The struggle is real.
Tension Force is the name I give to the innate push and pull between progressives and conservatives. Physical tension force is a physics concept and can be pictured as the area of rope between teams playing tug of war. In a well-matched tug-of-war, that area doesn’t shift very much but that stability is reached by both teams trying their hardest to win.
Tension force is homeostasis achieved through intense opposing forces. If one of our teams wins the political tug of war it’s guaranteed to be a bad or even disastrous moment for society. One party systems have ugly results.
There are psychological patterns that are consistently reliable predictors of a progressive or conservative view on politics and culture. The personality test used to measure and correlate this connection is the famous Big 5 Test. Here is a quick visual to explain what is measured and the characteristics that typify scoring high or low.
These are the outcomes that populate our country with Progressives and Conservatives:
- High scores in conscientiousness trended conservative on both economic policy, (favoring hard work and organization) as well as social policy (strict adherence to traditional social norms).
- High scores in openness trended progressive on economic policy (favoring new programs and interventions) as well as social policy (favoring complexity and novelty).
- High in agreeableness leaned progressive on economic policy (wanting to help the disadvantaged) and but conservative on social policy (the desire to maintain harmony and traditional relationships).
- High scores in neuroticism leaned progressive on both (oh, shut up).
- High levels of the extraversion trait had no significant effect on predicting a person’s policy position but correlated strongly to being fun at parties.
Although nurture and socialization are certainly a part of shaping these political tendencies, the people nurturing you are your closest relatives and the culture you are being socialized to is the one they have chosen to live in. The matrix seals neatly around you. There’s bound to be a genetic relationship to these scores, and tests significantly confirm that. So every population produces a balance of people apparently fated to be in one camp or the other. Either group can be principled and logical, but those principles and logic are canalized by personality presets. Whatever play is in the system waxes and wanes with important societal upheavals and movements.
The consistent percentages of people born with these traits and concomitant beliefs is the underlying, invisible homeostasis that creates the Tension Force around us. As we plead with the other side to see reason or curse each other for hopeless blind idiocy we can take some comfort in the idea that humanity absolutely requires this struggle. Tension force is how we weigh the balance between the past and future, between tradition and reform.
However, technological change has dropped us into a new and unfamiliar medium for connection and communication. The new medium so completely separates us from engagement with the other side, that each side has become LIKE a one-party country unto themselves. The area of Tension Force has become the weak spot, attacked by opportunistic infections.
The situation makes us “fish in a barrel” for those aiming to divide and conquer us, then gather riches from the ruins left behind.
(I’m talking about Putin you idiots!)
- LinkedIn feels like a pyramid scheme that lacks ambition.
- I just slept 4 hours and must teach 4.5 hours today. There’s got to be a miserable little story problem in there somewhere.
- “Simplistic” doesn’t mean simple. “Over exaggerate” is redundant. Stop it.
- It turns out people who hate government make it worse when they participate.
- In the near future, every combination of English words will become an ironic catchphrase.
- Enjoy being slightly bad from time to time or your goodness will get all dusty and wrinkled.
- The three stages of grief getting into cold water: 1. Ankles 2. Genitals 3. Shoulders.
- “Doing good” never rises above undoing a “bad”. Every “good guy” in every story returns the situation to neutral; normal is good.
- When social justice people overshoot the balanced restoration of good, their polarity shifts, and their work becomes a bad to be undone.
- What do you get when you cross a joke with a rhetorical question? (stolen, I just love it.)
- Crappy days average five hours longer.
- Conservatism wants to stop time & change at the perfect moment. The range from moderate to reactionary is measured by how long ago they position the golden age.
- Greet each new day as if it were your last, filled with tearful remorse.
- “Forgotten were the elementary rules of logic, that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence and that what can be asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence.” — Christopher Hitchens
- I’ve begun making artisanal ice in my own freezer using free-range water I collect by hand with a silver thimble. A quick stir with a sprig of lemon thyme and voila! Prices upon request.
