Reading List

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

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

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

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

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

I’m tired.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Jeff

March 28th., 2020

Secrets

All your efforts are doomed, I’m sorry.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Communism, Capitalism, the internet – what else?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s flip it over.

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

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

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

Be forewarned, though.

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

 

Jeff

March 20th., 2020

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

The Invisible Monster

I groped around some in the darkness. It’s tough. I honestly don’t know how anyone begins, how do we even figure out what questions to ask; any question we ask is going to be met with some answer, anything can look like we’ve made some kind of a start. Next thing we know, we’ve been on some tangent and we’re old, the questions have faded and the answers have taken over and if they’re not working then maybe they need a champion, perhaps it’s a fight rather than a Q & A or maybe we’ve just had our try and we retire.

I have this rap, “I asked this question as a child,” and yes I can weave that narrative now, but that didn’t begin to come clear until around the time of my first child’s birth, age thirty-five or so. In my teens and twenties, I was that clueless seeker, read something from the hippies’ spiritual library, Ouspensky, Gurdjieff, some yoga. That stuff led me to try philosophy, I still have my copy of Kant’s Critique, and I’ve put a good dent in it a few times – I really should finish it, the first third of that book has stuck with me, it was good stuff in there, more so than a great deal of philosophy, I think.

Because it’s a critique, I think.

So then I went off and lived a life, had a marriage, raised some kids.

I read some psychology heading into that, tried some R. D. Laing, not easier than Kant, I won’t pretend to have absorbed him either, but a few things. I learned about shadow selves, repression, got taken with an Alice Miller book or two. A lot of overviews, “History of (western) Thought” stuff, our progress narrative. When I tried to learn some biology, I wound up in the library of the alt-Right, I guess, Pinker et al. – I came out of that focused on evolution, trying to ignore their conclusions and drawing my own. Their conclusions are so bereft of meaning, it sent me running back to philosophy!

These days I’ve been trying to absorb some classics, but one such history has reached modern times and I’ve had an introduction to Foucault, and now a short summary audio book I’m on my second pass through. He was very concerned about his identity, that he wasn’t a philosopher as such – it’s a very narrow discipline in some senses – and at one point he settled on “critical intellectual,” because his work was analyzing and troubleshooting existing systems, not so much designing new systems from scratch or whatever it is proper philosophers do.

Seems he was a stickler for those sorts of definitions and perhaps an authority, and he was quite expansive about how to define “author” and an author’s relationship to their society, so I got to thinking that “critical intellectual” surely has a known and understood role in society as well, that we know how to respond to them.

I also learned something personal listening to his ideas.

Critical intellectuals really get on your bloody nerves, that’s how we respond to them! Plus also I am one of the bastards. I listened to his ideas and found myself trying to pick them apart, it’s what I do. Of course it’s an easy matter, decades later, speaking from a world that Foucault’s ideas very much helped to create, of course we’ve moved beyond him and anyone can do that looking back, he said this, I’m sure.

But I noticed it, the irony was a little too on the nose, noticed that this is the role I have adopted and so I noticed that the response I get is also part of a role or roles, perhaps not scripted, maybe only a familiar mode of interaction . . . well, Foucault may have settled on it, it was the truest option for him, I guess.

It’s true for me as a character trait; it’s not really true about my work. My critiques come from a new design.

New designs are not expected, perhaps not possible, from critics, is that it? Is this my mistake, I start by announcing Nothing New Here and then Here’s My New Thing! I may have to ch . . . I may have to ch . . . cha . . . oh, you know what I mean.

Of course I should read the prison one, of course a summary of critiques is going to get tiresome – I should read one of his in long form, hear and enjoy his voice in a thorough treatment, not just a list of complaints. I should very much also write one of mine in long form, stop giving nothing but a list of complaints myself. The previous sentence, this I say as a reader. The response I gave Foucault’s list of ideas – Oh, FFS, sort of –  is the response I think I get from folks, and that makes perfect sense to me.

Y’all wrong, of course.

Not about me! I am exactly that rock in everyone’s shoe, I know that. You’re wrong if you think what I’m trying to say is only critique, though. At least as regards my main subject.

One cannot say this, I know that. It’s unlikely in the extreme, I know this, it’s flat-out impossible, I know this – but I’m better than him. I just got lucky, sure, but that counts too. He’s smarter than me in every way, these guys are bloody polymaths, they got fifty points on me all day long and I got exactly nothing to show, never lived above a hundred points, for all you’d have seen, what can I say? Murphy’s Law, goes to show you never can tell.

Record scratch, freeze frame, restart. Making that case is going to take a minute.

They are all fighting some invisible monster, and by “they,” I mean “we,” except that in this, your narrator would exempt himself from humankind. This thought has been brewing for a long time.

