A Mind is an Obvious Thing to Waste

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



April Friday the 13th., 2018


Oh yes, I hate everything, I trust nothing and no-one, no doubt due to some seriously hard feelings – but I guess I must have opted to keep the hard feelings and jettison everything I had learned for the crucial first many years of my life instead. Probably the wrong way around in hindsight, but I was pretty young. Am I going to have to take responsibility for that decision, if that’s what it was? Before we’re done I think science may give me an excuse – but it’s certainly not appropriate to describe these sorts of internal events by way of Murphy’s Law, is it? I mean besides the fact that it’s borderline racist. Of course, that’s the nature of the beast, not just for me, hard feelings and little or no hard data. That’s all of us, and almost completely. I am either a fool or wise one, because it’s just that much more complete with me.


My point, the real point of this fantasy is this, though: everyone who remembers their childhoods, everyone with a “normal” pattern of life and learning “just knows” how to raise their children, and few question the system they were brought up in, other than in terms of degree of ‘strictness.’


I think I forgot my indoctrination, somehow brainwashed myself. I forgot how to raise kids, something we’ve all seen our entire lives, all day long.


My super power is that my mutation makes me something other than human, so that I can study humans. It’s hard to get a clear view of yourself, so the universe has created me, your dark, magic mirror, with a simple tweak of the ol’ DNA along with the abusively engineered life to epigenetically activate it, starting with my drop-date – double Scorpio. Ha.


The DNA tweak is part of the metaphor, of course – but not perhaps all a joke, either. Mom was on some morning sickness drug or something I need to get the name of for you, it’s not Thalidomide, which I would remember. I can’t recall if it’s the same drug that was associated with my sisters’ adult cervical cysts and possible cancers. I wasn’t a flipper baby, but really, there was some deformity. My umbilical wouldn’t die and stop bleeding, so a surgery found it still completely hooked up to the bowel with some bit of intestine that is not supposed to be there. “Umbilical hernia” was the term, but I’m having trouble relating that to the longer description they gave us and I just gave you, so it’s not clear to me, like everything else about my past because I either flushed it or I never wanted to know. So, I’ve got that part of the science fiction/super hero back story going for me too.


“Affliction,” in the classical sense, I think. In Dr. Jekyll and Mister Hyde, Stevenson invoked a ‘sense of deformity’ to repel and horrify us about his monster, and I remember that stung a bit, I took that sort of personally.


I don’t mean to raise the issue of deformity in order to return to it later, I really am not planning a sci-fi or fantasy ending to this project! I offer it only in full disclosure, because to leave such a physical humiliation – I have never had a belly button, my scar was always a ‘zipper’ – out of the ‘outsider’ narrative I’m using as my biography would be to destroy the point. I’m simply leaving no embarrassment out, or I hope so anyway. It’s also bloody mythical, isn’t it? Having no navel makes you non-human, maybe not even mammalian. The symbolism of the lost connection is powerful. No?


The deformity thing is true. It’s the ‘visitor’ narrative that is the fantasy. Readers, you’re my double check for that. Someone let me know when I’ve let slip that I can no longer tell the difference, OK? That last story has me wondering a little. Wow. I need to let that sort of dissipate, catch my breath. That is fucking weird. Back in five.


That little insight sort of rocked my world, thirty, forty, fifty years late. I better check!


Yup, still the zipper. I should be relieved, right? Relax Jeff, you’re not completely delusional – just not apparently placental. Well, you can’t have everything, can you?


Further to the weirdness of my deformity, father in law had it too! Umbilical hernia they said, and he too, the zipper, the erasure of his placental origin, the sign! I see my future in this situation, my marriage in his, that in my wife’s family, the breeding males must have their primal connection wiped from history, the bridge between mother and child, between man and woman must be destroyed.  I fear I have inadvertently let myself glimpse the impossibility that my own demise could ever be a trauma to the women I’ve betrayed all my brothers for.


Where was I?


Continuing with the conscious part of the fantasy, I’m on the outside looking in at our species, at least as far as breeding goes. That is what will have to pass for my super power in this fantasy: I don’t “just know” a lot of regular stuff about “discipline” and I don’t trust another human to figure it out, so I have to do it from scratch. I know, not much of a super power at first glance, but it depends, doesn’t it? Mostly it depends on whether what everybody else knows is true or not. Short answer, yes . . .


Long answer?




The long answer is this here blog.


Where everyone else saw some normal and proper version of childrearing in use, at least among the majority of their own peers, I saw chaos and a system designed not to help children develop normally through their growing years but to bend and break us all into the shape required for us to match the bent and broken shaped container our society and our families have made for us (Shout out to Takingthemaskoff, a powerful voice everyone needs to read). I saw madness calling itself reason and I saw a need for a new approach, because I either missed the lesson, never believed it enough to memorize it, or managed to un-learn it somehow, but where others saw parenting as a known and understood thing, I didn’t trust them and their system, I rejected authoritative parenting carte blanche. If what they said matched anything that the grownups in my life even might have said, then no, no, no!



Aug/September 2016

While the geneticists are telling us the old Nature/Nurture debate has been made obsolete or been solved, depending who you talk to, I just went ahead and solved it. Part #3

While the geneticists are telling us the old Nature/Nurture debate has been made obsolete or been solved, depending who you talk to, I just went ahead and solved it. Part #3

Now that’s a long title, but it’s a great Tweet, isn’t it?

This is convergence, this little essay, for me this is where all the major threads in my mind come together: the ancient classic dialogue, human behaviour, child discipline, and yes – even trolling.

OK, that wasn’t bad, but this is just the bullet point brainstorming stage right now.

  1. A note about “things”
  2. A note about the “Nature” thing
  3. Trolling and narrowing the argument
  4. The “Nurture” thing, the Abusive Ape Theory
  5. Warrior society’s fears, head on, a lethal mutation (too late, we already have several)
  6. Liberals’ fear of science, dark hints
  7. The “Deep Roots of War” thing
  8. Self-actualization

Whups, turned into a Table of Contents. Maybe that’ll work.


  1. Trolling and Narrowing the Argument


I’ve alluded to it to it in each of the earlier parts, that details and a huge catalogue of nouns are not where the important truths are going to be found, not under our microscopes, but back up here, with us, and our somewhat higher concepts.

OK, I spend too much time on Twitter, of course again, I’m talking about racism and Nazi science’s endless search for some genetic detail that is supposed to prove some large social concept like racism. The trend I’m complaining about is quickly apparent if you look at Twitter’s science section, and the crossover there with the alt-Right, and the connecting meme of course is “genetic differences” – literally microscopic science to justify macro-oppression. Weirdly, the same accounts that have given Charles Murray a good read and a fair treatment also find Ann Coulter and Milo Yiannopoulos to be unfairly silenced voices.

So besides being just less than helpful to explain the world, this view of the world as a million unrelated, individual things, it has principles, sort of, well, associated memes.

Perhaps our forever search for the postulated atom, the Smallest Division, the base particle of the universe has served to turn our scientific world upside down where now we all think the smallest stuff matters the most, ha. One shitty, life destroying gene that’s negatively correlated with melanin and slavery will have been all right and proper after all or something! That’s what some folks want and some liberals perhaps fear from science, all liberals ain’t PhDs either. But that idea, that the smaller bits are somehow higher in some food chain of causality than the bigger ones, perhaps this is why we end up down in the muck with the rats and the flatworms when we’re theoretically trying to solve complex human problems like racism, abuse, war, etc.

