People of Earth, Part 2 – Conservatism

Well, you haven’t exactly been quiet, but you haven’t been @ing me about it, so I’ll take it. If you recall last week’s episode, we were talking about what a tough, stubborn, psychotic hammerhead you are and that if you’re not, it’s all you dream of being anyway, like that’s everybody’s answer for everything and not the whole bloody problem. So this week we’re going to back up one step and go over your stupid head to the whole warrior society.

The fact that you all think this stuff, worship this toughness, that means this is what you are allowed to think, this is what everyone is allowed to think, and in fact it’s assumed: you don’t actually have to articulate it to yourselves, and that is a test for a core belief. With this unarticulated but assumed at your cores, all you have to do to access this meme, to leverage it, is nothing. Passive voice, vague insinuations will lead you to what you believe in your sick heart, and harmless rhetoric turns wordlessly to violence, to the fight. What can you do in the face of a world of threats, known and unknown, but hope to be stronger?

Warrior society is human society, because if one human group goes warrior, the rest go warrior or they’re gone. Many, many peoples are gone, and many not just yet, so qualify it thus if you must: viable human societies are warrior societies.

That is the same idea in different words: if you wish to be a viable human group, in this bunch of groups, you worship toughness and there are no late starters. This is a hard truth for the hawks and the Nazis of the world, the players in the game of theory, or theory of games – but it was only a hard truth in our aboriginal state of much smaller groups, wasn’t it? This is a group-level truth and it represents our limitations, the place where ideas of universality go to die. The warmongers who would convince us of this level of truth are simply making a living off of their insight and stalling human progress towards the global problem solving we need to be doing.

To make it political, I believe this arrangement is what conservatives are defined by conserving; the progressives will say it’s their own power and the conservatives will say it’s institutions and so civilization, but I believe the word is fluid and really references this unconscious or unstated reality of the warrior society. That this is the definition explains why there are two ways for a thing to be, conservative or radical and little room between the two, because fighting is something you either do or don’t do. You warrior or you don’t – and you do, so mostly conservatives rule, with or without free elections. When a socialist or an actual liberal politico says the ultimately vague “do something,” their supporters can insert all manner of compassionate programs – but it’s vague so as to also access what the conservatives mean when they say it.

When a conservative says, “do something,” though, you know you’re in warrior society. You know they are talking about hurting someone. Generally, this is what is meant by “rhetoric,” someone subtly and unindictably leading you to your own warrior instincts. Isn’t it about time someone did something about it?

How would you like it, Trump starts saying somebody needs to do something about you?

I keep bringing myself back to this, through some sort of grammatical algebra, I feel I’ve shown that every verb is a battle and every noun is an enemy: my opponent is never going to do anything! That’s enough, right? You get the picture, or at least the feeling?

So conservative is default, sort of, humans stuck in the very middle of time, fighting their eternal wars, nurturing their eternal genocidal dreams, as God made it, world without end . . . and as such it is self proving and perpetuating, and the fact that so many just  feel it in their bones is exactly the same as so many young men feeling it in their bones to join the army or the police or the skinheads and fight for something. I’m telling you, I know it feels right. I’m saying the fact that it feels right is so wrong, a terrible wrong foisted on all of us and you not least. Please, sixteen to twenty-five is a very volatile time, try to ride it out. Your feelings, those feelings are bad news, “natural” or not. So, conservatism is closer to the human default, the warrior society – humanity 1.0, the basic, proprietary package that comes with your hardware, with rudimentary, bare-bones versions of all the good apps. If it feels right, well, it sort of is what you were made for.

This way of looking at life explains why conservatives seem to be stingy regarding education for the masses, since their platform mirrors the human default mode of operation.

For the rest of us, those who maybe aren’t winning in warrior society, or those who are but remain unsatisfied, that’s just not good enough. We have seen some glimpse, somehow had the insight that things can and must be improved. Some of us would like a rest and to try not doing anything for a change, see what that’s like.

 

Jeff,

Feb. 4th., 2019

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2019/01/14/people-of-earth/

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2019/02/06/people-of-earth-part-3-liberals/

AST and Me, an Introduction

I have no education, high school and reading. My family was very into popular psychology and self-help stuff, Alice Miller was all the rage in the years before I had my kids, childhood abuse stuff. We had plenty of abuse ourselves, sexual stuff.

The psychology wasn’t enough for me, I felt like things were simpler or maybe just worse than that mindset seemed to think. I saw no clear line between “punishment” and “abuse” is the main thing; I had an insight, that if they look the same, maybe they are the same, despite that the person doing it said they were completely distinct. Don’t they all, right?

I went into marriage and child-rearing with just that simple view and determined I would not punish or discipline and therefore would not be revisiting my abuse on anyone. It looked very good, for a very long time, it really did seem that things were backwards from the way people talk, that whooping your kids causes the bad behaviour and not the other way around. It was exhausting having toddlers and never taking the short cut of hurting or scaring them, but things only got easier after that and we had no behaviour issues at all. Life looked idyllic.

(Things went bad for me when they were grown, but I think that is a personal psychodrama, stuff aside from discipline or the lack of it.)

When my youngest of the two daughters was seventeen, I read a few Pinker books, the Nurture Assumption, and the Sapolsky book, the Zebra one, basically discovered biology, and it blew my mind, as it can do, as it famously did to Trivers, I like to think. I also like to think, ‘like Einstein,’ I had two streams of info that needed to be reconciled, ‘Blank Slate’ psychology and biology, nurture and nature.

I had spent years defending my ultimately coddling child-rearing and was amazed at how my ideas weren’t getting through to the people around me and the parents online, amazed at how what looked identical to me – discipline and abuse – couldn’t apparently be seen by most people, at all. I argued, don’t do that, because it damages them . . . and at some point, it struck me.