- The “normal” economy is disappearing fast. It’s time to make decisions about how much we value people when they are out of work and there isn’t a goddamn thing for them to do.
- Ayn Rand fiction is “Twilight” set in a childish political framework.
- Put the Christ back in “Jesus Christ, I can’t believe I’m related to you!”
- I hate it when introspective thoughts talk smack about me.
- If a business becomes so wealthy and powerful that it can influence the direction of government, it is no longer a part of the “Free Market”.
- Why can’t we just redefine our government’s relation to health care as a Costco style buying club? It isn’t socialism, it’s organized consumerism. But if it lowers corporate profits it’s communism.
- With great power also come great opportunities for dating.
With President Trump!
We know he never tells the truth about anything but lying doesn’t get to the root of what is wrong with everything he says. Under every lie, there is a deeper shade of bogus. This is the KungFu of duplicity and misdirection, The bullshit magic of bullshit smoke and bullshit mirrors. And this is the first draft of something I admit is incomplete for now.
“Bill McRaven, retired admiral, Navy SEAL, 37 years, former head of U.S. Special Operations, who led the operations, commanded the operations that took down Saddam Hussein and that killed Osama bin Laden, says that your sentiment (Trump’s attacks on the news media )is the greatest threat to democracy in his lifetime,” Wallace said, as Trump interrupted him to call the former top commander a “Hillary Clinton fan and an Obama backer”.
- Irrelevant conclusion: Irrelevant conclusion, also known as Ignoratio Elenchi (Latin for an ignoring of a refutation) or missing the point, is the informal fallacy of presenting an argument that may or may not be logically valid and sound, but (whose conclusion) fails to address the issue in question. “Your attacks on the media are dangerous for America!” “Hillary Clinton!”
- Ad Hominem: Rather than refuting an opponent’s argument the person attacks the individual instead. This can be directed towards their character, morals, intelligence, reputation or credentials. The main thing to remember is that they are not addressing the actual argument being presented but relying purely on feelings and prejudices to win their case. Guilt by association is the specific Ad Hominem fallacy here. “Your attacks on the media are dangerous for America!” “This guy likes Hillary Clinton!”
“Every single Democrat in the U.S. Senate has signed up for the open borders, and it’s a bill, it’s called the ‘open borders bill.’ What’s going on? And it’s written by, guess who? Dianne Feinstein,” Trump said Oct. 6 in Topeka.
- Strawman: Substituting a person’s actual position or argument with a distorted, exaggerated, or misrepresented version of the position of the argument.
- Alternative Truth: (also, Alt Facts; Counterknowledge; Disinformation; Information Pollution) Ths is pushing your Strawman so hard that he turns inside out. You can’t lie if there aren’t any facts!
“Our press is allowed to say whatever they want and they can get away with it… I’m a big believer, tremendous believer in freedom of the press. Nobody believes it stronger than me. But if they make terrible, terrible mistakes, and those mistakes are made on purpose to injure people … then yes, I think you should have the ability to sue them.” Trump in 2016
- Inconsistency: A person commits the fallacy of inconsistency when he or she makes contradictory claims. “I fully support a free press and it must end now!”
Evil forces in high places around the world profit from the state of our disunion and spend untold millions in dark money driving bigger and bigger wedges though our connecting tissue. There was a time when our representatives represented us, not only the 1%. There was a time when our representatives actually cooperated across the gap of tension force and occasionally accomplished things of value. There was a time when they could even be considered “the loyal opposition”, by wiser heads on both sides. This apparent golden age didn’t seem unusual at the time. Civility and non-partisan action laid the foundation for a government machinery that worked reasonably well. Metaphorically the opposition was close enough for conversation.
