How falling in love differs from online dating.
Falling in love
Love doesn’t arrive like a bus. Love arrives as a slow reveal, an awakening, a dawn. It doesn’t take an assigned seat or speak in plain sentences. Love needs propinquity to confidently find its way. Love needs to bump against the beloved and smell them. Love needs to watch the beloved from the corner of its eye. Love is exited eventually when it has warmed to the subject and faced the facts. Disliking the spotlight, love stirs in shadows telling you with urgent whispers that you have become vulnerable to that person with the extraordinary smile.
You will no longer be able to not notice them. As of now, you will worry over whether they notice you. Their face and words, lovely to you now, host uncertainties that trouble your sleep. Typically, at this point, love must pretend it doesn’t exist, at least for a time. This is as graceful as hiding a cow under a sheet. It makes normal life a self-conscious burden. Flirting with your love is as disorienting as a sudden accident where time distorts and details flicker and swoop.
Mostly, love will die on this vine, either tethered to silence or offered and declined.
But when love and love stand naked face to face, desire is the bridge. From both sides to the middle, they run. And something new is born.
An ordinary e-commerce database replaces item color with ethnicity and product description with the story of your heart’s longing to find a home.
Each product describes itself and the product it hopes to find. And in their profile, each product makes their case to be understood and recognized for their divine spark. Each provides photo evidence. Each provides lists of activities and music and food in hopes of being found and adopted by a stranger they will find it effortless to love.
The product runs a query and when enough data points correlate, results cascade or trickle before the querent in rows of common faces, names, ages, and isolated facts. Carol, 47 Speaks English. Laura, 44 has cats. The querying product wanders the matrix-like results looking for something that stands out from the vending machine assortment as somehow, more than a product. And it regularly happens, a certain beauty or quirk distinguishes a profile and we browse deeper. We seek evidence pro and con about the candidate. Are they fresh and funny, does a selfie reveal the honest fat hiding behind the word voluptuous? What do we do with that knowledge? Perhaps we LIKE them, which might be a request for contact or a just a vague seal of approval in passing. All that is left is to either reach out to them or turn and leave.
If we message them and if they reply, and if we survive the labyrinth of failed texting outcomes, ending nowhere in silence, we may achieve a date.
And if we date, two individuals composed of meat and hope find each other on the earth. At this point, we receive a lesson about how little our data points actually count toward the goal we’ve pursued. Our data points felt like investment capital online but here in this restaurant or coffee shop, they are dwarfed to trivia by the God of Chemistry.
Whenever two of us meet, the god of chemistry reveals the truth of our experiment in a court of no appeal. Over that hour or two we take in the truth, adjust expectations, swallow disappointment, and treat each other as we would want to be treated. We sit there at least briefly in the role of everything the other person was praying for and to them we look wrong in that role and the whole thing seems a bit crazy, how real this felt while texting.
“Less well known is the paradox of tolerance: Unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance. If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them. — In this formulation, I do not imply, for instance, that we should always suppress the utterance of intolerant philosophies; as long as we can counter them by rational argument and keep them in check by public opinion, suppression would certainly be unwise. But we should claim the right to suppress them if necessary even by force; for it may easily turn out that they are not prepared to meet us on the level of rational argument, but begin by denouncing all argument; they may forbid their followers to listen to rational argument, because it is deceptive, and teach them to answer arguments by the use of their fists or pistols. We should, therefore, claim, in the name of tolerance, the right not to tolerate the intolerant. We should claim that any movement preaching intolerance places itself outside the law, and we should consider incitement to intolerance and persecution as criminal, in the same way as we should consider incitement to murder, or to kidnapping, or to the revival of the slave trade, as criminal.”
― Karl Raimund Popper, The Open Society, and Its Enemies
A society based on freedom and liberal humanism must value tolerance just to exist. But it must value itself more highly than any culture or alternate system of government if it is to survive. When the Mohamed cartoons controversy arose we were faced with another culture protesting the rules of our own. There were threats of murder, and outraged demands to change our rules on their behalf. Demands to essentially to add a dogma of Islam (not depicting Mohamed) as an amendment to western values from now on.
The west responded with a mix of:
- Cowardice: “OK! Done.”
- Nationalistic grumbling.
- Assholes taunting Muslims by burning Korans.
- Liberal appeasement, which volunteered to alter our way of life because other cultures naturally take precedence.
- Indifference, the deciding vote of many disputes.
- Worry by those who know that there are no take backs when you hand over any part of your autonomy.
The conciliatory impulse when someone is (or even seems) deeply offended is to apologize and seek accommodation. It’s a good impulse because peace is good. In seeking peace you ask what will make it right. The clear message from the Islamic protesters was: “You aren’t allowed to do that, it must never happen again.” Claiming the right in a non-Islamic, free speech culture to determine not only what they see in newspapers but what everyone else sees too.
Many European politicians acceded instantly, deploring the cartoons, many in the media acceded to cowardice really but cloaked as respect for feelings. There have been roughly 200 deaths related to the cartoon controversy since 2005 and anti-blasphemy laws have sprouted up in many places giving more control over speech to those who feel offended. Tolerant European societies began dismantling their foundations partly from fear of religious thugs and partly out of the desire to be nice people and not cause offense.
This hardly constitutes the death of a tolerant culture, but it was surrendering the autonomy of a tolerant culture to the demands of an intolerant one. This is “proof of concept” for Popper’s thesis. What possible polar corollary can we dream up where Europe is offended by an Islamic meme and Islam is sorry and wants to make it right? There is no such situation. In fact, throughout Islamic cultures, things we would find outrageously offensive are common-place: Horrible anti-semitic cartoons are daily fare, hateful denouncements of everything in the west and hope for their prompt destruction is the stuff of coffee chat on TV.
All impulse to appease travels one way, and that is through the hole in our cultural defenses wrought by tolerance. The values we thrive on and hope to leave in place for the future will be further weakened by the culture of being too “nice”. Our cultural immune system recognizes certain hot topics for special handling. We maintain our Nazi defenses, we recognize that this hateful speech is something to be watched cautiously. We also recognize that it would permanently fracture society if we cripple free speech to silence Nazis. The problem now isn’t recognizing an overt enemy but a more subtle one. We are vulnerable on our left flank to the idea that all cultures are at least equal; and that any culture that has suffered insult or injury from the west at large deserves to have a say in our own. The welcoming tolerance of pluralistic cultures must be maintained, yet for it to be maintained it must have limits.
Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote: “We should be eternally vigilant against attempts to check the expression of opinions that we loathe and believe to be fraught with death unless they so imminently threaten immediate interference with the lawful and pressing purposes of the law that an immediate check is required to save the country.”
In other words, it ought to take a matter nearing our imminent destruction to make us consider hitting the pause button on freedom of speech, not the first complaint raised against it.
Dear Boy of mine,
Our last “love and sex” letter/talk went great! By which I mean neither of us said a word about it later, and you didn’t tell me to shut up. I like writing to you and there’s so much I want to tell you. People don’t teach kids these incredibly important things that could potentially make SO MUCH DIFFERENCE in how successful their relationships are. Honestly, it’s almost as if parents, like prank victims, would rather watch the next poor suckers get pranked as well, instead of warning them off.
Despite the feeling that love should always last, you will probably find yourself in and out of relationships like most people. But I do know a few couples who have been together since high school and more who met in college. So without trying to set expectations too high, whatever happens during this time is laden with serious possibilities and opportunities that are not for squandering. Full disclosure, I was a distractable relationship idiot who squandered multiple possibilities for the ADHD driven payoff of exciting new experiences. I loved my wild days but every choice kills other choices and if you kill off too many soulful choices there won’t be any left in the package later. Along the way though, I’ve lived intimately and long-term with women loved and been loved, and learned a lot. My credentials have as much to do with failure as success but that adds a bit of tangy lime, for flavor.
There’s not a lot of hard science in this territory because people are weird and complicated and in a sense, science doesn’t even really know exactly what people are yet. Maybe it’s just that as many things as we can know scientifically about neurology and sex the real experience is like being lowered into a soupy atmosphere of adrenaline and magic where everything matters too much. To be filled with desire IS to be out of one’s depth, our toes scraping for solid ground. But there are a number of things to know that can help light your way and help you understand where you are.