The damage is the point.

What we call crimes and misbehaviours are basically just war behaviours, and all the “negative outcomes” associated with “abuse” would be positives in a war situation. Violence, mostly. You want that in your soldiers. (I don’t want that. Those books were mostly ones that the alt-Right love. I am not with them.)

From a parenting POV, from psychology, all the negative outcomes of abuse are accidents or something, people “losing control,” “going too far,” while the good outcomes are supposed to be from conscious, controlled discipline. Well, the kids can’t always tell the difference, and my biology insight was, their genes and their hormones probably can’t either, and so biologically there is no difference.

So now I think the abuse, and the effects of abuse are the true function, and all the “discipline” talk is one of Trivers’ self deceptions.

We discipline our children, to damage and desensitize them, to make troopers of them. The “accidental” negative outcomes are our biologically evolved strategy to make ourselves tougher, in the arms race of our group conflict. At the extreme end, we abuse and torment to make amok men and berserkers, and at the invisible end, we beat our future accountants to make sure they vote for a “strong” leader.

The biology, of course is our responses to abuse, in real time, as well as some Lamarckian evolution, that we have alleles triggered by abuse – and we pull those triggers ourselves. We also select for them.

So this is my global, grandiose thing.

The damage IS the function, in fact Murphy’s law applies, right? Do something sweet for kids, they won’t grow up how you want, but abuse them, and you will see changes. “Nurture” as a real function, is damage. We can change people – but only in one direction. It’s only positive nurturing that no-one has been able to find.

I’m grandiose, I feel I’ve found nurture when no-one else has, and I feel that if this Murphy’s law of nature is true, then it sort of proves our “innate” selves to be good and kind and our nastiness to be an overlay we apply almost consciously. Or at least enhance almost consciously.

My detail arguments aren’t comprehensive, I know, I only have answers for stuff that was in the Nurture Assumption or such. It’s this overview I feel is something. I have tried to be honest, tried to account for everything I’m aware of in the world, and I think this idea fits into the world generally, I don’t think there are famous scientific principles I’m violating with it . . . on the other hand, such a sweeping thing becomes unprovable for all sorts of other reasons . . .

Where I’m stuck is of course, what to do with this knowledge? It’s rather large to change. Any family that stops it is maybe going to see their kids chewed up and spit out. I am worried about my own kids this way. All I can seem to hope for is to get it out there and hope the world recognizes it and slowly all starts to change.

If it were possible to do anything about it, I would think this idea – I’ve been calling it Antisocialization Theory – would be the first best idea humanity has had, since ideas about evil human nature took hold, at least. I wonder if this isn’t the Fall right here, that we discovered the magic power of abuse.

Jeff

Feb. 3rd., 2019

 

“Codified”

It’s a self-deception, where we tell ourselves one thing while doing quite another, Boston Strangler style, or just a matter of the situation deconstructualism has described, that we only think things the mind can see, ideas that we have a line to, like sight, and many thoughts are out of reach behind something or over the horizon and never come into view – but it’s not as clear as it seems: our rules aren’t the point.

The point is simply that we have them. Not in the usual, conservative headmaster speech sort of a way; I’m agin’ them, but we have them and like it or not, that is a point, specifically, my point, today.

The Ten Commandments really weren’t the point. It wasn’t the rules that were codified that way, so much as the penalties, and more so, the idea of penalties. Doesn’t “codified” have an aspect of hiding the message, of code? Well, the rules themselves, they are not coded, they are explicit. What is coded, perhaps, is the rule behind the rule, that the rule is a reason to hurt someone. Punishment is assumed. We may debate the rules, change them from time to time, explicit modifications of discrete  wordings.

“What should the rule be?” is open for debate sometimes.

“What should the penalty be?” is also a debatable, adjustable thing, a topic for talk.

But these questions require specific, concrete answers, and one answer, “nothing,” seems to be behind something or over the horizon. It’s a rule, that we have rules and penalties. That’s what you codify, the rules that are not up for debate or modification.

So it’s a rule that penalties are levied, while the rules themselves are somewhat fluid . . . so no rule is “hard,” even “Thou shalt not kill,” is suspended when said killing is now a penalty and not an offence. But that penalties are levied, this is “hard,” this is unquestionable. Anybody feeling this? Feeling what is the constant in this equation? The punishment is unquestionable, no-one debates, “punishment, yes or no?” – this rule is unwritten and therefore un-editable. Almost no-one, anyways. It’s visible, if you look. I hope I just made you look – you see it now, right?

Unfortunately, if a couple of big, musky hominids like you and I can see it, there is probably more to it than that too. At this level it’s still the headmaster’s bastions of civilization speech, right, rules sort of are civilization? The very best sort of lie is a “hidden truth,” by way of some Tom Sawyer-style duplicitousness, and the only essential part of this rule is that somebody gets hurt. I’m sure there is another layer to this onion, but this layer is novel to us. Let’s stop and have a look around, we don’t even know where the next layer after this is yet. We need to spend some time, get oriented and acclimatized to a world where everything they told us we do to control our animal selves controls our animal selves in exactly the wrong direction.

Rules, those are written down explicitly, and litigated endlessly.

Abuse is what has been encoded in our sacred texts and our lives, and what we are thus unable to litigate. Hmmm. In lieu of an actual objective, maybe short and sweet is the best thing I can add at this point.

Cheers,

 

 

Jeff,

Jan. 19th., 2019

People of Earth

We have to talk.

OK, I have to talk. You have to shut up, I heard you already.

Your friends don’t tell you to shut up, your friends support you, look after you, try to keep you feeling good about yourself. That is not me, I’m not like that. I’m not worried about your feelings. You can trust me to tell you the truth; I hate you. Now shut up and listen.

