Saturday, July 17, 2021

Strange Days

Great Seal of the United States (obverse).svg
    (Not A Government Publication)

- What's got you so thoughtful?
- I regularly visit at a few dozen or so of the comparatively independent liberal, socialist, anarchist, radical, publications on the internet, and see with dismay regular and frequent agreement that Israel is to be included in almost every list of the evil being done in today's world. Israel: the infamous settler colonial state, executing a program of ethnic cleansing, genocidal, sadistic, imperialist. And then, during the latest war between Gaza and Israel a few months back, the mainstream supposedly liberal media suddenly began in unison to similarly attack Israel, albeit with the vocabulary toned down. Do you have any idea what's involved here?
- Uniformity and passions. What does that combination tell you?
- Passions are dispositions that are learned unconsciously. Often the teacher is a group.
- But why this passionate hatred of Israel? Why the absurd claims of settler colonialism when that requires there be a mother country - the Greek word for colony is 'home-away', 'home away from home' - yet where is the mother country of the Jews (if it is not Israel itself)? How are Israel's enemies innocent victims when they send hundreds or thousands of missiles aimed at civilians when targeting civilians is in international humanitarian law recognized as a war crime?
- I think the liberal publishers and journalists and assorted politicos resent being made guilt-ridden by being the beneficiary of American acts of settler colonialism, ethnic cleansing, etc, and enjoy, pouncing on the predicament of Israel, turning the tables and being the prosecutor rather than defendant.
- Remember our slogan, think for yourself, act for others, and its opposite, think with others, act for yourself? Perhaps the journalists, ambitious conformists, are thinking the same as others in performing their specialized roles and expect to be rewarded with being allowed the indulgence of passions.
- As indulgers in passion you cannot of course reason with them. Passions are by definition learned unconsciously therefore cannot be consciously defended, and no real attempt is made to defend them. Instead opposition views are being censored, filtered, curtailed by the social media companies and corporate captured publications. The co-founder of Wikipedia says this is happening more and more often on his publication by recourse to rules that allow blocking of new editors. I checked the Wikipedia article on settler colonialism: hundreds of words against Israel, including it in that category as if were obvious, a foregone conclusion, and a couple of sentences in defense of Israel against an avalanche of condemnation. And what was I musing over when you joined me? That after hundreds or even a thousand visits to the big Starbucks in Beverly Hills the 'barista' told me, the only customer in the restaurant at that time of morning, that there was a new ninety minute stay limit. I told the him I was pretty sure that there was no such rule, he threatened to call the police and have me thrown out if I didn't leave. The same thing happened the following morning. Starbucks' corporate office confirmed to me by email later on both days that there was no such rule, their regional manager called me and confirmed there was no such rule.
- Did the barista know you were Jewish?
- I'd told him some months before, commenting on how unusually quiet the streets were that it was a Jewish holiday and though I was Jewish I couldn't say for sure which one. In the past days there'd been a large anti-Israel demonstration down the street from this Starbucks, and then a counter demonstration. It's been a time of many strange things happening in my life.
- Like what?
- My old Italian road bike was stolen from up at the University, locked and in the middle of the day. I placed a notice on Craigslist describing the bike, and a couple days later, while I was at the University's police station making an official report, an email message arrived with the subject 'Bike Spotted'. The message read: 'Your bike is at a homeless encampment at Pico and Purdue. Go get it. Hurry!' I asked, but the police refused to go with me to retrieve the bike. I got on my newly procured replacement bike, and when almost there, by the 405 freeway, stopped to ask directions from a party of six young people. I explained my task and asked if they'd like to go with me to get my bike back from the thief: there might be some danger. They would. The thief was seated on a folding chair, a woman friend of his was cleaning my bike right out on the sidewalk, piles of bikes on either side. As prearranged the biggest man of my escort stated with finality, 'I'm taking my bike.' The woman rolled the bike to me, somehow understanding it was mine. The thief said not a word. Feeling certain he would go up to the University to steal it again I sold the bike, but only a month later my replacement bike was stolen while I was seeing a movie, the thief leaving his bike in its place and taking my three locks with him.
- A worthless bike?
- Actually, no. Worth about the same as the bike he took from me. I'm riding it now.
- You don't seem very disturbed by all this craziness. 
- It's like a fountain of minor troubles is flowing continuously which when full to the brim can increase in level no further, reaching a fixed but manageable limit. The feeling of being in the midst of continuously contained, changing troubles is a lot like the anxiety of entering upon the creative process when much is happening in the background the meaning of which demands to be determined.
- You don't believe in going with the flow?
- If you don't feel tension when creating you are relying on an already achieved style, a specialized technique. In the context of an intention to perform your role then indulge your passion, focus on style is likely to attract to itself content expressive of unconsciously learning.
- The liberal news purveyors are indulging themselves in the flow of technique, the satisfactions of predictable role play, and in unconsciousness of the origins of their passions fail to engage with complexity, ending up being crude and conventional.

Monday, June 28, 2021

The Liar Paradox

- Have you watched the ex-president's speech at his rally yesterday?
- A few seconds.
- After our talk* about evil I wanted to see what evil looks like.
- And what does evil look like?
- His laughably incompetent, fragmentary imitations of male and female characteristics, the positive ones of ambition and love, and the negative ones of aggression and vanity** were on display as usual. But otherwise I didn't know where to look for how the group act of attempting to enslave everyone else looks in an individual.
- You're familiar with these words from Aristotle's Ethics:
The life of money-making is one undertaken under compulsion, and wealth is evidently not the good we are seeking; for it is merely useful and for the sake of something else.
- Yes. What about them?
- American evil takes the form of doing what Aristotle said no one would want to do except under compulsion: making-money as an end in itself, all other human qualities made to serve that end or sacrificed to that end. 
- But when I observe our ex-president I don't see this sacrifice of human nature, selling out one's own freedom to be fully human to the act of money-making. I don't see much of human nature at all. I see imitation.
- Remember that capitalism is the form of enslavement that requires the slaves to buy the products they themselves have made. Capitalism can be further defined as the form of evil that involves money-making as an end in itself. Maximum efficiency in money-making requires the ability to represent yourself in a way that gets others to do what favors your interests.
- Do you mean imitate in the sense of make a image that will be useful to strangers to know what to expect from you, or do you mean lie?
- I mean both. Our ex-president made millions playing a businessman on TV when in fact he was in his incompetence hardly a businessman at all, was in action and intention nothing but a criminal.
- I don't see those evil actions and intentions when I watch him.
- Maybe you see despair and paranoia?
- Yes, I do.
- As the worker in capitalism is a slave who has to buy back the products he himself has made, so the slave to money-making has to buy back, at the cost of his humanity, the unwanted image of himself he has been forced to make. Money-making become an end in itself, unlimited by nature, the moment it pauses forces upon the money-maker the sight of the self constructed to fit the requirements of the moment, the self which is not really self in a world of people not really themselves. Despair is a cycling awareness of self as wrong, which awareness is fled from, which flight shows a character that is incapable, which sight of incapacity is fled from.... Paranoia a cycling awareness of a threatening world, flight from which shows the self to be unequal to the world's danger, which sight then must be fled from....There is a third cycle, that of doubting the truth of self and other selves, involving both self and world, involving the self about the world.***
- Which is?
- In the Liar Paradox the declaration is made, 'Everything I say is a lie.'
- So the statement itself, as something said, is a lie, which means that statement is true, true that it is a lie....
- The cycle moves from the world of lies, to the self making a statement about lying. If I had said, 'Everything I say about the world (but not about statements) is a lie' there would be no problem.
- You think you can see, together with despair and paranoia, an awareness of the Liar Paradox in our ex-president's behavior?
- 'I am lying you know I am lying so I am not really lying which means I am lying when I impress upon you I am always lying....' Though a pathological cycle like despair and paranoia, his audience eats it up.
- Why?
- Like the ex-president they practice money-making as an end in itself. They suffer the same distortion of human nature to meet the needs of money-making as he does, revel in his show of god-like freedom from the pain and confusion consequent to unreality of self. The ex-president appeals to his crowd, in all the glory of his erotic masculine / feminine fakery, 'Come share with me my beautiful freedom from reality!'