People love differently
There isn’t just one motivation that drives all who love and seek love. So when two people approach each other and frame their experience together as common ground they may be wrong. They may be more like actors from two entirely different plays, interacting in a way that only appears to be part of the same story. Each may be thrilled or disappointed by elements of the story their partner is clueless about. Basically, people have different feelings about what it means to “be in love.” And “In love”, couple love, is my context today.
In commonplace psychological wisdom, these are the love styles that have been charted. These are observed behaviors that are consistent enough to be described as a style. They are useful as lenses to help us observe our actual approach to love and to understand those around us. Really, they are just various aspects of the experience of love itself but concentrated in one area by the comfort wavelength of each person. These styles are like the base note of the psychological perfume and most people are a blend of a main style and a couple of sub-styles. You might also imagine each one having a range of healthy and unhealthy expressions and there’s no better or worse indicated by their order.
1. Agape: Imagine a nearly selfless joy in giving and helping the person you love. Agape nurtures, supports and cares; it is attentive, compassionate and almost parental. When healthy, it’s a self-transcending release from being a needy and lacking thing, to instead becoming a robust and generous thing. This is generous love and it comes with the incredible pleasure of holding nothing in reserve. This love isn’t “Because you’ve earned it “: This love is celebratory and full. “I don’t care if you’ve earned it, I love you!” Agape doesn’t count the change it gets back…it figures things balance out because “After all, I got to love you this much!” Continue reading
How culture tailors human variety to fit its own needs
Human behavior is notable for common patterns …and a predictable range of variations and exceptions to those patterns. Culture is one mechanism of selection.
Humans are meta-adapters capable of evolving and re-evolving strategies to changing circumstances. This is in a stark contrast to the “one trick” ponies, sticklebacks, emus etc, all around us: Humans HAVE a strategy, other species ARE their strategy. Not that our behavior is infinitely plastic. There are baseline human default behaviors that are always on, they involve grouping up, organizing and adapting to each other. Every ecosystem presents us with a unique set of survival challenges and historically, each human group facing these challenges has been small and closely related. Every wandering, exploring group shared a constellation of what we would think of as racial traits partly selected for by their adventures and partly by sexual selection. It may be that the sense of personality or style displayed by any culture is the echo of what was worked out long ago as a survival compromise by their ancestors. Continue reading
Each class has 6 Abilities with a cool down and recharge period or limited uses.
Most credit here goes to Isaac Miller, I made some visuals to showcase his writing.
There are 3 basic abilities, 2 higher level abilities that can be used up to 10 times per game, and an Ultimate ability that can be used twice a game with a five minute cool down period between uses. There is a 1.5 minute warm up before first use.
Brooks Adams believed that commercial civilizations rise and fall in predictable cycles. First, masses of people draw together in large population centers and engage in commercial activities. As their desire for wealth grows, they discard spiritual and creative values. Their greed leads to distrust and dishonesty, and eventually, the society crumbles. In The Law of Civilization and Decay (1895), Adams noted that as new population centers emerged in the west, centers of world trade shifted from Constantinople to Venice to Amsterdam to London. He predicted in America’s Economic Supremacy (1900) that New York would become the center of world trade.
Adams was a great-grandson of John Adams, a grandson of John Quincy Adams, the youngest son of U.S. diplomat Charles Francis Adams, and brother to Henry Adams, philosopher, historian, and novelist, whose theories of history were influenced by his work. His maternal grandfather was Peter Chardon Brooks, the wealthiest man in Boston at the time of his death. He was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1918.
Margaret Chase Smith writing against McCarthyism. A very different time, much like our own.
I would like to speak briefly and simply about a serious national condition. It is a national feeling of fear and frustration that could result in national suicide and the end of everything that we Americans hold dear. It is a condition that comes from the lack of effective leadership in either the Legislative Branch or the Executive Branch of our Government.
That leadership is so lacking that serious and responsible proposals are being made that national advisory commissions be appointed to provide such critically needed leadership.
I speak as briefly as possible because too much harm has already been done with irresponsible words of bitterness and selfish political opportunism. I speak as briefly as possible because the issue is too great to be obscured by eloquence. I speak simply and briefly in the hope that my words will be taken to heart.
I speak as a Republican. I speak as a woman. I speak as a United States Senator. I speak as an American.
The United States Senate has long enjoyed worldwide respect as the greatest deliberative body in the world. But recently that deliberative character has too often been debased to the level of a forum of hate and character assassination sheltered by the shield of congressional immunity.
It is ironical that we Senators can in debate in the Senate directly or indirectly, by any form of words, impute to any American who is not a Senator any conduct or motive unworthy or unbecoming an American — and without that non-Senator American having any legal redress against us — yet if we say the same thing in the Senate about our colleagues we can be stopped on the grounds of being out of order.
It is strange that we can verbally attack anyone else without restraint and with full protection and yet we hold ourselves above the same type of criticism here on the Senate Floor. Surely the United States Senate is big enough to take self-criticism and self-appraisal. Surely we should be able to take the same kind of character attacks that we “dish out” to outsiders.
I think that it is high time for the United States Senate and its members to do some soul-searching — for us to weigh our consciences — on the manner in which we are performing our duty to the people of America — on the manner in which we are using or abusing our individual powers and privileges.
I think that it is high time that we remembered that we have sworn to uphold and defend the Constitution. I think that it is high time that we remembered that the Constitution, as amended, speaks not only of the freedom of speech but also of trial by jury instead of trial by accusation.
Whether it be a criminal prosecution in court or a character prosecution in the Senate, there is little practical distinction when the life of a person has been ruined.
Those of us who shout the loudest about Americanism in making character assassinations are all too frequently those who, by our own words and acts, ignore some of the basic principles of Americanism:
The right to criticize;
The right to hold unpopular beliefs;
The right to protest;
The right of independent thought.
Humans naturally gather together and pool like a liquid to form communities. Culture is the connecting skin that automatically grows over groups of people that live together.
All day, every day we send out signals, respond to cues, and we check for acceptance. We tune and adjust our behavioral frequencies person by person and place by place. We calibrate in real time with regard to any person we exchange signals with. We are walking encyclopedias of cultural standards and sub-routines. We don’t need to consult a book because the book is internal and automatic. The most important thing about the book is that it is automatic. It is the operating system for all the diverse players and situations inside the skin that grew around them as they lived together. The skin defines the boundaries of the self that they have all agreed to mutually be. Inside the skin is the kin: sharing common interests, goals, and loyalty. This is about hearth, home, reality, normality, and self. Culture is the cohesive force that defines any people as one people. It binds and unifies. It is deep within us to protect it if threatened. That desire to preserve the culture is a survival instinct because the community would collapse without it.
We all want to look like a good person: Sane, appropriate and lawful. Every single one of us is doing this all day in every encounter. So the community as a whole is expressing this trait. All communities do. It’s a ubiquitous bottom-up human behavior and therefore a defining trait. In each community patterns of behavior form, woven and endlessly reinforced. Memes of many kinds emerge, in every area of life: Clothing, food, music, sexuality, morality, and then they replicate or die, crystallizing as signature cultural styles. Every stereotype cultural image we have is just an iconic meme of OUR culture imaging that other culture. It’s just a shorthand and shallow summary of that culture we all carry with us. I haven’t mentioned a single example but I bet you can summon up 2 or 3 effortlessly. Those are your copies of that meme. And everyone in every culture has their own version of these things. Coin of the human realm. We tag people with a “You’re Bad!” sticker if they speak these stereotypes aloud and unfiltered. Of course, that doesn’t change anything because the Human Operating System (HOS) has supplied every living soul with this trait, including the next generation and so on. When we use group shaming to enforce cultural sensitivity we are using one trait of the HOS (social pressure) to alter another (identifying outsiders). The HOS is the innate battery of automatic and mostly unconscious behaviors humans display wherever we show up. Culture is the one-off expression of those underlying rules by a local community. Any culture is a SELF, an individual being composed of us, ourselves. We are tiny agents emitting the same-self frequency of belonging together. E Pluribus Unum.
The political debate in the United States has gradually developed a tacit consensus that if ordinary people try to advance their interests they are being self indulgent and childish. Yet advancing the interests of the wealthy and powerful, “the owners” as George Carlin put it, is sensible, mature and realistic. It isn’t surprising since untold millions have been spent to achieve this version of common sense.
