently too) – and the reality is it’s an endless sea of ads and corporate interests, any egalitarianism carefully pared away and in the end it’s a mind control tool and misinformation enjoys the environment far more than real information does. Everything we try.

Communism, Capitalism, the internet – what else?

Religion? OK then, having exhausted that subject by mentioning it – again, like Dawkins’ maxim, we all agree everybody else’s religion has turned to crap out in the world, all of them but one, at least. Then just all of them for some of us.

Our incorrect assumption seems to be as basic as it could possibly be – good for bad, “literally,” if that weren’t an ironic and impossible attribute for that. I mean to say, I’m serious, our mistake is that basic, that foundational for our, I think this word may have to change, but for now – for our morality. Again, serious.

Many modern thinkers have caught onto that we are not conscious in all we say and do, and the unconscious has been named and mapped for ages before Freud and internal cosmologies like his can be useful sorts of metaphors, but really the details of these fictional or mythical landscapes aren’t the point, same as above, the point should be simpler, the point is simply determining what is good and bad. Freud and Augustine share a position regarding this, and that commonality is the salient thing about what they thought, not the vastly different cosmologies they each ascribed to. Neither Freud, Darwin, or anyone else has seriously differed with Paul and Augustine on this judgement, as far as I’ve been able to glean. (I, however, do. Seriously.)

People are bad and they do what they do to get better.

That’s our foundational myth and of course that’s the problem. We tend to assume our plans are supposed to make things better, we assume we have some power to make things better. It’s always a surprise when it fails, glass half full types that we stubbornly are about it! We can’t seem to imagine that the opposite might be true, that we weren’t so bad to begin with and that it is exactly our efforts that are bad, that it’s what we do that is so bad.

People are bad and they do what they do to get better. Did you buy it, will you allow that this is our idea? Careful, it’s a trap! I do think we hold that dear, but how could you after this – what is it about us that is “bad” or “good” if not what we do? What would it mean that we “are bad” if we say, did nothing?  What would it mean that we “are bad” if what we did “was good?” When evil happens, this is offered as some kind of proof, look how bad we “are,” and first of all this is all passive voice nonsense – really? Because somebody or everybody “is” bad? Did nobody do anything?

The bots on Twitter gave me a clue. You read it long enough, you start to think nobody on Twitter has ever heard of an evil motive – “Why would Dr. Mengele do THAT?” sort of thing, leveraging an assumption we all share that humans want to good and that no-one wants to do evil – to hide the evil intent, of course. We all have that positive sort of blind spot. No-one thinks about original sin, I know, but I swear, it’s behind everything, not with any Christian or Biblical details, I don’t mean that, I just mean the basic assumption it reflects, that we’re born bad and our interventions make us better.

You don’t have to know Augustine, you don’t have to be a Christian to spank your children, I’m pretty sure all human beings have this basic idea and this basic behaviour. Perhaps every religion has some meme that they alone know how to “raise children,” that non-believers fail in this responsibility – well, more than perhaps.

Let’s flip it over.

If we had the right model, would our interventions not then, uh . . . work? Wouldn’t you not expect to be continually surprised and disappointed? When nothing works, we change the model, I mean, in other contexts we do.

People are good and they do what they do to get worse. Not “on purpose,” as such, but we do.

I want to stop and just ask you, beg you – try that meme on. Play at looking at the world that way. It’s much better for us all that you are convinced by your own eyes, not mine or anyone else’s. Imagine what the world would look like if abuse, normal and expected or otherwise didn’t “make you good” at all, but the very opposite. Imagine that the world is unequal and unfair, but in this specific way, that abuse and rewards are not equal and opposite in that rewards do not change you and abuse does not change you for the “better.”

Be forewarned, though.

It’s a better fit, more things will make sense, but the truth is a bit nastier than the lie, fixing anything seems less like a fifty-fifty proposition and more like a very narrow path indeed. The light I posit and the end of the tunnel is real, but it is very far off, especially right now, here in this year of our Lord, nineteen hundred and forty.

 

Jeff

March 20th., 2020

 

 

 

 

 

 

*This, in other conversations of mine, is a massive load of bullshit, how many times have I said that in regard to human matters like children, that we all, even judges and doctors and anthropologists, listen to Ma and Pa, and how they are indeed perhaps closer to the second group, intellectually speaking.

But in terms of who those same professionals SAY they listen to . . .

The Invisible Monster

I groped around some in the darkness. It’s tough. I honestly don’t know how anyone begins, how do we even figure out what questions to ask; any question we ask is going to be met with some answer, anything can look like we’ve made some kind of a start. Next thing we know, we’ve been on some tangent and we’re old, the questions have faded and the answers have taken over and if they’re not working then maybe they need a champion, perhaps it’s a fight rather than a Q & A or maybe we’ve just had our try and we retire.

I have this rap, “I asked this question as a child,” and yes I can weave that narrative now, but that didn’t begin to come clear until around the time of my first child’s birth, age thirty-five or so. In my teens and twenties, I was that clueless seeker, read something from the hippies’ spiritual library, Ouspensky, Gurdjieff, some yoga. That stuff led me to try philosophy, I still have my copy of Kant’s Critique, and I’ve put a good dent in it a few times – I really should finish it, the first third of that book has stuck with me, it was good stuff in there, more so than a great deal of philosophy, I think.

Because it’s a critique, I think.

So then I went off and lived a life, had a marriage, raised some kids.

I read some psychology heading into that, tried some R. D. Laing, not easier than Kant, I won’t pretend to have absorbed him either, but a few things. I learned about shadow selves, repression, got taken with an Alice Miller book or two. A lot of overviews, “History of (western) Thought” stuff, our progress narrative. When I tried to learn some biology, I wound up in the library of the alt-Right, I guess, Pinker et al. – I came out of that focused on evolution, trying to ignore their conclusions and drawing my own. Their conclusions are so bereft of meaning, it sent me running back to philosophy!

