Thursday, January 12, 2023

Yetzer Hara

- I'm not saying this is right. We'll just consider and see where it takes us.
- Fine.
- I see the same pattern on three levels. One level: we've already claimed that within a single nation evil has the advantage over good. Evil is single minded, knows what it wants, good is sceptical and cautious. Evil needs to progress because it is destructive, constantly creating disorder within and without, whereas good makes of creativity a foundation for future progress and is fundamentally at ease in the world. Good positively doesn't want, if given any choice in the matter, to waste its time fighting evil. Another level: The French philosopher Jean-François Revel explains in his 1986 book How Democracies Perish that international relations between democracy and totalitarian states work the same: whereas democracies simply want peace, totalitarianism is single-mindedly aimed at world conquest and must be so  because totalitarian societies destroy the lives of their people who far from wanting state expansion only want to leave their prison world given the chance. Totalitarianism's only creativity is in increase of territory, with each increment of increase enlarging borders and therefore risk from across the border, with ending this risk becoming a motivation to futher grabs of territory. Do you accept this parrellel of national and international structure?
- I'm not sure. What is the third level?
- The personal, the individual living in a democracy.
- Why not also in Totalitarianism?
- The individual in totalitarianism is a slave, crushed and silenced. Already in the early 19th century Alexis De Tocqueville in his Democracy in America could see what was weakening the country and what gaining for it strength:
‘ I know of no country in which there is so little independence of mind and real freedom of discussion as in America . . . as long as the majority is still undecided, discussion is carried on; but as soon as its decision is irrevocably pronounced, everyone is silent, and the friends as well as the opponents of the measure unite in assenting to its propriety . . . the majority possesses a power that is physical and moral at the same time, which acts upon the will as much as upon the actions and represses not only all contest, but all controversy.’
A democrat's role is chosen, and so open to deliberation and discussion, but role, once chosen and acceptable to others and oneself, each play or repetition is accomplished without self knowledge. A democrat's chosen role ideally aims towards more and more money and power. Passion, un-selfaware action, is behind the choice, the passions: fear of weakness and desire for strength.
- If passion, fear of loss of role or desire for a more powerful role is the evil in the democratic individual, what is the democratic individual's good?
- Love of knowledge, creativity. Revel argues that democracy, both divided against itself and peace loving, is always at a disadvantage in its fight against totalitarian states which must expand to survive and have no other imperative than survival. The same disadvantage is true within the democratic state, where the type who desire more and more money and power seek each other out, working together to corrupt institutions and turn the institutions against individuals who only want to be left alone to lives their lives.
- Like totalitarians must go against their people and all other states, like organized seekers of money and power in democracy must constantly resecure their hold on money and power, must overpower creative people who only want peace, so our own desires threaten to end finally our search for knowledge. In Judaism, yetzer hara (יֵצֶר הַרַע) is the congenital inclination to do evil by violating the will of God. The Yiddish writer Chaim Grade writes in his novel The Yashiva:
A man should not shout into oneself day and night that one should not love oneself. Let him love himself, yes, but in an intelligent way: through love and wisdom of the Torah. Next to the ocean man feels insignificant. But next to the Torah, which is greater than the ocean, man does not feel insignificant, because he is as great as his grasp of the Torah. The Torah cleanes the sensitive man, the intellectual man, of pride and anger: it makes him modest and patient, it inspires him to seek spiritual uplift and not vulgar physical pleasures. Attempting to uproot from oneself the baser desires solely by the strength of one's will and by studying Musar [מוסר, discipline] books in the dark can only bring one to an opposite result: the baser desires become even stronger.
- Both negative and positive, unwilling and willing attention to the evil in oneself strengthen bad habits and impulses. But knowledge of life and the world strengthens will towards good.
- Yes. By 'Torah' is meant understanding that good leads to God and bad leads elsewhere, the knowledge that allows you to trace both paths and have the strength to and know how to choose between them.
- If then the parallel is complete, if internationally democracy without attention to the evil aims of totalitarian states will perish; if nationally democracy will parish from internal discord if the peaceable do not act to render powerless those who organize themselves to gain money and power; then, would you agree, we as individuals have no choice but to forgo for the time being peace, overcome our resistance to battle and study how to block from development within ourselves our passions for ever more lucretive and powerful roles?

Further Reading:

Sunday, September 4, 2022


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.*

- I've discovered something interesting, or at least I think I have. We've endlessly gone over ritual in politics and economics,** but we've never talked about ritual in psychology. 
- What would be a psychological ritual?
- Reenactment of the story: 'People like me used to be individual, safe and strong; but we've been attacked and now suffer from uncertainty and aimlessness, yet with a selfless re-dedication to the criticized customs and roles of the society we live in we'll find we've recovered our direction and confidence.'
- Individuals are attacked by false ideas and recover by discovering better ideas. 
- That is more like religious mysticism. In religious mysticism's story you learn how bad ideas have trapped you within a bad world, but practicing your ability to replace those false ideas by true knowledge frees you to enter into the true good world. In a ritual of psychology, conversely, individuals who struggle with other individuals for society's more desirable places, weakened by devaluing attacks from within and without, learn to fight back, regain strength, recover a sense of rightness of their competitive social battle to acquire monopoly over resources.
- To dominate and hoard.
- If you like.
- You're speaking of Jordan Peterson.
- Of his whining complaints, his belligerent defense of his claims, his smug satisfaction in conventionality.
- Are you surprised to find that at least one psychologist has discovered how to crowd manage ritual in terms of the individual's mind's damage and repair?
- Not really. Psychology, an increasingly popularized science, if science is what it is, was ripe for the picking.
- Ritual must have its sources somewhere in human nature. It doesn't come out of nowhere.
- Plato in the Republic looked at a just city to find out what justice in the individual looked like. He related government by the many, of the few, of one, to a single dominant part of human nature: the government of the many expressed the desiring part, the government of the few expressed the spirited part, the government of one expressed the reasoning part.
- But he showed how a society composed of classes each of which emphasizes only a part of human nature leads to a fixed society. Once change is allowed in, each class cannot adequately even perform its own function. A leader who is only reasonable is a coward, a soldier who is only courageous is a fool. The rational leader has to be practiced, skilled in dealing with insecurity and change, and that requires courage.
- Should I tell you a story from my own life how private life can take on a life of its own and become public?
- I'm listening.
- Many years ago I played a small part in a ceramicist friend's exhibition for his master's degree at the university. I had the idea that the philosophy book*** he at the time was helping me produce be stacked up for sale in a pot he'd make, a pot to be distinguished by a large crack, top to bottom. Now, having returned to L.A. after a decades long absence, what did I see up at the university, in the square outside the exhibition hall, but a giant metal pot at least twenty feet high cracked from top to bottom.
- Did anyone buy your book of 'crackpot' philosophy?
- We sold about fifty. Anyway, how should we look at this coincidence?
- A democratic government simply lets different people's desires compete with each other without any foundation in reason. Here with the two cracked pots public art had brought you and your friend's private joke out into the open.
- Into the open, private to public, where the willingness and strength to endure insecurity is expressed in both individual and society, as in Pericles' famous funeral oration description of the Athenian citizen as both self controlled and independent thinking: 
We alone do good to our neighbors not upon a calculation of interest, but in the confidence of freedom and in a frank and fearless spirit. To sum up: I say that Athens is the school of Hellas, and that the individual Athenian in his own person seems to have the power of adapting himself to the most varied forms of action with the utmost versatility and grace.
So are we any closer to finding out where ritual comes from in individual human nature? An answer lies in that very book of philosophy for sale at the student art exhibition. I'd written there that a sort of ritual was behind not only the psychological pathology of physical compulsive behavior but behind also the mental compulsions that made use of a sense of self that couldn't get out of itself. A compulsive movement, mental or physical, allows a blanking out of self observation. Yet when the movement is over sight appears of a self having just acted so terrifyingly meaninglessly that the compulsive movement is again resorted to for evading that sight, which movement, when again seen for the evasion it is, the flight to compulsive movement recurs once more. Do you follow?
- Yes.
- When you see your self repeating compulsively, meaninglessly the same action, that was what we call despair. When the world you see, no matter how hard you try to look away or reinterpret, always seems to be attacking you, that was what we call paranoia. When you see your own relation to the world as illegitimate, unsuitable, undesirable, that was what we call disgust. Does this remind you of anything?
- Jordan Peterson's individual male's despair at feeling himself weakened by a critical liberal society's undermining his urges to dominate and hoard, leaving him in a paranoid relation to the world, with the whole situation he finds himself in society disgusting. If the public structure of ritual grows out of the private structures of despair, paranoia, and disgust, private compulsive cycles behind public cycling performances of ritual, where do they - despair, paranoia, and disgust - come from?
- From an individual's feeling locked in a role in a world not allowed to change.