Our government has become the agent of the owners against the people of the United States. We pay absurd prices for health care, internet access, etc., because the free market is suppressed by the owners conspiring against us. If our lives are spent struggling to work enough to stay afloat and to keep paying interest on our debt for school or home or medical care, if out our lives are diminished or even endangered it doesn’t matter a shred to the owners. We exist to pay them. That’s why we are here. We are payment units. It doesn’t matter if we are happy or healthy, we exist to maximize their profit.
The owners demand to be in charge of every area of our lives, to make each a service they own and allocate at minimum quality and cost for maximum profit. They want the roads and highways, they want our schools and postal service, they want the armed services and prisons. They own the non-governmental services of health care and insurance and communications and internet access and so much more. They want us to have nothing of our own, nothing independent of them. Nothing will be corrected by “Market forces”. The government is being used by the owners to suppress market forces for the elite. Continue reading
Take a million rats.
Raise them in a strange high tech “ratatarium” full of rooms and environments where every positive experience is profoundly associated with clear cut brightly colored shape pulsing on screens all around. Every wall and ceiling is a display screen. Local events of feeding, play, nurture or sex all generate a clear instance of the specific happy sign nearby. Periodically the whole place is electrified or bombarded with terrifying noises and rumbles. The happy lights are always off during these events, replaced by vivid and consistent alternate shapes and colors.
Never mind how it’s possible, I got a grant.
These million rats have a shared language of symbols. Being rats, they don’t speak of the symbols or scrawl them on things but if one day the system stopped mirroring what the rats were enjoying with a symbol and instead just turned the symbol for food on in one room and the symbol for sex on in another, hungry rats and horny rats would self sort into each room, hoping to get lucky. Hungry AND horny rats would face a dilemma, and my heart goes out to them. Rooms displaying the BAD symbols would empty out. The experimenters would only rarely do this proof of concept, because “false advertising” might diminish the power of the symbols.
I didn’t mention it, but there are 2 of these Ratatariums ©, and each contains a million rats. I have spared no expense. They are exactly alike except that the shapes, colors etc. of the symbols are associated to mean something very different. A warm fuzzy symbol to one group is a cold prickly symbol to the other. A green pentagon to one group means “playtime ending in sex!” while to the other it means “horrible shaking with bang sounds”. Continue reading
The most intractable problems of this jittery moment come from the human sweet-tooth for conflict and excitement. The sweet-tooth is natural, it is good or bad by context. If you are an ancient human and opt to look at the exciting thing, you are better at staying alive. If you are an ancient human and your clan starts getting pumped up over increasing tension with another clan, you are your clan are more cohesive and motivated. In this context the “sweet tooth” is a healthy (pro-survival) relationship to your environment. It’s a bit like our love of actual sugar, fat and salt: That love becomes destructive when these go from rare, random windfalls to a superabundance. When we can have as much of something as we like, we keep mashing the button till we find out how that ruins us. Morbid obesity is what THAT button does. What does this other one do?
Our hunger for excitement and conflict became more complicated when our “news” input went from direct observation and word of mouth to massive information pumps like newspapers that could flood a large city in a day with a single message and point of view. Thousands of opinions could be massaged and tweaked at once. “Yellow journalism” was the click-bait of that time. The radio hit people like a massively purified version of the newspaper drug. Music and voices could hit sweet spots in our monkey guts that letters on paper could only dream about and rather than the isolated one-at-a-time experience of newspapers, radio could flow like a connecting current though everyone in earshot. And everyone was within earshot. Then the television became a cultural charging station in the center of every home. At night we were quietly filled with a homogeneous informational snapshot of the day. Of course we felt more united, any axes we were grinding were not wirelessly communicating with all the other axes. You couldn’t make that world combust because there was no connecting medium of petrol fumes.
The issue now is that we are a different organism as flashing, participating neurons on a network then we were as slow moving, disconnected creatures who got the news from kids on bikes, or in the mail, god help us, or arriving on the TV like a friendly little train at the same time everyday.
The organism we are now is constantly lit up, alert and watching for movement like meerkats on crack. The news equivalent of plasma waves erupting from the sun flare and sweep endlessly across the internet. Our new atmosphere is a highly combustible, volatile medium. The ignition behind these flare ups is mostly outrage, as one group or another does a “football stadium wave” of alarm in response to some stimulus. Tsunamis of cortisol are washing over us 24/7, leaving us feeling hypervigilant and weary.
Why? Because we are idiots who like that sort of thing. We can’t help being idiots who like that sort of thing…BECAUSE WE LIKE THAT SORT OF THING. Part of the rush is certainly negative but part of it is the fun of holding hands with like-minded neurons and cascading as a gigantic wave across the world. It’s thrilling because we are playing with a new level of complexity and connection.
We are a new species variant of human and we are figuring out what this human is, what it does and what it can do.
And because we are the only animal enemy we have left, we are looking for its weaknesses; feeling around for its windpipe, thumbs and eyes.
The danger from this all out competition for eyeballs and clicks is low except where real territorial stuff is on the line. There, virality means masses of people losing control of themselves and losing all sense of proportion. You know, like angry mobs.
“My good friend Dr. Seuss wrote a book a few years ago titled “Marvin K. Mooney Will You Please Go Now!” He sent me a copy the other day and crossed out “Marvin K. Mooney” and replaced it with “Richard M. Nixon.” It sounded like fun so I asked him if I could reprint it. Please read it aloud.” –Art Buchwald, Tuesday, July 30, 1974
Here’s a timely update…
Donald J. Trump will you please go now!
“The time has come.
The time has come.
The time is now.
I don’t care how.
You can go by foot.
You can go by cow.
Donald J. Trump will you please go now!
You can go on skates.
You can go on skis.
You can go in a hat.
I don’t care.
You can go
You can go
On a Zike-Bike
If you like.
(With acknowledgements to Ambrose Bierce)
- America: “When you’re a star they let you do it, you can do anything.”
- Believe me: Subliminal command
- Chaos: The old Razzle-dazzle. A smokescreen for suckers.
- Democracy: This time it’s personal
- Everybody: Fuck them.
- Fuck: Everybody.
- God: A really terrific guy, one of my earliest supporters.
- Hell: Accountability; see also – listening.
- Investment: Lower class whites.
- Justice: When I win, see also, when you lose.
- Kinky: No peeing
- Law: Like justice, but it’s now a rule.
- Marriage: Like ventriloquism, but you don’t have to move your hand.
- Nullify: Obama
- Obama: Trump brand Dog whistle. How I got here.
- Putin: Pappa?
- Qualified: Loyal.
- Republicans: Pussies: I grabbed ’em.
- Seizing: Emergency powers.
- Taxes: For chumps, not Trumps.
- Ubermensch: The one word daddy smiled while saying.
- Very: A tiny amount, possibly none.
- Women: A confusing commodity, overvalued; some contain disgusting liquids.
- Xenophobe: Where to look for great America.
- Yes: Where boredom begins.
- Zigzag: The straightest path between two points.
The PC movement on campus is a mutation from traditional leftist groups. While it shows concern for the same kinds of people and injustices as familiar liberalism, it has very different goals and strategies. It is highly authoritarian and pursues an absolutist egalitarianism where the high are brought low and the lowly rise to power. Where it holds power, it accepts no different opinions or points of view, demonizing any holdout till they either surrender or leave the community.
The most important and dangerous thing about the PC movement is that is that it is a culture virus, a contagious meme, and an extremely virulent one. I’m a liberal and I am in no way endorsing either standard or extreme right wing positions as my alternative of choice. I’m trying to make visible a dangerous social phenomena that could become a cultural and intellectual “Spanish Influenza” for our time. At the very least it can poison healthy institutions and create an oppressive atmosphere of coercion and censorship.
A virus needs a host. A social virus needs a community. This virus causes behavior changes that alter social norms and expectations. Ironically, it elevates the PC group to a high status powerful minority with special rights and powers. It supercharges the social consequences of being accepted or rejected by this group.
