Reading List

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

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

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

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

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

I’m tired.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Jeff

March 28th., 2020

Secrets

All your efforts are doomed, I’m sorry.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Communism, Capitalism, the internet – what else?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s flip it over.

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

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

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

Be forewarned, though.

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

 

Jeff

March 20th., 2020

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

Human Autobiographies

Psychology should concern itself with pain. Wasn’t that the original idea, a specialty within medicine, an attempt to lessen pain and help people?

I ask, in all seriousness: this toxic Evolutionary Psychology I’m hearing about – is there any mention of suffering in it? I’m guessing not, that’s probably what’s so poisonous about it. But let’s back that up one step. This Evolution idea – same question: do pain or suffering have an appearance, a role?

I won’t make you wait. I can never write a novel or a textbook, I can’t keep a secret long enough to build tension or fill a book – in reality, pain and suffering are part of our evolving past and present, absolutely. It seems to be absent, however, I mean except as a spectre, a bogeyman, in the form of deterrents, from the usual tale of our group existence. Pain and suffering are the price for civilization, and civilization is life and security. That’s the role, yes, bogeyman, scare ourselves straight, I know how it works, I had parents, a children’s group, bosses, I know about deterrents. So that’s the role assigned to pain and abuse in our current understanding.

Like it doesn’t ever actually happen. Like whether it actually happens or not wouldn’t matter, the deterrent is the function.

That’s how evolution, and everything else in life works, right, nothing has to happen, it’s not things that happen that matter, only things that might happen, only threats of things happening that matter?

But this is our origin story, our social organization, and majority control of misbehavers, the employment of rules, laws and deterrents has had an effect on us – civilization – the idea of abuse and punishments has brought us all this way, but the reality of the abuse has had no measurable effect. We are different enough from everything else that walks the Earth for half of us to wonder if Earth is really where we’re from – from the threat, from the fear of abuse, but the reality of the abuse with such aversive power, the actuality of the abuse that has the whole species changing their behaviour to avoid it is apparently powerless.

If you get it, if you agree, say nothing!

I knew it.

The difference of treatment we enjoy within our groups as opposed to when we’re caught alone outside of them – this I see as a chicken or egg question or rather whether a zebra is a black horse with white stripes or the reverse, except that it matters.

The way I see it stated is usually some version of “prosocial at home, antisocial without,” and while it does describe the disparity we see and we would expect to see at the in-group boundary line, it seems to lack causality. I find there is plenty of stuff going on in the in-group that being “prosocial” does not explain.

OK, in brutal terms: if I would murder an out-group person for eyeing my wife, and only beat an in-group member unconscious for the same slight, then this framework has the beating as a prosocial, in-group behaviour, like I brought the fellow life. Now, if while I had him out and could indeed have dispatched him at little extra cost and didn’t, perhaps yes, he lives because of my prosocial choice about him – that doesn’t make this a story about friends giving life to one another.

It’s still a violent episode, with violent motivations, and ongoing effects of possibly adjusted hierarchies, possible physical injuries, possible further revenge scenarios – the lifegiving part of this story is not what drives the plot, is the point, in that I’m afraid I agree with the toxic evo-boys. To be fair, we’re talking about a story about toxic boys fighting over their women like they are property in this example, so it’s not prosocial things driving this story.

Not even in the long term, genetic terms!

In this story, I would execute a neighbor tribe’s possible rapist, but stay it for my in-group possible rapist, and breeding rapists is probably not easily explained as “prosocial” either, in the long run, is it? What more aggressive thing could a species do?

They say white folks see a white zebra with black stripes and black people the reverse (or the other way? I forget and it doesn’t matter), and if seeing the in-group as prosocial and suffering as accidental is like seeing a white horse with black accents, then I think this horse is black. Pain and suffering are the engine of the human in-group.

It’s our dark side, to be sure, unconscious. That doesn’t mean it’s the “small” half. With the preceding in mind, consider a high level result of this sort of error in our understanding: our wars are getting bigger and longer. We are far more violent and destructive than the chimpanzees, as well as presumably, than the creatures we and the chimpanzees descended from – so we are evolving in that direction, towards bigger, longer wars.

The normal conversation, repeated endlessly, because as you know, the obvious truth needs to be repeated endlessly, each of us to one another’s choirs, is that we are subject to these “outbursts” of violence because we still have the ancient chimpanzee within us and to that I snort and scoff and fart in your general direction!

So then, we were like this five million years ago? One long, never-ending chain of world wars going back to the ancient Congo, where, somehow the modern chimpanzees have today managed to keep it down to a dull roar? Even if our story were true, it’s clearly the chimpanzees who have slowed the fighting in it, it’s their success story, not ours. If it were true.

Where is the Evolution in this story?

We’ve changed, we’ve evolved, replaced some of the old, wild genes with newer, softer ones, but every now and then, all that evolution just resets to a fictional period five million years ago when apparently every ape used to have huge wars all the time? WTF?

We’ve changed, we are changing, and our wars are getting worse and there is evolution and genetics and for God’s sake, put it together, will you? We are selecting ourselves for this. What else? I mean what else, with Evolution?

