Partial Book Report

I’m struggling, I’m “reading”

“The Goodness Paradox,” by Richard Wrangham.

Reading in quotes, I’m stalled at the halfway point. But I’m writing as I read, a sort of Live Tweeting, because this really is the crux of all human matters for me, the puzzle I am sort of spending my life on.

I expect, I plan, to change my mind by the end, and hopefully write an entirely new report when I’m done – but It has me stalled, in the doldrums and I’m not thinking as much as I’d like, or writing – so here’s my first take of the first part. Frankly, I’m suspicious, it’s a bit dramatic – and truth to tell, further reading has dampened my excitement.

OK.

From a month or so ago.

 

CHAPTER ONE, PARADOX

Ah, five pages in and we’re pushing one of my favourite buttons, “peace at home” and “war abroad.” I’ve objected to this before. It may be the obvious thing, but it’s not the instructive thing, this supposed inverse relationship. Were it that simple, wouldn’t the other end of it also be true, and peace at the border might be expected to indicate a melee at home? I understand there is a disparity – but that’s all it is, don’t go talking about opposing forces, trade-offs.

There is reactive peace at home, perhaps – and well, it’s not all reactive at the border either, is it. Wait – or is it? The border is exactly where some other is getting into your space and skirmishes are exactly what are supposed to stop it . . . it’s just that reactive thing, but at group level. Interesting. I fear the two sorts of aggression are intertwined and interactive with each other, sharing causal streams. They’re right, it’s complicated. Border violence sounds like the very definition of reactive violence, but we plan for it, make budgets and whatnot . . . I suppose in the real world, everything will be some combination of the two?

Peace at home/war at the border, or prosocial at home/antisocial at the border – have anthropologists not seen the news, never heard of a madman killing his own people? What warring nation is all loving “at home?” I know we’re not talking about nations here, but small groups of hominids – but no, not small groups either, humans, individual ones. You are not antisocial “out there” and loving at home, or your dad wasn’t. If you are warlike, you have little interest in producing loving, affiliative children, and if you are a peacemaker in the world, you probably don’t abuse your own kids, that’s how it is in the real world, professors.

There’s an inverse relationship, I’ll allow that, but not between in and out of doors  – the more a person or a society have of one, the less they have of the other, everywhere. Violence breeds violence and love breeds love – they do not, repeat not create each other. Again, this is real life, not . . . mythology.

Oh, a brief history of the rise of the Noble Savage idea! Thank you. He offers it as support for the peace at home/war abroad meme and gives examples in New Guinea and elsewhere and again in North America in the early 1600s, where the idea began, Noble Savage. I, however, see something else. Let’s just back up, I’ll paraphrase, “Europeans saw the peace the aboriginals had among themselves” and stop right there.

This impressed the Europeans by itself because Europeans do not enjoy this peace among themselves. Life at home for nations of empire is training for the war at the “frontier.” Having said that, I do not imagine that the aboriginals are not rough enough on one another in their uncontacted state to toughen them up and aid in the border battles – but clearly it was not obvious to the Europeans, perhaps they were not as constant about it as white people seem to be.

Hey – he quotes Davies, I read his book too, the somewhat misleadingly titled “Evolution of War!” Davies made examples of some African nations, but did not make the distinction Wrangham has here, between contacted and uncontacted tribes. I came away with a terrible view of Africa and only learned later that all of those nightmares were observed after the Europeans disturbed the existing systems and armed some of the peoples. That book is nearly a hundred years old now, 1929.

Wrangham talks about the scourge of domestic violence and gives some awful statistics about violence against women, but still says, bad as it is, the apes are far, far worse. He says war, however, is another matter. During war, we kill far more than any ape. What is missing from this synopsis of the disparity, war abroad and peace at home of course, is children. Do we not count as domestic violence until puberty?

I wonder, I’m sure he’ll get to communication and such.

I’ve just been invaded by the thought that a single instance of proactive violence at home may have as much power to inform a whole troop of humans as well as many more instances would inform a company of chimpanzees, chimps aren’t as keen as we are on messaging. That the chimpanzees require more frequent reminders about who is in charge, and . . . this has perhaps always been the challenge, trying to express something like this, that if the violence is less frequent but carries more power, is it really a reduction? Social power? Informative power? Emotional? Some kind, all of them together, maybe.

Far easier to terrorize and control humans than chimpanzees.