To be infected, the host must be a relatively small, self-contained community. In a large enough community, the viral effects are too diffuse to snowball. The community belief system can’t be starkly opposed to the viral version or the initial resistance would stop the virus. The community culture should be cooperative and polite with an aim to find consensus and generally get along. This allows the PC group to blow the doors off community resistance as people hesitate, tolerate outrageous behavior and simply avoid conflict. As we have observed since Trump became president, a bully with power violates social norms and undermines community standards with frightening speed.
The virus exploits human social fears, promoting the infection and suppressing “immune system” response. In this case, that immune response would be from any opposing belief or standards of community behavior that are at odds with the viral behaviors. This social virus affects those inside the movement, but also outsiders.
For insiders, the primary exploits are fears of:
- Not being accepted by the group
- Rejection by the group, once accepted
- Being ostracized, scorned and harassed if rejected
For outsiders, there is nothing subtle about the fears. In-group behavior uses overt intimidation to threaten:
- Horrible public embarrassment, humiliation
- Relentless harassment, knowing it won’t stop
- Job security, reputation, future options
If you are ostracized from the in-group, social intimidation is moments away. The oppressive fear created by this combination pushes group insiders into being more extreme to prove their bonafides. Outsiders witness intimidation by large hostile crowds screaming at a selected victim and understand at once what could happen in they get noticed the wrong way. These ugly tactics make people anxiously toe the line inside the group and suppress empathy and conscience toward victims. Outsiders mostly capitulate in silence if they disagree. The horror facing them if they become targets often reduces faculty, administrators and college presidents into timid, mealy-mouthed collaborators.
Most scary mob behavior is like a tornado. When the circumstances are right, it emerges with a wild, destructive energy, and runs its course till the effect is exhausted. It can’t reproduce or achieve homeostasis and persist. The campus PC movement is mob behavior that can do both. It grows more extreme the more successful it is. Continue reading
Is knowing when and where to stop.
In this article the phrase “class based treatment” refers to behavior directed at all members of some identifiable group simply BECAUSE they are a member: Examples could be women, blacks, Latinos, whites, etc.
Identity politics begins with awareness of an injustice done to a class of people and the recognition that they deserve the same protections and freedoms granted ALL citizens. It’s all about recognizing common humanity and the sacred value of “Equal justice for all”. What’s not to love about any of this? This is all good and ethical behavior. None of this is the problem, and all of this is completely in the wheelhouse of being a Liberal.
An American citizen’s rights are theirs as an individual and when these rights are denied because of race, religion, sexuality or culture, a false filter is being applied. Justice will be done when that filter based on membership in some group is stripped away, allowing their natural individual rights to flow to them, unobstructed. The filter of identity was an illogical red herring containing two bad ideas:
- That rights can be stripped for identity reasons
- That a different identity group with more power can do that, because of course, that is what happened.
My son is leaving middle school and is headed for high school next year. His school had a “Progression Ceremony” for the departing eighth graders. It’s not a graduation, but it is a serious milestone. A summer evening, beautiful outside: Hundreds of parents and separately, hundreds of children, waited in the auditorium then listened to some short speeches by students and faculty over a terrible sound system. Awards were given for exceptional accomplishments, and then, grouped by teacher, the kids were called to the stage by name , one by one. Each group briefly stood together and was cheered and applauded. For a little over an hour.
Part way through the ceremony I realized how utterly profound and beautiful it was to recognize each and every student by name. To literally speak their name loudly announcing their accomplishment before the community. Recognizing them like: “You were here, you affected things, you were seen and appreciated. You persevered to success.” It’s a remarkable moment but even more than that moment for that individual, I was so moved by what really happened AROUND that moment.
In this America, struggling to cohere as a body of citizens, the school pulled a huge neighborhood of strangers with superficially gigantic differences, into one building and warmly reminded them of their fundamental relationship. The principal, staff and teachers reminded everyone of our shared enterprise; a great community, built out of healthy, well nurtured citizens. Nobody would say such a thing out loud of course, but the friendly smiles and chatting as we left reflected a renewed community warmth and openness. It was just one night in one neighborhood but it was important here, and it’s incredibly important that it happens almost everywhere in this country.
I’m so grateful for the public school system even with all my reservations about this and that. Yes it could use some new approaches to things, but the fact that it’s there, slogging through the absurd workload with the absurd budget, is a beautiful thing. It gets the job done as best it can with the sincerest effort I’ve ever seen.
The scam artists who want to sell out public schools for lucrative private contracts, wouldn’t care about the consequences anyway, but they would unstring critical connective tissue holding our country together. They would see the community as consumers and product, not as citizens charged with responsibility for the future.
All of us have a perfect, imperfect thing
that completes the circuits of a life worth living:
Someone too short, or intemperate,
Someone chubby, who never puts away her socks
Someone who doesn’t talk to us often enough
or a little too often
perhaps someone slightly crazy, drunk or bitter
who makes weird noises before sleeping
and ties their shoes strangely.
But without them our whole story would droop, linger pointlessly for a while, and collapse into the swamp.
The perfect thing is the thing we couldn’t live without
because of the way that it is itself
and came into our lives and domesticated us
and we ended up here
inside our overlapping border
where almost nobody can ever go.
The wind blows over
a field of flowers
and a meadow of tall grass
at the edge of a forest
near a city of buildings
Where the people churn like ants
through the needs of the day
and that one wind exists
as a million single blades of grass leaning
and a hundred thousand particular leaves waving this way and that;
as ten thousand thousand individual flowers swaying
and a million people all alone
with the wind in their hair
The original meaning of the word outlaw was a person excluded from the benefit or protection of the law.
“Although humans exhibit strong preferences for equity and moral prohibitions against harm in many contexts, people’s priorities change when there is an ‘us’ and a ‘them,'” says Rebecca Saxe, an associate professor of cognitive neuroscience at MIT. “A group of people will often engage in actions that are contrary to the private moral standards of each individual in that group, sweeping otherwise decent individuals into ‘mobs’ that commit looting, vandalism, even physical brutality.” (MIT Parent Herald When good people do bad things. )
This is intuitively easy to grasp but we are so naive in regard to our apparent rationality that most of us don’t think we would caught up in the madness. The couple pictured here (below) are Jose Ismael Torres and Kayla Rae Norton. They terrorized a child’s birthday party with shotguns and confederate flags and vicious racist threats. The picture links to an article.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying they are lovely people momentarily caught up in madness. I am saying they are kind of shitty people momentarily caught up in madness. She is a mother of two kids and her contrite sobs in court are not simply convenient, at least they don’t sound convenient to me. She’s lost everything; she’s lost her children, she’s done being happy. And at this moment in court she is honestly baffled at how things got so out of control.
She had a pre-existing condition as someone closely aligned with an “ethnic identity” group. She had a head full of terrible ideas years before this but the crucial vulnerability was her lifestyle of pack-bonding with this group and against the outsiders defined as such by the group. It’s easy to imagine she was nasty and insulting to random black Americans all her life but she was probably rather passive, giving the “stink eye”, muttering just above a whisper and such. The peaceable social norms of individual people in public places protected her from herself until she stepped outside of them with her pack to proudly show off the confederate flag only a little over a month after Dylan Root’s Charleston massacre of black church goers. Continue reading
I wanted to talk to you about girls.
But I can’t because you would react like I touched a lit match to your skin. If I kept talking, you’d react like I was holding your head under water.
So I thought I’d write to you about it a little. This way we can both pretend I never said a word.
Girls, women. Females.
Our relationship to them as men, as heterosexual men anyway, is so deep that it has no distance from who we are. There is no US…and then somewhere nearby but separate, this issue. Our relationship to women is a kind of hub to the rest of our lives. We look at them and we see what we hope for and dream of. Sometimes it’s only lust, a fiery urge: sometimes it’s romance, an irreplaceable heart connection to a one of a kind person. Sometimes it’s kind of about who you want to be in this life. Sometimes it’s clear water insight and sometimes it’s a fever dream.
Sexuality and attraction are like nitrogen in the air, they are basic, and forever. You won’t know life from here on without it. There is a longing in the soul to know and be close and there is a longing in almost all bodies to join their essence with a beautiful otherness to make new life, that is like you, and like her and yet new. Making babies is where our single note joins with another and makes a chord. The desire and the love is that chord. I’m unlikely to run out of metaphors talking about love and sex because it is the inspiration for variation and creation. Sex is voting with love for new life.