By “they,” I mean philosophers, authors, yes, and also scientists (nobody says “I’m a scientist,” like Quincy M.D., I know), artists, basically anyone attempting to interact with humanity or life itself, anyone trying to solve the problem of humankind, or even artists, students of human nature who try to soothe this savage breast with beauty. They all work off of some great, vague antagonist, some central problem with so many names as to be nameless and so many features as to be non-existent, not optional enough to name or talk about. Many concepts approach, many ideas at least partially succeed in pointing us to it.

Oh Gawd, here it comes, yes, I’m going to say the words, I promise to try really hard not go down my usual rabbit hole here, or at least keep it short. If I fail, I’ll see you on the other side?

(Spoiler alert, I did not fail!)

One such attempt to define this thing we call Christian original sin, perhaps non-Christian societies have an analogue, the idea that we are born a sort of “bad,” that bad things are to be expected from us, failing some intervention. I’m not saying we walk around with that maxim foremost in our thoughts, I’m just saying that at the bottom of all the detail, after all the life history, after all of our conversation dies down, this is usually what’s assumed to be the nasty bit of reality underlying everything. We try not to let every conversation go dark like that, we don’t think about it very much, it seems pretty clear that it’s unproductive, whether we actually believe it or not, it’s the end of the logic, the end of the conversation, bah! Human nature.

Certainly, the atheist contingent of this Christian society has an analogue in slightly more evolutionary language, something like the beast within.

Before those ideas and existent still in art and life, however, is an idea more like fate or the Fates, this is more what the thing seems like in a novel or other dramatic work, it seems original sin and such are not required in fiction, fictional villains do not require reasons or excuses, they are provided as the reason and the excuse for the story already, generally. Longer or deeper stories may still invoke some theory as to why the villain is the villain, and then we’re back to our theories about real people.

When we’re looking at authors, especially the ones we call thinkers, looking at the arc of their lives and their works, we can sometimes see what sort of metaphor they used when addressing this thing. Certainly Dostoevsky ended on original sin, of course, along with many from a Christian culture, modern biological voices seem to go with some iteration of the beast within, I’m thinking about Sapolsky, “we are half this and half that, predator and prey, bestial and civilized.” Often we simply see the empty space, the artist as simply artist, depiction and not explanation, think Bob Dylan’s attitude, maybe the Coen brothers’ films, not always nihilism, sometimes just the very best sort of science, dispassionate exposition, recorded for possible future interpretation, when better ideas become available.

It’s a bit of a leap of faith for me to try to do what I want to do here, I worry a little that I’m just another Dr. Frankenstein, messing with what we are not meant to mess with. If I name this thing, will I end art? If we lose war, do we lose, courage, valour, honour, all that is good about us?

Can you imagine what it would be like if while on a philosophical pondering walk, considering just this fuzzy, opaque thing, you happened to catch sight someone pouring barrels marked “the invisible thing that hurts us all” or “fate” or “original sin” into the water supply? It would instantly be a different world. The next person you saw shaking their fist at God and asking “Why?” would be a different experience for you from all of those you saw before. It’s . . . artificial? Human made?

That’s one shock that might bring, sure, but carrying on with this elaborate, uh, metaphor, suppose that after this, every time you pass the water tower, those people are there, adding the stuff, and you start to realize they always were there and before the cistern, they used to put it straight in the river? Now it’s the same world again, only different for you, imagine every time you talk to someone, see some television, read a book, that it quickly becomes clear that no-one else has seen the people and the barrels and what’s going on with the water?

The experience of madness, to be sure, but always, and only, ever?

These thinkers, these polymaths and geniuses – and maybe a few simply lucky ones like me – what they managed is impressive, brilliant theses about the world starting from nothing, the same as the rest of us and working around this thing, making their deductions while having to treat almost the entire basis of human drama as an unknown, as a huge black box exercise, half of the story always only guessed at. It’s amazing the feats of thought with this giant handicap placed on us all – while I’ve been the prima donna, giving it “I can’t work under these conditions,” ha.

Since we’re deep in the philosophy fantasy here, I should say more clearly, I can’t work under this episteme.

So, I just won’t. I’ll shatter it instead.

Many embrace the invisible thing.

Not all who call it this embrace it, I think Foucault stopped loving the name before he applied it to the thing, but many call it power. This was Foucault’s arc, from my unique take on someone else’s summary, from playing with power sexually etc., to seeing it as the currency of society – hard to argue, with that definition – and blaming humanity’s dark creativity on the power, perhaps the seeking after it? Perhaps not. He defined the modern era as having sort of socialized power, having spread it around compared to past days of monarchies, which, not far from me and AST there, I too think the problem has been socialized, we’re all doing it. For me, though “seeking” power and glory and such, these are not motivators, I think Foucault had just this difference with Nietzsche himself, these are hobbies for the privileged, not basic motivators – certainly a few steps from biology, it would seem. I’m not clear, as you see, that he thought of it as a bad thing, in fact he had positive roles for power maybe, so I don’t think he replaced original sin with it somehow, it’s only clear he settled upon the word, power, perhaps not moralizing about it at all.

