All Life

I think I made a case elsewhere, that if there is a market for testosterone, that if men generally support a market that says we are not manly enough and more manliness would be better, that this is a proof that we can think we are not naturally tough enough for this world and walk about in search of technological ways to enhance our “strength,” so I feel there can’t be much serious argument about the motivations for our social abuse; “strength” goes a long, long, way too long a way with us.

So where are we, we think we aren’t tough enough, we will acknowledge things we do to adjust our toughness upwardly, when any bad thing happens, if no other upside is to be found, there is always that adversity makes us stronger, and whatever does that has an upside, tougher is always apparently an upside. This applies to our controlling abuse as well, if you learned nothing from your spankings or your prison sentence, at least you are probably stronger, which again, how can stronger be a bad thing?

(Right? How can stronger criminals be a bad thing?)

So what I’m left with, the part that I haven’t gotten on record yet . . . is intent?

All this is true, but I sure didn’t have this plan, abuse for toughness and take it to my own kid, at least not on purpose! Somewhere between intent and context, maybe . . . but we don’t really credit any function that doesn’t have a goal. I worry that as long as we “didn’t mean to anything,” then it didn’t happen or something, I mean that’s the whole punishment to teach civilization argument already there, complete with the advantage of intent – not only did I not do it for that reason, but I have another reason, a good reason! I have a tough row to hoe, selling this. Semi-conscious beliefs are near impossible targets, how does that go? You can’t reason someone out of a belief they never reasoned themselves into?

Ha – you know you learned this one with a spanking, before you could read. Wait – what is EP’s “reason?”

Power, advantage, maximizing your resources . . . sinners, all of ‘em, except not, right? Ah! If it’s Rousseau, if we’re born good, then EP’s “reason” is simply wrong, and if the Rousseauvian side has a better answer for why the bad things happen, for the Hobbesian principle, then that’s a win, two to one. I mean, historically, we have a tie, right, Rousseau explains the good, we’re born that way and calls the bad “cultural,” –

– wait, I don’t know this for sure – he didn’t spell it out did he, didn’t say exactly how culture turns us to evil, did he? And if, so, he wasn’t right or anything, was he? I’m just saying, if he didn’t break it down like I think I have, then “culture” for me, is too big a word, so big as to be almost meaningless. If AST falls under it, I’ll take that back, but if it has to mean not biology I don’t see how it does –

– But born good “explains” the good, it’s in our genes, the kindness, the sharing, we’re a prosocial animal and leaves evil requiring an explanation, while on the other side, the Hobbesians posit greed and violence as the natural thing and suggest that goodness needs an explanation. Sounds like a tie, right?

LOL. Except. Except where does the invented thing, the not born that way thing come from then? We lay that out and things get clearer.

On the one hand, taking Rousseau into the present, psychology, both organized and naïve, what everyone knows pain feels like and does to people, this is at least my humanist explanation for evil – hurt, sort of an explanation and a definition all in one. On the other hand we got really moral because the boss is a cabal of murderous psychopaths and they ordered us to on threat of death, this, at least by this book, is evolutionary psychology’s explanation for morality. On the one hand, humanism and psychology, on the other hand, authoritarianism, fascism is morality.

Don’t get me wrong, my rap adds up to the same equation, except in reverse, “morality is fascism.” I don’t think they are saying they approve – although we do need to learn to rise above some limitation of language that always makes it sound like they do – they’re just saying that’s the way it is, cold science, except again, so cold that the well known effects of threat and abuse are ignored, they are only factored in as deterrents, their reality completely unaccounted for, again, I hit him but it didn’t hurt him, this lie at every level of human life. Is it really so unthinkable that we’re all hurting one another? Like, “net” hurting one another, that there is no alchemical reversal where hurt becomes growth? Isn’t it common knowledge that we’re all hurt?

Have you never heard of the blues?

“All life is sorrowful,” – does that not ring a bell?

“All are sinners?” “Life is pain, life is struggle . . . ” No?

All these well accepted truths exist for no reason and our science has no plans to test them and is in fact going the other direction apparently asking why are we so good instead? Why?

The idea that we are nurturing a gene suite for this lifestyle, abuse and war, suggests an interaction, genes and creating an environment to activate certain of them, an interaction and an adaptation that I think would be not unlike our selfish genes, safe from extinction (and God forbid, from evolution?), that any eugenic attempt to select this adaptation away fails as a part of the same conundrum Wrangham gives, that we can’t deselect the de-selectors, and so this adaptation is maybe impervious to genetic variation? . . . where I mean to go with this is perhaps his premise isn’t unassailable either, is it possible this adaptation wasn’t a matter of selecting anyone out at all? I mean, no-one thinks the bonobos went about executing their chimpanzees, do they? Are they short a gene from the chimps?

I don’t think he said anything about a genetic change to define us at his date, 300,000 years back, it was all skeletons and self-domestication! No gene change has to mean no selection, but no evidence doesn’t mean no change, ancient DNA isn’t common. I will pursue this, all may depend on it. First, I will search the book again.

I just cannot make these leaps, we got rid of the brutes, so that’s why we killed everything on the planet, again, WTF . . . I was so excited, now I’m basically calling it all rubbish, I should stop writing until a better mood takes me.

OK, no, not happening; I don’t think my mood about this is going to change, it hasn’t changed regarding the same meme in parenting which I’ve been battling for almost thirty years now, but I guess I’ll make a slight shift, stop saying EP is wrong, I think I see the powerlessness of that now, that it’s “right” if you come at it from authority’s side, that still today this is the dark side of psychology, that it’s not generally some helper trying it on you for your own benefit, but your boss, for his. In an upside down to me world, this is pretty much legitimate applied psychology, to analyze how rats and people move about under certain restrictions. Male and cold as it is, if you call this psychology, you can get it past most of these hominids, at least the males.

I would like to switch tactics and simply say, I have something to add.

I would say that along with forcing cost/benefit analyses, the threat and control of the leaders has other effects, negative feelings, that are the legitimate concern of psychology and have real effects in the world, and also even heritable genetic effects that make the patient’s psychology a moving target through time, and this is the magic of DNA is it not, that the same restrictions and stimuli placed on a different animal can produce different effects. One would think that adaptations are not stable, that as the animal makes it, the situation is altered.

Psychology is a human endeavor. It’s one thing when the presence of a bear forces a cost benefit decision from us, it’s another thing when a human being, that we can theoretically understand, does it. It gets psychological, complex. The power of the cousins both the cousins and EP would have you take as a condition of life, as immutable as needing air, as a stimulus and a condition for life, and frankly they don’t like you questioning them. Psychology starts just below them, they are not subject to police or psychologists.

And they sure don’t factor easing your pain into their plans.

All of them, every person I have read regarding human origins and human futures simply narrates. They’ve looked, they see what’s going on, look deeper, and come back saying, sorry, there’s nothing for it – but do buy my book with all the detail about how there’s nothing for it! I love some of these folks, but you are scientists, not news anchors, you’re supposed to be coming up with something to change the story, not just narrating the end for us, for God’s sake.

