Shutdown at the OK Corral

“The most accurate description of the Federal shutdown is an attempted corporate veto of American democracy. We must act accordingly. ” (occupynetwork.com)

I’d call it an attempted coup d’état.

Responding to David Brin‘s Government Shutdown or Showdown?:

“…one has to wonder about the author’s core assumption, that all of the right wing’s oligarchs want the United States to thrive.”

I doubt there is much nationalist sentiment in the upper rooms of the now globalized plutocracy. In fact, I imagine that a brutal punishment of the uppity US middle class in particular and the working classes of the world in general is pretty high on the agenda.

Despite the fact that a largely PR-driven model of subjugation-exploitation might be far more efficient and profitable, I imagine a deep emotional desire, perhaps fairly unconscious, on the part of the power-mad to wage a zero-sum, scorched-earth campaign against democracy. I think they perceive liberal democracy and self-governance as a far greater existential threat than climate change or the limits to growth in general. Besides, I think they see massive population reduction (survival of the richest) as a good solution to the latter. When the rich own nearly all the assets on earth they won’t need teeming masses to depress labor costs. By then they wont need much labor, period. Large populations will just be in the way, and they will represent the most clear and present danger to the elites.

Brin talks about the culture war as phase three of the US Civil War but it seems much bigger than that. Its a war on humanity. And Brin talks about a war on science but that’s only part of a larger war: a war on Reason. Not only self-government but Reason itself might vanish from the face of the earth for a very long time if psychopaths have their way.

GOP 2014: “FUCK SHIT UP FOR FREEDOM!”

Poor Richard

“When plunder becomes a way of life for a group of men, they create for themselves, in the course of time, a legal system that authorizes it, and a moral code that glorifies it.” – Political economist Frederic Bastiat, The Law [1850]

A World With No One In Control « how to save the world

A World With No One In Control « how to save the world.

Filed under: How the World Really Works — Dave Pollard

“There’s an implicit presumption, in everything the media reports on, in our whining about governments and elites and bosses, that as civilization culture has grown ever larger and more global, the power and control of those at the top of the pyramid has grown correspondingly larger, and that they’re still in control, still worthy of praise and re-election and multimillion dollar bonuses when things go right, and still worthy of blame and overthrow and opprobrium when things go wrong.

“But there’s plenty of evidence that if that ever was the case, it isn’t the case now. One of the key attributes of complex systems is that, unlike merely complicated ones, because of the huge number of variables and moving parts and interactions and effects between and among them, we can never hope to understand what’s really going on in them, or predict or significantly influence what happens in them. They become larger and larger black boxes, ever more mysterious, until suddenly they produce great depressions, peak oil and runaway climate change, and no one knows how, or why, or how to mitigate or change them. Like Charles Barsotti’s cartoon above says, in complex systems nobody knows anything. And no one is in control.”  Read the rest…

[I agree with most of Dave's epiphany about complexity, but another aspect of reality is proximity–we do know a little about a little, and we can predict or control a little about a little. So there is a place for small hopes and puny efforts, even in the context of the grand complexity and absurdity which Dave Pollard portrays most eloquently. The ego that wants to control or save the whole world is the same one that wants to renounce the world and absolve itself of all duty and responsibility. --PR]

:: Pema Chodron – On Shenpa :: (being “hooked”)

Mono a Mono?

Was monotheism an advance in human understanding?

What if the historical trend towards monotheism were principally reinforced by its utility as a pretext for authoritarianism?

The animism and polytheism (or pantheism) of early humanity did not preclude the appropriation of religious motifs and beliefs by sociopolitical institutions or hierarchies, but they may have made it more difficult for such hierarchies to grow into permanent monopolies of orthodox dogma.

The word orthodox is from the Greek orthos (“right”, “true”, “straight”) + doxa (“opinion” or “belief”, related to dokein, “to think”) (Wikipedia)

Perhaps ideology is a stage in the development of authoritarian culture analogous to monotheistic theologies. Each “brand” of theology and ideology rolls up and obscures a pantheon of diverse ideas. Converts don’t need to drill down very deeply.

Ironically, the growing influence  of science on society may contribute to a popular misconception of scientific or academic certainty that can be exploited to forge even tighter monopolies on culture and thought. The evil twin of science, pseudo science or “scientism,” is seductive to many.

Theology, ideology, and scientism lend themselves equally to the agenda of authoritarianism. The real war for the hearts and minds of humanity is not between the Right and the Left, or any of their many academic, theological or ideological proxies. The real war that underlies everything else is between orthodoxy and pluralism. Conformity and conflict are two sides of one coin. We need forms of civic equality and conviviality that are not based on uniformity.

Nature abhors a monoculture.

“The etiology is psychiatric” — Helen Caldicott

PR

Related: Town Hall Meeting: Class war, Culture war, or Holy war?

The Origins of Human Nature

Charles Robert Darwin, Natural Selection from ...

Charles Robert Darwin, Natural Selection from Cartoon portraits and biographical sketches of men of the day (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Human cultures are as much a product of the human genome (and epigenome) as are individual human beings.  Genes influence “human nature” and human nature influences culture (and the reverse). Charles Darwin guessed this 150 years ago, but only recently has scientific evidence reached a critical mass in support of a general model of multilevel selection.