Further Reading:
* Good Vs. Evil
*** See: Sex For Success, UCLA Libraries and Collections, N7433.4.M617 A74 1989, Special Collections

Monday, June 7, 2021

Good Vs. Evil

- What are you reading? Let me see.
The fundamental elements of the theory are tasks, i.e., the abstract specifications of transformations in terms of input/output pairs of attributes. A task is impossible if there is a law of physics that forbids its being performed with arbitrarily high accuracy, and possible otherwise. When it is possible, then a constructor for it can be built, again with arbitrary accuracy and reliability. A constructor is an entity which can cause the task to occur while retaining the ability to cause it again. Examples of constructors include a heat engine (a thermodynamic constructor), a catalyst (a chemical constructor) or a computer program controlling an automated factory (an example of a programmable constructor).
Who is that by?
- David Deutsch, the British physicist. Keep reading.
Feelings and moods will ultimately prove to be brain activity, and since brain activity is physical, and all physical acts are computable, feelings must also be computable.
- David Deutsch again?
- Yes, paraphrased. Keep reading.
The time is out of joint. O cursèd spite, / That ever I was born to set it right.
- This one I know: Shakespeare, Hamlet.
- Yes. Keep reading.
Let us, then, be up and doing, / With a heart for any fate; / Still achieving, still pursuing, / Learn to labor and to wait.
- I'm laboring and I'm waiting to hear from you the point of all this.
- Longfellow, the end of his famous poem The Psalm of Life. A couple more quotes and you'll be done. Read.
Without contraries is no progression. Attraction and repulsion, reason and energy, love and hate, are necessary to human existence. From these contraries spring what the religious call Good and Evil. Good is the passive that obeys reason; Evil is the active springing from Energy. Good is heaven. Evil is hell.
- I don't know. William Blake maybe?
- Correct. Continue.
There’s class warfare, all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.
- A billionaire speculator said that, can't remember his name. The one that said it was not right that his secretary paid a higher rate of tax than he did but didn't offer to pay his secretary's taxes or to pay more taxes himself.
- Correct again. The name's not important.
- So what is all this about?
- I've been inspired to concision by David Deutsch's attempt with constructor theory to give a theory of everything: computers, quantum physics, evolution, explanation. He says that good will win out against evil in human life because good's creativity will find a way to beat evil's ignorant conservative attempt to deny individuals freedom.
- Do you agree?
- No. Conservative evil has only one job: by enslaving the good blocking its ability to make use of the advantage of creativity. Good has two jobs: being creative, and dealing (unwillingly) with the threat evil represents to creativity.
- Hamlet!
- Yes. The good hesitates, and evil quickly moves to get in ahead and remove conditions necessary for freedom, making the good slaves, working in repetitive, deadening occupations, convincing them they are machines, that there is nothing to life but ever progressing technology eliminating thereby even the imagination of creativity.
- Let us be up and doing then what?
- Let us be good, which according to Blake is to confine the energy of doing within the bounds of reason.
- The not doing of contemplation: of truth, beauty, or good.
- Yes. Read, last time:
A knowledge of the historic and philosophical background is necessary for a scientist to become free of the prejudices of his generation from which most scientists are suffering. This independence created by philosophical insight is - in my opinion - the mark of distinction between a mere artisan or specialist and a real seeker after truth.
- Einstein?
- You are correct. If good is to win over evil good must know what evil is.
- Wouldn't David Deutsch say he does know? It is a constructor that launches a first strike to make the practice of creativity, progressive improvement in the constructors of the good difficult or impossible.
- But if creativity is only another, more comprehensive constructor, feelings and moods only a different program a computer might run, why not become evil oneself since evil clearly has the advantage over good of being on only one track?
- Then how does good win?
- By knocking aside this attempt of ignorant evil to make good believe human life may be reduced to, explained as a mere progress in technical mechanism.
- How?
- Constructor theory can make itself useful here by showing us what human life is not. Constructors repeat, unchanged, and make repeatedly the same change in the world. In an individual's life, learning, progress is the same as in science - conjecture and testing - but success for an individual is not a new technology, but return to harmony within, in another step forward along a personal, unique path through the world. Learning we don't acquire a technology, we don't repeat ourselves and don't situate ourselves within a world we make repeat.
- We capture energy of action within the rest of beauty.

Further Reading:


Monday, May 3, 2021

Repetition & Reality

- We have time. Give me an update on the people in your life.
- Well, fierce and beautiful Michelle, pushing her cart of possessions in West Hollywood, got herself arrested she says for attempting to defend herself with a pipe against another of those tens of thousands who sleep on the streets here. The story came out in her constant stream of talk of herself and my silent listening which constitutes my conversations with her. The Jewish kids from the religious school?* I'd told myself after refusing their one hundred dollar bribe to undergo their ritual that I'd find within a week much more, I'd calibrate myself to that task. 
- And did you?
- Calibrate and find. Yes.
- Of course you did, you being you. Enough about you. This morning I watched a YouTube video, made by the people at the School Of Life that says that aliens visiting our planet in the future will conclude we humans destroyed ourselves because our brains made us hate strangers, not like to think ahead and hate truth anyway. All we have to do is love strangers, think in the long term and love the truth.
- So we've solved the world's problems.
- Hardly.
- Why not?
- Wouldn't we have to know how to love strangers, think of the future and love the truth?
- And we don't know how?
- No.
- What would you say is the problem?
- This is what I want to talk to you about. Throughout our ten years of conversations we've come back to the idea of repetition. Repetition in work, repetition in the image making of language, repetition in the social reenactments of ritual. All three forms of repetition play a prominent role in capitalism.
- The capitalism that is leading us to destruction and the future dismissive judgment of aliens.
- Yes. You don't mind if I go over what we've gone over many times before?
- I won't object to the repetition.
- We told a story about how when our hunter-gatherer ancestors became farmers they first encountered repetition, the countable number of grains grown. Language supplied familiarity with symbols, so high numbers began to symbolize strength, power over future contingency, high numbers both of grains and of farmers to be themselves farmed or mastered by others. Ritual operates to make acceptable a relation of master slave. The ceremonial repetition of ritual expresses the establishment of power of a ruler over the ruled that offers security for both master and slave participants. Primary among capitalist rituals is the market exchange, in which the pain each naturally friendly being feels in becoming the enemy of the other somehow is supposed to turn out to be to the benefit of all, and the rich who reap most of those benefits become the natural leader of the ritual. Rituals establish roles.
- And do you still buy this story told all those years ago?
- Do you have a better one? Here we have our capitalism, leading us to our destruction, capitalism that essentially is a perverse form of slavery in which the slaves are made to buy the products they themselves have made. Like grain to our ancestral farmers, the slaves are the countable products of their master, grown to produce and consume as required in ever greater numbers. When not producing at work numerous items for sale, in their private lives they consume, that is to say, they have a passive relation to what happens to them, whether it is news delivered over the internet or entertainment. Each act of consumption increases the symbolic power of the built up self image associated with the objects consumed. All three forms of counting are present: repeated acts, symbols, social relation.
- The worker watching his violent pornography, each view counting up, repeating symbols of his power to maintain a social position.
- Yes. Slave in production, slave in consumption. Told what to repeatedly make in work slavery, repeatedly consuming images of his self. 
- The worker is a slave even when not working because the world of news and entertainment acts on him to construct his self out of repetition, symbol and social relations. Self containing, he is unable to act on the world of news and entertainment that acts on him to make him what he thinks himself to be, his 'self'.
- All that was ten years ago. Is it as obvious to you as it is to me that to save our species we should figure out how to stop all these repetitions that establish slavery of production and consumption? 
- What can we say to the McDonald's worker watching his pornography in his free time, the worker made into an image expressive of his employer's power, a slave to his consumption of images of his own power, unable to act on the world that delivers to him his self image: advise him to love strangers and rationality and truth? Would that do any good?
- Not likely. He is living in a world that is a numerical, symbolic social construction. He thinks he is a more or less powerful kind of thing, his employers / slave masters think the same of him and think the same of themselves. Not interested in acting on the world, no one is listening to anyone (except on the subject of themselves) any more than your friend Michelle listens to you.
- Do you know, in the past couple of weeks I discovered I was in regular contact with two Holocaust deniers, one a computer chip salesman originally from Iran who'd asked me to do some editing for him, the other the very same Michelle. They acquired the view like an article of clothing, adding substance to the thing they call their 'self'. Tell them there are no objects in the world, including the self, independent of their perception of them? Alan Watts, speaking also about alien visitors, said they would see that on our planet even rocks have a share in consciousness: that as a tree 'apples', rocks 'people'; consciousness is not a complicated form of mineral, as people like to think these days; rather in the past a mineral had within it the future of consciousness. In a moment of strange, unaccountable beauty, listening to Michelle go on as she often does about the gangs identified by colors that were stalking her suddenly she fell silent, looked me right in the eye and asked me, 'Is this real? I used to have a house, a job, family. I don't know what this is'. 
- What did you answer?
- That it wasn't real. Really? she asked: not real like we can wake up from it? No, I said, unreal in the sense it is an imitation of life. I started to tell her about the ancient Greek philosophers, Parmenides, Plato, Aristotle, Plotinus** who were clear on the point that there were no objects outside of our active attempt to get to know them. Or again, as Alan Watts put it, no walking without the floor to walk on. When we are acting creatively we can actually see how objects take on their shape as we make our way through our thinking of them, applying what we have seen of them to the purposes at hand. This is especially clear in writing, where the words seemingly on their own snap down on the page of text out of mists of hard at work consciousness.
- The 'tree that apples', the 'rock that peoples'. Money refused then finding more. Consumers of Holocaust Denial. What a conversation. What times we live in. It's interesting that right at the beginnings of our civilization the problem of objects had been raised, but I don't see how it helps us with the world we live in now of slaves who are countable objects to their masters and to themselves. I assume Michelle didn't follow a word you said. The repetitions in production and consumption somehow must be stopped despite capitalists, governments in their pockets, dedicated to keeping the repetitions going. 
- Let's conclude with a vision of what aliens visiting us now might understand us as believing:

