Why Human Nature Matters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Jeff

May 19th., 2020

The Circumcision Angle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Jeff

April 21st., 2020

The Fight

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

Spoiler alert, re: The Expanse. Sorry.

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

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

Everything is a fight.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Deep breaths.

 

Jeff

April 17th., 2020

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