I don’t mean sex is only about reproduction. Numerically, sex is rarely about reproduction but at the same time, almost all sex is about the possibility of reproduction. It’s always possible and it’s often a silent discussion like “Us? Maybe? Ever? Soon?” Even though there are times that people are oblivious to those thoughts inside themselves, there is something fundamental and magnetic and deeper than ordinary relationship issues pulling us toward making new people.
But rather than drag on about the universal magic in the air, let me tell you some useful things. Continue reading
The scientific model is a glorious invention for exploring our universe. The simple rules, if honestly applied, are self correcting, grounding us always in a testable connection to truth. In establishing any fact, it unburdens us of ignorance about that fact not just now, but forever. It moves our piece that many squares forward. Best of all, new and meaningful questions arise which can be explored from that knowledge. Science fractures the unknown, then explores all the cracks and finds unforeseen goodies everywhere: Telescopes, antibiotics, vaccines, better food. You could say “Like magic!” except, you know…it isn’t. As science got rolling, and gained momentum it also gained the respect that comes from undeniable results.
Science is earthy and practical and performed by people with an improbable and hard to explain love for things like soil or beetles or cancer cells. To the extent that any of us not actively working in science actually “Fucking love science” it’s probably due to the purity, passion and goodness of these nerds. They are the real and lovable thing. (my later complaints about “sciencey culture” are not about these guys) I don’t mean they are all adorable geeks out of central casting, but they have the temperament and interest to patiently keep close company with small simple details of experiments as they change across time, recording them accurately, and leaving a trail that could be followed later. They always understand what the experiment COULD mean in this outcome or that one but they play no favorites, knowing that to do so IS NOT SCIENCE. Therefore there is a core of disciplined virtue within every well conducted experiment. Every honest recording of a disappointing outcome is a public service, promoting the health and strength of the community. There’s no big reward for that, it’s just doing the job as it must be done. How many jobs utterly depend upon carefully documenting and sharing the truth? Continue reading
Let’s get our subject clear by defining the term.
- Meme: an element of a culture or system of behavior that may be considered to be passed from one individual to another by nongenetic means, especially imitation.
- Meme: a humorous image, video, piece of text, etc., that is copied (often with slight variations) and spread rapidly by Internet users.
Memes didn’t begin with Richard Dawkins, Dawkins didn’t raise them and release them into the wild, Dawkins pointed out the existence of memes: He coined the term and the concept. The word meme ITSELF is a meme that spread quickly and burrowed into our collective intellectual DNA. Memes are often described as viral, but why?
Viruses are self replicating genetic mechanisms which are not alive. They must find living cells to highjack and use their machinery to replicate themselves. Imagine a computer virus as a script instructing itself: “Look for places to copy yourself and copy yourself to them. Loop.” Likewise a meme must find a living and communicating host to live and replicate. Memes are contagious human ideas and behaviors. Left at that level of definition it’s too broad. We need to understand the roles they play in the ecosystem of human behavior and establish a taxonomic ranking of types.
The universality of memeing is obvious. We share things on purpose and even joyfully. “Look at this!” It’s innate to share ideas and to mirror behavior. From an evolutionary perspective it makes sense as a way of enhancing survival (hey this plant is good to eat!) both for yourself and someone you likely shared genes with. But just as important, Memeing is critical to defining the cultural “self” of human groups. Every group of people unconsciously begin mirroring each other and a context and a style evolve, mapping out a behavioral grid. We’re very good at catching on to these invisible but obvious rules and sort of domesticating our own style to fit in. The group systematically begins developing stories and injokes that reinforce the culture in miniature. It also starts to establish a dominance scale, cliques, gossip and social outcasts. When we are face to face, this mirroring and blending of styles is at its most intimate and powerful. Teenagers often agonize as they struggle with this new matrix of social complexity, and in this we can see our own exposed heart and how very much it matters. A good bit of comedy involves violating or mistaking these social rules. These are social/behavioral memes but there are many kinds. Continue reading
Or: Why it’s sometimes OK to hate your neighbor.
The apparent flatness and hard edges of the world we see masks a strange, fluid, flickering dimension between humans. There is no accurate measurement of this dimension except perhaps for our ability to imagine it. Since it isn’t our nature to imagine things this way it takes a little effort.
Please imagine an odd idea; imagine that:
Interaction is embodiment
Imagine that people who engage in any way become a corporate organism for that period. These virtual organisms can flash into existence and straight out again with a speed like subatomic particles in a cloud chamber.
Begin: “Hey, is the Courthouse this way?” “Yeah, just a couple more blocks!” And we’re done. Imagine that exchange as a very short lived individual, existing like a burst of flame.
But two other beings might meet up and eventually celebrate 70 years of marriage, and they were a sort of organism too. In marriage we have some beliefs about this corporate organism that run very deep. “One flesh”. It’s a pretty weird sounding idea to sanctify but it’s honored by religious people and atheists alike. Completely secular people get married with every intention of honoring a mystical contract that defines them as a dual entity. That’s because this idea is deeper than science or religion, it’s core human. This composite organism is the couple’s life together… and I mean IT IS the time and energy they share.
Families also have a special status as a kind of group self. When you think of your own family, you can easily feel the very real lines of connection flowing between you like living tissue and often pulling and kinking in uncomfortable ways. We know that we somehow OVERLAP and that this is one of the most important things about us. Our loves and friends and families are a kind of Venn diagram. But the center of the Venn is you. Subjectivity and individual experience define this thing. Continue reading
Someday please tell me your take on our current political thing. But I don’t want you to feel pursued. When you feel like it.
MAR 16TH, 10:00PM
What are you thinking about this political moment? Come on, you can do it. Tell me what this looks like from your side of things.
OK, tell me about Michael Flynn. Did Trump know about his connections to Turkey and Russia? Did Pence? And how quickly and thoroughly should this whole attack on our sytem be whitewashed and forgotten? 🙂 😐 😐 Unless of course her emails are still the big story here…
This is exactly why FB is such a waste of time for talking politics; instead of reasoned discussion, it encourages snarky bumper stickers. Interesting to see that you apparently seem to think that Comey was out there with his Calabash pipe and magnifying glass investigating Trump himself. In the real world, of course, the investigations continue and have produced new subpoenas for Flynn’s associates since Comey was fired. Not to mention the simultaneous congressional investigation. Continue reading
I’ve seen this before, but just thought of it again. A well intended typical interviewer chats with a housewife who has volunteered (after undergoing a battery of psychological tests) to be observed while experiencing LSD.
She quickly begins the classic, indescribable stages of the LSD journey while being asked to translate it back into the word economy. If you’ve been in her shoes, you know that this is like being asked to communicate with gravel.
She absolutely lights up and you can see her confidently and joyfully finding the ordinary world transformed with meaning and beauty. It’s lovely to see her surprised pleasure. She’s a normal nice looking person at first but she becomes radiant. The part with her takes about 5 minutes. It’s the good part. Then there’s a bit you might or might not care about.
I’m so grateful for my psychedelic experiences, I couldn’t appreciate much of anything as much as I do, if i had not had them. I find myself longing for another taste despite the fact that they can be intimidating. It’s a big place to go with information that normal me can find overwhelming. It’s a bit like if you really believed in an awesome god and you had a mechanism to hear him…you wouldn’t pull that switch lightly…or every day.
I think it’s heartbreaking that psychedelics were lumped with uppers and downers and the only access became through manufacturers outside the law. If you liked uppers and downers you could be certain someone was making enough of those for the universe of self medicators aching to go up or down.
But Psychedelics are reality medicine, the sideways elevator to the sacred hilltop in the wind…It’s not usually crowded up there.
I want to go back.
There’s a lot of important information about human happiness waiting to be learned from some molecules wrongly placed on the “Evil things” shelf long, long ago.
Natural does not equal good. “Natural” includes violence toward outlanders and controlling women’s lives. I suspect “100% Natural” is a phrase Hitler would have liked.
Some questions we ought to ask:
- Why is there war? Why does xenophobia appear in every culture? Why does everyone have a culture? Why does virtually every culture come with a religion? Why do most cultures/religions form defensive barriers against each other?
- Why is it so common for people (men and women) in so many different cultures, to feel that they have a vote in how women should dress and behave, but almost never show that kind of concern about men? (The general exception being harassing effeminate men).
