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

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

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