Further Reading:
** Fascism as ritual in politics, neoliberalism as ritual in economics.
*** Sex for Success¸ 1989. A philosophical study of sexuality and economics. UCLA Libraries and Collections, N7433.4.M617 A74 1989

Sunday, June 12, 2022

The Transaction




Those who make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.*

- As science advances weather prediction is becoming less accurate as human interference - pollution  - creates chaotic conditions. Do you think the same is happening in human history: is it becoming more difficult to predict?
- I think it is. The way nearly the entire world, within weeks, adopted from dictatorial China the unprecedented lockdown policy of quarantining the healthy seemed to come out of nowhere.
- Do you think there is some sort of interference in ordinary human behavior, something massive and uniform equivalent to pollution, that is creating chaotic, unpredictable conditions?
- Again, I do.
- And what is the human pollution?
- The transaction. Have you ever wondered why now this epidemic of people living on the street, said to number more than a million in the United States alone?
- Sure I have.
- If you don't have your own place to live and you live, not in the wild but in public, your every move is a transaction: there is no place to go where you won't have to negotiate being allowed there, either buying something or working to stay unnoticed by the police so as not to be moved on to someplace else. Consider this together with the utopian plan coming from the super rich meeting in Davos, The Great Reset: the masses of people will own nothing, everything they use will be rented, receiving in place of ownership a Buddhist-like spiritual feeling of detachment from the world's physical objects. But as the rich buy out more and more of the world's governments, as they eliminate regulations of business, with absolute monopolization of markets they will be able at will to raise prices, increase unemployment, raise interest rates on loans, so as the move the people of the Great Reset, who will own nothing and won't be able to pay rent any more, out of the class of renters and into the class of those living on the street.
- I never heard that before.
- Keep listening. A transaction, paying rent for example, has no history, doesn't develop; each side attempts to make the other compromise its demands, and then when all is settled: Next transaction, please! Giant pharmaceutical companies routinely pay the government billion dollar fines, making billions more than the fines in profit out of their fraudulently sold drugs: deal! they cry, and move on to the next compromise transaction. Compare how a human relates, adjusts, accommodates to the world. Do you give a gun you've been asked to hold back to its owner who's out of his mind on mind altering substances? No, you break the rule about keeping promises, but only this time, you keep in mind the reason why, which is to do good. The intention to do good persists, carries on to the next accommodation human beings must constantly make with the world. Which do you think acts like pollution in history: the transactions that pile one upon another without history, or the accommodation that adjusts to the world maintaining a single direction?
- You think transactions, capitalism in other words, unregulated capitalism, is creating the chaotic conditions to suddenly produce the 'extreme weather' of near universal adoption of lockdowns? 
- The lockdown removal of people from public places broke the continuity required for good life with others, favored the history-less commercial transactions that could continue to be practiced by each isolated individual.
- But we've suggested previously that the lockdowns were applied as a test to see how much repression people would accept, as a cover up of and diversion from the recession, bank and industry failure, that arrived in December 2019.
- I still think those are good theories. But the suddenness and universality of the lockdowns  requires its own explanation, 
- And that is the prevailing transactional nature of our times.
- It explains a lot. For example, blindness of the supporters of our former president to his obvious bad character, his putting on display every single evil a human being is subject to. He attempted to overthrow the government? But what about Biden, he's let gas prices double? All we need to know is which is the better transaction, the better exchange for our vote. Character - habit of behavior that is the influence of the past on the future - is invisible to the merely transactional. Creating chaos, the world's governments issue dictates, mandate fraudulent transactions, tells us: endure our lockdowns, take our vaccines, you'll be safe! A huge propaganda campaign is launched out of the news media, social media, academia, the government and international institutions against lockdown critique, against doubts of vaccine effectiveness and safety, against the lab leak hypothesis, against treatment with existing repurposed drugs. How wrong all this is, how remote from science! Scientists question, give up the part of their suppositions that prove to be untrue, move forward with the rest.

Further Reading:
* Voltaire

Wednesday, June 1, 2022

Hello, Starbucks!

- I was trying to be funny.* I know you don't believe me.
- You were more terrifying than funny.
- I'll try again.
- Start with explaining for me the title.
- 'Hello, Starbucks!'
- Yes.
- By mentioning the word 'Starbucks' I make sure our conversation will be entered into court records.
- Why?
- Starbucks, as a corporation, as a thing of ideas become mortal, as one of the legally defined lords of the territory of death, seems to believe that any sign of mortality I leave behind they'll be able to use against me in an ongoing lawsuit. 
- Your words are signs of mortality?
- Dead as can be, buried within thousands of pagers of legal documents produced so far.
- What's it all about?
- I can't tell you. Starbucks got a judge to issue a gag order.
- Why?
- You know how the Supreme Court has determined that corporations are not what they really are, which is abstractions, a product of ideas, but rather are people that have free speech, that is, the legal right to the material act of bribing politicians to act in their material interests of hoarding and domination? Human beings for most of written history have been endeavoring to move in the opposite direction, from mortality to immortality, from a state of being tied to material realities to freedom in the realm of ideas.
- Human beings, according to Starbucks, moving in the opposite direction to corporations, from out of the mortal world instead of into it, have no legitimate use of words? Excuse me, but what are you and me doing now but using words?
- We're not using words in the attempt to kill them entering them in the tomb of legal records.
- What are we doing?
- To be honest you and me, we are mere characters on the internet whose only business is to lay claim to the reality of ideas. Is this a little funny yet?
- No.
- I'l tell you about one of the regulars I spoke with once at the night cafe, and then again this afternoon, a man who describes himself as a reformed bad guy. He told me, back in the dark times of lockdowns, that he meditates and has made himself through meditation into a force of good in the world. For example, I ask, what good has he done lately? With every little thing he pays attention to he is doing good, he says. He's doing me good now? Yes. What's the nature of this good he's doing me? I ask. He'll buy me a steak dinner if I'm hungry, he says. He's flush with money tonight. How come? He helped out a friend, and the friend gave him in return a thousand dollars. What kind of help? He allowed his identity to be used to apply for government funds.
- He got a thousand, and his "friend" applied for and presumably got tens of thousands in unemployment and other so called stimulus funds? 
- Who was this friend?
- A family of gypsies who operate a fortune-telling salon in the neighborhood.
- Is this guy is some kind of idiot or what?
- He speaks with complete assurance of his reaching towards godhood. His reaching towards immortality, he tells me this afternoon, involves secreting away his spirit within the things of the world, invulnerably surrounding it in indifference to the things of the world. Invulnerable to the world? I ask. Yes. So if he stood in one of the villages in Ukraine being shelled by the Russians at the rate of one exploding missile every few seconds, nothing would happen to him? No. So if he gathered around him all the villagers and they stood close to him, they'd be safe too? He says, Yes.
- Why are you telling me this story?
- Because he is an example of just what human beings should not want to do, which is to do what the corporations are doing.
- Which is to bury an idea, which is immaterial, hiding it in the dross, in the protective shell of the material world.
- Yes. And do you know what was uppermost in my mind, listening to this spiritual identity criminal?
- What?
- That since I am not a corporation moving from immortality to mortality, rather moving in the other direction, I should be able to see in him the signs of the difference.
- How?
- By being able to recognize the form of what I am doing or trying to do and he is not.
- Is something like that visible?
- It can be. I was watching a video last night of a discussion between two very advanced in years Jewish philosophers, or rather since their actual knowledge specialities were elsewhere, say rather I watched two Jews advanced in years philosophizing. One observed that all people alike have to capacity to do evil. The other strenuously objects, No! We Jews could never create anything like the Holocaust. The first immediately retreated, agreed: No, we are spared that eventuality.**
- And do you agree?
- Yes.
- Why?
- Because Judaism codifies, and insures is put into practice, a technique that first appeared to history sometime in the first millenium BC. This is the trick of immortality, of movement out of the world of body into the world of mind.
- And what is that trick?
- I'll pretend this isn't the thousanth time I've been over this: when we act in the world we do it experimentally, with a sense of ourselves in a world that in flux is therefore undefined, and when we rest in contemplation of the world, we see only the whole, no passage of time no divisions of space.
- Neither in act or perception is there any sense of our being a thing in a world of things, because when we act we sense ourselves unrooted in any stillness able to fix a sense of reality, and when we rest in perception we don't see any divisions and therefore no particular things to locate ourselves within. Therefore acting in the correct form, seeing in the correct form, we are invulnerable to thoughts of mortality.
- Invulnerable to thought of mortality, but what about to the reality of mortality?
- That too, since mortality is an idea before it becomes a thing, armor for failed humanity to hide within.
- And the Holocaust?
- Isn't it obvious? People who believe and feel themselves immortal are not tempted to model the world into any form of mortality.
- I understand.
- Good. So I'm looking at the identity fraudster at the night cafe, asking myself, can I see this form, or rather, the absence of this form as I look at him?
- Could you?
- I could. I saw as he located himself in the things of the world in an intoxicated rushed blurring of words, I saw it in his self-attributed distinction of invulnerability to bombs, signified in the shell-shocked fixity of his expression.
- You saw a soul lowering itself to mortality. Or so you claim.