- Why are the young predictably liberal, and the old generally conservative?
- Why are liberal and conservative political stances universal within technological societies but always relative to local cultural details? (“I treat my slaves gently, they last longer that way”: Is that a progressive or conservative statement?)
- Why are people predictably kind to the rich and famous…but cruel to the poor? (Spoiler alert: It’s because we’re self interested bastards who do it automatically.)
All of these behaviors are core hardwired human group traits that support a strong and stable primate hive. These behaviors aren’t beautiful or right philosophically, they are bits of scripting preserved by the natural selection of group behaviors. These are traits that helped us out-compete the good, the bad and possibly the ugly, over the last 200k years.
We are virtually blind to our nature as a species because we are so busy being individuals of our species. We are neurologically immersed in the matrix of these behaviors to the extent that they are not noteworthy. We feel like peripheral players at best to the great events of our time even though these movements are composed entirely of peripheral players. The larger picture is composed of us “pixels” forming the colors, shapes and gradients, with our massed actions. And just as a cloud doesn’t exist without microdroplets, human events don’t exist with us. Every notable trend in our world emerges from the scaling up of the actions of individuals who generally feel no personal control over what is happening around them: Most people feel they are just tagging along trying to keep up and riding things out. The mirror of current events is too broad for us to recognize ourselves. It’s as if the sky was a mirror where we could see our city reflected but not our own little face peering up from it.
The behavior of large human groups is almost opaque to us in the same way that a cell knows nothing about the particular body it devotes every moment to supporting. We plug away at our daily business in much the same fashion. For many decades science fiction writers have explored the issues of robots and their programming and the nature of free will. I think it’s one of those ideas that is compelling because it echoes something deep and unresolved in ourselves, a bit like a profound but confusing dream. In a world where the first semiconscious robot has yet to ask if we want fries with that, the subject is clearly ourselves. Are we…free?
Rejection of understanding our species nature …is an aspect of our species nature
To me it’s self evident that every organism works from a script and has a species specific bandwidth of perception and behavioral flexibility. One of the complaints people often raise in opposition to a biological or evolutionary root explanation for our behavior is that it’s somehow insulting. There’s a “Are you calling me stupid?” thing going on here. These people feel that they are being taken down a peg in a rude way. It’s a variation on the old: “You saying we came from monkeys?” even though for Christ’s sweet sake, nobody ever said monkeys! It wasn’t monkeys!
So there may be a religious belief feeling insulted here or simply a recognition that people are so different from other animals that it’s stupid not to notice that difference. The difference in free will and intelligence between most animals and ourselves is obvious, and people pointing out our animal nature sometimes seem to be denying that difference or failing to observe it. This comes across as an attempt to lower humans or raise animals in a way that flattens our human struggles to a futile nothing. Our struggles are towering and awful. We work so hard for our victories. Our own conscious choice and free will appear so obvious to us through our primate eyes that it seems absurd or yes, insulting, to deny it.
However, this sense of having free will appears to be compulsory. Just as there are clear differences between us and the other animals, there is a clear similarity. The baboon can be tender. Dogs and cats (can) show forbearance to the children of other species. Ducks and dolphins rape. Is a fluke worm morally inferior to Paul Ryan? I think you know the answer to that.
We have a difference of degrees from our planetary brethren and not a difference of kind. There’s something perfect about this paradox being blended into our most basic perceptions. I think we should recognize free will as relativistic. We have more than most organisms, but less than we ourselves are capable of imagining. We have LESS freedom than we can imagine. We have more free will in some situations and contexts than others. Through nature and nurture and even just dumb ass luck we will have more or less free will than the random people we encounter through the day. We are free to do anything inside the smallish box we’ve been assigned.
But all of our free will is framed by our species map, and for now, even the most determined attempt to break through the edges of the map will resolve as an illusion: A mystifying Twilight Zone U-Turn back onto the map. “We can’t drive out of town!” Welcome to the Human Situation, population, everyone.
Our ultimate free will will be something we explore and potentially expand with advancing technology, digital and biological. The challenge will be to explore a territory where we are massively programmed with “species specific right answers” that are purely mechanistic and to discover some beautiful truths that aren’t just a means to a strong and stable tribe, with all the cruelty and coercion that attend that. Because in fact, our social primate scripting combined with the megadeath technology we’ve developed is now the most dangerous problem we face. The inner forces that drive cultural competition armed with city killer weapons becomes a “rock, paper, scissors” game with literally EVERYTHING at stake. And as we’ve seen lately, “wiser heads” can easily lose elections to the surging excitement of shockingly selfish and stupid people.
We are in a race to transform ourselves, somehow, into wiser creatures than we even CAN be right now and everything depends on our success or failure. I believe spreading this knowledge, and these sorts of insights about our species scripted behaviors may be an essential element in us outswimming the rip tide and the undertow of that behavior in such an unforgiving age.
These are screen grabs from Saudi television. I know that Memri TV attempts to make Arabic/Muslim culture more transparent to the west but I don’t know how these stack up in terms of intensity. Are they average moments of television or extreme? I can’t place them solidly in context where they belong but I also know that liberal westerners under-imagine the hostility to humanistic cultures and how far outside our norms of accepting diversity conservative Muslim cultures are.
I can tell you you that this is not like selecting the very worst of Christian broadcasting in the United States – this is much closer to mainstream in Saudi Arabia which makes no pretense of loving those outside its cultural signature.
I’ve started making fantasy landscapes. These are all weird hybrid collage/paintings showing places I either want to escape TO or from. There’s more creativity going into making these in the first place than it looks. The starting pieces are nothing like the finish. I’m finally starting to do a lot of painting, Feeling a bit compulsive about it, actually but I’m suddenly coming up with a lot of techniques that seem open doors to cool new places.
or: Deconstructing this strange, stupid moment
Have you noticed that humanity seems to have gotten into the bad acid? Or that reality isn’t itself lately? Traditional limits to weirdness seem to have surrendered and allowed just about anything happen. If our recent political history was a spy novel would you keep reading it? Or throw it in the trash for being provokingly unrealistic ? Trash, am I right?
You’ll be relieved to know I have a theory.
One of the things I ramble on about here is the idea that the human race is technologically self mutating. It’s part of our script to wrangle and then embrace new technology and rather than using it to perfect our old lifestyle, we let it alter us and transform that lifestyle. Throughout our time on earth this pattern has changed us sometimes in hardly noticeable increments, and sometimes with disorienting speed. While the core of human nature remains constant through that history every big technology shift distorts our current cultures and creates unexpected “new normals”. These new normals cause stress and static as we try to sort out what the hell is happening to us and how retain the good part of the change without losing the good of the cultural thing it is changing. Since we are in constant flux there is no pure version of ourselves to return to or protect. Many of the normal things we grew up with were new normals to our parents or grandparents. We typically only embrace technology that gives us something we want but then we suffer and struggle over the weird “Goeswiths” we didn’t anticipate. It’s significant that there is no historical example of us adapting to a powerful new technology, not liking the effect it has on our culture and returning to the way we used to do things. Our way ratchets forward and locks; no take backs.
Cars redefined teenage freedom and liberated our sexuality. They changed socializing and working and vacations. They changed the layout of every towns and city. The economics of cars created enormous corporations and a unionized middle class. Year in and out, cars kill ~40000 Americans and it appears we’re basically all OK with that. Technology is never just technology. Technology is new organs and altered cultures and unexpected results. Sufficient technological change equals a different species. Continue reading
(Not by me, all credit goes to original authors of record – Just filleting an interesting article for the good bits. Link to full article above right. 0
By David Shultz Apr. 22, 2016 , 10:15 AM
A new study, which treats these fables like an evolving species, finds that some may have originated as long as 6000 years ago.
The basis for the new study, published in Royal Society Open Science, is a massive online repository of more than 2000 distinct tales from different Indo-European cultures known as the Aarne–Thompson–Uther Index, which was compiled in 2004. Although not all researchers agree on the specifics, all modern Indo-European cultures (encompassing all of Europe and much of Asia) descended from the Proto-Indo-European people who lived during the Neolithic Period (10,200 B.C.E.–2000 B.C.E.) in Eastern Europe. Much of the world’s modern language is thought to have evolved from them.
To conduct the study, Jamshid Tehrani, an anthropologist at Durham University in the United Kingdom, and colleagues scanned the repository. They limited their analysis to tales that contained magic and supernatural elements because this category contained nearly all the famous tales people are familiar with. This narrowed the sample size to 275 stories, including classics such as Hansel and Gretel and Beauty and the Beast.
But tracing these tales back through time is no easy task. There are scant historical records, and many of the fables began as oral stories that left no written versions. So the researchers used statistical methods similar to those employed by biologists to trace species lineages back through the branching tree of evolution based only on modern DNA sequences.
This approach allowed the researchers to trace certain tales, such as The Smith and the Devil, which tells the story of a blacksmith who makes a deal with the devil in exchange for unmatched smithing prowess, back thousands of years—all the way to the Proto-Indo-European people . If the analysis is correct, it would mean the oldest fairy tales still in circulation today are between 2500 and 6000 years old. Other stories seem to be much younger, appearing for the first time in more modern branches of the language tree.
In a new dispatch, published this month in Current Biology, he ruminates on what allows these stories to stand the test of time. “What really interests me is why these cultural forms exist. Why is it that fairy tales, art, songs, poems, why do these things seem to have such longevity?”
“In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. But, in practice, there is.” ~Walter Savitch
There are many things in this world that are too familiar to be recognized and too obvious to be considered. Commonplace truths that everyone knows and nobody wonders about are often ideas that have been filed according to the automatic presets of the human operating system.
Communism in theory is a happy place where people are protected from economic injustice, free from want, and live in an altruistic egalitarian society.
Why does communism fail? Certainly it’s a virtual consensus that it does.
- It might fail because because it’s equivalent to classical Freudian theory applied to economics and class. It’s a weird made up collection of 18th century assumptions treated as revealed truth by those who’ve attempted it so far.
- It might be because those assumptions are so flawed that they innately fail, and generate an oppressive top down bureaucratic state.
- It might fail because the cultures that have attempted it have been premature, in a primitive aristocrat/peasant reality.
- It might fail because cultures generate a political reality that can only mirror the original culture, whatever it was.
Any of these or any combination is sufficient but it boils down to: The assumptions about human behavior were wrong. So what did the real people do that caused it to fail?
They behaved as people do everywhere at the same general levels of technology and population. Some people were in powerful positions, they developed strategies to remain powerful and profit from power. The people around them saw advantage in supporting this power and helped to protect those privileges. Powerful rulers grew power elites who might as well have been aristocrats. They in turn had bureaucracies filled with people protecting what they had and relishing any kind of insider status. Corruption became a natural part of accomplishing anything and all deals were insider deals.
Most of the population was lower class or proletariat. Despite being propagandized as the heart and soul of the system they had nothing. They were simply the huge pile of bodies holding up the higher levels of the pyramid, doing the grunt work and defending the structure in wartime.
In other words communism fails because there is a dominant economic program already running, the pyramid. The pyramid emerges from the daily choices of human beings. It is a bottom up growth. In communist states it was denied and hidden. A great show rolled on celebrating Marxism/Leninism while the actors within all lived as humans do, counter to those ideals. Communism fails because people are people.
As does capitalism.
Capitalism in theory is a happy place where companies are born to fill needs and everyone wins. Competition insures fair prices and variety. Consumers get what they wanted, entrepreneurs make money, jobs are created, and opportunity spreads. Innovation is encouraged and free markets insure that the best products are the successful products. Win/win.
But in practice capitalism is a place where successful businesses buy influence to crush competition and cooperate with other large companies to fix prices in a direct conspiracy against the consumer and all the supposed virtues of the free market. Ultimately prices are high, variety is what the big companies SAY it is and the richest become a virtual aristocracy, protecting their wealth and power by crushing upward mobility and change. New technologies are held back to protect old ones. The government, completely parasitized by these princes, becomes their agent opposing the happiness and well being of the majority. As is their nature, the majority of the lower classes support them in doing so.
Capitalism is a lie. Almost every description of it is a lie. Every failing of communism has a parallel failure in capitalism. The top down control of markets is mirrored in monopolies, and all policies to protect powerful businesses against competition. Do you think Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell think there’s really anything wrong with the insurance and pharmaceutical companies conspiring against Americans to make costs the highest in the world and completely disconnected from any free market? Do you think Ryan and McConnell think there’s anything wrong with protecting old energy against new? Paul and Mitch are there to insure that companies can conspire against the people. They are there to hinder any moves from the electorate to improve their own lives at any cost whatever to the 1%.
When they tell us to look to the marketplace for answers to health insurance and energy they might as well be corrupt Soviet bureaucrats promising the withering away of the state and a glorious new age of prosperity through hard work. The hypocrisy of working steadily to make things harder for the poor and then chiding them for not being able to afford the prices you protect against competition makes you into something so repulsive that you should be greeted with punches and spitting, not “Good morning, Senator.” To all such politicians let me tell you, you are contemptible traitors to the values you claim. While celebrating the genius of the free enterprise system and declaring it a success you devote your entire career to crushing it.
The nearest thing to a genuine free market would be a market with strict rules suppressing protectionism, cronyism and political representation of great corporate or personal wealth. The reason the powerful balk at regulation of industry isn’t to attain a purer version of capitalism, it is exactly and solely to prevent it.
In Oscar Wilde’s “The picture of Dorian Gray” the titular character is a beautiful, dissolute and privileged young man. As his portrait is being painted he wishes to never age, and that the picture should suffer the consequences of Dorian’s actions, not his own face. Dorian becomes a selfish monster, a cruel and destructive plague on those who know him. To all appearances though, he is a innocent fresh faced young man. Meanwhile, carefully hidden away, the picture keeps a meticulous record of every bad deed, showing Dorian aging and growing coarse, cruel and even slightly insane. When someone else sees the evil thing, Dorian kills him to protect his illusion and his reputation.
In Donald Trump’s world, lacking an inner life and a true self, all ugliness and failure is projected onto other people and all glory and success onto himself. DT doesn’t actually have a relationship with anyone but himself. He lives in a mind that is perpetually unhappy, even whiny. He feels empty and nothing fills him no matter how he gobbles and shoves larger and larger “successes” down his gullet. Each one is a disappointment tasting of cardboard. His internal monologue is about how amazing he is and how he’ll crush any opponents. Other people fall into two basic camps: Those who support his view and those who oppose it. Being rich and powerful he has always surrounded himself with people who either agree with him or see clearly enough to not dare to disagree. Those who are profoundly loyal to him become almost real to him because they have made themselves like a part of him. In this camp we find the insider Trump loyalists but also the huge crowd of strangers assuring him that he can do no wrong. As he stands before them, his world makes sense. It’s as if the air is finally composed of the right mix of gasses. For minutes at a time it is almost…enough.
His behavior would better understood by an alpha baboon than it is by journalists.
When people are strangers and not clearly on one side or the other he finds ways to assert dominance over them. “Grab them by the pussy” is closer to Trump’s bizarre handshake yank than it is to sex, and so is sex. People must be violated in obvious and subtle ways until they appear to accept his mastery or disappear into the category of evil ones. The “Haters”.
Trump’s metaphorical portrait showing his ugliness is all that is “not self”. That’s why an anti-immigrant platform is the most natural one in the world for him to choose. That’s why he argues that he will kick out and eradicate all enemies. That’s his inner platform as well. His vision of himself is the eternally beautiful and fresh faced Dorian. Trump is so simple inside, so psychopathic even, that other people are only real if they are by some definition, him. Ultimately everyone will either accede to his dominance or find themselves his declared the enemy and at war. Once he became President it was apparent to him that he IS America. At that point, checks and balances be damned, he would do any self-criticizing should it be necessary, outsiders who criticize are the enemy and must be dealt with.
The portrait of Dorian Trump, the ugliness that must be squashed or absorbed into the body is any remaining objection, in any form, to his dominance. The structure of the United States government and constitution are now on this list because they resist rule by the one single real living person. We are now acting out on a global scale, one man’s extremely shallow madness and illusions. Worse yet, this fragile incomplete self is vicious when attacked. If he is sufficiently backed into a corner and pulled down there is potentially no limit to what he would attempt.