You know who doesn’t seem to want change, who doesn’t seem to be feeling the end of the world just yet – is the power, of course. The science, the gormless narration, it’s all paid by the power, no wonder they find no hope, no-one is paying them to find hope – and no surprise their psychology is top-down, business psychology, how to move these rats. So I would add the other half, the other side of psychology, victim psychology, the psychology of abuse and pain, and apply it to all concerned – the cousins, they too live under one another’s power and threat, they too are hurt – psychology 101, happy healthy people don’t need to dominate all they see. The pain of the elders is a huge factor in human affairs – and EP makes it sound like they’re all in paradise already, reaping all the benefits and paying no costs – it’s the American Dream, no need to analyze them.

You might think I’m off in space, but this is the very heart of matters, of all matters. It is true at the individual level, when I am trying to sort out the puzzle of the human being, that all the info I can find has this slant, authority over psychology, and to understand it I pretty much had to write my own book, but it’s true at the level of the tree of human knowledge also, that the branch of EP is a failed graft, an artificial branch with only the boss’ preferred knowledge flowing in and out of it and its foliage is all tainted and unhealthy.

Ha – sorry, Richard, not so much two kinds of aggression as two kinds of psychology, is what I’m seeing. And I’m taking your catchphrase, “proactive aggression,” you were wasting it on gang rule. Proactive aggression should mean “aggression that is managed, meaning created, collected, stored and dispensed proactively.” The good people of the world need this concept and gang rule doesn’t need a better sounding name.

 

Jeff

Aug. 1st., 2020

The Arc of the Universe/Capital Punishment

We are phasing out capital punishment.

Dr. Pinker and the entire world of humankind will tell you that’s a good sign. Guess what I’m gonna do?

In this old favourite of mine –

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2017/02/23/ast-and-child-sexual-abuse/

I try to make the case that if we have reduced child sexual abuse, that we didn’t really do that for what we would think of as moral or humanitarian reasons, not really, that in fact we traded in any possibility of the bonobo lifestyle in favour of that fabled Platonic essence, “aggression.”

Well, today is the going to be the same sort of ultra-depressing thing, same awful format. I am sorry. Would you really leave me alone with all these awful thoughts? Both of you? Ha.

The Goodness Paradox, chapter eight, Capital Punishment. It begins with an 1820 execution for property damage and notes that in most of the world you don’t die for that anymore, not legally, and the sentence that tweaked me was four pages in, after the tide turned on it, after a treatise, “On Crimes and Punishment, Cesare Beccaria, “Prisons then increasingly took over the responsibility for social control.”

Since then, we don’t select criminals out – we abuse them.

As I said, Dr. Pinker and the entire world is trying to sell this to one another as more moral, more humanist, a step along that arc to somewhere – abusing people. I heard the doctor is a doctor of some sort of psychology! In fact it was him got the Nurture Assumption published and promoted it and its central idea, that nurture is a myth and science doesn’t credit it, so he tacitly leaves the field to me to say abuse is not a myth and so this is his explanation why things are “getting better” – abuse. Control, I expect he’d rather say.

The point is, we say “social control” as if the opposite were the truth, as if we had any power to control anything in any direction other than to make it worse. “Social control” can only mean worse, by the doctor’s own cherished science. Sorry, I’m quoting one author and trashing another – honestly, I haven’t yet determined to be angry at Wrangham, it’s the longhair I’m after, the better natures guy – and EP generally, of course, which yes, means Wrangham too. I have plans to try to rehabilitate that one, though, he shows potential. Ha.

We are a warlike branch of primates that is learning not to execute its most warlike individuals, and not only that but to abuse them for years or decades before setting them free again – it is possible to see this and talk about it as though we were not minutes from solving it all. It is possible and entirely reasonable to see this as not at all the path to the utopia. All you have to do is stop expecting good things from abuse. You psychos. Sorry, outside voice?

So yes, we don’t sex our kids, we beat them, or turf them outside among the children’s gangs. Yes, we don’t execute our thieves, we confine and abuse them, damaging them further. Our entire species entire plan to solve crime is exactly every villain’s back story, but things are getting “better.” I understand he can make a case, he has numbers – does he have a reason? If he doesn’t have a better one than control, I can take no hope from him, I’m afraid. And I know, the scourge I blame we do not keep statistics for. Yet.

I know, it looks like a continuum, from verbal reproaches through spankings all the way to capital punishment and so if we stop going all the way to the end it’s an improvement, I heard that – but the whole spectrum does not move uniformly. Fewer executions does not mean fewer spankings or fewer reasons for reproaches. Fewer executions has not moved all of humanity towards gentleness, we keep applying the abuse to more and more, the fewer instances of imprisonment and such we may have expected if the entire board were moving have not materialized. If we really thought it was a continuum, then we would follow reducing executions with reducing incarcerations also, and then spankings. We reduced capital punishment, but I don’t think punishment generally is going away. I don’t imagine the numbers of people living in prisons is falling like the number of violent deaths is, is it, doctor?

OK, we’re stopping executions, that’s good. I’m just asking why, was it humanist all around, or, dark side, were we missing a chance to abuse them, and losing self-motivated soldiers, is that maybe why we did that instead.

We’ve just got it all backwards is all. We try harder than the chimpanzees do to be good, but our efforts cause world wars. If we hated bad behaviour a little less, we’d be a little less hateful, I think. You don’t take morality lessons from killers, I understand it, that the symbolism of capital punishment isn’t endearing – but no-one really takes morality lessons about stealing food from a guy who runs a prison either, that guy has clearly got it all ass backwards too, doesn’t he?

I have a dream that some day you’ll say yes.

 

Jeff

Aug. 1st., 2020

Reactive Aggression, and the Other Kind – Updated

Ah! I’ve cracked it!

The point, the salient thing about “reactive aggression” is not so much that it is a reaction and a response, an answer, but that it is aggression now, immediately. Again – it’s a contradiction in terms, an oxymoron . . . never mind, I won’t be dragged into that. Science requires new terms and sometimes they are off-putting like that, no biggie. As I say, I’ve found the meaning anyway.

I’ve elaborated upon this elsewhere and I shall certainly continue to, but I mean here, as opposed to proactive aggression which is a system whereby we create and store our aggression for later.

I asked myself at an early age, something apparently no-one ever does at any age, “what is punishment,” and what I have come up with is that it is everything they say except they mostly never say anything about it that matters, anything beyond the explanation we get as toddlers. It is those things, but it also simply something that hurts, something that offends, that frightens, makes us angry and even drives us mad.

Maybe it isn’t so obvious now, we have developed a thousand skillsets and a hundred ways to go crazy, but it seems to me that among the post- chimpanzee/proto humans a few hundred thousand years back, being hurt and scared and angry probably made for a more violent, more aggressive, more risk-taking ape-man.

 

Italics, July 30th

 . . . a more reactively aggressive ape-man, you would think, I mean if you were me. I’ve seen hurt, scared, angry people, we get more reactive.  I keep getting further and further from this book, it’s starting to sound like a huge crock. Proactive aggression often as not means proactively winding a bunch of men up, sending them into a stressful situation and accessing all that reactive aggression Wrangham says we selected out.

We didn’t shed reactive aggression, we suppressed it, demoted it. We repressed it, and we pool it, socialize for use in the conflicts – we surrender it to the state or the group. If you react aggressively to people, use your aggression for your personal space,  you go to jail/get executed in the past. If you bite it back, hold it in, you remain free, but your leaders own that reaction now. It will be used for the group, if we’re talking about the past, maybe just for the leader in the present. This is antisocialization Theory – and we had better learn it because the generals and the rich seem to know it.

