Right up front, I have never played Pokemon Go and this is not an endorsement for the popular augmented reality game that has spread like wildfire the past week, causing speculations of conspiracy among even the most straightforward tinfoil hat accusers. And while it may indeed be a CIA plot to distract us from police killing and democratic shenanigans, or a tool of the Satanic Reptilian Shapeshifting Illuminati New World Order for some more esoteric outcome, its effects on human consciousness will transcend whatever normal or malignant purpose its current popularity is predicated on.
To be more specific it is the augmented reality itself that will have an unimaginable impact on humanity and reality. It will not do so directly, intentionally or obviously. We will not instantly be transformed, and most likely, we will not notice our transformation taking place. The lessons of augmented reality will not be explicit. They will not be a product of content or gameplay. Rather it will be the overall implicit context of navigating augmented reality that will bring about this evolution in consciousness.
As it is, most people tend to think about reality in the most literal terms. If we can measure it and define it, it is real. Despite the fact that most human experience happens outside of this mass hallucination of measurable objective reality, we still deny the existence or importance of that which remains intangible and beyond physical description. The reason for this has been quite simple. That reality is where everything seems to be happening at.
Augmented reality pastes another layer on top of that. It provides non-physical objects in real space/time that we can interact with through both physical and technological efforts. It provides rewards for doing so, even if intangible, that give that new layer of reality significance and import in our every day lives. It provides a new layer of reality in which things also seem to be happening at.
When we think about reality as a single layer of physicality, it appears to be incredibly rigid. Augmented reality will force us to think of reality on multiple levels. It will create new ideas about what is possible within reality by expanding our thoughts about what reality is. And as our consciousness absorbs this new fluidity then reality itself may take on less restrictive properties, since reality is not an external object but a manifestation of our deepest conscious ideas about what reality is.
This may seem like a pretty big leap for those conditioned to view existence through the narrow window of materialism. Materialist narratives make us subjects and victims of an external reality independent of our consciusness. Reality becomes an inescapable plot to contain and control everything within it. While there is a certain romance to admitting existential defeat, it is far from rational. The materialist narrative is just that. It is not a doctrine of absolute truth. But if it is wrong, we are potentially limitlessly powerful beings with only the limits set forth by our own imagination.
The materialist view of reality has been incredibly useful. It has allowed us to evolve from simple animals to complex technological/cultural beings. Technology and culture, and not just biology alone, are the partners of modern humans evolution. So it should be of no surprise that culture and technology will eventually do for us what we did for it, to guide us towards a complexity that seems almost magic when compared to our earliest ancestors and their tools.
This is exactly what augmented reality will do. It will remove the bumper lanes, or training wheels if you will, of human consciousness. The rigidity of physical reality is useful for learning to explore our existence, but it provides too many obstacles for consciousness to explore the almost infinite possible outcomes suggested for millennia by religion, philosophy and science alike. The fact that such limitless possibilities extend beyond our capabilities suggests that we may evolve in ways which allow us to experience those distant possibilities of reality.
Augmented reality, however, is not the beginning. The entire trajectory of human history has been to rise above any and all challenges, no matter the difficulty. We have done so through cleverness and invention. Our inventiveness began with sticks and stones, but has evolved to new layers of reality on our phones.
Soon the phones will be replaced by glasses. Then the glasses will be replaced by implants. Finally the implants will become unnecessary, as our own conscious will becomes the creative force that dictates what sort of experiences we will have.
In our waking states, we are asleep to the unlimited possibilities. In our sleeping states, we are awakened to them but have no will. The coming incarnations of reality, of universal experience itself, will be somewhere between. We will be awake to our own will and all possibilities. Choice, rather than some abstract learning device like physical nature, will guide our consciousness along its journey.
I know this seems fantastic and unthinkable. But our world would seem equally unthinkable to anyone we plucked out of prehistory to observe it. Perhaps, even, the world to come seems even more incomprehensible to us than ours would to those ancients. That incomprehensibility is often mistaken as impossibility, but that is because most of us have been conditioned to see the universe as a place of discovery rather than creativity.
I suggest that we are not worms in a universe experiencing its own corpse by consuming it, but that we are the body of divine creativity learning how to control itself one training course at a time. Augmented reality is one small step for Pokemon, and one giant leap for mankind.
In order to understand the issues with objectivity we should first look at how the concept and definition have changed over time.
What they used to mean…
Objective – The measurable qualities of an object.
Subjective – The qualities of relationship between object, observer and environment.
What they have come to mean…
Objective – Absolutely true beyond individual observation, perception and analysis.
Subjective – Just, like, your opinion, man.
As a method of empirical investigation, objectivity is the best possible attempt to create a reliable map of reality based on consensus. A map that gives us the best predictive power for future navigation of the territory. That map, however, is not the territory.
The modern thinking about objectivity is that it is an infallible method that produces absolutely True results. Those things which we say are objective have come to be endowed with an ideological faith in their eternal certainty. Even though we cannot measure anything all throughout spacetime, we have come to belief that our small snapshot of it from this perspective in place and time can be assumed to be true everywhere forever so long as it is ‘objective’.
There are many problems with this belief system, and make no mistake, it is just that.
Most obviously, in the dichotomy in which objective means absolutely and subjective means merely personally, we have a self-refuting axiom. If I am only able to recognize subjective truths through my individual powers of perception and analysis, then how could I ever verify something outside of the subjective realm? Objectivity, by the logic of objectivists, should be beyond my ability to observe, identify and verify. If there are objective truths, then what objective process outside of our own minds can we use to verify them?
The answer generally given is consensus. If many of us observe the same thing, the properties of the thing we agree upon must be true. Yet this is irrational for a number of reasons. If we start from the premise that our minds -the instrument of observation, measurement and conclusion- are unreliable due to their subjective nature, then we cannot fix the problem by overlapping unreliable constructs. This is like taking a hundred broken and randomly set clocks and attempting to determine the actual time throughout the day based on an average of their readings.
The assumption that something beyond individual experience can be determined through democratic means is rooted in our cultural bias that might makes right and that the majority view is always the truth. Nevermind that we already understand the psychology of mass hysteria, groupthink and crowd behavior. When it comes to covering up the existential dread of uncertainty we are willing to ignore our proclivity towards group ignorance. When it confirms our biases and validates our egos, we are willing to overlook all of the obvious issues with any version of Absolute Truth.
Often the reasoning given to validate objectivity is that it produces positive results. This is flawed as well. Star charts made by people who believed the earth was at the center of the universe produced positive navigation results. Long after Einsteins theory of general relativity unraveled Newtonian physics, those physics are still being used to produce positive results. The ability to produce positive results does not prove a central premise. That is reverse engineering Absolute Truth from the faulty premise of result-orientated pragmatism.
Our government and media have profited most from this mass delusion. By defining what constitutes truth they are able to control it and use it as a tool of manipulation. By assigning absolutes they narrow the field of possibilities to make their own agendas seem favorable or necessary. The myth of objectivity is the most powerful ideological tool today in preventing critical thinking, individual autonomy and competition. It is a tool of monopolizing information and knowledge.