I suppose I think that we have simply shifted the injuries from the skull to the mind? It wasn’t from exactly this direction, but I have had thoughts before that seem to lead me to us having a genetic sensitivity to abuse, that abuse really means more to us somehow than it does to the apes. Environmentally controlled gene expression, specifically abusive, threatening environments . . . it’s my theory that we have discovered these genes and are nurturing them, growing them, almost consciously. All we would have to do is abuse one another, if they exist . . . and haven’t we already identified some, so they do? This book is focusing me somehow, I’ve never been able to say that quite so clearly before.

Seriously. “Sensitivity to abuse” seems like the last piece of the puzzle right now, solves the problem of the world’s apparent self-healing, of Pinker’s professionally researched optimism, which seemed to cut of all dissent. Splendid. Seriously. Such genes would evolve as a natural aversion, all right and proper, but then if you keep selecting for it but don’t give them a way out perhaps it becomes something else . . . ? Last piece of the puzzle to the paradox, I think.

I know! I don’t really believe it either, but I keep hammering at it, and well . . . that’s why I am begging so hard for someone to check me.

As a personal aside, I hate it when I feel this brilliant, all cannot be right with me. But if that’s true, still, perhaps there will be something, some small thing to salvage from this. I’ve spent four years trying to audit away a previous epiphany that arrived during something of an episode back then, and it’s holding up, through ups and downs. Well, it’s the same one really, it’s just unfolded a little more, is all. There is a part of me that thinks I stole some fire, and that worries that I’m not making it back.

 

Jeff

July 5th., 2020

Self-domesticated Humans

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reading this paper right now –

The origins of criminal law

Daniel Sznycer and Carlton Patrick

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

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

Moving on to this one now –

Two types of aggression in human evolution

Richard W. Wrangham

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And yes, apparently. –

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

Sigh.

But I’ve said as much.

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

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

“More attention to proactive aggression is overdue.”

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

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

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

 

Jeff

May 23rd., 2020

 

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

Why Human Nature Matters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Jeff

May 19th., 2020

The Circumcision Angle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Jeff

April 21st., 2020

The Fight

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

Spoiler alert, re: The Expanse. Sorry.

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

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

Everything is a fight.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Deep breaths.

 

Jeff

April 17th., 2020

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 . . .

Bubble Wrap

Not sure where to put this, it’s a random thought I want to not forget – bird brains are denser with neurons than ours, of course, mass and weight matter for birds – so perhaps much of the mass and weight of the prodigious human organ isn’t doing cognition or other brain things, if some very clever birds can live without it?

Perhaps it’s a lot of swelling from the beatings and punch-ups, or a lot of padding evolved to lessen brain injury during those events?

Pending annoying and elusive things like evidence, I think it fits AST and maybe the larger narrative too!  The plasticity phenomenon – brain maps exist, but portions can be reallocated, functions can be relearned when the mapped area is damaged – does suggest other sorts of redundancy in the brain, other sorts of injury mitigation strategies, not saying I’m the one to ask, but I’ve heard of the circle of Willis, a blood vessel that seems to have that plan. They say human craniums are getting thinner, though, which I assume is involved, but I don’t assume how – there are head-bashing birds, after all. I need to check out woodpeckers and such. Something to keep an ear on for me.

Oh, Hell, theories! This was supposed to be a sideline, not a full-time distraction. Oh well, here goes: cranial size being limited by mom’s pelvis size, perhaps the growth of the brain took the inner thickness from the skull, what it could, from where it could, without growing the outer dimensions beyond that limit? Perhaps brain mass, either for cognition or for cushioning, was more important than helmet thickness – hmm, especially considering we developed technology to smash skulls somewhere along the way? I suppose skull thickness got outstripped, less useful against stone weapons (like stones) than smarts or padding? (Or both, of course?)

I need to learn the timeline – has it simply been a steady thinning over a few million years, or did it thicken first and thin out later? I don’t know, but I just read something that sold me that we haven’t been boxing the entire few million years, perhaps boxing is no use unless your opponent has a thin skull or something, but I also got an idea that abuse doesn’t form or malform your bones so much as your brain. Of course the science is bone-centric, that’s what we have.

Sort of my whole thing.