These days I’ve been trying to absorb some classics, but one such history has reached modern times and I’ve had an introduction to Foucault, and now a short summary audio book I’m on my second pass through. He was very concerned about his identity, that he wasn’t a philosopher as such – it’s a very narrow discipline in some senses – and at one point he settled on “critical intellectual,” because his work was analyzing and troubleshooting existing systems, not so much designing new systems from scratch or whatever it is proper philosophers do.

Seems he was a stickler for those sorts of definitions and perhaps an authority, and he was quite expansive about how to define “author” and an author’s relationship to their society, so I got to thinking that “critical intellectual” surely has a known and understood role in society as well, that we know how to respond to them.

I also learned something personal listening to his ideas.

Critical intellectuals really get on your bloody nerves, that’s how we respond to them! Plus also I am one of the bastards. I listened to his ideas and found myself trying to pick them apart, it’s what I do. Of course it’s an easy matter, decades later, speaking from a world that Foucault’s ideas very much helped to create, of course we’ve moved beyond him and anyone can do that looking back, he said this, I’m sure.

But I noticed it, the irony was a little too on the nose, noticed that this is the role I have adopted and so I noticed that the response I get is also part of a role or roles, perhaps not scripted, maybe only a familiar mode of interaction . . . well, Foucault may have settled on it, it was the truest option for him, I guess.

It’s true for me as a character trait; it’s not really true about my work. My critiques come from a new design.

New designs are not expected, perhaps not possible, from critics, is that it? Is this my mistake, I start by announcing Nothing New Here and then Here’s My New Thing! I may have to ch . . . I may have to ch . . . cha . . . oh, you know what I mean.

Of course I should read the prison one, of course a summary of critiques is going to get tiresome – I should read one of his in long form, hear and enjoy his voice in a thorough treatment, not just a list of complaints. I should very much also write one of mine in long form, stop giving nothing but a list of complaints myself. The previous sentence, this I say as a reader. The response I gave Foucault’s list of ideas – Oh, FFS, sort of –  is the response I think I get from folks, and that makes perfect sense to me.

Y’all wrong, of course.

Not about me! I am exactly that rock in everyone’s shoe, I know that. You’re wrong if you think what I’m trying to say is only critique, though. At least as regards my main subject.

One cannot say this, I know that. It’s unlikely in the extreme, I know this, it’s flat-out impossible, I know this – but I’m better than him. I just got lucky, sure, but that counts too. He’s smarter than me in every way, these guys are bloody polymaths, they got fifty points on me all day long and I got exactly nothing to show, never lived above a hundred points, for all you’d have seen, what can I say? Murphy’s Law, goes to show you never can tell.

Record scratch, freeze frame, restart. Making that case is going to take a minute.

They are all fighting some invisible monster, and by “they,” I mean “we,” except that in this, your narrator would exempt himself from humankind. This thought has been brewing for a long time.

By “they,” I mean philosophers, authors, yes, and also scientists (nobody says “I’m a scientist,” like Quincy M.D., I know), artists, basically anyone attempting to interact with humanity or life itself, anyone trying to solve the problem of humankind, or even artists, students of human nature who try to soothe this savage breast with beauty. They all work off of some great, vague antagonist, some central problem with so many names as to be nameless and so many features as to be non-existent, not optional enough to name or talk about. Many concepts approach, many ideas at least partially succeed in pointing us to it.

Oh Gawd, here it comes, yes, I’m going to say the words, I promise to try really hard not go down my usual rabbit hole here, or at least keep it short. If I fail, I’ll see you on the other side?

(Spoiler alert, I did not fail!)

One such attempt to define this thing we call Christian original sin, perhaps non-Christian societies have an analogue, the idea that we are born a sort of “bad,” that bad things are to be expected from us, failing some intervention. I’m not saying we walk around with that maxim foremost in our thoughts, I’m just saying that at the bottom of all the detail, after all the life history, after all of our conversation dies down, this is usually what’s assumed to be the nasty bit of reality underlying everything. We try not to let every conversation go dark like that, we don’t think about it very much, it seems pretty clear that it’s unproductive, whether we actually believe it or not, it’s the end of the logic, the end of the conversation, bah! Human nature.

Certainly, the atheist contingent of this Christian society has an analogue in slightly more evolutionary language, something like the beast within.

Before those ideas and existent still in art and life, however, is an idea more like fate or the Fates, this is more what the thing seems like in a novel or other dramatic work, it seems original sin and such are not required in fiction, fictional villains do not require reasons or excuses, they are provided as the reason and the excuse for the story already, generally. Longer or deeper stories may still invoke some theory as to why the villain is the villain, and then we’re back to our theories about real people.

When we’re looking at authors, especially the ones we call thinkers, looking at the arc of their lives and their works, we can sometimes see what sort of metaphor they used when addressing this thing. Certainly Dostoevsky ended on original sin, of course, along with many from a Christian culture, modern biological voices seem to go with some iteration of the beast within, I’m thinking about Sapolsky, “we are half this and half that, predator and prey, bestial and civilized.” Often we simply see the empty space, the artist as simply artist, depiction and not explanation, think Bob Dylan’s attitude, maybe the Coen brothers’ films, not always nihilism, sometimes just the very best sort of science, dispassionate exposition, recorded for possible future interpretation, when better ideas become available.

It’s a bit of a leap of faith for me to try to do what I want to do here, I worry a little that I’m just another Dr. Frankenstein, messing with what we are not meant to mess with. If I name this thing, will I end art? If we lose war, do we lose, courage, valour, honour, all that is good about us?

Can you imagine what it would be like if while on a philosophical pondering walk, considering just this fuzzy, opaque thing, you happened to catch sight someone pouring barrels marked “the invisible thing that hurts us all” or “fate” or “original sin” into the water supply? It would instantly be a different world. The next person you saw shaking their fist at God and asking “Why?” would be a different experience for you from all of those you saw before. It’s . . . artificial? Human made?

That’s one shock that might bring, sure, but carrying on with this elaborate, uh, metaphor, suppose that after this, every time you pass the water tower, those people are there, adding the stuff, and you start to realize they always were there and before the cistern, they used to put it straight in the river? Now it’s the same world again, only different for you, imagine every time you talk to someone, see some television, read a book, that it quickly becomes clear that no-one else has seen the people and the barrels and what’s going on with the water?

The experience of madness, to be sure, but always, and only, ever?

These thinkers, these polymaths and geniuses – and maybe a few simply lucky ones like me – what they managed is impressive, brilliant theses about the world starting from nothing, the same as the rest of us and working around this thing, making their deductions while having to treat almost the entire basis of human drama as an unknown, as a huge black box exercise, half of the story always only guessed at. It’s amazing the feats of thought with this giant handicap placed on us all – while I’ve been the prima donna, giving it “I can’t work under these conditions,” ha.

Since we’re deep in the philosophy fantasy here, I should say more clearly, I can’t work under this episteme.

So, I just won’t. I’ll shatter it instead.

Many embrace the invisible thing.

Not all who call it this embrace it, I think Foucault stopped loving the name before he applied it to the thing, but many call it power. This was Foucault’s arc, from my unique take on someone else’s summary, from playing with power sexually etc., to seeing it as the currency of society – hard to argue, with that definition – and blaming humanity’s dark creativity on the power, perhaps the seeking after it? Perhaps not. He defined the modern era as having sort of socialized power, having spread it around compared to past days of monarchies, which, not far from me and AST there, I too think the problem has been socialized, we’re all doing it. For me, though “seeking” power and glory and such, these are not motivators, I think Foucault had just this difference with Nietzsche himself, these are hobbies for the privileged, not basic motivators – certainly a few steps from biology, it would seem. I’m not clear, as you see, that he thought of it as a bad thing, in fact he had positive roles for power maybe, so I don’t think he replaced original sin with it somehow, it’s only clear he settled upon the word, power, perhaps not moralizing about it at all.

It seems a little clearer that he didn’t replace original sin with abuse like I do either, though. At least in the prison one and the madness one, it sounds like passive voice stuff, conformism, marginalization, impersonal sounding processes, and I think the passive voice indicates the void, the unnamed thing in it’s unnamed state. Of course, I mean when it’s sincere. Passive voice can also simply hide a conviction we’d rather not share (like a straight up belief in original sin, or at least for you and your people if not for themselves and all people).

So if all that marginalization, normalization and conformity were simply depicted and not explained early on by Foucault in a passive voice, it seems fair to say that his power ideas are what he developed to fill that void, and I’ll say, he’s a Brother From Another Mother for me, he comes as close as absolutely anyone to beating me to it.

But damn him for all eternity for giving it the fascist’s favourite word.

You tell a spanked eighteen year-old boy/man that the secret to life is power, no wonder we blame Nietzsche for the previous major outbreak. And who reads those guys anywhere but at school, at just that age? Circular, I guess. They do because of that word, don’t they?

I want to do this, just this, those guys’ method, Foucault’s archaeology or genealogy, to a few more thinkers, show their treatment of the invisible thing at the centre of human life, the arc of their seeing it, but perhaps this will be long enough and perhaps if I find someone else that seems instructive they deserve their own blog, and not to be an appendix. I gave one social critic’s, and blurbs for one primatologist’s and a few artists’, there are plenty more thinkers, but there aren’t many more takes on this thing anyway.

There it was, right there, two paragraphs up! It’s not a secret what I think.

I think the unnamed thing is the spanking, abuse in all its forms.

Think of it as a path to power, if you like nouns for answers, like “power.” Personally, I’ve been thinking about it as a misguided path to “security,” myself, makes us sound nicer, like we’re on defense, when I want a noun to end a sentence about it with. OK, past tense, I had been thinking defense, but I’m letting go of that, I’m thinking aggression these days, but I still think power is too big a word to have meaning. It pretty much just means ability, or capability, that’s not a thing you can toss around or argue about or solve for. “Security” still works for me, as long is has the ironic quotation marks around it.

The main thing is, though, to think of abuse as that great, invisible problem no-one can name or even see, rather than to think of it as the solution, because, surprise, that’s why you can’t see it, you’ve got it labelled wrong.

I want to say, before I sign off, I’m not so cold.

Breaks my heart, thinking of us all banging our heads against this problem and not being able to name the monster, especially when I know the person I’m seeing fighting blindly against it is a sensitive thoughtful sort, someone really trying to work it out for us all, so many of them, of us. It’s both a personal and a universal human tragedy. I’m guessing Foucault left his own abuse aside, as we do, surely that was “only” a personal problem, and not to be included in any serious studies.

You know? I know you do.

 

Jeff

March 12th., 2020

Unrelatedness Theory

Unrelatedness Theory

 

It’s something I hadn’t considered, not really breaking one of my rules to miss it, but definitely failing to apply a test I often brag about – flipping an idea upside-down, learn what it is better by seeing its reverse. My theoretical reader must know all the names I’ve been using, AST, Murphy’s Law of Nature, ‘the whip and the human response to it’ in the latest – well, this title is only saying, maybe all I’ve got is existing theory in reverse language? Self doubt is good for folks who are trying to pass themselves off as “thinkers.”

If relatedness theory is how altruistic behaviour decreases with genetic distance like light in spatial distance, then unrelatedness theory would be how antisocial behaviour increases with genetic distance, same, same?

Except at first glance, that creature looks very different on its back!

First of all, it’s true enough in its most extreme terms, lethal conflict, it’s mostly the unrelated we hunt and kill, sure.

Second, though, it rings a lot less . . . obvious. In negative relief, we are talking about causative things: antisocial behaviour is a powerful thing in the world whereas “prosocial behaviour” is mostly only the absence of hurting and killing behaviour. Psychologically, again, this from The Nurture Assumption, which, I know, but that was supposed to be a compendium, socialization researchers have failed to find much evidence in development for prosocial nurturing.