Every action taken since those days to separate us and inflame hatred for the opposition, from the “Southern Strategy” to “Citizens United” to “Birtherism” has been paid for by the wealthiest elites, commanded by the least principled men in power, and soldiered by easily manipulated conservatives from the middle to lowers classes. Progressives have struggled in reaction to this relentless movement but weren’t equally responsible for it. There was no mighty ocean of money flowing down to raise the boats of economic and social reformers. Politicians and PACs have fundraised through whipping up outrage but that is a weak, secondary force.
The forces behind the money and organizations that are bent on dissolving America are Ayn Rand-loving, representative-government-hating oligarchs. They’ve been fuming since Franklin Roosevelt took practical steps to lessen our suffering. They want full control with only a tissue of government for the sake of appearances. Primarily they want an end to the incessant pursuit by the American public of their own well being. They want to cover us in a skin of their engineered economic parasites so that we may spend our lives working harder and longer to give them more of everything we have.
“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.
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.
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 actually 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.
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
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 have been breached and allowed just about anything to 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 history every big technology shift distorts our current culture 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 to retain the good part of the new tech without losing the good of the culture. 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 and 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 powerful new technology, disliking its effect on our culture and dropping it to resume the old ways. Our way ratchets forward and locks; no take backs. The bad side effects only go away when some still newer technology dissolves them.
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
“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 an 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, and even whiny. He feels empty and poorly treated. 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 one of two camps: Those who support him and those who oppose him. 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 Trump become almost real to him because they have made themselves into an extension of him, working his will remotely. 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 to feel happy. For minutes at a time, it is almost enough. He must return to this experience again and again mainly for this personal satisfaction but also to keep alive the relationship with his virtual guard dog composed of MAGA people. He regularly shakes the chain to make sure they are ready to hunt.
His behavior would better be understood by an alpha baboon than 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…as is actual sex. People must be violated and knocked off balance in obvious and subtle ways until they appear to accept his mastery (by not complaining) or disappear into the outer darkness of evil ones: “The Haters”.
From his POV, Trump’s metaphorical portrait showing his ugliness is any evidence of his guilt and everything 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. Flunkies and toadies who once served with a properly selfless attitude become the enemy as they display a self-interested concern for their own wellbeing. Their story, like all others, must be rewritten to punish them and deny their humanity. Once he became President it was instantly clear to him that he IS America and that all must be brought to heel, to celebrate his successes and accept his every word as gospel. Checks and balances be damned, he is the only one capable of capable to judge his actions. Outsiders who judge and criticize must be destroyed. His will to power never tires, laughs at itself or suffers a trace of compunction.
The externalized portrait of Dorian Trump, the ugliness that must be squashed or transformed into SELF is any remaining objection, in any form, to his dominance. The structure of the United States government, its constitution, and agencies of self-protection are on the hit list because they resist rule by the one single real living person on earth. The haters are under the illusion that they are real too, the enemy is any “not self” asserting equal humanity with Trump. We are now acting out on a global scale, one man’s unimaginably shallow madness, and obsessions. Worse yet, his 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. He is unaware of anything more important than maintaining both his absurd lie of goodness and his agency to have whatever he wants. When someone sees Dorian Gray’s portrait, ugly to the point of horror, and could run and tell the world the truth, Dorian kills him to preserve the lie. Trump will do the same and if the witness is the United States of America, so be it.
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.
There are a number of places in this blog where I take the political left to task for their dark side, their shadow. I am closer to left than right but I know what’s wrong with them and I’ve described it at length elsewhere.
When “moderate” people express a dislike for politics, they show appreciation for people who have no strong opinions. The idea is, if none of us had any strong opinions to push, the world would be a better place. The problem is, you have to have a opinions to have priorities. There was a young man who had brain surgery a few years back and lost his emotions. He didn’t become a cool and competent Mr. Spock, he became a mess who found every single decision difficult, because none of them had any force behind them. Our emotions play a big role in every preference we have for anything in this world.
Here is Merriam Webster’s simple definition of the phrase “Politically Correct”: agreeing with the idea that people should be careful to not use language or behave in a way that could offend a particular group of people.