It seems a little clearer that he didn’t replace original sin with abuse like I do either, though. At least in the prison one and the madness one, it sounds like passive voice stuff, conformism, marginalization, impersonal sounding processes, and I think the passive voice indicates the void, the unnamed thing in it’s unnamed state. Of course, I mean when it’s sincere. Passive voice can also simply hide a conviction we’d rather not share (like a straight up belief in original sin, or at least for you and your people if not for themselves and all people).

So if all that marginalization, normalization and conformity were simply depicted and not explained early on by Foucault in a passive voice, it seems fair to say that his power ideas are what he developed to fill that void, and I’ll say, he’s a Brother From Another Mother for me, he comes as close as absolutely anyone to beating me to it.

But damn him for all eternity for giving it the fascist’s favourite word.

You tell a spanked eighteen year-old boy/man that the secret to life is power, no wonder we blame Nietzsche for the previous major outbreak. And who reads those guys anywhere but at school, at just that age? Circular, I guess. They do because of that word, don’t they?

I want to do this, just this, those guys’ method, Foucault’s archaeology or genealogy, to a few more thinkers, show their treatment of the invisible thing at the centre of human life, the arc of their seeing it, but perhaps this will be long enough and perhaps if I find someone else that seems instructive they deserve their own blog, and not to be an appendix. I gave one social critic’s, and blurbs for one primatologist’s and a few artists’, there are plenty more thinkers, but there aren’t many more takes on this thing anyway.

There it was, right there, two paragraphs up! It’s not a secret what I think.

I think the unnamed thing is the spanking, abuse in all its forms.

Think of it as a path to power, if you like nouns for answers, like “power.” Personally, I’ve been thinking about it as a misguided path to “security,” myself, makes us sound nicer, like we’re on defense, when I want a noun to end a sentence about it with. OK, past tense, I had been thinking defense, but I’m letting go of that, I’m thinking aggression these days, but I still think power is too big a word to have meaning. It pretty much just means ability, or capability, that’s not a thing you can toss around or argue about or solve for. “Security” still works for me, as long is has the ironic quotation marks around it.

The main thing is, though, to think of abuse as that great, invisible problem no-one can name or even see, rather than to think of it as the solution, because, surprise, that’s why you can’t see it, you’ve got it labelled wrong.

I want to say, before I sign off, I’m not so cold.

Breaks my heart, thinking of us all banging our heads against this problem and not being able to name the monster, especially when I know the person I’m seeing fighting blindly against it is a sensitive thoughtful sort, someone really trying to work it out for us all, so many of them, of us. It’s both a personal and a universal human tragedy. I’m guessing Foucault left his own abuse aside, as we do, surely that was “only” a personal problem, and not to be included in any serious studies.

You know? I know you do.

 

Jeff

March 12th., 2020

Unrelatedness Theory

Unrelatedness Theory

 

It’s something I hadn’t considered, not really breaking one of my rules to miss it, but definitely failing to apply a test I often brag about – flipping an idea upside-down, learn what it is better by seeing its reverse. My theoretical reader must know all the names I’ve been using, AST, Murphy’s Law of Nature, ‘the whip and the human response to it’ in the latest – well, this title is only saying, maybe all I’ve got is existing theory in reverse language? Self doubt is good for folks who are trying to pass themselves off as “thinkers.”

If relatedness theory is how altruistic behaviour decreases with genetic distance like light in spatial distance, then unrelatedness theory would be how antisocial behaviour increases with genetic distance, same, same?

Except at first glance, that creature looks very different on its back!

First of all, it’s true enough in its most extreme terms, lethal conflict, it’s mostly the unrelated we hunt and kill, sure.

Second, though, it rings a lot less . . . obvious. In negative relief, we are talking about causative things: antisocial behaviour is a powerful thing in the world whereas “prosocial behaviour” is mostly only the absence of hurting and killing behaviour. Psychologically, again, this from The Nurture Assumption, which, I know, but that was supposed to be a compendium, socialization researchers have failed to find much evidence in development for prosocial nurturing.

Further to this, the world could be full of unrelated people that never know about or feel our antisociality, while our closest relatives do indeed feel it, right? In this sense, in my usual immature accept nothing until I figure it out myself way, I submit relatedness theory is descriptive, but sort of avoids the negative causality, AST says it’s the antisocial stuff that is what explains what’s going on. I mean, I assume relatedness theory doesn’t talk about it, because I have yet to hear my AST idea echoed back to me from literally anywhere (and also I bounced the kernel of my theory, abuse for war, off of Bob and he didn’t respond with any familiarity about it). In the starkest terms, I think the prosocial fact that your mother didn’t eat you explains your existence; I don’t think it explains who you are. It’s the nasty stuff that happened to you that explains who you are, the antisocial stuff and your response to it.