Microphone drop, that sounds like an ending, except one, it’s not Sunday yet, and two, there’s something looming, some existential threat to my whole thing that I am going to have to at least have one look at before I decide to either take it on or just give up and run. Wrangham hinted at it in interviews, I expect he laid it out in his latest with a lot of support: capital punishment of tyrannical alphas, that makes sense, that sounds like civilization to me too. But any lesser punishment, by my own reckoning, while deterrents exist and a more prosocial cost benefit analysis may result, other things happen, the more basic, low level things happen. The subject has bad feelings, perhaps unfairness and anger, perhaps sadness, and more basic, pain has its own immediate negativity and those feelings are responses to that more elemental feeling.

This is exploratory, I have no idea how I’m going to get through this, but this image keeps coming up, that we are trying to extract the good side of life from the whole savage garden experience, like taking the metal from the ore, breaking down complex things to take only the best bits and that is never alchemical magic but only an industrializable chemical reaction with a very real and unmagical accumulation of by-product that goes along with it.

I worry that in order to improve ourselves, that we have split instead, polarized, and while there is a better looking version of ourselves to talk about, there is also our Mr. Hyde, and maybe he’s in the basement and suffering, but he doesn’t seem to be safely chained up. This conversation goes to our supposed self-domestication, and it seems obvious to me that we cannot be the tame horse unless we are also the cruel master that breaks him.

I worry that by trying to make a conscious change, we have created a monster and if the whole idea of punishing is the problem, that my idea is only another form of it, and doomed before it can ever begin, like if the problem is what we’re trying to do and not just how we try to do it. I worry about stuff no-one else knows is going on.

To be continued, that theme.

There is a lot of complicated thought to take us from Wrangham’s capital punishment to non-lethal punishment, to us being generally a lot less violent than the apes (by murders per population measures. I don’t argue that; I argue that huge wars also exist, that in times and places, our murderousness outstrips peak chimpanzee murderousness by orders of magnitude) but it’s all quite unnecessary. All that is really required is to turn the causality upside down and ask, either like I did, “what is punishment?,” or like this: how have we evolved to have world wars? If the question is “why is our murder rate better than the chimpanzees over the long term?,” then sure, maybe some answer that starts with in-group love.

But if the question is “How was World War II possible?,” then telling me “because we’ve found a way to make ourselves more prosocial” isn’t going to cut it, and again, in your general direction, Sir. For that answer, you have to say, this is an ability we are growing, a genetic effect we are selecting for. And again, all that is required is a different view, like I don’t know what you’d call it, what discipline concerns itself with people who are damaged by abuse, but some of these Evolutionary Biological Theorists sure could use a little of it! Some field of study that tries to help people by making things they’re unconscious of conscious, to give them choices where they didn’t think they had them . . . something like that would be great for this.

I don’t want to get grandiose on you, but I know two sciences that could change the world if they would see that they belong together. I know, the pond’s been poisoned, but abuse is in our DNA and in our evolution which is the hard science that should be the foundation for the social sciences, instead of, what was it again?

Nothing?

Or the story debunked above?

Call me.

 

 

Jeff

November 2nd., 2019

Human Contact

I have a bad attitude, sure. There’s the waiver, and if you think that means I must be wrong, then move along, we’re not going to be able to actually communicate across that gulf. We live in different worlds.

You know I basically think it about those of you who stay, too. Sorry, Canadian “Aloha,” or “Shalom.” I am sorry, my sorry butt apologizes. If it helps, this one’s about me falling for positive nonsense too, most of the time. And I’m at the computer because I’m ready to fight back, I think I’ve got an answer, and yes, it’s sort of automatic at this point, much of this I don’t have to sit down and work through like arithmetic, it’s compulsive and these answers grab me when I’m pouring a cup of tea, or planning something else and they send me here in a hurry, like some sort of textual IBS.

(But then I get lost in the usual ten years and first page of preamble and often forget the insight and it’s back again next week. I don’t want to work myself out of a job, I guess.)

It’s all the same principle, but I seem to believe it and I’m engaged in an ongoing audit of what I used to think, what you all apparently think now, and this Murphy’s Law of Nature/Antisocialization Theory is slowly replacing everything it touches, like evolution audited and continues to audit the life sciences.

The pressure for positivity is constant.

I’ve always felt it, always sort of railed against it – but don’t listen to me, I have “depression.” It used to mean sad for no reason, pathological, and I railed against it then. These days it means sad when you have to go to work, no matter what the reason. Imagine how much I like that sort of talk now. OK, on with it, sort of.

You know, my whole focus, my “theory,” basically to talk about stuff everyone knows and no-one considers worth talking about, it’s all about us messing with one another, about us hurting one another, reinforcing one another’s anger and madness, basically being bad influences upon each other, much of it done for reasons, good, inescapable reasons, if you believe what humans say on the subject, and Good Lord, see paragraph one.

