Thursday, August 30, 2012

Seeing evil

I don't think anyone who refuses to see the evil in their own hearts can see evil outside of them.  I sometimes recall with fondness my past as a generic sybaritic leftist.  It is quite a congenial mindset.  All problems can be solved with government money, which never runs out.  No wars are ever necessary because all people are reasonable, and would never even consider lying to us.  Politicians who are Democrats really want what is best for the American people, and their policies work when not frustrated by the unintelligible, nasty, and morally repugnant Republicans.  Perfect peace and harmony is just a matter of electing blue candidates.  Life is simple and easy.

Consider, though, how easily someone like Bill Ayers swims in this soup.  All he has to do is act nice, be congenial, and agree with everything.  If you act nice, well, then there is no room in a leftists head for the possibility of disingenuousness, if that person is an ideological fellow traveler.

Sybaritic leftists cannot CONCEIVE that Obama would be lying consciously and often about very basic elements of his past, such as having been born in Kenya, or having a card carrying Communist for a father.  They put their fingers in their ears, and go naanananananaa.

Yet, I would stipulate that some part of all of us is always fully aware.  It is fully awake.  It KNOWS on some level that something doesn't add up.  But people do not want to listen to that voice, the one that has real knowledge about how the world REALLY works.

Look at  Europe.  There are no major nations there that have not participated in mass colonialism, fascism, and the slaughter of innocents.  Look, for example, at Belgium, capital of the EU.  Just 100 years ago they were neck deep in mass murder in Africa: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/King_Leopold%27s_Ghost

History was something they created, an evil which flowed from the hands of the supposedly enlightened.  Now, all these nations want to pretend that human evil is in the past, something that can never happen again.  Why?  Why can't it happen?  Why am I not justified in seeing the present generation of children as more or less being bred to accept atrocity?

People don't want to know how bad things can get.  We have grown up safe and sound, accustomed to the idea of a benevolent government tucking us in every night, maybe with milk and cookies.  I ask, though: what moral progress has happened that gives us cause for justifiable optimism?  The EU government is already trying to subvert the rights of member nations.

Look in your heart, carefully.  If you are honest, you will find vanity, greed, stupidity, heartlessness, and the capacity, in the right circumstances, for violence.  If you are a good person, all these things will only be present in trifling amounts, but I would submit that if you cannot find ANY of that that you are engaging in self deception.

Liberalism

I have no use for the word Libertarian.  Everything good in the "doctrine" (it has long felt more like an attitude to me than anything coherent) is already contained in Liberalism.  A true Liberal (and of course nobody on the Left qualifies) wants as much freedom for everyone as is consistent with public harmony.

In conception, our system grants to States the ability to regulate morality.  This point is crucial: to my mind, and I differ here from most Libertarians, liberty is both the right to be free from unnecessary burdens, but also to impose them, if they are generally desired.  As an example, I wear a seatbelt, but respect the right of those who refuse to.  At the same time, I grant that the State has the right to make that law. If people do not like that law they need to elect people who will repeal it.  They have that right.

Political progress is in my view cultural progress, which is to say the capacity of all individuals within a social order to respect the rights of those around them, and to make few if any impositions on them.  Given a sufficiently intelligent, reasonable, organized, goal-focused population, no government would be needed.  If a road needs to get built, somebody takes the lead, figures out how to pay for it, and gets it done.

In the present world, however, many people need to be told what to do.  We need speed limits, in my view.  People need to be told not to drink and drive.  We need to have laws against, and penalties for, things like theft, contract violation, fraud, murder, rape, child abuse, etc.  Given a perfectly reasonable population these laws could just fall away.  There would be no need for police. 

But to my mind most Libertarians want to live in a world which we do not live in.  There are many animals out there who will abuse people, given the chance.  Absent a government, the law of the jungle would prevail, and that law tends to favor the most vicious, not the most reasonable.

Few thoughts.  This is not quite as coherent as I would have liked, but it's a start.

Violence and tyranny

It seems logical to me that for minds like those of Bill Ayers, who can seemingly imagine mass murder and torture with equanimity, that an obvious preparatory step would be conditioning the American mind to accepting violence.  We see the results of this in the violent, abusive rhetoric that appears constantly on the Left (I will note that I have thousands of hours dealing with this abuse, and speak from VERY long experience), but I would suggest that movies like the Hunger Games on some level are working to condition the American people to accepting on TV some sort of show trial and execution of political enemies.

One sees constantly interviews with people who find themselves in violent situations, even war, saying "it was just like a movie".  Even though on some level we know that what we see on TV is not real, I say "why watch it if you are unwilling to suspend disbelief?"  On some level there is no difference.

I don't think you can understand an Anders Breivik without factoring in his video games.  He calmly shot dozens of screaming children who posed no threat to him, and did so without any apparent cognitive psychosis, or even outwardly apparent rage and anger.  He reached a conclusion he deemed valid and acted towards his fellow humans as if they were images on his screen, literally.  The evidence is clear that repeatedly watching acts of violence makes them less morally objectionable in the real world, and even FUN.  And most all of our children  live in this world.  A barmaid at a bar I go to took her 3 year old to the Avengers.  This is ridiculous.

These same tendencies could easily be turned by a would-be totalitarian towards the repression of cultural others--political opponents--in any form the regime deems fit.  We have kids growing up getting sexually excited by torture.  I saw Hostel for sale in my local Books-a-Million, with I doubt ANYONE caring if kids under 18 bought it.  Eli Roth SAID it was for the 13-20 demographic.

I remember saying to myself several years ago that Obama can get his army.  He can find mutated, morally febrile, sadistic children to do anything he wants.  All he needs is the pretext and the opportunity.

In that regard, it is my hope that all of our Armed Services have contingency plans for betrayal by our President.  I have been saying for years that it is legally and morally important that our Service Members swear an oath to protect and defend the Constitution.  As Commander in Chief, the President is in theory the chief guardian of our Constitution, but at the precise moment he fails in that duty, and seeks to arrogate power to himself, particularly through an emergency, it is my hope that the military acts decisively to protect our Republic.  Obama has no love for it. It is only a question as to how much space he can carve out.  These people think long term, so even if he is not able to pull this thing off, we still must look to all the long term patterns around us.

It is my sincere hope that in a  Romney Administration the Surgeon General could begin speaking out about the long term deleterious effects of media violence.  I watched the movie Contagion the other night, and could have gone my whole life without seeing a facsimile of Gwenneth Paltrow have the top of her head sawed off, and this is small change by comparison with what is out there.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

To "Peace"

I like U2.  They make enjoyable music, and clearly try to help improve the world.  Today I was listening to their "All that you can't leave behind" album, and to the topic the song "Peace on Earth".

As I listened, I thought to myself that "peacing" is a verb.  We assume that the polar opposites are war and peace.  I do not think this is true. There will be no war in Cuba any time soon, or a war in North Korea (unless they start it).  The goal is not just the cessation of conflict and hate.  The goal is a generalized perception of an alternative to war that is BETTER than war.