 

Logically, it does us also, but as I say, it’s hard to see. This, to me, is psychology, to ask what created the beast, not only what sets him off, but what winds him up.

I’ve cracked that too, what is wrong with EP generally, seems to be that their psychology starts with the beast and his bad attitude and proceeds from there, like the religions and the scriptures start with the word of God and proceed fairly logically from there.  Bam! I’m sorry, but there are parallels and we are all only one person each, “parallels” that are within us are just the same things in different words. Our arguments follow the same format: “adaptive” takes the place of “innate” and “cultural” takes the place of “learned,” and Evolutionary Psychology and its aggression takes the place of Original Sin, we use it like an initial condition. That’s not really psychology.

A discipline-specific meaning?

Or a conflation? Again, to posit “proactive aggression,” like that, in the form of a noun . . . we are treating it as some initial condition, despite the proactive label – or maybe “proactive” means it’s a choice, only a choice, just we had this idea, no psychology there? Of course psychology is concerned with why we make choices. Bear with me, please, I am trying to express something new to me also.

It stared on page 260, I had a reaction of my own upon reading “Whether the much shorter history of complex warfare also affected our evolutionary psychology is unknown.” It jarred me, and honestly, I’ve been complaining I couldn’t find the psychology in EP, but here it was and it was . . . backwards.

I’m trying to figure out how we can think our way to war or how it is we can’t think of ways out of it, I am trying to employ psychology to analyze why we do such things, and Wrangham’s concern is not why we do it, but only how war affects us, affects our psychology after the fact of the war?

You know what, I’m not finished digesting that myself yet.

I will grant, it’s possible I have cherry-picked this point, but it does seem to impact on my perception that EP lacked the P bit, and psychology is a blade that points every which way. Of course the changes in the minds of war’s victims and the operation of the mind of the warrior are both the province of psychology, we can all be psychologists and ignore different things. My idea here is that what we call psychology, maybe the evolutionary version, ought to be the study of how one becomes the other, how victims become warriors. I mean really, the other way around is simple, they lose a fight, they get hit with some flying sharp object or bludgeon, they lose friends and family . . . how we become victims is not the mystery, is it?

How we become warriors, this is my puzzle. Again, perhaps I’ve cherry-picked this bit, but it does also explain why the ladies and nice guys of psychology react so strongly to EP. Perhaps I am in the best position to clarify that, I’m not really in either camp on this, I find both camps lacking – but good news, I have the solution, the answer to put us all on the path of righteousness.

So, reactive aggression is when we respond immediately, sure, to proactively teach someone a lesson about messing with us, but the point is reactive aggression means in real time, interactively, in the present.

Proactive aggression, first, it’s all of it, even if, as they say, action precedes consciousness, it’s still the brain giving the attack command. Second, I’ll say, oh, damnit, shut up brain, this is not the time to question how often even lethal proactive violence is actually selective, I mean, there is still the selective conundrum, you can’t really cull the cullers, because you’re one of them, but even without that, how often are the victims of executions virgins? Surely they are not all culled in childhood, I’m saying just because you kill people doesn’t mean you’re making selections at all if they have already spread their seed around, and of course this is the Selfish Gene, isn’t it, that’s what groups are for. You can kill all day long and not really change the gene pool, I think. But I digress, selection is not my area, I’m sorry.

OK, the trauma of it may affect the survivors and their genes – and I will ask you to notice what I just did there, seriously demoted selection and promoted trauma. That was Wrangham’s concern too, don’t get me wrong, he said straight up “how complex war affected our evolutionary psychology,” that’s close enough, he credits trauma. I will apologize, I was saying that EP is nothing but game theory, no psychology at all, but it has some, just not enough. Again, I hear the echo of original Sin, I hear “aggression” as a noun and an initial condition and psychology applied after that when it needs to be explained as a reaction and a response to threat and abuse, not as some kind of First Cause.

I’m sorry, but I really like the analogy with religion. I’m guessing that is a problem all over the place, at the edge of our sphere of understanding, the analysis ends and “Here be Dragons,” some initial condition we just have to accept to have anywhere to proceed from. “Human Nature,” “Here be Dragons,” tomayto, tomahto.

We need to apply the psychology more liberally, on both sides of these equations. We are stuck with our limitations, but we can move our sphere, bring ourselves closer to these truths and further from something else, something perhaps more immediately destructive, like the Original Sin suite of ideas.

I wonder if anyone notices, I’m winding up again, and that thought seemed to me to be inspired, a schizotypal leap, dizzying. It’s a sort of a high-wire act – I just hope it’s not an act. I’m afraid of becoming one of these idiots that thinks he’s the superman, because I’m alone and I am starting to wonder if my difference of opinion with the world doesn’t reflect a different gene or a mutation. It may be true that I didn’t get my share of the beatings, that as the last of four, Mom didn’t seem to have the heart for it (depression), and also I didn’t need to be told much, I grew up saying I saw it with my sibs and cousins and I got the idea and never invited abuse, I am a moralist, always my own policeman.

Is it possible my own abuse alleles were not activated? Is that why punishing just doesn’t make sense to me and it apparently does to everyone else?

There is somewhere I am trying to get to, I am trying, a few years now, to imagine a diagram, the broken tree of science and knowledge, to show where this partial application of psychology to human origins has left a hole, a terrible gap where we carefully avoid abuse and victimization in our story, we are still talking about selection and calling it psychology in our origin story – while the entire field of psychology floats, un-anchored in science, somehow disconnected.

This, I know I’m repeating myself, this is the proactive aggression that requires more study, the kind that leaves living, breeding, damaged victims. And if EP is not the study of damage in our development, again, not quite psychology, or not enough psychology in that for me, I’m afraid.

 

 

 

Jeff

July 25th., 2020

The First Three Monkeys

The point, what I always fail to say:

We have a mostly unconscious strategy to hurt ourselves/one another, to mold ourselves as hurt, and so aggressive – because of what is reflected in expressions like ‘fortune favours the bold,’ and ‘the best defense is a good offense,’ – somehow we feel safest from the tip of the spear when we are holding the dull end ourselves. I think that’s my best effort yet to express that awful game theory . . . bias or whatever it is. Strategy, I have settled upon, right.

We have this strategy, and because we keep it in the dark, we are subject to it and our conflicting peaceful efforts are suborned by it every time, and everyone who has ever heard of psychology knows the cure: we must make the unconscious conscious. We must simply become aware of it. We must learn our self-destructive tendency and watch for it. There is a hundredth monkey event in process about it, I only hope it’s not too little too late.

So far, I’m aware of three such monkeys, myself, primatologist Richard Wrangham, and psychiatrist author Iain McGilchrist. There is some overlap in this connected world, but basically, we all came to it from different directions. Primatology and bonobo research, per Wrangham certainly influenced me, and ideas of psychiatry and psychology certainly did as well, but McGilchrist came at it by asking why we have two hemispheres, not really psychiatry. I asked what punishment is, not really psychology or primatology.

If Wrangham had a single question like that, I haven’t gleaned it just yet. In the preface to the Goodness Paradox, he said “All that I wanted to do was study animal behaviour . . . ” but the behaviour raised questions. “What is aggression?” perhaps.