Both right and left wing have a version of “politically correct”. The left’s version is more famous and it’s where the phrase originated. I imagine it being coined in the soviet system by political officers. But the definition for the phrase includes the right wing to the extent that they practice “How dare you” tactics such as righteous indignation, and holier than thou judgements. If a football player remains seated during the national anthem or the pledge of allegiance for political reasons there is a segment of the right wing that will compete for “Loudest wail of outrage”. This is being politically correct. “Freedom fries” is PC. Anyplace where the right asserts a word that is compulsory and one that is forbidden, they are being the kind of thin skinned whiny babies they think only other people can be. Let me hear you say “Happy Holidays!”
When the right complains about people on the left not being patriotic they are being PC extremists. In fact the whole idea of patriotism needs some serious freshening up. It’s kind of dumb if you think about it that the right thinks they are the ones who get to decide what patriotic IS. How the hell do you dare to impugn the patriotism of people who question and challenge the government? America is practically based on the validity of different points of view.
The right wing have their own issues and the state of the world is showing those issues like anaphylaxis shows an allergy. The world leans at any moment more right than left because the Human Operating System first requires STABILITY. It doesn’t want collapse. If you are building something very tall you will think a lot of bottom heavy thoughts and not quite so many top heavy ones. If you don’t think enough about the foundation you won’t build tall because it will fall down, if you think too much about the foundation you won’t build tall because your sole value becomes retaining and preserving, not reaching higher.
Here are some of the troublesome issues of the right:
- Symbol simpletons. Flags are symbols. Symbols mean something…but symbols aren’t the things they mean. An American flag is not America any more than a Colombian flag is Columbia, or a Dunkin Donuts logo is a donut. Love your treasured symbols but be sophisticated enough to see the this crucial difference. There are birds that will murderously attack a FEATHER of the wrong color. You are sometimes that kind of dumb.
- Unconditionally positive love of country. Imagine if both parents both acted like their child could do no wrong: Healthy?
- You guys are besotted with making rich people happy. I know I’m not going to get anywhere with this. Conservatives include two key groups everywhere and always, the poor and the bastards who keep them poor. The conservative poor sell out their own children generation after generation to show solidarity with power. We get it, you support structure and stability but is it wrong for me to wish you’d notice how pathetic it is? Being a serf is not patriotic.
- Conservatives elect moderates in a healthy and balanced system (with different ideas) but when you get riled up you elect authoritarian fuckos like Trump and Putin and honest to God...even Hitler. He is an example of that phenomena. You have a weakness for tough simple talk that hands everything over to bad guys if there aren’t enough commie-pinkos pulling on the other end of the rope.
- Same point continued: You are too easy to manipulate. Demagogues know exactly what to say to you. 1. Country – 2. Church – 3. Foreign enemies… and you are in bed on the first date.
Our country wouldn’t be healthy with only conservatives OR progressives. There’s a reason a tree farm isn’t as healthy as a forest. A mono-culture creates its own failure. When either side seeks purity they lead all of us straight towards Hell.
Tension force, people. It’s healthy.
Donald Trump is the perfect president for this moment, in fact, it’s uncanny.
Obviously not in a good way.
I talk a lot about complexity on this blog. Complexity changes things in incremental ways until there comes a POP of some new emergent thing which is categorically different than all the things it is made of. You can not look at any organism without seeing just such a result. As usual, I’m asking you to put up with me talking about things that appear crushingly obvious.
But listen, single-celled organisms lived, I’m guessing contentedly, for a multiple BILLION years without once feeling the desire to fuck. Suddenly fucking became a fad, a craze. Everybody was sharing genetic material and things got WEIRD. Suddenly there were strangers moving in all around with a bunch of different characteristics. The good old simple ways were gone. Sex was the first sacrifice of autonomy and the first cooperation of individuals making something new and sharing risks and benefits. That’s right. They were cells with benefits.