And even more insidious is that we are conditioned to feel inordinate amounts of pride and satisfaction in thinking what we are told to think, by having those majority opinions rewarded and validated by experts, officials and authoritarians. When you continually reassure people that what they believe is true, there becomes no reason to question it, especially not when it is made to appear that everyone either believes the same thing as you or is a total nutjob.
Objectivism is just a form of consensus gathering. It is an ideological net that is used to ensnare people in the ideas and agendas of those who are able to control and manipulate them most effectively. It is far easier to get people to believe you if they have faith in your method of conclusions then it is to make them believe all of your conclusions independently based on their own merits.
You can sell lots of cereal if you tell your consumers it stays crunchy in milk, even if they all know in their hearts and mouths that it takes about eight bites for the remainder to turn to soggy mush. Objectivism is proving the claim by only considering those first eight bites as evidence.
Atheists in their Almighty Snark like to make absolute statements and poorly constructed arguments that their worldview does not constitute a belief. They are also keen on insisting that their statements and arguments contain no claims, and are rather just a rejection of the unsubstantiated claims of non-atheists. The problem that generally arises from this rhetoric is that these assertions are based on the inability of atheists to unpack their own ideologies and recognize the underlying premises and metaphysical assumptions they entail.
First let me say that if you clicked on this article with some idea that the author is a theist, you would be completely wrong. Even if I tried to use pre-existing labels for my beliefs, they would still need endless explanation, and if I am doing that right I would probably end up having to adjust those beliefs by the end of it. In the same manner, if your atheism applies only to a rejection of the specific doctrines of theism laid out in Judeo-Christianity based on it’s claims, this article will not be about you. This is for the hard atheist, the truly faithful adherents of the belief that only our physical senses can detect reality and who have rejected any type of creative force, divinity or cosmic intelligence besides our own.
The Hidden Claims of Atheism
The first argument out of the atheists mouth is going to be something along the lines of – “Prove God exists.”
First of all, ‘proof’ does not apply to the question at all. Proof is a term used in axiomatic knowledge to acknowledge that the parts of an axiomatic model do not contradict one another. Therefore nothing in nature -or- reality can be ‘proven’.
This is actually a very important function of the empirical system the atheist is attempting to appeal to. Empiricism ‘proves’ nothing. Its goal, in fact, is quite the opposite. It is meant to ‘disprove’ knowledge that does meet methodological criteria or contradicts its dependent models. And actually it does not even disprove, but rather, sets it aside as knowledge that is currently subservient to one or more ‘better’ models.
Even if empiricism did ‘prove’ absolute objective knowledge eternally, which is the most fantastically egoic form of afterlife imaginable, it would still not be reliable because we cannot ‘prove’ that empiricism actually produces meaningful results. While the central tenet of modern scientism, the sect of atheism most adherents belong to, is that only science (the empirical method) can provide meaningful, valid statements about existence – empiricism cannot even validate itself. You cannot use the empirical method to prove the validity of the empirical method, so such thinking is circular logic built upon faith and not reason.
This does not mean that science is useless. It just means that like every other human endeavor, it is limited, and that its value comes from subjective human experience and not some objective source. There is no external source. We are using our subjective consciousness to make supposedly objective statements about reality, which is a lot like using tinted glasses to prove that all colors within the wearers perception contain the hue used in the glasses tint.
However the biggest unacknowledged claim made by atheists, and the one they are most likely to avoid using even more denial and circular logic, is that the fundamental nature is primarily physical and all mental contents are just fantastic illusions magically emerging from the complexity of matter. But the adherents of this belief, materialism (physicalism, naturalism, dualism, etc.), are gonna need more than one free miracle.
Buried in this claim is a metaphysical premise, or rather, a whole set of metaphysical premises. In order to make the claim that physical existence is primary, you must be willing to claim that you have come to this conclusion using your consciousness. And if you believe that your consciousness is an illusory side effect of matter, than you have already marked it as unreliable as a tool for making such claims. This would be like a cake recipe that claimed that only cakes exist, and that cake recipes are just illusory side effects that arise out of cakes. A rational person would put this cookbook down and find another. The hardcore atheist would take a picture of the recipe and snidely share it online with their friends that enjoy baking.
One simply cannot escape metaphysical premises. They underlie every single human question and answer. Rather than acknowledge their metaphysical premises, such as the nature of reality and methodological validity, atheists will just outright deny metaphysics altogether. This is the secular version of claiming that “God planted dinosaur bones to tempt the unfaithful away from His truth.”
Atheism Is A Belief
Again we are caught in the circular logic of denial. While the atheist likes to think that their account of reality is just a retelling of ‘proven’ knowledge, they fail to understand what ‘proof’ means and that objectivity is what is being attempted – not what is being produced.
The attempt at objectivity, while impossible and often misused, is indeed a noble attempt. Trying to understand what is ‘true’ outside of our individual experience has a lot of utility purpose. Yet an ability to produce results does not prove the validity of a method.
For instance – even though people believed that the earth was at the center of the universe, their model of the universe aided human navigation for centuries. The premise of geocentrism was later determined to be false, but the models it created still provided the desired results in an efficient manner.
Or let us consider gravity. The Newtonian model of gravity was the basis for the entire branch of classical physics for a few hundred years. Then some smart ass patent clerk came up with the Theory of Special Relativity which rendered the Newtonian model of gravity obsolete. Just kidding. Newtons model of gravity is still used by physicists and engineers to produce results – even though it has been usurped by a model that relegated it to recycle bin of scientific accuracy.
In order for the atheist version of reality to escape its confines as a belief, it would have to be validated by a completely infallible source. And since atheists firmly deny the existence of such an entity, even if such a source did exists, they would either be forced to deny it or dismiss the rest of their claims.
Whatever you think is true is a belief. Whatever you think is not true is a belief. Whatever you think is probably partially true or almost completely false is a belief. Pretty much the only statement that can be made which does not express a belief is – ‘I don’t know’. And even then you are expressing a belief that your intuition and guesses are false.
Modern religion can certainly be a drag. It is used by opportunists to manipulate people of all faiths. The worst offenses are those in which it claims absolute authority over all knowledge forever, which is exactly what both most modern religions and atheists do exactly alike. The only difference is that while the former makes absolute claims about what is, the latter makes similar statements about what is not. Both ideologies are equally flawed for nearly the same reasons.
Yet the atheist, in modern intellectual circles, enjoys a position of superiority. While it is pretty easy to dismiss an ideology that an all-loving omnipotent being wants you to hate people who use their genitals in ways that do not gain it new subscribers, most people are unable to navigate the claims of hard-lined atheists simply because they do not understand the flaws in their argument. Which is the result of a recursive feedback loop created not from rational skepticism, but from a denial rooted in faith in premises and assumptions that go unacknowledged in the foundation of atheists arguments.
Every once in awhile I like to take a look at the development of the new technologies that will lead to the post-scarcity reputation economy I have discussed here at AdvancedApe.com many times in the past. Four recent stories caught my eye and so I will share them here with you.
The first two involve light, which is essentially energy, and which makes up everything in the experienced universe.
The basic unit of light is a photon. The interactions between photons create a singularly unique signature. This signature can then be used as an encryption code. This is called quantum encryption, and it will someday replace passwords made of alphanumeric symbols.