You’re tough enough.

You’re way too tough, you are ‘step across this line and I will destroy all life on this planet’ tough. You’re a mutant psychopath that hates the world of life that spawned it. You are Rand’s sick hero, destroying everything just to prove you don’t give a fuck, no-one can hurt you. When it’s all gone, perhaps someone will remain to admire what a tough, fearless motherfucker you were, but probably not. Maybe sometime long after, some alien archaeologist is going to remove his Tilley hat in respect and whisper, “these tough bastards didn’t back down, did they?” – but probably not.

You are tough enough, but in typical fashion, it’s never enough for you. Getting tougher is all you care about, toughness is the goal, if you can ever be tough enough, then you’ll be safe from all these other tough bastards – but you’re not one of them. For you, this is defense. You are a super tough moron, is the thing – but I’m not some elitist IQ fetishist, we’re going to try not to focus on your stupidity today, I think the two things are in direct proportion and if we can affect your obsession with strength and toughness, the other thing will improve too.

Just stop it already, the violence and the . . . worship of it.

If you’re not engaged in literal war, then it’s “sports,” which is not “metaphorical” war as we pretend, but actual war training, and the skillset is always toughness. Why the Hell would every schoolboy have to acquire football skills when they are mostly staying home working on the farm or spending their life in an office? Just in case something goes terribly wrong in world politics and a giant international football game breaks out, I suppose?

Every few years, some luminary makes a beautiful speech about peace, but all day every day, your son needs to be more aggressive about taking that quarterback the fuck out. All day long, kids nowadays don’t have it tough enough.

It’s the only game in town, I get that, I do. Your kid needs to be tough or he’ll be eaten alive, I know, I was one of you once.

You are the motherfuckers setting it up, and you don’t get that.

I know, we have to be tough because of the enemy, the Islamists, the Russians. I’m talking to all of them. You Islamist warriors, you Russian strategists, you Canadian hockey moms, I’m talking to you all. You are all tough enough, cut it out already. We all have to lay down our weapons at the same time, that’s how peace works, the rare, special times that it does.

Stop with the endless “strength” rhetoric, please. It’s like listening to Charlie Sheen wax on about the joys of cocaine and prostitution. You have a problem. A see it from space, life consuming and destroying problem, and it is the very “strength” and toughness that is the only solution you ever tried and the only thing you care about that is the problem.

We’ve quite given up, in case you thought anyone was working for world peace, no, that isn’t what’s happening. I mean some are, many wonderful organizations, but basically governments have settled into endless war. Man is aggressive, it is a good life if you don’t weaken, and there will always be someone starting trouble – war is an organizing principle for society . . . they hope to control it, they hope it doesn’t go to the nuclear winter, but basically, war is a part of human life. No serious person thinks that is going to change, I don’t think. I think we’re pretty sure détente is as good as it gets.

And for that, you have to be tough and ready, so in what should seem ironic to us but somehow does not, the only peace we are able to realistically imagine requires that we all can never be tough enough.

I’m not asking people to lay down their arms before an enemy that won’t reciprocate. I’m only asking that we continue the conversation, that just because there is always some swine who’s “heard enough talk” and starts shooting doesn’t mean that some of us can’t keep talking, try to work through to the next bit of logic: OK, so it’s not possible to disarm ourselves one at a time, then how is gradually disarming us all simultaneously going to work?

My first answer is, toughness needs to be taken off its stupid, brutal pedestal and seen for the necessary evil that it has always been. I mean, you look like such a moron, fawning over the type of hammerhead whose great skill is the ability to cut you down with a stroke of his sword. That sort of strength should be admired from a safe distance, like how we admire it in a bear or a lion, it shouldn’t be brought into our homes and nurtured.

 

Jeff,

Jan. 14th., 2019

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2019/02/04/people-of-earth-part-2-conservatism/

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2019/02/06/people-of-earth-part-3-liberals/

Original Piety

As opposed to original sin, I mean. It’s not about piousness.

Fight or flight is an important choice, clearly important enough to find a central place and a lot of real estate in the decision-making organ.

It occurred to me today, that whatever decision we make when faced with this choice, we hope we are clever and make the smart choice, the right choice, and when we have made it through the crisis, then we know that we indeed have – I mean in a biological conversation. Perhaps if we find ourselves alive after a battle but regret perhaps having killed many folks to insure it, perhaps we suspect moral issues, but if our grandchildren are discussing it, at least they know we made the “right” choice, or this conversation doesn’t happen.

For good or ill, there is a lot of wiggle room when you’re talking about binary judgments like good and bad, right and wrong, all four of those words can mean almost anything. Goose VS Gander, Us VS Them, Friends not Food . . . indeed these value words can mean their own very opposites and we know that and we don’t even blink; we navigate, somehow. That’s exactly where I see trouble, and exactly what I am hoping clear up a little.

OK.

A creature that more often hangs back, or runs, we call cautious.

One that more often fights, we call aggressive.

This was today’s idea: a cautious creature values caution as wisdom, and if you ask an aggressive creature what constitutes wisdom or intelligence, he will tell you, “aggression.” I’ve said it elsewhere, as creatures, we exist in the second category.

I am, however, no determinist!

Behaviour is not a gene, and aggression, I repeat, is a choice, and we choose to encourage aggression, we are that aggressive creature who says that, “aggression is the smart choice.” The best defense is a good offense, right? Wait!

This is not a purely Nurture argument.

We encourage it in Nature, in our hardware.

Punishments, pain, deprivations, inequalities of stress and work . . . these sorts of abuse are not Nurture, not “just talk,” just data, none of that. They operate on our bodies and on our genomes. I’m saying, even as they find genes “strongly correlated” with aggression, that these alleles are not as God created them six thousand years ago, there is no hardware aside from behaviour and choice, “Nurture” changes our Natures.