Of course, science doesn’t say that, racist scientists say that, trolls say that – or rather they don’t just say it either, it’s all innuendo, plausible deniability, but this is a bad sign: the argument goes to details, genes, alleles, specific studies. That the truth is in the details, that’s left unsaid, we all believe that in some sense anyway, so it’s easy to buy in, to get dragged down into small specifics. If we don’t follow the argument into microscopia though, then we’re likely to get stuck in another trap, psychology, theories about society and ‘the culture,’ and unfounded moral directives.

There is some unspoken meme that science is on the bad guys’ side, or rather, even that the reality that underlies science is somehow on the bad guys’ side. You know, life is tough, harsh reality, all of that . . . is it only me, that the endless descriptions of life being tough, evolution as an apparently ruthless punisher of mercy or passivity seem to come across as advocacy? Like an argument against all of our higher goals? I expect that many of the best papers don’t sound that way, but Twitter sure does. In fairness perhaps, I’m guessing the science promotion I find on social media isn’t coming from the older professors, but from the younger, cyber-savvy crowd. Much of it sounds like someone sharing the exciting news they’ve only just heard.

(I’ve recently read a paper that explains some primate female’s “strategies for maximizing her reproductive capability” in different situations, I think weaning one early when mating opportunities seemed like they may not be there later, like when she’s aging out of her childbearing years . . . it all sounds reasonable about Capuchins or something, but imagine human females as the primate in question. Suddenly, suggesting that organisms exist to maximize the reproduction of their genes starts to sound a little penis-centric, to put it diplomatically. I think some of the conclusions from science can still be called out. That scenario could better be viewed as that female monkey trying her best to survive the pregnancies that are the price of living with the males and their genes’ desires, and not hers at all. After all, the costs are all hers.

That’s an example of science appearing to be on the bad guys’ team, right, the sort of science that sounds like the Taliban, females want to be barefoot and pregnant as much as possible! – because some male designed the study and found what his search was designed to find? It wasn’t any sort of pro-biology or race-related paper at all, corporal punishment was the topic, it’s a respectable one, I think. I shouldn’t cite it out if its own context, and I won’t even repeat the less reputable sort.)

Environmental control of genetic expression, epigenetics, this I find worth discussing, but again, the details, identifying alleles that respond to specific stimuli, these I find to be nouns whereas the point for me in this topic is that many of these environmental triggers are our own behaviours. We are an intensely social creature; we are the environment our flexible genes are responding to in many cases – this is what I mean by what has become my catchphrase, that we are self actualized creatures. We haven’t been ‘using our powers for good’ yet, but to be completely fair, I don’t think we knew it. Remember how they laughed at Lamarck. The truth is, though, that we have genes that are activated or not by our environment, and we are that environment, we are activating the ones we feel are necessary.

Whups! That’s the next part.



Nov. 30th., 2017

While the geneticists are telling us the old Nature/Nurture debate has been made obsolete or been solved, depending who you talk to, I just went ahead and solved it. Part #2

Now that’s a long title, but it’s a great Tweet, isn’t it?

This is convergence, this little essay, for me this is where all the major threads in my mind come together: the ancient classic dialogue, human behaviour, child discipline, and yes – even trolling.

OK, that wasn’t bad, but this is just the bullet point brainstorming stage right now.

  1. A note about “things”
  2. A note about the “Nature” thing
  3. Trolling and narrowing the argument
  4. The “Nurture” thing, the Abusive Ape Theory
  5. Warrior society’s fears, head on, a lethal mutation (too late, we already have several)
  6. Liberals’ fear of science, dark hints
  7. The “Deep Roots of War” thing
  8. Self-actualization

Whups, turned into a Table of Contents. Maybe that’ll work.


  1. A note about the “Nature” thing


Forget the list, sorry.

Nature – not the great outdoors, but some concept of a thing’s essence or purpose – as in ‘human nature,’ well, forget it, I’ve already given it away, haven’t I? The way it’s presented, it’s an archaic concept, religious, probably related to the idea of spirits being what animates and supports all things, as though a given thing has some single attribute, some fractal core that’s essential to a being or a thing that remains when all other attributes have somehow been wiped away. So, it’s a made-up thing, kind of meaningless. Mysticism aside, as the term has evolved and it’s a more complex human nature that we seek, the nature of the human being has become a moving target, really not more than a collection of empirical observations.

I mean, I know when people speak seriously about human nature, they mean a complex nature, but we don’t appear to have stopped using it in all the same sentences where a simple, pure nature would work better.

Still, perhaps talking about the “natures” of things is something we’re stuck with, part of the structure of our thought – of course, one in sense, it’s a sort of shorthand, we attempt to impose symbols over complex things when we need to visualize many of them in interaction. You don’t need as long a list of human traits as we have developed when there are fifty of them coming over the hill at you; at that point, you need some quick, accessible understanding of their natures. Probably something like that is at the root of the idea of ‘natures’ generally (and of us treating one another as less than complex sometimes), saves memory and therefore calories, which . . . evolution. Of course, the idea isn’t going away, ancient magical baggage and all.

Let’s change tack.

Simple, complex, questions of human natures simply mean “what are we?” really, and we are political for one thing, we’re trying to pass laws, we make sweeping policy decisions for ourselves and one another, and we do have to postulate some default for people, some starting point where we think they might settle into if it weren’t for our policies. An eternal, static human nature would indicate a stable or static world, and conversely, evolution and science suggest an evolving nature, probably a moving target. Nevertheless, “what are we now?” is still something we must at least feel we have an answer for in order to proceed with anything. We’ve always asked it, “what are we?” but we mostly have always had some sort of an answer too – and proceed we have, of course. I feel I have answered the question, but of course, I must play a game to do it.

I’m afraid I’m asking to modify the question.

Rejecting the simple, magical, “essence” sort of human nature Q&A, I am left with few major directions to go, “human nature” as a somewhat arbitrary collection of observations and the entire argument breaks down to details, which traits are “built in/genetic” and which not . . . it doesn’t address the issues our psyches are asking, which is, a short version we can trust. If we get that list of traits right, then it’s our answer – but it’s not a short, useful answer, is it? We’re really looking for some few things, and “good” and “bad” are not personality traits, nor are “friend” or “foe.” This is mostly the data we want in out human nature meme.

So, it’s a collection of traits, and an evolving target, it’s really about values, our interests: if humans are basically “good,” how would we treat them? If they’re mostly
“bad,” then how do we treat them? So, the original question, “what are we?” really means “are we good or bad?” which is sure to be related to a basic friend or foe question. The true answer to both questions is long and vague, both answers true often enough, good and bad, both answers have their proofs . . .

. . . for me, the question became one of nouns and verbs again. Human nature is perhaps not what we are, but behaviour, what we do. With the idea that what we believe has some impact on what we do (debatable, I know), the question has become for me not “what are we?” – again, sort of answered, pretty exhaustively if not satisfyingly –  but “if we do X, then what must we believe?”

It’s like an audit, doing your arithmetic backwards to check your work. I haven’t finished my argument, not by a long shot, this is only Part #2, but I’ll jump way ahead, give you that question with my specifics inserted in place of the variables:

“If we’re so sure we’re born bad, why would we abuse our children, thereby making them worse?”

That idea has me now discounting our default natures, finding the “what are we?” question besides the point; it seems to me now the question isn’t “what are we,” but “where are we taking ourselves?” – wherever we were, whatever we were.



Nov. 17th., 2017

Dad would have been eighty-seven.