War meets many needs, not least as an answer to boredom, unexpressed anger, the need for power, and sex (through rape; still common even now in many  African countries).

What is needed is the capacity to build deep, qualitative joy.  THAT is the opposite of war.  I look at U2, and they just want something to stop.  That something seems pointless, and of course in many respects it is, but not for the participants.  They all get something.

For war to end, all human beings must know how to be happy without struggle, without needing power over others.  They must learn to self generate happiness.

I have said before and will say again that for me personally, what has worked best is the Tibetan discipline of Kum Nye, which teaches the ability to feel and express emotions.  Most of us are quite atrophied in this regard.  For me personally, at times, I feel a tremendous power swell through me, a light that is contagious, that is in my view clearly from God.  It is the power to spark power in others, to help them see, to help them grow, to help them return to a light they have forgotten. It is a power I use for my own happiness, but one that shares itself.  It grows, it amplifies.

Tonight I saw my first zombie "parade", or rather the aftermath.  All these young people, with cut clothes, and fake blood on them.  I even saw an actually pregnant woman (she had on a halter top, and her belly was plainly showing) with a bloody gash down the middle, as if the baby had been taken.

I know all this is intended in fun.  You get with your friends, and zombify your self, and groan down the streets.  Yet, everything which attracts us contains us.  I may make that a bon mot, actually.

And what is contained in zombies?  Death, of course; the loss of free will and responsibility; and membership in a group.

Life in our modern world is so confusing.  I have reason to believe I understand, as an example, economics, but it has taken years, and I am very intelligent.  For the illiterate, how to choose between Romney and Obama, and neither of the above?  Job security is scarce, and most under-30's are working bad jobs.  And we are always presented with the real possibility of some sort of apocalypse.  I just watched Soderberg's "Contagion" last night.  It could happen.  Nobody denies it.

Iran could EMP us.  And over time it seems to many the Chinese will become the dominant world power (I personally very much doubt this, but it is an argument that is not without merit).  Whatever is going to happen, we DON'T know what it will be.  Surprise seems inevitable.

Given all this uncertainty, would it not be easier to be dead mentally?  Is this not what the Grateful Dead evoked: a drug stoked vacation from life?

What all these people are lacking is the capacity to recognize, cognitively, all these problems, and STILL be able to find peace of mind and active happiness.  "There have always been wars and rumors of wars".  I tell myself this periodically, and the fact is it is true.

Few random thoughts.  Stupidly long day, and now time for my preferred analgesic.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Progress

I debated in high school.  The essence of an intelligent debate involves stating a clear thesis, defining your terms, then proceeding to outline the reasons which you believe support your thesis.

I am involved in what I will call a debate for simplicity with some people about "progress", but debating an issue without defining the core word is like wrestling an octopus in the water.

For my own purposes, then, I would like to define progress.

This summary was at the bottom, but I decided to move it to the top.  My thought process is still included below.

Summary:

1) Progress in Meaning system formation is: improvements in moral and emotional connections between people, and enhancements in individual capacities to feel deep positive feelings.

2)  Progress in truth formation is: an increased ability to describe persistent patterns that tend to exist between initial inputs and later outcomes.

3) Progress in political governance is: continued atrophy of the need for a State to regulate behavior.

4) Progress in economics:  increasing ability to provide both necessary and desired objects with less and less unchosen work.


As I see it, the human  cultural domain breaks down into four principle tasks, each of which is improved in its own way.  Those tasks are meaning formation, truth formation, political organization, and provision of physical necessities.

The most important cultural task is providing a sense of direction and purpose, which is the principle task of what I call the meaning system.  It may, of course, be survival.  It may be pleasure.

The defining realities of human life are gravity and friction.  By this I mean that we must work to survive.  Work is effort, which many will define as pain.  It requires volitional energy.  We cannot exist indefinitely without food and water.  Physical survival involves physical work, which I will define as quantitative effort.

Plainly as economic conditions improve, options open up, after which it becomes possible to ask whether or not life is even worth living, given that it necessarily ends, and involves emotional pain for most along the way.  Answering this question requires reflection, and what I would term qualitative work.

Logically, this question is about what end a given person should pursue, which requires answering the question as to what that person wants.  If they want sensory pleasure, one path opens up.  If they want to live a life of sacrifice and dedication to a cause, another path is required.

In the end, though, what is desired is a FEELING.  This point is critical.  Our minds support our emotions, not the other way around.  Even those who claim to hew to logic alone are hewing to the FEELING of being rational.  Morality is nothing but reconciling in advance how certain types of behaviors are likely to make us feel, and either avoiding or pursuing those behaviors.

We are all in my view by nature connected.  Hurting others hurts us, even if we have the capacity to deny this fact.  And the denial that is required necessitates psychological lying, and disconnection with our core.

Given the foregoing, I would define progress in Meaning system formation as: improvements in moral and emotional connections between people, and enhancements in individual capacities to feel deep positive feelings.

By moral connection I mean principally trust, in which people feel able to be open with one another, leaving both figurative and literal doors unlocked.  By emotional connection I mean the ability to enter empathetically into one anothers lives in mutually reinforcing positive ways; to support the emotional growth of others, while allowing them to support your own.

By deep positive feelings I mean deep joy and contentment; peace of mind; tranquility; the ability to easily work congruently towards chosen tasks with warmth and vitality.

I will add that in conditions of deep emotional connection it is really not necessary to have ethical "rules".  Ethics is a topic for pre-or postethical people.

Improvement in truth formation is simple: an increased ability to describe persistent patterns that tend to exist between initial inputs and later outcomes.

I want to be clear on this: I do not believe it is most useful to conceptualize science as something that uncovers "natural laws", or "causal" relationships.  I say this because, first, it is impossible to say that billiard ball one NECESSARILY moves billiard ball two (I am of course following Hume here); but secondly because one of the principle flaws of science as it exists today is the tendency to assume that it deals with "objects", as in the claim that science is "objective".

Science is NOT objective, not least because as near as we can determine, "objects" per se do not "exist" in any final way.  All existence is contingent upon consciousness.  Subatomic particles can come into being and disappear out of a primal energy soup posited by Quantum Physics, called variously the Quantum Vacuum and the Zero Point Field.

More importantly, I think the assumption that science is objective leads to Scientism, which I would define as the creed that everything that can be seen exists in a final way, and that anything which cannot be measured does NOT exist in a final way.  People who fall prey to this flaw tend to view emotions as objects.  They use evolutionary dogma and theories of neurological response and the like to model emotions, rather than simply observe their own emotions, and note persistent connections between their own actions and their later feelings.

I was in an art museum a while back when I first realized that in the modern world emotions are objects that have no innate validity of their own; that they are understood as artifacts of physical processes, and of no intrinsic interest.  This is in part why we see some of the savagery we do in art museums; artists intuitively feel violated and marginalized by our current cultural climate, even if they cannot articulate why.

Consider, though, that emotions are fundamental to meaning formation.  In this sense, Scientism is antithetical to meaning formation.  It is a doctrine that is principally attractive to people who love power and the FEELING that it gives them.