We have some leverage on our Natures.

Maybe I can guess your loudest objection: there is no damned Nurture. Right? Nurture  all you like, our nasty Natures remain as they are, right?

Fine.

There isn’t in the positive way that modern liberal types might like, I’ll give you that. But let’s back up a step – I like doing that, it costs one a sense of progress, but it seems diligent, feels like building a solid base – and ask one more time, what is Nurture? For today’s talk I think it’s an attempt to direct – redirect, or misdirect, perhaps – our Natures. Is that fair? An attempt to teach something we’re doing, that perhaps isn’t simply in line with our Natures? Something we choose to add to our toolkit and our lives? Stuff we’re not born knowing?

Ooh, I feel really close to something.

I think that stuff is the mean and ugly and nasty and all those kinds of things, I think that is the stuff we’re not born knowing. For evidence, if not proof, I offer that Nurture exists just fine if you simply stop insisting that it must be something positive. If you doubt the power of Nurture, abuse some children and see how many are unaffected along a vector of mean and nasty and all that.

That makes for an aggressive creature.

Now this is all fun theory and all, I love to live thinking I’m negotiating with God about Life and figuring out what we are and what we’re up to, what could seem more important? I think this conversation is where the action is, and I pray that if I affect the world in any way that it is in this conversation right here. Having said that . . .

The Nurture I describe, this antisocialization, this negative Nurturing, this isn’t theoretical at all. This is the world, look around you. And so, this mean, nasty, ugly thing is not our Nature, but what is produced through the power of Nurturing, which has been defined as consisting of exactly that which is not in our Natures.

This is not us.

This is something we think we need to be, and evolution says that at some point, we really did need to be this, so we became it – but evolution and everything else says we need to be something different now. And we absolutely can, because as I’ve just shown, this is not our Natures, this mean, ugly, nasty father-raper is not us. Morally, it’s worse, of course! That we work so hard to become him, apparently by choice . . . morally, we are not looking good in my paradigm here.

But there is nothing determined about it; we never could have gotten here in a deterministic world, and that is where the most realistic hope for us and this world I have been able to find seems to be.

It’s all upside-down and backwards to everything we usually say on the subject, but human beings are upside-down and backwards and we require that sort of an explanation.

So there it is.

 

Jeff

Dec. 9th., 2018

Safety and Security and Nature Metaphors

Sure, in that order, too.

Safety, I want to say is a state of not having to worry. Safety would be the certainty that one could fall asleep out of doors and wake up intact, so, in a time and a place where unreasoning predators have been banished, and the human beings around you practice a live and let live attitude and have enough to eat that you are not seen as a resource they must exploit. Some lucky few in the history of our species have enjoyed this state, mostly the wealthy and well guarded, to be sure. I think this is my vision of the liberal utopia, and while it’s mostly been a privilege item, I believe this is the liberal vision that we hope to extend to all people.

Something like that. I want to define safety as again, not even having to worry, because all who can touch you are friendly or at least reasonable.

Security is best stated as the proposition that it’s a good life if you don’t weaken, meaning that the only measure of safety available in the world doesn’t rise to my definition above, because any safety requires the ability to fight. Security I define as détente, as deterrent, a peace only possible because we can damn well war as good as they can, a peace and safety where we’re afraid of our own, our fathers, our leaders, because their first priority becomes antisocialization, making sure we can fight. True safety under this arrangement of deterrents is only possible when all your enemies are dead, and so that is always the extreme dream at the far end of thought for those whose livelihoods depend on keeping us “secure.” I’m sure all involved are conscious of the self-perpetuating nature of this game, that our defenders are their attackers and vice versa, but what way is there to get off of this wheel?

One way to view the many nature metaphors we hear, capitalist and anti-capitalist imaging about wolves and sheep being almost all that come to mind, it’s so prevalent – might be as a form of nostalgia, meaning we often look to nature or to the past for solutions, it being very good and Earthy wisdom that there is nothing new under the sun, that things weren’t always so strange and bad as they are today, and things were “better back then.”

I haven’t pondered the conservatism of that attitude, the details of why we think it so much, that the past was better – but that’s where I want to stop the world and get off of that train of thought and onto a new one.

I think morality, a better life, the possibility of getting off of the security hamster wheel, these things aren’t in our past, and I don’t see as the other critters that walk, swim, crawl, etc., have a roadmap to them either. It’s something I say in nearly every blog, I think, but I’m trying to dedicate this one to just this proposition: we need to invent this good stuff. No, we didn’t just have it a minute or a few centuries or millennia ago, and no, the chimpanzees aren’t going to teach us what “altruism” is. This stuff only exists in our heads; if we want to see it in real life, we have to invent it, we have to envision it, plan it, build it, make it all happen.

The utopia, nobody’s utopia is going to be found in our animal past. It’s not hiding somewhere to be uncovered, it’s waiting to be built. The search for the “roots of altruism” is driving me spare. To explain it with costs and benefits is to explain the very opposite: altruism is doing something for someone else, by definition, and all these definitions alter the experiment, like quantum stuff. The choice to do something for someone else is invisible, just in someone’s head, a fleeting thought that comes into existence and fades out without a trace, as thoughts do. Steven Pinker said as much somewhere, that much of what humans do they do with this free-floating “thinking module” that can apparently be applied to any sort of problem, including hypothetical and future situations that no particular evolutionary past might explain. Surely this module of the brain evolved for material purposes, but it’s what does math and all sorts of abstract stuff that isn’t all mission critical for every human, and this is the part that we must use to create our moral world, any utopia at all, ever.

Now, I know there’s a lot of thinking, a lot of philosophy says we can’t.