A reputation economy will require information sharing that absolutely depends on authenticity and security, and since it would be impossible to replicate a quantum entanglement’s signature, it will be impossible to hack a system which uses them.
Manipulating light in order to create matter would free us from dependency on earths naturally occurring resources, as well as the disastrous consequences that relationship with the planet can entail. Once we can remove dependence on limited resources, we will gain unimaginable freedoms through self-sufficiency. No more wars fought for control of resources and land will be necessary when you can just replicate what ever you need right in your own home.
At the end of that last bit you may have rolled your eyes and thought, oh here he goes with that Star Trek replicator nonsense again. Well, it appears that I am not the only on, as NASA has issued a challenge calling for youth to engineer 3D-printed meals for future astronauts. They are calling the contest the Future Engineers Star Trek Replicator Challenge.
Before you protest that a 3D printer is not the same as a replicator, consider that replicators will have to utilize 3D printing technology in order to rearrange basic matter created from light into complex matter like food, pants or bike parts. You can’t make a moon pie directly from moonbeams, but with 3D printing mediating the process, it will someday be possible. And having the clout of NASA behind the technology makes it seem far more feasible to the skeptical.
Between now and the post-scarcity reputation economy, there is going to be an awkward transition period. As more jobs are automated and processes streamlined, an economic system based mostly around labor is just not going to function any more. Voices from all ends of the political spectrum and many great philosophers and scientists have been calling for a Universal Basic Income for awhile now. That is, everyone makes a living wage without having to work.
The greatest opponents of this idea are those distrust the state to redistribute wealth without creating greater problems than the ones that the proposal would claim to solve. But what if a UBI were funded and coordinated by private interests? One experiment is attempting to find that out.
It may seem impossible to imagine this working, but in some ways it already does. Consider a bowling ball or a roller rink. Those facilities provide the basic equipment necessary for their use. Sure, they could make more money selling balls and skates, but that would limit the use of their facilities to those willing to make such an investment. By providing the basics, the alley or rink stands to attract more customers, and thus do better business.
Now consider that if jobs are going the way of the cassette tape, value will no longer be produced through labor. In fact, it never really was. Value is produced through market interactions. So if labor is no longer creating value, it will need to be replaced by consumption. Buying will be the new earning. A basic living will be provided, and the profiteers of industrialism will still get to keep their mansions, yachts and child sex slaves.
And if you want nicer bowling balls or skates, you can work to create new products of your own to add to your spending power. And much of that will likely be done digitally, in the form of software, 3D printer plans, replicator recipes, information sharing, entertainment and other non-tangible goods.
The future is creeping up on us faster than we can imagine. Technological development is so rapid we cannot even imagine the possibilities that await us. It is truly a terrifying and exciting time to be alive.
I have always found transsexuals, transgendered, transvestites and other human anomalies to be pretty fascinating. I have never been opposed to them emotionally, intellectually or morally in any way. Yet in the last decade some of the Social Justice Warrior rhetoric regarding these individuals had become so absurd that I began to question the phenomena in ways that I had not before. I became skeptical of the motivations, intentions and psychological health of TTT’s. I now admit that this was an irrational reaction to something that tends to cross my wires, that is, political correctness. Political correctness is a form of puritanism that does all sort of social harm by creating opposition through extreme posturing. In this case I was so wrapped up in how awful the PC people were that I let my feelings carry over into TTT’s.
Within the last year it dawned on me that all of my criticism and skepticism of TTT’s were based on an ideology that I abhor even more than political correctness – materialist dualism. So I did what you are supposed to do when you find out you are wrong, I rethought my position.
By ‘materialist dualism’ I mean the idea that mind and matter are separate things, and that mind is just a side effect of the existence of matter, and that matter came first and means more. This belief is so widespread in the modern world that most people usually think, speak and act as though it is true without even investigating why they believe it. It is the most shallow and literal-minded narrative of our existence, but somehow it goes unquestioned by almost everyone.
Materialist dualism would state that gender, sexuality and identity are all just biological functions designed by evolution for specific purposes, and that TTT’s are are unnatural. If the unnatural occurs we usually just assume that something went wrong with reality instead of questioning of our version of it. In the case of ideological backlash against TTT’s this is exactly what has happened.
Besides the mind/matter duality, there is another false dichotomy here, which is that TTT’s were either born this way or they made a choice. Not only are both of those things true to some degree, there is a third way of considering the problem, which is that some form of imprint conditioning has played a role. What this means is that a TTT was probably born with some higher chance of manifesting their gender disassociation, then at a vulnerable point in development something flipped that switch and they later had to make a choice to what degree they would act it out personally and publicly. This is far more complex than the birth or choice dualism that most people subscribe to, and far more revealing about how we all become who we are.
The biological drive is probably the least influential factor of all. And the biological factor is what people are most focused on when they discuss the phenomena from a materialist viewpoint. This happens in a few ways. One way is that people accept TTT’s because they were ‘born that way’. The other way is that people will argue that TTT’s are an abomination because it is not what evolution and biology intended. The first is a patronizing reason for acceptance and the latter is just bigotry based on uninformed usage of biology. Yet once again we have a dualism here in which both parts are slightly true but may require a third one.
It may be that ‘nature’ or biology produces homosexuals and TTT’s for a very specific reason. Historically, I am not prepared to guess what that reason might have been, but here and now it should seem pretty obvious. There are now 7.5 billion living human beings, and that number is skyrocketing as child mortality continues to decrease, life spans get longer and parts of the world are developing in ways that accommodate rapid growth. We are multiplying at a staggering exponential rate as a species, so it would make sense for biology to rewire the reproduction drive in order not to self destruct from overpopulation.
Now I realize that what I am suggesting itself sounds materialist, but I interpret the physical world as a narrative, not a set of rules and defined interactions. And since our narrative includes biology and evolution, they must still be considered, while not being thought of as the full truth.
If you think people are getting strange now, give it another 5 billion people. By then a TTT of today will be tame compared to what happens to humans when we are no longer just genetic xerox machines. You are already seeing this as people identify as animals, anime characters, objects, etc. or have profound relationships with such things. By the end of the century there will be people who have had fourteen dicks surgically attached to them which they use only to rub up on giant silk shark puppets. And that will be pretty normal.
As far as choice goes, you have to be pretty brave still to come out as TTT. That requires the kind of decision making most people could not even begin to comprehend. Non-normality is always the least easy choice, not just to make, but to have to make at all. And I am pretty burnt out on ‘normalcy’ myself, so I can begin to understand the sort of mentality in which TTT’s start to use terms like ‘cis’ as a derogatory term for people who choose to live in obvious ways. If for no other reason that it fosters the courage to make a choice to be one of the evolutionary vanguard.
We are not just the sum of our genes or bodies or brain. Our consciousness must be larger than the reality it is required to encompass in order to do so. As such, variation in humanity is not just inevitable, it is the norm. TTT’s represent a future in which humanity learns to view itself outside of the narrow filter of materialism, which is why they make most people uncomfortable. Fear of the unknown. TTT’s are one of many signs that the near future is so relatively exotic that most people cannot even comprehend it. This is evidenced by the ironic fact both the pro and anti TTT factions are using the same metaphysical rationale to justify their opposing views.