The second axiom of economic ontology: that which is not profitable does not exist...Compared to the real existence of assembly line products, intended to satisfy needs (or which “foresee” these same needs that they will then satisfy), in the view of the ontologist of economics, nature as a totality, despite its immensity, lies outside the boundaries of the foreseen, outside the boundaries of what for him represents the field of “providence”. For him, nature is in itself only κατὰ μβεβηκός, only accidental, although, as a raw material for products, it, too, participates in “existence” and “value”, but both only in the form of loans, that is, that they are borrowed in advance by the products, which can acquire part of them. However, what nature really conceals that is unprofitable, that is, those pieces that the producer not only cannot use, but which he cannot even eliminate, the excess of the universe, for example, the Milky Way, represents in the view of this ontologist, to the extent that he will admit its existence, a metaphysical scandal, a material outrage, that nothing can justify, installed without any reason and, in a certain way, only explainable by entrepreneurial incompetence on a cosmic scale. Probably, the current nihilist complaint about the “meaninglessness of the world” is the expression, at least, of the cosmic sorrow of the industrial era; a cosmic sorrow that is precisely founded on the suspicion that, when all is said and done, the excess of the universe is neither usable nor profitable, it is superfluous, a waste and it exists for nothing; and obviously it has nothing else to do but to metaphysically loaf around in space, which has been put at its disposal for incomprehensible reasons.***

Further Reading:
Abel Is More Able
** See: Eric Perl, Thinking Being: Introduction to Metaphysics in the Classical Tradition
*** Günther Anders, The Obsolescence of Man

Thursday, April 15, 2021

L.A. Now

- Tell me about the mood in L.A.
- As the epidemic winds down one thing I've noticed is the return of the traffic of prostitutes in and out of the high rise residential buildings on Wilshire.
- The significance of which is?
- Capitalism involves torture, being forced to go against our desires and dissimulate our thoughts, just as prostitution does.
- So you think in the reappearance of the public sight of prostitution you are witnessing signs of a resurgence of capitalism?
- Yes. Nothing changed, nothing learned. I think this accounts for the macabre, doom laden feeling I get these days: prostitution is a form of capitalist alienation that develops directly between people, in which people are the product bought and sold. If we want to tell a neuroscientist why the brain will never explain the mind we have to say something like this: explanation relates one regularity to another; even in quantum mechanics, one state of the world is related to another, though we cannot give an account of the mechanical relation between cause and effect.
- Our feelings are unlike rules, so they cannot be linked with rules defining what's happening in the brain.
- Yes. What the mind in fact is, what the neuroscientist wants to link with the brain, is defined by rulelessness, openness, and nothing can ever change that because the feeling of openness is precisely what is to be explained.
- Except a life in which feeling has become absent. 
- Yes. As I said, I think what I see happening in L.A., with the reopening of public transactions, is the return of the mutual torture of everyday life in which a claim of ownership of each other is reasserted. The neuroscientist, living in our times of commercial mutual prostitution, thinks that the brain will 'own' feelings, have an attachment to them, like the vain* buyer of a prostitute thinks he owns the imitated liking of him that he has acquired from the prostitute, owns an image of himself updated with the heightened social status associated with the attractiveness he thinks he has bought.
- Feelings owned by the brain like a prostitute is owned by her buyer! Macabre is right!
- Well, you asked. I think here in L.A. we can feel the return of the material basis of our lives of buying and selling, of our personal mutual entrapment in our economically defined lives. I look around and feel regulations again being imposed on my feelings, I feel the torture of it, the pressure to pretend to like what I don't like, the feeling that I am a thing defined by rules that can be linked to rules governing things in a world of things.

Further Reading:

Friday, April 2, 2021


- Why did you want to meet here? 
- This is where you demanded a hundred dollars* from the religious school students to allow them to perform their ritual on you?
- Yes, they come here Friday afternoons. Do you think, when you try to talk to our countrymen and find it impossible, it is because they are stupid, or deliberately misinformed, or because they have thrown themselves head over heels into the pursuit of bad intentions?
- All three at once. They're been deliberately misinformed into a state of stupid self-absorpsion with their own evil intentions. 
- On my way up to the University this morning I stopped near the new medical school building to talk with a man adjusting a remotely operated quadcopter. I asked him what he was doing.

- I'm setting up a shot for a video I'm making.
- For what?...You won't answer?
- Starbucks, actually. I'm making an instructional video.
- Instructing what?
- Kindness.
- I'll tell you about Starbucks and kindness. A bent over little woman in her 60s with nothing more than the clothes she is wearing, not so much as a plastic bag of possessions, used to fall asleep nights on the bench built against the outside wall of the West Hollywood Starbucks for the few hours they were closed. To get rid of her Starbucks took to hosing down the bench at closing time. This woman now spends the night in Westwood, Village, outside Dennys down the street from here, on the public sidewalk, throwing herself down on the sidewalk pavement, cheek directly on the concrete, no bedding of any kind, restaurant customers carefully stepping around her and the puddle of liquid streaming from her. At the Beverly Hills Starbucks a few mornings back the manager told to leave a emaciated black man who protested to her that he was cold and wet, had been sleeping on the grass outside the church when the sprinklers turned on. He was cold! Didn't she understand? Can't he stay a few minutes? No, if he doesn't go she'll call the police. Why couldn't she let him stay? I asked the manager after the shivering fellow left. She can't lose her job, she answered. She can and does help people like this man, but she can't do it on the job. That is the truth about Starbucks kindness: company policy is to turn a kind person into an unkind person.
- The tens of thousands on the streets is a problem that has to be addressed by the government, not Starbucks.
- Starbucks and the other large corporations bribe the government into policies that create the problem. The stockholders of Starbucks and of other corporations want the company to talk about kindness but don't want the company to talk about why there is a need for kindness, about the unkind behavior of the rich, the corporate stock owners.
- That is one point of view. I've got to go to work and earn a living.
- A requirement for your earning a living is not talking and not thinking.