Further Reading:
** 'Our culture is so, that even the most deranged of us will have certain limitations.' (Physiologist Eric Kandel, hastening to agree with Holocaust surviver Elie Wiesel.)

Monday, May 30, 2022

Computer Supply

For several years now, since before the COVID lockdowns, sometime after midnight and almost everyday I've been going to the coffee shop, sitting outside on their terrace with a box of their $2 pancakes and my computer. I'd listen to music, watch movies and videos, read novels from the Internet Library. There would be constant traffic, the people who live on the streets passing through the terrace on the way to dig into the restaurant garbage cans, many of them asking me for money or if they could have my pancakes (when asked directly like that I complied, I didn't really want them anyway, they were something to order). Every degree of human destitution would in the coming hours be on display on the terrace: the drug addict, the alcoholic, the schizophrenic, the demented. They'd come and go. They'd dance, they'd jerk, they'd mumble, they'd twitch. Some would scream. Some would lay out of the terrace pavement their finds that night dug out from the garbage, offer to sell me this or that, which merchandise would at times alarmingly be conveyed by a filthy hand into my line of sight betwen my face and the computer screen. All was well, if that was well, until the beginning of this year. I noticed little things disappearing from my bag. A cheap broken watch, things like that. A few times I found myself looking up from my computer to be looking in the eyes of one the regulars, bending down to get a good look at my face. This particular habitué was distinguished by his mechanical skill building luggage-carrying contraptions out of abandoned baby carriages and bikes he stole. I finally got the message: I was getting hypnotized by the pulsing of the screen and late hours, dozing off for a few minutes. I resolved to be vigilant. But apparently that was beyond me, because a couple nights later a song was over and I sit up to find my computer was gone, headphone jack disconnected. This is mildly disturbing. I have to change all my passwords. But this was not the war in Ukraine (my constant viewing these days). I buy a 7 year old Chromebook for 40 dollars, and the next evening I am back at my usual table ready for battle. But vigilence fails, I look up from the screen to see a tall hooded masked man with sunglasses with both his hand gripping the top of the computer screen. No! I shout, and take a grip on the sides of the screen. The masked and hooded apparition about faces and scurries away. You'd think I'd learn my lesson by this point. But just a couple nights later song over, I sit up, and computer is gone again! This time I admit I am more than a little disturbed. Not by the company I'm keeping, but by embarrassment I know I'm going to feel at having to tell this story. Am I really this stupid or do I really not care? I console myself that I can't go 6 months without drowning my computer in spilled coffee, and don't forget I find a lot of money riding my bike to the coffee shop so in a strict financial accounting I am still way ahead. I replace the computer in a couple days with a ten year old MacBook Air, thinking that if I have some respect for the computer I will better keep my eyes on it. The next skirmish comes three days later, when I look up and, yes, the computer is still there, but not my backpack with charger and all kinds of necessary things in it. I realize that now my inventory of earthly possessions comes down to: (1) bike (2) computer (no charger). With no bag bike transport involves tucking the solid metal MacBook under my sweater, for all the world like a bulletproof vest and I'm actually in Ukraine. That is a little funny. Next day I bought a backpack from a second hand shop and charger from computer repair. The next night wifi is off at the coffee shop. I decide to fortify myself with strong coffee, sit up strait, and wait and watch. And what do you think I see, or should I say, what have I done? Like in a nightmare or a zombie movie a convocation of the destitute is in progress, every ten or fifteen minutes another coming down the two streets (the coffee shop is on a corner) not in  the normal traffic pattern towards the trash cans or the restaurant doors but angling directly at me, coming to examine the state of my vigilance, me the supplier of free computers to the community and other valuable commodities.

Further Reading:

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Rituals Of Love & Hate

Great Seal of the United States (obverse).svg

- I can't tell if you are just keeping silence or have nothing to say.
- I can't either.
- But you'll respond to me if I come up with something new.
- Have you come up with something new?
- Is it true that democracy, all the way back to its experiments in ancient Athens, has been at risk from demagoguery, and from the beginning known to be at risk?
- Yes.
- And a demagogue, according to our own James Fenimore Cooper, writing in 1838, claims to represent the common people, incites intense passions among them, exploits those reactions to take power, and breaks or at least threatens established rules of political conduct, all this to serve the interests of the demagogue and his friends. Demagoguery, which can give the appearance of insanity of both leaders and led, works because it establishes ritual: tells a story of our past greatness but present weakness, identifies our enemy that is responsible for present weakness, but, the story goes, a leader has arisen who will eliminate the enemy and restore us to greatness. Alright?
- Go on.
- Here's my idea: of our two political parties, we have one that clearly is fascistic: in the story told of making the nation great again, the scapegoating, the lies, the appeals to emotion. But what if the other political party also is fascistic?
- How?
- You've explained that the difference between our political parties is that though both parties condone the silent rule of the class of the wealthy over the class of the not wealthy, one party accepts inequality among the not wealthy, the other advocates strict equality among the various sub-classes ruled over by the wealthy, the classes distinguished from each other by race, religion, sexuality, age, character. etc. Can it be that any one of these subclasses, identities we call them these days, can and does form itself into fascistic relation to other identities?
- When one identity is seen to have more power than another?
- Has more power in the limited power-world of the less wealthy in which they are locked into by the government controlled by the wealthy.
- Yet each identity commonly claims otherwise, claims to tolerate, love even, the other identities, to be flourishing in a society of identities, each tolerating the others.
- But is that true? Love requires knowledge, but isn't the relation between identity based groups that of individuals blinded by passion in the midst of a power struggle, individuals in each group competing with those in the other groups to get an equal share of the residual wealth left to them by the wealthy overlords in control of the government?
- Each identity group, in the blind passion of struggle against the other identity groups for power, though they may only get a few more crumbs fallen from the table of the wealthy, obtain the satisfaction of security from the practice of ritual.
- Yes. Outright falsehoods by members of identities are accepted because produced in the course of passion, passionate reenactment of ritual. Stolen elections, infinite number of different sexes, any number of obvious you'd think falsehoods, there is no arguing against what is the product of ritual performed passion, whether it is the passion of national revival or identity empowerment.
- And you'd like to know what I think?
- Yes.
- Aristotle believed that democracy was less liable to faction than oligarchy: the different oligarchs were every man for himself, while in democracy it was only the wealthy against the not. Do you know what happened to prove Aristotle wrong?
- The inclusion into the electorate, the stable middle class of Athens that was neither rich nor poor, that therefore could communicate calmly with reason, of all those groups that had been excluded from citizenship: immigrants, women, landless, the poor.
- We're living in this world of lies, lies that when challenged are only responded to with other lies. Maybe that's why I don't have much to say.