Einstein and Self-actualization


I’m teetering on the edge here, delusion or success, irrelevance or self-actualization. Things are very bad right now, plus also, my wildest dreams may be coming true. I don’t have a lot of neutral feelings right now, but it’s not the application for words like ‘ambivalence’ either. These two possibilities in no way cancel out, they’re just both in force full time, and I’m . . . stretched.

I think I’m Albert Einstein, that’s a clue that it’s clearly the first of each of these options, but then again, you know: so did Albert Einstein. I’m just watching “PBS NOVA – Inside Einstein’s Mind” and I had to start a commentary. I didn’t realize that my madness had a name, like a regular person’s name. I can’t wait to see how his obsession worked out for him. Maybe that’ll give me some idea what I’m in for. Here’s the introduction:

“It’s a mysterious force that shapes our universe. It feels familiar, but it’s far stranger than anyone ever imagined, and yet, one man’s brilliant mind tamed it: gravity. Using simple thought experiments, Albert Einstein made an astonishing discovery. Time and space are shaped by matter. He called it the General Theory of Relativity. How did one person, working almost entirely alone, change everything we thought we knew about the universe?”

“ . . . General Relativity. It is perhaps the most remarkable feat of thinking about nature to come from a single mind.”

“How did a concept that explains so much come from the mind of one man? . . . the seeds for his ideas were planted when he was just a child. His unique personality was evident early on . . . a rebel, a loner, but deeply curious . . . he was a daydreamer, but he was deeply persistent . . . the young Einstein became gripped by a desire to understand the underlying laws of nature . . .” There is a great story about how the gift of a compass when he was seven impressed him forever with the desire to explain invisible forces.

The documentary then goes on to describe Einstein’s method of visual thought experiments. He wasn’t embraced at the university and did his work at work, while applying himself at his day job in the patent office. Einstein’s world of physics was dominated by two branches of physics, the Newtonian variety and the newer work in electricity and magnetism, and Einstein would set himself about reconciling the conflicts that appeared to exist between the two disciplines. He clearly believed in a single universe that would indicate a single truth, and such conflicts indicated a problem to him, one that needed to be solved.

At least one of the truths in conflict must be wrong, and maybe both; a larger truth is indicated. When he first solved it and published the Special Theory of Relativity, it wasn’t a big splash, but one eminent physicist liked it at least, and asked Einstein to say more, to review and therefore re-submit his work to a journal, which they say pushed him to expand the scope of his work, and got him thinking beyond relative speeds but also about acceleration, which ultimately led to his ‘happiest thought of his life’ and to proving that gravity and acceleration are the same force, the same thing.

“It’s a big breakthrough.”

He formed a new theory of gravity, the General Theory of Relativity.

There were struggles, though. Possibly too confident, Einstein had shared his ideas and when he got off on a bad tangent for a few years, another mathematician he had shared with became a competitor, completing the Theory had become a race, and this while he lived alone, his wife and kids – neglected, no doubt – having moved out. A dark period passed, some years, before he finally solved the whole thing producing those famous, world explaining equations.

Of course, that solved everything for him at the university and in the world and history – oops! I almost Wikipedia-ed him to see if the wife and kids ever returned! I don’t want to know that, depending which way it went. There are some parallels.

“ . . . the seeds for his ideas were planted when he was just a child. His unique personality was evident early on . . . a rebel, a loner, but deeply curious . . . he was a daydreamer, but he was deeply persistent . . . the young Einstein became gripped by a desire to understand the underlying laws of nature . . .”

I would have said of myself, “with a bizarre, one-off obsession,” but sure, I’d take “deeply persistent” in a minute too. I’d say his compass was me watching my little cousin’s regular beatings. There are some invisible forces to explain there too. This also:

“It’s a mysterious force that shapes our universe. It feels familiar, but it’s far stranger than anyone ever imagined, and yet, one man’s brilliant mind tamed it: gravity.

I like this. For me, replace ‘universe’ with ‘lives,’ ‘brilliant’ with ‘mutated,’ and ‘gravity’ with ‘punishment.’

“How did a concept that explains so much come from the mind of one man?”

For that, I’ll refer you to my theory. It’s all about why it didn’t occur to everybody.

I also did not go straight to the university and remain there until my success, ha. Einstein-like, a fair amount of my dreaming, I mean research and development, happened at work too! Plus, I see conflicts between the many branches of thought that might bear upon parenting, and see the need for a truth that can make sense or nonsense of it all. Plus again:

My truth, AST, takes what seem to be two different things and shows them to be one after all, gravity and acceleration for Einstein, and abuse and punishment for myself. Now if my story should somehow crazily carry on in this parallel fashion, then I’m at the stage where I have the Special Theory, and may have the attention of my eminent scientist – I just have to wait. You have to book time in this person’s mind, like booking time on the Hadron Collider. Give me a month, they said, five days ago, but who’s counting. Twenty-six days at a minimum and then maybe the good things start to happen.* I wish I could count on the wife and kids holding off any of their decisions for that long too, again, depending which way it goes.



Oct. 17th., 2016


* …yeah that hasn’t worked out, funny story. Wife and kids either, not as funny, and all for another time.


Nov. 16th., 2017

Science Trolling

If your Twitter feed is anything like mine, you see it all day long: “educational” corporate accounts fighting negative public opinion regarding GMOs, biologists spreading the word about heritability and fighting their psychology professors about where behaviour comes from . . . PhDs chiming in about the Berkeley riots and disinvitations and voicing their free speech concerns. Ever notice how if you’re against anything big and powerful, that on top of everything else there’s someone out there telling folks you’re “anti-science?”

The pro-GMO stuff paints the anti-GMO movement as superstitious and paranoid, mindlessly set “against science” and progress – as though there aren’t corporate ownership and legal issues with the giant corporations that are running this science: anti-Monsanto is not anti-science, and it is not science the anti-GMO people don’t trust, it’s the huge, soulless multinationals who will own it. It’s no trouble finding boatloads of geneticists to explain the detail of why these new proteins etc., aren’t bad for you, and that’s the public discussion they want to have, the science one. They don’t want to have a legal one, or a financial one – especially not a historical one. That’s a form of trolling, if it it’s not a form of lying: we only talk about science and we only talk about the present and the future.

How could we possibly know a giant corporation would do something bad with this science? It’s brand new! It’s a trait of online communication, to be sure, but it’s not a positive one, so it’s part of the trolling phenomenon: history, people, the world, everything else we know is left out of this specific conversation. To include the world at large in an online argument is some sort of logical fallacy, apparently. Especially so if you keep it hidden for several comments and then try to pull it out in a “gotcha” sort of move. Ha.

OK, that’s not the big one by me. Now for Berkeley and the Dawkins radio interview disinvitation.

The New Right, the New Atheists, the New Naturists, call them what you will. I can’t stand to think of all those names as a monolith myself, but if there are overlaps, then what’s the difference? I don’t want to address the Alt-Right, but in America there are only two ways to vote, so we all line up on one side or the other, I’m afraid.

I abhor that North American atheists can be criticizing Islam while our countries are bombing and exploiting Muslims the world over. When the enemy were godless communists, our hawks were Christians, but now that our enemies are God fearing Muslims, then atheists can be hawks too, I guess. That’s the point that needs to be made because it’s the point no-one wants to hear. I’m not having any luck online with this idea, but the difference between criticizing Christian fundamentalists and Muslim ones, is that our anti-Muslim sentiment kills Muslims, while our anti-Christian sentiment not so much. There’s a lot of anti-Muslim feeling around already, you see, enough for us to bomb Muslims to Hell on a regular basis, so when we add our voices to that river of emotion, the net effect is that more bombs fly.