When I first cracked Trivers’ book on deception and self deception, I was beyond excited, I was scared, not kidding. My inner life is my life, yours isn’t? How are you supposed to think about self-deception, like with your own brain? Learning about learning, thinking about thinking, that’s taking the editor to you operating code, isn’t it? OK, it isn’t, or maybe not for everyone, but it sounded like it. When he opened with his self-effacing story about his own thieving left hand apparently operating autonomously, that didn’t exactly put me at ease. I almost went to “what kind of monster thinks he can write this book?”

But mostly I just thought how is it possible?

I didn’t assume he’d miss it and it would suck. I suppose it could be “positivity,” and I try to shoot my own sacred cows if I see them, but the idea that Bob is smarter than me is one such cow I have not yet considered shooting, that and death. Taxes, well that’s a political lie. Of course some folks escape taxes.

Well, he didn’t completely turn his whole brain inside out, not permanently, or mine either, thank goodness. It was the Nurture Assumption did that! And for opposite reasons. That one was a right-wing lie, a status quo tome marketed as a revolution. From my POV now, it exposed a deep human truth as a foundationless lie we all live with for no apparent reason. It gave me my insight though, inspiringly offensive, that was! I loved her voice, she’s a real pro writer, and it doesn’t seem malicious – just misguided. Her guide, on the other hand, he seems to not mind being associated with the wrong sorts of people.

The Folly of Fools, on the other hand, is a level up in one’s understanding, a maturation all around.

Nothing to fear but fear itself! It’s all just electrons moving around in the end, same as the computer, right? Happiness is resilience, I do better when I think I’m learning, even if it’s nasty old nature stuff.

Man, I wasn’t kidding! What was today’s topic again?

(Scrolling up . . . ah yes! That’s why the hurry. Sometimes if I pick a meaningful title and get it down fast, that helps.)

Human contact, social connections – first, on a personal note, that’s YOU for me. YOU could interact a little, just saying. I don’t think it’s a coincidence I am left alone to my thoughts and feelings so utterly and then when I try to talk, I call you all dumb, violent apes. Chicken or egg deal, but I wasn’t always alone, I’ve been thoroughly dumped, so I’m going with “egg.”(I do anyway in that riddle, for real. Evolution means that the first chicken egg did indeed not issue from a chicken, but from some ancestor because there weren’t always chickens because there wasn’t always everything just as God made it, world without beginning or end. Because that. Riddles show your paradigm to be past its usefulness.) OK, to business, you trapped and used and wishing for better dumb, violent apes with dreams!

Any better? I said I was sorry.

You need your human contact, everyone says it, and frankly, we are not such an agreeable species that consensuses like these should not be viewed with the utmost cynicism. Everybody always says things that are clearly true all day long, right, because we all somehow intuit that only we can see this obvious truth? Truths that everyone knows and agree with always require constant vocalization and support, right? Call me paranoid; it doesn’t matter. I know you’re one of them, ha.

To repeat, my whole idea is that humans spend a whole lot of time bashing each other into line and brutalizing one another’s feelings in endless cycles of abuse that add up to any other nation would be insane to invade us, because we are wild, crazy, uncontrollable armed  . . . I am trying not to swear. Have I already? No? Good for me! Armed . . . good ol’ boys, then, I guess. This is my narrative, my EP, which I set against the world of illusion story about how this abusive control of one another has made us good, kind, cooperative, empathetic – sorry to repeat a recent blog, but, this sure is a lovely list of words, isn’t it?

This, from punishment, which, I am going to swear, I am going to scream, which shut up and don’t argue, I’m sorry, this is why no-one engages, I know, good, civilized punishment and discipline are composed mostly of abuse, it’s the obvious major component. You’ve told me a million times, everyone always, and again messaging you can never escape must be true, right, but tell me how, tell me why that’s supposed to be “good” for you?

So you’re lying about even believing that the bad, illegal stuff is actually “bad” for you with this line of reasoning? This one hundred percent pure alcohol is poison, but this ninety present stuff will restore your health? I’m saying, if you drink the ninety percent stuff, you don’t really believe it’s good for you. If you drink the ninety percent stuff, you know every morning that the truth is the other way around.

OK, I have been beating that drum forever now, websites have been born and died while I screamed that same, seems to me simple bit of logic. Humour me for a moment, assume it’s true yourself, just a little thought experiment:

If it’s true, how is this other meme true, we all need social connections, we die without them? Isn’t it just saying again, what humans have for you, that’s good for you, like no matter what the . . oops, no matter what that may be? Again, blanket statements everyone is compelled to make at one another all day long, I don’t think Bob spent a lot of time on that, but that’s what I got out of it – of course those must be true!

I was in a very bad way when I first began my new life alone, and I bought in, I had had a breakdown, I was alone for the first time, I was terrified, and Facebook over that first Christmas was torture. Remember folks, while you’re celebrating, to reach out to those less fortunate, some folks in your life are having a hard time, people need people, it’s hormones, science . . .

I’ve been dumped, I’m alone and what am I doing, that’s dangerous, you fool! You need those connections, you are at risk!

I bought in, scared me more, it’s science, right? Who am I to argue?