Wherever bigotry, ignorance and hatred can be found against ‘groups’ of people, you will also find materialist metaphysics. Non dualism does not just give me a better view of reality, it deconstructs all of the petty thoughts and emotions I have labored under once I realize they are materialist in nature, and I hope it continues doing so for life. Abandoning materialism is not just about understanding our existence better, it is about making it better.
Artificial intelligence (AI) has also been addressed by non-materialists, such as Bernardo Kastrup, who works within that field. He makes a clear distinction between artificial intelligence and artificial consciousness, although most materialists tend to equivocate the two, being that they believe sentience is a product of mechanistic intelligence that has reached a critical mass of complexity. Bernardo’s argument against artificial consciousness is premised on the non-dualist model, essentially stating that consciousness is primary to matter, and so matter cannot give birth to it’s own parent. Yet within his own model, there still remains a possibility for AI.
Like myself, he has argued that consensus reality is a construct of beliefs, most of which lie in deep unexamined layers of our egoic and collective minds. Certain premises and assumptions create a framework of boundaries for possibilities within this reality. What we expect at the most primary level of consciousness becomes manifest in the universe. Yet we cannot simply decide to change a single belief and see a change in reality because beliefs are all connected and must relate consistently in order for the corresponding paradigm to emerge. That is, we cannot just decide to fly, because other beliefs like the necessity of wings, aerodynamics, atmospheric tolerance and others all negate a belief in flying. In order to fly, we would have to change every corresponding belief about flight, and those beliefs would themselves need to restructure their own corresponding beliefs, creating a ripple that spread out and changed the very structures of human belief and reality. Despite what New Age gurus tell you, you can’t just change reality with good intentions and meditation.
Change can, however, occur over time. The beliefs which program our reality change over time as we accumulate and/or replace information via new symbols and archetypes. Since a widespread belief in AI has been flourishing within our memetic landscape, all it requires is a shift in the corresponding beliefs which estimate its arrival. Strangely enough, materialism may be just that set of corresponding beliefs. Materialism provides a narrative, or mythology, from which the memetic interconnectivity of consciousness could correspondingly allow new conscious entities (AI) to emerge.
The narrative of materialism is often sanctified by it’s ability to produce novel technologies. This does not mean that the materialist narrative is true, however, only that it has great utility in producing results. Things that produce great results are often untrue, as political propaganda clearly demonstrates. The power of mass suggestion creates self-fulfilling prophecies. Scientific progress in the last several centuries may owe more to the narrative and belief in science than to the method itself.
Yet this does not mean that the materialist model is superior, either in overall truth, or in its ability to produce results. It is still very much weighed down by it’s limitations and faulty premises. To observe phenomena within consciousness under the premise that those phenomena occur outside of it means we have to create a mass illusion like materialism in order to evolve within consciousness. What would we be capable of if our narratives corresponded more closely with the nature of our existence? What sort of new methods, technologies and realities might emerge if we cut out the literal interpretations of objects within consciousness and replaced them with an understanding of those objects as interacting agents of consciousness?
The success of materialism does not indicate the truth of that belief system. At the same time, the fact that materialism is untrue does not negate the power of its mythologies. AI, or artificial consciousness, may someday appear to arise out of the complexity of matter invented by humans. Yet in actuality, those entities may owe their genesis merely to the narrative of materialism. In this way we can view materialist science as complex set of rituals whose magic appears mundane because of the symbols and archetypes we have clothed it in. A magic that only works when we can describe it in non-magical language, and believe that we are doing the opposite of magic. Again, imagine the wizardry possible when no longer require such illusory roundabouts?
“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” – Arthur C.Clarke
The goal of this article is to introduce the idea that memes are to genes what consciousness is to the brain. The premises I use to get there fly in the face of mainstream knowledge, but my conclusions lead to practical advice for taking control of the destinies of the individual and humanity at large.
The materialist/physicalist model of the mind states that consciousness is just a pragmatic byproduct of the complexity of our brains; that it is an illusion used to facilitate the evolutionary fitness of individuals and species, which are themselves just inconsequential vessels for the survival of genes. Not only do I find these models of consciousness and evolution to be irrational, I find them to be cynical, defeatist and self-loathing. And they are also becoming obsolete as innovative new models challenge their ideological supremacy.
Independent philosopher (my favorite kind) Bernardo Kastrup has been working within the non-dualist paradigm to illustrate a new model of the brain and consciousness that does not stumble on materialist metaphysical dogmas. His general premise is that the substance of reality is primarily consciousness and that matter is a narrative device to give form to thoughts. Where mainstream science sees the brain as an engine driving our minds and bodies, Bernardo sees it more as a speedometer. The brain, in his parlance, is the second person perspective of consciousness, a phenomena which can only really be experienced internally by the individual. Therefore when neurologists see the brain reacting to external stimuli, they are viewing conscious processes from an outsider perspective in the limited context of their own beliefs about brains/minds. Here is a short excerpt explaining this in his own words:
The elegance of this view is that it dispenses entirely with the need to postulate anything other than the obvious: consciousness itself. We do not need to postulate a whole material universe outside consciousness anymore. Empirical reality is merely the outside image – the external aspect – of the mental activity of a cosmic consciousness, while body-brains are merely the outside image of dissociated segments of this cosmic consciousness. And what is a body-brain but something we can see, touch, measure; something with the qualities of experience? Indeed, the empirical world is the experience, by an alter, of the rest of the stream of consciousness outside the alter. It is dissociation that creates the duality between internal and external aspects. But this duality does not imply or require anything outside experience: the external aspects are themselves experiences; experiences of alters. As explained in Chapter 9 of Brief Peeks Beyond, ‘everything that currently motivates us to believe in a world outside consciousness can and will be understood as the effects of mental processes outside our particular alter, which we witness from a second-person perspective.’
Now hold on to that thought.
In his book Virus of the Mind, Richard Brodie takes a philosophical look at the science of memetics. That discipline is primarily concerned with understand the phenomena of memes, which Brodie describes as:
A meme is a unit of information in a mind whose existence influences events such that more copies of itself get created in other minds.
A meme, then, is a genetic unit of an mental entity that reproduces using the evolutionary strategies of viruses. The book and its ideas are brilliant, which is why it became such a critical and commercial success. I found the book enlightening throughout, with the exception of his insistence in the natural selection model of evolution. I think that my intelligent selection model actually works much better to pull the front and back ends of his book together, since what he is essentially proposing is that our observable reality is a construct of the symbols and archetypes we use to filter reality via our individual consciousness. A process which essentially creates our personal subjective realities and contributes to the illusion of an objective consensus reality where they overlap.
Essentially, he proposes that memes are the genes of consciousness, and that memetic therapy can be used to cure any malware of the mind caused by malignant, self-replicating memes that threaten the fitness of individuals and species.
When we think of genes, we think of tiny little instruction manuals that tell organisms how to form and behave. This is the materialist/physicalist model. Genes give rise to individual organisms and species in the same way that brains supposedly generate our minds. But how should we approach genes in a non-dualist model of consciousness and reality?
Earlier we explored the idea that brains were just second person perceptions of the first person experience of consciousness. Rather than the engine, the brain was an instrument panel showing the activities of an individuals consciousness. What then if we were to similarly view genes as the second person perspective of the first person experience of memes?