Further Reading:

Tuesday, March 22, 2022


- The COVID panic was bad enough.
- Yeah.
- And now this.
- The incomprehension we feel facing these public events is astonishing.
- Not only do we not understand what is happening but we can't understand why we're so confused, why we don't understand.
- We knew our leaders were the worst of human beings and were likely to make their decisions accordingly. But still....
- We forgot that evil can be creative. We saw that in the obvious mass destructiveness of the lockdowns, a new, on the face of it, idiotic policy, an unprecedented quarantining of the healthy rather than the sick. It took some time to see where the creativity was going, what profit was in the destruction of social and personal and economic life.
- Destruction of small business, and increase of monopolization of big business, graft in grabbing government benefits, cover up and distraction from the under-reported recession / bank failure of 2019, the trick of calling the financial system's bailout a COVID remedy.
- Already an old story. Now we have Russia's invasion of Ukraine, and the mind-boggling reluctance of our country and other supposedly anti-authoritarian countries to help Ukraine with the weapons needed to stop Russian civilian targeting bombing and missile strikes. What's going on?
- It can't be what they say, that air defense weapons would be seen as our nation entering into war with Russia.
- Why not?
- Because Russia, Putin has already said he considers military aid currently arriving an act of war on the part of the donor nations.
- Then what is it?
- Government officials in the corrupt employee of wealth and big business influences that will do anything for money.
- What are they doing?
- Trying to lengthen the war so as to both use up American produced weapons that will have to be replaced, paid for by the ordinary tax payers, most of the wealth of the rich hidden and untaxed, and at the same time result in the progressive, large scale destruction of the Russian military at the hands of the Ukrainians.
- Why?
- Why do they want to destroy Russia's military?
- Yes.
- The experience of COVID lockdowns teaches us: destruction used as the creative tool of monopolization, in this case of monopoly of military force serving political power serving economic interests.
- To keep the dollar the world's currency and keep foreign markets open.

Further Reading:

P.S. APRIL 24, 2022 KRAMATORSK, Ukraine  — Following the highest-level U.S. mission to Ukraine since the start of the war, the secretaries of State and Defense said Monday that the Biden administration was intent on helping the country win its war against Russia and on seeing Moscow “weakened to the point” where it cannot mount such aggression again. (From The Los Angeles Times)

Wednesday, February 9, 2022

Philosophers Who Kill

- A competitor kills the competition, in the language of sports, and elsewhere. You were complaining about how shocked you were by government repression in the name of COVID-19, the government's deliberately terrifying people and the people's consequent compliance.
- And you weren't surprised?
- You expressed yourself as astonished, caught off-guard. But, you know, not everyone was.
- Who could have predicted what we're going through?
- Philosophers. Walter Benjamin, writing in 1940, with regard to Germany legalizing Hitler's ascension to status of dictator:
The tradition of the oppressed teaches us that the ‘state of emergency’ in which we live is not the exception but the rule. We must attain to a conception of history that is in keeping with this insight. Then we shall clearly realize that it is our task to bring about a real state of emergency, and this will improve our position in the struggle against Fascism. One reason why Fascism has a chance is that in the name of progress its opponents treat it as a historical norm. The current amazement that the things we are experiencing are ‘still’ possible in the twentieth century is not philosophical. This amazement is not the beginning of knowledge—unless it is the knowledge that the view of history which gives rise to it is untenable. (Theses on the Philosophy of History,VIII.) 
Picking up on the idea of continual state of exception, Michel Foucault described a 'biopolitics' in which government interfered in the lives of the people, managing the health of the bodies and mind that continually were in need of management. And then we have Georgio Agamben, who unlike the previous two is still among the living, who taught us that in a further state of exception not only are we stripped of the protection of the laws, but we become 'bare life', not only our health, not only sexuality, diet, exercise managed but the totality of life now up for grabs. Sound familiar?
- Lockdowns, masks, vaccine mandates.
- Yes. The state of exception of COVID-19 is not an exception; oppression in one form or another has been constant.
- Some examples of the continuous oppression?
- Regular economic crashes, with those who cause them being bailed out by the government they control, everyone else not bailed out; the unprecedented total surveillance of communications leading the populace into self censorship.
- Living in a time when Nazi Germany was actually using state of emergency law to change the rules so as to legitimize Nazi total control, 
Walter Benjamin didn't anticipate that a truly exceptional, innovative form of state of exception would be declared leaving the people in 'bare life', life without political power, in the name of protecting life from a virus, in the name of fighting which the people would be threatened with being stripped of all life activities, under house arrest, masked, facing the possibility of forcible vaccination.
- So even if it were true our political rights were always in various degrees in a state of exception, in this new, particular kind of state of exception, predicted by our philosophers, in the context of a government using the technique of biopower, in the name of 'bare life', life without protection of the laws, all forms of social and personal life were being abrogated. What do you think? Were these philosophers inadvertently writing the instruction manual being used by our leaders to reduce us all to 'bare life'? Or did our leaders make out the exceptional possibilities of biopower on their own?
- Who knows?
- If this 'bare life', lockdown life, mask and vaccine mandate life, really is not exceptional, what follows? More extreme states of exception, social and personal interference, or can we expect a return to a more comfortable political abrogation of rights?
- We can expect the situation to in some ways to get worse in a return to normal history, that is, ongoing war of the very rich against everyone else. For Agamben's particular case of Foucault's biopower involves not only that we are always more or less being stripped of the protection of laws, but in a second phase, the laws of supervision and control previously used to authorize supposed protection of 'bare life' in need of recovery now authorize the extermination of any and all people in the impoverished state of lacking the advanced value of political life, who living in 'bare life' have no right to exist.
- Excluding of course those who are managing the state of exception, the essential job of management entailing interests and rewards adding up to much more than bare life.
- Yes. See them march clothed in the significance of their work right ahead in the drive to transfer all the wealth of those who not being worthy of life certainly are not worthy to have possessions.
- Race is integrally involved here in this exceptional use of this special kind of biopower, government supervision threatening the very existence of 'bare life'.
- How?
- Our l
eaders, clothed with state of exception extra-legal political powers, are clearly distinguishable from those living in the abject condition of 'bare life': they are a superior race. If in our history, progress reflected in the rule of law is restricted by the countervailing force of class war, war of masters against slaves, this conception of race war is something new, something that requires some understanding, some consciousness of life bereft of political protections, something which our philosophers amazingly enough actually foresaw.
- So, with COVID-19 we are in a real state of exception this time?
- Our times, for our leaders, are open season for profits at any cost. Money breeding more money. As often observed, the word for interest in ancient Greek is "offspring". And what is money, and profit, but pure reproduction of something that is without content, is simple potential, power to persist, to continue going on.
- 'Bare life' again.
- Yes. And tied in again with the state of exception. For what is race but a tracing of that history of power to go on, mere persistence, without content?
- You think that our leaders' intimate practice of capitalism and racism was enough to show them the way to the great leap forward of present times COVID-19 repressions: lockdowns, vaccine and mask mandates, fear mongering, openly skewed statistics on deaths, risks, efficacy of treatments, vaccinations, etc.?
- Nevertheless our time's philosophers do seem to have had a special relation to the 
'bare life' of race and mass killings. Just yesterday a UCLA teacher of philosophy, a specialist in race and identity who had published an 800 page manifesto loaded with anti-Semitism and threats of mass shootings was arrested after he tried to buy a gun but was refused by the gunshop: his mother had days earlier reported him to the FBI which then put him on a no sale list. How many more philosophers had special connection to killing? I did a quick search on the terms 'philosophers' and 'killing' and found two professors, both with ties to anti-Semitism: a crazy 19th century Austrian who killed his professor, wrongly thinking he was Jewish, then appealing his murder conviction on the grounds that didn't all good German's believe that all Jews should be killed? The other was a 20th century French Marxist philosopher, apparently irrevocably mentally damaged by his experience in a Nazi concentration camp, who in a fit of madness strangled his wife.
- Anti-Semitism seems to show that a state of exemption has been always with us, the life of the Jews valueless 'bare life'. How do we know if our leaders will, like the history of the Jews shows happening regularly and often in the past, shift from naked in need of clothing to naked not deserving of life, from Foucault's care of and management of life, to Agamben's 'bare life' in which we are as 'bare life' of no value except as agents of their, the master race's, profit making?