I also certainly understand that asking seven and a half billion people to simply do better is no answer at all. I’m not arguing against people not knowing everything and making mistakes and screwing up their lives and maybe the lives of many others before they learn more about things, that is clearly as inevitable for us as it is for all else that walks, swims and crawls through the muck. I think I’m in the big game, in the conversation, and I’m arguing that at least our educators and public figures could stop with forever siding with our baser selves, could stop with forever with this nature nostalgia, with this myth that we ever did figure out how to live and just forgot or something. With this myth that somehow whatever we’re already doing and have forever until yesterday is somehow supposed to change things for the better. A return to a natural state is not the goal, it can’t be, Elon Musk wants to go to Mars, for one thing, and if I had to guess who was going to get their way, him or me, well.

If we try to build a moral world, a rational world, the most good for the most people and the least evil, it ain’t back in the garden.

I think we’ve proven that we can destroy this place, so it seems less impossible that we could manage it, doesn’t it? No-one would have dreamed we could accomplish that a few centuries ago, and look at us and our bad selves, now right at the precipice! We could if we understood enough to want to, if we understood that this nasty ape “following his heart” is really what got us here, that being “social,” and reinforcing one another’s natural evolved feelings is not the path to the utopia but the eternal path to war.

It is my personal stance that the “unreal,” invisible world of our thoughts is where some rationality may be found, and that morality will require rationality, but that we must learn to separate the social from the cerebral. One example of such would be not ever saying things like “my country, right or wrong.” It’s the right or wrong part we need to start focussing on. Not so much the “my” bit, the social part. Being social is what makes us secure, of course it is.

But it doesn’t make us safe.

 

Jeff

Nov. 28th., 2018

Why Hate?

It’s an organizing principle, war, as stated by Sutherland’s character in JFK. It’s something for us to do, something for us to dream about, plan, strive, measure our relative usefulness regarding. Without an out group, there is no in group. And I’m not going to say it’s “built in,” because we are always still under construction, but it’s our tendency, isn’t it?

What hate and war are not is something new, or an accident. It was not some crap started by your father, what I’m saying is it’s not something you were “told;” not something taught to us by our parents because of something they learned or misunderstood within their lifetimes. We have evolved this way. We can change, because we have before, that’s what “evolve” means, and although there is plenty of room for discussion as to whether any of this evolution is self-directed or what portion of it might be, change is possible. Our parents didn’t decide that humans should live this way, the humans who made these decisions and got this ball rolling are long gone, and we aren’t really privy to their thought processes about it. We’ve forgotten why we chose to be this way, is what I’m saying.

So after that, starting at the bottom, it’s game “theory” and evolutionary psychology, on up to biology and on to philosophy and art, all human endeavors to remember who we are, rebuild the knowledge, understand why we are like this.

I don’t think “aggression” is a gene; I think it’s a choice.

The choice, really, right? The first one, or the last one, depending: fight as opposed to flight. I think the humans, or near-humans who made that decision are long gone, and our world is one where everyone knows the best defense is a good offense.

Fight or flight, that’s a choice, but it’s a choice we are presented with in such a way that any time we spend choosing hurts our case, deadly enemy or predator right up in our face – it’s best to make a policy, a default choice, and we call an animal “aggressive” when its default choice is “fight.” One can always change one’s mind, decide to run if you’re losing a fight, or decide to fight if you’re losing the race, but in either case, it’s best you’re doing one or the other rather than standing still and thinking about it, so we have our policies in place. I imagine as a general thing, the more tightly one is bound to a particular location, the more one chooses to fight rather than fly. This policy may have been developed as we made the shift from nomadic day-nest builders like the gorillas to more permanent homes or some such move.

This idea doesn’t clash with an idea I can’t shake, that no matter how aggressively we act, that it somehow begins with fear and defense. A goal I’ve been keeping from you all and perhaps even myself in all this jaw flapping is that I am trying to act as the War Ape’s defense lawyer, trying to get us off the hook for the charge of aggression, trying very hard to make a case that it’s really a form of self defense, that we might choose another way if we could. Not that I approve! The War Ape needs to go to prison, absolutely, I’m not making excuses for him so that he should run free and carry on his violent lifestyle, but you can’t fight him and expect him to soften, you can’t fight aggression, it exists to fight back, so I’m concentrating on the underlying issues, or the excuse. The War Ape needs to know that he’s safe, that he’ll be OK if he doesn’t spend his life proactively looking for an enemy and a fight. That’s me plan.

Me plan is impossible of course.

In my marriage, I was unable to convince one single human she was safe and didn’t need to always be fighting me or fearing me, so the threatened hominid doesn’t even credit one speaking for himself, let alone I can’t make promises for the other several billion of us.

Apologies for the intrusion of the personal, I leave it in as full disclosure. Is it just my hard feelings, or is the logic still there? How to stop everyone from feeling threatened by everyone and so all aren’t always feeling the fly or fight ultimatum and too many choosing to fight, so that all feel threatened by everyone and so . . . etc.? It is what it is because it is what it is and breaking out of this cycle is a little like deciding it is not what it is – again, the goal, because it in fact, is.

Sorry, that was too much fun not to do to you.

You can’t lose it and keep it at the same time, is what I’m getting at, so, thus far, we’ve just kept it. Our security, I mean, and the violence it requires. I know I’ve said this before, but it’s next anyway: the idea that we present antisocially to the out-group and prosocially to the in-group is a lovely idea, hate to make room for love – but it flies in the face of everything we know about abuse, dominance, and war, that these things form and inform personalities and aggression levels all around. The idea that the most warlike folks abroad are the most peaceful at home is an insult to modern intelligence and education. If you saw this before, you saw the waiver – I’m refuting a book from the beginning of the Great Depression. It is my dearest wish, as well as the high percentage bet that I’m doing so redundantly, but it seems important, better said a thousand times than not at all, so I’m just going to keep talking.