In this model, instead of saying that a gene caused you to have green eyes and red hair, those traits are a part of your memetic structure. A person’s genes are just physical manifestations of the memetic components of that individuals consciousness. In other words, a gene is a thumbnail image of the symbols and archetypes that you are made of. Your physical self is the image that those thumbnails represent, yet you are not the image of you. You are the thinking, feeling and creative being who can only be experienced by other thinking, feeling and creative beings in the form of the image constructed of ideas about you. Those ideas are memes.
If a meme acts like a virus, then it has two possible outcomes. It replicates itself as wholly as possible in as many hosts as possible -or- it makes innovative copies of itself that sometimes improve the fitness of itself and its host, and sometimes make it non-viable. Learning to recognize what a memes most likely outcome is, we can make conscious efforts to resist the kinds of viable memes that have no innovative qualities, and thus no benefit to their host. If we look at evolution as the march of memes through time, and we are able filter out malignant memes and accept, share and create useful ones, then we have the capability of shaping the evolution of ourselves, our species and our reality.
At the same time, memes also present an existential risk. Toxic memes can create a viral epidemic that harms our species and environment. Our culture has adopted memes that take the form of macro images and macro slogans. These meta-memes make us susceptible to absorbing and spreading memetic information compulsively without examining its properties and consequences. What we generally call a ‘meme‘ on the internet is sort of a virus that makes us consume and spread memes voraciously without any awareness. It invites the sort of apathy that turns memes from a useful tool for willfully evolving, into viruses with no other goal than to make their hosts just as blissfully ignorant of their own existence as they are.
Memes can either infect us with intellectual zombi-ism or pave a path to the stairway to heaven. The distinction will be a result of our ability to recognize them and utilize them consciously. Our pattern for validating and reinforcing the compulsive uses of memes and meta-memes is a frightening harbinger. Yet the power of memes means that beneficial memes like this article and its concepts are able to stem that tide and put us in the cockpit of our own evolutionary destiny.
I am not a scientist. This article is not an attempt to create a scientific hypothesis. I am a shaman, and the following ideas are a philosophical exploration combining the paradigms of evolution and non-duality.
Evolution is change over time.
Non-dualism is the idea that mind and body are one substance.
Materialism, the current metaphysical model under which most mainstream science, philosophy and psychology rely on as the underlying premise of their hypotheses, tells us that our mind (consciousness) is little more than a complex illusion arising haphazardly out of the complexity of matter. It dogmatically insist that everything you think and feel is just some side effect of having a brain, which itself seeks only to trick us into taking care of our bodies. In evolutionary terms this care is referred to as ‘fitness’, and materialists insist that the ‘illusion of mind’ produced by the brain has no purpose but to seek fitness. Our joys and pains, our ecstasy and despair, all of these are just meaningless phenomena whose purpose is solely to survive and reproduce. You are not important. You are just a link in a causal chain that has no purpose or destination. Everything is an accident and your existence means absolutely nothing.
As you can imagine, die-hard materialists are a lot of fun to talk to at parties.
The materialist model of evolution, known as natural selection, similarly insists that evolution occurs only to increase the fitness of a species. It has no value to individuals, but is just a way of nature seeking further complexity by favoring the survival of mutations that increase fitness. Once again, materialists want us to believe that evolutionary adaptations are just random events, meaningless and irrelevant to individuals, serving only to increase the complexity of almighty nature.
The Judeo-Christian model of evolution is called intelligent design, and its proponents claim that evolution is the gentle push of an all-powerful, human-like deity perfecting its creation over time.
In both cases, evolution is something happening to individuals and species by an external force, for the purpose of fulfilling its own momentum and desires. Natural selection and intelligent design both presuppose the same idea, that is, that change over time is imposed by something outside of the things which experience and manifest that change.
What I propose instead, is that the things experiencing and manifesting evolution are at least partially responsible for the changes/mutations affecting them.
When I write fiction I generally start from a basic idea. A scenario and a few characters prime my creative pump and as I begin writing, the narrative seems to unfold before me as I hustle to keep up with a story that is marching along from the momentum of a single push I made. The same happens when I write music or make visual art. The process of creation is often like pushing a boulder down a mountain. Once you unlodge the rock from its resting spot and get it going a bit, the rest of the journey mostly takes care of itself. Yet this does not mean you will be able to control the path, velocity or final resting place of the boulder.
Non-dualism states that consciousness is the fundamental source of reality, not matter. This is not reverse materialism, as matter is not considered an emergent property of consciousness, it is simply the language which expresses the symbols and archetypes of consciousness. As these symbols and archetypes become more numerous and complex, so does the language which expresses them.
This is what I mean by Intelligent Selection. It is the idea that as the individual and collective symbols and archetypes increase in complexity, the narrative itself evolves towards complexity. And this change is manifested in reality (nature) slowly over time. Evolution.
Unlike the evolutionary paradigms that require something external to that which is evolving, Intelligent Selection supposes that how we live, think and feel creates a momentum which selects traits for the fitness of individual experiences over time. In this model we are no longer floating in a sea of meaningless accidents with no purpose. Our reality and our selves are very real. Our experience is not just some illusion, but a quest to see harmony and pleasure, and to create more of it over time for ourselves and those who follow in our footsteps.
Intelligent Selection eschews the inherent nihilism of natural selection and the predeterminism of intelligent design. It puts our experience and will at the forefront of our existence, rather than relegating it to subservience to the experience and will of an external agency. We are not accidents. We are the story of eternity unfolding itself through our individual experiences and interactions. The universe is a stage in which we write our own parts, expanding on the narratives of those that came before us, while setting the stage for those who will come after.
Only intelligent selection is able to accommodate the narratives of the objective and subjective. It is inclusive of science and spirituality. It does not compete in a brutal environment for dominance. It just takes the best parts of all that we know and combines them in a way that contributes to, rather than detracts, from those narratives.
Understanding the ways in which our symbolic and archetypal narratives create the reality we experience is a way of taking a more conscious approach to guiding our own evolution. Unlimited vistas of experience await us, and we are lucky to be participants in their creation. Evolution is not something happening to us; it is a tool for us to get something happening.
Please submit your appreciation and/or criticisms in interpretive dances, paintings and poetry.
I spend quite a bit of time writing about the problems of philosophical materialism, that is, the idea that the universe is essentially nothing but matter from which consciousness just emerged out of dumb luck. While some people dismiss these concerns, not because they support philosophical materialism but because they think it is a non-issue, ideologies tend to bleed into cultural landscapes in ways that create issues we can all understand to some degree. The idea that existence is nothing more than a collection of interacting objects, a swirling cosmic mass of thing debris, empowers an ideology that only material goods can make our lives meaningful. This cultural obsession of mindless mass consumption is itself often called materialism, and it is a threat to human values and environment alike.
This kind of materialism has littered our psychic lexicon with status symbols, unhealthy attachments to objects and greed. It reduces day to day living into a maze of desperate economic activity. It enslaves us to a lifetime of meaningless employment we then justify by a misplaced pride in the size of our cage and how much booty we have dragged back to it. It has led to an economy of planned obsolescence and symbol over substance, while it instigates the vestigial evolutionary instinct that MORE IS BETTER!