I haven’t yet read the Divided Brain, McGilchrist’s latest as of this writing, but in the documentary film version, he states that our measures for social control, conformity and punishments, etc., stress us out and keep us in the fight or flight mode, a part of which is left brain hemisphere dominance, which has our big picture, long range thinking attenuated, basically that we’re moving from emergency to emergency and never sitting back to analyze and assess the entire situation. Sorry – the left hemisphere seems to excel at details in the present, while the right seems to deal in more abstract things, bigger things. He’s drawn that division of labour somewhat differently than the previous popular version of rational and emotional.

Wrangham’s thing these last few years at least, is that he has broken down the noun “aggression” for us in a useful way, making a distinction between reactive and proactive aggression or violence. For me at least, he has finally called what our punishers do “aggression,” finally placed it as a behaviour in itself, not some quasi-divine intervention for lowly animal behaviours, not somehow “rational” as opposed to behavioural or evolved or anything else that means we would study it, which means we would acknowledge it.

I believe he’s suggested that we have basically cured our reactive violence problems, but that now it’s time to look at the proactive kind of violence, that that is where the trouble is coming from now – but I could be reading too much into the paper I’ve read. I should finish the book before I mis-promote anybody. So not sure if that’s exactly his point – but it’s mine, absolutely. I think a planned murder is proactive violence – whether planned by Jack the Ripper or by the Texas State Supreme Court and I wouldn’t want to be at the mercy of either of them. All in all, as long as I could know it had no compelling reason to kill me, a full belly, no kill or cubs to protect – I’d rather take my chances with a polar bear’s reactive violence. Some chance is better than none. I might catch the bear in a good mood, like those sled dogs did!

What are my odds of finding the Texas State Supreme Court in a good mood?

Ha. I break myself up. Jokes tailored specifically for my DNA, of course, no kidding.

I don’t suppose those other two fellows have taken it to the logical extreme like I have and basically gone “anti-punishment,” but they have clearly and squarely confirmed a basis for why I did.

So, wanted: ninety-seven more monkeys that can see our control is the problem now, and it’s time to solve the new problem. I think a hundred monkeys is a unit, maybe one live meme, and until there’s a hundred, this idea doesn’t quite exist yet.

Anybody out there?

 

Jeff

June 3rd., 2020

Self-domesticated Humans

“Self-domesticated humans” makes sense to me in this disgusting game theory way: the ol’ “you might fight a guy who’s tougher than you, but you don’t want to fight someone who is crazier than you” principle, the prison truism that Muhammad Ali talked about when he set about driving around to Liston’s house to intimidate him before the big fight. We aren’t tougher, like they say, canines almost gone and whatnot, light frames, no claws – but we are crazier, so we dominate. Like, there’s domesticated and then there’s domesticated. Sure we are, but we are a whole lot closer to a circus elephant than to a dog – you want to see how tame I am, attack me, dogs take abuse and give back love, generally speaking.

Whether or not we know ourselves, more like dogs or elephants, it’s clear that we treat each other as though we assume ourselves to be the more cantankerous of the two.

I guess I would remove the “self” and then be quite happy with the whole idea.

I suppose it’s true of the dogs and the bonobos, their taming may have indeed been self-done, we do not see them forcing one another into their affiliative behaviour, do we? Of course the fox farm was deliberate, and not by foxes. There is a middle ground, always what I’m ending up on – Sapolsky would approve! – domesticated by other humans, but not by ourselves. By abusive group control, by our uppers in the hierarchy – therefore, crazy and volatile? Pretty simple, but have you ever tried to not do that, group control, abusive punishments? It’s easier said than done, and saying it isn’t even easy.

(On my television, a veterinarian, Dr. Pol just said “animals just take what life gives them and make the most of it” talking about three-legged cat amputees, and this apparent truism would seem to be the inverse of my life’s point: that humans do not, that humans have a different response to misfortune, probably the “response to abuse” that I’m interested in.)

Oddly, maybe even ironically, self-domestication is what I’m calling for, voluntary domestication – OK, there’s a bit of fiction in that, I don’t really think we have to do much to ourselves, pretty much just stop forcing our present version of “domestication” on one another like a whole species of circus animal trainers. Again, easier said, and even that.

OK, I am trying to read and learn rather than write and figure things out for myself at the moment, so I’m going to try to suspend this effort for a bit – but one observation as I read – every time I read some existing material on the subject of human origins, civilization, morality, etc., my experience follows a pattern.

Reading this paper right now –

The origins of criminal law

Daniel Sznycer and Carlton Patrick

At the beginning, I always feel intimidated and threatened, OMG, I ‘m wrong, this looks like enough to explain what I thought was left unexplained! This stress is decreasing over time, however, because the rest of the pattern is that by the end, I’m back, Baby! So the beginning, the proposition, “this is what I will show,” – I’m a low self-image fool, I believe that, apparently, but I am learning. By the end, I do not feel I’ve been “shown,” in the end, their proofs are the premises of human nature that I think I have disproved, the very points I take issue with and wish to argue about.

Another – papers that prove that human behaviour derives from science and evolution as opposed to laws being handed down by a god or a worshipped ancestor are not arguments against AST, simple “biology, not creation” papers are not revelatory or interesting to me anymore. What about “the pain of the punished has its own causality too” somehow becomes “law is not biological?” I never said any such thing and I deny none of what is in that paper. I only say, sure, but also this.

Moving on to this one now –

Two types of aggression in human evolution

Richard W. Wrangham

Edited by Kristen Hawkes, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT, and approved November 20, 2017 (received for review August 7, 2017)

First, no argument with the opening and the premise. I suspect we’ll see a trade-off, of reactive aggression for the proactive sort over time – selected for by capital punishment! Already a surprise! The insight I need to record, though – my feeling, what gets me naysaying, he seems to be laying out – the reactive aggression is reactive (less harshly punishable, by the other paper), more forgivable. Whereas the proactive sort seems to be of our own making, and therefore what is wrong about it seems worse, intentionality is always treated as worse, again, per the other paper, but also per general knowledge. Except not, in the special case of “punishment?” That we mean, but that is still free, supposedly no cost? Wait, too much.

Actually, no, not too much, his point also, sort of, by the end! But back to live-commentary.

“The Hobbes–Huxley position rightly recognizes the high potential for proactive violence, while the Rousseau–Kropotkin position correctly notes the low frequency of reactive aggression.”

AST does draw a line between the two, offering another solution, AST sees the Rousseau assessment of a newborn human as correct, on the bonobo side, but finds the change to be imposed not by “culture,” “society,” or anything very conscious, but by force and pain, trauma, which all cultures employ and all societies deny the cost of.

AST agrees with Hobbes that hierarchies impose systems of proactive aggression, but not with some aspects of that side of the issue, not that this has resulted in any net reduction of aggression when we add both kinds together. (Again, Wrangham acknowledges this problem, it’s pretty much the point of this paper.)

I feel that a life of reactive aggression seems to be what we call freedom and freedom from oppression, because the fighting is a part time thing, and peace exists in the times between – whereas a life of proactive aggression seems to be a full time job, 24/7. Reactive aggression is an organic ebb and flow, whereas proactive aggression is a technology, storage of the normal flow, reservoirs and spillways, build-ups and releases, failures and floods. It’s almost the name for AST that I was looking for already.

But it’s never-ending, we are forever creating and storing these aggressive feelings; the pressure of one’s reservoirs must be consistent. I suppose it is in the Hobbes-Huxley mode of thought that sports etc., tap off our excess aggression, but not that we control its volume positively, that we overfilled it in the first place, and that we like to keep it at or near capacity. For them, we are simply born this way, the tacit original sin idea that seems to be the background of everything.

(Of course the entire argument has aggression and its subcategories all as nouns, it’s got the passive voice aspect that riles me up, but that is normal. Naming things is basic science, sort of unavoidable.)

“Although the neural basis of human proactive aggression is not well understood, the critical result is that it is different from reactive aggression (42, 64).” – my ignorance is screaming “maybe because proactive means a choice, a decision, as opposed to an automatic reaction? Maybe our decisions don’t show up on EEGs?”

Maybe the biology of the proactive aggression is all on the behavioural side, the cultural side (again, larger than “society” or “culture,” though) – and it seems to be exactly only proactive aggression that AST is concerned with, proactive aggression is the sort I’m trying to solve, I’m not trying to strip anyone of their proper, normal self defense.

AST is exactly the science about proactive aggression in humans that seems to be missing, not the neurocircuitry, but the . . . function. I don’t really say it’s the first cause, but I think I make a great case that abuse enhances our proactive aggression. The illicit abuse provides the conscious reason for the punitive abuse – while both sorts follow the “violence breeds violence” pattern – how we imagine this to somehow add up to a net reduction . . .

“Since there are long-term benefits from killing members of neighboring groups, natural selection has putatively favored this style of proactive aggression (13, 108–110). Essentially the same explanation applies to chimpanzees and hunter-gatherers, except that humans have cultural systems of reward and coercion that promote more risk taking (82, 111, 112). As a result, compared with chimpanzees, during intergroup aggression human attackers are more likely to be wounded or die (82).” – this was one of my first definitions of AST! The italics are mine.

“However, to date the execution hypothesis has treated aggression unimodally, which is problematic: The hypothesis argues that a propensity for aggression became down-regulated as a result of aggressors’ being killed by capital punishment, yet those who carried out the killings were by definition exhibiting a high level of aggression. Fitness benefits that the killers received by executing aggressive victims would undermine selection against aggression.

The bimodal view of aggression readily solves the problem.” – LOL. By defining proactive aggression and violence as “good?” Sorry.

And yes, apparently. –

“Among hunter-gatherers and universally, aggression exhibited by the executioners is proactive: It is carefully planned so as to minimize the risk of a victim fighting back (127). According to Boehm (127) the victims of capital punishment were frequently men with a history of aggression. When the victims had high propensities for reactive aggression, the long-term effect would be a reduction in reactive aggression. When the victims killed because of their proactive aggression, there would have been no long-term effect since executioners and victims were displaying similar tendencies.”

Sigh.

But I’ve said as much.

This is where AST may still be still important, however. How much of a leap is it to suggest that our punishment schemes that do not control or select against proactive aggression actually support it, and how much of one from there to that it enhances it, even creates it? No secret – I have this idea that we take it too far, that it has become a major problem, that our obsession with it has destroyed the Earth.

I’m starting to see that Wrangham is not my opposition at all, that was the media I was glimpsing him through, we’re close and he may be feeling outnumbered about it too.

“More attention to proactive aggression is overdue.”

Yes, absolutely. Brother From Another Mother! That paper was terrific – and understandable, a pleasant surprise for a paper, for me. I often cannot glean the point in science papers, I often cannot find the verb in the sentences, there is some convention of science writing I do not grasp where verbs are somehow not required or something. Wrangham manages clarity in the form, so maybe Pinker is right, some scientists just lack the knack. Again with the low self-image, I thought I was the problem.

So, what I am trying to do is translate all this impersonal science into some practical advice, or a plan for humanity – as though humanity were looking for one or something, I know – and what I have come up with is stop with the whoopings and stop with this “strength” worship. There is some awful myth about “good strength” that keeps us in the hierarchy, keeps the alpha on his throne when we’re supposed to be executing him instead, part of the “good” proactive aggression, uh, tendency, I suppose.

Long term, pie in the sky answer? In the sorts of terms we use for this, strength, competition, fights, maybe even “fitness” all need to be classified as cheating, on the “we don’t do that” side of things, I mean, if we really want anything to change.

 

Jeff

May 23rd., 2020

 

*someone emailed me those papers, I don’t know that I can re-broadcast them, I suspect they’re behind some paywall somewhere, so it’s just titles, authors and commentary here. Hopefully, they’re not hard to find.

Why Human Nature Matters

I’m not sure it should; I mean, I’m not sure if it’s important that polar bears have some workable version of Polar Bear Nature to draw upon, most humans don’t think so, we think most creatures simply are what they are, they live, act, and respond. We don’t usually imagine that a bear or a deer or a barracuda compares itself to some idealized version of their species when they are making decisions.

I’m suggesting first, and in the interests of honesty rather than clarity, that many surely do have opinions about how they and others of their species should behave, but more to the point, that if one did imagine its nature completely upside-down and backwards, we might expect trouble. A species like that might stick out so starkly that it may not be the only species to think there is something different about it from all the others.

Yes, that’s right, I’m talking about the damned Canada Geese, of course. Entitled, obtuse idiots. They think they’re canaries, always singing and landing on you and waving like in Snow White, except they only have one sour note and when they land on you it’s less of a wave and more of a fistfight.

I’m sorry – no wait. Maybe that’s not all bad. It’s a little like that, isn’t it?

Human nature is important because we’ll believe any lie that we think aligns with it. I’ll restart, but I had to get that down before I lost the idea.

Human nature is literally what we name the episteme  – the premise – we live under. People don’t like to be told they believe in any version of human nature, especially the Christian one, considering the rest of their story, their “cure” for your awful nature, but I’m starting to see that those sorts of details and rational concerns don’t matter, you don’t have to explicitly believe, maybe you don’t even have to tacitly accept it, do you? Even when you see the lie, there is still no other option anyway, “the cure” is in place, everywhere. It has the advantage of not only consensus, but a secret consensus, from which dissent is hardly possible. As I said recently, human nature is the end of the conversation, of every conversation that we allow to descend so far – bah! human nature.

If we buy the Nietzsche-Foucault idea of the episteme, does it mean we agree that different ages hold different ones? I don’t pretend to have read them, just because I presume to have some idea about them at all – did they preclude the idea of forever ones? I listened to that Foucault synopsis a few times, I sort of think he did, not sure about Nietzsche. I agree, forever is a long time, but I don’t think I’m onto one of a particular age, I would put AST as in place from at least today and back into prehistory somewhere. Perhaps “Christian original sin” would count as a premise for the post-classical age, but there is an underlying adaptation that predates it, isn’t there?

This is certainly a fine “first year” look at AST, that such a view, when codified and stated explicitly, came from Augustine et al and created the nightmare of Christendom for a thousand or two years, the Dark Ages, an age preserved most prolifically and poignantly in the numerous relics of torture and punitive devices. There’s another clarification I am going to require – did they say these premises were of our own devising? Certainly, they are limits upon the individual, and not of single origin, but do those fellows posit that “society” creates these parameters with any consciousness, or that societies are simply subject to them, to the unplanned unfolding of history?

I cannot get comfortable with “society,” the word, generally that’s true, but specifically here. I think I’m onto something that exists in all societies, or close enough, and “society,” firstly, sounds like othering, like it means “everyone around here except me,” but more importantly it’s still just too small, it’s not just everyone around here, it’s everyone. So.

Not individual, not societal, perhaps species wide. So, biology, then?

I’m not sure that there is the germ of this adaptation to be found observing primates, honestly. I see alphas, I see military hierarchies . . . there is even a germ of warfare. What I do not see is non-lethal abuse, child abuse.

I know, “childhood” is new, “parenting” as such is new, – always right on the button, aren’t we? How can there be child abuse when children weren’t invented yet? Ha. No corpse, no crime? Sorry.

Funny how things work, child abuse, pre-existing in the world, just waiting for children to be invented! Funny but “true.” Used to be, we beat little, recently created adults to work in the mines, because growth and development weren’t invented yet either, apparently. Or “It wasn’t me, the little buggers beat each other spare (the publisher’s ‘moral’ provided at the end of the Nurture Assumption)?” If children get abused, there is child abuse, we are sorting the abuse by victim type when we say that. Not vouching for it, but the description of the “aboriginal hunter gatherer group’s ‘children’s group’’’ was an abusive soldier factory where the boys either became fighters or were killed, weeded out of the tribe. I went to school, and this has the ring of truth to it for me, at least the core of it does. The presence of adults is not a requirement for children to be abused, any more than adults are proof against it.

I am convinced, that as far back as the anthropologists are tracking “social control” and the roots of law and civilization in humans and just a little further back yet, that this is how long we have thought that an abused human is a better human, that the two are two sides of the same coin, for the simple reason that the very first person to be controlled with abuse was also the first one to be pissed off about it and probably took it out on someone. More to the larger point of AST, perhaps they were well controlled and did not immediately take it out baboon style on some undeserving underling, perhaps they suppressed those feelings and waited for someone to break a rule, or for a war to break out to express them.

It’s a little more than perhaps, you put it that way, isn’t it?

In the interests of satisfying an obsolete urge, to define humans, human nature, I am suggesting that the delayed gratification of these negative feelings it what defines us. This is AST, the creation and storage, by our group, of pain and hurt, to be used in a directed manner, for our group conflict.

Sure, the church tries to replace the alpha with an abstract one and they try to make themselves the reason the sun rises and the reason humankind requires abuse. They put their holidays over older holidays and rebrand everything, but a spanking or a beating by any other name would hurt just as sweetly, no? Of course, near eternal institutions like the church have their finger on something basic, something biological, and so they give it their own name and declare it to have been recently created by their replacement alpha.

I’ve said elsewhere, Mom says she went up the side of your head to teach you not to track mud into her clean house and all things refined and civilized like that, while Dad makes the counterpoint that that may or may not be the case and Mom may or may not be being fair about this instance of your misbehaviour, but that him beating your ass will “toughen you up” and that’s the positive thing he takes from the whole affair. He could well be saving your life in some future altercation, indeed saving the family, the tribe in future skirmishes. I consider this a fun little anecdote, but perhaps I haven’t made it clear why it’s always there for me, so here:

Two completely different “reasons” that are actually in conflict – Mom says soft and Dad says hard – same behaviour, kids get punished, read “hurt.” For me, this is proof that the behaviour persists, even if the explanation is completely wrong – two men say they’re Jesus; one of ‘em must be wrong, right – except both of their houses are full and not just every Sunday, but all week. For the record, Mom’s lying about what it does, Dad’s telling the truth about that. For full disclosure, Dad’s full of it that weakness is a problem and toughness is an answer. His answer is humanity’s whole problem.

Mom’s idea of human nature seems to be, born messy and wild, and she has her cure, the father, the switch , and the woodshed.

Dad’s idea of human nature is, born weak and vulnerable, and he has his cure, the switch and the woodshed.

Isn’t it admirable, this quest of personal discovery, us trying to glean our true natures and intended purpose so we can cure it. That is the part of that sentence I would have you notice – we supposedly differ about our natures, but still we have a plan. Again, always, “nature” in this sense is an innateness argument, religious and absolutist. The point of life, of living and evolution, is not some static nature but of adaptation, of struggle and striving, of becoming . . .

. . . so your plan is your nature. You are what you are trying to be – that is evolution. Where all your effort goes – that is who, or what you are.

The entire point of evolution is that the past didn’t work, that it wasn’t working, so the past is absolutely, one hundred percent, exactly the only place that answers to our problems are not going to be found.

The whole point of every selective situation is that a new way needs to be found, isn’t it? I hope we haven’t missed it, but I think this was one such situation.

 

 

 

Jeff

May 19th., 2020

The Circumcision Angle

OK, I know I shouldn’t hurt anybody, especially my own kids, but it’s not like I was going to cut his penis off or anything! Just part of it. It doesn’t hurt that much.

First of all, we haven’t established any reference that allows for your qualifying article – what line does your “that” indicate that you haven’t crossed? “That” much? Do they do that rubbish in other languages, “that” and “so” with no reference, is that standard rhetorical trickery? Not “that” much so that what? Just not “so” much so I disagree? It doesn’t hurt that much – not enough for it to matter and not enough for you to have to take any complaints about it? Or is it simply the line between hurts you want to give and hurts you don’t want to go to jail for? Not cutting off “so” much of him that it counts as assault?

The line between hurts that a person can appear to heal from and the ones where everybody knows you destroyed your own child? I know it “could be worse.” Of course you could simply murder the kid, torture him to death, you’re not doing that – who am I negotiating with here? Who wanted that and we’re paying them a tithe, offering them a little bit of blood to get them by, but not the whole feast?

That’s almost a joke, the rhetoric bit. The times “so” and “that” have been used on me most memorably were not arguments with classicists or logicians, ha. I suspect most folks just think they are simple qualifiers and use them to amplify their statements more with feeling than proof. Most folks engage in a somewhat less conscious, less technical and culpable form of rhetoric, and most arguments are verbal and no-one ever reviews each other’s skills. For me, though, circumcision, besides being a world of trouble all its own, is one piece of a disturbing pattern of behaviour for the subject in question, the human being.

Arguments like the above work, or work well enough, too bloody well for my liking: circumcision, “spanking,” all manner of hardship and deprivations are defended and explained this way, by not being “that” bad, or “so” bad, and it’s become rather inescapable to me – how is it not to us all – that we seem to love a certain amount of bad, about half the time, the time we’re not spending telling the world how we hate it and wish it away, we are making sure everybody gets a share that gets as close to the line of “that” bad as possible or we wouldn’t be talking about whether or not we’ve crossed it all the bloody time.

“Everybody else” wouldn’t have apparently either crossed it or never gotten close enough to it if there did not exist some awful line of hurting our own kids that we are all compelled to approach, some default level of abuse our children must suffer, in our minds, or in our world. This sick “thought,” this is the “human nature” we want to blame, that we want to say we are helpless before, the devil in Darwin’s world, simply this . . . strategy, is what we would rather blame than change. Unconscious mostly, sure.

Maybe I’m looking at an extreme version of this human nature, sure, among white people as they do the fascist/Nazi thing again, sure.

All I’m saying is, why you gotta hurt me at all? Why do you have to hurt me “not that much?”

And I’m not being rhetorical, as we are when we talk about this stuff. “Why” is a question, and yes, I’ve heard society’s answers, the old wives’ tales, I am one of you, believe it or not, and it is a piece of evidence for my thesis that you can imagine I disagree with discipline and punishment simply because I haven’t heard the lessons, or that I need to hear them one more time! The cow says “moo” and the sheep says “baa” and the human says “you have to teach them right from wrong,” that’s how that goes. I’ve heard it a time or two. “Why?” is a question here for science.

Why do all these old wives think I need to be a certain amount of hurt?

I mean, I’ve answered it, but who am I?

Clearly, people need to see it answered by someone who matters. I, personally, need to know that someone who matters is looking into it, otherwise I’m the Medicine Man, found the cure and lost it when I lost my life, failed to pass it on and the truth dies with me and the lies live forever. Come on, folks, that’s over the line. Don’t do me like that.

 

Jeff

April 21st., 2020

The Fight

“Just once, can’t we try something else?”

Spoiler alert, re: The Expanse. Sorry.

I was shocked when this line was spoken in the final episode of the first iteration of The Expanse. That author and I are on the same page. Those eight words are the eight I have managed leave out of my last million or so, at least with such clarity. My cap is off for the person who said that. That is pretty much everything, those words; to me, at least. Still under the spoiler alert, “something else” meant something else besides attack, something else besides a fight.

Just once! We might like it! You never know until you try.

Everything is a fight.

We got ninety-nine problems, and a fight is every one of them, but we can’t fight the fighting. If we don’t pick a side, they all need to fight us. If we ask them not to fight, we’re working for the other side; art of war, warrior code says we must be treated as such. It’s a fractal of paranoia, and in fascist or authoritarian times the fighting side of life feeds back on itself and it gets away from us, closer and closer people start to qualify as enemies and there is less and less room to do anything else except fight. In more balanced times, though, still, everything is a fight, and fight is all we know how to do. Pick an issue, any issue – air pollution, climate change.

If I’m a driver, if I trade petroleum for wages, I’m invested in air pollution, it feeds my children, I love my children, etc., if I own the oil company, I will probably choose to say it’s the same, feeds my kids (and great grand-kids). So when I see the protesters, a blockade, I am threatened, my kids are threatened. The protesters are trying to show me a problem – the climate, the environment – but I, human being who evolved for nothing but a fight, only see the protester. Humans are what we have evolved to fight, not accumulations of toxins and such. It’s clear, seemingly, it’s right in front of you – generally, forever, a bunch of humans is often as not, everybody’s worst nightmare. I’m suggesting, in this much, some of the EP, game theory stuff is not all wrong, and we have probably evolved always knowing our priority problem is that bunch of people shouting at us. Today’s problem over tomorrow’s, kind of thing, but not only that.

As for the oil execs, CEOs – the guy owns the world, he’s still looking for a fight, fighting his enemies – poor environmental protesters! Or worse, the indigenous, poor environmental protesters with nowhere else to go! – still seems like his job to him, not just a privilege, but an obligation, “for his children,” – evolution didn’t account for his wealth. If he can convince himself there’s a threat, then it’s just a human fight, team suit and team tie-dye, right? Again, if he “feels threatened,” he’s lying – but maybe his drivers, etc., feel threatened for real, wage dependent and all, and they also being human, when under threat, tend to focus on the human threat in front of them first – so tensions are highest among the poorest, at the blockade.

Of course, the protesters too all share this evolution and are all subject to and sometimes guilty of this . . . conflation also, of conflating the problem with the people in front of them. Sure, the driver is “part of the problem” and the CEO is not there to take the abuse, but the driver’s share of actual responsibility in the matter is less than almost anything that might happen to him should an actual fight break out – “part” is a word we use to create conflations and start fights, as all “parts” are not equal but share the same name. Of course if our driver wins his portion of the battle, that too is a step of violence above his pay scale and previous share of the responsibility, he’s a bigger part of the problem if he fights and makes himself one.

I think our dedication to fighting creates all sorts of conflations, the purpose of which seems to be to convert logical problems into fights, words into actions instead (see also in my blog, this same function in regard to conspiracy theories, to turn what should be a public debate into a fight).

In ways like this, every issue, everything that should be a rational debate, a discussion about the way for humanity to move forward, becomes an argument, a scuffle, a riot, a fight, clashes of ideas descend into clashes of the groups of people who hold these ideas instead. One faction wants war, one wants peace – so now we have a civil war! Warriors VS the peaceniks, team crew-cut VS team tie-dye – when a man’s blood is up, and you say “I don’t want to fight,” he says, “Oh yeah? You wanna fight about it?” And you should probably get ready.

Come to think of it, sounds like one of my exes too, so, fighters of both of the classic big two genders do that, so I assume it’s a “fighter” thing, not a gender thing, and this bit of science predicts that none of the less obvious genders are free of this conundrum either. If we can’t oppose the fighting, the fighting, no matter which human triumphs, the fighting always wins. This is not an endorsement.

I’m sick about it. I hate. It’s always going to be the wrong person.

I’m talking about evolution and evolved things, but this is not offered as “proof” that this is simply who we are – that would be deterministic, a creationist view, “the way we’re made,” another conflation, not as foundational as the main one here, but not small. No, evolution means once it’s not advantageous, we evolve in the other direction. The selective forces are us, we control that. We could select for something else. More evolution, not less, is what is indicated. But we need to stop always selecting first for the fight.

I don’t want to fight. I want to argue. I want words to matter when they approach reality and matter less when they stray from it. If this had been the case up until now, we wouldn’t have soiled the bed so badly, “accidentally” destroyed our environment. I know that sounds obvious, too obvious to say, but I tell you here and now, in my experience, people do not grasp that, people do not seem to understand when we wish to argue with them. They either cannot imagine a different viewpoint or something and assume we’re all in agreement, or they understand there is a disagreement and get ready for a fight – and accuse one another of “fighting,” like there is no room between disagreement and battle, no freedom. “Friends” agree, apparently, they do not try to teach each other. I want what is true and correct to win in the world, we require a “tournament of truth,”  not the usual, literal kind of tournament, but there is something else we are selecting ourselves for, rational debate remains a sort of pipe dream. The person who wins the fight wins the argument, because we think fighting is more important than truth and reality.

Or the swine who wins the fights thinks so, and we must all agree or suffer his purges.

This morning I am seeing what some philosophers have, that without power, words are nothing, that without power, there is no voice, I see it – I see a blue sky too, but I know it is not a real, discrete thing; I don’t believe in it. It must have been Nietzsche most famously, right? Warrior societies have a way of making their awful maxims come true. If the people in charge didn’t believe and push it, it wouldn’t be true. Wait – “without power” – like having power over others is some normal, default condition and it’s our fault if we didn’t take our share, that’s no way to talk. Well, it’s one way, one awfully specific way to talk, fascistese, or baboonese, depending how you look at things, “taking power,” or deflecting abuse.

I look at it as deflecting abuse – but it is not the baboons that need to be corrected about their worldviews.

It’s more direct to say it in inverse, and they do: with power, you can lie and they have to accept it. Of course this is the current figurehead, of course if he were powerless no-one would believe a word and he’d be homeless or institutionalized. Or he’d change his ways, maybe.

I’m finding it stupid that we can apply these brains to amazing levels of chemistry and physics, etc., but are still possessed of no self control, still basically preverbal about what it is we’re up to in the world. We can get you to the bloody moon but we can’t stop ourselves from eating the seed corn. We have burned the planet, used anything and everything for our conflicts, split the atom for our conflicts, every new thing in the world is created or assimilated for the conflicts . . . but we still love the conflicts.

Ask a scientist what made us so smart, what with all this math and such, and they’ll tell you – the conflicts!

Right, destroyed the only environment doing this thing that makes you so smart, don’t you all just feel the truth of it in your bones – fights and threats and abuse and war and persecution just making you smarter and better all day long? How many millennia? We will surely reach some intellectual singularity any minute, as long as we stay the course and don’t let up now! Not just “smart,” either. Made us super moral and altruistic too, apparently!

Never mind “altruism” is defined as conspiracy for gang murder, as volunteering for some risk in order to reduce the risk of all the conspirators. Sometimes a science requires its own specialized language, huh.

I’m getting angry about the narrative, does it show? Everything is awful in this paradigm, and the “thinkers” this narrative credits are as responsible for our ongoing false state of original sin, as much as are the famous conquerors it lauds, or blames, depending on the work. If it suborns itself to the fight, it’s with the fighters. Everything and everyone within the paradigm/episteme/this side of the deconstructionist horizon, however you look at that situation where you can’t think that from here.

I saw the bare bones principle of it as a young person, that language could not add truth to the world, only approach it, and so the function of language must be to introduce errors, fictions, distortions, lies, at least one function of it. I try very hard not to lie in these ramblings, I feel I’ve typed a million words that can only be wrong, by “design,” sort of, limits of language, but are designed to get us all to a truth, to describe the shape of it with a barrage of near misses, like throwing paint at some invisible monster when you don’t even know its scope, where to aim the paint.

If I seem not to be saying anything at all sometimes, that seems the preferable mistake to me, to saying too much and accidentally lying.

The world has not been destroyed “for money,” money is an abstraction for a fight, for the ability to win a fight, or “power,” I guess. Resources. Food for your army. All the great nations’ rich have money already, but life is problems and problems are fights – you’ve heard the rhetoric of the rich: if there’s no enemy and no fight, you’re “not doing anything.” I have read in the world of aging male punditry on this topic that men will go on the war march from boredom, or from a desire for glory and honour, and I rejected it as rubbish, biology requires better explanations – but perhaps it only needed this bit of nuance, that rich men send poor ones to war for boredom, or honour or glory – this I can manage to cram into my head without too much trouble. Still, the biology is probably the more important, and since the fight is what we’ve all evolved with, rich or not, safe or not, he may only feel like he’s “doing something” when he’s got someone to fight, whether “glory” is in his lexicon or not.

The very existence of rhetoric proves we’re bent in one direction, you say something general and you know they will all understand something specific, it proves the supremacy of the fight over  our minds, over truth and with little concern as to the actual content in question, it proves what I said at the outset here, that we are biased to deal with all problems as though they can be solved by a battle with the people in front of us. I think it was Larsonius? “Shake the jar and see if they’ll fight”? Come on, the man is a classic, and wise beyond this age.

Imagine the power of this, if you knew this and had the power to move people about, to decide who winds up in whose face. Imagine the awful power of that.

We are letting this happen, making it happen, we are selecting for it – because evolution, everything is selected for. There is no credible argument that “human nature” is not selected for and what is the argument that something other than ourselves are making the selections? The only wrinkle is, there is the not small matter of knowledge, of what is knowable, of what we want to know, of what is conscious and what less so. I don’t think anyone seriously points to other selective forces besides ourselves, except perhaps our microbes, which, I think we have to own that, that counts as us, part of us, sure, on the less conscious side. Seriously, that’s something remarkable, so I will – the only possible opposing “selective force” we are “subject to,” or blaming here if it isn’t us is the bronze age God. At least the version of human nature he came with.

Sorry, but what else? It looks like maybe only the first phase of introducing evolution to an evolved-for-religion audience. We know it exists, but we still think the other thing does too.

This innateness, all the EP, all this biology that says we’re so moral one minute and worse than the chimpanzees the next, the selective forces are what? The battles, the same thing that grew that cranium? Do I need to say it? Yes, I need to say it – the conflicts, that was us, more importantly, that is us. Evolution isn’t something that happened in the Before Time and doesn’t happen anymore, nor is it something that happened to “someone else.” It’s an erroneous conclusion that I used to parrot myself, that when we brought the environment under our control, evolution stopped – maybe “natural” selection stopped, but natural or organic isn’t the point – selection doesn’t stop, does it?

I can’t be breaking this news, that if we are still breeding and dying in any particular way that selection is still occurring for us?

In fact, perhaps my whole theory could be called the Problem of Unnatural Selection. We’ve been the main force on ourselves for quite awhile already, I do think of it that way, this is exactly what I’m saying, we need to stop unnaturally selecting for a thing or two. I mean, I’m advocating for a change in our unnatural selection criteria. I think our criteria that helps us survive one another is ending by killing us all together, that we select for the fight and we’ve burned the planet down for materials for our weapons, for the war effort.

You are the only selective force I am subject to, and vice versa.

I know that we are talking about that, we are starting to talk about our infantile looking skeletons and talking about self-domestication – add it to my list: all that conflict made us brilliant, moral – and tame, docile. New angle, same paradigm, please, tell us again just what is so darned right about us, won’t you?

Such a moral and altruistic surprise that in a world supposedly dominated by evolutionary science, it just becomes the new way we were “created,” and we still are not expected to be responsible for our own natures. I suppose it will take a few hundred more years for evolution to really sink in, as I’ve suggested already.

I kid, or I lie; I don’t think time will solve this one, or it should have by now, we are not brand new and shiny – plus we are out of time anyway. I think it’s one of those things we don’t want to know. Worse, we think our damned lives depend on not knowing it, as everything anyone gets paid for is some fractal of the fight – market economy lists “competition” as a virtue, it’s only a synonym for “fight,” some might say that is a description of anarchy, no system at all – and if your job wasn’t evil and dangerous, they wouldn’t have to pay you to do it. We are all that fellow who can never understand due to his employment, unfortunately.

At some point, some of us got some time to think and take up other hobbies like that, they say, but work, serious business has always been a fight. This has been true to date, and yes, a self-fulfilling sort of truth, but I worry that we are missing an opportunity to get past it, an opportunity we have always had and always missed to get beyond it, to be sure, but then we always had another generation, another century, the endless future before us, and it’s always been like the best part of the dinner that we’ve been saving for last. It seemed like we would get there some day, that there was always something to hope for.

But now that it seems like now or never, now that time is not on our side – time is evolution’s friend – now it seems still rather far off. Twenty generations ago would have been best, to adapt a proverb, but there’s my answer, that proverb addresses exactly this point, hope. Things always look  their worst when we conflate the present with the end of history, or the end of time – but now is good too. Now is always good too.

Deep breaths.

 

Jeff

April 17th., 2020

Reading List

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

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

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

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

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

I’m tired.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Jeff

March 28th., 2020

Secrets

All your efforts are doomed, I’m sorry.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Communism, Capitalism, the internet – what else?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s flip it over.

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

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

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

Be forewarned, though.

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

 

Jeff

March 20th., 2020

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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