The political system ought logically to support meaning formation.  That system is best, then, which best facilitates the free interactions of individuals.  Progress is then defined as: continued atrophy of the need for a State to regulate behavior.

Madison famously posited that were we ruled by angels we would need not fear them, and that if WE were angels, we would need no government.  Progress is the reduction in the need for government.  By this standard, obviously, "Progressivism" is, like everything on the left, a precise inversion of what is actually sought.

In economics, the goal of course is to provide as much as possible with as little effort as possible, making all work chosen and voluntary.  Progress, then is: increasing ability to provide necessary and desired objects with less and less unchosen work.

One must work, to be happy.  The question is what sort of work.

Friday, August 24, 2012

The Credibility Gap

This might be one way of getting at the essence of the "birther" problem, which is that we know virtually nothing about Obama other than what he tells us in his books, and we are not even sure he wrote those books.  How can someone so secretive be credible?  The reality, of course, is that the media has CHOSEN to make him credible.  Had they chosen to destroy him, it would have taken less than a week.  He is a much lesser man than Rick Perry or Herman Cain.

In any event, I posted the following at The Blaze, which I do not believe is an actual conservative site, but rather one run in the hopes of corralling conservatives and preventing them from reading elsewhere.  They do what they can to pretend to parrot conservative views--enough to keep people coming--but I think it is in large measure a propaganda operation run by an ex-Huffposter.  I don't believe my comment will appear.  I have recently been proven wrong, but it's been ten minutes, and I don't feel like checking any more.

Here is the link, on a comment Mitt Romney made.  I will actually add in advance that this thesis of Frank Marshall Davis being Obama's actual father would explain a lot.  It would explain how his mother rationalized more or less abandoning him in Hawaii--he was after all with his father--and why the timelines with Obama, Sr. seem so squirrelly (for example why she moved back to Seattle so soon after he was born).  It would also, of course, explain easily why the President would not want a literal card-carrying member of the Communist Party and admitted pedophile listed as his father.

Here is what I wrote:


Romney's father was not a Kenyan national--and a Communist one at that.  He was never enrolled in an Indonesian school as both a citizen and a Muslim.

You state that Obama has posted his certificate on line.  That is a demonstrable falsehood.  First off, an on-line document would not count as evidence in any court in the country, and secondly the document has plainly been tampered with.  Numerous Adobe experts have testified that this is plain and irrefutable.  What he posted is not a scan of an original document.

In order to become a police officer, school teacher, or member of the military he would have to provide a multiple of what he has provided, including a valid Social Security card.

In some future America scholars may well wonder how it came to be in the year 2008 that asking reasonable questions about someone's background was effectively turned not just into a term of disparagement, but a means to question one's sanity.  One would have to say that, then, America took a path away from truth and towards an Orwellian media complex which even infected large segments of the supposed Right.  Why did ordinary Americans lie down and tolerate this?

It is clear that Obama has proven nothing, and in my view there are only two possibilities: either he doesn't have a birth certificate, which means at a minimum he cannot claim to be able to document a "natural born" status; or that Frank Marshall  Davis is listed as the father.

Adulthood

I was sitting in a bar last night looking at glasses.  They have rims, which define them.  I was looking back at my own entry into self sufficiency in my late teens, at a time I really wasn't ready for it, and remembering feeling a sense of my mind being confined between two lines, that somehow I could not expand past.

Pondering it, I realized that the process of adulthood, of maturation, is precisely living to live between lines, of restricting yourself in some way.  You can't have it all.  You can't do and be all things.  You cannot simultaneously have your freedom and be in a committed relationship.  You both lose and gain when you have children.  You can't pick both of the career paths that you want.  You can't (in most cases) marry both of the women or men you love for different reasons.  You can't have this house AND that house.  You can't live here AND there.  The money you spend on A is no longer available for B, no matter how much money you have.   The costs of A and B just go up.

Looking at it, thinking, I thought that the boundaries of self you choose are what enable experience to be poured into you and retained.  If you never choose a self, if you keep all options open by making no decisions, then the beer--the experience--poured into you is wasted, since there is no receptacle to receive it.

Now, of course we all "know" that we are supposed to find ourselves.  Maybe we are supposed to spend a year hitchhiking Europe, or join a commune, or climb all the mountains in North America, or study cooking in Paris, or whatever.

It seems to me, though--and I think I have said this a number of times--that no matter what you do, it is never enough.  The thirst never ceases for something else.  I lived in Northern California, and knew a lot of people who did a lot of interesting things.  But it always seemed as if they were comparing notes as to who did the coolest stuff, and competing with one another.  They were COLLECTING.

For my part, I had done enough crazy shit by age 23 or so that I am still processing it many years later.  And I don't know if it was worth it.  I remember being driven to do "interesting" things, but never really savoring it.  I don't know if this is my particular problem--and no doubt I have this issue at a minimum more than most--or something general.

But think, as an example, of a Tibetan monk, spending 3 years in solitary meditation.  That is an extraordinarily narrow definition of self: "he who meditates".  But is this not a glass with a narrow lip, but enormous potential depth?

You have to choose boundaries.  You must accept, in principle and reality, the limitations that are inherent even in the wealthiest, freest, most opportunity-rich world in human history.  This should not need saying, I would think, but I feel that it does.  I feel that we are given the implicit guarantee as children, in this country at least, that life is supposed to be easy.  This means that when confronted with the necessity of sacrifice, of constant choosing this over that, of renouncing this to have that, many of our children balk.  This is the root of grunge, and even of hippies: it is the perpetual adolescence necessitated by refusing to accept that choices have to be made.  Why not keep all options open in a dreamland fueled in no small measure by drugs?

Then I was thinking about the Buddhist concept of No Self (anatta).  Does not the Buddhadharma very narrowly define correct action?  There are all sorts of boundaries Buddhism places on monks, which are very much more strict than those of normal society.  They get a self--a behavioral code--handed to them, in a manner not that different from military recruit training.  You are born again, into a new way of living, which defines you.

Then I got to thinking about the Taoist empty cup.  The cup is empty, but by definition it can be filled.  It is not empty space alone: it is empty space FORMED within delimited space.  You don't want the cup filled because you want to be able to take in new experience.  But if there is no cup, there is no Subject, no?

Do you want a bottomless cup?  A transparent cup?  That is where I got a little off track.  Beer was after all involved. 

Anyway, few musings from a muser.

The Gold Standard

I read where a return to the Gold Standard may be in the Republican platform, and had several comments.

First, and most importantly, I have come to realize that most money in our economy is created by banks via loans.  That money is quite separate from the money issued by the Federal Reserve, over which we in any event have no control (Bernanke is even now considering a third many-billion dollar grant to large member banks).