And then more complex cooperations in the form of more and more complex organisms began to cover the world. But each new multicell organism and lifestyle was a gamble and a loss of autonomy. And there were cells that said “Hell No!” They stuck to the good old proven ways as they have to this day.
Cooperating to build something more complex is the story of evolution. Human beings in their journey to now have reinvented their understanding of “My Group” over and over. This redefining requires flexibility toward the borders of self. If someone creepy and unattractive asks you to share life’s journey you pull away, securing your borders. You might say “no thank you” or “back the hell off!”. Because (in many ways) you don’t want any sharing or blending with them. But even a new friend who perhaps takes too much for granted about how good friends you are will elicit at least a bit of the same response. Who we are with is who we are…at least as it feels inside us.
And for people in times of change when the community is being redefined, and always becoming larger and more complex, there is a similar issue triggering acceptance or rejection. At such times there have always been people who balked and rejected the change as not only wrong for them, but wrong for everyone. Their gut tells them it’s crazy and wrong. These are conservatives, basically. The tides of human change are strong enough that conservatives are mostly pulled into these new arrangements despite their concerns. Then within a generation, the new situation will be the one they are defending from change and radical new relationships that redefine that SELF.
I do have a belief system weirder than this: That communities of people actually ARE some sort of organism, certainly in the sense that bees are. I believe a couple or a family or a town and beyond exist at some level as an autonomous being brought into existence literally by the interaction of the parts. And that AS parts we have great difficulty perceiving whatever truth there is to this.
And I have a belief system weirder than that. I will admit shamefully that I call it reality weather.
Even I am agnostic about this but it’s something I perceive. It is the shifting and scaling up and scaling down of issues and moods and events in the human world. It was visible in the new nations rush to world war one. It’s visible in the wildfire of fascism (and other isms) in the 1920s and 30s. It’s there somehow visible around the sixties and seventies. I think it’s there in mild times as well, but we don’t notice a quiet sunny day. Yep, it sounds dangerously close to astrology but it’s not. I have no dogma around it and I assert no understandable cause. But there’s something there. And we’re in some heavy damn reality weather right now in case you hadn’t noticed.
So why is Trump the perfect president for right now? Because he is absurdly unaware of anyone other than himself. Because he would never have any relationship where he blended and shared with another person. His wives are things. Other people are things. He can’t even hold the concept of what our government and nation mean as a collective and why he shouldn’t just rewrite everything to please himself. He’s that selfish.
Every country chooses leaders in a semi-conscious way that mixes the issues of the day with a tribal totem. Trump was chosen to represent the part of America doesn’t want to blend, or share or care or change. As such, he is an embodiment of not letting ourselves synchronize with others at higher levels of complexity. He symbolizes pure self-assertion and rejection of relationship and cooperation. Any place beyond the borders of our nation has become a rejected OTHERNESS. Just as it also has in England, Turkey, Russia and elsewhere. And all just about simultaneously. As a country enters this kind of period of self-assertion and push-back it reaches into a bag of domineering regressive nationalistic bastards and places the biggest one on its head like a horrible tiara. It doesn’t last forever and it can unfold in surprising ways. The United Nations and the European Union owe their existence to the 360-degree horror of WWII. That’s probably not a comforting thought right now but don’t assume the worst. To some degree optimism is a self-fulfilling prophecy, as long as we back it up with action. Stay cool and take a reality umbrella, it’s really coming down out there.
Ex. 20:5 – “I,(…) am a jealous God, punishing the children for the father’s sin, to the third and fourth generations …”
(As usual, I am publishing a rough draft to force myself to keep writing.) The first two links are scientific papers and the third is a popular article from Discover magazine. They are all quite readable though and worth a look. If you search epigenetics in this blog you’ll find a number of related articles.
Scientists taught white mice to fear the smell of cherry blossoms. (“So Bob, what do you do for a living?” “I frighten mice.”)
The offspring of these frightened mice were never subjected to this cherry blossom trauma but mysteriously, they also feared the smell. More amazing still, the grandchild generation of the original trauma mice, also never subjected to the treatment, reacted with fear. Now further studies are not only confirming these results but showing that deprivation and stress alters inheritance multi-generationally. It affects both physiology and neurology.
The evidence is in. Pain and suffering flows across time. Cruelty keeps jumping forward like a skipped stone. We don’t know authoritatively how many generations forward these effects can travel but 3 and 4 generations are documented using an animal model. And rather than just imagining separate generations of inherited fear, and the many influences on the phenotype of those people, imagine how many poor choices their inheritance initiated. Imagine the effects flowing into the places they live in and their families and friends. Consider the implications for large communities who have suffered trauma almost collectively. In some places and times that could mean whole generations where virtually everyone is bent and twisted by the suffering of their parents and grandparents. How often will behavior born of trauma result in fresh trauma to another?
There is nothing parents love more than their children, and every parent I think has some fears of passing along something bad to their children. Our new knowledge means that anyone suffering a serious trauma, or having survived desperate, stressful times, can be certain that some effects will be passed to their children from the moment of conception.
It makes an act of profound cruelty almost unimaginably important and scales up the guilt accordingly. In the form of random violent crimes for example the effects are stark enough: One innocent victim becomes how many? 3? 6? Don’t forget the 3rd generation…perhaps 18 people? And the 4th generation as well; let’s say 35 people affected by that injury. They don’t even know, they can’t know who they might have been instead, because that crime made them what they are. They might be more fearful, or angry, or just less hopeful than the hypothetical person without the trauma. We don’t know, but it’s safe to say they are bent AWAY from their strength and happiness.
- Soldiers returning with PTSD
- Black America
- Poor America
- Syrian survivors
When a child grows up shaped by a parent with trauma and then lives in poverty and anxiety, we have lost a citizen 20 years in the future. And we’ve lost their offspring 40 years in the future. Epigenetics makes a simple, compelling case for the auto-perpetuation of misery and poverty and violence. It makes a case that democracy builds failure into its future by doing too little to alleviate it. A starving, fearful child is a crime against the future and her community and in a sense, the whole world but we are awfully good at feeling peaceful about that crime.
20% of American children grow up in poverty. It’s certain that many of them are second and third generation poverty. Poverty is Hydrochloric acid for optimism and aspiration. How is this not a self perpetuating sinkhole of damaged and downgraded people?
“Those people are just like that.” is the kind of statement you might hear people say related to race or culture or class. The poor have been viewed forever as inherently flawed, undeserving and unfit. But scientifically it’s probably not so. It’s probably more accurate to say people can be that way when they and their parents have been ground into emotional hamburger and left to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps. There’s a chance that we are living out a dystopian science fiction story where in all cultures, regardless of race, a whole class of people, less happy, strong and confident is being bred through societal neglect. Any limitations to the number of generations the damage is “paid forward” is irrelevant because the suffering of each new generation is likely enough to paint over the hopes of foreseeable future. Big social programs have been deemed failures when they didn’t produce results in “Political time” but perhaps bringing generational trauma to an end is the work of a couple of generations and therefore almost impossible to convince taxpayers to support. And perhaps our famously cheap and nasty social programs wouldn’t soften the blow enough anyway.
Yet the knowledge places responsibility on our shoulders once we know.
As you remember, when the neolithic farming revolution went viral our ancestors all reformed their social arrangements in a staggeringly short period of time. They found themselves living together in numbers never known before. There was a short period where the archaeological record shows egalitarian communities sharing without the evidence that points to wealth and poverty.
All of a sudden, there is a transformation, the birth of the State. Power was amassed at the top, allowing poverty to flow down onto the masses. In his 1977 book Cannibals and Kings, anthropologist Marvin Harris explores human culture and society and their evolution. In it, he devotes a chapter to the origins of the state. This paragraph nicely describes the harsh change: