Monday, January 13, 2014

Theory & Ritual

Continued from Monsters

- Why are evolution* and market economics accepted despite being obviously inapplicable to what we know about the world?
- Money and power. Educational and journalistic institutions accept the theories. They are orthodoxy.
- Why are these theories the one's you can make money and get power from supporting? Why have they, and not others, become the orthodoxy?
- They play a role in political and economic developments, propaganda campaigns or campaigns of war.
- As Darwin was for the Nazis, or market economics for financial speculators. As the equally unsupported economic theories of communism was for the Soviet Union. But why do scientists and economists, secure in their positions, asking nothing from political movements and campaigning for no war, still support them? Is it something in the theories themselves? What is it in the theories that is so attractive?
- You tell me.
- We like each other.
- Yes, I hope so.
- People like each other. Animals like each other. Plants seem to like each other's company. We find stone with stone, air with air, water with water. "Like likes like". In nature it is the rule. People like each other, and want each other to like them. Do you agree?
- Of course.
- Do you think people want to go on liking each other and being liked by them?
- Sure.
- And if at the cost of liking and being liked, they could have more children survive and make more sales? When your children fail, mine have better chance of success. When you set the wrong price and don't make a sale, I have a better chance to make one. I have an interest in your failure. Previously I liked you. Maybe now I don't want to go on liking you. Imagine we are constructing a computer model of these choices.
- Ok.
- I like you. I want to go on liking you. What happened to us to make it possible not to want to go on liking?
- We get corrupted. Once it hurt us to buy and sell for profit, to speak to a man at a coffee shop and the next day pretend we'd never spoken. What was once unnatural, becomes second nature.
- I think you're right. Any idea, kind of education can teach these behaviors. Torture people enough, any regular violence, they become selfish, will betray their best friend. We don't need to look to evolution, or market economics. We can't blame modern life on these theories.
- Modern life is full of torturers. Parents, teachers, lovers, employers. A never ending list.
- So why, once we have already become selfish, are we attracted to these theories?
- Say I am a monkey and make an ugly face. I scare you, another monkey, with my anger. I keep doing it, you keep running away. In time I am the boss, you are the servant. Roles have been set. We call the setting of roles by repetition by the name "ritual". We've been through this.
- We have.
- We like each other. We like liking each other, and want to go on liking each other. But we get angry and afraid, repeat situations in which some of us are angry and some afraid, social roles are constructed. Do we still like each other? Do master and servant like each other?
- They feel safe.
- Rituals provide security. That is why they work, why they are a stable human social behavior. Fear and anger plus repetition produce security.
- And that goes into our model.
- Right. Now what about our theories of evolution and supply and demand market price? What do these two theories have in common?
- What?
- We said evolution works by chance mutation, prices are set by a process unknown to the individuals participating. The result of the chance and unknown processes is a stable structure of unequal roles.
- Why unequal?
- Because your having worse children allows me to have better, your failure at setting prices enables my success. There is no question that the Nazis at times justified their killings with Darwin's theory, that the communists used their own fantastic economic theory to justify their own killings. There are  known cases where the theories were explicitly appealed to, directly instituting ritual, like the training of mass executioners by the Nazis. But I think this is a clear case of the, call it, promiscuity of myths. Where existing rituals need only be given the direction to be repeated, any myth of ritual form can function, it need not be the ritual that originally formed the behavior. Any myth with the structure of ritual, dying and rebirth, will do. The ancient Greeks, for example, seem to have had no trouble accepting alternative version of their myths, to even have had no trouble in composing them themselves.
- Then market economics and evolution simply reinforce our existing rituals that accomplish the unnatural remolding of character. We ask now, Why should we be altruistic? Instead of asking, Why hurt people we like? But even if these theories do not form the original rituals, the expectation that they remain in currency is very great. According to Berlinksi even such a famously independent man as Noam Chomsky was skeptical of evolution before later falling silent on the subject.
- We are already selfish. Nevertheless, we need the theory to issue reminders?
- We haven't completely gotten rid of our liking for people. We like our families, a little. Though it is not unusual for us that family members keep their possessions separate and demand payment for any exchange. It is not unusual for us that family members feel under obligation to pay attention to each other in an equal way, when it should be obvious that if affection is real it can't be other than inevitable and immediate.
- So we have our university professors and politicians and journalists going on and on about evolution and supply and demand. Every time they mention these theories we are not directly reminded to be selfish, we don't think about that. Rather we are recalled to the self forgetfulness that must be there in our economic and personal lives if we are going to continue as we are.
* Natural selection of chance mutations