Friday, January 28, 2022

Mutual Aid: Myths Of Beginnings & Ends

- Who said, 'Let's change the course of human history, starting with the past?'
'- The late David Graeber, anthropologist, author of Debt, The First Five Thousand Years, political activist, advocate of the anarchist form of social organization and co-author of the recently published book The Dawn Of Everything.
- Which book is supposed to change our understanding of the past?
- Yes. We're to understand that it is mere myth that agriculture and large population made it necessary that we live in states with inequality, exchange for profit, and obedience to orders.
- And the change in our historical understanding?
- In fact, agriculture was practiced a thousand years before the existence of states, that is, practiced by stateless people, and stateless people gathered together seasonally in groups of quite large numbers. But historically unnecessary as states are proven to be, we seem to be stuck with them now. The state the authors define as having a sovereign, a bureaucracy, and some sort of religion justifying its arrangements. History does not show a fall from a stateless golden age. That is another mere myth, they say. Rather our ancestors lived in groups combining communist mutual aid, leaders compelling the led, and (concluding individual relationships) selfish immediate exchange.
- The combinations change in proportion, that's all.
- Yes. There was no golden age.
- Nothing in history that tells us we can't get out from under our states by increasing the proportion of mutual aid and decreasing the proportion of obedience and selfish exchange.
- Yes. At any one time in history you could find a whole range of societies obedient, exchanging, or mutual aiding. And, reflecting the wealth of historical possibilities, within a society the very same practice could express mutual aid, selfish exchange, and obedience, an idea David Graeber developed in great detail in his book on debt.
- So we have variability within a single practice, within a single group, and between groups at any one time, and in the course of history itself.
- Doesn't that make you feel free, newly open to possibilities?
- No.
- Why not?
- Why was Graeber, along with virtually all of our modern day prophets claiming to be leading the way to a better world, silent about the lockdowns, a radical increase in our society's proportion of obedience and selfish exchange, decrease in proportion of mutual aid?
- He, they, considered the various proportions of mutual aid, selfish exchange and obedience they could apply in this time and place in history and made their choice. Shouldn't they have that freedom?
- In the story of the garden of Eden Eve is made as a help-meet for Adam, that is, made in a way suitable to help. What if the story is about the precedence of mutual aid?
- What difference would that make? One moment in history Eve aids Adam, the next she is obedient to him and he is at work growing grain for exchange.
- It matters that the help of Eve, who was made by god to help, is fundamental, while her obedience and Adam's work on the land is not, rather are mere consequences of historical acts that need not have been taken by her and him.
- And what difference does that make?
- In The Dawn Of Everything freedom is defined by the ability to not obey, to go, to be received with hospitality elsewhere by others. Note that to disobey on its own is nothing: if you can't go away you'll be caught and punished, and social animals that we are to go away means nothing if there is nowhere to go and be welcomed. Without mutual aid there is no freedom to disobey, no freedom.
- So David Graeber and our other prophets, one and all well established and secure in their state's bureaucracies, for whom mutual aid is not fundamental and must wait upon their free choice, at this contingent time in history have let us down. A golden age lost and to be remade, progress holding onto and building upon the prior choice of mutual aid is not a myth, is real, or can be real. Is that what you think?
- What do you think? Is there danger in seeing no direction to history?*
- What if history is off to a late start?

Further Reading;
* Myths of beginnings and ends: the authors of The Dawn Of History make the common observation that it is dangerous to claim to know the utopia at the end of history because then every evil act can be justified as means to achieving that end. However an individual trying to hold onto the good in personal behavior and avoid the bad as time progresses and perhaps history as well does not necessarily make any such pictures and is not subject to that temptation. 

Sunday, December 19, 2021

Explaining & Explaining Away

- Look at that. The whole bench along the wall is occupied with them.
- By 'them' you mean those in Beverly Hills who sleep on the streets, or rather on the sidewalks.
- Riding my bike here I almost ran over one.
- Which one?
- How do I know? All I saw was a form buried under piles of filthy blankets.
- This Starbucks is incredible. Across the street is the Peninsula hotel, just behind the cafe building is the Waldorf Astoria, two of the most expensive hotels in the city. Look at those guys getting out of their Mclaren super car, hundreds of thousands of dollars. This place stinks. But that won't stop this country's intrepid rich from stepping right into the miasma for their coffee.
- The word 'evil' comes to mind. 
- Does calling the rich 'evil' explain anything?
- If we want an explanation of the orbits of planets, we find one in a law of gravity. But if we want an explanation of how an object moves from one place to another, we rely on what we call energy, force, momentum, sorts of things which we have no explanation of.
- Explanation meaning we can tell a story in the form of general rule relating one thing to another at one place or another.
- Yes. So if I offer an explanation of the indifference of the rich to the massive misery piling up around them, we place the rich in a certain orbit where they are subject to certain 'forces' of indocrination which convince them that it's those people's own fault, the misearable deserve to be miserable, by being punished for their error they are motivated to make corrections. Their indifference explained. Or not? Don't you still want to call them 'evil'?
- Absolutely. 
- So again: does calling the rich 'evil' explain anything, anything more than saying they are suffering from the disease of pleonexia: excessive or insatiable covetousness, from the Greek pleonektein (to be greedy), from pleion (more) + ekhein (have).
- I think it does. 
- But there's a paradox here. It seems possible to make the attribution of the word 'evil' come and go, depending on how one looks at the world. Something like when we are in the presence of beauty we see it, it gives us pleasure, it is seen as warranting the attribution 'beautiful'. Yet we can explain away the beauty by seeing instead regular relation, geometric forms, well-functioning, losing thereby both pleasure and the consideration of the object as beautiful. What if the same happens with evil? We see it, the evil in the object, we feel pain in the act of perception. Yet we can if we like shift our way of looking, see instead pleonexia, and lose both the sight of evil in the object and our pain felt in having the perception.
- How does that get us anywhere, your claiming that how we explain is up to us, is our own doing?
- It's not obvious.
- Not to me. Isn't it crazy, aren't we crazy, to be having this kind of conversation right in front of these people?
- Pretending our ideas are important when faced with all this evil going on around us?
- Yes. 
- Think about the two kinds of explanation we've talked about. One stops short of satisfaction, leaving us with unexplanable force, in the case of the indifferent rich the pleanexia 'forced' upon them by capitalism, the stock market, family, advertising, movies, etc. The other gives us a clear sight of a meaningful object and corresponding strong feeling.
- But, I don't understand. If explanation is telling a story, where's the story in choosing to see evil when we don't have to?
- When we see evil as evil we are not seeing the regularity of law, and the resulting mystification of forces responsible for the application of law to the individual, but instead, seeing evil we experience the perception as complete in itself, feel what it is to be a human being.
- The story is that the indifferent rich have chosen to live in a world they see wrong, and by calling them 'evil' we remind ourselves not to follow in their path.

Saturday, November 27, 2021

Why They Did It

-Sorry to keep bothering you. No one else will talk with me about the lockdown.
- It's my pleasure.
- Is it? Good. Then here's what I want to know: How did it happen that practically the whole world suddenly adopted this absolutely new social policy of lockdown, invented only months earlier by the totalitarian, oppressive government of China. Within a few dozen days half the world was locked up in their homes, their places of business and almost all public places closed.
- We've already talked about why they did it: to get the population used to repression, to crush small business and foster monopoly growth, to cover up the speculation induced bank and corporate financial crash in progress.
- I know. I'm asking how the whole world jumped in unison in the same way, towards the same repressive device.
- The answer is right before our eyes. We see politicians everywhere discovering the technique of political organization of herding people* into rituals, enacting the embattled weak self being reborn strong and new in the company of other telling themselves the same story. As the leaders need to enhance insecurity so as to drive frightened and anrgy people into ritual enactments, rituals of 'us' battling 'them' have the failing that life among the reborn 'us' is not destabilized, and therefore is a potential source of rebellion against the political machinations being practiced on the people by their leaders. Follow so far?
- Yes.
- Then the rest should be obvious: when you make a disease the 'them' that is being fought against in ritual, there is no 'us' free from becoming an object of fear and attack. Everyone is a danger, an object of fear and aversion to everyone else.
- And therefore there's no room for security in which to wake up and rebel.
- Yes.
- So the world's leaders, already practicing the tactics of fear mongering and cult building for the purposes of repression, saw immediately the advantages being offered to them by an epidemic, even one as epidemics go not especially deadly.**

Further Reading:
** Germany reports virtually the same number of people dying from all causes in 2020 as in 2019. Sweden, with no lockdown, reports, depending on how the calculation is made, between 0 and 7,000 more deaths in 2020, that is, a maximum increase in number of deaths in the year of epidemic of about 1 per 1,000 population (1/10th of 1%). 

Sunday, November 7, 2021

While We Wait

- So you're at Jimmy's, the North Campus cafe up at UCLA, and the manager comes over to say to you he's been watching you for a while, letting you get away with a lot, not wearing a mask, but now...
- I told him I don't have to wear a mask while I'm drinking coffee. I hold up my coffee theatrically.
- And he told you the rule was when not actively drinking or eating you have to put back on the mask.
- And I said, what is the time constraint? Replace the mask after one minute, one second? And I am the whole time I'm here know that someone is watching my every movement, counting the seconds before I either have to raise the cup to my lips or replace the mask?
- And the manager said?
- Why can't I just cooperate like everyone else?
- I can't, I won't, I said. In Los Angeles during the past week there have been on the average of 13 deaths a day attributed to the epidemic in a city of 10 million people. That's about one out of a million risk of death. And in response to that risk, starting Monday if you want to enter any restaurant, movie theather, nightclub, gym, you'll have to show proof of vacination - this while vacination efficacy has declined to less that 50 percent - or show a negative test result within three days. At this point a girl-student, between bites of salad, sitting over against the wall, shouts over at me that I'm putting everyone in danger by my selfishness.
- And you said?
- 'You're the one breaking the rules! Anyone exhaling, proving it audibly by producing words, or not actually swallowing has to be masked.' The manager says:
- Those are the rules. Why can't you just obey them?
- Because rules about how many seconds I have between swallows I'm allowed to remain unmasked is just the latest in impositions following upon the closing down of almost all public places; completely unjustified. 
- That's just your opinion.
- Yes, I have an opinion, based on information coming from the government. You don't have an opinion, or even source of information. You simply obey. You, like that little girl student over there, want to force others to obey. How are you both not fascists?
- Are you going to comply with the rules or not?
- Can't you see? I'm packing up to leave.
- I think of fascism as a government's attempt to control our every thought and act. You went a little too far there. The people of the epidemic, let's call them that, don't care to control your thought and act except with regard to their pet ritual, the observance of epidemic related decrees.
- And if there is some kind of logical, causal relation between ritual performance and totalitarianism?
- Is there?
- There are two. When a government understands the technology of ritual,* satisfying the love of power that drives leaders into politics, it progressively takes upon itself more and power to instruct the public in new rituals, to the point that eventually every aspect of life is directed by ritual.
- And we have totalitarianism.
- Yes. You might think that the greater the imposition of new ritual and new control, the people would begin to wake up and complain. But the opposite is true.
- Why?
- Ritual has its beginning in the story of an old god dying and a new god born. The story can be that of any particular god, but ultimately it is the ritual participants putting themselves in the place of particular gods that does the job. But like our politicians understand ritual and are capable of self-consciously managing them, our not too distant ancestors figured out that if they imagined there was only one god, then all of history would be a single ritual. And once this idea has arisen, something very important, something essential happened.
- They invented totalitarianism?
- Not so fast. They invented ethics. Because always in the midst of ritual, every act would have to have its rule; the rules they had would always be insufficient; because they didn't know when the ritual was going to end...
- They couldn't be told what to think.
- Nor what to do, because new situations would keep arising, they couldn't know for sure which rule would apply. Do you give a friend gone crazy back the weapon he loaned you when he was still sane? An entirely new relation to the world had appeared to us human beings out of the former polytheistic ritual. Immersed in the single ritual monotheistic history, we are neither old god nor new; we don't know who we are, what habits, what character to take on.
- We don't know what are our rules.
- Yes. We take on an experimental relation to the world which is unfolding, the end not in sight, the utopia of everyone following the same rules and universal peace reign. But this experimental practice, searching for the best relation of character to the world, in the logic of the situation, is going one time or another to have to meet its challenge.
- Which is?
- People beginning to see the single ritual coming to a close. A time when rule determination, finding out who you are, no longer is important, rebirth is at hand, soon we'll see how the world looks in recovered strength, all peace and love and fairness!
- In short, Christianity arrives with its claim to complete Judaism.
- That's right. And then what happens?
- The Mulim's messiah arrives claiming to be the true and final savior. History isn't open; isn't about to end, it is at its end, all that is to be is already written, there is nothing further to be done but follow the rules and bear witness to a world that's reached its final form. If politicians have woken up to the knowledge of how to use ritual to add to their power, wouldn't the people of monotheism, waking up to the knowlege of what ritual is were able to transform religion to ethics, wouldn't we - for we're talking about our world here - wouldn't we see ahead to the two further stages? And take the suggestion of our imagination?
- Is there anything that makes us? Why should a Jew become a Christian or a Muslim?
- No reason. But ask instead why should not a politician guide a monotheistic people in the direction that gives leaders more control over the led?
- Is that what you think is happening?
- I do.

Further Reading:

Tuesday, November 2, 2021


(Continued from How Could We Be So Blind?)

When you questioned me last time on my participation in social media, stock market speculation, populist political party membership, adherence to neoliberal economic theory and obedience to its practice, enthusiastic compliance with lockdowns and business closures, you left out a certain other, ritual based crowd behavior, the most prominent of them all.
- Which one is that?
- Evolution, survival of the fittest by means of chance mutation. Were you afraid of being thought a crackpot?
- Guilty.
- Chance in Darwinian evolution being equivilent to the self-forgetting at the heart of crowd behaviors, the self-renewal made possible by the dying of the old in the passion of following the crowd, whether that is guided by social media, stock market speculation, populist political party membership or capitalist war-like negotiations between buyer and seller.
- I've heard that fully thirty percent of biologists privately express doubts about Darwin's theory.*
- They doubt his specification of chance as the mechanism of mutation.
- Yes.
- Hard to believe. And what about chance mutation and doubting Darwin do you want to say? 
- Movement for life in general is towards complexity; movement for the individual is towards knowledge. A clear difference exists between the kind of gap that is of self forgetting, created by editing out experience through the mechanism of ritual, and the gap of not knowing what gives direction to evolution, not knowing what force is, what energy is, what gravity is, what passage of time is. In fact, we don't know what movement is at all, can't break it down into parts except by series of still pictures, leaving movement between those pictures still undefined.
- The self's change is obscure in the crowd behaviors, but in the case of scientific description, it is the world's movement, towards complexity or towards being known, that is the difficulty.
- Yes. 
- I know all this from past conversations but wanted to go over it again.
- Now we've done that.
- Sorry for boring you. But I think you'll like this, a doctrine, as far as I can make out, of illusory or at least problematic movement, from a thousand or more years ago, from the other side of the world, found in an academic paper: There is That: The Association of Space and Cause in Niyati Kañcuka, Joel H. Posner: 
Cause-and-effect is in KŚ an exclusively māyic operation. As such it is qualitatively different from, subordinate to, and entirely contingent on the underlying creative or causative mechanism that drives the unfoldment of reality through all its stages, spawns the emergence of governing principles at every stage, and ultimately enables within any given stage each and every manifestation. That “primary” or “present” causality, if you will, is a spontaneous act that transpires timelessly without condition or limitationas willed and enacted by a first cause, namely supreme consciousness, which is not itself an effect. The notion of a supreme agent that is at once active, in extroversion (unmeṣa), as well as quiescent, in introversion (nimeṣa),is a stunningly advanced formulation, and a radical departure from other schools, including perhaps most notably Advaita Vedānta as propounded by Śaṅkarācārya. KŚ breaks sharply from, among other things, a conventional doctrinaire understanding of causality. 
 KS is Kashmir Saivism.** Also from the article:
In the Trika ideology of Kashmir Śaivism (KŚ), māyā is the sixth in the hierarchy of thirtysix tattvas, or ontological (and in this formulation equally epistemological) principles. It is the stage in the creative descent at which consciousness assumes the existential mantle that eclipses its essential unity and sovereignty, and governs everyday experience. That mantle is comprised of five husks (kañcuka-s), each of which imposes a specific limitation with respect to the following: 1) efficacy (kalā); 2) knowledge (vidyā); 3) inclination (rāga); 4) time (kāla); 5) space and cause (niyati). Thus are the powers of universal consciousness by its own doing fragmented and diminished in the individual personal experient, alienated in embodiment from the boundlessness of supreme Self. 
Were you aware such writings existed?
- Yes.
- Oh. Anyway, this is the idea I have: that should science come around and correct itself, self consciously sort out theories that have their origin in crowd behavior and the forgetting of self, the world might get itself educated and strengthened against this fatality of crowds. What do you think?
- People who won't listen to philosophy talking mysteries will listen to science. Could be. Do you know how music works?
- Know why we like music?
- Yes.
- The vibrations please us.
- That's all?
- Music awakens in us moods, experiences, emotions.
- And not both together, rhythm and melody? Doesn't music have exactly the same gap, or rather gaps, we've been talking about?
- How?
- Sound, then silence, then sound. The movement of change occurs in the silences.
- Ruling out, I guess, sirens, crying babies, screaming electronic music.
- Some rhythms are produced with the intention to put listeners into a trance-like loss of self awareness. But other rhythms, becoming the foundation to melody, express our repeated passage through the world of undefinable movement back to the stillness and immobility of knowledge; while melody offers in detail one particular story of movement on its way to rest.
- Silence bears the mystery of movement.
- Yes. Silence has its laws relating where we can expect what to be at any one moment; the story of the discovery of those laws is a sort of melody played to the rhythm of scientific progress.
- The music of science, with its progressing rhythm of melodies, stories of experiment and hypothesis, you think may soothe the crowd-loving beast in us?
- It's an idea.

Further Reading:
Machines & Consciousness
* A claim made by Michael Behe.
** Śiva (Skt., ‘auspicious’). Major deity in Hinduism, the third in the Hindu trinity (trimūrti), along with Brahmā and Viṣṇu. In the Vedas, Siva appears as an epithet of Rudra, not as separate manifestation of divine power. The joint form, Rudra-Śiva appears in the gṛhya (household) rites, which suggests that there was a gradual process of assimilation, and that Śiva has roots and origins in the pre-Vedic period. By the 2nd cent. BCE, Rudra was waning in significance, and Śiva began to obtain a powerful separate identity. In Rāmāyaṇa, he is a mighty and personal god, and in Mahābhārata he is at times the equal of Viṣṇu, perhaps even the creator of Viṣṇu and Brahmā, worshipped by other gods. He became associated with generation and destruction, especially in conjunction with Śakti, and is therefore worshipped through the power of the liṅga. The Mahādeva image in the Elephanta caves already depicts Śiva in the threefold guise of creator, destroyer, and preserver: in this and other such images, the two faces on either side represent (apparent) opposites—male and female (ardhanārī); terrifying destroyer (bhairava) and active giver of repose; mahāyogi and gṛhasta—while the third, serene and peaceful, reconciles the two, the Supreme as the One who transcends all contradictions. The three horizontal marks which Śaivites put on their foreheads represent the triple aspect of Śiva. As a personal god (iṣta-deva), he is worshipped in many forms of manifestation, important examples being Nāṭarāja (lord of the dance) and Dakṣiṇāmūrti, spiritual teacher. His mantra is ‘sivo ʾham’. Śiva is particularly associated with the river Gaṅgā (Ganges) which flows through his hair and with Mount Kailāsa in the Himālayas.(

Saturday, October 23, 2021

How Could We Be So Blind?

- I've got some questions for you.
- Ask away.
- Do you speculate on the stock market?
- No.
- Do you use social media?
- No.
- Not at all?
- Not at all.
- Have you ever joined a political party that promises to take back your country from its enemies and make it great again? Practiced political correctness, cancel culture?
- Of course not.
- Do you see all economic transaction as occasions to get the better of your trade partner? And do you subscribe to market fundamentalism, the belief that markets free of regulation benefit rich and poor alike, though you can't help knowing, if you thought about it, that it was obviously not true?
- No, and no.
- Finally, were you surprised at how rapidly and near totally the population of this country, as well as many others in the world, complied with unreasonable lockdowns, physical distancing, mask mandates?*
- Yes. Though I did understand that lockdown was allowing people to get away from each other, enjoy a truce in the war of neoliberal life in which everyone is an enemy of everyone else.
- And when the lockdown kept coming back?
- I was shocked by the continued near total compliance.
- I asked you questions about your participation in social mechanisms that guide individuals into groups of shared passions, fears, hatreds. Why didn't you see that the epidemic was providing such a mechanism; or would you not agree that that is what has happened, and is the explanation of the rabid complicity we see all around us?
- I agree we're dealing with crowd formation by means of ritual practice.
- So why didn't you see it? We'd talked about ritual many, many times.
- The requirement in ritual of weakness at the beginning I saw, fear of infection, and the required passion in the acting out of ritual I saw too, in the irrationality of the measures taken, passion as always creating blindness. What I didn't see was the - necessary to ritual - deliberate choice to enter upon its practice, and the expectation at the end of the ritual performance of being reborn from weakness to strength.
- Do you see that now?
- Do you think that neither you nor I saw this coming because we, not being past participants in ritual crowd formation, didn't immediately see how the government and media's management of the epidemic was of the same form as stock speculation, social media use, populist political party creation, market fundamentalist trading?
- And those who participated in those mechanisms, being practiced in those mechanisms, did see what was in it for themselves when they complied with government decrees and mandates.
- Is that your conclusion?
- Yes. Experience with the ritual practice of everyone following everyone else at the cost of damage to human nature but promising a sense of renewed safety and strength in the sight of everyone around you doing the same.
- They saw it and we didn't.
- We see it now. 
Further Reading:
* On the manipulation of COVID statistics - e.g., false positives and testing of asymtomatics: what percentage testing positive have symtoms, what percentage hospitalized die, what percentage hospitalized have 'co-morbidities' - see: Prof. Norman Fenton. On the efficacy of lockdowns, see: Summary of Academic Studies on Lockdowns, & What HappenedDr. Jay Bhattacharya on 19 Months of COVID. According to the World Health Organization, more than 3 million people died as a result of harmful use of alcohol in 2016. This represents 1 in 20 deaths. Traffic accidents caused an estimated 1,350,000 deaths worldwide in that year; last year 800,000 people killed themselves, 500,000 died from drug overdose, 400,000 by murder. Depression typically affects every year 264 million people, but that number along with the number of other 'diseases of despair', including obesity, has greatly increased in our times of COVID-19. And who cares? It's said that it's a choice whether to kill yourself, to drink or drug yourself to death. Just so it's a choice to go into public and expose yourself to disease and crime, not to mention streets infested with reckless, drunk, suicidal, murderous, drugged, and depressed drivers.

Thursday, October 7, 2021

We Didn't Love Freedom Enough

And how we burned in the camps later, thinking: What would things have been like if every Security operative, when he went out at night to make an arrest, had been uncertain whether he would return alive and had to say good-bye to his family? Or if, during periods of mass arrests, as for example in Leningrad, when they arrested a quarter of the entire city, people had not simply sat there in their lairs, paling with terror at every bang of the downstairs door and at every step on the staircase, but had understood they had nothing left to lose and had boldly set up in the downstairs hall an ambush of half a dozen people with axes, hammers, pokers, or whatever else was at hand?... The Organs would very quickly have suffered a shortage of officers and transport and, notwithstanding all of Stalin's thirst, the cursed machine would have ground to a halt! If...if...We didn't love freedom enough. And even more – we had no awareness of the real situation.... We purely and simply deserved everything that happened afterward.* 
- I have this sort of crazy idea.
- I'm listening.
- Off and on we have talked about the origins of social role, class, master and slave. We wondered if their origin was not in sedentary farming, of both plants and animal, in which each additional plant and animal represented in the counting mind of the farmer additional security.
- Yes. Whereas for the forager and hunter security was in knowing how and where to forage and hunt.
- Ten thousand or so years later we have capitalism, where the increasing count of symbols of security - money - dominates every aspect of our lives. Human beings are farmed both for the power represented by that act alone, and for the farmed humans being the instrument of the business of farming money.
- By which you mean profit. Money 'planted' to grow into more money.
- Yes. Am I correct in assuming you've been as shocked as I was by the unquestioning compliance** of hundreds of millions of people with lockdown restrictions.?
- You're correct.
- I think I have the explanation. You know how the former president used to call the press the enemy of the people, even admitting in an interview that this accusation had the function of discrediting any criticism of him? It does that, obviously, but if you've ever tried to argue with one of his supporters you find you can catch them in a contradiction and the only satisfaction you'll get out of it is their hasty retreat: you'll do no convincing, never. What is said in the news, or you winning an arguement with them, is irrelevant. Relevant is only that you and they are enemies. Enemies serve the function of creating a crowd. In the crowd the sight and words of each like-minded member produces a sense of increasing power and security. But what if the millions of compliant citizens imagine that they are the farmer and the farmed both at the same time? They have discovered they can enlarge their herd by communicating to those not yet with them their complaint. They farm themselves in their stock market investments, hoping that others seeing them run to a stock will join them in that run, bringing others with them who see them do it; in social media, which has been engineered to promote this sort of increasing herd flight and power in numbers of interactions, creating a sense of threat, promoting feelings of anger or fear and suggesting the alleviation of that fear and anger in finding on their sites others making the same complaint; in political parties, where one side complains of injustice, the other of threats to their independence...
- By defenders of their independence you mean the Republicans. Why then did they not complain of the lockdown if their feared enemy was those who would cause the loss of independence?
- Because they as capitalist humans are herd animals that are both herd members and managers of the herd; each has contempt for others in the capitalist herd who are their competitors and enemies in the capitalist economic struggle for survival.
- They don't love each other. They competitively herd each other. 
- The hundreds of millions were happy to stay at home in isolation from those contemtible herd animals out there.
- As long as the government made that allurement financially viable. 
- Yes. There were unemployment subsidies, the promise for large corporations of vastly increasing monopoly as small business went bankrupt...
- What about those small businesses? Why didn't they complain?
- To whom? Who was listening?
- Why didn't they complain to their herd? I see. They didn't have a herd. Why not?
- The political parties, the stock market, the social media, the largest grazing grounds as it were, all are in control of the people whose money is behind all three institutions, all of which have flourished during this time of epidemic lockdown. They all were on the side of monopoly profits.
- So no herd for small business. 
- We are accustomed to thinking of capitalist managers herding*** their money, making it increase, feeling power and security in that increase. Workers, formerly only members of a herd, have learned from capitalism to be herders too.
- Herding themselves.
- Herding themselves in their political participation, in their social media use, in their stock market speculations.

Further Reading:
* Alexander Solzhenitsyn

Friday, September 10, 2021

A Provocation

- Identity politics, white privilege, social justice warriers, cancel culture, political correctness, wokeness, safe space, critical race theory...What is critical race theory?
- Critical theory is the view that all institutions are the disguised vehicle of power struggle, the strong against the weak. Critical race theory is the view that all institutions are disguised vehicles for oppression of blacks by whites.
- What about the use of institutions by men to oppress women, the rich to oppress the poor?
- Not the concern of those involved in critical race theory.
- How can that be?
- Because like with religion what is involved here is a play of symbols, not reality. This is what Karl Marx had to say about religion in 1844:
[....] The criticism of religion has been essentially completed, and the criticism of religion is the prerequisite of all criticism.

The profane existence of error is compromised as soon as its heavenly oratio pro aris et focis [“speech for the altars and hearths,” i.e., for God and country] has been refuted. Man, who has found only the reflection of himself in the fantastic reality of heaven, where he sought a superman, will no longer feel disposed to find the mere appearance of himself, the non-man [Unmensch], where he seeks and must seek his true reality.

The foundation of irreligious criticism is: Man makes religion, religion does not make man. Religion is, indeed, the self-consciousness and self-esteem of man who has either not yet won through to himself, or has already lost himself again. But man is no abstract being squatting outside the world. Man is the world of man – state, society. This state and this society produce religion, which is an inverted consciousness of the world, because they are an inverted world. Religion is the general theory of this world, its encyclopaedic compendium, its logic in popular form, its spiritual point d’honneur, its enthusiasm, its moral sanction, its solemn complement, and its universal basis of consolation and justification. It is the fantastic realization of the human essence since the human essence has not acquired any true reality. The struggle against religion is, therefore, indirectly the struggle against that world whose spiritual aroma is religion.

Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.
Because a play of symbols is involved, not reality, we can interpret what is going on here as ritual practice. Inviduals who feel weak in personal life get together with others of their kind to rehearse a story of death and rebirth, fighting an enemy to the group, a story of their group dying of their weakness but reborn in the strengh of victory, and in the course of the secure practice of the known-in-advance action of the ritual in the company of others recover a sense of security and personal power. This script or story telling is unchallengeable because it is the vehicle of security and strength of those practicing the ritual. Thus the demand for safe space (free of micro-agressions) for blacks in which to rehearse their rituals, that whites be sensititve to this need for safe space (wokeness), that speech be censored of any criticism of themselves (blasphemy), that whites never make a claim to be invidivually guiltless (white privilege), etc.
- If all institutions are the carrier of racism, what exactly do these social justice warriers want? Anarchy?
- Far from it. What they want is the same as neoliberals: a marketplace left to itself, free of restrictions on efficiency that institutional interference brings with it. When all institutions have been purged of their prejudiced members (cancel culture) the free market will finally be just to members of all races.
- That's absurd. We know after 50 years of practice that when you end government regulation of the market you get monopoly, corporate capture of the government to force privitazation resulting in even more monopoly and control of the market. Don't the critical race theory people know this?
- They don't. They can't.
- Why not?
- Because their identity is tied up with, is in actual fact produced by rehearsal of the ritual in which the innocent blacks die at the hands of whites yet are reborn in their successful striving to equalize their place in the free market.
- You and many others have claimed that the world of international corporations has supported identity politics because it is divisive, since as long as one oppressed group is at the throat of another nothing is done about the rich using the captured government and monopoly to transfer to themselves the wealth of the rest of the country. Now you are arguing that identity politics is directly a form of free market, neoliberal politics. Is that correct?
- Yes.
- Yet the claim that all whites are guilty and that all whites must watch every word they say is made not only or primarily because white words and deeds restrict access to markets, but because they interfere with the practice of ritual story telling which produces racial identity. Maybe these social justice warriers, Black Lives Matter activists believe that once they've freed up the market to themselves and whites have attoned for their original sin, at this judgment day they will be able to put aside their racial, tribal identity.
- Not a chance. In the history of the human species, before the dominance of the state, individuals living in tribes were fierce defenders of their individual autonomy while having little or no self-affirmation, vanity: they valued instead humility. They collectively took measures to block the emergence of hierarchy, by obedience to leaders being made entirely voluntary, by making leaders subject to total tax on their wealth or making them the constant butt of jokes.* These stateless tribes understood the danger to themselves of hierarchical institutions developing. Not so the cancelling, safe space tribalists. They are the opposite. They see themselves only through a ritual of changed places in hierarchy; only within the group of ritual practice do they feel a sense of personal power, can they gloat in getting fired from their jobs those guilty by original sin whose words interfere with the ritual practice of the eternally innocent.

Further Reading: