The Landscapes of Fear

I’m learning the term on an episode of NOVA , “Nature’s Fear Factor.”

I’d heard the story of how it was first studied, the wolves in Yellowstone took some prey, but changed all the prey’s behaviour and protected some of the plants the prey eats, restoring the habitats in Yellowstone in a way that surprised us all, but I hadn’t heard any theory around it.

Now that I have, it’s clear that it’s exactly the same argument I am making about humans, that there is more to life and evolution than selection. There is now the landscape of fear as an established evolutionary fact and factor rolling out across the world of animal biology. Perhaps that’s the simplest way to say it, or aspect of it, although I haven’t heard Sir David or I guess Elder David (Suzuki) say it, that apex predators serve to protect the food of their prey, maybe preventing extinctions, and certainly acting as a control, as they point out.

I hadn’t had the roundness to put “acting as a control” in context before; one needs to hear the details at least once, the nuts and bolts of it, I suppose. If I’m being kind to myself.

The picture of elk eating and so controlling willows and wolves eating and controlling them, it’s organized enough . . . but then, do the apex predators control themselves through their territoriality and antisocial ways, yes they do, wolves and bears and lions and such do appear to serve this function on their own species as well, fending or killing off the other wolves before all the elk are gone, just as they fend or kill of the elk before the forests are gone. Of course you know where this is going, of course that’s us too, our only control on ourselves is us.

I guess this is a call for war and death, because it seems in that function we have failed, let the world down and given up any control and allowed ourselves to drive all the prey to oblivion. It would be if I were that sort, but I’m not so I will point out that control and death are not synonymous and humans show an amazing capacity (for animals) to control themselves by another means, namely birth control. It is inconvenient that we tend towards traditional forms of control and resist this method, as a social animal somehow, as an antisocial one, we find advantage in ourselves breeding uncontrolled and when we see a need for control we think we need an army of our own children to control some “other.”

It seems lions and I suppose tigers and bears all lack this social rule and follow the larger biological rule of territoriality and when even a mother bear’s cub reaches a certain age or size, it is subjected to this control: find your own space. In this way the world is not covered in bears and other things exist, there are still berries and salmon and honey in the world. I’m not saying we have to run game theory on our kids like they do – but we have to do something, control ourselves; we are the apex predator and we need to grow up and realize that no-one is doing that for us.

But we’re not just wrong or bad. This is happening, so there must be reasons. This is every animal’s, every predator’s world, none of it is new, so it’s not that we don’t have a strategy to control ourselves and not eat ourselves out of house and home. We have one, hinted at already, but controlling the other, in a larger, group game of territoriality has somehow morphed into breeding more and more soldiers on our own crowded territory in order to fend off the other and create some space. It’s an irony that tends not to leave anyone the time or peace in which to appreciate it.

My thing, my argument with the world is that we may blame that other, or our fear of them for everything, but this is our strategy. Their existence may be a “scientific fact,” but all this that we do about it is contingent, in Foucault’s sense, not written in stone. Birth control, again, the apparent alternative, is already sort of available. The problem with the old strategy, the group territoriality, is it has a dark side, an unconscious component that carries on uninterrupted and all of our conscious moral interventions simply attempt to mitigate the inevitable results of that less conscious behaviour.

I suppose the idea breaks down for us, because we have become our whole world in that way, humans are our predator, but also one of our prey. Perhaps the same reversal, our crowding inside our castles to try to control some enemy’s crowding of the habitat, means exactly the same reversal of the effect of the landscape of fear our predator selves creates, that our prey selves are not forced away from overgrazing, but forced into it instead.

I’ll wrap up, but I feel I’ve missed it, or at least that there’s more to learn from this newish idea. I expect I’ll be back to it.

Jeff

Oct. 26th., 2020

60 today

MLK’s Dream

Me in italics.

No rewrite here, although that was the plan. MLK did not leave himself open to my criticisms, I should’ve known, he’s not one of the bad guys. So it’s just an excuse to reprint his speech and to add my own embellishments to racism theory, inform what racism is with antisocialization theory, and that only takes a minute.

Martin Luther King JR

On August 28, 1963, some 100 years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation freeing the slaves, a young man named Martin Luther King climbed the marble steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. to describe his vision of America. More than 200,000 people-black and white-came to listen. They came by plane, by car, by bus, by train, and by foot. They came to Washington to demand equal rights for black people. And the dream that they heard on the steps of the Monument became the dream of a generation.

As far as black Americans were concerned, the nation’s response to Brown was agonizingly slow, and neither state legislatures nor the Congress seemed willing to help their cause along. Finally, President John F. Kennedy recognized that only a strong civil rights bill would put teeth into the drive to secure equal protection of the laws for African Americans. On June 11, 1963, he proposed such a bill to Congress, asking for legislation that would provide “the kind of equality of treatment which we would want for ourselves.” Southern representatives in Congress managed to block the bill in committee, and civil rights leaders sought some way to build political momentum behind the measure.

  1. Philip Randolph, a labor leader and longtime civil rights activist, called for a massive march on Washington to dramatize the issue. He welcomed the participation of white groups as well as black in order to demonstrate the multiracial backing for civil rights. The various elements of the civil rights movement, many of which had been wary of one another, agreed to participate. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the Congress of Racial Equality, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee and the Urban League all managed to bury their differences and work together. The leaders even agreed to tone down the rhetoric of some of the more militant activists for the sake of unity, and they worked closely with the Kennedy administration, which hoped the march would, in fact, lead to passage of the civil rights bill.

On August 28, 1963, under a nearly cloudless sky, more than 250,000 people, a fifth of them white, gathered near the Lincoln Memorial in Washington to rally for “jobs and freedom.” The roster of speakers included speakers from nearly every segment of society — labor leaders like Walter Reuther, clergy, film stars such as Sidney Poitier and Marlon Brando and folksingers such as Joan Baez. Each of the speakers was allotted fifteen minutes, but the day belonged to the young and charismatic leader of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had originally prepared a short and somewhat formal recitation of the sufferings of African Americans attempting to realize their freedom in a society chained by discrimination. He was about to sit down when gospel singer Mahalia Jackson called out, “Tell them about your dream, Martin! Tell them about the dream!” Encouraged by shouts from the audience, King drew upon some of his past talks, and the result became the landmark statement of civil rights in America — a dream of all people, of all races and colors and backgrounds, sharing in an America marked by freedom and democracy.

For further reading: Herbert Garfinkel, When Negroes March: The March on Washington…(1969); Taylor Branch, Parting the Waters: America in the King Years, 1954-1963 (1988); Stephen B. Oates, Let the Trumpet Sound: The Life of Martin Luther King Jr. (1982).

Wow, imagine that, the administration coordinating with its suffering people, as if it represented them or something. Didn’t the establishment in America hate him as a Catholic? That’s changed, huh, now the hard Right establishment is Catholic, in this administration. I suppose the bad guys took over the Church before they took over the government in America? Sorry – politics.

This blog is supposed to transcend or underwrite or undermine politics, it’s supposed to be about how we are all the bad guys, how what the good people do creates the bad guys. How the bad guy feeding frenzies that destroy the world are the logical extremes of our everyday behaviour, of the good folks’ efforts and intentions. That’s the secret, that’s antisocialization theory, that the evil we struggle against hides as the struggle itself, so that’s what I am auditing these classic writings with, the idea that evil has a real world back story, that it doesn’t simply “flourish in neglect,” that it doesn’t exist and multiply by itself.

More concretely, the theory says that white racists are abused by their white caregivers and society and racism is deflection, but also that the system of abuse that is American society is an ancient formula for group conflict that evolved for much smaller societies where people who were “not our people” really were enemies. I say evolved, one is tempted to read “natural,” but although deflection may be natural, abuse is not. Abuse appears to be a primate invention; other creatures don’t seem to require it. The formula, antisocialization theory, is abuse for conflict, that deflection is the function and that the endless sorrow of racism is made even worse because skin colour is only an arbitrary marker, that blacks are not hated by whites for any traits or any reason at all other than the whites’ own abuse makes then seek an enemy, any enemy.

A horror, a nightmare, a world of immorality and pain, and all for nothing, all purely expedient, because, yes, here I go, because spanking, which is a term for providing an abusive environment, on purpose, to antisocialize our children.

Children’s’ rights are civil rights in this real world way.

OK. On with it.

I write this surely having heard this speech in my life, but never having read it all. It’s likely enough that Dr. King never references the evil human nature meme and I’ll have nothing to add, and that would be fine, I don’t want to be arguing with him.

“I HAVE A DREAM” (1963)

I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon of hope to millions of slaves, who had been seared in the flames of whithering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity. But one hundred years later, the colored America is still not free. One hundred years later, the life of the colored American is still sadly crippled by the manacle of segregation and the chains of discrimination.

One hundred years later, the colored American lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the colored American is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land So we have come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

In a sense we have come to our Nation’s Capital to cash a check. When the architects of our great republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir.

This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the inalienable rights of life liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given its colored people a bad check, a check that has come back marked “insufficient funds.”

But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and security of justice.

We have also come to his hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of Now. This is not time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism.

Now is the time to make real the promise of democracy.

Now it the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice.

Now it the time to lift our nation from the quicksand of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood.

Now is the time to make justice a reality to all of God’s children.

I would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment and to underestimate the determination of it’s colored citizens. This sweltering summer of the colored people’s legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end but a beginning. Those who hope that the colored Americans needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual.

There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the colored citizen is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities.

We cannot be satisfied as long as the colored person’s basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one.

We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their selfhood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating “for white only.”

We cannot be satisfied as long as a colored person in Mississippi cannot vote and a colored person in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote.

No, no we are not satisfied and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of your trials and tribulations. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by storms of persecutions and staggered by the winds of police brutality.

You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.

Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our modern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed.

Let us not wallow in the valley of despair. I say to you, my friends, we have the difficulties of today and tomorrow.

I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed. We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal.

I have a dream that one day out in the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slaveowners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by their character.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; that one day right down in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today.

I think I’m only going to have what I said at the beginning, and I’m afraid that Dr. King’s dream will be a dream until we understand the function of abuse in it all. As long as white people keep breaking their children, those children will be patrolling the streets looking for an outlet. It breaks my heart to hear black Americans defend their spanking, but as long as the dominants beat their kids, then I would not take the same tool away from the subjugated populations to also toughen their children with abuse. We all have to stop – but whites first, dominants first. Nothing changes until they change.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be engulfed, every hill shall be exalted and every mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plains and the crooked places will be made straight and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope. This is the faith that I will go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope.

With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood.

With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to climb up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

This will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with new meaning “My country ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my father’s died, land of the Pilgrim’s pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring!”

And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true. So let freedom ring from the hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York.

Sad to see the negative proof of how true this was, how we’ve gone the opposite direction on both matters in one motion.

Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania.

Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado.

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.

But not only that, let freedom, ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi and every mountainside.

When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every tenement and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old spiritual, “Free at last, free at last. Thank God Almighty, we are free at last.”

Amen.

My craziest, dearest own dream is this also, and the maddest bit is that I think I’ve seen the way, that conflict, all conflict comes from spanking, from thinking hurting something makes it “better,” that we are the lion and spanking, abuse, is the thorn. Oh, I like that. Tell me we are lions, fine, but we are lions in pain, is the point.

 

Jeff in italics, MLK otherwise

Oct. 25th., 2020

 

OK, I don’t know who wrote the exposition, I found the speech at the US Embassy site, in Korea?

https://kr.usembassy.gov/education-culture/infopedia-usa/living-documents-american-history-democracy/martin-luther-king-jr-dream-speech-1963/#:~:text=sisters%20and%20brothers.-,I%20have%20a%20dream%20today.,flesh%20shall%20see%20it%20together.

I hope that’s not an issue, it sounded OK.

Isaiah Berlin

 

Me in italics.

These exercises are re-reads, my re-writes of popular looking articles, through the lens of antisocialization theory, that is to say, counting normal punishment as abuse and counting abuse as causative of the human . . . personality flaws.

I’ve done one about an article called “Parenting Doesn’t Matter,” and one called “Do humans really have a killer instinct or is that just manly fancy?” The first was a Nature over Nurture argument from the political Right and the second was just a nice story about science stories about Human Nature. The first one I fought with and refuted, the second, I think I only clarified, added to. This one seems ambitious and dangerous to me, bloody Hell, he’s going after the good guys now, kind of thing.

Yes, I’m sorry, the good guys and the bad guys in this world share a paradigm and only choose sides, and if the good guys were so much more correct, why aren’t they winning? Good guys self-critique.

  1. Take it away, Sir.

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” With these words Dickens began his famous novel A Tale of Two Cities. But this cannot, alas, be said about our own terrible century. Men have for millennia destroyed each other, but the deeds of Attila the Hun, Genghis Khan, Napoleon (who introduced mass killings in war), even the Armenian massacres, pale into insignificance before the Russian Revolution and its aftermath: the oppression, torture, murder which can be laid at the doors of Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, Mao, Pol Pot, and the systematic falsification of information which prevented knowledge of these horrors for years—these are unparalleled. They were not natural disasters, but preventable human crimes, and whatever those who believe in historical determinism may think, they could have been averted.

Jarring to me, from here and now, to hear Hitler’s name in the middle of all those communists or supposed communists. Did the whole world still think National Socialism was socialism when he spoke? Just nervous, of course it’s about dictators and pogroms, not Left and Right. Tangential.

Yes, these things could be averted – but they will always have to be, they are the logical end of something, well of AST, antisocialization. A forever aversion will mean a change of lifestyle.

I speak with particular feeling, for I am a very old man, and I have lived through almost the entire century. My life has been peaceful and secure, and I feel almost ashamed of this in view of what has happened to so many other human beings. I am not a historian, and so I cannot speak with authority on the causes of these horrors. Yet perhaps I can try.

LOL. Today, “I’m not a scientist, but” doesn’t come from anyone who should be allowed it, like this fellow. Objection overruled.

They were, in my view, not caused by the ordinary negative human sentiments, as Spinoza called them—fear, greed, tribal hatreds, jealousy, love of power—though of course these have played their wicked part. They have been caused, in our time, by ideas; or rather, by one particular idea. It is paradoxical that Karl Marx, who played down the importance of ideas in comparison with impersonal social and economic forces, should, by his writings, have caused the transformation of the twentieth century, both in the direction of what he wanted and, by reaction, against it. The German poet Heine, in one of his famous writings, told us not to underestimate the quiet philosopher sitting in his study; if Kant had not undone theology, he declared, Robespierre might not have cut off the head of the King of France.

OK, Marx’s followers and the reaction against them, that’s how it’s all one list. Not really cricket that the reaction is also blamed on the new idea, that the reaction is not respected as having an idea of its own – but again, we’re talking about mass murder, not politics. No, hold on, this is the point, communism is a dangerous new idea and the previous idea – royalism? “Competition?” – is seen as default, as only normal and to be expected? Marx, that boat-rocker, huh, what was wrong with the way things were before? Really? Was the French revolution also a lot of blood for nothing?

Maybe only jarring today again?

He predicted that the armed disciples of the German philosophers—Fichte, Schelling, and the other fathers of German nationalism—would one day destroy the great monuments of Western Europe in a wave of fanatical destruction before which the French Revolution would seem child’s play. This may have been unfair to the German metaphysicians, yet Heine’s central idea seems to me valid: in a debased form, the Nazi ideology did have roots in German anti-Enlightenment thought. There are men who will kill and maim with a tranquil conscience under the influence of the words and writings of some of those who are certain that they know perfection can be reached.

OK, maybe I see a crack here.

First, there have always been men who will do that under all sorts of influences and reading hasn’t been a requirement for it.

Let me explain. If you are truly convinced that there is some solution to all human problems, that one can conceive an ideal society which men can reach if only they do what is necessary to attain it, then you and your followers must believe that no price can be too high to pay in order to open the gates of such a paradise. Only the stupid and malevolent will resist once certain simple truths are put to them. Those who resist must be persuaded; if they cannot be persuaded, laws must be passed to restrain them; if that does not work, then coercion, if need be violence, will inevitably have to be used—if necessary, terror, slaughter. Lenin believed this after reading Das Kapital, and consistently taught that if a just, peaceful, happy, free, virtuous society could be created by the means he advocated, then the end justified any methods that needed to be used, literally any.

First, I think Marx offered a solution to a single human problem, economic oppression. As a personal aside, I too get this complaint, that I’m trying to solve “everything,” and that don’t I know it can’t be done? And I too think I have solved only one thing, social oppression.

For the paragraph, I don’t buy it. I think the dream, the utopia exists, but for ambitious people, for leaders and groups, it’s only gaslighting nonsense, who really imagines paradise to be inhabited by naught but murderous psychopaths, who really thinks that when only the Nazis remain that this is heaven and the murder machine will stop and everyone will treat each other well again? I’m saying that the process is the point, that there really isn’t an endgame, that genocidal schemes are for the here and now and we need to understand why that would be. Of course it’s some game theory arithmetic about feeling safest when you’re on the march to war, because then you are holding the dull end of the spear whereas during “peace,” someone else might pick it up. It seems a coin toss, making this decision, war or peace, but antisocialization theory says that you are a weighted coin, that the game is rigged to come up war 51% of the time, the war room’s house advantage, because you, as a human being are mistreated constantly for some greater good that surprise! only turned out to be another war.

He said it was assumed, it was part of the question, that whatever must be done must be done – and now he’s describing the incremental steps of how a society gets to where it began, he said the violence was authorized from the start, and then he goes off on a tangent about how it’s an argument, the bad guys are trying to convince someone of something and “resorting even to violence” to do it. Again, the politics, selling the idea isn’t the point, violence sells one idea, violence, that’s the deeper, biological point. Both Hitler’s and Stalin’s goons produced the same things, the only things violent goons ever produce, victims, not ideological allies.

I’m sorry. It’s not logical, except under the assumption of a bad human nature. It is not neutral logic that paradise is brought on by a purge, anyone who thinks that has a slant towards violence and not towards paradise. Of course, he saw all that history, of course, one sees a bad human nature. It’s just that nature is a relative term, something is natural, unless you dreamed it up and made it happen, that’s a different sort of natural. We need to be able to imagine a thinker without the bias.

The root conviction which underlies this is that the central questions of human life, individual or social, have one true answer which can be discovered. It can and must be implemented, and those who have found it are the leaders whose word is law. The idea that to all genuine questions there can be only one true answer is a very old philosophical notion.

I fear he’s telling us what they said, the dictator’s reasons for torturing their victims, “We need to change their minds!” The entire question could be much simpler for him to just say they were lying when they said that. Again, the “root conviction,” is two root convictions, that there is an answer, and that it must be implemented, by force if necessary. The first may be worth a look. The second is psychopathy, and that our sad critic seems to accept it also is a bit hopeless, isn’t it?

Wait, maybe it’s not so bad, maybe the solution is the other way about, rather that the problem is the other way about, OK, I have two problems. The second thing is nuts, fascism, but his point is it’s bad, right, his dual root conviction, and I don’t like much better that the first thing, the idea that there is one solution is somehow bad. Why would that be a problem? I mean it is, twice this week, that has been the complaint about my talk, the comeback, “well, there is no one answer,” like it’s a rule or something. Why? Because if there was, we’d have to kill everyone who didn’t get it?

Don’t be putting those words in my mouth, I never said that, in fact the idea totally refutes my one miracle answer.

Because if there was one answer, the people with the answer would kill the people who don’t like it, and again, we accept that? It would seem to betray a prediction, that the one answer to our problems couldn’t possibly be stop hurting and killing each other, huh. Bias. When you have a shit idea of human nature, you expect the answer to be a slaughter, even when the answer is supposed to be unknown.

The great Athenian philosophers, Jews and Christians, the thinkers of the Renaissance and the Paris of Louis XIV, the French radical reformers of the eighteenth century, the revolutionaries of the nineteenth—however much they differed about what the answer was or how to discover it (and bloody wars were fought over this)—were all convinced that they knew the answer, and that only human vice and stupidity could obstruct its realization.

And violence is the answer to stupidity and doesn’t literally cause it. When did a blow to the head ever make anyone smarter? Imagine getting that far with that thought OK, I’ve worked out exactly what would save humanity from itself but people are too dumb to do it so let’s trying killing a bunch of folks again, maybe it’ll work one of these times.

This is the idea of which I spoke, and what I wish to tell you is that it is false. Not only because the solutions given by different schools of social thought differ, and none can be demonstrated by rational methods—but for an even deeper reason. The central values by which most men have lived, in a great many lands at a great many times—these values, almost if not entirely universal, are not always harmonious with each other. Some are, some are not. Men have always craved for liberty, security, equality, happiness, justice, knowledge, and so on. But complete liberty is not compatible with complete equality—if men were wholly free, the wolves would be free to eat the sheep. Perfect equality means that human liberties must be restrained so that the ablest and the most gifted are not permitted to advance beyond those who would inevitably lose if there were competition. Security, and indeed freedoms, cannot be preserved if freedom to subvert them is permitted. Indeed, not everyone seeks security or peace, otherwise some would not have sought glory in battle or in dangerous sports.

Justice has always been a human ideal, but it is not fully compatible with mercy. Creative imagination and spontaneity, splendid in themselves, cannot be fully reconciled with the need for planning, organization, careful and responsible calculation. Knowledge, the pursuit of truth—the noblest of aims—cannot be fully reconciled with the happiness or the freedom that men desire, for even if I know that I have some incurable disease this will not make me happier or freer. I must always choose: between peace and excitement, or knowledge and blissful ignorance. And so on.

OK, I think I hear him, the wrong idea is that there is a one-size fits all solution and that even if everyone were smart, there would still be conflict and that attempts to impose a universal solution have only resulted in even worse nightmares. That is inarguable, at least for me, but – of course – but I would split that hair of “here is a universal solution, take it or die,” that seems like two things to me. I feel like he’s shouting at us repeatedly that it’s one and that if anyone suggests humanity as whole does anything wrong that they are also suggesting we all be killed for it, and I repeat that’s what Hitler shouted at him, isn’t it, that’s the dictator’s lie, his excuse for a lot of massacres, that the solution creates a necessity for pogroms?

Did he put his disease in us? Can we not imagine that “solution” used to have a bigger, better meaning before Hitler put his stink on it, that not every solution is death and that death is in fact not a solution at all anyway, but the problem? Berlin is making a better point, but he’s using this awful one of theirs to do it and again I don’t understand how this could be, it must have been such a different world.

I think this too is the bias, the bad human nature, that knowledge “will not make me happier or freer.” I agree with his list of conflicts, but it is not the beginning and the end, there are more things under Heaven. It could not, if we were bad, if human life were bad, if bad news were all there was to find, then yes, knowledge couldn’t lead one to happiness – and it is because we suspect that and make our choices accordingly that the world tends to be what we see.

So what is to be done to restrain the champions, sometimes very fanatical, of one or other of these values, each of whom tends to trample upon the rest, as the great tyrants of the twentieth century have trampled on the life, liberty, and human rights of millions because their eyes were fixed upon some ultimate golden future?

What if we found some way to restrain only the violence, and let the rest carry on with its natural ebb and flow? What madness would unrestrained gentleness wreak? What pogrom would these extremist anti-violence people unleash with their awful one-size-fits-all totalitarianism?

I am afraid I have no dramatic answer to offer, only that if these ultimate human values by which we live are to be pursued, then compromises, trade-offs, arrangements have to be made if the worst is not to happen. So much liberty for so much equality, so much individual self-expression for so much security, so much justice for so much compassion. My point is that some values clash: the ends pursued by human beings are all generated by our common nature, but their pursuit has to be to some degree controlled—liberty and the pursuit of happiness, I repeat, may not be fully compatible with each other, nor are liberty, equality, and fraternity.

I’ll shut up and let him finish. Reading it this year, in 2020, should make the point that this good fellow didn’t get it right, like pretty much everybody else.

And it trails off from there as it all does, again, there is no hope in the answer when the question was “considering Man’s fallen state, what can we expect?” I’m finished, I said it already, he’s right, purges are bad; but he’s wrong, finding an answer is not the problem, saying there is no answer, or no answer without purges, is the problem. Accepting evil as inevitable is the problem, making a bad assumption about human nature is the problem, it brings all these nightmares into the realm of possibility when it all should be unthinkable.

Mr. Berlin sounds like a man of his time, if I disliked him I’d say he sounds like a royalist or something, like what was so wrong with the world before, the new ideas are the problem, they’re rocking the boat when we were managing our eternal conflicts just fine, as well as can be expected. And he was right – but the improvement in human consciousness that antisocialization theory could be has the power to make him wrong again, to move us into a more understandable world where science and ideas could be more than weapons. If he could have known that within his world of balanced conflicts, the good things that make it are also the bad things that tear it all down. Again, if he, and all of us were looking for the causality in the here and now and not in some proposed initial condition.

As a final apology, I regret the time and sort of hope I don’t post this, honestly, Berlin hasn’t said anything anyone talks about anymore, nothing the indifference of time hasn’t already sort of polished off. I need to try this on someone from this century, worry about conversations among the living.

So we must weigh and measure, bargain, compromise, and prevent the crushing of one form of life by its rivals. I know only too well that this is not a flag under which idealistic and enthusiastic young men and women may wish to march—it seems too tame, too reasonable, too bourgeois, it does not engage the generous emotions. But you must believe me, one cannot have everything one wants—not only in practice, but even in theory. The denial of this, the search for a single, overarching ideal because it is the one and only true one for humanity, invariably leads to coercion. And then to destruction, blood—eggs are broken, but the omelette is not in sight, there is only an infinite number of eggs, human lives, ready for the breaking. And in the end the passionate idealists forget the omelette, and just go on breaking eggs.

I am glad to note that toward the end of my long life some realization of this is beginning to dawn. Rationality, tolerance, rare enough in human history, are not despised. Liberal democracy, despite everything, despite the greatest modern scourge of fanatical, fundamentalist nationalism, is spreading. Great tyrannies are in ruins, or will be—even in China the day is not too distant. I am glad that you to whom I speak will see the twenty-first century, which I feel sure can be only a better time for mankind than my terrible century has been. I congratulate you on your good fortune; I regret that I shall not see this brighter future, which I am convinced is coming. With all the gloom that I have been spreading, I am glad to end on an optimistic note. There really are good reasons to think that it is justified.

© The Isaiah Berlin Literary Trust 2014

Oh, I’ll post. A blog needs a heartbeat.

 

 

Jeff in italics,

Oct. 23rd.,  2020

Critique of “Killer Instinct”

 

Me in italics.

Trying something here. A mutual on Twitter posted an article in Psyche by Nadine Weidman, a short history of my favourite topic, science’s attempted assaults on the old “human nature” question. I did one of these before, about biology’s efforts to disqualify the power of childrearing, and it was rather angry and confrontational. I was fighting back, advocating for kids. Here’s that –

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2017/06/15/critique-of-do-parents-really-matter/

It was an angry, point by point response to what I saw and still see as right-wing propaganda at a notorious site/magazine called Quillette.

My thoughts have moved on somewhat, I have quit arguing with folks on that side of the fence for one, and I think more globally, perhaps. I think of “human nature” as the base of the flame, where you’re supposed to point the fire extinguisher for best effect. Not so much because we all behave from it – I too want to change the question before I answer it – but because we blame everything on it after the fact.

I’m concerned that it seems a simple evil trick to convince everyone evil is normal so that you can get away with anything. And yes, I was seeing this before 2015. I saw it when I saw that one man’s beating is another man’s spanking and one man’s execution is another man’s assassination. In About Parenting Doesn’t Matter, I worked through it in real time, responded to his text, let my responses accumulate along with his . . . I suspect you wouldn’t understand me, until maybe at the end. Only maybe.

This time I’ll tell you what I think human nature is first, hopefully then my arguments won’t be incomprehensible: I think the best possible summation is “abuse victim.” It gives the evil an explanation, in this world, without resorting to any ideas of innateness, which is only creationism. I don’t assume I’ve convinced you. It’s an insight; they who have ears to hear, kind of thing. But just so you know where I’m at: it’s the one thing most of the other animals are not, they’re mostly either alive or dead. It’s just us beaten half to death and still living and breeding and passing it on. It’s amazing to me that we don’t all see that, but I guess we’re not allowed.

I plan to be kind to the author, but I may get a little confrontational with the ideas she’s telling us about. I’m afraid if the fire isn’t burning, I’m not at the keyboard. This was two days ago, it’s been on my mind.

Do humans really have a killer instinct or is that just manly fancy? | Psyche

(1952 illustration of Australopithecus africanus by Zdenek Burian. Photo by STR/AFP via Getty.)

https://psyche.co/ideas/do-humans-really-have-a-killer-instinct-or-is-that-just-manly-fancy

(Nadine Weidman is a lecturer on the history of science at Harvard University. She is the author of Constructing Scientific Psychology: Karl Lashley’s Mind-Brain Debates (1999) and Race, Racism, and Science: Social Impact and Interaction (2004), co-authored with John P Jackson, Jr.

Edited by Sam Haselby)

Horrified by the atrocities of the 20th century, an array of scientists sought to explain why human beings turned to violence. The founder of psychoanalysis Sigmund Freud argued that ‘man is a wolf to man’, driven to hatred, destruction and death. The neuroscientist Paul MacLean maintained that humans’ violent tendencies could be traced to their primitive ‘reptilian brain’. The social psychologist Albert Bandura countered that aggression was not inborn but resulted from imitation and suggestion. Despite the controversy they provoked, such theories often attained the status of conventional wisdom.

I suppose I should only argue after a paragraph, is that a pause?

“Turned to violence” sounds lovely. We were in a better place, or somebody was. Freud, violence exists in mankind, sure. MacLean, violence is basic, foundational, sure. Bandura, not inborn, OK, sort of, but imitation and suggestion, no. Unless an ass-whooping counts as a suggestion, which was exactly the case, I assure you, it absolutely did, which is exactly the problem because in that difference lies the truth of the matter.

Conventional wisdom is a lovely euphemism too, bloody poetic. The wisdom that every last human is capable of and your boss and your father don’t mind. We are a famously sage bunch, just don’t turn on your TV.

What makes claims about human nature become truisms? How do they gain credibility? They might rely on experiments, case studies or observation, but evidence alone is never enough to persuade. Such theories – by virtue of the very fact that they seek to encompass the human – must always go beyond their evidence. They manage to persuade by appealing to common experience and explaining familiar events, by creating a shock of recognition in their audiences, a sudden realisation that ‘this must be true’. They employ characters and a narrative arc, and draw moral lessons. In short: they tell a good story.

Short answer for the first two questions, a beating. It’s a sort of proof of a violent human nature if even my dear old momma thinks hurting me is a good thing. And “spanking” seems to be a word for “formative beating,” for the time of life when some trauma affects the development of your brain and the way you think. It’s one sort of proof when Mom or your brothers beat you, proof of their evil natures, but our response to threat and abuse, Sapolsky’s “only cure” of deflection and what I call antisocialization, your embitterment can appear to provide the proof of it within ourselves as well. So when someone comes along and says it’s the amygdala makes you evil, it resonates, yes, yes, we are, aren’t we? THAT’S why!

A “good story,” of course, is one written to formula, for your DNA or experience; one you are ready to hear. Substitute “only the threat” of a beating if you like, doesn’t hurt my argument a bit. Threats are real, the stress is real, Sapolsky said that too and proved it as well.

In the 1960s, alongside prevailing psychological and neuroscientific theories of human aggression, a new claim appeared, that aggression was a human instinct. Relying on the sciences of evolution and animal behaviour, this ‘instinct theory’ held that human aggression was a legacy of our deep ancestral past and an inbuilt tendency shared with many other animal species. One important novelty of this theory was its assertion that human aggression was not wholly destructive, but had a positive, even constructive side. Its proponents were talented writers who readily adopted literary devices.

My thought about this these days is that this one and many like it cite “evolution” as their theory and then go on to explain how humans are still walking around with their chimpanzee violence, which is sort of the opposite of evolution, the idea that nothing ever goes away. It’s a “no, you didn’t actually evolve” argument, basically an anti-evolution argument. It also, while eating that cake too, suggests that chimpanzees apparently have world wars, world wars are a legacy of the past in this narrative as though we didn’t just invent them, what, a hundred and five years ago.

It looks like that’s my answer for the whole rest of it!

Robert Ardrey’s bestseller African Genesis (1961) won a big American audience. A Hollywood scriptwriter turned science writer, Ardrey travelled to South Africa, then a hotspot for the excavation of prehistoric human remains. In Johannesburg, he met Raymond Dart, the discoverer of a 2 million-year-old fossilised skull, which Dart believed to be the most ancient human ancestor ever unearthed. Although this creature walked upright, its braincase was small and distinctly apelike, so Dart named it Australopithecus africanus, the southern ape from Africa.

Dart found that Australopithecus remains were typically surrounded by equally fossilised animal bones, especially the long heavy leg bones of antelopes evidently hunted for food. But these bones had been shaped and carefully carved. He noticed that they rested comfortably in his own hand. With a shock, he realised that they were weapons. Their double-knobbed ends corresponded perfectly to the holes and dents that Dart observed in other fossilised Australopithecus skulls. Two conclusions seemed inescapable: first, this proto-human ancestor was not simply a hunter; he was also a killer of his own kind. Second, the wielding of bone weapons was not solely a destructive act; rather, it had far-reaching consequences for human evolution. Freed from their role in locomotion, forelimbs became available for finer manipulations, which then drove the enlargement of the human brain. Picking up a weapon, Dart theorised, was the thing that triggered human advancement.

In Ardrey’s retelling, Dart’s hypothesis became even more dramatic. The ancient African savannah was home also to Australopithecus robustus, a vegetarian, unarmed cousin of africanus – and his victim. In Ardrey’s account, the lithe and ruthless africanus, brandishing bone weapons, had exterminated his competitor, an ancient conflict that Ardrey couldn’t resist comparing to the Biblical murder of Abel by his brother Cain. The weapon had propelled africanus toward full humanity while robustus slouched toward extinction. Human beings were, quite literally, Cain’s children.

Evolutionary original sin!

Thanks to Ardrey’s embroidered telling, Dart’s theory inspired perhaps the most famous scene in cinematic history. In the opening sequence of 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), the leader of a band of ape-men smashes the remains of his defeated antagonists with a crude weapon fashioned out of bone. The victors are carnivorous and armed; the losers, gentle and defenceless. At the end of the sequence, the leader tosses his bone weapon into the air, where it is transformed into a spaceship gliding silently through darkness. Arthur C Clarke, the scriptwriter for Stanley Kubrick’s film, had read Ardrey’s book, and the scene echoed Dart’s claim: human ingenuity begins in violence.

Embarrassed to say, I did not know this connection, the film to a specific discovery, I assumed it was generic. Well, it ended up generic after all the projection, didn’t it, a specific connection was hardly required for Ardrey, let alone Kubrick.

Ardrey was disturbed by the image he had conjured. What could be more frightening than man the irascible ape, with a penchant for violence inherited from his ancestors in his heart and, in his hand, weapons much more powerful than antelope bones? What would prevent this evolved australopithecine from detonating an atomic bomb?

In African Genesis, Ardrey turned to a different branch of science – ethology, the study of animal behaviour in the wild – for an answer. The Austrian ornithologist Konrad Lorenz developed the foundations of ethology by sharing his home with wild animals, mainly birds of many different species. By living with animals, Lorenz revealed some of the mysteries of animal instinct, including the phenomenon of imprinting, in which a baby bird follows the first parent-figure it sees after birth. In popular books in the 1950s, Lorenz enraptured war-weary audiences worldwide with tales of his life with jackdaws, geese and fish, presenting himself as a scientific King Solomon, the Biblical hero whose magic ring granted him the power to talk with the animals.

Through theories about human nature, readers made sense of race riots and assassinations, the Vietnam War and the threat of nuclear annihilation

By the 1960s, Lorenz had begun to notice a curious feature of the aggression that his animals directed at members of their own species. Unlike predator-prey relationships, these intraspecies encounters rarely ended in killing. Instead, the aggressor animals diverted their violent impulses into harmless or even productive channels. Two rival greylag ganders, spoiling for a fight, cackled and threatened each other, but never physically clashed. Their aggression thus discharged in these playacting rituals, each gander returned to his mate in triumph. Lorenz observed that not only was outright violence avoided, but the social bond between each gander and his own family was actually strengthened. Far from a drive purely toward destruction and death, aggression redirected against an outsider engendered the ties of affection and love among the in-group.

Lorenz’s ethology showed that aggression, when properly managed, had positive consequences. Ardrey realised that the answer to the problem of human aggression was not to try to eliminate it – an impossible task, since Dart had demonstrated that it was ingrained in our nature – but to acknowledge aggression as innate and ineradicable, and then channel it productively. In his book On Aggression (1966), Lorenz made his own suggestions for possible outlets, including the space race.

Yeah, one of the things about aggression, it doesn’t like being “properly managed” and has a tendency to occupy management.

It would be difficult to overstate the popularity in the 1960s and ’70s of Lorenz’s and Ardrey’s hypothesis about human nature. In the United States, their books became bestsellers. Through their theories about human nature, readers made sense of race riots and assassinations, the Vietnam War and the threat of nuclear annihilation. Their warning – that humans must accommodate their aggression instinct and re-channel it, before it was too late – was cited by US senators and cabinet secretaries. The message made such a lasting impact that even in the 1980s, UNESCO found it necessary to endorse an official statement that biology didn’t condemn humans to violence.

I get the sense that the conversation always slides from capability to morality, that all the discoveries prove that we kill, that we have killed one another, yes, no kidding, proving the capability, as though the question were are we an animal that is incapable of killing one another – is that the humanist goal, that we become a creature that couldn’t fight if it wanted or needed to? I assume the capability is as there, as they all said – is that supposed to inform the desirability of it somehow? If chimps do it, it’s OK or something?

Violence – good or bad? Is this what our question of our natures, of all possible vectors and traits, this is what our self-exploration has been reduced to? I don’t know where in the article this belongs, but somewhere it does.

How did the killer-instinct idea achieve such cultural power? Because it came embedded in story. Like the greatest fictional works, Lorenz’s and Ardrey’s books drew on an ancient motif: that man’s fatal flaw was also his greatest strength, deprived of which he would cease to be human. Their deft use of character, plot and scene-setting, their invocation of myth, their summing up in a moral that readers could apply to themselves, drove the theories of Lorenz and Ardrey to conventional wisdom status.

One could simply observe the Earth from space to see that we are the sort of creatures whose societies love stories of war and killing, of course our foundational myths support our lifestyles. I personally am not amused that the tool we use to discover our truth is the same one we use to write our foundational fictions, but not surprised if it gives the same answer each time, are you?

The sciences on which they built their theories might have been superseded. But today’s sciences of human nature – sociobiology and evolutionary psychology – have adopted the claim for an evolved predisposition for aggression. The 1960s bestsellers ushered in a genre of popular science that still depends on speculative reconstructions of human prehistory. It also still draws comparisons between the behaviour and emotions of humans and animals. The grudging compliment we pay a powerful man – ‘he’s an alpha male’ – is one hint of the genre. But we ought to be careful about what we believe. Theories of human nature have important consequences – what we think we are shapes how we act. We believe in such theories not because they are true, but because we are persuaded that they are true. The history of the claim for a killer instinct in humans encourages us to think of the ways in which scientists argue and try to persuade. Storytelling, in this view, is a crucial element of both the science and its public presentation.

Ah, “supersede” as they may, though.

I’ve said elsewhere, but need to here as well, evolutionary psychology, doesn’t simply accept this self description, it proceeds from it as foundational and descends into game theory, never applying psychology to the problem of violence itself, never questioning or analyzing the violent actor, never seeking to explain him and his motivations. An assumption of evil human nature expects a man to pick up a club if he sees one and fails humanity in not asking why.

They only think about selection and breeding.

Abuse, pain, these mean nothing in their stories about killing.

Jeff, Oct. 20th., 2020

(a/w Nadine Weidman, but don’t ask her!)

A Kind of Sense

Believe it or not, all this madness makes a kind of sense, I’ve sort of worked out what’s going on with people. You know, it was one of those late 70s all-nighters around the kitchen table spent solving the world’s problems, I just never stopped.

I’m afraid I see a continuum, a spectrum with normal regular people in the middle or so and these genocide movements, Nazism at the far end, all finding their place along it as a function of their belief in social control.

I asked, “what is punishment?”

That’s how I got here.

But I see this social cancer as sort of logical, the illogical extreme of things we all do, things we all believe, the social control, law and order, punishing, spanking. I’m sorry, I know you did, you do – it’s not public yet, what I’m saying. It’s not common knowledge, the real reasons why we shouldn’t, so no blame, no accusation. The whole human world is over us, making sure we do it. You are not alone.

But I’m afraid it is what must change, spanking and punishing cause war and genocide.

Violence seems normal to victims of ubiquitous abuse, and they start to talk about how it’s “natural,” and even “right” – enough of a horror that your mother makes these sorts of noises, let alone the national leader. This is all one, all the same conversation. There must be a rule that says we are not allowed to see the connection, but again, abuse tilts our perceptions.

This talk of right and natural is a positive feedback loop, somehow feeds the abuse, perhaps we don’t mind dishing it out on someone who was already wrong, somehow. The connection from ideas of human nature to real life is hard to draw, try as I may, though.

Perhaps the best I can offer is to say that I have reasoned my way to a positive view of human nature, and now that looks like “default” to me, so that I have proved the matter to myself, but caveats again, I may have always just been this way, but I have tried both views on, and attest to the formative power of these ideas . . . even if I am still struggling to prove it.

Cheers.

Jeff

Oct. 2nd., 2020

Progressives, You Want Me

Trust me.

You may not know it, but you want me. You need me. The bad guys have the solid ground and the good folks are slipping about in the mud, unable to make a stand. The whole world of bad guys and their unconscious support groups have the creation myth you were born with, and so they have everything afterwards, all the “science” regarding us and our origins.

It’s not true, none of it! But that’s the solid ground in this fictional world of human beings we live in today. I’m here to tell the good folks it isn’t, that the awful scientific truth about human beings that coincidentally matches the awful religious stance about human beings is an evolved lie, not true, only expedient. An adaptive fiction.

We all think that Maya, the world of illusion, or the patriarchy, or the world order, however you think about it, the status quo, we think that this bunch has science, archaeology, genetics and such on their side and that the people hoping for a better world have naught but “soft” sciences and good wishes. We are wrong about that. The  orientation of the entire structure and all it produces is set by the foundational expedient lie, and I have satisfied myself that the logic of the problem and our solution for it proves the untruth of it, the reversal of truth in our self assessment as regards our concepts of good and bad.

OK.

Here’s the reversal: we are trying to think that violence is bad, we moderns, specifically, I am trying to support that effort, to place all violence on the “bad” side of the ledger, even moral and disciplinary violence. That’s the conflict.

The entire structure and function, the whole human system of good and bad is up and running within established parameters, working well enough that we can’t seem to even slow it down, as long as strength and violence are good things and will continue to solve our eternal problems of each other for us. But the system is humming along, I know that, and this is what the parents I accost about their spankings are defending, a working system. We all, the good folks say “punishment doesn’t work,” but it does work perfectly in this system to produce strong, upright people who will hurt whoever they need to hurt for some greater “good.” It’s not chaos, and it’s not insoluble, if we would try – but I’m having a little trouble convincing folks to try to solve what everyone has internalized as a solution and not a problem in the first place, meaning moral violence, punitive abuse.

If I could make the case that crime and punishment were not opposites, problem and solution, but the very same thing, both solving the same evolved problem and both causing the same problems, would that help? Of course, I think I’ve made the case a thousand times, but it’s never made, is it?

Again, it is part of a solution for the immediate necessities of group conflict, this violent morality, where war begins at home, but nothing is simple, solutions also bring new problems, and our problem now is we can’t seem to see anything else, literally the world can burn and the rich just fight anyone who complains, because . . . sorry. Because see “The Fight,” from back in April –

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2020/04/17/the-fight/

My point is, this eternal enough conflict, violent morality versus a desire for a reduction in violence generally, this needs to get off the back burner; again, it’s not chaos and it could be understood and changed. I think I have redefined the problem, it’s not a matter of what tool can be employed to cure the problem of evil other than violence, by simply applying normal scientific principles to it, by saying if this evolved behaviour – punishment, moral violence – maybe “doesn’t work,” then in what way does it work that is not what we thought? Following this line of reasoning can allow us to see the problem of evil as one we feed, if it isn’t one we create completely.

The expedient lie of the benefit and the necessity of human violence can be shown for what it is, and the tables can be turned. Truth, and sometime science works that way, that the wrong answer still proves something, and in this case the emerging (on a scale of centuries) science of psychology and the damages of abuse are starting to show that proof, of how the deterrents are too often simply real life abuse and damage the people subject to them in the same ways as less conditional, less qualified abuse.

If this simple scientific rewrite of how we think about moral abuse were to get “on record,” as it were, if became normal to talk this way in some contexts – counselling, parenting books, evolutionary theory – if this idea were to gain any momentum with the academic world, or simply the voting world, eventually these attitudes should restructure the abusive police systems. BLM wants that. The indigenous folks want that. Anyone suffering under the abuse of toxic “morality” wants that, this is the argument against oppression, regardless of which group is being harmed, this idea busts the myth that hurting anyone helps anything. I am tired of every identity having its own battle to fight; it’s all the same, all identities should be standing together against the moral violence that harms them all.

The idea says that morality drives us to war, and that we could behave better if we had a more realistic and scientific idea about what causes harm and violence, and that no behaviour can cure itself, violence especially so.

This, plus there is a world of straight up immoral violence going on that is allowed to continue because it hides among the supposed “good” kind of violence, moral abuse, and we can’t always tell it apart. The simple truth of the harm of the moral violence clears the area, leaves moral cheaters, like murderous police, nowhere to hide. If they sent the ambulance instead of police and the paramedic murdered the patient, at least that crime would look like a crime. No?

You want this. If the bad folks own what’s right and wrong, you’ll have . . . well, this.

Jeff

Sept. 30th., 2020

Variations on “Proactive Aggression”

More stuff resulting from the EP book, the Goodness Paradox, from June.

Of course you can’t eliminate proactive violence by the application of proactive violence – so there is something else going on. We only say we’re combatting proactive violence and aggression by doing this, but really, doing this, waging this battle, does something else for us instead. Without drawing all the lines and trying to prove the matter, I will simply say that despite these efforts at “morality,” we still seem to organize ourselves on the authoritarian/alpha model and the “crime” and “immorality” we are battling do not seem to be disappearing from the world. Only the reactive stuff did. As I think Wrangham says, capital punishment was our proof against the bullies of the world in the smaller societies, in the past . . . are we not doing that anymore? Is that we call “murder” now, and it’s not for most people to do?

It does seem to be the plot of every movie, the tension between on the ground justice like that and either the modern ideal of the law, or a corrupt law enforcement. We are all wrestling with this problem in some way. His examples of small society executions did sound pretty corrupt. Seems to me that the winners in that scenario are the meanest ones, not the nicest ones. It’s horrible to ponder this stuff as “the roots of morality,” mostly because it means the tree is not what it’s supposed to be either.

OK, so the proactive alphas have beaten and supplanted the reactive alphas.

One – yeah, no kidding;

Two – oh, I forget. Moving on.

OK, I accept the self domestication, and less completely, the necessity of complex language for it – suspicious of the details, but the big picture doesn’t conflict with anything I can think of, anything real, anything I believe that I can think of. I was stupidly ignorant of the depth of language’s existence, most of a million years, I did not know that and I’m fairly surprised, honestly. Not sure what I thought, but now it seems that it must have only been a hundred or two thousand I was guessing. I’ll admit I had drawn a blank on the age of tool use also, which might have given me a clue. I know that is beyond the million year mark.

Waking up another day, and . . . we have a problem, Doctor.

I am worried that we really are conflating reactiveness with alphaism, that alphas may “react” a lot, but it’s not unthinkingly or uncontrollably, it’s just their policy – their winning policy. They say it, write it explicitly, you must react to everything, you cannot allow any insubordination, it’s in the Art of the Deal, guaranteed. Wrangham gives too much credit to this reactiveness. It’s the reason chimpanzees can’t compete with us and organize for a proper temple or a war, of course – but alphas are organization, not reactive chaos. They are a simple, crude organization, to be sure, and yes indeed, the alpha works to destroy more complex forms of organization, so maybe it’s chaos relatively to better organization schemes, but it’s not Jacob’s Ladder, not completely.

I have to check – he may have already said or is going to more clearly, that humans really do not have alphas, genetic alphas? I would still suggest that their system is always accessible and that the modern world is full of alphas by choice, cultural alphas or something. And again, a totalitarian, capital punishment dealing coalition is still rather authoritarian, one could say the alpha functions and rewards are simply being shared some in these egalitarian societies. But the upshot would be that reactive aggression is long gone and now it is simply the way we characterize the aggression of the other, an accusation against those whose proactive aggression we do not like – and pretty much all of the aggression and violence that means anything is of the proactive sort, both the crime we fight, and the aggression and violence of the crime fighting effort. I’m feeling like I often do, like this brilliant person is making a brilliant try, making an elegant case, for someone who isn’t seeing the main thing . . . not fair, and I know he keeps showing me otherwise, maybe . . .

Is reactiveness exactly autonomic mode, the fight or flight response? Again, if so, to test for both responses and call it all aggression seems weird. And are we talking about selection against the animal’s, uh, I want to say “survival instincts,” but it seems archaic, survival systems, its defense systems?

If civilization begins with disabling your defenses, then that makes my whole punishment is mostly just abuse idea a little less outlandish, doesn’t it? And absolutely, of course. Of course our abuser complains about our “reactive aggression,” don’t they? Ha! Suddenly I’m angry, my BFAM is now the enemy! “ . . . thus making cooperation possible,” my ass!

Thus making abuse and slavery possible, you mean. Proactive aggression, remember? Do you really find cooperation easy to come by? Must be nice.

I hope I’m being my usual infantile, think I’m inventing the world self here, I’m really hoping – and hopeful, honestly – that this is Wrangham’s point also. I guess it’s just that a great deal of these books is the author telling you everything that led up to here in this conversation, and I’m reacting to that before I let him tell me his news. So hold on there, Jeff – isn’t this exactly what you were looking for, exactly the science and evidence you’ve been looking for to support your thesis? This is exactly the point in the conversation where AST enters the world and should enter our conversation about it, I think.

. . . but it feels like some structural shift is looming, somehow. He’s talking about selection, call it cooperation, call it slavery, whichever, it was selected for, somehow outcompeted other hominid organizational schemes . . . eesh. You don’t mind saying “cooperation was selected for,” do you? Who wants to say the other thing was?

It has been in other creatures, though, right, sort of, castes of bees and ants – do you suppose the ants abuse the aphids? There’s a matter of freedom, maybe, ha. I’m not confident in that declaration. Things analogous to slavery, perhaps. OK, I’m confident, just not in a documented way. Ha. It’s an abysmal thought, are we, what’d he say, twelve thousand generations down a road of selecting ourselves for slavery?

It brings me back to the only positive I ever find in it all, if we selected this, we are self-created things and so proven capable to create or recreate ourselves and we could always just do it again. Brings me back to authority again, the alpha and the alpha coalitions, they like it this way. As always, the firssst thing we gotta do isss get rid of that bear. He’ssss gummin’ up the whole project! Sorry. And yes, doggone it, he is the project, but he’s problematic, he stands for the fight. If you fight him, his kind is winning. If our counter argument to his proactive aggression is proactive aggression, as Wrangham said, we are still selecting for him. Ah. Brothers again, walking the same mobius strip of hopelessness. Sigh.

Again, he’s said as much, domestication itself implies slavery. One could have pulled the slavery idea from what he said about cooperation, it’s just the other side of a coin.

Peaceful domestication, even slavery, as long as we get a life, get to breed, this I do not think would be enough in itself to set me against the world, all of that . . . without what I see as a lot of unnecessary violence and war. Because of that, I reject the human strategy – well, war and the destruction of the home planet. OK, war, destruction of the home planet and a system of constant, ubiquitous child abuse, except for THOSE THREE THINGS . . .

LOL. OK, I hear you, executions promote morality, sure. All I’m saying, all I think I might have to add to the conversation is, part of the selection problem, is the downsides of the moral murder, we aren’t selecting it out, and we have all agreed we will not have thieves in our midst, but murderers are not a problem. When we opt not to select it out, we go blind to its downsides, three of which I have already suggested. We look after those three, maybe we want to keep the slavery. I do love those pyramids!

Speaking of the pyramids, those were genius, weren’t they? You know why they’re still here? They’re giant piles of rocks. What are you going to do to “tear them down,” move the pile? That is an awful lot of work for reactors and disorganizers. Genius. Those folks knew something about human nature!

Pastoralists do not abuse their flocks. We could abuse our domesticated selves less, I mean if we really are, if we’re not afraid that we’ll all just up and flee our jobs if we stop cracking the whip on ourselves. Ah! There’s something new maybe! Try this:

Reactive aggression is on the downswing, almost finished it with us, and for a long time that has meant less aggression, less violence generally, sure . . . but has the other sort been on the rise? History has been a long process of adding laws, adding restrictions to behaviour, has it not? Prehistory for humans was a long reduction in senseless proximity fighting, surely, in some way, proactive aggression, beyond predation and feeding, was new at some point and has been growing since something like an inception, in longish terms?