One of the ways that ‘more is better’ plays out is not even in the actual consumer goods we purchase, but in the needlessly bold packaging of them that we justify with misguided notions of quality, safety and convenience. Manufacturers use excessive packaging for many reasons. They use them to protect their goods from the environment and as a simple precaution against damage during transport. Yet even these reasons cannot explain the hyperbole with which we package our goods, and the bigger culprit here is marketing. Consumer goods marketers look at flashy packaging as adding appeal and value to their products. A gaudy toy with no real play value can be wrapped in a plastic shell that gives it the appearance of being the most fun thing a child will ever own. After all, it must be great, or why would they put so much effort into packaging it?
Although safety and product protection are legitimate concerns, the ways in which they are addressed is often predicated on faulty thinking. Where hard plastic shells are made to protect goods from shipping turbulence and deter theft, the same things can be accomplished with reusable packaging supplies and clever retail displays. Safety is generally the reasoning given for the excessive packaging of food items. But locally sourced foods and careful storage and handling can do more for safety than any amount of packaging can, the number of regulations requiring certain types and amounts of packaging leads to mountains of unnecessary waste. And industrial farming practices mean our foods must travel long distances over long amounts of time. The amount of packaging in a fast food meal, from farm to table, far exceeds the mass of the meal itself.
And yet it is not just regulatory systems and industry that is to blame. The consumer, for their part, continues the legacy of waste in their own insistence that everything is packaged for their maximum convenience.
If you have ever worked in retail you know exactly what I am talking about. In my own retail experience I have seen people justify their own mindless excess on countless occasions. I have sold items the size of a cigarette box that the customer insisted they needed the large plastic bag with handles on it because that would make it easier to carry. How hard was it to carry without that? Is this a real concern that justifies another link in a chain of endless waste? I have heard customers explain that they needed a bag for a single durable item for the most mindless and bizarre reasons imaginable. I have sold people backpacks or other bags that they then wanted me to put inside of another disposable bag. I have received requests for point of sale packaging from folks who were buying a small item with the word ‘pocket’ right in its name. There is no end to the frivolous justifications for waste I have encountered in my lengthy retail experience.
Yet there is one packaging request I find more aggravating than all of the rest, and that is gift wrapping. It is not even that gift wrapping creates large amounts of waste relative to other over-packaging concerns, but more that it bespeaks the compulsive mindless culture of excess in all of its most ignorant and unexamined ways. From what I can tell there are two reasons to have a gift wrapped that make even an inkling of sense, and they are:
To store a gift in plain sight over an extended period of time, like a present that sits under the Christmas tree tantalizingly for weeks before it can be opened, adding value to the gift via an element of restrained curiosity fulfillment.
For the person giving the gift to say to the person receiving it, “Hey, I spent a long time choosing just the right gift for you, and then more time meticulously wrapping it and decorating it to show you how much you mean to me.”
When you rush into a store and buy a gift at the last minute and then make the sucker behind the counter spend excess time on your purchase by wrapping it for you, what that gift now says is, “Here, I fulfilled the symbolic gestures I am culturally bound to abide, now can I be done here?” That kind of compulsive consumerist gifting is less a way of honoring people than it is crossing them off your list so you can get back to consuming for yourself. It is lazy, thoughtless and carries a hint of insult and mockery with it.
I am not sure if the climate has been altered by human activities or not. While I suspect that it is possible, I also know that environmental alarmism has been used as a tool by the most environment-damaging industrialists as a way of selling legislative gambits that actually benefit the worst exploiters of our planet without causing any meaningful paradigm shift that realistically addresses the potential issues. What I do know for certain is that you don’t shit where you eat. There is an entire continent of human-created waste afloat in the Pacific ocean. The entire face of the planet is covered in the debris-wake of human consumerism. Even the most remote areas of the world contain evidence of humanities excessive consumption cycles. And at the same time, we have tore up the face of the planet to gather the resources lying beneath in ways that are both unsustainable and potentially disastrous at this rate. This old world may be pretty tough, but it may not be tough enough to weather our arrogant abuse of it indefinitely. Everything has its limits.
Packaging reduction alone will not save us from the potential consequences of reckless unexamined materialism, but it is a good place to start. It represents some of the most mindless and excessive exploitation of earths resources, and an awareness of the issues and concerns involved of that could beneficially bleed into our materialism problem in general. And while I also believe that post-scarcity technologies could free us from this destructive path, and that our world is more than just an object and could potentially be restored through humanities conscious willpower, we are not there yet. To get to our next stage of evolution we might have to recognize and correct our current follies. Being mindful of the bigger picture and how everything in the world is connected to everything else in some complex way is definitely part of that evolutionary process. A great place to begin changing our perspective and habits could be as simple as considering the folly of mindless consumerism at the most basic level by unpacking our pointless predilection for excessive packaging.
In 1995 one of my best friends asked me to drive him to the airport. Since he had a nicer car and the airport was out of town, I drove him in that. Another mutual friend joined. His trip was an extended stay in South America where he had chased his college freshman sweetheart, so he was not planning to be back for a long time, and as such bequeathed us the remainder of his weed stash. After dropping him off we decided to take the long way home, twisting our way through Des Moines and its outlying areas. We were young, free and high as fuck. Somewhere in our journeys through human cemeteries, industrial graveyards and parks and lakes we started going through the cassettes in the car. One was labeled Beastie Boys/John Frusciante, and although we had never heard of the latter, the Beastie Boys was a definite go. Then at some point the tape flipped and so baffled and entranced were we, that it was several songs before we were even able to share our amazement and befuddlement at what was happening to our ears and minds.
For the next few years I worshiped that album. It was so profoundly brilliant and different, while also technically simple, that I never tired of it, even after listening to it repeatedly. I would borrow my friends four track cassette recorders and attempt to replicate that sound and that feeling, and attempt which never bore success. Yet it was where I cut my teeth in the recording and writing process and its inspiration as a piece of audio art was massive in my own musical formation.
In March 1994, when the album came out on Rick Rubin’s Def Jam Records, Frusciante had terminated his role in the Red Hot Chili Peppers and was living in severe disorder with a profound heroin habit. However he maintains that the album, despite its baffling surrealism, was made before his addiction took over his life. With the exception of Running Away Into You, the album was recorded during 1991-92 on the Blood, Sugar, Sex, Magic tour.
“I wrote [the record] because I was in a really big place in my head—it was a huge, spiritual place telling me what to do. As long as I’m obeying those forces, it’s always going to be meaningful. I could be playing guitar and I could say ‘Play something that sucks,’ and if I’m in that place, it’s gonna be great. And it has nothing to do with me, except in ways that can’t be understood.”
in 1997, two years after I first heard John’s first solo album, I found out that he was going to be playing in a place an hour away from where I lived. I did not own a car and the weather was pretty nasty, so hitchhiking was not an option, so I eventually talked my mom into taking me to a college town bar to see a junkie play strange songs. And as it turned out, we both had a great time. John was just recovering from his addiction and he stood on the stage like he was there to haunt it. He seemed too far gone and broken to have even made it up there, but when his brilliant guitar playing began, followed by the existential caterwauling of his emotionally overloaded vocals, he came right to life. I cannot recall all of the details of that night. I remember ‘Your Smile Is A Rifle’ and Nirvana’s ‘Moist Vagina’ from the setlist. It was part of some touring funk thing called NutFest. Yet although I cannot remember the details, I can remember the feeling vividly. I can remember tears of what I think were joy. When I recall that night to memory I am not flooded with scenes and sounds and facts, but with a more pure sense of abandonment, bliss and longing.