Aggression levels within the society and within the home rise and fall with those outside and at the borders, because we are talking about the same people, the same person, and your deadliest warrior is not usually your most loving babysitter. We have a romantic image of this, I don’t know why, that the perfect man can do it all. OK, yes, the perfect man could, that doesn’t make the two things compatible, just because one theoretical superman can do it. These things are at odds in the real world, you make your choices, and you live with the downsides. If war is how we and our neighbors have decided it must be, then things at home could look a lot nicer, love and support are probably in short supply, because that’s not what makes you a soldier.

This romantic image, the “real man” is something I’ve been having some online discussion about, and it seems to me to show something I’m after, that even when we’re being “good,” we love strength; our strength is good, our strength is never the problem – as though we ourselves aren’t a problem, can’t be a problem. (If you think this meme isn’t a reality, listen to the American president for two minutes. He states it overtly, and often.) I’m saying, a “protector” is a fighter. All the nice, innocent ladies who want a “protector” want a fighter, and this is sexual selection for violence – right out in the open, in broad daylight. All we have to do is call it defense.

Now, if I say women are keeping us “strong” in this way, am I blaming women for war? First, perhaps the war crowd will happily thank women for their part, this can be seen as all good for those who are all in on the idea that it’s a good life if you don’t weaken and war is the best way to any form of peace at all. I don’t mean to assign the blame, but I am suggesting that if half of humanity was really trying for peace, we’d have peace half the time. But we’re really trying for this traditional security I’m describing, where you’re not safe in the world unless you can fight. If I say this is unconscious, a mimic meme that fools us into thinking the “protector” is a world better than the attacker, am I calling women stupid or instinctual? Again, I don’t mean to, and men still have the larger share in all of it, stupidity and unconsciousness as much or more than any trait. Men believe in the “good” of their strength even without the excuse of defense much of the time. If I say, “women make this error,” don’t imagine that the male of our species impresses me. Grandad was a paedophile and I haven’t seen much to change my opinion for the better.

It is these sorts of things though, that I feel the need to discover and expose, mimic memes, ideas that we use to fool ourselves, and they are mostly, it appears to me, to be something along the lines of moral reversals, and I have begun to see that many of our troubles as a species, many of the things we think are bad, are in fact things we support under other names, as “good,” and so we struggle against bad things with confusion and futility – like this strength thing. Strength is “good” because the “bad” people are also strong – this is . . . what’s the name of the fallacy? The conclusion given is the reverse of the product of the arguments?

Logically, if “bad” people are strong, and if they get stronger, they’re getting worse, then “strong” is bad.

A mimic meme is a reversal of moral logic.

I’m saying, as have many before, when we get “stronger,” we get worse too, because strength is not good. This is a version of the political divide, some folks in western nations think their nations are getting “stronger” presently, while more people simply see the rise of violence and think that’s “bad.”

So I’ve tried to identify a mimic meme about protectors and strength, that when we prioritize and select for these traits, we are simply selecting for violence and the direction the violence appears to be pointed changes the selection not at all. We all select for protectors, and we are all selecting for one another’s attackers, not only personally and sexually, but when we vote.

The first such mimic meme I found was related to “strength,” it was discipline, punishment, in child-rearing mostly, and it is also a moral reversal, we have been beating children to make them “good” forever, and a hundred years of psychology has shown this “good” produced to be all sorts of bad, a long list of poorer outcomes, that only become good when we flush all of one of these people’s hope and dreams down the toilet, put a rifle in their hands and send them off to war, to do “good” “protecting” us all from the other guys’ protectors.

I think of this as moral philosophy – am I wrong?

A great deal of what is called “religious morality” seems backwards to my modern, fractionally educated mind, and much of what many people call “morality,” just isn’t, or doesn’t seem to be to me, I feel much of it falls into the mimic meme category and much Bible morality just sounds like world domination schemes and totalitarianism – or even worse, more basic. Sometimes it seems that all the bible supports is that bible-person sperm meet egg at any cost, and that is nothing but the morality of rape, no morality at all. We are not going to find morality in nature, folks. We have to create it.

Are the goals really endless breeding and war?

No?

Then how about we try to find a morality that actually helps people, rather than one that “just feels right” to a violent ape such as ourselves? It’s not going to be found in your biology, your biology is about a fight, not morality. If your morality is about the fight, or a fuck, I think you’ve missed it. We need a modern, human morality, and I suspect it might sound less like “freedom,” and more like wildlife management, but I think we can plan for a morality that doesn’t require the constant human sacrifice of war and strife, one that tries to make things the most good for the most people. It’s a big change, though. It’s probably not the same game at all, because I’m asking for a “morality” that doesn’t identify half the world as an enemy, and again, that might be something new, something we have to build from scratch.

Where the rubber meets the asphalt in this conversation, is, for things to change, some of the “good” things that aren’t need to be outed and reconsidered, some of the “good” things we love, we need to learn to hate, some of our favourite things we will need to deny ourselves. We are not going to be able to “follow our gut” out of these problems when it was our gut got us here in the first place. A huge portion of our emotional system concerns itself with group dynamics, in-group and out-group feelings, we feel these things, so we think we’re supposed to follow those feelings, but you are not the first one who ever thought of that, and I’m sorry if I’m the first one to tell you, but that isn’t working out, feeling isn’t working out.

I know that statement puts me at odds with basically all of humanity. Most folks think the security provided by war-capable nations is what keeps them safe, and they’re OK with it, and some think we all need to follow our nice feelings a little more, and I will say that is another mimic meme. If we decide to trust our nice feelings, we will also trust our fears and such, war feelings, and so, things do not improve, world without end.

Again, the good things that must go, that we need to be able to criticize, they are strength and discipline, these things only appear “good” because the “bad” guys love them too. Otherwise, no-one would want them.

 

 

Jeff,

Oct. 28th., 2018

Sub-contracting Abuse – Brainstorming

I am not a tactician or any sort of game theorist. I’ve read a few popular science books, my first clues about war and conflict came from one of Steven Pinker’s compendiums, and I’m going back some to catch up, I’m reading “The Evolution of War,” by Maurice R. Davie, first published in 1929. In 2018 it looks like a Bible, the font is so small, and it reads like something from another era. It’s a little difficult reading a white man (I’m assuming) writing about the world’s brown people in that time, and he doesn’t at least in the first chapter seem to acknowledge that the social principles he’s describing also apply to white Europeans, but only a little challenging. The WEIRD bias is well known now.

I worry that something else is noticeably absent from the book too, and I worry that it is still absent in today’s discussions, my baby, the antisocialization function.

1929, so nearly a hundred years, and I don’t imagine Davies’ talk of the social
in-group” and “out-groups” was all new at the time, but it stands out in blazing contrast to me now that Davies lays it out as that we provide hostility and war to the out-group while living in peace at home, with our in-group. I know we love our dichotomies, and maybe more so when the book was written, but that is just going too far. War at the border makes peace at home? Peace at home makes for a strong warrior troop? I’m sorry – rubbish. The truth is the function is more like the opposite of that. I know, in the fast-changing world of science nothing is easier than attacking some fellow who probably died before I was born. I’ve learned my way out of that one because we all have, right?

Yes, on one side of our minds we have, and out of one side of our mouths we talk like we know better. That half of ourselves all know abuse and its effects to be the genesis of many of our problems – but the other side of ourselves intuit that without punishment, all is lost. I think it’s fair to introduce that the “peace” Davies is referring to on the inside of these ostensibly bare bones warrior societies is a relative one, to say the least, his definition being you’re not supposed to kill or steal from your own, that these are defined as crimes when perpetrated upon one’s own people. Outside of this book and drawing from The Nurture Assumption, Judith Rich Harris made it fairly clear that “society,” at least in the sense of a socializing force or a learning institution, is the eternal children’s group, the kids socialize and antisocialize one another without a lot of adult input. I wonder if this situation, a species without adult learning – really? Us? – may place us forever in the hands of mother nature, to some degree, where it’s all biological conflict and game theory. Perhaps both more ambitious sorts of violence as well as liberalism are recent advents, and it’s a recent thing that adults are starting to develop their own culture!

I cannot believe the things this train of thought enables me to say, sometimes, and worse, maybe – believing them. Ha.

Actually, that is marinating nicely, I think that may be a pillar for me going forward, I’m going to keep that in mind, that our adult, “rational” efforts at culture may be only a few thousand years old in a few places, and that it’s an eternity of boy culture that we’re swimming against in this effort. Hmmm. Very much feels like a bringing together of ideas and not some logical breaking apart of them, I’m liking this. “Civilization” created adults and childhood somehow, that “time that the privileged had for contemplation and invention” that ramped up development – these people had time and room to mature, freedom from the conformity of the peer group, and this gave rise to all things more than hand to mouth?

(I should remind myself that a few months ago for me, it was all about the Alphas and their lifestyle of violence and dominance that had us at constant war, now it’s the children’s group . . . I need to see how it all works together, I suppose . . . )

OMG, I guess today is a theory day.

So, the point of antisocialization being abuse to toughen, to make and keep us competitive in the game theory world, it seems antithetical to social theory that a parent or an older sibling should be the punisher, the person whose genes’ interest would pose a less credible punitive threat than a stranger (I’ve just realized, this was probably why Trivers didn’t like antisocialization theory, I was all about parents doing it, and that’s new and strange, maybe) – and so we sub-contract that function to the children’s group, where maybe a coalition of second and third cousins would have fewer qualms about “enforcing the norms” – of course I mean about abusing a person to drive them to violence, making him a warrior. And modern white Europeans, along with city dwellers and wealthy people of all sorts, have taken that function – the farming out of our antisocializing abuse – to newer and stranger levels, what with schools, criminal justice systems, and militaries. Getting closer, Bob?

Well, not what I thought I was sitting down to write, but better, I think I learned something. I know it’s not a very pretty package, but it’s food for thought – it’s a full meal, isn’t it? I’m gonna publish, try to quit on a high note.

 

Jeff

June 28th., 2018

Continuing . . .

I’ve been frustrated, most of my life, trying to understand why we take children from abusive families and then just adopt them out almost randomly – or worse than randomly: to people who ask for them, people who want somebody else’s kids for some reason. I mean, we all know stories about times when that was anything but the end of some of these people’s abuse. Doing that, failing to vet adoptive or foster parents for abuse has always flown in the face of social relatedness theory, we take kids who are being abused by the people most interested in their survival and farm them out to people with none or nearly none and then what? We hope for the best?

Doesn’t this make a lot more sense, that we would do that if the point of child-rearing were not to prosocialize the child but to antisocialize her? Then, yes, strangers are indeed better suited for that.

I’m going to have to rewrite my entire blog for this, the implications . . . first off, it means the larger the group, the further children can be held away and educated by people with closer to zero family interest, and so maybe the larger the nation, the meaner its citizens, consider the British boarding schools and the famous personal warmth of those empire building . . . people. (My . . . people. I can say that.) I’m going to have to ponder every orphan story, every changeling story again . . .