- And you let him go?
- No, not before I revealed to him that he was stupid, had been deliberately misinformed by his slave master employers, that he was selfishly evil-intentioned. 
- Do you think what's happening here is related to what we were talking about last time, consciousness and homeostasis?**
- I do.
- We respond to the world, then respond to the responded to world, then respond to that world. A cycle, or a spiral, if we imagine ourselves advancing, like in science, or retreating, which is what we are seeing here maybe. But how does it happen we get locked into this downward spiral?
- Simple: it is the familiarity of deadlock itself that is the attraction, that provides the adhesive force. As the people stupidly repeat the evil hatred deliberately sold to them they feel safe in the habit, and the more they rely on this repetition the less able they are to see the world clearly and therefore respond to the world creatively. The more the rich impoverish everyone else, making them insecure, the more stupidly the people repeat the indoctrinated ideas, the more they admire the rich for the security represented by money that has become their sole goal. Locked out are intelligence, sympathy, understanding, the result of an economy become religion enforcing its own cycles of destructive repetition: in the violence inherent in accepting the status of slave working as a employee, in the violence of being a consumer seeking the lowest price from sellers seeking the highest, in the violence of being locked in a system itself suicidal in always requiring new external populations to buy the products in excess of what the slaves can buy with their salaries, the collective slave wages being less than the price of the collected products they have made because the employer's profit has been added. Only the additional buyers outside the home market in a colony can buy those products with the money earned from raw materials sold to the colonizing country. When the colonized cannot buy more because their raw material income has run out, and there are no more populations to colonize, the employers begin to colonize their home populations, getting them in debt by manipulating unemployment and prices, then repossessing collateral of defaulters.*** The slaves continuously fight their masters, buyers continuously fight sellers, each economically trapped individual continuously fights the collective fate of the economically defined civilization, seeing danger everywhere, and feeling safety in repetatively seeing danger everywhere, becoming paranoid in work, consumption and national destiny.
- Ending with the rich having everything and the rest with nothing, with what the rich exclusively live for - selling to their slaves the products they themselves have made - become impossible, exposing the rich as being as stupid, self-indoctrinated and evil as their victimized slaves, locked down like everyone else in their death cult of money. When do the Yeshiva students usually show up here?
- Just before sunset and the beginning of Sabbath.
- And do they exhibit too all three characteristics of our time and place? Stupidity, self-absorption, indoctrination?
- You decide. Last week when the two kids showed up and I demanded again my $100 and refused otherwise to submit to their ritual a whole crowd of their fellow students surrounded me, and while trapped within their circle, my cap whipped off my head, one of my imprisoners recited the required prayer.
- So you were gang ritualed! We're they laughing?
- No, but I was. They were deadly serious and dispersed without a word.

Further Reading:
*** See: Michael Hudson, America’s Neoliberal Financialization

Saturday, March 20, 2021

How Do You Feel?

Image result for mind
- What if I told you there's a brain scientist* who claims that consciousness is a feeling, and that feelings are about conditions getting worse or better, and that consciousness has been "localized' not in the brain's areas of rationality but in an area of feelings and homeostasis, of returning to optimal from too much or too little.
- If you told me that I'd say, interesting.
- Only interesting? The brain scientist claims that the fact that same homeostatic mechanism is operating in the brain as in consciousness shows that mind and body, brain activity and consciousness, are two ways of looking at the same thing.
- That same thing being the homeostatic activity.
- Yes.
- I'd say further that brain science seems to be catching up to 19th century Russian novels.
- Because I see you have in your hand Dostoyevsky's The Brothers Karamazov, and the brain scientist would explain that you're bringing into balance the unsettled state raised in your mind while reading the book.
- If you like. Listen:
“Why is it all over with me? H'm! ... The fact of it is ... if you take it as a whole, I am sorry to lose God—that's why it is.” ... “What do you mean by ‘sorry to lose God’?” ... “Imagine: inside, in the nerves, in the head—that is, these nerves are there in the brain ... (damn them!) there are sort of little tails, the little tails of those nerves, and as soon as they begin quivering ... that is, you see, I look at something with my eyes and then they begin quivering, those little tails ... and when they quiver, then an image appears ... it doesn't appear at once, but an instant, a second, passes ... and then something like a moment appears; that is, not a moment—devil take the moment!—but an image; that is, an object, or an action, damn it! That's why I see and then think, because of those tails, not at all because I've got a soul, and that I am some sort of image and likeness. All that is nonsense! ... It's magnificent, Alyosha, this science! A new man's arising—that I understand.... And yet I am sorry to lose God!”... It's chemistry, brother, chemistry! There's no help for it, your reverence, you must make way for chemistry... But what will become of men then?’ ... ‘Without God and immortal life? All things are lawful then, they can do what they like?’
The conscious mind, the conscience of Dmitri Karamazov: 'The sense of their own degradation is as essential to those reckless, unbridled natures as the sense of their lofty generosity.' If consciousness is a feeling of making good a lack, and that is what is happening in the brain too, the implication is that the priorities of morality have no basis in reality. But Dmitri can't help thinking that though the mind might like the brain be conducting a homeostatic balancing act, a thought is not a thing, it is not in space, not "extended" as philosophers put it. And that the quality of thought of being not in space is associated with morality, that is, with a way of deciding which feelings are to be brought into balance and which not. Related words stimulated my brain stem this morning, I'll call them up on my computer. From The Sabbath by Rabbi Abraham Hershel:
To gain control of the world of space is certainly one of our tasks. The danger begins when in gaining power in the realm of space we forfeit all aspirations in the realm of time. There is a realm of time where the goal is not to have but to be, not to own but to give, not to control but to share, not to subdue but to be in accord. Life goes wrong when the control of space, the acquisition of things of space, becomes our sole concern.
Sorry, I might have told you sooner, but I know of your brain scientist and have written to him.
- Always playing games. What did you write?
- First in some detail, then more simply, this:
In a long philosophic tradition the homeostasis that is associated with the mind differs from that which is associated with the body by having the additional element of the infinite. Of course the tradition does not have to be right, but I think it does the job of describing consciousness better than a bare mechanical act.
- Did he answer? 
- He politely informed me his philosophic education was not sufficient to give me an answer.
- You yourself of course have worked out your own way of getting the infinite into the homeostatic activity of consciousness,** to give back Dmitri Karamazov his god, the authoritative Chomsky's judgment on which was what you had produced had no place in the history of scientific investigation of the subject. Didn't it seem like some kind of vindication of your ideas, your story of mechanism and feeling, that consciousness had been identified with an area of the brain that provides for feelings and the course of their regulation, albeit without including the feeling of the infinite?
- It did, but only for a moment. It makes a little less arbitrary that something as specific as a story of return be at the foundations of our mental life.

Further Reading;

Saturday, February 20, 2021

The Hundred Dollar Ritual


The arm tefillin is put on first, on the upper part of the weaker arm. A blessing is recited and the strap wrapped round the arm seven times. Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, who has sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us to put on Tefillin...

- Sunny, fierce Michele came to find me at Starbucks this morning. The first thing she tells me is yesterday walking by the art gallery with an exhibit on angels seeing her ran out and handed her a hundred dollar bill. Astonished, I ask her, What time was this?
- Slow down. Why astonished?
- At the very moment she was grasping her hundred dollar bill firmly in hand I was letting a brother hundred dollar bill slip away,
- Which Starbucks was this?
- Beverly Hills.
- Ok. Go on.
- I'll start over. Michelle is an always beautifully and colorfully dressed, self confessed spiritual women in her forties. For the past few weeks she's been sleeping on the steps of the Catholic Church down the street. She's told me how she has to fend off the attentions of the drug addicts, alcoholics and schizophrenics that hang out there. Shouldn't she go someplace else? I ask. Where was she before? It doesn't matter, she answers, everywhere she goes she is persecuted by shadowy organizations. Anyway the story I want to tell you is not about her, but about the hundred dollars, because right about the same time she was pocketing her cash I was being accosted by two college aged kids in black suits, white shirts and broad brimmed hats, students at a local Yeshiva (a Jewish religious school). They wanted to perform a ritual on me that involves leather straps being wound around your arm and a box strapped to your forehead. I was familiar with the sect they belonged to, I told them, and I didn't want them to work their magic on me. The taller young man asked me:
- Why not?
- I believe rituals are harmful.
- Why?
- Can I show you what I reading? I'll turn the computer around. I'm about three fourth through this book, Henri Bergson's 1922 published detailed argument against Einstein's claim time is an illusion. Time rather is one more dimension with the three dimensions of space in a four dimensional universe. Do you agree with Einstein, believe time is an illusion?
- No. Why are you reading on this subject?
- Obviously Einstein wasn't stupid. What went on in his mind: why was it not obvious that the statement he was making that time is an illusion was being made by him in time? Should I tell you why?
- Can I put on the teffillin?
- No. I'm in progress explaining to you why not. In philosophy since before Plato, from the time of Parmenides, movement has been a problem. We experience movement, but we have a problem knowing we do because knowledge is always static. If we want to picture how an object moves between two points, we have to imagine the object instant by instant a bit more in a forward position. Do you understand? I see you don't. Try to imagine something moving now. Well?
- What do you do for a living?
- Nothing. Listen. Here is what I want to suggest. When you say your words, do your rituals, you are doing much the same as Einstein did when he said time is an illusion. In ritual, you reenact a story of death and rebirth in the company, present or imagined, of others doing the same. You forget your weak, dying self in the group performance, and then with the ritual over, see yourself reborn strong. The movement that got you to that point was performed by a dying self, and is left behind once you are reborn in strength. Your past is forgotten in ritual. Einstein's claim that time is an illusion is an example of ritual thinking. It hides the problem of movement in forgetting and ranks the whole world, oneself included, in a complete immobility that allows all potentially to be known.
- Ritual is our way of reminding us of god's love and his commandments.
- Yes, you wear an outfit whose difference from fashion works to remind you: but this way of dressing is not a ritual, rather is a practice: no initial weakness, group not required, and as you say, no forgetting.
- What do you say I am forgetting? Let me put on the tefillin and tell me what you feel.
- You would be harming me.
- But how?
- Because you are practicing ritual. By forming a destructive relation between us, by me being used by you to achieve, you believe, a reward by god, as he raises you from weakness to strength.
- No, it would be good for you too, and good for the Jewish people as a group.
- It works even if one doesn't believe in it? Despite my disbelief I'd be closer to god? It seems that way because in the movement of ritual the participation of an complete stranger is forgotten in the outcome. Maybe if first you compensated me for the damage you'd do establishing an destructive, distancing human relation with me. How much are you willing to pay? A hundred dollars?
Now the other young man who has very apparently been bored pulls out of his front pants pocket and unfolds a new hundred dollar bill. I ask:
- Is that real?
- Yes.
- You want to give me a hundred dollars?
- Yes.
- Is there more where that came from? Where did you get it?
- From my father.
- A gift from your father. Pocket money. If you give me your money will he give you more?
- I don't know. I'll call him and ask...
- Well: what is did he say?
- He said he wouldn't.
- Ok then. I'm tempted, I have to admit. One hundred dollars. Look, here comes a customer for you.  
I make my escape.