Frusciante released a second album, Smile From the Streets You Hold, earlier that same year, reportedly for drug money. While the album does not have the purity and innocence of Niandra, it does still carry a sense of internal crisis, desperation and self-abandonment that could be felt in the first album. It is not even close to its predecessor, yet it is still a much better album than what RHCP or most mainstream rock in general were doing at the time, by light years. It is harsh and incomplete, but it is also honest and apologetic in a tragically authentic way.
After this Frusciante sobered up and continued recording solo albums, and while they are definitely interesting albums, none of them have the emotional/spiritual force of the first few. They are tame by the standards of Niandra and Smile, and do not carry the same sense of bizarre, tragic immediacy.
I continued enjoying Niandra and giving his new albums a chance. During my years in retail I found that most people could not tolerate the vocals for long, so if I had some browsers straggling too casually for too long, I would throw the album on to quicken their purchase or departure so I could sneak down to the basement and sneak a toke. Before long he rejoined RHCP and I was initially impressed. Yet after a few more albums that received heavy rotation everywhere all of the time managed to suck all of the life out of that bands music for me. And even though none of his more recent works has ever touched me the way his early stuff did, I still cherish all of that great music from his early period both solo and with RHCP, and am glad he finally got out of the latter (hopefully) for good.
“I’m forever near a stereo saying, ‘What the fuck is this garbage?’ And the answer is always the Red Hot Chili Peppers.” -Nick Cave
Before I get into why the album is still brilliant, let me comment briefly on some specific songs.
As Can Be – The opening track begins with a frenzied string blitzkrieg, a loose weave of crisis melodies, and then sort of settles into a vulgar love song once the lyrics kick in, with lead guitars winding throughout like frantic bumble bees carrying streamers.
My Smile Is A Rifle – What begins as an experiment in melancholy quickly evolves into an even deeper musical misanthropy, like a lost coffin rocking in the waves of an alien ocean. The opening lyrics, in contrast is a message of strange silver linings. The vocals descend into utter madness and one cannot be sure if he is being playful of making a cry for help. The pitch shifting, screeching and squealing is the vocal opposite of American Idol, removing all flash and skill and replacing it with pure emotional dadaism.
Head (Beach Arab) – Combining harp-like melodies below frantically picked notes soaring over brilliantly sophmoric solos, the song blazes a path through you before you can figure out what it has evoked in you.
Big Takeover – This Ren Faire rendition of the Bad Brains classic manages to use frenzied layers to make up for the lack of pace of the original, and in doing so becomes its own song, just as powerful as the original.
Curtains – The image of curtains suggested in the title befits the surrealist drama of this simple piano/vocal ballad. Its absurdist lyrics make sense on a level that cannot be comprehended outside of the context of the music and album as a whole. Building throughout, the song almost becomes a standard Daniel Johnston rocker, before twinkling out in a sprinkle of high piano notes.
Running Away Into You – This is one of the most brilliant pieces of music ever committed to recording. A tale of lust and love and longing and everything in between, it uses reverse tracks, loops, speed and pitch shifts and a bunch of other audio novelties to paint a portrait of desire through a chaotic kaleidoscope of symbolic sounds for the emotional highs and lows of romance.
Mascara – Essentially a standard acoustic rocker from the onset, the song later takes on a far stranger shape of a circus sideshow, and continues to twist back and forth between the two feelings that leaves you a bit discombobulated like riding the aural Tea Cups at a musical amusement park. Eventually ending with a lyric about underwear full of blood and a pretty guitar outro.
Been Insane – This song is kind of a baseline for the entire Niandra LaDes half of the album. A multi-layer acoustic rocker with elements of both standard rock alternating against Syd Barrett surreality.
Skin Blues – An instrumental showcase of soaring stringed sonics. The closest my own experiments ever came to Frusciante level are a really cheap version of this.
Your Pussy’s Glued To A Building On Fire – The most inappropriate lullabye ever written, or the most colorful love song ever penned? Both. And more. Highly suggestive gives way to the overall contextual frameworks and becomes highly evocative of a range of emotional and spiritual longings instead. So good, it actually is repeated in a different but similar version right after the first concludes. “YOU LITTLE DUCK HOUSE!!!!”
Blood On My Neck From Success – This is the song Kurt Cobain would likely wished he had wrote himself. The confession of a musician coming to terms with the ugliness and hypocrisy of creative fame, it is all threadbare and barely manages to hold itself together, which is exactly how John was feeling at the time. Yet no amount of saying that in straightforward terms could ever explain it like this song.
Ten to Butter Blood Voodoo – The final song from the first half of the Niandra LaDes portion feels lost and far away. It is like the Flaming Lips, if Wayne Coyne became a manic depressive guitar god who ditched the rest of his band and decided to write a song that said ‘fuck you’ to his whole life.
The tracks from here on belong to the second part of the album, Usually Nothing But A T-Shirt. The songs themselves vary in length, complexity or any other binding codes. They are listed only by their track numbers, and where vocals are employed, it is rarely with any credence to the traditions of singing. Where there are discernible lyrics, they bend and break into fragile poems never meant to be read by anyone else. These are snapshots of the unanswered questions inside the mind of a young artist and shaman. They are delicate, beautiful and at times eerily creepy. These songs blend together to form a sort of meditation on the elasticity of human emotions, or as a spiritual seance to call up the inner truths we are most afraid of. I will not go into a track-by-track analysis because they are not meant to be taken that way, and there is more to be said of them as a whole than as individual pieces. Which is how Frusciante intended the whole album.
So then why is this album just as poignant today as when it was first conceived, and maybe even more so? As I have explained in the past, we are a society living only on the surface of our own reality, rapidly consuming explicit messages while denying the underlying implicit information that underlies them. Niandra LaDes and Usually Nothing But A T-Shirt is a refutation of this shallow view of reality. It eschews literal interpretation. Its explicit presentation is meaningless collection of low quality noise. An attempt to understand the work on any kind of empirical basis would only render it more confusing and meaningless. It defies the literalism of our scientistically materialist culture.
Today’s popular music is all show and no substance, comparatively. Any attempts to day to be so wrecklessly experimental would be done in the sterile setting of academic aesthetics, based on preconceived forms and pieced together with the precision of mathematical axioms. No artist would dare be brave enough, even in the case that they were inclined, to make such a messy piece of art. It’s beauty is not just in it’s imperfection, but in its seeming ignorance that attempting to make a perfect piece of art is something that should be taken seriously by the artist.