The only TRUE gold standard, the only way in which it is not easy to monkey with money, is the use of gold coins.  Back when we knew the gold was in Fort Knox, we were on a fractional gold reserve, which meant that some percentage of our money in circulation was backed by gold.  After FDR's little adventure in currency devaluation, which involved coerced gold confiscation, the gold was redeemable to foreign governments, but not Americans.  After 1972, we frankly don't have the faintest clue what happened to the gold.  I have done work at Fort Knox, and most of the soldiers there don't think the gold is still there.  It has in their view been looted, likely by the Federal Reserve banks, who have control of that gold, and the apparently even larger cache at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

Most money today is electronic.  This raises serious questions about the viability of a return to the gold standard.  In its essence, a gold standard simply makes it harder to print money, since in theory you have to add physical gold in order to add to the physical money supply.  However, I suspect EVERY nation that has had a fractional gold standard has monkeyed with it.  Physical money printing is secret, so nobody really KNOWS when you've printed some.  It will have inflationary effects, but most people always think inflation is like forest fires--it's just something that happens--and it is of course often difficult to separate inflation from supply and demand.

As an example, we are told inflation has been low for years.  But the fact of the matter is that wherever fiat money is directed, inflation is enormous.  The bubble in housing prices was not the result of supply and demand, but inflation.  This is a point that is missed by many: you can have local inflation while other items, like food and clothing, remain relatively untouched.  The boom of the 1920's was characterized by inflation in the stock market enabled by margin lending and relatively easy credit.

In my own proposal I have suggested printing 50 currencies backed by a VERY fractional gold standard.  The issue arises, though, as to the ratio of physical money to electronic money.  I have seen proposals for chits which store value, but I don't like the potential abuse of those by power mongers.  I actually think it might be simplest to revert to 100% physical money. For electronic transfers, you could store your physical money at the bank, and they could transfer it electronically.  But for every dollar in existence, there would be a physical dollar somewhere.  Most would, I think, be in banks, for safekeeping and convenience, and titles would simply float around.

This is perhaps clumsy, and I may do better, but I think a core consideration needs to be keeping the power of money from centralizing anywhere.  We need many banks.  We need many money printers (all the States).

I have been in correspondence with Ben Dyson at Positive Money.  He has some interesting ideas, and I am hoping soon to allocate a day to contemplate them.  I have a method: I get a bunch of cigars, and a bottle of vodka, and spend the day in a cloud of smoke, contemplating.  It is useful, even if perhaps a bit odd.

What I would suggest is interesting is that conservatives in this country are more preoccupied with the Federal Reserve's creation of money, and in Britain they are more concerned with the bank's creation of money.  In my view BOTH have to be addressed, but of the two I think money creation by the banking private sector is actually numerically the much larger, and thus the more pressing.  Bernanke printed something over a trillion dollars and disbursed it to his pet banks, and no inflation resulted.  This is because nobody is borrowing because nobody at present has faith in a future where we have a socialist president, and the pending destruction of our healthcare system as we have known it.

But that money is all poised to create inflation, if reinvested in this country (we of course have no idea where it went, and there were of course no strings attached to receiving it), if and when people start borrowing in earnest again.  The wealth transfer has already happened.  Its signs have simply not manifested.

Long story short, I absolutely, enthusiastically support auditing the Fed, but think putting us back on some version of the gold standard is a policy decision that should be postponed until the public has a better general understanding of how banking works.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Cultural orders

I have in the past listed four different cultural orders: Sacrificial, Sybaritic Leftism, Cultural Sadeism, and Liberalism.  That essay is here.

Today, thinking about it, it seems to me I saw more than I realized in calling the first Sacrificial.  I would submit that all traditional cultures contain as a foundational element power structures which are non-negotiable and prejudicial to some group within the society, or to external groups.  Take as an example the American Indians.  Warfare was endemic, and constant among most of them.  They often took slaves.  War is a way of entering into a power relation, and war has been a constant of human society.  The precise nature of a sacrificial culture is that in some way it is non-egalitarian with respect to some other group.

And the important point here is how it deals with pain.  It deals with pain by making some group suffer more than others.

Egalitarianism--here I intend Sybaritic Leftism--responds with the claim that suffering is unnecessary, and that no one should suffer, including paradigmatically the pain of inequality.

Cultural Sadeists claim that EVERYONE should suffer, in the NAME only of compassion and relief from pain.  There is a duel element here, which alone distinguishes it from a sacrificial order. In practice, you still have an elite that lives a relatively better life than the subjects, but rhetorically, the suffering inflicted on the masses is called benign, necessary, and for the general elevation of society.

Obviously, there have been over the years many ideological justifications of slavery.  In America, blacks were claimed to be too stupid to take care of themselves.  I would submit, though, that in Communofascism the extent of the deception, and the fact that deceit is integral to the project, requires a separate classification.

Finally, in Liberalism you choose your own pain.  You have temporary leaders, but all power is understood as mutable and negotiable, and shared.

These are intuitions which I have perhaps not expressed coherently, and it may be that I have not in fact had good ideas, but I feel there is something here worth pursuing.

We need a direction as a society.  We need to be moving towards something, something we all want.  For that to happen, we need orienting ideas.  Providing those ideas is what virtually all my on-line work is dedicated to.

Communism in a nutshell

Communism could I think be neatly and accurately summarized as a doctrine which amplifies the worst elements of Capitalism while destroying its best elements.

Think about it: the claim is made, as an example, that workers are wage slaves. They are entirely dependent upon parasitical Capitalists who more or less own them.  What is the Communist solution?  More of the same, with the difference that your right to change jobs, protest bad work conditions, or organize a union is blocked.  Moreover, your freedom of assembly is vitiated, as are your rights to free speech, religious affiliation, gun ownership, a fair trial, privacy, governmental representation, and to vote.

For all this, you lose the actual productive capacity of Capitalism, which even when there are clear winners and losers, does a much better job of making stuff of various sorts.  We have not had bread lines in the United States since FDR did his experiments in socialism--which included among other things the completely wasteful slaughter of many thousands of pigs in order to push prices up for SOME farmers.

Quite literally, in order to embrace these contradictions you have to engage in a cognitive derangement that could be considered with justice a mental illness.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Anger and fear

It seems to me these two are two sides of the same coin, which I have likely said before.  What I see now is that in general anger is expressed outwardly, and fear inwardly.  And on the inside we do not call it fear.  It exists not so much as a recognized attribute of our experience so much as an absence: the absence of innocent joy; the absence of trust; the absence of spontaneity; the absence of dance.

In this sense sadomasochism is sex plus fear.  That is perhaps the simplest way of showing why it is wrong: it is by definition unhealthy, being the product of undesirable emotions.

So much of our culture induces fear.  That is the role of alleged "news" programs which, if they were worth a damn, would regularly do in-depth analyses of the various cultural maladies of which the "news" is merely a temporal manifestation.  Someone got shot.  The interesting question is why.  Why were they poor?  Why were they so angry?  Why were they in a gang?

Few drive by thoughts.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Timelessness

Does it not seem sometimes as if we are in an interstitial period, located between History and for all we know Catastrophe?  We lionize people like Steven Tyler, who were quite revolutionary 30 years ago, but whose principle virtue today is having survived.  Scan  your radio dial.  How much is new, and how much old?