Further to this, the world could be full of unrelated people that never know about or feel our antisociality, while our closest relatives do indeed feel it, right? In this sense, in my usual immature accept nothing until I figure it out myself way, I submit relatedness theory is descriptive, but sort of avoids the negative causality, AST says it’s the antisocial stuff that is what explains what’s going on. I mean, I assume relatedness theory doesn’t talk about it, because I have yet to hear my AST idea echoed back to me from literally anywhere (and also I bounced the kernel of my theory, abuse for war, off of Bob and he didn’t respond with any familiarity about it). In the starkest terms, I think the prosocial fact that your mother didn’t eat you explains your existence; I don’t think it explains who you are. It’s the nasty stuff that happened to you that explains who you are, the antisocial stuff and your response to it.

Close relatives are proscribed from lethal aggression, mostly, that’s relatedness theory in extreme and we will risk or spend for others based on their share of our genes, that’s it among the living. I think there is a suggestion or more that beyond a certain distance, that is not your tribe, somebody thinks a natural village extends to third, maybe fourth cousins, and some number, a hundred, a hundred and sixty? I think this means the arithmetic doesn’t add up to enough interest beyond that, eighths or sixteenth shares aren’t detectable enough or something, family resemblances disappear? No, just the other family’s traits dominate, I guess.

Caveat – I probably picked most of that up in the Blank Slate, and while I was savvy to any obvious political crap from Pinker, I may have been fooled about more scientific-sounding stuff. Half of the above paragraph was in the form of a question because it does sound a bit male-shady.

So I keep coming across the idea of the residential schools, and of less genocidal boarding schools, and I’d decided that they are a workaround, a place for children to abuse one another and/or be abused – all by unrelated people, all bussed or flown in from all over, a workaround that defeats relatedness’ protections to allow for some serious abuse in the name of a larger than the aboriginal’s relatedness limited size group’s interests and conformity. If we didn’t know what resulted from this already, we could simply process the ingredients, what might we expect from a population engaged in self abuse sort of thing, and then perhaps begin to guess what that society’s interests are.

My guess isn’t different from the mainstream’s guess, competition, conflict, war. Listening to some stuff about Foucault lately and I will say that I wish to show this fight to be contingent and not universal, our fighting natures to be a matter of free will and not any iteration of an innate limitation. So, not necessarily and inevitably, but this large group social abuse serves a lifestyle of conflict, it seems to be the point of it.

I think in words. Not pictures (I wish), and not numbers (I also wish) – I literally had a recurring nightmare as a child of numbers, single digits, flying at me out of the dark and it terrified me! But I had this idea when the Covington kids got famous, in words, and it just struck me today, this aspect of AST probably has exactly the same arithmetic in inverse, the law of inverse squares – the more stranger genes you have, the more available you are for use and abuse, for obey or die authority, the bigger your share of stranger genes from mine, the less your individual value. The more all your value is your group value – in its purest form, conform or die, what use is a non-conformist with none of your genes? Did I just explain racism, like a real explanation of why we would want to be that way? Again, not just because we don’t feel “prosocial” towards others, but because our entire lifestyle is predicated on the existence of a vast unrelated pool of humanity to use and abuse and so keep the nation ready for war?

I think so, but I must be mad if I think that wasn’t already explained?

Ah! If that seems wrong, if some of our very closest, our children are getting some of the worst abuse, maybe again, the causality is in the negative – my child may be my closest relative and my genetic future – but in some senses, maybe more recently than in the far past or something – in my family, in my tribe of only a very few individuals under this roof, my child is still not myself and still the furthest from me genetically that is on hand, and so the most available for use and abuse. We don’t all qualify to host foreign exchange students – bazinga.

Wow, ouch.

Tell me how the positively worded version explains that? I haven’t read it all, but my sense from life and everything I ever heard or read, I think our collective answer has been some version of original sin: without these “prosocial feelings” among our relations, all that war is . . . automatic. Right? This meme exists somewhere between ‘we all have it,’ and ‘it’s what the bad guys of the world want you to think, that’s for sure.’ A contingent, presented as a universal, but reinforced constantly, just in case.

That last bit was my clue.

OK, I know this, beating the snot out of you is indeed more prosocial and less antisocial than stuffing and roasting you – not untrue, but again, the entire world of living, as yet un-killed human beings’ suffering the antisocial side is left unexplained, unaccounted for, and the entire branch of science marches on pretending it never happened and never happens.

Then this “social science” stuff comes out of nowhere, unconnected to biology and “hard science” and with an entirely different set of rules and methods, unconnected, because the connection is this entire thing, a history of pain and abuse that we’ve labelled prosociality and even “altruism” – “self-domestication,” is the latest label. Of course systems of knowledge are also systems of denial. (Insert my usual meme that someone has hijacked the obvious link, “EP” to poison it and salt the academic Earth where it should be so that it can never grow again.)

It’s hard not to feel you’re right about something when the line of thinking keeps being productive, keeps overcoming apparent obstacles with some ease and explaining more and more, in a more consistent fashion than previous theories. Murphy’s law though, both ways removed – I wish it weren’t all true.

So this goes to my main project – curing human aggression and war, why not?

I assume, since I’m saying that humans use unrelated humans to antisocialize their children – OK, now I’m saying it – working around their natural tendency to not want to, then this must ramp up as a group grows and continues to grow beyond the usual, natural limiting factors of size. It seems there would be a formula for it, the percentage of the population of a given group that is beyond the natural protections of relatedness –  zero percent for a group alone on an island or something, whether two small groups merged, fifty percent, or whether this civilization has progressed to tens of thousands, something upwards of ninety percent?, perhaps some threshold between, with a knowable relation to a propensity to war?

The formula for human critical mass, of a sort?

I assume Bob has some arithmetic for this, in the positively expressed version, same related to unrelated ratio in a population sort of thing . . . ? All this arithmetic makes a case that the pressure of population drives us to war, and again, that may be familiar, but it’s not automatic, and exactly this equation points to us working to drive one another mad not merely by our presence, but by our intentional, if not fully conscious behaviour.

The existence of structures that function as pressure valves, the voyeuristic violence of sport and fiction, this does not prove that the pressure was organic or natural – in fact, most pressure valves are for artifacts, not natural phenomena. We say “opiate of the masses,” and yes, but there is amphetamine in the water: we create the pressure and control it, setting it just where we like for our lifestyle, at a level where we’re always ready to “defend” ourselves.

It seems so simple – if you can have the conversation at all, if you can make this possibly schizotypal leap with me, that abuse is a thing, a currency, an all consuming human technology that has brought us to the brink and probably beyond, not an accident, not “not what we meant to do, but thank goodness it doesn’t affect us,” no.

Not at all.

I think that makes nine this short month, a new record, and a bad sign.

 

 

Jeff, mostly from

Feb. 29th., 2020

 

So by flipping the causality upside down, by not obsessively focusing on the prosociality and looking instead at the antisocial treatment of non-enemies, what changes is rather than explaining large cities and large societies as some rollout of our good sides, we can sort of redefine what a society is.

In theory, we can stop fooling ourselves that the thousands and millions people in our modern groupings have been brought into our moral circles, surely the author and authors of relatedness theory weren’t ignoring that our moral circles end at around our fourth cousins, that was their contribution. This extrapolation from there to our society isn’t Bob’s, it’s probably just National Geographic’s or something, a social meme at this point, but I think the replacement idea in this blog is that we can call a modern large society an antisocial group and be a little closer to the truth than to call it a prosocial one.

The technical advance in it, the civilizational advance, do we say that? – is that we gained a usable, unrelated pool of humans, something between friends and enemies, for whatever purposes such a thing can be used – like to harden one another’s children for the never-ending war effort, and for war generally . . . OK, I need help. I’m trying to remember other reasons, think of other reasons we would like that, and I’ve been in this mode of thought too long, I can’t turn my imagination elsewhere.

Does the prevailing narrative address this? Why did we bunch up into such huge groups, what am I saying of course they did, but never mind. It’s no doubt war anyway, but just without any choice on our part and without any talk of child abuse or any abuse. For animals, there is prosocial and there is dead, mostly. They fight, of course, but the losers of the fights are often not long for this world, I do not see a plan for sustained abuse there – of course to agree, you’d have to agree with me that we in fact have such a plan, and that’s too close to a circle for an idea that doesn’t already enjoy some popularity, I won’t press it. AST is a mode of thought, like evolution, like a school of psychology or something.

Trying to say, living, breeding victims of violence are what we’re studying when we look at human beings and to trace their development to a simple binary condition, live or dead, existing and breeding or selected out is to miss the entire subject.

The evolution of abuse and of humanity under abuse.

That’s where it’s at. Come on.

 

Jeff, extended and updated

March 9th., 2020

Jesus Complex

Sure, I got that. I’m going to say “Jesus,” rather than “messiah complex,” because messiah complex to me would mean warrior dreams, it was a general sent from God they were asking for when the ancient Hebrews coined the term, probably more like Netanyahu than the John Lennon type we hear about with Jesus. Hey, they got him, so this is the Jewish Millennium? Not that there’s anything wrong with that, I mean compared to other, competitive ethnic empires, American century, China rules the world, ants rule the world . . . it’s everybody’s glory days!

That was just a bit of delayed learning on my part, I get used to things in certain contexts, modern Israel I think more about in terms of American myths, the End of Days. I forgot Israel figures there’s a thousand years of glorious history coming before the End. Is this common knowledge, is it even knowledge? I must have gotten it from the Pesher Technique, it was supposed to be the Jewish myth then, in classical times and before, the messiah, the millennium, and then a reunion with God? Like the Rapture?

No, I got the hippy dippy Jesus complex. It’s not about saving a nation by arms, it’s about saving the whole world, and not by conquest but by pacifying and so saving their souls.

Someone on Twitter said they wished that our inner scars were visible, and then we would stop being so mean to one another, and I get that image, but I replied with what I think and that is that the meanness is the scar, the scar hides in plain sight. Meanness is visible, right, well, audible – detectable by your senses, let’s say? Meanness, aggression, it’s sort of a known response to poor treatment, right, a thing you would certainly expect along with the scars? It fits, it’s a scar, it’s damage and rough repair.

The thing is, this meanness, it’s not that difficult to trace its origins . . . but it’s not exactly endearing, is it?

I can see some causes, I can be understanding, I can feel for the victim of abuse – but when his symptom is being nasty, how do I approach him, how do I want to, how do I sympathize?

It’s that seed of fate, the over before you knew there was a game thing, like classical theatre, some feckless god decided that abuse should drive us rabid and when we begged the god for a weapon against it, he gave us a bludgeon. Fate, ouroboros, our central conundrum since we accepted the weapon. You can use it, and it sort of works – but it makes more.

Somebody please tell me which three myths I’m mixing up, please. (Honestly, while I’m sure that is the truth, that I’m putting myths in a blender together here, full disclosure, I believe AST, Murphy’s Law of Nature, the response and the bludgeon, to be likely as yet unrepresented in classical myth, I believe them to be . . . unrevealed. I think it’s a secret, a lie to ourselves and not the sort of thing every classical scholar knows. But I’m extrapolating from a mad insight, I could well be shown otherwise – again, please.)

So along comes me, saying, OK, the god put the response inside us, we may be stuck with that – but he’s only handed us the weapon. That’s free will when we use it.  We don’t have to.

In fact it looks to me like our temptation, our test that we’re failing, us always falling for the short term, roughest solution. Ha! You know I’m talking about punishment, so this is perhaps rich – forty days in the desert of newborn sleep deprivation and all western parents take the bribe, “power over all this.”

No?

A case can be made that Jesus shared my mad, absolutist idea about simply not punishing, the Cast the First Stone story as well as the Prodigal Son tales can be looked at that way – I’m no scholar, are there more? Not punishing, it’s not a great leap from the message of forgiveness, but of course punishing didn’t end, and forgiveness is a commodity in this punishing world.

If I may add some snide insult to this injury, I will say that we remember him, and an echo of the message, and we still tell those two stories, listening like dogs with our heads on sideways trying to glean the meaning, a meditative mystery, like one hand clapping – it means don’t punish, Rover!

I know – “Ruh?”

It’s a tough concept.

But we remember he tried, right, tried . . . ruh, again? We’re not sure, but he forgave folks, that’s nice. That is my complex, my delusional dream right there, to have said this, and to be remembered as having said it – don’t punish.

And maybe it starts out slowly, embarrassed, persecuted people getting together to not bully each other in basements and grottoes, and to raise their kids away from the Old Testament world, or perhaps that’s only the story the world makes up looking back from some future about it, but if things were going to improve for this species and its environment, for that future to be we need to pass the test and put down the club.

I wouldn’t mind being remembered as one of the people who told you this, but mostly only because that means you remember somebody told you this. Credit would nice of course, then I could flex on Jesus because I think the only person on Earth gives him credit for saying “don’t punish” (unqualified like that, global) so far is me. I heard you, Buddy! What hoops do the priests jump through to say it’s right not to punish adulteresses and sons who go walkabout (crimes at the time and in that place, I guess) but still wrong not to punish every petty thief and curious toddler?

We forgot about Dre’d on poor Jesus. Love the beat, Man. Oh, were you saying something?

 

 

Jeff

Feb. 26th., 2020

Primal Dream

 

I just cherry-picked another conclusion from Sapolsky’s work.

The Keekorok troop, the one who lost it’s male leaders and lost the alpha structure and became more prosocial – and importantly, converted incoming single males to this affiliative mode – I was going with the first impression, that it’s possible, but there’s more.

It shows how it’s accomplished – accidental Russian or French Revolution for these baboons, the alpha and wannabe alphas were all killed, leaving a group of more affiliative folks in charge, and the group did not fall to a single incomer with dreams of leadership, group versus individual, group wins, just like we like to say. That was off the cuff though, the thing that got me typing was that it sort of proves how rarely we have managed that trick.

Where can a human male go, be welcomed and talked out of his violent, competitive dreams? Where on Earth is there not some evil ladder for him to climb? The aforementioned revolutions installed new hierarchies, but hierarchies nonetheless, leaders, citizens and intermediaries. Of course, the human home is also that model.

 

Jeff

Feb. 23rd., 2020

Primal Scream

I know it’s infantile. This is not me, blindly immature, refusing to accept the fact of the world, it’s me, cognizantly immature . . . and refusing to accept the fact of the world.

I know it’s genderless (which, being fair, comes free with infantile) when I’m singing “I Feel the Earth Move.” That is not me, blindly in the closet, “accidentally” liking a female song, complete with the at the time most common euphemism for the female orgasm for a title and a chorus. That is me, acknowledging both women as well as my own feminine side – I know, I don’t look it while in my Dockers and band T-shirt, partially bearded. Having already lived a fairly full cis life and been driven mad with boredom by it, I’ve decided I belong with the freaks – no slight intended – but I’m sort of undemonstrative. The man costume doesn’t give exactly the right impression, but I’m trying not to be too hung up on costume and impressions. I always do something, weird haircut, some bright jacket no-one would touch, to give the clue.

These days, I’ve quit cutting my hair, I’m retired/unemployed, may as well let my freak flag fly, and it’s sort of genderless, long hair. I’m straight, I’m just not militant about it, genderless needs space.

I look pretty straight, if not at all tough. You’d think I have negative opinions about non-straight or non-white people, but I don’t, I so don’t. I’ve been bullied and terrorized by straight white males too, in my life that’s where all the trouble comes from too.

I expect I look more like a grownup than I feel also – but again, not blindly. Infantile is a conscious choice – I mean as well as a psychological disorder, it’s my disorder of choice, because “mature” means hard, mature means antisocial, mature means killed feelings and going about the business of killing things. You being mature means you do not care when I cry, or worse, you prefer that. You and me, Ma, still in that standoff, no I won’t fucking “self-soothe,” that is your job.

The crying will continue until treatment improves.

I know it’s still that baby cry I’m making every time I dissent, every time I fight something in life that most folks don’t object to – I know it internally, I mean every time I cry out, part of it is that I am still waiting for an answer to the first scream, that I look at it like if I never stop crying and if someone comes to see what’s wrong, ever, then I was heard eventually and not permanently ignored. I haven’t lost hope, you see, you all still have a chance to make this right! I mean, Mom’s gone, but you still can! Maybe you see this and think I don’t, but I see it:

I think growing up means giving up, of course I do.

Perhaps when I was young I had less of an idea of giving up on what exactly, but I think that what I’ve been  looking at, putting off, is giving up on is you, people. I suppose that was always it, but I’m here working through this because something has finally budged, something in this is moving for me a little and it’s not that I’m giving up now and the struggle is over, at least it doesn’t feel like that bad ending I’ve been fearing. Maybe I can give up without it being the end of the world, is what it’s whispering to me today.

Maybe writing y’all off isn’t the end. I’m still here, after all.

It’s a moral capitulation for me. I’m infantile, I know it, but I’m not a child. When I decide at nearly sixty that the rest of you are swine and not worth talking to until you prove otherwise, that is not going to pass as infantile, preverbal rage, is it? (Do you see it? I’d better cop first – I think that’s a lot of peoples’ true excuse for the same decision, that they made at the more appropriate time, like early childhood.) It was never my way to disregard someone, never the plan. I lived, heart on my sleeve, trying hard not to be defensively protecting myself from the people in my life, immediately either bringing them into my moral circle and trying to understand them or simply running away from them, not having them in my life. I don’t want to fight.

A lot of folks didn’t think so, because I like to talk and debate and philosophize and psychologize, but that is central to my dilemma here, I was treating them all as peers and equals and worth talking to and giving my honest thoughts and feelings . . . I think this is “regard,” me caring what you think, wanting to know what it is and sharing any information I think I have that I think you may not. I give any little wisdom I have away for free and if anyone would listen I would hold nothing back, talk myself straight out of a job, empty myself completely.

I wasn’t able to lie, protect myself that way, I was bad at keeping secrets, because I keep almost none of my own, I am always offering my privacy and my foibles in trade, hoping for some honesty and intimacy in return, TMI is my middle name. This I see as my function in the world, lead by example, be vulnerable, be embarrassed, don’t fear judgement and don’t judge, share the knowledge.

I lack boundaries.

But I find myself trying to remember if my honesty and humility ever did bring any reciprocation, and I can’t think of a single instance. I may have gotten a reputation for being “nice,” which in the words of Lone Watie, Chief Dan George’s character in the Outlaw Josey Wales, “I think it means we’re easy to sneak up on.” Beware of people who compliment you for simple honesty and then complain that you talk too much. Also old men who want to teach you the thing they could never learn!

That’s called “mansplaining,” a sub-category of the Dunning Kruger effect.

Sorry about that. Come back and read that to me tomorrow and every day for the rest of my life, would you mind?

Anyway, enough about my sainthood and how I can’t ever learn to hate, the point is, I think I may have found a way after all, I think I may finally see a crack in it, I think I may be able to separate things ever so slightly, have a boundary without having to start a war. I mean, not for what I would call a good reason, I just think I’ve finally been hurt enough to get it. This infantile, naive fearlessness crap will get you killed.

 

Jeff,

Feb. 22nd., 2020

Bubble Wrap

Not sure where to put this, it’s a random thought I want to not forget – bird brains are denser with neurons than ours, of course, mass and weight matter for birds – so perhaps much of the mass and weight of the prodigious human organ isn’t doing cognition or other brain things, if some very clever birds can live without it?

Perhaps it’s a lot of swelling from the beatings and punch-ups, or a lot of padding evolved to lessen brain injury during those events?

Pending annoying and elusive things like evidence, I think it fits AST and maybe the larger narrative too!  The plasticity phenomenon – brain maps exist, but portions can be reallocated, functions can be relearned when the mapped area is damaged – does suggest other sorts of redundancy in the brain, other sorts of injury mitigation strategies, not saying I’m the one to ask, but I’ve heard of the circle of Willis, a blood vessel that seems to have that plan. They say human craniums are getting thinner, though, which I assume is involved, but I don’t assume how – there are head-bashing birds, after all. I need to check out woodpeckers and such. Something to keep an ear on for me.

Oh, Hell, theories! This was supposed to be a sideline, not a full-time distraction. Oh well, here goes: cranial size being limited by mom’s pelvis size, perhaps the growth of the brain took the inner thickness from the skull, what it could, from where it could, without growing the outer dimensions beyond that limit? Perhaps brain mass, either for cognition or for cushioning, was more important than helmet thickness – hmm, especially considering we developed technology to smash skulls somewhere along the way? I suppose skull thickness got outstripped, less useful against stone weapons (like stones) than smarts or padding? (Or both, of course?)

I need to learn the timeline – has it simply been a steady thinning over a few million years, or did it thicken first and thin out later? I don’t know, but I just read something that sold me that we haven’t been boxing the entire few million years, perhaps boxing is no use unless your opponent has a thin skull or something, but I also got an idea that abuse doesn’t form or malform your bones so much as your brain. Of course the science is bone-centric, that’s what we have.

Sort of my whole thing.

I’ve happened here upon an insight I know I’ve heard of other folks having – lighter bones, thinner skulls, the idea that these indicate a less violent life, the position of the self-domestication idea . . . not necessarily the case is it, by the argument I made, weapons technology could explain that with no break in the action. Thickness of your bones helps you survive a punch up with your mates, maybe hunting injuries, it doesn’t change the spear’s ability to violate your softer parts?

A long process of lightening may not indicate less violence, only a more technical violence? Just a thought, needs to be slept on. Again though, bones.

I think I have a brain puzzle that needs attention in the ramble above.

The intelligence of some smallish creatures and the flight-ready configuration of some very good bird brains (and a suggestion that those sorts of brains served dinosaurs for millions as many years as we can claim), contrasted with the relative bulk and weight of our own. It’s not subtle – the math doesn’t work, we are not that much smarter, we are on the same scale for intelligence, while the mass and volume is an order of magnitude different.

It’s not even linear, comparing the size of your brain with your dog’s, compared to the intelligence gap, or with a rat’s. I’m guessing this apparent disparity is a known question with a name, like Pascal’s Wager or some such, that we’re twice as clever, but with a brain ten times the size.

In the plasticity book, The Brain That Changes Itself, Norman Doidge’s work,  he makes the case that we do not need all of that mass to function, he cites a normal functioning hydroencephalytic with water where ninety percent of that mass is supposed to be! Volume is not smarts, not in any simple, must be sort of a way.

So I’m back to most of it being bubble wrap.

That’s my rap all day long.

 

 

Jeff

February 15th., 2020

LOL – it’s better than my previous theory, believe me

https://neighsayersotherstuff.wordpress.com/2015/05/08/85-of-the-human-brain-is-just-filler/

😉

This is Your Life Or The Problem of Consciousness

It’s nothing less than a revolution that’s required, of course.

I’ve worked it out, and things are not really so different from what the scientists are telling you, that’s pretty much the situation, we’re made to fight one another and the only answer is not to lose, except for one large, fundamental difference: it’s bloody optional. The way we talk about game theory or conflict theory, you’d think it was this way for everything that lives, necessarily this way. It’s not.

Actually more importantly, whether it is or not, it simply can’t be – and can’t be, can’t be anymore, what’s the difference? If we want any sort of a life we have to make it not. It’s unsustainable, look out your window, if you have one.

Evolution says we’re never finished being made for anything anyway, we’re always still in the process of being made, so nobody gets to say “this is just how I am,” the real question is how you are trying to be. Well OK, bears, beetles and such do, but nobody who talks to me gets to say that! If you are some unconscious, instinctive animal, you don’t get to use that as a defense, if you can’t be responsible for yourself, you don’t get to make a defense, you don’t get to speak. Even, especially, your hired spokespeople don’t get to speak, I don’t care if they do wear glasses and a lab coat! If that’s the description of us, the verdict, an aggressive primate with an intractable penchant for group conflict, I’ll be jiggered if I’m taking it from you. You ‘I’m aggressive, deal with it’ types always have some nefarious agenda, in my experience! If you are coming to me, mouth flapping and canines bared, you need to be conscious and self-aware, not making some excuse about how your behaviour is hard tied to your existence with no wiggle room.

Why would I converse with that creature? What’s the point? It’s clearly going to do whatever it’s going to do, no matter what I say – even no matter what it says. We already have its terms. It’s going to do what it has to do, and it just told us it has to fight.

But, wiggle room – that’s consciousness, isn’t it? I thought we liked that!

I have always been more than a little suspicious of the way we talk about consciousness, and the way we slander the creatures we say don’t have it. I am sure, yes, from nothing but my own esteem of my own experience and general knowledge, that the “awareness of our own death” trope is rubbish and that all creatures have it. Predator or prey, it’s your business all day long, isn’t it? One step further I will say that awareness of your own death is perhaps only the very first baby-step of consciousness.

One great leap further, perhaps a very important one, would be to have some awareness of what is going on while we yet live, I mean to ask, yes, death is the end of life – but does consciousness apply to our life? Are we aware of what we do with our life, what we spend it at? We are “the conscious animal” because we’ve figured out the time limit we’re under, but it would be a better definition if we actually had consciousness regarding our lifestyle – if most of us didn’t live according to forces beyond our own understanding or control, is what I’m trying to say. That’s sort of the definition of unconscious.

If you’re conscious, then tell me – what is the stated goal of your life? What’s the plan? Survive? Breed? Fight for the right to do so, if necessary? I suppose “digest” is also one your clever, conscious plans!

Feeling especially mean today. To be fair, I have concrete, conscious plans to digest today as well. But you know what I mean, tell ourselves we’re conscious all we like, we are achieving a destruction of our environment no-one wants to take credit for having done consciously, right? All our hopes and dreams, most of the good stuff dies with us, but much of the waste and damage accumulates. I have a rather grim view of us, but even I do not think this was planned. Not consciously planned.

How many of us can or do declare (I do declayuh!) at the end of our lives looking back, that we were conscious, how many get to say, “I meant to do that?” I personally have lived half a life of utterly blind self-deception since the first time I said that! There was something I was meaning to do, I swear, while I thought I alone was living intentionally at all, but that’s not what happened, so that’s not what it was. Forces beyond my understanding and control, I assume.

Failing that so far, or in our attempts to understand, we have zeroed in on what takes so much of our time and energy, the conflicts. It’s what grew this large brain, we say, and in this evolution-as-explanation paradigm, that is us, it’s what your meat-bag was made for. That’s what your massive brain is for, fighting these clever aggressive humans – never mind you put it that way, the logic sounds a little circular? Yes, not so much circular logic as a biological feedback being described, I know. So, the good minded folks think about restraint and containment, what with all that grey matter being bent on a fight. We are trying to escape that brutal past. Right?

I mean, except for most of what we do. If control was not also a fight, perhaps.

I mean, except for soldiers. Or street soldiers and other criminals. Or criminal justice. Or anyone in politics or competitive sports. Even competitive figure skating, you ask some people! Those folks need to use that evolution, don’t they? In fact, we all do, because those folks are everywhere. There is no life for a rabbit among the foxes. This is your life. Stay strong or it will be either a bad one, a short one, or both.

Again, I am not happy to be described that way by some violent creature who can fight well enough to kill whole planets but can’t think his way out of a simple damned if you do, damned if you don’t bind like this. If it’s not smart enough to see the trap, then it’s not smart enough to be giving lectures.

I am certainly not happy to be given my marching papers by this ape who introduces himself this way, as possessed of a debatable portion of free will in matters of violence. This is the guy telling us who we are. Really?

“This is your life.”

The Hell you say, Sir.

It’s a nasty little irony that one thing we may count as a sure sign of consciousness is lying. Not sure, I mean, I know what they mean, but people lie to accomplish some less than conscious goals also, so lying while unconscious is hardly rare. In fact, it’s not impossible to argue that inasmuch as deceit has a purpose, then unconsciousness also has a purpose. No point in a lie if everyone’s walking about fully conscious of everything, who are you fooling? It takes two for a deceit to function, one to tell the lie and one to not know it.

I write every week about the lie, about just what it is we do that feeds this evil wolf within us despite our denials, but not so much today. Today, I want to start something. I’ve told you that I find this view of us offensive and unproductive – did I? I meant to. I mean unproductive of peace and progress, of course. My entire thesis is that it’s productive of just the situation it declares to pre-exist – but today I want to ask you.

Are you happy with this state of affairs? With this description of yourself and with the life before you in this view? This is what you were made for, here’s your rifle, good luck out there? Moreover – do you feel conscious about it? Like you had some choice in the matter? Or does it maybe feel like if there is a greater share of consciousness out there somewhere, that the powers are keeping it to themselves? Or perhaps that there just isn’t, and they’re keeping only that data point, that atom of awareness to themselves, for what advantage that may give?

Mic drop, end of blog, pithy and bitter, as usual.

Or . . .

. . . or we could choose not to simply declare ourselves conscious in this unconscious state and make the effort. I don’t expect everyone to suddenly agree with me and change their minds, but I’m asking for our scientists to revolt, to distress their parents and their churches and their donors and bosses, by not rubber stamping the status quo as the way it is and the only way it can be, to rebel by not projecting our guessed at past onto the future, but to find the next move, the way forward and to life, to a future.

You’re the brain with the pocket protector, you’re supposed to find the solutions, not tell us there are none. Figure stuff out, don’t be happy to merely describe the end of the world, like the media does, don’t just narrate and watch!

Simply describing yourself as aggressive and saying, “watch out for me,” is a very low level of consciousness indeed, hardly worthy of science. And did no-one ever tell you that you’re not supposed to tell a kid he is bad, only that he’s doing bad things, and why? That’s what I’m talking about here, you are telling more than kids exactly that. Of course, that’s what the Koch Foundation is paying for.

Chin up! Be brave – and follow me. I’m a philosopher by nature, I can figure this stuff out in English, in words, but this needs scientists, proof and publishing, chemistry and math, all of that – let’s get something started. Or, you know. Planet of the Apes.

Whatever.

 

 

Jeff

February 14th., 2020