Multilevel selection is a set of dynamic and recursive interactions between various “units” of natural selection such as individual selection and group selection.

“A unit of selection is a biological entity within the hierarchy of biological organization (e.g. self-reproducing molecules, genes, cells, individuals, groups, species) that is subject to natural selection. For several decades there has been intense debate among evolutionary biologists about the extent to which evolution has been shaped by selective pressures acting at these different levels. (Wikipedia)

In theory such co-evolutinary relationships between units of selection could extend from the molecular level all the way to the biosphere as a whole. Mathematical models for such generic co-evolution are works in progress, with the current concentration of effort directed at the individual-group level.

In “The Social Conquest of Earth” (amazon.com),  Dr. E. O. Wilson (Wikipedia) describes for a broad audience the available evidence for an individual-group model of multilevel selection including its ecological and social aspects.

Among other things, multilevel selection offers a framework for understanding the evolutionary origins of the “varieties of human experience”, including the effects of natural variation and selection on different “phenotypes” of human personality, morality, and culture. As a rule of thumb (an admitted oversimplification), Wilson attributes “selfish” characteristics to individual selection and altruistic or cooperative characteristics to group selection. The constant, dynamic tension between these “magnetic poles” of our nature may account for much of our cognitive and cultural dissonance.

I’ll close my introduction to this topic with the final words of Abraham Lincoln’s First Inaugural Address:

“We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”

Poor Richard

Charlie Rose interviewing Dr. Edward Wilson (two-minute excerpt):

Videos:

“The Righteous Mind”Jonathan Haidt, C-SPAN BookTV:

“Jonathan Haidt, psychology professor at the University of Virginia, presents his thoughts on the current political and social divisions that he contends separate the Left and the Right. The social psychologist examines the origins of these fissures and explains that people’s moral intuition, the initial perceptions we have of others, propagates the idea that people who view the world differently from how we do are wrong.” (full video)

Video excerpt (10 min):

How do Conservatives and Liberals See the World? (vimeo.com)

“Bill Moyers and moral psychologist Jonathan Haidt talk about the psychological underpinnings of our contentious culture, why we can’t trust our own opinions, and the demonizing of our adversaries.”

Know Then Thyself

by Alexander Pope

Know then thyself, presume not God to scan
The proper study of mankind is man.
Placed on this isthmus of a middle state,
A being darkly wise, and rudely great:
With too much knowledge for the sceptic side,
With too much weakness for the stoic’s pride,
He hangs between; in doubt to act, or rest;
In doubt to deem himself a God, or beast;
In doubt his mind and body to prefer;
Born but to die, and reas’ning but to err;
Alike in ignorance, his reason such,
Whether he thinks to little, or too much;
Chaos of thought and passion, all confus’d;
Still by himself, abus’d or disabus’d;
Created half to rise and half to fall;
Great lord of all things, yet a prey to all,
Sole judge of truth, in endless error hurl’d;
The glory, jest and riddle of the world.

TIMN in 20 minutes: social evolution — past, present, and future, (YouTube.com) This video offers an overview of the TIMN framework: its focus on social evolution (past, present, future), its construction around four cardinal forms of organization (tribes, institutions, markets, networks), its system dynamics, and its future implications.

Dr. Gabor Maté: Attachment and Brain Development (46:21) (youtube.com)

and a longer version

1:21:49 Dr. Gabor Maté

Why America Failed

Book TV (CSPAN) also covered this recently. Berman makes some great points, such as:  “Education” and “communication” per se (exposure to facts, rational arguments, etc.) can not produce fundamental changes in US society.

The influence of biases in “human nature” (e.g. emotion, cognitive biases, etc.) on our national identity, cognition, and social behavior are too deeply rooted. No matter how hard we try to “communicate” and “educate”, the breakdown of  society is largely an irreversible trend. The behavioral adaptations that are demanded of us if we are to survive the rapid changes in our population, environment, etc. are all but ruled out by the cognitive biases built into us by evolution.

PR

Morris Berman – Why America failed – YouTube.

PNAMBC

Front cover of The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of...

Image via Wikipedia

PNAMBC = Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain

I don’t hear “Starve the beast” much from the right these days, but the corporate strategy is alive and well in Wisconsin (and all over the USA).

Wikipedia notes, “It appears the earliest use of the term “starving the beast” to refer to the political-fiscal strategy was in a Wall Street Journal article in 1985 where the reporter quoted an unnamed Reagan staffer. [8]“

The gist of it is: 1. Tax cuts –> 2. Budget crises –> 3. Emergency bills and powers –> 4. Mass privatization of schools, courts, jails, utilities, armies, etc.

Of course there are other ways than tax cuts to get to #3. Emergency bills and powers.

There is also the Shock Doctrine described by Naomi Klein. Catastrophic deregulation is one way to create a shock by unleashing the corporate sociopaths as in the Wall Street disaster.

There is George Orwell’s and  Noam Chomsky’s state of perpetual war, by which dominant political and economic classes consolidate their power over their own countrymen and transfer wealth from taxpayers to corporations.

And there is the good old culture war designed to get the poor and the middle class herded up into mobs that will vote against their own economic interests.

All told these are powerful and perhaps irresistible forces, even if they are all only built of smoke and mirrors…

PR

 

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