I’ve happened here upon an insight I know I’ve heard of other folks having – lighter bones, thinner skulls, the idea that these indicate a less violent life, the position of the self-domestication idea . . . not necessarily the case is it, by the argument I made, weapons technology could explain that with no break in the action. Thickness of your bones helps you survive a punch up with your mates, maybe hunting injuries, it doesn’t change the spear’s ability to violate your softer parts?

A long process of lightening may not indicate less violence, only a more technical violence? Just a thought, needs to be slept on. Again though, bones.

I think I have a brain puzzle that needs attention in the ramble above.

The intelligence of some smallish creatures and the flight-ready configuration of some very good bird brains (and a suggestion that those sorts of brains served dinosaurs for millions as many years as we can claim), contrasted with the relative bulk and weight of our own. It’s not subtle – the math doesn’t work, we are not that much smarter, we are on the same scale for intelligence, while the mass and volume is an order of magnitude different.

It’s not even linear, comparing the size of your brain with your dog’s, compared to the intelligence gap, or with a rat’s. I’m guessing this apparent disparity is a known question with a name, like Pascal’s Wager or some such, that we’re twice as clever, but with a brain ten times the size.

In the plasticity book, The Brain That Changes Itself, Norman Doidge’s work,  he makes the case that we do not need all of that mass to function, he cites a normal functioning hydroencephalytic with water where ninety percent of that mass is supposed to be! Volume is not smarts, not in any simple, must be sort of a way.

So I’m back to most of it being bubble wrap.

That’s my rap all day long.

 

 

Jeff

February 15th., 2020

LOL – it’s better than my previous theory, believe me

https://neighsayersotherstuff.wordpress.com/2015/05/08/85-of-the-human-brain-is-just-filler/

😉

What it Means

It means that the harder we try, the worse it gets. That’s what bad information can do. It means that there is no hope. It means that the planet will continue to warm and all the bad things we do when resources get scarce are all that is left for us.

It means all of that.

That’s what it means when you motivate your child with a pat on the butt.

What do you expect? Violence breeds violence and causes brain damage. If you don’t know the difference between giving food and shelter and trying to hurt someone, what do you expect? I know the rationale, believe me, every human knows the rationale – it’s not rational, it flies in the face of actual knowledge.

That’s called the fallacy of consensus, when everybody is wrong. In this, all are science deniers.

A pat on the butt is violence. This is a literal truth that is somehow . . . toothless. A law without an officer. Nobody cares.

Pats on the butt are good for you, teach you right from wrong, help you become a happy, healthy, productive member of society. These are lies that are invincible, impervious to scientific debunking. A social “truth.” Everybody cares very much. My argument is not complicated, but it’s invisible and the language it requires has not yet been invented, which is all one with the problem. I keep trying, but I’m not having much luck.

There is a downside to a pat on the butt.

I know, most of us can get that far, just not so far that this toothless literal fact matters. If we are forced to account for it, it becomes part of a bigger equation, a cost/benefit analysis and now the social truth has a caveat, a pat on the butt is “net” good for you, “net” teaches you right from wrong, “net” helps you become a happy, healthy, productive member of society. First – do you hear yourself?

It’s “good” for you, as long as you add in a lot of other stuff that really is good for you?

You know you can say that about anything that doesn’t kill you instantly, right?

It’s bad for you, shut up, you know it’s bad for you, because that’s the whole theory, punishments are deterrents because we all know pain is indicative of damage and so we instinctively avoid it, that’s not just science, like Skinner, it’s your science, you wouldn’t do it if you didn’t think there was some real life mechanism by which it “worked.” Skinner was an asshole, by the way, but I digress.

I can’t force you to be here for this conversation, I can’t force you place your chips on your science bingo cards or tell us all when your card is full, I know you’re free to not listen, but I can’t respond to this game of bait and switch either, you defending the use of the leveraging of negative stimulus by turning around and denying that your stimulus is actually negative! and so I say again, if you don’t know the difference between giving food and shelter and trying to hurt someone, what do you expect? Between literal, actual nurturing and some “no, really, this stuff you instinctively know is bad for you is actually good for you” nurturing, well . . . well that’s the education I am trying to give, isn’t it?

Yes, it is.

There is a downside to a pat on the butt and it matters. My entire blog is an attempt to prove it matters – and I don’t mean personally, or emotionally , or psychologically, or in any way you may define as “mere” humanism or “soft” science – those things are already all lined up in support for the idea that abuse is bad that the downside of a pat on the butt matters. I’m talking about evolution and genetics and anyway when I’m finished social science and the humanities will have a solid footing and all such divisions can begin to heal over. My blog says in the most rambling and disjointed way that the downside is where the causality is, where the science is.

Let me say that again: the downside is where the causality is, where the science is.

Meaning, Skinner was interesting and important, but he’s taken us all down a side-road, talking about the intermittent rewards system of punishments for his and our conscious goals and completely discounting the more direct and dependable results of punishment – what we call “the down-side,” meaning the pain and the damage, and what I call the antisocialization of people.

Meaning, law and order and the usual “civilization” narrative is not where the science is, meaning those stories are all a part of the lie, the social truth instead, meaning we are pushing ahead with our fictional origin narrative on a species level as well as on national levels.

Meaning there is no easier and more evil job than “law and order politician or vendor” because the cure you’re selling is causing the problem they’re buying it to fix!

Meaning, in reality, the world makes some sense, things are not impossibly complex, just upside-down. Spankings/prison makes you worse? Yes, science. Police families have extra domestic abuse? Yes, science. Everyone is raised with spankings, etc., so every serial killer was abused? Yes, science. Simple, when we get out from under the social lie and see the literal truth. “Do something” means “kill people” to an abused population?

Yes, science!

Meaning, back to the top, the harder we try, the worse we get, with this punishment idea, because science, bad things are bad, who knew. Not us poor abused, brain damaged idiots, apparently, but they are. I do that little exercise all the time, do you? What would I think if I weren’t so screwed up? What might an actual happy, healthy person think about it? You should.

Give a kid a beating, he learns more slowly.

Teach the kids to give beatings, we all learn more slowly.

It’s so weird, I really thought I had it this time. The whole world is upside-down, I really thought I was making the point with power this time.

But it’s impossible, isn’t it?

It just disappears, somehow.

One more try.

We’re wrong whenever we think “hurting that person will fix it,” and it was hurting you that gave you the thought. The hurt function is fully up and running, we’ve all been through it, and still here we are. You’re not going to change anyone in the other direction by simply putting them through it some more, are you?

And that’s all you got.

Except for that consensus. No argument, just the whole world on your side.

 

 

Jeff

November 27th., 2019

In the Beginning, Part 2 – Alphas are Offensive

This is a major rewrite of a recent blog, really both parts. I’ll probably delete the first one. A neat little “just so” package that couldn’t possibly be true, except it is.

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 a few elements, mostly the organization of group animals into hierarchies with the dominance of the alphas, and my AST, which describes the technology of abuse, including the technology of punishment and the human moral framework.

Once upon a time, the primate alpha starts the abuse, often randomly, to establish his privilege, and his victims, stressed, hurting, or simply hurting socially, turn and take their hurt out on someone they safely can, and so the abuse flows downhill in a champagne fountain of cortisol from alpha to beta and on down, as well as from alphas and betas on down to all below in no particular chain of command – I believe this is Sapolsky’s description of the 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.

In the human troop I would add, and each to their children, although that’s the second bit.

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 rap about how it’s good for you, how you’re “spoiled” without it (not my definition). So, that is us, lying to ourselves, and maybe that’s an 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.

OK, spoiler alert, I am going to get well past this portion of just-so fiction before we’re done here, I think. That’s more like a picture of the result than any part of the cause.

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, punish and abuse, 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. I don’t mean in defense, and I’m against it, I know that game theory is no game and we need to stop playing it. Whenever I’m reading some description of nasty old nature myself, I always think I’m hearing approval, advocacy for violent selection processes – that’s not only me, right? Much of that stuff is toxic, isn’t it? It’s 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” like it seems so many are saying, but to say this is the trap here, the invisible fence, this is what we need to break out of.

The path is a narrow one for me, we all have this other story already provided to explain all of this already and there isn’t much of a check for when we drift back into it. Of course theorists depend on logic and while I have a liberal agenda, my mission here is not self promotion and if what I think is reason cannot support my agenda, my mission will have failed. True science that does not refute humanism is what I’m after and there is plenty of socially constructed science for it already. I posit a single world, so this situation where “hard” sciences have one conversation while the social sciences and humanism are having another is simply intolerable. The humanity is missing from biology, or psychology is wandering off with no checks or both, and I can’t have it. There is some error where it all starts that has divided the two and the need for a new origin story is indicated.

I’m very close to it. My internal projections are that it is indeed in here somewhere. I haven’t lost hope that it’s all coming in this one yet!

If I fail, I hope I will simply drop the hard science, re-join the social scientists and stick with humanism. But if I succeed, social science will have its hard foundation and humanism can stop being unscientific. Worth a try, wot?

Which comes first, the selection for abuse, or the cover story, I’m not sure it matters. One would think they happen together, but 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, or all we still get today. So I think, in terms of causality and history, the deceit is the latest element, the modern – biblical counts as “modern” in these evolution talks – perhaps humanist adaptation we apply over our antisocialization – reversals like that we’re making people “good,” teaching them “right from wrong.” Surely our modern liberals beat their children to make them non-violent, at least that’s supposed to be the plan. Now, apparently we think that what was always a single purpose technology – violence and desensitization in service of the troop’s warrior goals – now we think it’s a magic wand, violence and desensitization in service of whatever we say, up to and including non-violence! Nothing simple and understandable here, cause matched to an effect, no – we apply a single stimulus and get whatever result we wanted, like magic.

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, not mentioning any names.

The existence of the alpha is antithetical to the existence of these reasonable senates of men anyways – pick a world, will you? I don’t mean to be so pointedly political, but turn on your television, you’ll see it’s true. The alpha’s raison d’etre is to make sure these coalitions never develop or at least never achieve primacy and if he wasn’t winning, he wouldn’t be there. I think this is where I get to the point of this re-write, an accidental epiphany resulting from that idea – this is not a defensive organizational structure!

The alpha doesn’t give a damn about your security. Our paramilitary primate social structure isn’t defensive, it’s offensive, because the boss’ random violence does not bias a society towards stability and prosociality, but to aggression and war and hierarchical pyramids are not agreed upon but forced.

I’ve seen alphas that do apparently defensive things, monkeys, turkeys, all sorts of creatures whose leaders use their capabilities to make sure the whole troop gets across the road safely, like that (well, maybe also making sure we are all going to the beach right now, his force on the drivers also directed at his stragglers), and if human alphas do things like that, that’s great, but other than all that Mrs. Lincoln, how did you like the play, sort of thing. I think folks who have gotten too close to gorillas have experienced the good, selling side of their alpha acting defensively for the troop and certainly we see the boss lion doing that, but that’s not all our alphas do, and maybe it’s not the most important thing either.

Ours provide a violent selective pressure at home, analogous to the predator’s role in the field, except that the predator’s presence keeps you home by the fire and the alpha’s presence makes home less safe and moves you outside, into conflict and trouble, they’re opposing forces that way. The neighbors’ threats lose their relative power when there’s a threat at home also, so in this way, the existence of privileged, aggressive, abusive individuals biases the human troop to aggression.

It struck me that limiting the adult males is a poor defensive strategy, and so if there is a military advantage to the alpha’s tournament, it must lie in offence. Maybe turkeys and horses and such don’t have other troops of turkeys and horses to defend against, just predators and cars, maybe one strong male is enough if wars are not among your problems, as per the defensive alphas mentioned above. Of course sometimes the boss is a coalition, lion triplets etc., also, driving off other sets of male siblings. If they were more dangerously organized in their warfare, perhaps they would want to keep more lions home. A digression, though, we and the chimpanzees don’t do that, there’s always more than one or a few of us to worry about.

Primate troops are larger than lion ones, less purely predatory, they have some group competition to deal with and they do not banish most of the males. I think the existing story has the competition within the hierarchy, the desire to be at the top making all the males strong which aids in defence, but that alpha is still there and their strength is a conflict for him, so I’m suspicious.

It’s still not in his interest to have really strong competition about, and he’s still pretty much keeping his own bloodline, not sharing his tournament winning genes, or so I have read – but with luck that was right-wing poor science, the idea that there are alpha family genes? It’s not very humanist, rather royalist instead! I don’t really think so, though, alphaism sure looks hereditary. Now, I must acknowledge, the troop still exists, so something about it is working, something about it aids in defence – and that I used to say in every blog for years. That every coach will tell you, every general: the best defence is a good offence.

Still, the hierarchy is an offensive strategy.

