“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

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Psychology as Abuse, Part #3 – Some Sort of Progress

. . . in my personal antisocialization, I mean.

I think I finally got some bit of therapy, finally heard something, and funny story, it wasn’t my therapy, in fact it was historical therapy, or maybe even historical fictional therapy. It was the film, Jimmy P: Psychoanalysis of a Plains Indian, and what I think was supposed to be a turning point for Jimmy, when the therapist tells him, excitedly, “You can’t fight with women!” – I think that may be my problem too.

Don’t anybody tell the ladies on Twitter, OK?

Needing to fight more with women, that is not going to play well over there. But I’m the sort that lets them kill me instead, and I’m sure they’re not going to love me for making killers of them either, are they? Like I have sort of let my ex take so much of my life away, and I let her use my daughters to do it? Surely, I have failed in my responsibilities as a father to see such a thing happen on my watch. I mean, I begged for fair treatment, but that doesn’t work with the Americans and doesn’t seem to work with anyone. It’s a good life if you don’t weaken and I dropped the ball for everyone by weakening, I get it. I sort of get it. I get it, but I disagree.

I tried to live as a pacifist, I did live that way, but pacifists learn quickly, people do not automatically reciprocate for that. You’re supposed to be a strong pacifist, peace is supposed to start with no-one being allowed to abuse us ourselves first. You hear this? Abased, pathetic game theory? You all remember from five seconds ago, I’m talking about my loved ones, the ladies who had been my wife and daughters? It’s a good life if you don’t weaken with them too?

Twisters, sisters of Twitter, I am not advocating for aggression, I am talking about a choice and/or inability I have about rising to the level of self-defence.

I’m going through some medical stuff about hyperthyroidism, and had some bloodwork, part of which was looking at testosterone, and I was nervous. I mean, I know things aren’t so simple, if I needed testosterone, it wasn’t going to be Jekyll and Hyde, I wasn’t going to get super aggressive, but I worried about it. The endocrinologist offered therapy for it, but she also said that I’m in the normal range, the bottom third of the normal range she said, and I don’t know if she thinks that’s bad, I guess, because she’s talking injections, but it sounds OK to me. I’m still very sad and still gaslit to oblivion and not really seeing my way back to any real world yet and the last thing I want to do is start skin-popping testosterone. Good Lord. “Not that simple” isn’t quite the same as “not true,” is it?

I have fought back in life, I have gone on the offense, mostly inappropriate jokes, trying to be shocking and outside of the box, all largely unconscious until pretty recently. Anything I do consciously, anything I advocate for has all been feminism and pacifism, but I confess, I am an open wound, and I have been touchy and hurt and I do often feel under attack. The Not All Men urge is strong with this one, because I feel I have tried so hard, structured my life around it. When a feminist or just a female soldier in this war of the sexes gives me the dirty look or comment about what a pig I am or probably am, I have in the past tensed up terribly, felt awful, not known what to do, basically been reduced to some early childhood humiliation reaction . . . and pretty much always gotten over it and gone back for more, always and forever, me, begging to be seen as not that.

So let me tell you about last evening.

It’s about a friend and his lady, and when I quit Facebook just the other day, I gave them my Twitter handle and this blogsite, so I’ll forgo my usual love of the dysphemism and not try to bludgeon anyone with anything, but I know my Twisters will get it. Power was out here yesterday, all over, bit of a hurricane. I went out for dinner and got myself invited to my buddy’s place (with power) for the hockey game and went home to the dark afterwards. It was the first time I’d met his lady of maybe a year now.

I mentioned the proportional representation referendum we just had here in BC and that I was sad it hadn’t passed, and she responded that she had just put the package straight into the recycle bucket, that she didn’t care about that sort of stuff – and this is where I would tense up, normally. I had just told her I cared, I was sad, and her answer was, “I don’t.” At this point I’ll allow she’s talking about politics, not addressing me saying I care about it, just she doesn’t care about politics. Yes, we’re all white folks.

I normally would have started some internal conversation with myself and begun the process of tensing up, leading to sadness, but maybe I forgot myself, I had just met this person, but I just calmly said, “I mad at you, now.” Accidental outside voice, maybe.

She doubled down, of course. “I don’t care about that. It doesn’t matter, they’ll do whatever they’re gonna do.” So now I think she’s gone the next step, I’m sad, nothing, I’m mad, at her, personally, nothing, she doesn’t care about that – and still not meaning me and my thoughts and feelings generally, but maybe any feelings I have about this stupid politics business.

So I have opinions. I know maybe what to talk about and what not to talk about when I go there in the future, but I remained myself, remained calm, didn’t argue, either with her or with myself, and let it go. That’s a good sign, because that every woman on Earth could push my buttons with a word was not a tenable situation, strangers and everything. That was crazy. Me meeting a complacent white woman who doesn’t care about politics shouldn’t be a surprise or a shock, and it wasn’t yesterday, finally.

Meeting one who doesn’t care a damn about me and my ideas and feelings, that shouldn’t have been one all these years either, but it was, every damned time, I’m not sure what to say about that, what the hell it means yet, but . . . it was. It really was.

It really has been.

And yesterday she said to me, straight to my face after I had made a statement of my feelings, “I don’t care about that,” and for once, I don’t care about that, maybe the first time ever. What she cares about and doesn’t care about ain’t right, to my mind, but it’s her, it’s not me. And you know what, maybe it’s been all of them, all my life, and not me always the other times either. Back to psychology, maybe it’s not all women either, just the ones I find myself around, by choice or by inaction. Today, I feel I chose the ex because I couldn’t see she wasn’t ever able to love me, because of the women who raised me who never had a chance at giving or receiving real love – because of abusive men, of course.

We deserve this shit.

But I don’t. Not anymore.

LOL – first time ever, and straight to “not anymore!”

We’ll see if I can do it again, I’ll get back to you.

It felt good, I mean, it didn’t hurt like it usually does, but I never wanted to shut anyone out. I never wanted to hold anyone away like that, “I don’t care about that,” that being whatever another human being cares about, I never wanted to spend my life saying to myself about the people around me, “the hell with her, it doesn’t matter what she thinks,” that doesn’t sound like a life to me. This feels necessary but evil to me. It’s exactly what I talked about in Part One, that I am learning that other people are simply choices, that I made a blind, compulsive choice of a spouse because of not understanding my own childhood and life – and to make better choices in the future, I suppose, by learning to understand that life.

One small step on the road to recovery, on the one hand, I guess.

One step further away from childlike openness, I’m afraid. I’m sorry to report, I didn’t miss the pain and the turmoil with this little conflict, but this is exactly the process that ends up costing us joy, and even if I am enjoying the benefit of this sort of learning right now, it still confirms my Murphy’s Law view of things, that healing, that maturation is nothing but antisocialization, that this is a good life if you don’t weaken, if you don’t let them hurt you, if you don’t sweat the small stuff.

Meaning of course, other people.

I’m sensitive. I have always heard that trope like just exactly that, you tell me “Don’t sweat the small stuff – and it’s all small stuff” and I will not get involved with you, you have just let it slip, no-one matters to you, and all I have for folks who say that is goodbye. I never had a problem setting that boundary when someone makes as clear a declaration as that. Psychology is subtler, I’m supposed to feel more, have more positive feeling for the people who are blindly or intentionally hurting me or everyone with their own lack of feeling – not “don’t feel,” just “feel along with these unfeeling people.”

I could have framed it positively, like a million other stories of personal discovery, which, well, there’s the joke already, “million” and “personal.” I’m finding my boundaries, my centre, like that, and if that is true, then I have a far better chance of retaining it, if I can rebuild the concept from reality when I forget. I try not to “memorize” anything. If it’s real, you’ll see it in the world and won’t have to carry it around yourself. I may not like it, being antisocialized, learning not to care, but if it’s the only way and the closest thing there is to the truth, then I trust I will settle on it. I have a sort of calm sea in a way, and if it’s true, it will float to the top whether I like it or not. So if it’s good, like the way most folks talk about this stuff, then I’ll be getting the benefit even if I disapprove of the whole stupid game, because I am still a player. My general prognosis will probably improve with this . . . this hardening, and I may need some of that to survive much longer.

Even if it’s a moral failure, which I also think.

It’s not right, to my mind, that it is me making this adjustment, not right that any adjustments be made in this direction, that anyone get tougher, that I get tougher, that I feel less, that I care less, that I learn not to talk about certain things. What would be right, would be changing the abusers of the world, getting them to feel more and care more, stopping the pain at the source. I’m not saying it’s doable, or practical, or that I have a way, but I absolutely am saying that for all those practical reasons we are doing it all completely backwards.

I mean, I understand, it’s only myself I have access to, we have the best chance for change with ourselves . . . but just because this is the part of the tree that you can reach doesn’t mean this is where the apples are! The logic of therapy is like a classic joke, like “I know his father is the psycho and he makes him wear the chicken suit and live in the yard and demands eggs of him, but one hour a week, we’re gonna work on helping him remember he’s a person. The poor, sick fellow thinks he’s a chicken! His father? Oh, he won’t come in, not interested.”

I know there are positive tales, and lots of positive press to match.

There is also this however, the victim-treating which has a portion of victim-blaming and victim-shaming – “So, what are you gonna do about it?” – which doesn’t get nearly enough press, by an order of magnitude. And so, it’s sort of natural, that the undiagnosed meanies run the world and the sad victims are the sick ones that require treatment, it’s easy to see, viewed this way, that the treatment is to convert the sad victims into happy meanies. I mean, it’s the undiagnosed, active participants in the world choosing what needs to be done, not the folks suffering the downside of it all, sitting medicated at home or in hospitals, after all. We gotta get you up and moving – and fighting and soldiering and selling and hustling – that’s the cure, apparently. To be clear, that’s all pretty aggressive and it isn’t saving the world.

But that’s what’s supposed to save you!

And when we rid the world of lazy, whining crybabies and everybody is a healthy, magnificent fearsome warrior, then things will be better, right? Funny, I extrapolated this from a minority take on nice, non-violent psychology and therapy and I’ve come immediately to the toxic masculinity that MRAs and the dudebros of the world profess. Again, psychology is subtler, but if we think we’re supposed to be warriors, then that is what psychology is going to teach, to make you a healthier, better integrated warrior.

I have a problem with that.

It’s all backwards and the harder we try, the worse we get, with this view of ourselves. I don’t want your stupid cure, I want my open heart and mind back. I want to go back to the garden.

 

 

Jeff

Dec. 22nd., 2018

 

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2018/02/23/psychology-as-abuse/

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2018/02/24/psychology-as-abuse-part-2/

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

Kissing Up to Bob

I lived, partially educated, happily deciding for myself how things worked, and then some alt-Right internet swine put me on to a couple of biology sorts of books and my mind exploded, I had an insight and a meltdown. A part of my dabbling in biology was that I learned that I was in interesting company for having had that experience, and maybe there’s a syndrome, but the person I heard it about and from was Robert Trivers. Of course nothing about me compares, except maybe the meltdown. I learned about him during that period, and not altogether in my right mind, I learned the great man had an email address, like a person.

That is Dr. Trivers, by all accounts, and I can corroborate: the most human of humans. He teased me a little, or at least gave me the leeway to tease myself, the first time I approached him it was late evening here on the west coast, so it was early morning on the other coast and he sounded a little intrigued by my idea, so I started talking to him, sending him updates and asking him questions, like I couldn’t figure out that there were a hundred tiers of learning between him and I. I sort of failed to notice he only answered the once. I should have moved on with my own learning and writing and just prayed for a chance to one day say to him, “Hey, I emailed you that one time, remember?”

But I was not well, I was manic and it seemed as though my dreams were coming true with his positive first hint. I forget how many things I sent him, blogs, partial blogs, looking for some feedback, somehow imagining his fan mail doesn’t arrive in truckloads, maybe half a dozen, maybe a dozen? Finally it was enough, he either felt the need to fend me off, or he saw my need, that’s more how he spoke, and he phoned me. He gave me solid, untheoretical advice on dealing with my mental struggles, and I did feel some real connection with that. He dismissed my insight in seven syllables, “Seems kinda wacky to me,” and if you’re talking to some nobody, that’s not saying anything, but when Bob says “to me,” then that’s a trip or several to the library. He’s already said it.

It’s not that I didn’t have the data, so much, it’s the usual, I just wasn’t processing it, and frankly, I’m a youngest, I may have a unique point of view, but I’m very much in the habit of asking for and getting help, if someone else knows, why don’t I just ask them and why don’t they just tell me? Again, I got grade twelve equivalency, and I’m going straight to the top, and the top can tell me, but I won’t get it, will I? I think I get it at the most basic level now. My theory is humans abuse their kids on purpose, that being a tough, capable troop defender is the very same thing as being as being a crazy, violent, asshole criminal, but I was talking about parents and children.

Basic social theory, social relatedness theory, has it that the person a child need fear the least is their parent, gene interest and all. Parents, in theory, would not threaten the lives of their own for conformity or such, that we all want our genes to survive and thrive. So I’m pestering Bob, ignorantly trying to refute his first theories, the ones that made him who he is, and who TF am I? (I wasn’t, I’m not refuting social relatedness theory, of course not. That just seemed to be blocking my refutation of child discipline and punishment in general.)

For one thing, I’m the same grandiose idiot I was two years ago, and also, not completely over my meltdown. So I think I have an answer!

My answer is, humans have “socialized” their child-rearing, child education.

We farm that shit out.

To less related adults in the modern world, or to less related children in the more aboriginal children’s group, thus working around social theory. Surely some later Trivers ideas are also involved, evolved deception and self-deception.

I’m not going to be looking Bob up again, I hear he’s out from Rutgers, where I had found him before, and I made a point of losing his phone number from when he called me, I didn’t want to have it if I was just going to keep getting crazier. I don’t think I am, and I’ve learned my lesson, but just in case . . . if anybody out there talks to him, maybe this response will be of interest . . . of course anyone else, perhaps from some tier between Trivers and my homegrown, daydreaming self, who would like to chime in, maybe correct me, maybe help me work this out . . .

 

Jeff

Oct. 31st., 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

Who I Am

I’m a regular guy. I’m a middle-aged, recently retired white working guy in a stolen white country, like so many white folks in places outside of Europe. I got most of a basic public education, worked, married, had a couple of kids . . . and then lost my mind. You know the story . . . I became disillusioned, started spending a lot of time online, withdrew from social things. I became dependent on drugs, to the exclusion of all else. When my family tried to intervene, I chose the drugs and abandoned them.

I was abused as a child, so although it’s disappointing, it’s no surprise.

It was only a matter of time. It’s a good thing we parted ways when we did, because when a man unravels, bad things happen. I was going to put them all on the six o’clock news, and frankly, while the intensity of the original split has lessened, on some vector time and frustration only increase the pressure for guys like me to do something decisive and violent. It seems likely as not that when women push an escalating man away, it’s only a deferment, and some awful timer has been started.

True to form, I won’t get help, either. No-one thinks they are big and powerful and dangerous, or rather, the men that do feel in charge are even worse than guys like me, guys that don’t think they are. Of course, I think I’m the victim. Of course I think it’s everybody else that’s wrong, and if you think that, no-one can help you. Clearly, I do not want to be helped. So now my family is down a salary and dealing with the damage, while I’m online still, spreading my toxic message with the rest of the crazy boys, talking game theory. God knows the world needs more of guys like me, right?

This is me, apparently, the me that world can see, the me that the world will acknowledge, this is the me I must be if I wish to be seen.

 

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

Human Morality – or You’re Making it Worse

Basically, stop it; you’re not helping.

It seems as though the people who explain war and game theory to us are advocating for it; I personally expect a call for a pre-emptive attack whenever I hear “game theory,” and it seems to me that scientific sounding talk about theory and conflict is usually offered in support of some sort of aggression. That’s not it, and that’s not me. We need to talk about this stuff and understand it in order to free ourselves from it. That’s my goal.

“Game theory” is frankly, too lofty a title for a science only employed at the team level anyways, privately in the locker room. When you’re doing that, you’re not a developer, engaged in scientific theorizing, you’re a player. And the “game” is war, so you’re a soldier. I’m not a soldier, inasmuch as I have any choice. I’m trying not to be.

I am a dangerous, dangerous peacenik. If I succeed, I’m probably going to get us all killed.

I understand the player’s, the warrior’s response to the protestor, I do. The unthinking peacenik thinks there isn’t a world of everybody else’s soldiers coming for him if his soldiers weren’t out there. He doesn’t get it; the real choices are war or annihilation here on Earth in the real world.

Well, I exist in neither of these paradigms. I get it, but I’m still a peacenik. That really is the world today, and I see we’re doing what we can within those rules, but some of us hear “that’s just the way it is” and still aren’t happy, what can I say? If a player – someone participating in conflict as their answer rather than someone fighting against the conflict itself – says to me, “that’s the way it is,” and that’s the end of the conversation for him – well, he’s forgotten, or he never knew. It wasn’t always.

For a long time, and sure, I use the phrase “deep roots of war” endlessly, but, uh, science. But . . . evolution. Nothing “was always,” was it? There weren’t “always” humans, so there wasn’t “always” human behaviour, and so all of this has developed, over time, for specific reasons, right? If I agree somewhat, if I talk of war’s “deep roots,” and even go so far as to say, “this is who we are,” please, make no mistake. I’m no player, no warmonger, nothing is written in stone. This is who we have been, yes, but evolution, Baby, environmental control of gene expression. If we can realize the ways in which we are our environment – and stop saying things like “that’s just the way it is” about our own damned behaviour – then we will see that is who we wanted to be, who we needed to be, and so we created ourselves in that image, and that perhaps we can want and need to be something else if things change, if our solutions start to feel more like problems.

Because they already feel like that to some of us.

It has been my contention – sorry, I’ve been on this train of thought forever, hard to remember I’m alone in it – my contention that the human discipline of children is a slave function to our game theory existence, our lives of group conflict. Honestly, it’s the common denominator for all of it. In Afghanistan, we beat you into a “good” Afghan, in China we’re beaten into “good” Chinese, and all over the world people are beaten Hindu, Buddhist, Christian, Muslim and everything else, and the variance of these educations, the details, the different lists of rules are not the point of any of it when we see all humans employ the same methods and that all peoples are “strong” and no peoples are pushovers in conflict. Considering the personalities of many of these peoples, if you’re here, your people are tough enough.

Now, there are two ways to talk about this discipline thing, and the secret of this dichotomy is, they’re both right. One is all morality, uprightness, strength, and defense – us, as I said above, “needing to be this,” and two, power, violence, damage, hard feelings, and mental illness – us, maybe starting to see price of being this way. They’re both in play, both the same function – a “strong” group deters attack, and so does a crazy one, and maybe more so. It’s not always easy to differentiate the two today, strong VS crazy, so imagine telling the difference between them among the apes this sort of behaviour probably began with! – what I’m saying is, functionally, evolutionarily, there is no difference. I offer euphemisms and dysphemisms; the truth is between them, or it’s all of them at once.

Along those same dual lines, on the happy side, we explain our discipline as a rational function, we use punishments to teach particular, real world lessons, don’t throw dishes – but no-one has explained how not breaking dishes increases our genes’ odds for replication and immortality. The beating about the dishes, however, that has real world effects beyond the life of your dishes, well documented effects about life outcomes, about violence and crime, and the preponderance of this data says this is the true function. I’ll go out on a limb and say the biologists are finding real gene expression functions and physiological developmental functions around abuse, trauma, and violence, and not so much around dishes and house rules. Right?

So, again, one view is morality, along with the “strength,” or as a rider to it. This relationship as it is in our minds isn’t completely clear to me, and things not being clear around this is a feature, not a bug, but I think it’s fair to introduce that in reality, if this sort of abuse induced “strength” does somehow keep our genes’ march to immortality alive, if it keeps us from annihilation, then it really is “good,” no? I mean, unless we and our loved ones are somehow just plain “bad” in the first place. So, life is “morality,” I think, that’s how I understand it, the life and quality of life of my loved ones and myself, and acts that aid in that are moral acts, at the simplest level, of course. Having said that, logic and reality are not a game of “telephone,” we don’t ignore that the best defense is a good offense and we can’t say, “offense is defense, defense is life, life is morality, so offense is “good.”” To say the best defense is a good offense, is using the word/meme “good/best” in only a tactical sense, and not a moral one, obviously.

Game theory says truly, defense alone is doomed to lose, because if attacking us has no costs, they will continue until our defenses fail, and it’s only a matter of time – this little talk for the nice folks who don’t dabble in this awful sort of thinking – so the theory is we are safer when we impose a price on those that would attack us, in the jargon, when we present a credible threat of our own. Even the smallest man in our aboriginal village may have a level of safety if the big guys know he will ambush them in revenge, or cut their throats in their sleep, meaning if he engages in offense.

Moral theory says offense is a moral failing, that the acts of taking lives and protecting lives are more different than they are similar – at least my moral theory does. What the ancient texts our cultures hold dear is what I’m saying we’re stuck with in game theory, as players: killing your enemies is “good.”

I’m not sure, but I think the biologists and Richard Dawkins in particular say that your genes wish to be replicated into the future and do not give a damn about my moral theories, however, and that explains why here we are, living the morality of the players, in game theory, where offense is defense, and therefore “good.”

Sigh.

Those are the texts we go to for moral instruction, those scrolls, written in ancient team locker rooms, just before the game, instructions to the players. Don’t fight against the conflict; the conflict is your job.

This is attempt number twenty or something, of summing up my worldview as it relates to morality, of what I think are my not so common insights into these matters, this is the thing I’ve had in front of me for a year or two now, the thing I’ve been waiting to be able to put together. I feel I’ve had a bunch of thoughts, and there is some grand expression of them to be made, but the connections are difficult to show, difficult to see, and I’ve been letting my subconscious digest it and hoping it would wake me up with the answer eventually. That hasn’t really happened, but I’m writing again, for the first time in a long while, the longest while in a few years, and that feels better. For a long time, I’ve had a sense of the overview, that our ideas of “good” and “bad” are upside down and backwards, and so our morality is confusing and solving our troubles seemed impossible . . . it’s sort of what I’m after, that we want a certain kind of “good” in the world, but we’re stuck working for another kind altogether. I cannot escape an image I have, like a one-line poem more than logic, but I see our self-induced ferocity that keeps the Hun away from our door as mostly wandering our own streets, bringing those attitudes and skills evolved for the enemy to ourselves, to each other, our loved ones – and to be old fashioned – to our women and our children. Crime, as the trade-off for annihilation, I’d take it too, as we do, if I were as sure as our genes seem to be that there is no other way, but I’m not. Full disclosure – I think that may just be me.

Of course that’s what our genes think.

I’m not saying it much, but it’s all about group conflict, offense is life supporting and moral “for us,” for our group, those are the players in game theory, groups of humans, while our offense “appears” (LOL) life destroying and therefore immoral to the other groups. So now we have a game theory and we know they have one too, two identical theories in two identical frameworks, and within each group’s theory the central dogma that offense is the best defense is the pinnacle of the logic, and we know we all know it, but that’s the game.

Now, we are here, living in this group scenario for a long time, and we are absolutely talking about simple fighting and war, a basic, fundamental adaptation to group conflict (as well as perhaps discipline and antisocialization), meaning it’s undeniable that a violent response to violence is often necessary and it’s certainly an evolved and logical trait to fight. Never mind sometimes we can’t seem to communicate with our best friends, you can’t expect to converse with the human group coming over your walls, so game theory, conflict theory is fundamental, of course talking skills alone won’t guarantee your genes’ safety. But was it supposed to end there? There is fundamental and then there’s fundamental, isn’t there? Are group conflict and war really as intractable as the need for water and air?

Because therein lie all of our hopes and dreams, don’t they? In the space between those kinds of “fundamentals?”

All of our literature, all of our ponderings regarding our own natures and the nature of life, all of our struggles for good things take place in this space, all of this is an attempt to solve this puzzle of free will because we feel, we feel that we know there is a difference, that human enemies and droughts are different sorts of problems. We know the enemy is us and we are them, so it’s frustrating. Things are not so harsh all the time, so we know it doesn’t always have to be, and still, despite not having to be this way in as solid a manner as the needs for food, etc., it’s still always this way.

We need to spend a little time away from the battle, see if there’s any way to stop playing this stupid, lethal, forced game of murder ball, any way to support each of our lives and our life beyond simply threatening each other’s. I think “morality,” within our group, in the game theory paradigm, has too “good” a name, it’s describing saving ours and killing theirs – I’m sorry, missed a step, didn’t I? I mean saving ours and disciplining ours so that we can kill theirs when need arises – I think we can see that’s a rather limited morality, and best thought of as something else, simple survival, perhaps. Something I read in a novel about the Battle of Thermopylae said that to be ready for war, you must practice, that simply being prepared for an existential war means war is always your vocation, that you live with war always. It’s not true because that writer said it, but it’s true.

On maybe a purely aesthetic level, morality should serve as a goal, shouldn’t it? An ideal, not just an attribute we give to everyone in our group automatically, just for adhering to some group norm. Analogous to the widening of our moral circles meme, but perhaps more fundamentally progressive, I propose a wider moral goal for us, one above the level of our social groups, because I fear the expanding of our “moral circles” – who’s in and who’s out of the group – is doomed to failure since our brains and our societies are evolved for a much smaller group than any real group in today’s world.

The planet has gotten small and our social groups have gotten huge, we can start to imagine wanting a morality, a goal, that doesn’t require an “other,” at all – and I know freedom is the freedom to kill your enemies and what I’m suggesting is something like wildlife management of ourselves, population VS resources. Players, idealists, freedom lovers, a lot of folks aren’t going to like that idea, but I’m searching for a way to “be good” that doesn’t involve killing and war, some slightly more objective measure for what is morally “good” than whether the people we hurt are “our people” or “their people,” you know? Some moral concept that at least takes the “good” people off of the battlefield. The existence of vast amounts of a military sort of “good” available today doesn’t seem to be a solution for the collateral damage, for victims of violence away from the front lines, and this can be seen as the present, probably eternal political divisions we all live with, the hawks that promote the eternal “solution” at the borders and abroad, and the doves that complain about the violence abroad and at home. Also, all this military “good” isn’t changing, isn’t evolving, isn’t growing up. Morally, this is our upper limit, this game theory crap, and we’ve plateaued.

What makes the world seem so much less clear and understandable than this rather short assessment of mine is the connection between the two, the discipline.

That’s where bad becomes good, the magic trick. Our parental violence is “good” because if our young are strong (or better yet, crazy), then they are less likely to be attacked or exterminated and we are more likely to see those grandchildren, our genes are more likely to see the future. This is not news, anyone who has endured an old-fashioned trip to the woodshed has been told that at least some of the good that would come of it would be that they were tougher for it. That is a little bittersweet to me, a difficult thing to accept in all of this nasty talk, that the old-time patriarch types who understand the function are the ones who are very much into it, while the nice guys and the ladies who would oppose this lifestyle don’t seem to grasp it. Again, a lot of folks think being good is about not breaking dishes and such, but it doesn’t seem to be. Certainly that couldn’t be as important a way to be “good” as serving us all in conflict, a part of which is breaking the enemy’s dishes and a whole lot more than that.

So, to my mind, that’s our central conflict. Peace is “good,” the sort of “good” thing we want but being here to enjoy it seems to require that war be the mode of operation. Discipline is an inoculation, a vaccine against the existential threat of peace entering our hearts and minds, keeping us “strong” – while of course also working in the enemy’s camp, keeping him “strong.” If only we could talk to him – but again, not a system of talking. We’re having trouble reaching our own young men with talk, aren’t we? This strength that makes the international neighbors think twice, so “good” in it’s deterrent and defensive properties, is all things bad and immoral at home, the oppressive social structures, crime, violence, the whole suite. We pretend we’re “fighting crime” with our deterrents and our punishments, when those are in fact evolved behaviours that ramp up our aggression for our life of group conflict and war, and so we are hardened rather than softened by it.

So this is my take on our morality.

We’re only making it worse.

I don’t mean now, today, in modern times or anything, I mean eternally, or the evolutionary version of that. With our answer for misbehaviour and crime always being pain and deprivation, we harden ourselves as the neighbors do and no-one is soft, so that we have settled into a morality where our group gets preferential treatment, meaning a lot of well intended, mostly non-lethal punitive violence and some collateral damage from crime. It is a few steps better than it might be, I suppose.

But the empty talk, the rhetoric we hear about solving that damage within our own group, about “fighting” the crime! Understand, I don’t know if I’ve convinced anyone else – but I am convinced of what I’m saying here, discipline boosts aggression and so crime – and so the folks solving it are causing it. The folks talking about morality and punishments are advocating for abuse, which is the cause and not the cure for our madness and our aggression. I’m only asking one thing. Don’t change your ways today, just spread the word. We can’t change this by ourselves, at home, within our groups, this only helps if all nations learn this, the whole world. We need one of those hundredth monkey things – I know, they’re not a thing, it’s learning, social learning. It just looks like magic, right?

Just think about it, just talk about it.

There is a cloud over our minds about this, a great power suppressing this idea, it seems like survival itself, but things have changed, it might be survival itself if we don’t find a way to think about it.

Pithy ending, I’m sorry.

I think I may have finally gotten there, though.

 

Jeff

June 26th., 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