Close relatives are proscribed from lethal aggression, mostly, that’s relatedness theory in extreme and we will risk or spend for others based on their share of our genes, that’s it among the living. I think there is a suggestion or more that beyond a certain distance, that is not your tribe, somebody thinks a natural village extends to third, maybe fourth cousins, and some number, a hundred, a hundred and sixty? I think this means the arithmetic doesn’t add up to enough interest beyond that, eighths or sixteenth shares aren’t detectable enough or something, family resemblances disappear? No, just the other family’s traits dominate, I guess.

Caveat – I probably picked most of that up in the Blank Slate, and while I was savvy to any obvious political crap from Pinker, I may have been fooled about more scientific-sounding stuff. Half of the above paragraph was in the form of a question because it does sound a bit male-shady.

So I keep coming across the idea of the residential schools, and of less genocidal boarding schools, and I’d decided that they are a workaround, a place for children to abuse one another and/or be abused – all by unrelated people, all bussed or flown in from all over, a workaround that defeats relatedness’ protections to allow for some serious abuse in the name of a larger than the aboriginal’s relatedness limited size group’s interests and conformity. If we didn’t know what resulted from this already, we could simply process the ingredients, what might we expect from a population engaged in self abuse sort of thing, and then perhaps begin to guess what that society’s interests are.

My guess isn’t different from the mainstream’s guess, competition, conflict, war. Listening to some stuff about Foucault lately and I will say that I wish to show this fight to be contingent and not universal, our fighting natures to be a matter of free will and not any iteration of an innate limitation. So, not necessarily and inevitably, but this large group social abuse serves a lifestyle of conflict, it seems to be the point of it.

I think in words. Not pictures (I wish), and not numbers (I also wish) – I literally had a recurring nightmare as a child of numbers, single digits, flying at me out of the dark and it terrified me! But I had this idea when the Covington kids got famous, in words, and it just struck me today, this aspect of AST probably has exactly the same arithmetic in inverse, the law of inverse squares – the more stranger genes you have, the more available you are for use and abuse, for obey or die authority, the bigger your share of stranger genes from mine, the less your individual value. The more all your value is your group value – in its purest form, conform or die, what use is a non-conformist with none of your genes? Did I just explain racism, like a real explanation of why we would want to be that way? Again, not just because we don’t feel “prosocial” towards others, but because our entire lifestyle is predicated on the existence of a vast unrelated pool of humanity to use and abuse and so keep the nation ready for war?

I think so, but I must be mad if I think that wasn’t already explained?

Ah! If that seems wrong, if some of our very closest, our children are getting some of the worst abuse, maybe again, the causality is in the negative – my child may be my closest relative and my genetic future – but in some senses, maybe more recently than in the far past or something – in my family, in my tribe of only a very few individuals under this roof, my child is still not myself and still the furthest from me genetically that is on hand, and so the most available for use and abuse. We don’t all qualify to host foreign exchange students – bazinga.

Wow, ouch.

Tell me how the positively worded version explains that? I haven’t read it all, but my sense from life and everything I ever heard or read, I think our collective answer has been some version of original sin: without these “prosocial feelings” among our relations, all that war is . . . automatic. Right? This meme exists somewhere between ‘we all have it,’ and ‘it’s what the bad guys of the world want you to think, that’s for sure.’ A contingent, presented as a universal, but reinforced constantly, just in case.

That last bit was my clue.

OK, I know this, beating the snot out of you is indeed more prosocial and less antisocial than stuffing and roasting you – not untrue, but again, the entire world of living, as yet un-killed human beings’ suffering the antisocial side is left unexplained, unaccounted for, and the entire branch of science marches on pretending it never happened and never happens.

Then this “social science” stuff comes out of nowhere, unconnected to biology and “hard science” and with an entirely different set of rules and methods, unconnected, because the connection is this entire thing, a history of pain and abuse that we’ve labelled prosociality and even “altruism” – “self-domestication,” is the latest label. Of course systems of knowledge are also systems of denial. (Insert my usual meme that someone has hijacked the obvious link, “EP” to poison it and salt the academic Earth where it should be so that it can never grow again.)

It’s hard not to feel you’re right about something when the line of thinking keeps being productive, keeps overcoming apparent obstacles with some ease and explaining more and more, in a more consistent fashion than previous theories. Murphy’s law though, both ways removed – I wish it weren’t all true.

So this goes to my main project – curing human aggression and war, why not?