I mean, our national and every other level of society’s narratives all say “defense,” when of course it’s really all one thing, every fight means both – but it bothered me the moment I opened my eyes to see people handing out beatings and talking about “right” and “good” and “defense.” And now I think, having had a look at the alpha and how he operates, I feel I can make the case that it’s not an even match, two equal sides of a coin, that indeed the first cause is aggression and not defense – I’ve been fighting that, I wanted to say we do it all from fear, defensively, but if that were the case we wouldn’t be so used to watching the boss kill off his own generals. I haven’t lost the moral argument, though! It still all stems from abuse at home.

Of course bombers and missiles make the case too, we can call it all defense, but it’s aggressive first, aggression generally is a deterrent, so the case can be made, aggression is defense – but defense is defense even more, can you say “duh” in a supposed science blog? The best defense is a good offense but a good offense is an even better offense than it is a defense nonetheless! Clear? Clear maybe after our leaders get us into a missile or a bombing war where we lose so many people at home despite spending so much on “defense?” When you’re packed off to Iraq to “defend” America and they remembered your rifle but seem to not have brought your body armour? Offense is offense first.

Anyway, defense requires little explanation, we don’t need to make defense complicated. But offense is a choice and requires a rationalization, I think, and I think abuse at home is what biases us towards it. Alpha abuse looks to me right now like the beginning of it, but it seems that the function, abuse for aggression, is happening everywhere, at nearly every level of society. We are all aware of the extreme, illegal sort and its often terrible outcomes, but the normal acceptable stuff is the same function, producing a normal, acceptable level of aggression in the population that we attempt to control or direct with laws – and abuse for infractions and there’s a hole in the bucket, Dear ‘Lizah.

At the most basic level, words are not things, meaning in that sense, words are the very opposite of things, and so it is quite impossible that their function is not at least partially to be found in this . . . reversal. Meaning – if we chose “defense” as a way to talk about our aggressive wars, we chose that word exactly because it’s the wrong one, the untrue one – aggression is not up for debate so much. You can leave things as they are by not talking, and if you are applying labels, we have to consider that at least some of the time you are engaging in misdirection, because the truth was already right there before you opened your mouth.

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 of  group control of tyrannical leaders that comes to mind is Julius Caesar, maybe the French and Russian Revolutions – how many alphas have been taken down by their lessers in history? That’s the next alpha’s job, isn’t it? Also, did not some new terrible alpha rise out of each of those attempts rather quickly?

My idea to call Antisocialization Theory a condition, the other side of the story, goes like this: AST is the practice of physical and social abuse in order to activate physiological and psychological and 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 and crazy enough to attack the enemy’s homeland. The alpha’s function seems to be to abuse who he wishes, driving everyone somewhat mad, and providing a sufficient threat from behind to keep us moving forwards, towards the battle. The alpha’s contribution, the rock to the enemy’s hard place.

Offence and defense are one, but they are, they more and more are, for we who were once one with the ancient chimpanzees, because alphas are offensive. The structures that produce them or that they create, are aggressive.

We are not going to solve for war by analyzing our defensiveness, by interpreting our development as motivated by defense and never questioning our aggression, simply acknowledging it as a regrettable fact. Our troubles are exactly as intractable as our aggression is unquestionable. The toxic misogyny online is supported by some stopped too soon science that calls aggression innate, treats it as a noun or one of Plato’s stupid essences, rather than a psychological thing and a choice, a strategy.

And those evil, EP trolls have cut off the inquiry!

That’s why I’m here. No respectable scientist is going there anymore! The alpha’s trolls are even more offensive, ha. The theory, I guess is that these trolls are so protective, that questioning their/our aggression is met with such fierce resistance that it would appear to be a survival issue, the emotion betrays a life or death sort of core belief about it – which, while that makes sense, our conflict strategy is an aggressive one, so it’s critical because that’s the game – still, this “solution” of blocking our own understanding of it is no solution at all. I think I’ve said before, it’s the best solution the in-group can find, but all humans are in one of these groups, they are all using this solution and still, we are all at risk!

I think we are on the brink of some future where our survival requires something other than fighting one another, so we need to think above group level, at multigroup level now, in order to not kill ourselves and everything else, sort of on purpose.

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 for this ostensibly defensive aggression – 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.

And if you get it, if you see things this way, and you see a world of people whose best guess, whose only answer is strength and toughness and fighting the good fight and striving for that and you know this is never, ever, in another million more years going to work and all our worst guesses about the future have no option to come about because no matter what we want we only know one way to get anything and that’s fight and compete and struggle and we have pretty much beaten this world to death already.

 

 

Jeff

Nov. 24th., 2019

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