By President Theodore Roosevelt
May 7, 1918
Kansas City Star
(…) Congress should deal drastically with sedition. It should also guarantee the right of the press and people to speak the truth freely of all their public servants, including the President, and to criticize them in the severest terms of truth whenever they come short in their public duty. Finally, Congress should grant the Executive the amplest powers to act as an executive and should hold him to stern accountability for failure so to act, but it should itself do the actual lawmaking and should clearly define the lines and limits of action and should retain and use the fullest powers of investigation into and supervision over such action. Sedition is a form of treason. It is an offense against the country, not against the President.
Free speech, exercised both individually and through a free press, is a necessity in any country where the people are themselves free. Our Government is the servant of the people, whereas in Germany it is the master of the people. This is because the American people are free and the German are not free. The President is merely the most important among a large number of public servants. He should be supported or opposed exactly to the degree which is warranted by his good conduct or bad conduct, his efficiency or inefficiency in rendering loyal, able, and disinterested service to the Nation as a whole. Therefore it is absolutely necessary that there should be full liberty to tell the truth about his acts, and this means that it is exactly necessary to blame him when he does wrong as to praise him when he does right. Any other attitude in an American citizen is both base and servile. To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public. Nothing but the truth should be spoken about him or any one else. But it is even more important to tell the truth, pleasant or unpleasant, about him than about anyone else.
During the last year the Administration has shown itself anxious to punish the newspapers which uphold the war, but which told the truth about the Administration’s failure to conduct the war efficiently, whereas it has failed to proceed against various powerful newspapers which opposed the war or attacked our allies or directly or indirectly aided Germany against this country, as these papers upheld the Administration and defended the inefficiency. Therefore, no additional power should be given the Administration to deal with papers for criticizing the Administration. And, moreover, Congress should closely scrutinize the way the Postmaster-General and Attorney-General have already exercised discrimination between the papers they prosecuted and the papers they failed to prosecute. Congress should give the President full power for efficient executive action. It should not abrogate its own power. It should define how he is to reorganize the Administration. It should say how large an army we are to have and not leave the decision to the amiable Secretary of War, who has for two years shown such inefficiency. It should declare for an army of five million men and inform the Secretary that it would give him more the minute he asks for more.
“To the last, I grapple with thee; From Hell’s heart, I stab at thee; For hate’s sake, I spit my last breath at thee.” Herman Melville
Roy Cohn was a human scorpion. He personified the self-hating authoritarian personality. His face was locked in a permanent sneer towards a world that would never love him. He was an aggressive self promoter who became highly visible while sitting next to Joe McCarthy at the witch hunt trials for communists in government. He was prominent in the effort to send Julius and Ethel Rosenberg to death row (they WERE guilty but he relished their deaths).
Like J. Edgar Hoover and Richard Nixon he had that odd way of seeming TOO much on the side of good in a battle between a pure black and pure white morality. Hoover and Cohn were closeted gay men and Nixon was a black hole of twisted ambition. What they had in common was tremendous self loathing for being who they were and an “Invisibility cloak” of moral righteousness. It’s just a variation on the strategy of pedophile priests. If somone takes tremendous trouble to place themselves beyond reproach, it’s a near certainty they aren’t.
Cohn was a mobile inferno of rage and schadenfreude. He never came out as a gay man but he lived openly as a complete asshole his entire life. He never paid his bills or his taxes. If anyone inconvenienced or mildly offended him he would instantly and aggressively sue them with a ferocity that bordered on madness. He would hold to complete falsehoods shamelessly, simply asserting the same fakery but louder, without tiring or flinching.
When Donald Trump was young and hungry to define himself he met Cohn who was defending him and his father in a housing discrimination lawsuit. Trump was hugely impressed with his relentless style and Cohn became his mentor and adviser. Cohn gave him lessons in denying reality to assert your own story at all costs, the costs paid generally by others. Cohn helped Trump learn the art of being a rigid empty shell of appearances and unyielding denial, he taught him to use any publicity, good or bad, to power his own pursuits. When Cohn was dying of aids and pursued by the US government for millions in back taxes, Trump dropped him without hesitation.
Many articles have been written about this strange relationship, but my point here is the fateful way that Cohn and Trump recognized each other and the way that Trump as an unfinished young man accepted the piece of black flint that Cohn used in place of a soul to use in place of his own. Some kind of undistinguished black mass took place in a rococo upper east side penthouse. The power and strength of these two men is unarguable but it’s founded in weakness and emotional fragility. Neither could find comfort in being close to people, neither could bear an uncomfortable truth and they both savored cruel humiliation of whoever earned a frown from them. There is a viciousness here that is never found in healthy people. Their trajectory through the lives of others was always bent on diminishing, wounding and harming. Trump hasn’t changed, he’s just gained access to a great many more lives.
For the last few years our politics have been dominated by the successful application of Roy Cohn’s bag of tricks. The media was utterly flummoxed by someone who never felt shame and never played the templated role of the contrite man publicly shamed by the press. The stages of the public media shaming ritual with it’s ultimate thumbs up or down are as stylized as Noh theater. In disbelief ,the news media watched him slip away, as if he was defying laws of physics.
Trump has elevated Cohn’s rules to standard operating policy for the chief executive office of the United States. Trump’s highest criteria for his staff is unquestioning loyalty to him and this requires them to embody untruth every minute without blinking. It requires them to reduce their living purpose to being tentacle-like extensions of Trump’s own ego. Trump himself is a cypher, a soulless nothing frowning with his make believe serious-man face. He struggles to look like a man who has even imagined compassion or the greater good.
Roy Cohn’s spawn fill every role close to Trump, protecting the central lie with an endless torrent of lesser, defensive lies: They are the hydra heads of long dead demagogues swarming the world stage, none of them able to concieve a single earthly thing more important than themselves. There’s a baffling kind of evil in people who can survive happily without even a little bit of truth or a single good wish for the world at large. Yet they persist.
Every organism has a survival strategy. Survival strategies are species and subspecies templates for living. They describe a specialized role within an ecological niche. Their roles are defined by exploiting a particular angle on making a living and by the adaptations of their bodies toward this goal. The amazing anteater for example makes a living…anyone? Anyone? Correct, eating ants. And has adapted in an amusingly specialized way with powerful claws for ripping into nests and long sticky tongue.
That is a deep, deep commitment to eating ants. But not really any deeper a commitment than most other species: The overall species strategy is a highly specialized job with a body increasingly adapted as a tool to do that job.
But not us. We are constantly looking for new angles to play and new ways to play them. In pursuit of that goal we may vary our focus, lifestyle, and ecological niche. But except for phenotypic variations based on local weather our bodies don’t adapt. We don’t specialize via our bodies, we specialize via technology: A spear is a 7 foot long claw that can fly. Well sewn clothing is a thick warm pelt, opening our way toward the ice caps. Horses turn us into ten foot tall monsters moving at the speed of antelopes. Farming is a “Game of Life” survival cheat code the levels us up. Sufficient change in technology equals a virtual shift of species with an altered template for life.
Our technology transforms us personally and as social animals. The rules for hunter gatherers are not the rules for farming villages. We reorganize ourselves in a bottom up that unpacks itself through the individual daily actions of each human playing the new game. Pyramids and kings pop into being from the right tools and population sizes. Each shift redefines the group size that we consider to be: Us. Ourselves. Are we 50 people, a thousand people, a million people? Ask the tools, they make the rules.
When the human community becomes large enough and complex enough it becomes a virtual ecosystem unto itself. The specialized work of individuals mirrors the variety of organisms in a wild ecosystem. Enough complexity makes a self sustaining virtual ecology. AT least until the robots throw us all out of work.
Cultural Variation as a strategy
Every human group that can define as “US” creates culture. That culture expresses local traits with one unique voice. Varieties of approaches to mating, religious dogma, openness to outsiders, etc. equals a real time experiment in how successful these traits are as a human survival strategy. The values for these different traits emerge from the tension force within the community. Authoritarianism is a strategy, so is liberal democracy, so is theocracy. Winning could mean stability or expansion. I call this expansionist trait “Virality”. One culture may make it’s people happy and healthy but virally dominant cultures can take them over.
(That’s draft one. As usual, if you found this intriguing check back once in awhile. I do update and re-write.)