Does it seem as if our society has a direction it is traveling?  Do you feel a strong sense of direction, and faith that the world will be more or less the same when you have traversed your way?

Obama is in some ways the Timelessness President.  He exists on TV screens.  He exists in interviews.  But who IS he?  Much of America doesn't seem to care.  Whoever he WAS, he exists today on the TV.  His Presence is eternal, and his past is irrelevant.  This is not just the result of conscious campaign choices by his handlers, but an aspect of our culture as it exists today.  So much change happens, that things seem to stand still, at least to my eye.  It is so many clouds puffing up, filling the sky, then being blown away by the wind, to be replaced by new ones.

This is a vague sense I have.  It is what I at times call the "de Chirico" sense, after the Italian much admired by the Surrealists.  Here is a pictorial representation--not, I think, the first on this site--of what I feel:



Goodness

Oyweh.  Wrote this in response to this article, and if the past is any indication, it may never appear.  I'm Rodney Dangerfield, or something.  Actually, speaking of Rodney Dangerfield, this is funny

As always, if I take the time to write the damn thing, I like to make sure it appears SOMEWHERE.

I wrote a piece on Goodness dealing with this rough topic, which I will link at the end of this post.  In my view, the academic search for singular best answers in the moral realm is futile, just as it is futile to search for final qualitative gestalts in any realm of human endeavor.  We live in a universe without a top or bottom, in which up is defined solely by the presence of gravity.  We must reason, then, as bubbles in an endless ocean.  Our advantages are that we are self aware bubbles, and we are aware of one another.

Logically, in any purposive activity, one must define one's goal.  The simplest and most obvious goal in human life is happiness.  The next question is: are there grades and types of happiness?  My answer is that, yes, there are.  The happiness of a parent seeing a child succeed is in my view qualitatively higher than spending time with a prostitute.  The pride of success in a long, hard fought battle is better than intoxication.
Logically, since I cannot inhabit other people's minds, all such reason must proceed from my own experience.  If my experiences are shared, then I will generate recognition in others.  I am not stipulating general rules; I am, rather, saying "this is true for ME, and I believe that you will find it true for YOU also."  Such a thing may be an approximate general rule, with exceptions.

In my view, there is no room for ontology, per se, but rather for tendencies and directions and approximations.  I call a moral order a Telearchy: it is an order--a complex order, a formally "chaotic" order--based upon chosen aims and principles.

Within my own moral ecology all moral decisions are local, imperfect, and necessary.  It will not be necessary for me to render a decision on whether or not to eat my cat until the cat dies.  And if I simply choose not to eat my cat because I don't want to, that is fine.  Nothing further need be said, as this is not even an important decision.

Your capacity to pursue your own rational self interest--a combination of temporal simple pleasures and higher grade, more difficult "flow" sorts of experiences--is dictated by your character.  In many cases, it is easier to make a decision which does not best support your own long term best interests.  This means that a properly moral disposition will have the capacity to reject self pity, and the capacity to persevere in the face of difficulty.  I therefore make these two habits immutable principles within my own creed.

My third core principle is what I call Perceptual Breathing, which is the constant habit of reconciling abstractions with concrete realities, and more generally constantly pursuing UNDERSTANDING on all the levels on which it operates: kinesthetic, emotional, cognitive (both in terms of patterns of thinking and actual knowledge) and in my view spiritual.

Thus, in answer to your question as to whether or not moral reasoning can be improved, I would say both no and yes.  No, because I don't think you can "do" morality in the abstract.  I do not think it is a useful activity.  Yes, because characters can be improved, judgement improved, knowledge gained.  But what is being improved is a complex moral gestalt that is unstable, but oriented through movement in a chosen direction.
Few thoughts.  My piece (I hesitate to call it an essay) is here: http://www.goodnessmovement.com/files/Download/dean%20rosengarten%20reply--modified.pdf

You may find the rest of the website of some interest as well.  Morality is the rough subtext of everything on there.  Even when I deal with economics, I am trying to develop a better understanding of the effects of specific types of policies on generalized human well being.  That website is http://www.goodnessmovement.com

Monday, August 20, 2012

Demons

I think some sort of milestone has been reached when you can look demons in the face and laugh at them. In the end, they are never outside of you.

Affairs

 I posted this as a response to this article, arguing in favor of affairs. I will add that I understand what they are saying, and have honestly thought more than once that if prostitution were more legal, that it's quite possible more marriages would survive.  I am no prude on this topic, but feel that in the end it is always best to subordinate your behavior, by and large, to principles you choose.  Perhaps I am mistaken, but feel one must be who one chooses to be, or one is at a minimum confused, and more likely self loathing.  Since the cure for self loathing is finding someone to tell you how wonderful you are, infidelity is in some respects a self reinforcing cycle.  I am in this case speaking of several people I know.

To live a secret life, you have to segment your personality.  You have to learn to repress all spontaneous expressions, lest your secret be revealed.  You have to learn to be cautious in what you say, and guarded in how you interact with the person who, in the end, you are lying to, either actively, or by definition by omission.

Your spontaneity you reserve for your lover.  How can this but diminish the rewards of asking for and receiving the loyalty of someone over the course of a life?


I do not think sex, per se, makes anyone happy.  I think it is the opening up to spontaneous emotions, to the unity and presence of momentary experience, to giving in a spirit of genuine generosity.  All of these things are possible within marriage.  I think things do not get old, at least if you are with someone with whom you have ever felt a deep connection: rather, I think people get lazy.


In the end, then, I think this is a rationalization of laziness and torpor, for which the prescribed remedy is betrayal.


Clearly, there may be couples who can manage the complicated dance of open marriages.  I suspect at least one partner in most such arrangements feels secretly hurt, but out of love is willing to tolerate the straying of the other.  This does, however, make the other person selfish, since they are willing to hurt the other person.


Personally, I am divorced, and waiting for the right woman.  I have had many short term sexual relationships, and have found consistently both a hollowness in pursuing sex for its own sake, and an utter revulsion with the idea of indulging in short term passions at the cost of my long term, self defining principles.  To use people is to lower oneself, also, to the role of an object.  I refuse to do it.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Weaponization of Hate and Paul Ryan

Phrase popped in my head today. This is the point of political propaganda.  Jacques Ellul makes this point well in his excellent book Propagandas (If memory serves, it was plural in French, and singular in English, which pissed him off).

How do you weaponize hate?  You arrange it in lines and rows, and you learn how to turn it on and off.  You find people who are content to be told what to think, what to wear, and who are easily moved to the madness of hatred just by seeing a name put on a glossy sheet posted in a special place.

That is all Leftists do.

With regard to Paul Ryan, the interesting problem they face is they are trying to demonize someone whose voice they cannot silence.  He can speak for himself, and does so articulately and from a basis of considered and informed opinion.  In my view, goose stepping to the beat of the old playbook is not only not going to work, it is going to reduce the effectiveness of that tactic considerably. 