Well, therein lies another joke, another upside-down thing in the world: who is this particular would be writer if I don’t? That’s pretty much my gender and my identity. Sorry. You’re reading me online, so you know. Some things can’t be unseen. Even unseen things, oddly enough.

I know, complain about Facebook, fine, but that’s actual science, from folks I am still impressed by, too, Trivers, Sapolsky. Not to forget Alice Miller and psychology either, I know, so there is truth, we need the eggs. All I’m saying is that that truth will have to coexist with AST, with me and Murphy’s Law of Nature. It’s true, sure it’s true – but it’s a social lie that it carries along with it that it’s the only thing that’s true.

And that is clearly not the case.

The ubiquity of the message, that everyone gives it, that it leaves no room for anything else . . . a fourth time, these are not the hallmarks of veracity.

If it were even the majority truth, that human contact is good for you, then we would get more and more passive with population pressure, wouldn’t we? Your kid would slowly get nicer at school and if human contact makes us better, then what monsters were we when we were born to have been molded and nurtured by all this healthy contact for twenty years and turn out as a standard, no frills, twenty-year-old man?

Do I need to spell that out?

All that nice psychology and science on Facebook (and everywhere else, of course) supports the warrior society status quo, of course, if you know me, of course that’s what’s going on, what the ladies call “the patriarchy,” and honestly, that’s close enough for me, it’s a world closer than the stupid origin story the boys tell about war and civilization. It hasn’t been easy for me to separate this patriarchy talk, to stop defending my own penis, but this is the truth, we are close, Ladies, two orders of magnitude closer to one another than I am to the boys in this conversation. I would hand you the world right now; it couldn’t hurt. Hoit, I mean. Sorry, Bugs, I don’t mean to steal without citation.

Basically, this society’s consensus when you’re alone is you need to get up and back into the battle, some battle. That’s why a testosterone supplement gets as much respect as therapy. And maybe it’s all true, God forbid, but I’m too dumb to be afraid to ask the question: what if that’s true, what if I need the contact, the oxytocin or whatever and if I have to join the war, well, soldiers really do make big, important social connections, right, brothers in arms? It’s possible that is also a description of what Facebook and Sapolsky are telling us, isn’t it?

(Gawd, he must be a sad one. He’s been thirty years ahead of me on this, he’s been here forever, poor bastard, to put it in Hunter S. Thompson terms.)

Well, that’s the part of the story I wanted to make sure you don’t escape anyway. We will be, I’m tired of this meme, subject to our unconscious biology forever if we can only think that single step ahead, like “you need social connections,” like, your social connections are problematic.

We have to grow up and start to ask, sure human contact, but to what end?

What is it they do when they get together?

OK, that was almost an ending, but I should try to make a case, maybe a personal one. I reacted badly, I admit it, and honestly, I did so, almost consciously, or at least I’m believing my own “I meant to do that” story now. I reacted badly to my ousting and divorce, and I can’t imagine how I wouldn’t have chosen the same again if I could have again. It was high time for me to react, period, somehow, to something, and maybe a good reaction wouldn’t have satisfied.

This has felt like trauma happening to me from external sources, but I know I’m the one making the following choices, even if I still think there weren’t other options: once I lost my ladies, I shed everyone else too, and I have failed to make new friends, some online folks being the exceptions. But at least some I cannot regret.

One fellow was a real bro type, a Trumpie type, a soldier. I parted with him over Roy Moore and him calling Moore’s accusers “fake.” This fellow’s best friend half his life was exactly a Roy Moore type, and everyone knew it, forever. Must be fake, right?

One was a cocaine addict who would call having fronted to get high and needed money to keep him out of the harbour. Those were my last two male friends within a thousand miles, Trumpie misogynist and an addict with enforcers in tow – do I need those connections? What if I’m a believer, I think I need connections, and that’s all that’s available?

Then Facebook and science and the whole world is advising me, it’s a matter of life and death!

To be fair, none of them say “even when they’re this bad,” but they don’t not say it either. Aren’t we all sinners, deserve a chance and need the connections – even guys with guy problems like that? That’s the message and it works for the never-ending warrior society. I felt the pressure.

But I’m feeling much better now, ha.

 

Jeff,

Sept. 21st., 2019

In the Beginning

A neat little “just so” package that couldn’t possibly be true, except . . .

I think AST may have a suggestion as to how we began, how we got on this path to what we’re calling civilization, between three elements, the organization of group animals into hierarchies with the dominance of the alphas, AST, which describes the technology of abuse (including the technology of punishment and the human “moral” framework), and finally, perhaps a foundational case of Trivers’ evolved self deception.

The primate alpha starts the abuse, to establish his privilege, and his victims, stressed, hurting, or simply hurting socially, turn and take their hurt on someone they can, and so the abuse, like the stuff of plumbing problems, flows downhill in a champagne fountain of cortisol – I believe this is Sapolsky’s description of the average baboon troop, in my own words, of course. I think we see similar stuff in the chimpanzees and I think most folks think that was us at some point – even those who don’t think it’s still us today, that is – so that was the first condition and the first bit of science, biological dominance behaviours and deflection, and the resulting abuse-sharing pyramid scheme.

At some point, the champagne fountain of stress and pain becomes entrenched, and this is where maybe we engage the rationalizations, the self deception – “I meant to do that,” kind of thing. “No, I didn’t beat your ass because I’m a subordinate and the boss beat mine! I did it because I’m the alpha in our relationship and I say it’s good for you.” You know, prepare you for adulthood, when the boss’s kids do this to you – “my” idea, not clearly the boss’ agenda. And then this whole, species-wide crap about how it’s good for you, how you’re “spoiled” without it. So, that was the third condition, us lying to ourselves, and maybe the effect among these causes, to some degree, the baboon volcano of fear and violence that encompasses us all and starts with some alpha swine over-prioritizing himself and ends with us all explaining to our kids, “no, this was my idea, and this is good for you.”

I meant to do that.

Despite the lies we tell regarding why we do what we do and what effects our actions can have, though, there is and clearly has to be an actual reason or several that we do these things, a powerful reason this behaviour took our species over and won’t let go, and I have ranted almost endlessly trying to make the point that we antisocialize ourselves in service of conflict, of crappy old game theory. And I’m agin’ it. Whenever I’m reading some description of nasty old nature, I always think I’m hearing approval, advocacy for violent selection processes – not what I’m trying to do at all, I think I’m describing hidden, secret nasty old nature, not to say roll with it, but to say this is the trap here, the invisible fence, this is what we need to break out of.

Which comes first, the selection for abuse, or the cover story, I can’t tell. One would think they happen together, but perhaps there have been and still are places where no pretense of “good for you” is even made, times and/or places where “good for me” was all you got. So I think, in terms of causality and history, the deceit is the latest element, the modern, perhaps liberal adaptation we apply over our antisocialization – making people “good,” teaching them “right from wrong.” Surely your liberals beat their children to make them non-violent, at least that’s supposed to be the plan. So now they think that what was always a single purpose technology – violence and desensitization in service of the troop’s warrior goals – now they think it’s a magic wand, violence and desensitization in service of whatever we say! Nothing simple and understandable here, cause matched to an effect, no – we apply a single stimulus and get whatever result we wanted, is this a great country or what.

I liked Wrangham’s synopsis of capital punishment as an evolved way to deal with tyrants – we should try it sometime.

I mean it sounds great, but I’m not sure we ever did, not regularly, at least. The alpha sets the tone and it permeates everything in our lives, this human lifestyle is his. There have almost certainly been some shining examples, but the mainstream evolution thread here is the dark side, I think we should admit that before it’s all over, any minute now. Warrior society is where we all have Stockholm Syndrome and appear to love the randomly violent alpha (a predator of sorts) and if a bunch of reasonable men want to kill him, they’re going to have the whole world to go through first.

All I’m saying, and I can’t believe it’s taking me so long, and why it seems so strange from my angle or something, is that the baboon pyramid of abuse is very much still in effect, and it is still the major cause and effect loop in human society. The punishment/morality function we insist upon is a minor thread, as lovely and as fictional as Wrangham’s control of tyrants by majority action. Understandable sort of error, we’re trying to make the best of a bad situation, trying to salvage some good from the trauma. By the by, the only example that comes to mind is Julius Caesar, maybe the French Revolution – how many alphas have been taken down by their lessers in history? That’s the next alpha’s job, isn’t it?

My idea to call AST a condition, the second in our list, goes like this: AST is the practice of physical and social abuse in order to activate physiological and psychological genetic changes towards aggression. This I believe to be a species-wide phenomenon that supports our lifestyle of group conflict, making us all mean enough to defend the homeland and crazy enough to attack the enemy’s homeland. It is therefore, at present, a Red Queen’s race, with every human group basically as tough and murderous as the next, but one for survival, and therefore an important evolved function which manifests as systems of crime and punishment, rules and penalties – naughty steps, timeout rooms, prisons . . . hey.

It’s good for you – I mean if being tough is good for you, if life is a fight and only the tough survive, then some abuse is good for you, some practice at least, some practical knowledge, knowing how to fight – but it’s not all good, is it? I wouldn’t object to simply knowing how to fight, being able, I sort of hoped my kids would take an interest for their self-defence but they had zero interest, maybe because I tried not to abuse them or even punish them. I think though, antisocialization is an emotional process, a “strong” fellow who can fight and defend is generally one who started by wanting to hurt people, a trait perhaps present in us all by default, but certainly mostly enhanced by pain and abuse. My point here though, is this is what “good” means in contexts of child-rearing or adult attempts at behaviour modification, in conversations about law and order, crime and punishment –  antisocial, wanting to, able to fight. It’s what “spoiled” means – an early childhood free of abuse means that kid will never be the willing, driven, snarling soldier he might have been. Some things you just can’t teach.

This is what it means in reality, I mean, whether we know it or not. We punish someone – apply some legal and scientifically defined abuse as a deterrent – and they get “better.” They don’t always get better in a good way, don’t always stop breaking rules and such – but they get better the other way, desensitized, tough.