Complain about treatment of women, FGM, and they get more drones again, not schools, not hospitals, from our countries. War co-opts everything, there are no innocent voices. Muslims see this, as do I: we criticize and kill Muslims and we criticize and elect Christians.

Any of you young logicians see how that’s not cool?

Perhaps we can postulate a new creature, a hybrid, the Christian  Atheist, maybe that can explain it, with Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins as prime examples.

I get it, atheists, I mean, I’m an atheist, although I’m not really committed to it. I don’t think learning that God existed would make me unhappy for long, it would almost certainly be good news. But I get it, religion causes all these problems, wars, I get the lack of reason in the stories. Don’t you know though, that persecuting people is guaranteed to strengthen their religion? Why do you think people believe, because life is too good, too easy?

Not only that, but are you really happy to add your voices to the Christians’ voices in the Islam slamming? Like you agree with the Christians, you approve of them? Are you truly Christian atheists, maybe a little?* Somebody’s either forgetting there’s a war on, or there’s hating religion and then there’s hating religion, right? Wait – I don’t even know if that’s why Dawkins is being deplatformed, it’s just that I follow him, and that’s my complaint about him. Again, he complains about Islam along with other religions, but it won’t impact the other ones the same way. Maybe that’s not it? Maybe the Christians blocked him, for the Selfish Gene?

Joke, at least I think so. It’s almost too bad they didn’t let it happen, have the riots if it got that far, though. It would be another level of weird to see the Trump enabled fascist Islamophobe pseudo-Christians who rioted for Yiannopoulos and Coulter lining up to fight for the atheist scientist geek professor against local Berkeleyites and students. (Barry Crimmins snort.) On second thought, just imagining it was enough, I’ve had my weirdgasm, no-one needs to see that. No wonder things are as bad as they are, seeing things like that fractures your mind in terrible ways.

I like Dawkins, I’m an atheist, as I said, and I’m into biology, evolution, genetics. I’m not happy to shut him up because I think he’s on an evil mission, I just assess the net good or bad from his stance differently than he does. If Christian maniacs take his anti-Muslim speech and hurt people, he can blame those Christians and their religion, and he’s right and he’s consistent, all that is fine. I just see the misuse of him as more powerful than the proper use of him in the present environment, is all. I have more, some detail, but again, pragmatism. I don’t want to spend my time today railing against someone who I basically think is one of the good guys.

This is all grey area stuff, folks, don’t pigeonhole me, ask me. Being on the “dominant Left,” I’ll tell you what I think, without fear of exposure or reprisal, because apparently folks like me are running this business and whaddayougonnadoaboutit?






July 24th., 2017


* Of course, most North American atheists are culturally Christian, and there are sure to be a whole lot of Muslim atheists out there, and every other kind too.

Rational Man VS the Warrior Society

I bought in completely, swallowed the whole story of Man’s rational world, of the long progress of mankind, maybe even with the idea that we were leaving our animal selves behind us.


Circumstances being what they were and what they are, I didn’t really see through it until just these last few years, in my mid-fifties, and the process by which I did cost me wife and daughters, and my house – and just to make it a clean sweep I’m throwing my job on the fire too – so, with nothing left to lose, I’m doubling down. This rationality thing isn’t really catching on, but that is the world I require to be happy, so I am going to spend the remaining days of my throwaway life trying to create it. Maybe if I get a glimpse, I can have a little happiness – there’s plenty a slip ‘twixt a cup and a lip, right? I may have been killed, but I ain’t dead yet.


It’s not a social pursuit, and it’s not good for you, but you know, I’m already done for. With my dying dream, I’m going to try to market my asocial condition, use this disinterested perspective to describe humanity from a more omniscient place. Here’s the not so cheerful upshot: not that I think we are anything specific at any given moment, but because that’s the way we talk: we are that war machine, the ape that rules the world by violence. Insofar as we aspire to inhabit the rational, civilized world we like to talk about, human societies are warrior societies, and that is by far the best way to understand our behaviour (a sure to be controversial example – https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2017/02/23/ast-and-child-sexual-abuse/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true ).


A shorter version of the same idea came to me on Twitter this morning. I spend a lot of time with Christian original sin. I even bought and read the book of the same name, by one Alan Jacobs. I don’t think the canonized version is why, but it seems like a good way to refer to what maybe in another context is our nurture assumption: some reason why we all think we owe our kids the consequences, the discipline. What I hadn’t considered until today’s lesson was which exact sin was supposed be the one we’re all born with, and sure enough, it’s sex, the sex that spawned us: we are all sinners because we are all conceived in sin – conception is a sin, sex is a sin. * This is the attitude professed to me, I think, by an American Christian, so a citizen of a globe-spanning military empire: sex is the number one sin, the first. This is how a warrior-citizen feels, in a world of war and violence. Makes sense, right? I mean, sure, it’s a world of sex and breeding too – but if sex is your number one sin, your society is not a sex cult, is it?


In the very same way, Freud also erred hugely, by the Dark Matter ratio of one in ten, by his focus on sexual matters, by imagining the very basis of our biological life to be the problem and declaring our warrior life to be an extension of it. His vision mirrors genetics, relationship and conflict theory, sure, but it’s all within the visible ten percent. He knew about the Dark Matter, but the meme still worked on him, the behaviour’s protection remained in place: he too thought the sex was the Dark stuff. He too spoke about our nasty natures and didn’t see how the true human nastiness is in that our nature is not nasty enough for our needs and we have found a way to change it. Freud had a scientific mind to some degree, and so, as biology does today, viewed humanity as passive, as subject to drives and circumstances and not so much as a self-actualized creature. It’s the scientific version of the idea that we are all born sinners, the legacy of the brute we were, the unconscious beast within, but still with the warrior society bias: the ‘beast’ within us wants to destroy the world with rampant and ofttimes incestuous sex! It’s an afterthought that sometimes a club is just a bludgeon.


In a very real and military way, Ignorance really is Strength, and Yellowbeard was right, you really “can’t get any killin’ done if you go around thinking all the time.” This is another way to state game theory, perhaps, but the reasons we are the war ape, this ‘deep roots of war’ creature, the things we do as such, these are things we all do, things humans do. We do not live in the state of war so much of the time because of the way some humans are or the way some people behave. War is the logical outcome of what most, if not all humans are, of what most, if not all people do. I’m not happy about it, I’m not trying to sell us the “fact” of the ‘deep roots of war’ to minimize it and promote war, as I so often assume of other authors myself when I read the phrase: I’m exposing that version of us as something it is in our power to change, mostly because we have created it ourselves in the first place. The point there was that it’s things we all do, in fact most of what we all do. For illustration, try doing things that might hurt the war effort, see what happens. Get on Facebook, tell the world that you refuse to beat your children and watch your comments. Suggest we stop giving terrorists things to avenge and watch the comments. ** Sorry to tell you.


If the warrior society notices you pulling in the wrong direction, you are in some kind of trouble, be it “only social” or literally anything else. This includes not bringing the discipline to your kids, it includes fighting bigotry and it includes eschewing religion. Some largish portion of your society is not going to like it, and upon analysis, it will come back to security, to the warrior society. This is utterly pervasive, we all need to understand this, or we will always be doing it, always subject to the whims of warlords and never understanding why the bad guys always win.


OK, that sounded like an introduction to my usual rap, the stock ending of one of my usual beginnings, but that’s not it. This beginning is just getting started.


I am alone, which as every scientist, doctor and Facebook user will tell you isn’t good for you. I’m at risk. I’ve got a few good friends and two sisters, but they’re all in other places, other towns. Basically, I don’t fit in. I had a family, a wife and two daughters and I wanted to raise them differently, so I sort of checked out of the “normal” world of parents and my family were sort of my only friends . . . I had all my social eggs in one basket, guess what happened – wait, beginnings. The first thing that happened, I guess, was that I found myself in a role I could no longer play: quiet, compliant, never complaining, never angry husband and father. Next, I had a drug reaction, a manic and then depressive breakdown from a new biologic medication I tried for my psoriasis. Sad and compromising to say, but I have seen something about humanity, something I wasn’t maybe supposed to see, I’ve seen the man behind the curtain and I can’t ever be the same.


It’s part and parcel of my increased asociality: “social” things for me have gone from being some combination of pleasant, uncomfortable and largely irrelevant to being the problem in the world. We need social connections – I need social connections – but I now see us as a warrior society that will not see itself and I am faced with a choice, my social connections or my morals. I don’t know how to un-see it, or more to the point, I have no path to wanting to un-see it. I can’t help but dramatize my struggle: find some social connections, strengthen the ones I still have, try to join the social world that gives what comfort it can to folks in the in-group – or follow my truth. Again, I’ve already lost pretty much everything to my truth, so I’m going with that – with, of course, the hope that someone out there will still want some connection with me as I follow my own path. Having said that, my own path is at very real odds with the interests of the in-group: I don’t expect to find my social connections among social people, in fact those are hurting me more than helping me these days. I want to connect with asocials like myself.


“Asocial” is not only a Nazi term, but I’m afraid I hear that in it myself. I think I first saw it in “Fatherland,” the novel by Robert Harris, spoken by a Nazi indoctrinated character, so that is one of my main associations with the word – but we can’t start deleting words and their concepts just because some swine used it to bad ends, can we? The Nazi connection I will leverage here also: being an “asocial” was a crime in that novel, and now I think that Nazism is hugely “social:” we’re all pulling in the same direction, right? Nazism is fascism and no kind of “socialism” in the cooperative sense, meaning conformity may be an aspect of the goal, but in Nazism it’s forced upon the people, in a top-down authoritarian way, with the inequality built in, integral to authority. Socialism, in it’s dream form, is a community of asocials, all working together from a more self-motivated stance. Perhaps all political ideologies’ labels are necessarily backwards. More likely it’s me that has flipped: it just all looks backwards to me now. But “social” and “smart” appear to be opposites.


When we’re fighting City Hall, we all like to say that “a committee is a creature with six or more legs and no brain,” but everything is contextual: four extra legs makes brains disappear, but thousands or millions of extra legs doesn’t? I mean, three people have no brain but the entire society is supposed to be smart?


What about this? What about Rich Harris’ children’s group? Are we smarter as a society than a fifth grader?




Sorry, friends and family, you have plenty of social support, I have nothing for you on that personal level, I don’t agree with you about anything . . . I mean if I manage to rise above our differences and love you despite our differences, despite living on opposite sides of the curtain, or you do and find a way to love me, that is still only in the realm of rational things and the social benefits aren’t forthcoming anyways. I’m still sorry, because the good folks are, but I’ve gotten a do-over and I work for humanity now; our social priorities, our biological needs are the problem, not the answer. Follow me to this empty, unsatisfying world of rational things or have a nice life. On a very personal level, I feel this is exactly where my family and I have parted, they’re social. I mean, my girls are young adults, one still technically a teen – talk about pressure, of course they have to try to conform. I’m ready to admit that trying to make a huge change with them wasn’t fair to them, but I didn’t have as much choice as you might imagine. Once I began to look at punishing, once I started to see it as optional, I couldn’t un-see it, so there was no passive choice for me, it was “beat them or don’t” for me, I’d lost the ability to be unconscious about it. I don’t think of all the people out there who have wound up “spanking” their kids, anybody made a conscious decision to “beat” them, the choice is never presented nakedly like that, but for reasons of my mutation or something, it was for me. I have regrets, but it doesn’t mean I could make the opposite choice if I had it to do again.


How many readers, I wonder, saw the messiah complex before the “follow me” bit? No matter – that really is it, I’m not trying to hide it. When I can manage to turn this antisocialization theory business into a readable book, then the idea is to create a new paradigm that takes over the world, that’s a messianic dream. And the religious parallels don’t end there, either, because ‘a new paradigm’ isn’t exactly right, although it’s something like equal and opposite. I want to reveal a current paradigm – that’s revelation, in religious terms or discovery in scientific ones, I suppose –  but I’m not sure what the replacement will be. The existing paradigm to which I refer is a bad habit: if we try to stop, and stop a little, every time we don’t engage in it, that’s good for us. What we will do with the time we are accustomed to spending at it, I don’t know, but we can make healthier choices.


Carrying on with the Dark Matter analogy, if we measure social modes – prosocial, antisocial – against society, then we can clarify many confusing ‘social issues’ by considering human ‘society’ as ninety percent ‘warrior society.’ With this find/replace function, we can say that it is prosocial to support the troops (pro-warrior-social to socially support our society’s warriors) or say that it is antisocial to be an active member of a small minority that protests the war the troops are engaged in (anti-warrior-social, denying support to our society’s warriors). It seems that the size of our moral inclusion circles can be viewed as our definition of ‘society’ when we ponder moral issues. If ‘society’ means our nation, our culture, then anti-war is antisocial, against everyone in ‘society.’ If ‘society’ means something closer to humankind, then it is the warriors who are positioned against it, the warriors and their supporters who are antisocial – and my own moral circle has certainly grown beyond my borders, because ‘supporting the troops’ is clearly and obviously antisocial to me, war is antisocial, that is a no-brainer, self evident, and there is surely some Latin way to say it as well, that the conclusion is included in the premise or some crap, when the association is in the definition of the word.


It’s not open for discussion, though. Warrior society, I mean.


I want it to be, and this is step one, certainly not the first time or one of the first thousand times, but it’s not a debatable topic, not yet. It’s what I am calling in my ignorance, believing I must coin the term myself, a protected behaviour. We don’t know what we’re doing, we don’t know how it works, so we’re in no danger of stopping it. I’ve been writing my evolution on this topic (I can’t think unless I’m talking) and I’ve coined another one, the consequences ‘mimic meme’ to describe the two-sided aspect of our child-rearing behaviour, the discipline.


Carrying on further with this Dark Matter analogy, the consequences meme being the visible ten percent of the social practice of child-rearing, has us regrettably employing punishments to teach our children how to treat people right, how to be a normal member of the society. This is our conscious effort at understanding this behaviour, and all the parenting discussions I’ve ever been involved in happen in this arena. The Dark Matter part, the ninety percent of this behaviour that is protected – this is where we do not so regrettably abuse our children to ensure that they treat those other people “right.”  I’ve spent pages on the mimic meme elsewhere, suffice it to say here that we all too often wind up “spanking” to conclude what started as a “moral” lesson, and we hope that our intended lesson is what the child remembers, and we hope that the unintended violence will be forgotten. This is the power of the meme, of the protection in place, that we hope this against all the evidence.


It looks like it works; the child is ‘socialized,’ warrior-socialized. If we can be at war perpetually and still tell ourselves we are a peaceful society, well then if our children can too, then we have socialized them as ourselves, just as we hoped – except, mimic meme, protected behaviour, we forgot what it was we hoped for. What we hope for, warrior society, is that we be strong and fierce and that our enemies fear us. What I’m getting at is, that is exactly the sort of man that starts a war if he’s powerful or winds up in prison or at least in anger management counselling if he’s not. We spend ninety percent of our time and energy creating soldiers and jailing the ones that we don’t send into an official war.


This is a chestnut, but it’s one of those problems we will never solve if we can’t even see it. We need to be strong, I mean unless every society on Earth makes a move towards pacifism all at once, but if we’re ever going to solve things for the folks at home, the ones not on the battlefield, we need to understand that we have set them up for their “antisocial” diagnosis.


Hey – you know the way we’re stuck in our aboriginal mindset, smallish troops, 100, 160 members tops and the rest are the out-group and how that affects us today in bigger ways, apparently driving us to war? Well, it’s never occurred to me before to wonder whether the actual wars we drive ourselves to never “work out” for the same reason, that the wars themselves are maladapted behaviours that only ever worked out in our aboriginal situation. Like we go to war thinking, “yeah, we’ll kill those guys, and live on their land, happily ever after,” or “we’ll kill those guys and there won’t be that threat on our border anymore,” and maybe that was actually a possible result back in that day. Maybe genocide was a doable thing at that smaller scale and today we foolishly go to war thinking we’ve got to kill a village and we’re done! One thing to say we have that tendency, and one more to suggest somebody knows it and sells their wars that way, as simple, straightforward, and doable, of but of course that’s the worry. Someone with a better grasp of human nature than we ourselves have is sure to be a director of, rather than only a player in this little production called human life.


Personally, I’m tired of listening to people fumbling about, trying to understand why the violence, to a few good-hearted folks trying to fix it, paddling against the current of everyone else putting their weight into the warrior society. Personally, I would peel the protection off this thing, we own it after all, I would have us all understand the warrior social nature of the human being and how it works and let’s all decide, is this really where we want to be, playing out this ‘sins of the father’ crap for the rest of eternity. I want to know that the United Nation Rights of the Child Committee understands all of this, they should probably be the organization that might oversee that we all learn this about ourselves. The point there being – the generals already know it, it’s the good folks that don’t. We’re grownups – I mean, not as a group, but one at a time we are – and we can handle this knowledge, this knowledge, which, by the way, is probably the knowledge, the knowledge of good and evil that got us tossed out of the garden in the first place. That’s my pet version, it’s not just ‘the knowledge of,’ it means ‘the technology of’ good and evil, meaning, how to make the stuff, or how to make one of them from the other, an alchemical recipe. Here’s the kicker, though. It’s not the original sin because it’s knowing how to convert evil to good, how is that a sin? Isn’t that religion’s mission statement, double literally?


No, it’s this. It’s how to convert a live and let live sort of ape into the ‘deep roots of war’ ape that we at least think we need to be.


Wow, full circle, solved the entire mystery. It’s a grand unifying theory, and not only does it reconcile social and biological science, but even Genesis! And we were alive when this singularity came together, you and I, this Canada Day weekend, year of our Lord, two thousand and seventeen! Hmmm . . .

. . . maybe a little grandiose, maybe a little manic. I’d better medicate, I mean celebrate.




July 1st., 2017

Happy Thank God, We’re Not Quite America Day.




* There is a kernel of generic, or biological truth in this, perhaps where the flavour of universal truth comes from. To live is to eat, and we can’t eat inorganic things, life lives by consuming life, mostly, and so to live is to harm, our selfish genes and bellies grinding on, preferring our own lives continue than others’ lives, whom we would advise to keep their gloves up and protect themselves at all times. This is the biological core of original sin, the self-evident part; the rest is a value judgment – not a small thing either though, and an important clue.


** I’m referring to actual comments from human beings who may or may not know they are supporting the warrior society’s values, although the disingenuous comments from the trolling section are probably an even more rabid and bloodthirsty version of the same. I think it’s safe to say, the current trolling attacks on America aren’t aiming for peace and understanding.

Next Question?

            Next Question?


The last one took me something more than fifty years, admittedly. I am a moron, no two ways about it. But I got there, and frankly, I’m, well . . . proud might be a bridge too far, and happy isn’t it either, but I’m . . . satisfied. In that sense, I declare myself to be a scientist, albeit a moron. It’s not about my emotional needs or pride, it really is about the question. The question for me, since I was a toddler or something, was “what is punishment?”

I’ve answered that to my own satisfaction, and it’s in my blog, the stuff from this year, 2017. Unfortunately, figuring something out about ourselves and being able to do anything about it are very different propositions. The solution seems to be locked away, hidden behind the dynamics of stress, and for a change, before I try to work through it in the privacy of my own mind and blog with a view to figuring it out in my final fifty years from nothing, I thought I’d better stop and read Sapolsky’s book, “Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers.”

He’s brought us a nasty little maxim, that stress results from taking a beating and is released by giving one. Again, I am a moron with no sense of my own limitations, so I don’t understand “maxim.” I see that label, “maxim,” (I don’t think he’s called it that) and double Scorpio that I am or whatever, I say to myself, it is up to me to solve this puzzle. I don’t know why, it’s to avoid thinking about my personal self and problems, of course, but I can’t get around it. I would rather think I’m trying to save the world and solve the human condition than that I’m doing something smaller and more doable and ignoring the big, universal problems. I’m living a big, public life, at least in my own mind.

So, I’ll be reading for a bit, trying to learn instead of talking for a bit. Dr. Robert Sapolsky is sure to have something to inform my search. He’s terrific on video too, I recommend him as highly as possible, as does everyone, from a moron like me all the way up to the very best and brightest. I’ll be checking in, but I see my views have stopped. I don’t have the heart to keep promoting on Twitter, punishing my few followers by spamming them with the same blogs for months on end with nothing new, so that will be sporadic unless I think I’ve had another epiphany or something.

Please enjoy this year’s stuff, the “Better Metaphor” series, etc.

The stuff from 2014 and 2015 is for parents, new parents, it says, “don’t punish, in any way, at all,” citing damage and hard feelings as unwanted consequences. This year’s stuff says, “uh, no, the damage and hard feelings are in fact the unconscious but wanted consequences,” and so re-defines the problem of punishment. I still don’t advocate for the punishment of children, I’ve just come to understand it’s not a rational, debating sort of a thing.

I’ll be back, and dropping in, but I think I’ve kind of run out of things to say for a bit, this was it. I’m not some writer, some endless spout of verbiage, I’m just a guy with a minority POV and an idea I think will help us, so I write that. I swear to God, it’s not about me. It’s about us. It ain’t personal, it’s about all of us; it’s public.

Thanks for visiting, Folks. I wish I could know what anyone thinks, though.



April 20th., 2017

Lost Causes – Picking Punishment Apart

What a long, weird trip it’s been.

I’m not sure I’m going to be able to express this properly, the strangeness around my effort to change the world, but I’ll try.

I’d like to find some common ground and some connection for myself as a Person with a Cause and somehow talk about that independently from the perceived merit or not of the cause itself . . .  of course that will mean talking about my crusade, laying it all out, but I’m not trying to sell it in this one. I have a hundred and fifty to two hundred posts online and one really bad book collecting dust under my desk where that’s what I’m trying to do. Today, it’s not about me and My Cause, but rather about my cause and what it has meant to Me.

You should know, I don’t really like challenges. My self-image has a low white cell count and I really don’t need to get into any fights I’m likely to lose. In the real world, I’m a bit of a spaz and a moron to tell you the truth; my latest theory or excuse for it is in a recent post, that I am for some reason permanently stressed out, living life flooded with cortisol, which is an emergency mode of functioning that is intended to preserve life and has for much of our time as animals on this Earth. It’s a good adaptation, but it’s not supposed to be chronic. We are supposed to have some measure of peace between existential threats; breeding, raising kids, requires some calm, some respite from the battle for survival. Like I say, that’s my present rationalization for my poor connection with the world, my stupidity. Of course, like all things, if I had uncovered the correct reason for the problem, the problem should be solved. That not so much being the reality, I’ll keep the case open – but for now suffice it to say that I am not really a person on the rise, building success upon success and ready to take on  big, public challenges.

I really didn’t need this shit, is what I’m saying. This cause, for whatever reason, chose me. It has been suggested that all I am is a contrarian, that I have selected my viewpoint for the express purpose of picking fights with everyone and so that I can feel original, but I assure you that I worry about that, that I am not unaware of that danger, and try to stay vigilant about it. That is the sort of thing that can never be settled or proved, however, so if you’ll allow me, I’ll take a different tack: is that charge not a version of the fallacy of authority? An unknown or disreputable source is not proof of the failure of an idea. Honestly, I do have personal good feelings about what I believe, I even derive an occasional ego kick from writing and feeling original. All true, but besides not being damning to my theories, it should be obvious if we look at it: Having the epiphany experience and carrying around a fixated idea that no-one else appreciates – it’s not all fun and compliments.

It can be something of a burden, truth to tell. Does anyone remember Sean Connery in ‘Medicine Man?’ – “How do you think you would feel if you found the cure for cancer and then lost it?” I’m sure every crackpot like me knows the feeling – how do you think it would feel if you found what seems to be the answer for everything and no-one wanted to hear it?

  1. I think we’ve all seen enough of that side of yours truly for the moment! Ahem. Moving on.

When I was thirteen or fourteen, my best friend and the girlfriends we had all agreed – I hate everything. I was always making observations about everything in life and the people I saw and I wasn’t impressed. For example, although I’m not sure this one occurred to me that young, I would try the wrong one of a double door to a store or something, find it locked and bark something like:

“I hate that! The place is open but one door is looked, just to make half of us feel like fools! Are you open or aren’t you?”

I did that stuff pretty constantly, and I still do, I can’t stop. So I’ve decided that complaining is a good thing, positive, and if you’re not complaining then you’ve simply given up. It’s the complainers of the world that are pointing out the problems, hoping for change. But I get that it would drive folks nuts. Rick, Diane, Darlene, Maureen, Gavin, Jim – I’m sorry. Like I say, I can’t stop – but I’m sorry. I ruined every round of golf for decades for my latest best friend with my anger and my frustration that is all part of the same attitude, and Phil, I’m sorry. I know there is no way to make up for it, all those years.

Having said all that, there is still a place for the social critic, even if he’s simply a private, individual curmudgeon and it’s not so much a job as just a catastrophic combination of personal traits. The door example – I can imagine reasons: a quicker lock up in case of some sort of trouble, or just that it’s sometimes a low-level employee in charge of opening and maybe he’s not sensitive to the slight, negative message of one locked door that a conscientious owner might be – it’s real, right? Somebody at some point made a decision that impacted me in a very slightly negative way – and maybe on my worst day it could be the straw that broke the camel’s back, the difference between a good day and a bad one, or me seeing the universe and mankind as basically good or not. If you’ve got two doors and you’re open, opening both doors would be more thoughtful, is all I’m saying. If there is a better reason for you not to, fine, but it doesn’t change my experience.

So I’m grumpy, always looking for something wrong in the world, hypersensitive to the tiniest of offenses.

There are other ways to look at it, of course, but I’m going to go with this right now: it is this talent of mine, which was always present and developed and nurtured over time which has made me the perfect victim of this cause. It’s a nasty irony that while I am so open to the appreciation of this problem, that I’m not much of a vehicle for solving it. (Man, this is just dripping with Christianity and self-abuse, it sounds like Joan of Arc or something, ‘your humble and unworthy servant!’ I’m actually an atheist, a cultural Christian – and this is the power of culture. If it disqualifies anything I say in support of my cause, I hope any critic will commit to demonstrating exactly how and working through it with me. Everyone has baggage!)

OK, so much for the preamble. Sometimes, all I have is preamble; I think that when I die, someone should take everything I wrote, bundle it all up and make it the introduction to the book I wanted to write. My secret dream is that before that happens that I might ever get to the fucking point. But oh, well.

My long-game cause is the end of the practice of punishment in nearly all of its forms. A mid-range goal would be to end the punishment of children in all its forms. The nearest goal would be that we just start to think about it at all.


It’s punishment that I’m focussing on, and it brings its own problems. Anywhere we see a list of topics or subjects, school curricula, websites, the big board on ‘Jeopardy,’ even, anywhere that categories are delineated, there is one word, one concept, one real-world thing that is never there, and that one thing is punishment, or the practice of punishing. My epiphany, my Grand Unification Theory of Life, punishment – is not even a subject, not a topic, period.

Somebody, please, I beg you – does that sound strange?

I’ll brainstorm a little myself before I continue here. What else, what else that is so common in life, is not a topic? We have all manner of science built around the air, and water, and all of humanity has some level of expertise with food and our bodily functions, all of these ubiquitous, taken-for-granted things have deserved study and nomenclature, all of these things have many people dedicating their lives to them, and they are vast fields of knowledge, ever expanding . . .

As is the study of punishment, it too can be a door to a huge area of study, but, so far, that is apparent only to me and a few others. I suspect it is in the particular nature of this particular thing, punishment, that it by necessity and design escapes our eye, our human inquisitiveness. Like a living parasite, punishment can somehow make sure that we don’t look directly at it: it’s controlling us that way. Oops – talking for the cause, not about it. Redirecting . . .

As a cause, at this point in history, the eradication of punishment is utterly hopeless – not even an available topic for discussion, as I’ve been told. This cause has made a pariah of me; I spend my time telling pretty much all parents that they’re Bad Parents, and it doesn’t matter that I’m speaking to all of humanity, or that I often include waivers to that effect when I write, ‘nothing personal,’ ‘not you, it’s the system,’ I say, doesn’t matter. Parenting is personal, period. There may be more people in the world that would side with me on it, but so far I suppose I could count more of my fingers than I could those people. It’s not even a subject. The index for the Book of Life has references to punishment on nearly every page, but it’s not in the Glossary section and there is no Further Reading on it – that is, there wasn’t until a few folks like me came along. Sadly, because punishing hasn’t really been optional anyway, and few folks ever really think about it in a critical way, there doesn’t seem to be established arguments about it yet. There are no Keyneses and Hayeks for us to line up behind.

Unless there’s a smarter and better situated person to do it, I would be willing to play the part of the ‘Keynes of Punishment,’ making the arguments and taking the flack, but who will be my Hayek?