Further Reading:

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

The Illusion Of Time

- We don't seem to talk much anymore.
- This year of epidemic lockdowns in L.A. is getting to me. Even now most stores and restaurants are still closed, and the restaurants that are open are outdoors only. No comfort to be found in public life. Days pass without my speaking a word. 
- What about the construction site guard you told me about a few months ago.* Have you kept in contact with him? 
- I have. I tried to see if I could wean him off conspiracy theories and his liking for our doubly impeached ex-president. It's simple. All he had to do was ask, Where's the evidence? He quickly took me up on this game. He began writing to me asking me if the explanation for this or that wasn't conspiracy, what was it? Was it true, for example, that Einstein more or less said all knowledge was a kind of conspiracy because time was an illusion? I wrote back to him that yes Einstein had said that, but it applied only to the physical world, not the world of human consciousness. Explain that, he ordered. Think of our world completely described by an equation, I said, and the years no more than different numbers substituted for a variable in that equation. Think of the fellow doing the substitution of numbers for the variable as having a life also describable by an equation, with each of his years a variable also plugged in, and then think of another guy who sees that fellow's life laid out for all time by this mathematics. See the problem? No, he didn't. The problem is that the act of changing and plugging in of the variable's value is not part of that unchanging physical world. The reason we think time is real is because for us time only goes one way, past to present to future, whereas in Einstein's world the only difference between past present and future is the quantity of the plugged in variable. It would be possible for us the go back in time, if it weren't that our actions have a multitude of effects which have themselves multitudes of effects, with the result that simply turning around and going back the way we came requires also pushing back on all those separate results of results of results. A dropped and broken wine glass to be put back together requires not a simple elevation back from the floor to our hand but a retracing upward every drop of wine and shard of glass. What if we could do that? you ask. Do you ask? I asked him. Yes, he said. But you can't do it, because that would involve actually going back to your exact past state. All the different reaches and grabs for drops and shards themselves would have to be retraced with all their proliferating results of results. Wow, he replied: So time is an illusion for the physical world but not for consciousness? It can be that too, I said. Give up on the project of trying to understand what's happening with you and you might come up with a theory like our neoliberalism where time in our economic world is indeed an illusion because its progress is assumed to be known in advance and necessary. Very strange, really complicated, he complained. Why do we have time in consciousness but not in the world? That's weird. Maybe, he suggested, Einstein was wrong. Maybe, I replied. We count out time by finding something in the world that regularly repeats: the movement of the sun, or the vibration of a quartz crystal in a watch. But think about this: what are we measuring with that repetition? Isn't it first some movement in our consciousness?** Against the background of that movement we see the sun rise, then we see the sun set, then we see the sun rise... I think time is illusory in Einstein's world because he left out the story of observing consciousness - both measuring and measured - which like with the dropped glass of wine adds back the hidden movement of the replacement of variables and in doing so makes physical time one way and real.
- Did the construction site guard understand?
- I think he did. What about you and me? Does our remaining in touch on and off keep illusion from our past and keep it real? Who are you going to believe, me or Einstein?

Further Reading:
** 'It is therefore the simultaneity between two instants of two motions outside of us that enables us to measure time; but it is the simultaneity of these moments with moments pricked by them along our inner duration that makes this measurement one of time.' (Duration and Simultaneity, Henri Bergson, 1922)

Sunday, January 10, 2021

The Capitol

Great Seal of the United States (obverse).svg
     (Not A Government Publication)

- Like many people I was expecting something very like this and yet, happening as it did, it was at the same time astoundingly strange. Was the storming of the Capitol a post-modern revolution of alternative facts, was it a revolution-spectacle of imitation facts? Why were there so few police at the Capitol on a day it was known a crowd of tens of thousand would be gathering, only a skeleton crew of 500 out of a force of 2,300, no barricades, no battle horses, when we private citizens, not a mob, are under constant surveillance here there and everywhere by guards, spy cameras and on the internet, and normally would never be allowed near this seat of power?
- There appears to have been two separate groups acting at the same time.* A violent group organized on internet message boards, populated with Neo-Nazis and white supremacists, that converged on the Capitol with the goal of stopping the certification of the electoral college votes, taking Congress members hostage and killing the Vice President. If not by prearrangement, they had the luck to be let in by sympathetic Capitol police (this standing aside by forces of order a common feature of successful revolutions) and were only stopped from entering the inner chamber of the house by gun wielding, physically fit, civilian clothed dark suited men who I guess were (just a guess) secret service agents present because the Vice President was presiding over the joint session of Congress, the supposed agents shooting and killing one of the insurrectionists. This violent action occurring under cover of a separate group, the thousands of more ordinary supporters at the Trump rally near the Washington Monument with no obvious taste for violence, instructed by their leader to come with him to the Capitol Building. 'It's going to be wild,' he said.
- So then: violent insurrection and spectacle insurrection at the same time, the insurrection was expected, the strange form it took was not. 
- Also giving us the appearance of spectacle was the deliberate lies the revolutionary attempt was based on: that the election was fraudulent, that the President's opposition were totalitarian socialists trying to take away the people's freedom. We watched with astonishment violent dupes, performing the actions scripted for them by others not on stage, witnessed by a crowd worked up by the President's rhetoric of revolution, equally duped, sent over by him to be audience to the violent action. 
- Real revolution under cover of fake revolution. But I think you left out what makes this seem most unreal: that the lies told were believed. How do you account for that?
- In Trump's extortionist recorded telephone conversation with the Georgia Secretary of State threatening him if he doesn't find him more votes, the President said: 'They are shredding ballots, in my opinion, based on what I heard.' You know how money laundering works? Dirty money is moved from one bank to another, to another, to another, each transaction by the book, making it difficult in the end to trace the clean transactions back to the original dirty one. Think of the lie, 'the stolen election', as the dirty money, and each new presented bit of evidence a seemingly clean and honest confirmation. We know the election was stolen, this evidence proves it, we have thousands of affidavits.
- There are photos of ballots being trashed, photos which when investigated turn out to be from the previous year's election. Those thousands of affidavits when read are no more than statements that someone had witnessed others who filed affidavits or made statements of being eye witnesses to voting fraud.
- That would be tracing the evidence back to the original dirty laundry, something the liars take care, constantly shifting attention to another path of primed evidence, their audience doesn't do. Remember when we talked about the two paths taken by artificial intelligence programmers to recognize language: probabilities, or models? Both ways work to produce knowledge. Knowledge based on probability doesn't involve any picture or model of the world, only a mathematical relation between one part of the world and another, expressing how likely it is that when this happens, that is likely to follow. 
A model involves a whole with parts, each part having a known relation to the world and to other parts. Think of evidence laundering as a kind of prearranged build up of evidence, each piece of which increases probability the view of the follower of the path is correct, without there being an explanation of how any piece of evidence relates to others and to the world.
- Explanation which, having no character, forming no model of the world, these followers of the path of laundered truth never arrive at. Is it probable the President's own Attorney General resigns after announcing that there was no significant electoral fraud means he was 'gotten to' by the other side? Is it likely that the Georgia Secretary of State, a Republican Trump voter and Trump donor, likewise willingly betrayed the President, even after being threatened and cajoled by him to find him more votes? 
- When we say someone has character we mean we can make a model of his behavior showing how parts of the mind are related to each other and each part is related to the world. There is a relation between imagination, sympathies, knowledge, intentions, and how each is applied in the world. The character of Trump believers is broken down, disintegrated by always seeking the changing gain of the moment, acting on probability of getting what they want, or through consumer products or fantasy entertainments getting in the habit of imagining they have achieved maximum probability of getting all that they want. Without character, life that should be a matter of holding together of self in harmony and moderation, and of better relation to the world instead is a sequence of adjustments, pursuit of the advantage of the moment, doing which nothing of one's self persists, therefore no character. People with no character are ripe for propaganda and conspiracy theories,** open to be guided down the path of primed evidence never to be followed back all the way to the dirty secret of intentional dishonesty.
- But what about the equally unsurprising but still really strange behavior of Congress? Nancy Pelosi, the hundred times millionaire House leader says we are in a state of existential threat, the president must go, then adjourns the deliberative body for the weekend.
- There's more than one kind of bad character.
** Conspiracy theories are identifiable by the fact that they are not theories at all: not models of the world but assemblages of probability.

Thursday, December 24, 2020


Last night, around ten o'clock, I shut my computer, got on my bike and set out down the sidewalks of Beverly Hills towards Westwood. I stop when I hear, "Hey, hey' from somewhere behind me. It's a young man leaning against the windows of Yves Saint Laurent. I ask him:
- What are you doing there?
- I don't know.
- Where are you coming from?
- Texas. El Paso.
- How did you get here?
- I walked.
- How? By the highway? Hitchhiked?
- Walked. I got picked up by a nice couple in New Mexico who had me stay at their house for two days.
- Where do you stay?
- I don't know.
- Where will you go when we're done talking?
- The psych. ward.
- To ask yourself to be locked in? Why? Do you go crazy?
- Yes. Sometimes.
- What do you do?
- Last time I walked onto a freeway and stood in the middle.
- Why?
- I thought people were after me.
- And they wouldn't follow you to the middle of the freeway? Was it the lights that attracted you? I've noticed here in L.A., late at night, solitary figures step up to the corner of a brightly lit empty intersection and start shouting apparently at nothing but the lights.
- I like that.
- You're not planning on doing that too?
- No.
- Good.
- You look like someone famous. You're not in the movie business?
- I'm in no business.
- I don't know who. Not Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise, somebody like that. But somebody famous.
- I'm nobody. Sorry to disappoint you. Maybe I could've been somebody but like you I probably have more craziness than is good for me.
- How are you crazy? You shout at lights?
- Not yet. Isn't it crazy to be so impractical that you just can't stand the company of almost everyone?
- No. Everyone's like that a little.
- You too?
- Yes. You are talking to me now. What happened?
- I wrestled the shyness out of myself.
- How?
- Living among strangers in foreign countries.
- It's good you were able to do that.
- Except that it took me a few decades to accomplish. People think I must be crazy to have achieved this advanced age having accomplished nothing other than getting ready to accomplish something.
- You must have done something. How old are you?
- Getting along in years.
- If you're not an actor, you're some kind of writer.
- Some kind.
- What kind?
- Hard to say.
- You've got something, some spirit to you.
- Nice of you to say. And same to you. Well, you've got your freeway waiting for you and I've got the sidewalks waiting for me. See you!

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Meow, Meow

- On the last evening before my exile from her life - the second exile, or was it the third? - she made the accusation: you think you are better than other people.
- And you answered?
- I answered No. I was upset. The City of Los Angeles lockdown and curfew orders had just been issued by the mayor. The police, he threatened, would be roving the streets to pick up scofflaws. There's something I have to explain to you, much as I don't want to.
- You don't want to explain.
- No. My friend has two cats she takes care of. Why didn't she understand?
- Understand that you are like a cat?
- The deal with cats is that they let us witness their beauty in exchange for us taking them into our lives and taking care of them.
- Feed them, play with them.
- Cats don't explain. Or rather, not to each other. They meow only when kittens, before they develop the self-awareness that makes the visible state of the bodies of other cats express what's going on with them.
- A body language.
- Not a language at all, more like mind reading. Cats don't make an effort to say anything or listen to anything.
- They see and know.
- But here's the thing. With us humans, they know we can't read minds, can't do what they do with each other, so with us they regress to the meow. They baby talk to us. Meow: Feed me! Meow: Play with me!
- And we should do what they tell us?
- Yes. Because that's the deal: we give them care, they give us beauty.
- Which beauty is that very ability to effortlessly express themselves in every bodily movement.
- Now the reason I go into this, as you guessed, is that I see a lot of myself in these cat behaviors. Though I'm really more a stray cat than house cat I'm still meowing against the human world, always telling humans what to do, telling them everything they are doing is wrong.
- And that is why your friend, who let you, the stray cat, into her life occasionally, told you you think you are better than everyone else.
- Yes.
- Let's hear some meowing them. We don't have these talks much any more.
- What can I say? The life of a stray cat in these epidemic times of lockdown and curfew is not easy.
- So meow.
- Fine. I'll do that. You humans, in this city, this country, you've got your epidemic upside-down. You've got the sick, who can't afford health care or to stop earning, going around in public, working at the supermarkets and take-out restaurants and out on the streets doing deliveries, coughing and feverish for all stray cats wandering the streets to see (humans apparently don't), these sick doing deliveries to and making sick the well who cower at home in lockdown deluded they are safe.
- When obviously the sick should be somewhere private in quarantine and the well should be out and about in pubic taking care but going about their business, an arrangement that the overcrowded slums of Bombay managed to get right and were able to successfully take control of their epidemic.
- Instead we have the corporate media with their daily death counts scaring everyone to compliance and into hiding themselves away. No one bothers to observe that if you are thirty-five you have one in a thousand chance of dying within a year, when that is the epidemic ratio of death to population for our county, the country with the worst record of all large countries. Ever hear a thirty-five year old express fear of dying?
- No.
- Meow. Meow, you idiot humans. Good for nothings, except maybe giving us food.
- So in your view, the stray cat view, how did we humans get so stupid?
- By being without beauty, living lives without beauty.
- It's not polite of me to observe, but I wouldn't say your beauty is exactly jumping out at me.
- Yes, a loss that goes with being a stray cat. The argument still stands.
- You haven't made the argument yet.
- Alright. You want to know, how did human beings produce for themselves lives without beauty? Answer: capitalism, the religion of capitalism, doing for the sake of doing, in which only success has value, all else has mere derivative value. Love? Relax? Meditate? Sure by all means, if the show of it makes you seem more compliant, worth more money to your employer. Beauty is a rest after an activity of learning. The free use of language depends on there being beauty in our action.
- How?
- Because we rest in having learned to perceive the world, in developing habits that piece into recognition something we give a name to; we rest on those habits of relation to the world. Understand?
- You're talking phenomenology. You were supposed to be Meow-ing.
- I am! You think I want to talk this way?
- You want people to look at you and know.
- That's right. But who are these people I live among? Idiot slaves, seventy-four million of whom voted for our epitome of ugliness and incoherence president, either because he plays the role that tickles their fancy of a slave talking back to his master or because they, the richer classes of our country, find themselves attached to that defeated clown because they think this monstrosity will make them richer, the rest of the world and life be damned.
- Meow meow. Let's not get into politics.
- I don't see how we can avoid it. Our upside down epidemic is happening because it benefits big business at the expense of small. Big business consolidate their monopolies, small business goes bankrupt. People are ugly because they never can rest in perception of something good or beautiful or true: there is only what conduces to more money and more success, an endless chase. You interrupted me before I got to the important point: a perception is a word: that bit of the world we've developed a habit of relation to, given a name to.
- We human capitalists, therefore, you say, having no rest have no language. We're speechless. In addition to being without beauty.
- Yes! Meow meow! We cats read minds. But you humans, speechless and restless, what sick monsters have you made of yourselves? Who's going to take care of you, ugly beasts that you are? 
- What are we doing if we are not talking?
- We? You are pushing each other's buttons, operating on each other according to program, like a machine, a computer.
- Without self awareness, understanding, consciousness.
- Yes. You humans, you've regressed so far into ugliness and speechlessness, it's hard to say whether you are even competent anymore to be our care givers, to feed and play with us. Soon we'll all be strays.

Thursday, December 10, 2020

The Trump Look

Great Seal of the United States (obverse).svg
     (Not A Government Publication)


- Let's talk about the appearance of the president.
- You've noticed how his bronze face, orange hair have recently been changing? Losing color, becoming more metallic. For him, somehow, this seems absolutely normal. The man seems hardly human.
- What do you think is revealed in his appearance, if anything, expressive of his character, the way he lives his life?
- Maybe nothing. Maybe that is why he is so uncanny to look at.
- Would you say he makes a masculine appearance or a feminine?
- Strangely, I think both. The tough guy Trump rushes death row executions before he leaves office, the soft, soliciting, caring, feminine Trump begs his supporters in a low, wheedling voice to see how much he loves and takes care of them. Both behaviors come off to the not like minded as posturing, not revealing anything true about him.
- Why do you think he is so obviously unconvincing? Because he so unpredictably shifts from tough guy to soft gal?
- I don't know.
- We know what Trump and his supporters have in common: placing making money, 'success', ahead of any human concern; any means to the end of moneymaking are acceptable. How does that behavior show itself in personal appearance?
- I think I can often, not always, recognize in their appearance, their gestures and language, people who are strong and people who are caring. Do people who have no character, because changeable with the changeable requirements for making-money and success, ready to be all things to all people, have any particular appearance?
- Think of it like this. The tough guy, the masculine, the ambitious man is ready to do what it takes. We have a theory,* you'll remember, that our action as human beings is always aimed at learning the world we live in, something particular about it, and that learning involves learning how to see the world, involves developing habits of perception that place our bodies, our agents in that perception, in regular relation to the world's habits, or laws, to its regular behavior. The correspondence of habits, our own habits to the world's, allows us to rest, and the particular name we have for this experience is awareness of beauty.
- A theory that traces back to Plato.
- So someone who has no character, is shifting behavior constantly in response to the shifting demands of other people, whose behaviors have no law or regularity, cannot rest in perception of beauty. Looking on at this, what do we see?
- We see ambition that never gets a rest.
- Yes. Similarly, our president's feminine 'please love me I love you so much', his feminine holding to beauty, holding his relation to the world steady because that relation is supposed to be good, is not good, not beautiful, because it is without a history, or even a future, of establishing habits of relation to the world. Masculine and feminine are characteristics more fundamental than those that fall into place as common sex roles. They are names for two phases of our relation to the world: learning in action, resting in beauty. When we look on at our tough guy attention begging gal president we are seeing a break down of this cycle into unrelated fragments. Ambition goes nowhere, rest is without beauty.
- And because this is fundamental to our nature as human beings when it is barred from practice by a money/success ideology what we see is what we see: neither a man nor a woman nor even a human being, a chameleon lizard whose hair and skin tones adapt to background colorings.


- Though on the whole I like your definition of capitalism - a form of slavery in which the slaves are expected to buy back the products they make for their masters - still it doesn't sit well with me.
- What bothers you, if it is an accurate description of what happens in capitalism? 
- I don't know what perversity could account for it being thought up and adopted. Not to mention systemic problems, like the fact that since wages are less than the price of goods that include slavemasters' profit, there must be found consumers outside the capitalist world to buy the remainder, an expedient that fails when the whole world has gone capitalist. But now, what you explained about our president, never able to rest unchanging in what one's done, I think also explains the 'why' of capitalism. Capitalism is a tool people like Trump use to manufacture people like himself, remaking the world, at least the human world, in their image. Marx gave psychological and economic explanations of what it's like to be a slave in its class war: the worker's alienation from the product of his labor, the work's surplus value stolen by the employer. But what's in it for the masters? Profits? Do profits explain the craziness? What if instead capitalists desire to alter the fundamental human nature of others as they themselves have been altered? 
- Why would they?
- Because a character broken down to a condition like theirs is a character that can be made, when propertyless, to accept slavery and put money acquisition ahead of everything else. 
- Why accept slavery? 
- If money making at any cost is the goal then there is nothing wrong with slavery that makes money. Slaves might rather be masters, but with broken character they are unable to give a good reason why their enslavement is wrong. Look at how Americans act in this epidemic. I read today that one billion hotel room days have gone unused. That works out to millions of empty hotel rooms every day in the past eight months. Unemployment is in the tens of millions. The labor force is there to find the sick, hotel rooms available to offer at no charge for quarantine. But instead of identifying the sick and keeping them separate from the healthy, we get lockdowns, business closures, curfews, virtual house arrest. Commandeer hotel rooms? Offer free meals to residents while there? No, these are crimes against the supremacy of money making. Keep people locked up at home, close independent businesses? Yes, of course, but keep open big business owned departments stores, supermarkets, drug store chains, keep airlines flying and airports open, trains and buses running. Break the will of individuals and drive small business into bankruptcy. 


- I'd like you to sum up our discussion that began with what you thought the president's appearance reveals to us about capitalism, in one sentence if you can.
- Capitalism, far more than an economics of profit, or a psychology of greed and alienation, or a sociology of slavery, or a politics of class war, is a complete disarticulation of every thought, word, and act from ending resolution, statement, and deed. It scares me to death.

Further Reading:

Saturday, November 28, 2020

Big Brains

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Whose plan was it? It was Capitalism’s. Not, of course, the plan they thought they were implementing. All these percolating disasters are unintended consequences of an economic system the sole purpose of which is to grind the living world to powder for money; a system without one single provision for the care and preservation of life in any form other than as a source of monetary gain. It is a system for which life itself has no intrinsic value. With this as its foundational principle, it followed that whatever was done to humanity and the living world was of no concern to Capitalism. And it hasn’t been. The fouling and pillaging of the living world and the evisceration of our society are simply collateral damage.*

- What would you like to talk about tonight?
- Counting lives. Last time** we said that supporters of our president wouldn't look for evidence of his claims because appeals to evidence were restraints on their freedom to improvise their way to acquiring money. While many among them oppose lockdown as another infringement of their freedom, the majority of Americans accept the restrictions in the cause of saving lives. They watch the numbers of deaths each day lessen with lockdown, but don't consider the costs, the untreated diseases, evictions, domestic violence, depression, suicides, the small business and individual bankruptcies, the trillion dollar bailouts of big business and banks, nor will they consider the possibility that, in the absence of closed borders and effective tracking down the contagious and then their isolation, lockdown only delays deaths from the epidemic which rapidly increase when restrictions are lifted. Lockdowns repeatedly are imposed and relaxed, deaths pile up while waiting for a vaccine. I don't want to go into this now.*** What interests me is that countable lives are functioning to the lockdown supporter like money does to a supporter of our president: more money is better, no matter how acquired; more lives saved is better, no matter the lessening quality of lives, no matter that it is not certain that more lives are actually saved, just as it is not certain that with indifference to evidence more money can be made.
- Wanting more at the cost of better. Americans, both supporters of our president and the president's opponents, suffer from this disease.
- Yes. We're dealing with mind breaking down, and this being so, permit me to look to our physical nature for an illustration of our predicament.
- Our predicament of mindlessness.
- Yes. It seems reasonable to assume that a larger brain makes for more intelligence, but there are too many exceptions to take this seriously. The same fate meets the suggestion that a larger brain in proportion to body size supports greater intelligence. It appears now that not brain size, but number of neurons, counted in the cerebral cortex, site of decision making and problem solving, and perhaps the density, speed and means of communication between neurons in general, is what is correlated to intelligence. A big dog and a little dog have different size brains, roughly the same in proportion to body size, but big or small, they have the same number of neurons in their cerebral cortex. Do you see what I am getting at?
- Thinking that big brains means more intelligence is like thinking that the more lives saved today the better and the more chance now to make more money the better. Behaviors that make little use of decision making and problem solving.
- And explain the depths of nullity and dullness we are drowning in.

Further Reading

Monday, November 9, 2020

Reasons Of State

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The Trump administration has been the worst U.S. presidency in history with an extraordinarily fierce approach to class warfare. But let us consider what fascism is: At its most basic level, fascism is a dictatorship established through and maintained with terror on behalf of big business. It has a social base, which provides the support and the terror squads, but which is badly misled since the fascist dictatorship operates decisively against the interest of its social base. Militarism, extreme nationalism, the creation of enemies and scapegoats, and, perhaps the most critical component, a rabid propaganda that intentionally raises panic and hate while disguising its true nature and intentions under the cover of a phony populism, are among the necessary elements.* 

- Finally, after a nerve-racking five years, the horribly fascinating spectacle of human degradation flourishing unchecked is coming to a close.
- With no reason to expect, in economics or politics, the monster in the White House's replacement will be any better. In fact, as the outgoing monster started no new wars we probably should be readying ourselves for worse.
- For the moment though you have to admit you're relieved.
- I am. A little. Or was. Now I'm trying to understand how the monster's behavior was so easily and commonly and is increasingly accepted: by sixty three million voters in 2016, seventy million this year.
- And what are your conclusions?
- Sitting at the picnic tables this morning I looked up from my computer thinking I heard distant shouting. I swiveled around on the bench, located the source: the seventy year old black man with whom I'd had a conversation with a few months back: one of the city's tens of thousands who sleep on the street or in the bushes, he was by the trash bins collecting cardboard to be used for the night's bedding arrangements. He wore a large set of glaringly white headphones all day tuned in to talk radio, and, considering himself a godly man he was a supporter of our president, god's messenger on earth. He was at work on a mathematical magnum opus which he believed would make him famous and allow escape from his present circumstances. When I questioned the godliness of anyone who could support a man of constant evil conduct and enumerated examples, the first that came to mind, he shouted 'fake news' and rushed away in a rage. He approached me now, the stack of cardboard held against his chest, at the picnic table and repeated what he'd been shouting:

- Congratulations! You're happy now. 
- That's true.
- They were after the president for five years and now they've stolen the election. 
- How stolen? But wait, before you answer, be forewarned that after every claim you make I'm going to interrupt you and demand evidence. 
- Do you want to hear my explanation or not?
- Go ahead.
- China created the virus.
- Evidence?
- They deliberately sent the virus to the US to destroy the economy,
- Evidence?
- To force us to lose our freedom, make us have to wear masks and force us to allow mail in ballots.
- Evidence?
- And mail in ballots are more easily faked.
- Evidence?
- There's lots.
- Where can I find it?
- Everywhere.
- Tell me where.
- I've got to go. I'm carrying a heavy load.

- A load of conspiracy theories. Why do you bother talking to people like him?
- I have the idea, was in fact trying to work it out when the poor fellow made his appearance, that our money worshiping country's insistence on placing money making ahead of all other human concerns involves a technique of argument or persuasion that is directly opposed to the gathering of evidence, is actively averse to it, as evidence would delay, undermine the adding of one possible claim after other. As: China deliberately created the virus. China deliberately sent it to the U.S. The economy is deliberately being destroyed by lockdowns. The virus is being allowed to rage uncontrolled so as to allow mail in voting. Mail in voting is more easily corrupted. Mail in ballots were corrupted. Repeating one claim after another, aware that others like minded are doing the same, produces a sense of security, safety in numbers. Each individual, being wise to what's going on, feels the build up of assurance with each reiterated claim, considers himself individually knowing and empowered. The demand for evidence could only interfere with this process of unanimity within the group of other individuals similarly crediting themselves with being wised up. In normal speech we construct a sentence out of verbs, nouns, adjectives, elements that have specific relations to each other. Looking for evidence is something like setting a verb into relation to a noun, an adjective in relation to a preposition. Those who place money first, before all other human relations, see the demand for evidence as an inadmissible limit to money making, forcing the necessity to make complete statements that would inevitably reflect the world that is being acted in, each statement reflecting the same world and accordingly having some relation to other statements. Commit yourself to a relation between verb and noun, between something done and the someone who did it? No! There must be complete freedom to do what it takes to make an impression, get a job, keep a job, to make a sale.
- The refusal to provide evidence isn't a matter of bad education, remaining in ignorance how to reason correctly, but a structural necessity to the kind of thinking that results from a belief money making must have precedence over all other concerns. That's what you're saying?
- It is.

Further Reading:

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

David Graeber & Combinatorials

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The great merit of structural analysis is that it provides a well-nigh foolproof technique for doing what any good theory should do, namely simplifying and schematizing complex material in such a way as to be able to say something unexpected.* 

Like many others I guess I've been reading bits and pieces by David Graeber, the activist/anthropologist who died this month, much too young at the age of 59. He had just finished a new book in collaboration with an archaeologist colleague presenting the evidence that 10,000 through 40,000 years ago human beings alternated seasonally the way they organized themselves: hunting and gathering in small bands or even single families, then assembling together in small cities. The bands and cities could be either egalitarian or hierarchical. All variations had been found, all four possibilities: equal in both moving and sited communities; hierarchical in both moving and sited communities; equal in moving, hierarchical in sited communities; hierarchical in moving, equal in sited communities.The story that human beings were noble savages living free and equal but were corrupted when settled down with countable and transferable agriculture and accumulation is therefore false. And therefore false is the claim that modern life must be hierarchical as the only outcome of development.** Yes, but.... aren't the newly opened up possibilities arriving too late? Hasn't our falsely claimed to be necessary way of life a firm enough hold on us to guide us to our destruction? 

Graeber argues that living with recurrent fundamental changes in way of life made us human beings able for the first time to create art, made us self conscious, and able in some cases to organize ourselves with procedures to protect ourselves against inequality. So what happened? 10,000 years ago we'd worked this out, and now we fall victim to the apocalyptic global warming and the threatening nuclear and civil wars of Neoliberalism?

The combinatorial system of our species' early life - movement and rest, free or unequal world - was uncomfortably familiar. It was very like my very own,*** I fear, overused system to explain the differences between lives of ritual violence and power mad conformity and lives of creativity and beauty. Could it be that what is left out in our social combinatorial, leaving us vulnerable, is the relation of the individual to the social world, in both movement and rest? With the addition of these elements it becomes possible to identify what kinds of personal life fit in with equal or unequal social life, and might not that knowledge offer not just artistic ability and consciousness, but protection against getting stuck like we are in a world that likely is going to be our destruction? Knowledge of the alternatives of social life without self knowledge has not turned out well. 

Here are the combinations, taken from out of the set of possible combinations, that seemed to me to define basic moral categories: 

Ethical Life:

movement: self defined, world open

rest: self open, world defined

We create playing ourselves through a world undefined in the movement of change.
We rest in the defined world of beauty, with no awareness of self. A society of people seeing the world as beautiful and with no fixed sense of self is likely to be equal.

Vain Life:

movement: self open, world defined

rest: self defined, world open

We are impelled in our movement by passions, unaware of what is driving ourselves, only knowing what world we want to return to or create.

We rest, glorying in the power of our selves, we who have created a world that appears to us only as a reflection of our power.

An Example From Recent History

The French philosopher Michel Foucault, also at the end of his life, was working both on the history of Neoliberalism and the history of care of the self. He had the idea that because in Neoliberal doctrine any interference, any attempt to regulate the marketplace would create inefficiencies, the lack of government intervention in a society defined by the market would allow individuals to 'change, purify, transform, and transfigure' themselves in relative freedom.**** Here was a world defined by the inequality of employer and employee, chained to the movement of markets, in which individuals could care for themselves, remaining to themselves undefined. That is what he thought might be in the future of Neoliberalism. Instead, as we ourselves experience today, rather than engage in self examination and moderation, individuals were pressed to invest in themselves, market themselves, assign themselves a place, a person, and a price.

Further Reading:
Debt Of Conversation
**** Michel Foucault. The Hermeneutics of the Subject: Lectures at the Collège de France, 1981–1982) Care of the self might involve, among other things, 'nightly examination of conscience to prepare restful sleep, the drilling into memory of key precepts so as to have them ready for action, daily meditation to withdraw from the world and remain undisturbed by what is taking place, regular trials of endurance to help resist temptations, arts to cultivate listening so as to better receive instruction, and daily reflection on one’s own death in order to better appreciate what you have and to bear what is to be expected.'