I assume, since I’m saying that humans use unrelated humans to antisocialize their children – OK, now I’m saying it – working around their natural tendency to not want to, then this must ramp up as a group grows and continues to grow beyond the usual, natural limiting factors of size. It seems there would be a formula for it, the percentage of the population of a given group that is beyond the natural protections of relatedness –  zero percent for a group alone on an island or something, whether two small groups merged, fifty percent, or whether this civilization has progressed to tens of thousands, something upwards of ninety percent?, perhaps some threshold between, with a knowable relation to a propensity to war?

The formula for human critical mass, of a sort?

I assume Bob has some arithmetic for this, in the positively expressed version, same related to unrelated ratio in a population sort of thing . . . ? All this arithmetic makes a case that the pressure of population drives us to war, and again, that may be familiar, but it’s not automatic, and exactly this equation points to us working to drive one another mad not merely by our presence, but by our intentional, if not fully conscious behaviour.

The existence of structures that function as pressure valves, the voyeuristic violence of sport and fiction, this does not prove that the pressure was organic or natural – in fact, most pressure valves are for artifacts, not natural phenomena. We say “opiate of the masses,” and yes, but there is amphetamine in the water: we create the pressure and control it, setting it just where we like for our lifestyle, at a level where we’re always ready to “defend” ourselves.

It seems so simple – if you can have the conversation at all, if you can make this possibly schizotypal leap with me, that abuse is a thing, a currency, an all consuming human technology that has brought us to the brink and probably beyond, not an accident, not “not what we meant to do, but thank goodness it doesn’t affect us,” no.

Not at all.

I think that makes nine this short month, a new record, and a bad sign.

 

 

Jeff, mostly from

Feb. 29th., 2020

 

So by flipping the causality upside down, by not obsessively focusing on the prosociality and looking instead at the antisocial treatment of non-enemies, what changes is rather than explaining large cities and large societies as some rollout of our good sides, we can sort of redefine what a society is.

In theory, we can stop fooling ourselves that the thousands and millions people in our modern groupings have been brought into our moral circles, surely the author and authors of relatedness theory weren’t ignoring that our moral circles end at around our fourth cousins, that was their contribution. This extrapolation from there to our society isn’t Bob’s, it’s probably just National Geographic’s or something, a social meme at this point, but I think the replacement idea in this blog is that we can call a modern large society an antisocial group and be a little closer to the truth than to call it a prosocial one.

The technical advance in it, the civilizational advance, do we say that? – is that we gained a usable, unrelated pool of humans, something between friends and enemies, for whatever purposes such a thing can be used – like to harden one another’s children for the never-ending war effort, and for war generally . . . OK, I need help. I’m trying to remember other reasons, think of other reasons we would like that, and I’ve been in this mode of thought too long, I can’t turn my imagination elsewhere.

Does the prevailing narrative address this? Why did we bunch up into such huge groups, what am I saying of course they did, but never mind. It’s no doubt war anyway, but just without any choice on our part and without any talk of child abuse or any abuse. For animals, there is prosocial and there is dead, mostly. They fight, of course, but the losers of the fights are often not long for this world, I do not see a plan for sustained abuse there – of course to agree, you’d have to agree with me that we in fact have such a plan, and that’s too close to a circle for an idea that doesn’t already enjoy some popularity, I won’t press it. AST is a mode of thought, like evolution, like a school of psychology or something.

Trying to say, living, breeding victims of violence are what we’re studying when we look at human beings and to trace their development to a simple binary condition, live or dead, existing and breeding or selected out is to miss the entire subject.

The evolution of abuse and of humanity under abuse.

That’s where it’s at. Come on.

 

Jeff, extended and updated

March 9th., 2020

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/

😉

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

Workarounds

Not motivated today, this will be short and bitter.

(Update: motivation showed up to derail this. Now it’s middling long and bitter.)

Been reading or listening to Trivers talking about the awful issue of what are called “honour killings” of women in some cultures, families making examples of their own daughters to enforce family or sect marriage rules. This, at the very first glance seems counterintuitive to social theory and relatedness, parents killing their offspring, but he makes the case that the practice thrives where all the families and so daughters are so related to one another that relatedness rules are actually held, and parental genes are not actually lost, copies are everywhere and your nieces carry as many of your genes as your daughter. So one’s own children are discounted, to employ the evo/economic terms used in this awful sort of conversation, not worth more than the neighbors’ daughters, hereditarily speaking.

If the example works, then the kids marry the cousins like Dad says, and this genetic situation stays intact, and the Dads can maintain their dominance by the most brutal means, even over their own children, with “no genetic conflict.” Bob didn’t say anything that sounds so glib, I don’t think. He’s trying to help these women.

What he’s uncovered is a workaround, one of the human technologies for us implementing a system of ubiquitous abuse that no other creature seems to be trying, and if social relatedness theory is the “natural” order of things, then finding a workaround, evolving a way to abuse and even kill our own offspring – I know everything is “evolved,” everything is “natural,” but isn’t this a natural, evolved phenomenon that clearly works against nature, against a bigger, better nature?