In propaganda, you never, ever, ever want people to be able to compare the view you are spouting with an articulated reality.  Not only do you not carry the day, people stop listening to you. Obama, quite simply, does not have sufficient control of the media for this to work, which means that the more Ryan talks, the more certain a victory in November becomes.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Closing Ceremonies Olympic Games

The Queen exercised good judgment not going.  The English, depending on how you define them, have perhaps 1,500 years of history.  They have an Isaac Newton, and a Handel (they can claim).  They have Shakespeare, and Chaucer, and Milton.

All the words, they scattered them like so much trash on the cars and ground.  All the history, they left it alone.  Judging from the acts, only the last 30 years of British history matter, and those were precisely the years when they were rehearsing the Clockwork Orange, and the degradation of their culture to a circus clown act.

Pink Floyd?  When the world is watching?  Fashion models?  Fatboy Slim, with all the raves he's encouraged, with all the Ecstacy use that came with it?  A completely gray Brian May?

They could have trotted out Stephen Hawking.  They could have had an Oxford Don parade.

Yes, I know it was a celebration, but does anyone seriously think that the athletes went there primarily to party?  No, they got wild several hours later, listening to very different music.

So why not respect your own culture, your own achievements, while the world is watching?  As de facto guardian of British culture--to the minute extent she is able--the Queen made what must have been quite an easy, correct decision.

Love

Word I use quite seldom, although I do feel it.

The last couple of days I have been trying to look at people not as they are, but as who they are POTENTIALLY, given a boost.  It makes it much easier to love them.

And I think that people need a space to move.  You need to create a gap right under their feet, such that they fall into something new.  That gap begins with humility--I have felt my way into that--and ends with a vision for them, a new way of seeing them, such that they realize who they can become.

This is a feeling, as I said.  It's not concrete, and I'm not entirely sure how to describe it.  This is my stab at it.  When I get it more clearly, well, hell, I'll do it better.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Appeasement

It is of course difficult to say, but I get the impression sometimes that some people are afraid to speak their minds since they are worried about winding up on some government watch list, or somehow getting called publicly one of the abuse words left-wingers like to use: homophobe, bigot, racist, intolerant.

I would submit that voluntary self restraint amounts to appeasement in the face of a movement which fully intends to eradicate the freedom of speech--which is to say the freedom of thought in the public domain--entirely.  They want to eradicate religion.  They want to eradicate the principled use of reason, and the capacity for rational dialogue outright.  It never favors them.

Appeasement, as Churchill said, is negotiating with a crocodile in the hope it will eat you last.  But eat you it will, if not stopped.  Witness the use the Nazis made of Jewish leaders in organizing the Holocaust.  They told them they were safe, if they just released the names of all Jews in their districts. They complied, and were rewarded by getting sent to the gas chambers and work camps last.  Some reward.

If we are unable to prevent the descent of America--and by logical extension the world--into Fascist/Communist/Fabian Statist tyranny, then no one is safe.  You do not earn safety, merely a delay in your reckoning.

And I remember the doctor played by Daniel Day Lewis in "The Unbearable Lightness of Being" saying that once you stop speaking your mind, once you stop standing up, you lose the habit.  Everything becomes justifiable.  Silence, somehow, always comes to seem more "prudent" than speaking up, than calling things intolerable and awful and wrong.

And as Benjamin Franklin said: "They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."

Do not appease bastards. Resist them early, constantly, and until you physically cannot do otherwise.  That is the only choice of anyone possessing both courage and integrity.  Speak up.  Act.  Never, never, never, never quit.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Pets

I think pets serve for many as welcome respites from the bullshit that people spout out all day long.  They are a refuge for misanthropes, and a destination for feelings of emotional warmth and openness that many people are uncomfortable expressing with actual people.

Go to your pet shelter, and watch how people talk to animals.  It is amusing, but also instructive.  People have all these latent energies that just don't seem to get out any other way; or which, at least, help them maintain emotional elasticity and related coping skills.

I will add that of course dogs and cats are glad to see you: you are needed for food, for access to "outside", and to pet them.  They need your affection far more than they are granting it selflessly to you.  Yet, this neediness is honest, and I suppose this makes up for it.

The 2nd Date

I was hanging out last night with a group of younger cocktail waitresses that I've known for a while, and when I woke up this morning it hit me that it is sad that nowadays they are more or less expected to deliver sex on a second date--maybe even the first date--and usually a BJ.

BJ's used to be considered a bit of a perversion, something you got from a prostitute, but not from a self respecting girl.  Now, apparently, it's spit or swallow.  I think we have first Deep Throat to thank for that--a movie in which "Linda Lovelace" we now know was more or less a sex slave--and Bill Clinton.

I watch women, and I imagine their complex of feelings. Sometimes, of course, for men they really like, it is probably a turn on, something that makes them feel happy to be able to do.

Most of the time, though, I suspect there is a complex of feelings they don't really want to address, which includes shame, anger, a following need to mask both emotions, a certain subtle loss of self respect, and likely an increased tendency on the part of the man to objectify her.

Many girls nowadays come into sex this way.  That is their first sexual contact, is giving oral sex to a boy.  So it starts early.

And to my point here, I feel that damages the capacity of BOTH the man and the woman, the boy and the girl, to play with sex innocently, in a happy way.

It is possible both to enjoy a sunset, or a beautiful day, and to enjoy sex, but the way we do it nowadays, the first seemingly is largely lost, and the second compulsive, and all about an explosive release of tension accumulated in the course of a day of not feeling anything otherwise pleasant, otherwise enjoyable, otherwise relaxed and easy.

I like women.  Given my druthers, I always prefer hanging out with women to men.   And I was just feeling that there is this large subtle circle around sex which most men miss.  It is like they are looking for a target in the middle of a circle, which the woman is too, but there are all these shades of feelings, all these places between the line of first contact, and coitus that so often remain unexplored.

Hand holding.  As John Mellencamp sang, that used to mean everything.  I suspect more pleasure was had in the 50's walking around holding hands than is had nowadays having group blowjob parties.  That is why kids nowadays like Horror movies so much.  They don't know why, but it matches their emotional world.

Sex is so much of who you are, who you become, and it just doesn't seem like kids take the time to mature in it, to grow into it, to learn empathy and connection, and yes love, true love.  So many people grow into adulthood emotionally unsatisfied, with superficial relationships not just with the woman or man they marry, but with themselves.  That is where superficiality starts--by denying your own emotions, and that in turn begins with being forced prematurely into social situations--sex--for which you are emotionally undeveloped.

In some respects the development of torture porn was inevitable, since normal pornography is already emotionally violent.  It already requires the suppression of normal forms of affection, and emotionally valid bonding.  It already makes of both partners objects.  It is already a master/slave relationship.

I was just thinking I want more for these women.  It is not impossible.


Sunday, August 5, 2012

Sadness

I remember reading in "The Way of the Peaceful Warrior" that anger is stronger than sadness, as it leads to action.  I have decided I disagree.  Sadness is deeper and wiser than anger.

You can get things done with anger.  You become filled with rage, and forget fear, pain, indecision and caution entirely.  Tactically, no doubt, this can save lives.  Over short periods, it can be invaluable.

Over the course of a lifetime, though, it cannot be productively maintained.  It is a blistering, a swelling, an out-of-kilterness, a wounding that is simply blocked from awareness.

I cannot find the exact quote I want, but did find one close, from "Trauma and Recovery":

The second stage of recovery has a timeless quality that is frightening.  The reconstruction of the trauma requires immersion in a past experience of frozen time; the descent into mourning feels like a surrender to tears that are endless.
This notion of timelessness is interesting, as that has been my own experience.  I have often visualized that force which leads to evil as converting people into wax figures, motionless, timeless. (It is for this reason, I suspect, that wax figures have been made use of many times in horror movies).  I threw the book away, viewing it as pollution, my purpose having been served, but Simone de Beavoir makes the same observation of Sade: his images are just that: image.  They have relatively little motion, or development.  One travels from one diorama to another.

What are these wax figures?  They are souls confined, constrained.  They are emotional flows that stopped at a moment in time.  They are betrayed innocence, an openness punished with deep grief and betrayal.

How can you free them?  Only with tears.  Only with sadness.  All anger does is keep you alive, but it also forces you to run, to keep running, to pursue someone, anyone, a cause or a vicious vision.

And to the point, it is perfectly consistent with the continuation of emotional stasis.  Anger does not facilitate emotional growth.  Some of the most childish self absorbed people out there are angry all the time.

Sadness--mourning, specifically--is the path forward.  It enables all the frozen figures to take a breath.  And sadness, in my view, is the path to genuine compassion and love.  To be tender is to understand you can be hurt, but also to KNOW that you can survive wounding.

I cry often.  I am the guy that cries when Aunt Mae gives Peter the great speech in Spider Man 2 about how heroes sometimes have to sacrifice what they want to do what is right.  I cry when Captain America decides to put the plane into the ocean.  I cry when Sam delivers his magnificent speech at the end of the Two Towers.

Sentimentality, no doubt., you may say.  I am after all describing two comic books and a fantasy novel.  I would argue, though, that the very childishness, the simplicity of these works is what makes them most real.  Some people claim to be sophisticated.  Externally, this may be true.  But I think all of us, at heart, react most to comic book sorts of sentiments.  Communism, when it is seducing future thralls, sells utopia, peace, and justice.  

In America, we pride ourselves on being the City on the Hill.  I am a patriot.  I believe in the vision.  But at the same time, could not hundreds of Indian tribes look at us as not all that different in our relationship with them, as Panem with the Districts in the Hunger Games?  American Indians--who were not native, by the way, only here a long time before us--were very heterogeneous.  Some tribes were unquestionably our moral superiors, in my view, and some warranted little but what they got.

I'm wandering.  Net: every time I cry, I feel stronger.  I feel better able to negotiate the currents of this world openly.  Now, I have what I call my blast shield.  I can be stone when it comes to emotion whenever I choose to be.  I am very confident I could deal effectively with ANY  task I was presented with.  I just turn my emotions off.

But on a deeper level, I am quite prepared to march into hell to meet the enemies of grief and hatred and anger, and viciousness.  I see them.  I monitor them.  I am not afraid of seeing what is in front of me.  I fail often, am weak often, but when I look in the mirror I really do see someone willing to take the Devil on his own turf and win.

The Hunger Games

Finally saw the movie.  As I suspected, I have a number of reactions.  I may have more in a day or two.

My first reaction was emotional: sadness.  It makes me sad that this sort of horrific violence, this vicarious delight in cruelty has become so mainstream that I saw kids in the theater that could not have been older than ten.  As I periodically do, I think (can't remember what I post where), I like to recommend the book Viewing Violence.  As it states in the review "Graphic, gratuitous depictions of violence on television and in the movies, she concludes, encourage young viewers to act more aggressively, desensitizes them to real-world violence and instills a distorted, pessimistic worldview. Media violence also makes children more restless, more fearful and less creative."

Or take this summary, a bit longer, from here:

We now know a lot about the effects of media violence. Study after study has found that children often behave more violently after watching media violence. The violence they engage in ranges from trivial aggressive play to injurious behavior with serious medical consequences. Children also show higher levels of hostility after viewing violence, and the effects of this hostility range from being in a nasty mood to an increased tendency to interpret a neutral comment or action as an attack. In addition, children can be desensitized by media violence, becoming less distressed by real violence and less likely to sympathize with victims. Finally, media violence makes children fearful, and these effects range from a general sense that the world is dangerous, to full-blown anxieties, nightmares, sleep disturbances, and other trauma symptoms.

The evidence about these effects of media violence has accumulated over the last few decades. Meta-analyses, which statistically combine all the findings in a particular area, demonstrate that there is a consensus on the negative effects of media violence. They also show that the effects are strong – stronger than the well-known relationship between children’s exposure to lead and low I.Q. scores, for example. These effects cannot be ignored as inconclusive or inconsequential.

Even more alarming, recent research confirms that these effects are long lasting. A study from the University of Michigan shows that TV viewing between the ages of 6 and 10 predicts antisocial behavior as a young adult. In this study, both males and females who were heavy TV-violence viewers as children were significantly more likely to engage in serious physical aggression and criminal behavior later in life; in addition, the heavy violence viewers were twice as likely as the others to engage in spousal abuse when they became adults. This analysis controlled for other potential contributors to antisocial behavior, including socioeconomic status and parenting practices."


Now, I want to be clear: I have mentioned this to both my children, neither of whom is particularly fond of violent movies, but both of whose friends routinely watch movies like 300, Halloween, and who knows what else.  Both my kids reacted by stating that they would not go out and hurt someone as a result of watching the movies.  I don't doubt this, and feel it obvious that this applies to the overwhelming majority of kids out there.

That is not the point.  The point is that subtle but real and important psychological changes come about from becoming inured to the emotional pain the psycholocially normal feel in empathy for those in pain on the screen.  This is our natural inheritance, and a valuable one at that.

It is GOOD to be sensitized.  There is no value in learning not to react when some horrific act is performed on some other human being.  And learning to laugh, to find humor in horror, is literally training evil.

Take the teenaged kids who formed the pack in the movie. They were laughing at the deaths of others.  They found killing FUN.  Obviously, they were portrayed as bad guys, there, but are they not there as potential role models nonetheless?  Does it seem so unlikely that some kids, perhaps from abusive and/or emotional frozen homes, could not watch the sadistic violence on there and wish they could kill someone?

Read the plot to Hostel 3, or as much as you can stomach.  They call this torture porn.  It is literally teaching people to react to cruelty with pleasure.  You could not create a worse cultural pattern if your actual goal was to generalize emotional alienation and fragmentation.

My youngest child, in junior high, has been assigned a book in which not only are the original Grimm's fairy tales told accurately, but the book is filled with commentary on how exciting and wonderful the blood soaked pages are.  Two children have their heads cut off by their father.  A young girl has her soul pulled from her throat and imprisoned to die in a cage, and her body is hacked into pieces and eaten.  This is the sort of thing they are assigning young teenagers.

It's too much.  Did they really have to kill that beautiful young black girl, Rue?  Did they have to show it on screen?  Teenagers killing teenagers, and teenagers not just watching it, but participating in it vicariously. 

You see, there is a very thin psychological line between watching people watching people dying, and simply being the people watching.  We all have learned to consume media.  We have seen Big Brother, and any number of other reality shows where people are followed everywhere but the bathroom. (and I had not thought about it, but there's no reason the Games viewers would not also have seen the kids answering the call of nature).  We are used to it.

What the violent Panem culture did was in principle not different than what we have already learned to do: consume the lives of others, live through others.

Panem et Circenses: the dominant culture already had bread, did it not?  The Games were not just a means of distraction, but amounted to the sacred center of the entire culture.  The Games location, the killing fields, was the locus, the epicenter of a post-cultural elite, whose ritual of violence sustained them in their morbid, sick lives.

I spent some time in graduate school studying sacrifice (sacre fice: act of the sacred).  My conclusion was that sacrifice, per se, was ENTIRELY cultural.  It is in fact the outcome of religions that do NOT value the truly sacred, the truly spiritual.  They are, rather, the outcome of inefficient meaning systems, which is to say violence dispersion systems, which is to say ways of reaching love, contentment, joy and connection.

We intuitively sense sacrifice as Satanic in some way.  We forget, of course, that the Jews for a very long time ritually killed actual animals on shines which must have always smelt of blood.  Christ, himself, has in received theology been compared to such animals, as if an omnipotent being needed blood to sustain himself or forgive anyone.  I will say this: that interpretation of Christ's sacrifice is entirely wrong, in my own view.  I have argued this at some length in my Grand Inquisitor piece.

I have defined Goodness as taking pleasure in the successes and happiness of others, and the ability to live happily oneself.  You must be capable of generating your own sense of meaning and place and purpose and joy, and you should be capable of sharing that of others.

If you cannot generate your own happiness, you are bound, are you not?  You are stuck.  You cannot move, and remaining still is painful.  This is the root of the dialectic of the demonic crowd and the sacrificial victim.  Their pain, they cannot feel, so they feel it through the pain of others, and that releases them, for a time.  I have said this many times.  I can see it so clearly.

In a very real sense, though, the victim exists for a time FIRST.  Your emotions are tied to theirs.  The crowds at the Panem circus wanted to get to know the lives of their victims, making the necessary fact of the deaths of most of them all the more objectionable, but necessary, given their cultural system.

In this sense, I found the symbol of the mockingbird interesting.  She creates a sound, then it echoes.  She goes first.  She sets the pattern.  Others can only follow.  All eyes were on her, and not in places of conscious freedom.  The author must have intuited some element of this, even if it was not placed in words.

Are we modern Romans?  Are we ready for Coliseums, mass pandemonium, and ritual death?

I honestly don't know.  I wish I did.  I will keep at it; that is all I can do.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Sade

It occurs to me that in one sense, and one sense only, Sade retained some life in him.  His writing was an outpouring of the need to create, but he could only create through destruction.  He tortured himself by simultaneously wanting to build something, but being unable to do so within the parameters he allowed himself. This is why he went mad.

Risk

This will be a bit scattered, as I am trying to connect some dots.

I was reading an interesting piece on LSD, which makes a case for relegalizing it for some genuinely medical purposes, including treatment of alcoholism, PTSD, some forms of depression, and for enhancing creativity.  I had not realized it, but Francis Crick--who has always said the double helix came to him in a dream--was actually tripping on acid.  Apparently, a great many Silicon Valley zip code breakthroughs happened on acid.

Now, I've known my share of people who were permanently screwed up as a result of taking LSD.  But I have also known some very normal, creative people who did it once or twice and found it very, very useful.  Steve Jobs said it was one of the two or three experiences most influential with respect to who he became as a person.  As the article says:

Most people enrolled in his study have reported that a single psychedelic session substantially reduced their anxieties related to death, while also qualifying as one of their most spiritual experiences.

Now, let's talk about playgrounds. 

That research centers once were permitted to explore the further frontiers of consciousness seems surprising to those of us who came of age when a strongly enforced psychedelic prohibition was the norm. They seem not unlike the last generation of children’s playgrounds, mostly eradicated during the ’90s, that were higher and riskier than today’s soft-plastic labyrinths. (Interestingly, a growing number of child psychologists now defend these playgrounds, saying they provided kids with both thrills and profound life lessons that simply can’t be had close to the ground.)

I see people from time to time ask "what freedoms have we lost?"  Well, the freedom to determine our own level of risk, for one.  In a nanny state, you breed depressed people because they lack the courage of freedom.  You can't handle freedom if you can't handle deciding how to handle risk, how to make decisions in dynamic non-controlled environments.  The less freedom people have, in conditions of safety, the less they value their freedom, and the more dependent and infantile they become.

Here is an interesting article from the New York Times:

“Children need to encounter risks and overcome fears on the playground,” said Ellen Sandseter, a professor of psychology at Queen Maud University in Norway. “I think monkey bars and tall slides are great. As playgrounds become more and more boring, these are some of the few features that still can give children thrilling experiences with heights and high speed.”
“Climbing equipment needs to be high enough, or else it will be too boring in the long run,” Dr. Sandseter said. “Children approach thrills and risks in a progressive manner, and very few children would try to climb to the highest point for the first time they climb. The best thing is to let children encounter these challenges from an early age, and they will then progressively learn to master them through their play over the years.”

Sometimes, of course, their mastery fails, and falls are the common form of playground injury. But these rarely cause permanent damage, either physically or emotionally. While some psychologists — and many parents — have worried that a child who suffered a bad fall would develop a fear of heights, studies have shown the opposite pattern: A child who’s hurt in a fall before the age of 9 is less likely as a teenager to have a fear of heights.
It has been my practice for some years to congratulate my kids whenever they skin their knees or fall down.  I tell them periodically skinning their knees is their job as kids, and a sign they are doing their job properly.  This is how you condition children for freedom and responsibility.

Finally, running shoes.  I just finished listening to the well told story of a race in Mexico in Christopher MacDougall's "Born to Run".  In it, he points out that padding in running shoes only came into being in the 1980's, with Nike. Our great marathoners of the 1970's wore almost no "protection", but ran extremely well.
In a study done in Switzerland, there was found to be a very high correlation between the cost of running shoes and injury.  The more expensive the shoes, the more injuries.

What they also found was that the more the padding, the HARDER the foot impact.  What was theorized was that our nervous system instinctively wants to feel the stability of hard ground.  If it encounters a soft surface, it pushes through, hitting with more force.  If you take the padding away, it gets that sensation much more directly.

We need risk, and to the extent it is taken away, we suffer.

Why do the comfortable products of very safe suburban lives get so many tattoos and piercings?  Why does so much music focus on pain?  When people had objectively hard lives, no air conditioning, long hours, limited choices in food, they listened to happy, even sappy music.  Now we have reversed.

Ponder all this.