What to make of the change, during times of wealth and relative liberal comfort, like until just recently, when the adult, public world of public policy was gentler than many parents would have things in their homes? If what I’m saying here ever was a thing – that we ever sent our kids off to unrelated teachers for their violent educations – then maybe I’m getting my first glimpse of why some of our north American “bare bones warrior” minded folks are feeling betrayed by the modern world. It may be more traditional to send your kids off somewhere that they come home grown up and tougher than they left than it is to send them off and have them come home all thoughtful and useless.

Wow . . . too much for one day. It never rains, but it pours, and I’m having some trouble finding enough air in it right now. I keep running away from the computer, nervous, like I’m swimming OK, but I get scared when the water is a mile deep; that’s what I’m feeling, I’m OK unless I get a cramp or something. Break time.

Jeff

same day

A Mind is an Obvious Thing to Waste

My people are not sober people. Most of the folks in my life are drinkers or druggies or both, it’s always kind of been that way, and while people who use their brains seem able to stay sharper for longer despite substance abuse, it’s not good for those minds that are idling, for brains with no projects, nothing to keep them busy. Yes, it’s sad to waste a mind – but was there something else you were planning to do with it?

You can tell where I’m from, I can’t get through two paragraphs without an apology, but I’m sorry – mostly, nobody wants your brain. There are not enough projects in the world for all these brains, so put it in Economy mode. The golf tournament this weekend is an anticlimax after the Masters, but “The Expanse” is back, I’m excited about that.

I’m nearly sixty and people my age love “American Idol” or some more police-based “reality” TV, maybe some situation like an exaggerated family, factionalized and playing out their social conflicts in some one-sided dollhouse . . . the stuff is food for our social selves, it’s emotional, but there is nothing there for our intellect. Seven billion human brains, one could imagine the processing power, if we were to use it somehow, like the SETI project does with our computers, but no.

We have a hierarchal system, I mean many hierarchal systems.

We combine our multitudinous selves for the physical advantages, but we’re all running on some few brains. How many intellects does it take to change a light bulb? One, and one body. How many intellects to build the pyramids? One, and a million bodies, right? A war? – then you need two and an endless supply of bodies. I really am a true contrarian, as a friend once said of me, because this jars on me, I see the glare of cognitive dissonance like the sun on a dusty windshield, that these very achievements are precisely what we have congratulated ourselves and specifically our giant brains for. I know – I’ve got nowhere to put that either. A million details will show me reading it backwards – but it’s not untrue, is it?

This is where I live, caught between opposing macro-truths and reaching for some way to reconcile this, the impressiveness of the outsized human brain with the apparent fact that in any sense in which we are part of an organization, a company, a nation, we all share a single one and disregard the rest of them, seems to beg for an explanation. If this organ is our answer for everything about us, why do we so devalue the vast majority of them? I mean, I just find it sad. My own intellect has been starving. I’m trying to invent my own branch of psychology or something because the hum of it keeps me awake, I have to put it to work, tire it out, or I’ll never sleep. I have this project, though, this train of thought going, and I’ve set it up that I think I’m the only one with this perspective, so if I don’t think about it, no-one else is going to – this seems to fool me, that my brain isn’t idling, and it isn’t completely redundant either. These sorts of carrots get me through the day somehow, despite that I’m holding them out in front of me myself. Call me arrogant, sorry again, it’s that or I’m just delusional, but I don’t think most folks get themselves through the day telling themselves they’ve found the secret to life and human nature like I do.

I think most people, unlike myself, are aware that no-one’s asking them this shit, we mostly know that no-one is waiting on our answer to questions about the human condition and most folks understand that your brain is for work and that better brains than ours have failed to solve for human misery. Practical people just give up and take what joy and comfort they can – especially if they’re as privileged and comfortable as this white boy has been for most of his adult years, through no special effort of his own. These advantages are huge, but these days every bit of comfort, every light bulb means another bit of sand washed away from the Seychelles, and so these idling intellects are starting to look expensive. “America’s Got Talent?” This is what I’m melting the world for, I really have nothing better to spend my brain calories on?

I know, there is plenty of work for bodies, plenty of volunteering to do, a world of help that is needed. I’m hoping to get outside again some day, do something for somebody, but in the meantime, this is my contribution, such as it is, just to say to people, who maybe weren’t complaining about it but are probably suffering it, I’m sorry you got that expensive thing between your ears that could pilot a ship to Alpha Centauri but instead just sits idle costing rent and even getting you into trouble. I’m sorry we don’t have something more gratifying for you to do with it than crossword puzzles. A mind is a terrible thing to waste.

I wish I had other options for us. I am kind of suggesting that my project could use another mind or two, but, you know. Then I’m redundant again, aren’t I?

 

Jeff

April Friday the 13th., 2018

self-predation

 

 

Uh oh. Brain whirring . . . processing . . .

Apes survive in nature, our chimpanzee cousins have been around as long as we have, meaning, that every existent creature has solved the problem of predator violence to some degree or they wouldn’t be here. Primates live in close groups and post sentries, all of that great science, and we also breed fairly quickly – in line with Sapolsky’s summation these days, that humans are half of everything and half of everything else, in this case, half predator and half prey in our breeding habits. Seeing us as a tournament sort of species, my uneducated and so unprincipled mind cannot stay away from postulating that the alphas and the hierarchy beneath them serve to maintain a certain selective pressure on a social animal in lieu of the predators that might provide those constraints on a less strategically minded prey. Violent selection, you know, culling of the weak and the old, that sort of thing. (I usually put a date on these things, so guess what’s putting these sorts of thoughts in my head – Rachel Maddow’s voice in my ears.) What I’m after, is, maybe the world selects for “tough,” like weakness is constrained by predation in direct contact on the savanna, and constrained by abuse in the social environment, by alphas and on down the ladder.

Jeff

April 9th., 2018