Do we expect some counter-force, some reason it hasn’t simply been growing more and more prevalent, and wouldn’t anything just keep growing? I submit to you, that in one way or another, we are utterly obsessed with it, that this moral murder scenario has indeed grown and swallowed all of our lives. Unfortunately, with so many of us about, it’s hard to argue that it isn’t “working,” that whatever we are selecting ourselves for is enabling our outcompeting every other animal on Earth.

So the argument is that we do something that doesn’t “work” as well, on purpose.

Which, environmentalist hat on now, is exactly it, we are too good at this, too good for our own good, we have found a way to kill anything and everything and even dear old Mother earth. We need to be worse, less successful, weaker. We are much too strong; “strength” is social-ese for science-ese’s “proactive aggression,” I think.

Bringing it a little ways back towards earth, I’ll come back to his conundrum, we can’t select ourselves out, we can’t unselect for unselectors, but we try, don’t we? It’s an obsession, as I say, we are forever making plans to bring some kind of pressure to stop some form of violence, and our plans all seem to depend on some sort of proactive violence. It is in fact, my contention that if it ever worked, if we managed to put a halt to all crime and misbehaviour for a time, that subsequent generations would remain vulnerable and subject to it, because socially approved, civilizing proactive aggression would be the lifeboat for all bad things, and even if all unauthorized violence ended, it would still be inherited, mother to child, elders to youngers, as always, in the authorized version.

This is where I might interject my AST and say something about constantly losing this attempt must be working out for us, somehow, all things either having been selected for or coming along as part of a package with something else that was, there must be some net perceived upside for it. I can’t imagine that human proactive violence is a side effect of domestication syndrome, it doesn’t seem to be for all the other animal cases. It’s just supposed to have been a catalyst for ours, right?

In fact, other than as our trigger, I kind of think it’s a different conversation. What I meant when I started with “try this” – so the scourge of reactive violence is way down, and I questioned whether the frequency or effect of the proactive violence was rising still, and this would be my idea for why –

Jeff

June, 2020

Psycho-logical

“Human nature,” well, “nature,” – these are creation concepts, the “question of a thing’s nature” only has meaning in a created, unchanging world, like if we ever knew its nature, then we have the knowledge we need, forever or something.

If there is an analogous question in an evolving world of creatures, it must be the “question of what a thing is becoming,” something like what adaptations is it making right now? Likely the goals of these adaptations appear as aspirations to the creature concerned, one might think, ideals, goals, and such. I suppose it is less so in better times, it seems it has gotten more so these days, but still always for at least modern people, the most common ideals are strength, power, and control and I’ve said before, these are the normal, expected dreams of the victims of abuse, of people who have experienced a painful lack of control over their own persons.

This is where what is most understandably expressed as the patriarchy fails in its attempts at the human sciences, one cannot miss it reading either history or philosophy, most nakedly in evolution’s dark side’s movements like evolutionary psychology – the desire for power and control is offered as a hard reality of the world, and not a contingent reality for victims of abuse of only one species of animals ever discovered.

EP is not psychological, game theory is not psychological, these things are only psycho-logical ™, only logical to the psychopathic parts of humanity. I’m saying it a lot these days, anything calling itself psychology owes it to the world to analyze these evil urges, not protect them as some default, again, some static “nature.” Psychology is the children’s endless “why?” game, but this stuff is where the answer turns to “because I said so,” or “that’s just the way it is,” “human nature,” which doesn’t exist, the created world where a thing’s “nature” exists doesn’t exist – so it is protecting exactly nothing. Nothing real, I mean.

“Why,” judging from our collective personality, from our dreams and from what our dreams appear to be, based upon our actions, is abuse, this exploration, and my thinking generally, my theory, AST predicts that if we look, we will find abuse there, causing this need.

Jeff

Sept. 26th.,  2020

The Next Step

Is socialism, otherwise known as politics, the science of people getting along.

For human beings, competition is supposed to be sport, not real life. “Conservatism” means conserving brutal competition, there have been conservatives complaining for three hundred thousand years that we never should have left the jungle, that what was wrong with being a chimpanzee?

Left means politics, group rule, the future, and science.

The Right means none of it.

I know, the Right claims “morality.”

Morality, sorry to tell you, is nothing but a violent response to unwanted behaviour. Morality is violence. Take away the violence from morality, what have you got? Probably just running, right, fight or flight? So morality is aggression, aggressive violence, an aggressive, violent response to unwanted behaviour – and as others have said, in other contexts, that can’t fix itself, can it?

But all you abuse victims believe it can, don’t you? What do you do when you see someone who is in your power doing something wrong? As far as we can go is that it “doesn’t work,” right? It’s “morality,” how can it be wrong?

In this sense, today, there is no Left, not yet. Who doesn’t believe in morality? There is only Right and Righter. Of course, vote less Right, but don’t they all run on morality, morality and “strength?”

When politics was devised to assist the weak, the young, the sick, and the old? Strength also is not politics, again, politics is the science of getting along. Strength and morality, these are the science of war, of warrior society. I have named this branch of science antisocialization theory, because that is what is accomplished in the real world by aggressive, violent morality.

It is a fault of mine that I see no small solutions, that it all looks rather futile to me from here, where most of our efforts to effect improvements only involve more of the moral violence; I haven’t been much help feeding the poor, doing what I can, not as much as I should. On the other hand, I maybe just don’t see mirages and there aren’t small solutions. Do you really think we have all the basics right and all this 1984 style psychopathy is some matter of some small tweaking? Something basic is upside-down and this morality thing is it.

Not “human nature,” but humanity’s entirely artificial response to something in human nature. Unless you’re among the worst of them yourself, you know, the sorts that talk the loudest about right and wrong and morality are the scariest ones of them all. That is not a “perversion.” That’s what morality is. Again, you know more is worse, right? So that’s the next step, realizing that morality is wrong and that we can do better. It starts at the very beginning, when we are first born into this world, and no-one hurts us “for good.” I’m serious.

The next step in evolution, the only move to get us through this selection event of what is likely the end of the world, is this: don’t spank.

Jeff

Sept. 21st., 2020

More about Circuitry

I’ve said that when we discuss human origins, that it’s the evolved “creation myth” circuit we employ, and so we wind up in the same conversations, using the new idea in the same old way. I’ve also tried to describe a circuit, a neural highway for the Nurture Assumption, by any number of names, the reason, whatever it is, that we employ our social control, that we either are rough on our own children or that we allow the older children unfettered access to be.

Maybe this is another one, or some aspect of the same ones here:

Our nightmares are some totalitarian slave system but our dreams are a good job and to contribute to society and that sounds like two ways to talk about the same circuit too, betrayed by a similarity of format, same as the innate/adaptive argument I’m making. This sounds like philosophical tool, an audit for “new” ideas – is the format the same, does it sound like the same factory may be making the “new” product? Ha! Same supply chains? Same market? Wait, yes! Can it be/is it being sold to the same market, the same pool of the same brains with the same circuits? Ha again – if they don’t have trouble adapting to it, maybe there is no adaptation required, and if it doesn’t offend and terrify us, it’s probably nothing new.

Of course, dual memes like that, different sounding takes on the same general, possibly preconfigured memes, this is always the opportunity for groupness and group conflict, , you know, we believe in evolution and adaptation, while they believe some rubbish about innate “natures.” Again, probably the same circuit in both of our brains . . . it’s almost interesting, same hardware, same firmware, maybe all the way out to software, and still we find a way to make a division out of it – in the virtual reality world of our beliefs! Which, sadly, is enough, any excuse for our reason to be, the group and its conflicts.

Jeff

June 25th., 2020 mostly. Intro

Sept. 19th., 2020