The rare few of us who have looked at punishing behaviour for decades and tried to analyze it have no trouble finding opponents to dismiss and ridicule us, but I haven’t yet found anyone who suffers my equal but opposite obsession with the subject, anyone who has built a logical structure in defense of punishment – I’m sorry, but I mean a logical structure that deserves to be called one, one with more than a few dozen words, a serious breakdown of what logic may support it. Again, I’m sorry, and I’m not asking for that from busy parents, either. Surely there is some authority, some institution that will speak for Standards and Practices? – kidding of course. Punishment is not a subject, not a field, and there aren’t any experts to consult. Just in case you’ve been thinking it – psychologists and educators, are they not our experts?

First, for the educator, punishment is simply a tool in their kit, in the past often the most used one. From what I can see, however, the school systems appear to be ahead of the curve in terms of at least corporal punishing, plus they’re not the parents and they’re not prison guards or police, so really, they’re not doing most of the damage. Not at work, anyway.

For the psychologists and all the other iterations of head doctor, it seems all stimuli and effects are just data, bits of a puzzle (other than Alice Miller and her followers, I suppose) and frankly, punishing and over-punishing is giving those fields job security. The main thing is, though, these issues are personal. Psych people and educators, they are like all of us, first and foremost, persons. All the personal, psychological things that exist around child-rearing and punishment are there for the educator and the psychologist as well; blind spots are blind spots, it doesn’t necessarily matter that many psychologists, psychiatrists etc., have spectacularly good vision, we are all born and bred in the system. The parasite does not allow itself to be seen.

A question, for any psych folks out there – was punishment a subject in your educations, a topic? Did the concept get the time a single event we punish and traumatize for gets, like toilet training, or that tired old saw about catching your parents doing it?

Really, really what I’m asking for is for the universe to spontaneously create the zealot who will see his mission to create a philosophical basis for punishing in the world, for my nemesis to appear, the Unbreakable one to defend the world as it is, to my Mr. Glass (a movie, “Unbreakable,” M. Night Shyamalan, I think). Either that, or people have to confess to me that there is no rationale for punishing beyond the senseless sound bites we all know, and start to think about it. As always, the best time was ten years ago, but now is good too.

Actually, never mind all that crap about the universe making me a strawman to flog, let’s just go with that last bit.

I need to realize that there is no such equal and opposite argument, even less so than there is for global warming. Feel free to correct me, but really, this is something we should be applying that impressive human brain to, we should step one pace back from ‘do we like punishment?’ which most folks could answer, to ‘what is punishment, exactly?’, start from there. I’m not saying most people couldn’t answer that one, I’m only suggesting that no-one has ever asked them that before, and perhaps it will get us thinking. I do think that many folks have things in their definition that really aren’t punishing at all, so the definition can use a little refresher in our minds anyway.

I am deeply sorry, Dear reader-if-there-is-one, I cannot seem to keep this thing on track, it’s become more of a ramble, I’m afraid, a catch-all. Honestly, I’m trying to build myself a strategy going forward, how I’ll write, maybe try to change my tone to something recognizable as writing in this century, as well as how I’ll blog and promote and even how I’ll talk to people. Not sure yet, but I think this will help: sorry to use you for a sounding board like this (it’s what a lot of blogging is, I guess), I hope my circular rambling was at least mildly entertaining. I promise more substance and less navel-gazing next time.


Familiarity Breeds Blindness – When We Can’t See the Concepts for the Words

It’s a sad thing when words lose their power, when we have lived with them for so long that we’re no longer impressed by the things they signify. I think it was when I was reading “Midnight’s Children,” (set in India) when I was shocked, first by the expression ‘sister-sleeper’ and then in “White Tiger” when it was the stronger ‘sisterfucker’ and I realized that our version, ‘motherfucker’ had lost its punch, that I was no longer feeling the image it evokes. I started saying and writing what I think of as the Indian version in order to take advantage of its freshness and power. (Interestingly, my Canadian Microsoft Word is also accustomed to the mother version, but is flagging the sister version for a spell check.)

Show a man a photoshopped picture of himself in coitus with his own mother and he’ll react – but the word for him in that image just means somewhere between ‘dude’ and ‘swine’ these days, at least for some of us. ‘Sisterfucker’ isn’t a more disturbing concept, it was just unfamiliar to me, so my mind looked at it a little closer, and the image was a nasty surprise. I must have quit paying attention to what ‘motherfucker’ means. Now, in case anybody’s concerned that I’m switching gears, don’t worry. Here it comes.

I re-posted one of my older child-rearing, anti-punishment blogs on another site and it started a few conversations with a few people, a man or two and some ladies, some mothers. The conversation came around to my controversial stance that ‘corporal punishment’ is a misleading phrase, that in fact (‘fact’ to me at least), without a willingness to get physical there can be no punishments. Hold on –

early on while writing my blogs and my book on the subject, I looked up ‘punishment’ to get a somewhat official definition. The dictionary ones were pretty straightforward, but the Stanford Dictionary of Philosophy went on for many pages. What I came up with, in the shortest form, is that punishment is the imposition of an aversive in order to lessen an unwanted behaviour. ‘Aversive’ means an unwanted stimulus, a term I usually change to ‘unpleasantness,’ and ‘imposition’ means to put something on someone without any condition as to whether they want it or not. So a punishment is something you don’t want and is put on you without your consent, in order to change an unwanted behaviour of yours.

That, just in case ‘punishment’ is a word that we don’t examine anymore, just in case we’ve forgotten the meaning or never really heard it in the first place –

So I spent a few comments trying to convince some people that all punishments depend on force, that their children weren’t likely to have been taking their non-corporal timeouts and such from a place of willing agreement, that their kids probably had learned, either the hard way or by inference, that the non-corporal punishment wasn’t going to be optional, that if they didn’t take it, it would wind up being forced upon them, that the punishment would escalate.

I’m trying not to generalize about gender here, but interestingly, among these very few people in the discussion, the most vocal man made no bones about it. Damned straight, was his attitude, a good smack will put them right. Kids don’t understand talking; that is what they understand.

The ladies, though, they didn’t believe in hitting or corporal punishment, and while they did believe in punishment, they insisted they didn’t back it up with force. Trying to make my point, I asked repeatedly if their punishments were optional, if there was any way the punishment wasn’t going to happen, or if it was going to happen by hook or by crook. One of the ladies assured me that it wasn’t optional, that if the child simply walked away from his or her timeout, that she would simply bring the child back to it, as many times as it took. I didn’t argue that ‘bringing the child back’ was a physical act, and I didn’t ask how forcefully it might have to be done if the child was stubborn about it, although these are certainly important parts of the puzzle for me. I just asked again, if it’s not optional, then the parent is going to make it happen by whatever means necessary, right?

One answer struck me as pretty schizoid, but maybe it’s just this language thing, maybe the words in the response had been said so often that the meaning had been lost: in an answer that said ‘punishments are not all backed up physically’ someone said something like ‘of course you have to follow through.’ Now that last phrase is familiar indeed, ubiquitous even – we all know it. But unexamined it must be, because otherwise how can someone say ‘of course you have to follow through’ and feel it is somehow a contradiction to ‘I am willing to do whatever it takes to make this happen?’ So that’s what’s happening, I think, when I try to make this point, it’s the same as my opening example, like we hear the deadly, incest accusation of ‘motherfucker’ all day long, and it’s all in fun, harmless, like a friendly ‘cabron’ between pals, but when I say that all punishments are backed up with force . . .

well it’s like I said ‘sisterfucker’ loudly during a moment of quiet at a church barbeque. Shock and horror. The deer-in-headlights blank stares of the good peoples’ moral indignation.

So I’m the bad guy. All right, I’ll play that role, I’ll crash your barbeque – what time again? Oh right, I remember. It’s always happening.