OK, I’ve lost track, giving my usual definitions, where were we?

It starts with random violence, maybe random alpha violence, then to deflection, and then to the straight up leveraging of abuse to produce aggressive soldiers, and finally to some upside down situation where we’re still employing that technology, still leveraging abuse to toughen our kids and criminals – but all this pre-existing structure is at odds with our modern, so far only ostensible desire for peace on Earth – so we just say “makes you good” – a word with no content whatsoever, a simple value judgement with no references to the how or why of the situation. Don’t worry, it’ll be “good.” You’re going to “love” this.

Again, it’s all good as long as we need these tough little psychopaths to protect us from all those tough little psychopaths, I guess. We have been stuck in this game forever, and despite that humankind is starting to have higher goals, this layer of self deception, this widespread conflation of what “good” we achieve with our morality of pain and coercion keeps us at the warrior society stage forever.

 

 

Jeff

Aug. 31st., 2019

Directions

I wasn’t going to write this blog – and I didn’t. It’s just a Twitter rant. But it’s a clarification, certainly an important part of antisocialization theory.

 

  1. Sorry for teasing, if anybody was. I’m afraid this trailer signified the end of my output for now. Anyway, like a lot of it, I’ve already laid this idea out before. But rather than send you back to an earlier, dumber me, I’ll give it to you in point form, Twitter style. /more

(This referring to a teaser tweet from a few days ago with the following text)

Well, I’m almost sixty.

I guess it’s time I stop all this infantile radicalism and start spouting some long-winded lullaby about some stupid middle of some boring road. Have we met? LOL, you’ve met me now! I can’t imagine anything that would capture me better than that with all the time and ink in the world.

How about some compromise between Man the Rational Animal and Man the Meaningless, lost in relativism and adaptations to adaptations to we don’t even know what anymore?

Shouldn’t need our teeth for that. Grab your cardigan, put the kettle on for a nice Ovaltine and watch this idiot finally stop trying to tear the world down for some rebuild that he should have know since statutory adulthood was never coming.

(Then on to Point Number two)

 

  1. The point of antisocialization theory is that our punishments schemes and abuse push our personalities in a DIRECTION, and perhaps that direction is the opposite direction to where our schemes push our behaviour for the most part, meaning we LOOK better, but we FEEL worse. /mo
  2. There’s a lot of stuff to say and fight about there, but for now, this: abuse produces more crime, and discipline produces more effective armies, and so the DIRECTION pain drives our personalities in is towards fighting, violence, defensiveness, aggression. /more
  3. “Abuse,” when I say it in these contexts, includes punishment and discipline, because those things include the use of abuse. But, addressing this question, we have a PRINCIPLE, a near species-wide behaviour, that pushes us in a particular DIRECTION, so – /more
  4. – so determining initial conditions, like some “human nature,” with its connotations of innateness, isn’t either the point, possible, or necessary. We know what DIRECTION we’re swimming. We know where we’re TRYING to go, where we are working to TAKE our natures to. /more
  5. So much for origins and innateness, but also the more nuanced position of endless relativism, of adaptive fictions and constructed realities – again, maybe we can SAY we don’t know which way is up or which DIRECTION we’re swimming, but look at us: /more
  6. When you see all the salmon struggling in the same direction, maybe they don’t have a clear idea what it is, or maybe they wouldn’t tell us and give away their ancestral homeland to us predators, but they’re all swimming the same DIRECTION and so we can glean it. /more
  7. You must know where I see us all swimming to: strength, discipline, and never-ending war and strife. This adaptive behaviour works for the last group standing, I suppose, and we’ll be down to that soon enough if we don’t see where we’re trying so hard to get. /done

 

you ever get tired and sad and give up and try to beg off and NOT write something brilliant? SMFH. 🤓🤣🤣🤣

 

Jeff

May 4th., 2019

Rule of Rules: the Unseen

There is a great, empty space in our minds, and it’s right in the middle of everything. It’s a place we cannot enter, but we must go to all the other places, so we’re always going around it, unaware. We live in curved space, we say, there is no straight line to anything; the quickest route is always an arc, around this unspeakable void in the centre of everything. The straight route is just around the next corner, always.

Of course, this meme works for many scenarios. The forbidden place can be the loss of God to an evangelist, the unconscious to an analyst, etc. I think to evolutionary biologists and many psychologists, when they must insert this void into their writings – a “black box” exercise, the trick of gleaning what you can from observing a thing in a system when the thing’s function is unknown – I think, to these modern scholars it is “aggression.” It’s a variation on the Man’s sinful nature theme, an unexplained, blanket value judgment right in the middle of our earnest attempts at understanding, science, psychology, everything.

Two paragraphs, that’s all the tension I can build, I don’t make you wait. I’ve worked it out, or I worry that I have, I mean, I’m not happy with my answer either, but I also haven’t changed my mind since yesterday: it’s abuse, or rather the mental and emotional pain of abuse. I’ve looked at rules and punishments, and while I understand the concepts of deterrent and control, the narrative about civilization and majority rule (as recently expounded/expanded by Richard Wrangham), I also understand some things that should place all that in some perspective.

First, the same suite of scientific thinking about humans and their origins that includes this majority morality places us as still being that proto-hominid, that ape, just under our skin, and all the glory of modern civilization, in another but parallel conversation doesn’t add up to spit, it’s a veneer and we are constructed of the same wood as chimpanzees. To talk about our moral accomplishments is an odd, puffed up stance that fits better in church or politics than in science.

Second, I did a thought experiment along the lines of one of Kant’s (OK, the only one I recall, the first part of the book I haven’t finished. He’s tough) about time and space where he decides that he can imagine space empty of things, but no things not in space, or time passing without anything happening, but nothing happening without time passing while it does, and so space and time to Kant were properties of the mind, since his mind could not operate without them. My point, the analogy is, rules and punishments are endlessly variable – “Thou shalt not kill” has its correlate in many times and places among nearly all people when thou shalt absolutely kill or be shunned, reviled or killed yourself. In a less extreme and more accessible vein, different societies have different rules, and things forbidden in one place can be ubiquitous elsewhere, some societies generally are more permissive than others – but all have rules, all have punishments.

No one rule is sacred, though some are more universal than others, and no penalty is sacred, though we say they all are, they change, new rules are created with new technologies, etc., – but we can imagine a completely alien set of rules and we perhaps cannot imagine a society with no rules at all. We can perhaps imagine a completely foreign set of punishments to go with a given set of rules – but can we imagine no punishments at all? Wow, I started the Critique nearly forty years ago, this analogy may have figured hugely in my approach to this.

Mama, can this really be the end?

No. Rules serve a purpose, one we all know – but no particular rule serves this purpose, none are indispensable, yet the purpose exists, so we are able to accomplish it with a set of rules that I assume I’d need some proof to call random, but that can certainly be variable, enforced with a set of penalties that are, shall we say, also an opportunity for some human creativity. So here’s the game: pick your rules, pick your penalties, we don’t care which ones, but you have to pick something from each bin. What does this accomplish, when we’ve ruled out the contents of any given rule?

The first, easy biology answer is of course, dominance. If the content of the rule doesn’t matter, then it’s who writes it, and who forces it upon whom, and clearly, that is absolutely what’s going on, all over the place, no question. The discriminating aspect of rules are all about our human groups, about who has to follow the rule and who doesn’t or who is forgiven and who isn’t.

But don’t even our most egalitarian dreams have rules and punishments, don’t our socialist or democratic fantasies about majority rule still include some built-in idea about rules and punishments, like time and space? Even in our utopian dreams, remove the alpha, the king, we still need rules, right? He was just taking advantage of our older habits, using the rules to his advantage. So, dominance, yes, but not being in that game myself, I don’t place a lot of priority on it. Again, perspective: we ain’t all alphas. That the minority dominants enjoy the situation doesn’t explain why you I and Kant can’t imagine no rules at all, ever. I think, when the excrement has flowed downhill, and the alpha’s bad mood today reaches the zeta man-ape and he turns to beat his wife and/or children for it, I think to call the zeta’s reactive violence “dominance” isn’t right, he’s defined as lacking it, and punching down is not how you acquire dominance, that requires punching up, to climb the ladder. To me it makes more sense to define these transactions as happening at the more basic level, not some highly developed concept of social dominance as much as just the cause and effects around social and physical abuse. A by-product, if you will, if you want to fit this into a worldview about civilization, about organization and dominance. Yes, he learned the rules, and yes, he knows his place.

My concern is that his lessons pissed him off.

And that, I worry, is the deeper point of them. Rules come and rules go and penalties are subject to changing times and to whom they are applied, but there must always be some set of rules and somebody must be penalized – the details don’t matter. You all know this. Here’s a story, names forgotten to protect the innocent (except mine, so it’s all knowable).

In my kid’s elementary school, some kid wrote some nasty gossip in the girl’s bathroom, and people had ideas about who did it but no proof, the school wasn’t bringing in handwriting experts to prove the matter. It was probably kid A, but there was a strong case about for kid B doing the deed knowing it looked like the work of kid A. Honestly, I can’t remember who got the punishment, a call home, maybe a suspension, I was already anti-punishment, I didn’t want to see any child punished, but they picked one and punished – knowing they had a fifty-fifty chance of punishing the right kid – actually something less than fifty-fifty, because there were other possibilities besides the main two kids. A message had to be sent, no crime goes unpunished! This function was served, despite that justice had less than an even money chance.

Even the perpetrator is interchangeable! Just so long as someone gets hurt. Dominance, sure, that principal over those kids, grownups generally over kids – but really, only an even money chance, if she got the wrong kid, a case can be made for the guilty kid’s dominance of everyone there. If she got the wrong kid, it was pure abuse for that kid, the whole world of grownups throwing in with the other kid’s dominance. Of course if she got the right kid, then the principal’s (and adults’ generally) dominance and the child’s experience of the penalty are all things we all agree with – but I submit we have still pissed that kid off. She may learn the lesson, but another kid may learn the same lesson in a nicer way, and if so, these kids’ life histories will be altered in different ways (statistically), both have the lesson’s knowledge, but one has a distasteful experience and memory. Deserved, didn’t “deserve,” this is not the point, the changes are the point. A different society, different set of rules, different crime, maybe a whole different “deserving” dynamic – same changes, this is the point. Doesn’t it sound like some white kid version of a super-villain back story, the unfairness?

What affects us is pain, not some long-winded construction about what the pain is supposed to accomplish. Pain is simple. Any idiot can cause pain and make changes in the world, especially if they’re actually trying to cause it. I know I’ve caused plenty while trying not to, but if I had been trying all these years, I think I could have done worse. I’ve been working all this out for myself and finding concepts I thought I had to name – I said “mimic meme,” and I switched to the generic sounding “useful fiction,” but if I’m talking biology, I’ve just heard “adaptive fiction,” so I guess that’s the term. At some point, though, at some level, if our adaptive fictions are pervasive enough, they become our adaptive truths, self-fulfilling prophecies.

I want to call this rule, that there must be rules and penalties and so pain, regardless of the particulars, one of our foundational adaptive fictions except that once we have adapted to it so completely, “fiction” doesn’t quite get to it; if it is inescapable in the human world, a case can be made that it’s an adaptive fact. If it’s our rule, and we make the rules, then this rule is factual enough for you, something like that? I think in reality it’s a fiction, just maybe not for us.

But it will need to be if we’re ever going to take the next step.

 

Jeff

April 28th., 2019

Forgiveness VS Morality

Forgiveness is how you and I feel good, and it’s how our people never have to worry about goodness. I know the Hallmark/Psychology Today definition of forgiveness. It’s something like acceptance, at least acceptance is the component I agree about, it’s the good part, and the folk part of the theory is that we can have no peace without it – and you know what, bare-bones like that, if we say, no value judgments attached, I’ll agree also. But because all things can be judged this way, I will say: your sense of peace in this matter, while it may signify an alignment between your life and your predispositions, is only as objectively good as those predispositions, and when we find peace by accepting terrible crimes we are terrible people. If morality is defined by an attempt to lessen crime with punishments and deterrents, then forgiveness is morality’s very opposite, and the peace we feel is the freedom from the tension of moral strivings, acceptance of the world as it is, warts – and war – and all. And child abuse.

I sort of get we forgive a soldier, we ask them to murder, we already know they represent us, like it or not. But if the victims of extreme child abuse also need peace, eventually? The way we talk about it, the victim’s peace is on the other side of a wall and that wall is allowing whatever happened, albeit after the fact, so in what looks to me like a simple logical equation, a victim’s path to peace goes through accepting the crimes visited upon them, as though it were all fine and necessary if it had perhaps happened to someone else.

Which, of course, Chinatown calculation, game theory, Mafia-style logic, these days dragged into the sunlight for all to see and fear, is that’s how you win, by allowing your guys to do anything, anything at all. Those who will not use the carpet bombs or the landmines, or some plague are going to lose to those who will, if the police are bound by the law, the gangsters will win every time. So, forgive. It’s what Jesus would do for the war effort, isn’t it? Again, aside from that last ironic headbutt, it’s all very logical and if I wrapped it up here, I’d be one more evil evo-boy crowing macho from his bunker, this is what I was made for! All fine and good, can’t make an omelette without cracking a few eggs.

Again, if it were happening to someone else.

Of course it’s not just someone else. If it were just someone else, we wouldn’t have people to forgive personally, we wouldn’t have been taught to forgive, pretty much each and every last one of us.

Perhaps we think of forgiveness as the opposite of punishment, the opposite of retribution, and in a sense it is – but that does not indicate an inverse relationship between the two in a group or a society, it’s a direct one. The more rules there are means more things to punish and more things to forgive. The more punishments handed out, the stricter and more punitive the society, the more we must forgive the punishers; punishing is all fine and necessary. Of course the first person we ever have to forgive, and sometimes the last, is Mom or Dad, and the first crime we ever forgive is usually child abuse.

Well she is only three years old, and that’s a real fine way to start.

That’s badly out of context, but I can’t stop listening to Led Zeppelin these days.

But if she can forgive that, whatever it was, she is going to be a fearsome hominid. You want her on your side, because she will do anything, anything at all. Now blink once, she’s your mom, and you had better forgive her, because with that history, you don’t want her to be thinking of you as one of her problems.

Basically, I’ll believe there are peaceful religions when I see a peaceful society, but if my local church is going to forgive me no matter what I do, where is the pressure to behave? What selective forces are going to restrict crime, violence, and war when all is forgiven? It would seem that the idea of the Church as an opiate, pacifying the masses was a scientific blunder, that it is exactly the Church’s gift of forgiveness and acceptance of the warrior and warrior society that enables violence and chaos by restricting the society’s ability to punish and control its own worst elements. Again, too easy to see and say in Twenty-Nineteen, look what the evangelicals can apparently forgive.

We could forgive a little less, is all I’m saying.

 

Jeff

April 2nd., 2019

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

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