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.





February 14th., 2020

One thought on “This is Your Life Or The Problem of Consciousness

  1. Jeff/neighsayer February 9, 2020 / 8:32 am

    I think of this blog as the Groucho joke I heard on M*A*S*H:
    “You’re finished here, Doctor.”
    “Yes, but who are YOU to tell me?”


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