A workaround, for nature?

That’s not different than saying a workaround for reality. You start creating workarounds for that, this is where you are going wrong! No?

This is how social realities are our realities. We have worked around reality and nature so well that we are not safe around our parents – again, not a mainstream situation in nature, not the real nature. Real nature is more like Bambi, isn’t it? Mom loves you, never beats your ass (and dies young, predated)? I’m trying to imagine a backstory like that for myself, it would be a happy sort of memory. Ok, I did. I don’t remember Mom whooping me, but she was pretty normal, I’m sure the other kids got it. I do remember her walking away a couple of times, probably in the worst of circumstances.

Bob speaks my language.

I’m from Vancouver, and I like to half joke that I only feel at home when it rains, but somehow I feel closer to home when I’m reading Bob too. It’s workarounds I’ve been sorting through too, right? I harassed the poor man until he had to answer me, and when he asked for the short version, I said parents beat their kids to make soldiers of them, and he said “sounds whacky to me,” and I have since figured out he meant relatedness, and where I was maybe mostly wrong was I was missing the workaround.

It’s the children’s group, the teachers at the schools, other adults, the police . . . we have plenty of people to abuse, intimidate and maybe kill our children for us. Residential schools, boarding schools, military schools. In the aboriginal style village, maybe the children’s group has third and fourth cousins – and they can sure enough beat you into conformity if your parents won’t, but when communities get larger, opportunities multiply. In this way, our children can be toughened up, hardened and sharpened for war or crime without all of us having to deliver the beatings personally and suffer the relatedness conflict directly and personally. Of course, our antisocialization works better and is more thorough when it’s everyone in society getting their kicks in, and it’s not just some personal battle between you and Dad.

Having said all that, though – Dad is part of everyone, and it’s not whacky to say he’s getting his kicks in too, that there are clearly workarounds at the personal level too, so my time of chastisement about this is over, Bob. Maybe not all of them, but, yes, parents beat their kids to make soldiers of them. Not saying consciously.

Not saying they all join the army – many are gang soldiers of some sort, many are ruthless capitalists, there is no shortage of battles to join. I say this with more confidence now, knowing that conflicts with relatedness theory are not any sort of deal-breaker for Bob, that in fact, therein lie whole fields of study.

I will say, Antisocialization theory lacks the genetic clarity of the honour killing theory. Cloning all your tribe’s kids so you can make examples of a few and maintain a rule of terror, that’s got clarity, no kidding. If there are identifiable genetic pieces to my puzzle, evolved abuse, alleles that respond to an abusive environment, I sort of assume all humans have them; I don’t think there is going to be a breeding explanation.

I’m afraid it’s the war explanation, the damned game theory explanation: this is a group level phenomenon. We abuse for the dominance or survival of the group. It’s a trade-off, a workaround. We sacrifice everything, even our children, for the war effort. I’m talking about inter-group conflict, and we’ve seen it with the chimps and humans of all sorts, whole groups wiped out. If genes enjoy a greater survival among a group at all, then those genes’ existential threats are only threats to the whole group, why wouldn’t an adaptation exist for that survival critical problem, or any number of adaptations?

Our gene-groups are living in competition with one another, one on one at that level, so to speak, and we see one on one competition among large organisms producing all manner of weaponry and defense and adaptations, some creatures grow enormous during these tournaments, some quick and devious – evolution produces variety.

So why not one mammal that has developed a workaround for mammalian nurturing to enhance its weaponry?

There is some love, something that brings a social animal together, some safety that we assume starts or keeps group creatures in their groups, some prosocial benefit, safety from predators mostly, to be sure – but there is some hate, something that limits group size and stops the growth of the prosocial network – I’ve just learned in Folly of Fools that xenophobia looks like an adaptation for parasites, that every region, maybe every group has its parasites and its adaptations to them, its immunities, and it doesn’t have them for the parasites a distant stranger carries with them, so no strangers!

That seems reasonable, but avoidance would be the thing then, and perhaps not aggressively seeking these other-infected neighbors out, exposing ourselves to their blood and fluids – and eating their brains to gain their powers, LOL. Wait – double laugh maybe. If they have toxoplasmosis, maybe you really do gain their fearlessness doing that! Perhaps there is parasite avoidance along with parasite seeking. I mean, sexual attraction sure seems prone to be full of parasitic wishes, if it’s not what it’s for, well it sure works, boy howdy. So, no, xenophobia is not an adaptation for parasite avoidance – damn, I have to go back and check if that’s what he said or if I interjected that – but parasite preference. Again, avoidance would mean flight, not fights.

Fights would be more like parasite acquisition raids!

If that is a possibility, parasites both pushing us apart and pulling us together, then I’m going to imagine that as a lot of interesting detail that for all I know cancels out and my antisocialization adaptation probably still works with entirely different suites of parasites and human genes anyway. Microscopic stuff is interesting and important for how it affects us, but lots of stuff way up here at talking level affect us too, or we wouldn’t spend so much time talking about those dirty, infected neighbors.

Oh my God, he must have said that, I am busting my hero as an evil evo-bro. To be clear, the point he was making was different, it was that there is a direct correlation with parasite load and number of (isolationist?) religious sects, that in the tropics, where parasites are more numerous, so are religions, and I can’t complain about that – this generalization, xenophobia as an adaptation that perhaps was a more casual observation, and I’m going to read it again, but I’m not even sure he suggested that it works to keep away foreign parasites, only that perhaps it is why we try.

But again, surely, if xenophobia has you going to their land, seeking them out, drinking their blood, stealing their food, livestock, women and children and raping who you leave behind and alive – are you really trying to avoid their parasites? LOL. I suppose acquiring a new parasite and acquiring immunity to it happens together, if at different speeds, but if immunity  can be viewed as a “power,” then maybe there is something to this head-hunting ideology after all, eat them, gain their immunity. Aboriginal wisdom, Good Lord.

Busting your hero is supposed to be your bar mitzvah, right, a triumph, not a sadness? I know, a rare case, a casual lapse and not the point of the thesis. Low hanging fruit.

Impossible not to think of it as a Freudian slip, though, some sort of ugly bias. I may owe someone on Twitter a most humiliating apology. What was the previous theory?

Oh yes, human groups limited by the law of inverse squares, that beyond your third or fourth cousins, we stop recognizing our own genes and start seeing the majority other’s genes instead, that family resemblances fade as genetic interest fades. I seem to be missing the part where lack of interest becomes an intense interest in eating them, though, that “lack of interest” equals hostility, that is an unconscious bias I am trying to understand and combat – same one contained in the perceived slip discussed above.

So, back to my search. There is some hate also, that ensures our safe human group is not one safe, global human group, some trade-off we make for the group that makes it so that where the love isn’t, hate is. The safer we are within the group, the more dangerous it becomes to step outside of it, what seems a normal, perhaps infantile, prosocial desire for safety immediately becomes a murderous kind of security, a scorched earth sort of policy.

I don’t take it for granted. Brutal, violent nature is not obvious to me.

What has been granted? What is obvious? Anyone who has ever experienced ten minutes of peace with another human being knows that it’s possible, that conflict is not necessary and obvious. I am slowly asphyxiating, turning blue waiting for the oxygen of a science for which our initial condition is not one of senseless, automatic, unstoppable violence – one of Christian Original Sin, basically – some science where that perception warrants an explanation.

I mean, of course we think that’s the background for everything, we would think that, we’ve been antisocializing ourselves for maybe five million years, we’ve been making a point of nurturing and growing the genes that think exactly that – but intelligence doesn’t start with us. If you want to understand the world, you need to take a better perspective than yours! You have to imagine what would happen when the particles collide when you’re not watching, when you’re not part of the action.

 

 

Jeff

Oct. 27th., 2019

Jeff

Oct. 27th., 2019

Your Outsize Cranium

I believe the usual theory about why humans are so different goes to this outsize brain, isn’t that right? I’m going to talk about that although David Suzuki made a point in the Nature documentary about the latest Tyrannosaurus data that bird brains are very dense with neurons compared to ours and that the amount of real estate your brain occupies may not be as indicative of processing power as we think. He said birds are very smart, and the apparently small-brained dinosaurs, especially predators, were likely also quick on the draw. But we aren’t suggesting we outsmarted birds or lizards, just the other ancient chimps, so the volume of sand your cranium can hold is probably meaningful. I guess.

The theory of that, as I understand it, at least in our current, rather male and war-centric origin story is that the selective pressure for that brain to grow so was nothing other than us, other people, or other groups of people, and our conflicts with one another. A Red Queen’s game to be sure, all of us driving up our hat sizes to stay competitive, just to stay in the race, running in place.

So what comes next is a dualism.

On the one hand, our conflicts are sort of boundless, everything is in play, so to speak, and so these expensive organs have adapted to use everything, meaning, as Steven Pinker points out (within his job description, I think) that we have a sort of any purpose processor, we can plug many sorts of problems into it and work on them – in theory, even if said problems are not specifically evolved for, like all the new things we have brought into the world, for better and worse. It ain’t universal, of course, but somewhere on the path to that. Perhaps all the real estate is for that module, as Pinker put it, but I don’t think he said so specifically, I don’t think we know that. Do we assume it? I guess.

On the other hand, fighting is fighting. On the other hand, if conflict grew this thing, then maybe that’s all the damned thing does. That’s what selected it, that’s what grew it, fine, that’s all in the past, we say, Pinker says, maybe.

But surely that’s not what the bloody thing is for! Is it?

What I’m saying, what I’m always trying to say is, if it is, if that’s what it’s for, then we need to know that and factor that awful setup into our thinking. Conflict isn’t what is going to get us out of the present mess and it’s never going to get us to a better way of life, not the first tiny step towards the utopia if we just keep letting it do what it was made to do, if that’s what it was made to do. Plus –

What if, and this does seem the most likely, what if they’re both true?

What if all that real estate is the free-floating, general purpose processor, and it’s just us choosing to use it for almost nothing but our fights?

Wouldn’t that be a sad state of affairs. Well, wouldn’t that have been a sad state of affairs, I mean. But what if we had the choice?

 

Jeff

Sept. 15th., 2019

 

If that were what it was for, or if we believed that, if that was all we used it for, then I suppose intelligence and fighting skills would all look the same to us, aggression might appear intelligent, duplicity might, treachery might – anything that wins a fight would be “smart.” Of course anything that didn’t would be “stupid.”

I get it. Letting yourself be killed probably counts as stupid.

Problem is, all peace is in that category. Peace is going to require some surgery, we have to separate your libido from your amygdala – and your aggression from your intelligence.

 

Jeff

In the Beginning

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

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

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

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

I meant to do that.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Jeff

Aug. 31st., 2019

Your Biological Goals

Some thing I keep losing, the thought I never get around to somehow, is this, for the warriors, for the Nazis: what I’m saying, AST, the conflicts, the wars – these are the goals, the goals of your biology, they are not a means to any end, the journey is the destination, the middle of the war is the victory this function seeks. The goal isn’t racial purity – who needs a Nazi soldier in a pure world? Then who would you kill?

The goal is the fight, eternally.

Many of us already grasp that one of Nature’s goals is not ours: maximizing your breeding. Many humans find their lives improved by getting free of that primate drive to whatever degree they can, I certainly have, and getting free of that will take some reason to exist away from the warriors of the world – but why can’t we see that’s the attitude to take with our natural urge to conflict as well? I mean, we think we do, and we do have some little success at it from time to time – but this is where I come in, where Antisocialization Theory comes in, what do we try to stop the fighting, punishments and abuse? And when that’s not working, then what, more of it?

I am objecting to this idea of morality as I acknowledge it: this is the stupid, violent behaviour we have that we have been calling morality forever. It doesn’t stop the fighting; it is the fighting.

Racial purity is the most impossible, most evolutionary uninformed concept ever voiced, the opposite of evolution, which is variation – so it’s an adaptive fiction, just keeps us in the fight. The purple ones hate the orange ones and the orange ones persecute the green ones  – the point isn’t which colour is better, even for the racists. The point of the ideology is life is a fight, we need to be fighting and killing somebody, and skin colour is such obvious and easy criteria, like God gave us team uniforms.

They want to choose their victims by race, we say “racist.”

They want to persecute LGBTQ folks, “homophobic.” (I have issues with aggression labelled as fear, seems the homophobes chose their label themselves, but it makes the list with its Newspeak name.)

I swear to God, maybe y’all don’t see it – but you are arguing about who we should persecute and kill all day long and the selection process is not the point, the point is by doing so you’re still allowing that we must kill somebody, like the haters are allowed to hate, they’re allowed to go on their rabble-rousing missions until we all decide, wait, no – save those folks. We like them.

You wanna be a wild, snarling animal like you portray your targets, fine, but don’t pretend there’s any end to justify the means – the means are the end, warrior life is a warrior’s goal. You blaming some “them” for the wars as you sneak off to your secret Nazi terrorist training camp? Biology fools us all.

You hear it all day long from the bad guys, we “don’t like,” “the bible says don’t” – and apparently for them, the rest doesn’t need to be said. Of course if you “don’t like” someone you have to kill them! This is what a core belief is, the one everyone has so you can never even know it’s there. We just argue about who gets the treatment, and honestly most of it is “my group shouldn’t get the treatment.”

No-one needs the treatment. I’ve often wondered why there isn’t a coalition of everyone not white and male among the resistance, among the complainers of the world, but as usual, AST brings answers where other theories obfuscate: we all think someone needs to be killed, so no-one is arguing against that, as such. No argument against war and genocide on principle, just who shall it be next? For instance, a lot of decent folks think that’s the solution for Nazis, I mean you can’t talk to the bastards – yes, I’m trying anyway. But seriously, even the nicest of us must hold this belief, because I don’t ever see anyone saying don’t ever kill anyone, ever, for nuthin’.

The real war is the struggle between the war and peace crowds and as long as we’re at war, the soldiers are winning against their own peaceful people. Admit it. If you’ve ever thought that far ahead, you know your war isn’t ever supposed to end. A nation built on war doesn’t retire and live in peace.

 

Jeff

Aug. 29th., 2019