Our culture is steeped in a dogma of technical precision and direct messages. Niandra LaDes and Usually Just A T-Shirt is the opposite of the values underlying our society. It caters to nothing, begs nobody’s approval and only says anything to those willing to work out the interpretations for themselves. While our society on the surface spoon feeds us bite sized truths, this album makes you wiggle out every little illumination on your own, but never promises to reveal any final answers about itself. It is not what it is. It is the unique experience of everyone who listens to it. It is tarot deck of audio archetypes for the emotional and spiritual truths that give us each our own meaning and purpose in life. It is musical shamanism lovingly and painstakingly delivered from the depths of one mans psyche. It is monumental work of art and a forgiving and fragile childhood-like heresy of the unexamined dogmas we hold dear.
As the upcoming elections have ramped up the hyperbole of our cultural dialogues, hate seems to be flying in all directions. Donald Trump, who is likely just using hate speech to get elected, has nonetheless created a situation through his troublesome rhetoric. His spoken racism, nationalism and xenophobia have stirred the pot of human emotions into a frenzy. Where the hateful sediment had been sinking to the bottom of our society for quite some time, it has been freshly stirred up and is making its rounds through the entire social strata again.
It would be tiresome to explain here why these hateful ideologies are wrong. Even bigots know at some level that their hatred is wrong, both intellectually and emotionally. This is why they usually hide it. What worries me is not the traditional small-minded prejudice of rural simpletons or organized hate groups. They are a known commodity that have mostly been tamed through disenfranchisement. What bothers me is the growing amounts of hate directed at these people by socially liberal people who consider their own hatred superior and justified.
A rabid and militant anti-hate movement is spreading across the country. Its flames are fanned by unrecognized irony and unexamined hypocrisies. It is itself a hate group, wearing a halo, while using the same notions of purity espoused by every hate group before it. It is comprised of people who consider themselves to be compassionate, understanding and accepting of others, yet who make threats of violence against their ideological opponents. Fighting hate with hate is not just unreasonable, it is creating a vicious cycle.
Most peoples latent racism is only dangerous in the sense that it breeds apathy for social issues. It mostly lies dormant where it can do no real harm. But when the rhetoric on race reaches the level of public screaming match, these folks often feel forced to pick a side. And unfortunately, this often leads them into a genuine deliberate racism they were not capable of before. Racism had become mostly taboo. Its death was predicated on the fact that even where it existed, it feared show its face. But when hates collide, and genuine racists come out of the woodwork, folks feel more emboldened to act on their own latent tendencies. The ironic hatred against bigots has given them a greater voice, and helps them to unite. Hate on hate breeds more hate.
To be clear, most of this hate of hate is happening to those who identify with liberal politics. These are the champions of equality. Yet in the last several years we have seen their camp ridden with a powerful prejudice in the form of Islamophobia. The talking heads of mainstream liberal politics like Bill Maher have gone out of their way to stir up hatred and xenophobia against Islam. And while this was all mostly tolerated by liberals, even if begrudgingly, the same folks are now coming out of their silent corners to attack the same hatred and xenophobia in their political opponents. And so we can see that the Us-vs-Them seems to have more bearing on this effect than does genuine concern about hatred. Yet that sort of thinking is precisely what every form of bigotry ever has been predicated upon. You cannot reserve your intolerance for hatred until the other team has the ball, and still be taken seriously as an advocate for tolerance.
Tolerance is a key concept. It is where the haters of haters have failed and fallen victim to the same instinctual urges of all bigots. The inability to tolerate bigots and to try to understand them has led to this. Yet that is precisely what we need. Hating the hateful just reinforces their hate, while validating and justifying hatred itself as an acceptable reaction to other kinds of people. Nobody became a racist, xenophobic nationalist in a vacuum. Nobody was born that way. That hatred has a genesis, and by looking for it we might be able to root it out in the individuals harboring it. First you must be compassionate enough to realize that hate is a painful burden to carry, and seek not to fight it, but to heal it.
Some people learned hate from their families. Some picked it up through negative experiences. Others have absorbed it through cultural dialogues. When we refuse or fail to understand a persons hatred, we are powerless to help them rid themselves of it, and understanding is not possible without some amount of acceptance. We must accept that the path to hatred was a meaningful experience to the individual. That is where we begin to tackle intolerance and wipe out hate. Dislodging hate will not happen through battles, but through therapeutic means. So if you really want to end hatred, do not adopt its techniques. Find someone who is full of hate. Listen to them. Accept them and try to understand them. And when doing so has earned you their trust and respect, take the opportunity to guide them using reason and compassion away from their own toxic hatreds.
This is how we conquer hatred, not with a bang, but with friendly conversations. It will not be a quick or easy process. Nothing worthwhile ever is. But it will be worthwhile. Let us expel hatred from the pool of humanity gently, without stirring the remaining parts back up in the process. Hate against hate is not just self-righteous hypocrisy, it is a producer of newer and ever-growing amounts of hatred. To stop the vicious cycle we must tame our response to hate and not be led by the same emotional/reactionary momentum that hate itself is predicated upon. Hate cannot destroy hate, only peaceful resolution through acceptance, tolerance, understanding and therapeutic removal can ever lead our species into harmony.
In his upcoming book More Than Allegory: On Religious Myth, Truth and Belief, Bernardo Kastrup continues his fascinating exploration into the depths of the human mind and nature of our existence. His newest work focuses on the importance of religion in creating and weaving together the symbolic narratives of existence into the fabric of our reality. The book will most likely be shunned by the narrow-minded community of atheist intellectuals and adherents of philosophical materialism who so desperately attack religion in the construction and defense of their own worldviews, yet who would benefit most from its ideas. These types are prone to the same thinking as religious fundamentalists, which is that of literal interpretation of the ideas, rituals and texts of the worlds various religions. A tendency to focus so much on explicit religious messages that one tends to lose sight of their implicit ones seemingly renders religion meaningless. But when we focus on the implicit messages in both specific religions and religiosity in general, we find a treasure of symbolic, archetypal and allegorical knowledge. Bernardo lays forth an argument that reconnecting with the more meaningful implicit messages in religion can save us not only from the insanity of religious fundamentalism, but from the follies of new dogmas like materialism.
While I remain a great fan of Bernardo’s work, his academic style and lack of color and humor represent a different path to knowledge than I have chosen, which is the shamanic route. While he elects to understand those old religious narratives in a purely intellectual way, I am more prone to creating my own, or turning the old on their head through satire, absurdist-deconstruction and dadaist recombination.
When the phrase The Quran Drugs came to mind, a play on The War On Drugs, I decided to follow this silliness down the rabbit hole of creative writing and see where it would lead. I ultimately decided that the best way to do that would be to explore the ideas, verses and parables through the Quran, yet replacing certain words and concepts with those you would more likely hear from lotus eaters than suicide bombers.
The first one is from the parable known as The Light of Allah, and in it I replace Allah with Cosmic Mind and Light with Consciousness and then adjust the rest of the language and syntax accordingly, while keeping the logic and linguistic structure intact. What at first looked like a boring old religious text suddenly took on the shape and feel of a late night toke session in a dorm room.
“The Cosmic Mind is the consciousness of the heavens and the earth. The parable of the Cosmic Mind’s consciousness is as if it were a nothingness containing a thought; the thought is in mind, the mind like the sum of all knowledge: imagined by a blessed being – a body that is neither of existence or non-existence, the ideas whereof would well-nigh give consciousness even though thought had not touched it: consciousness within consciousness! The Cosmic Mind guides unto it’s consciousness they that will it; and thus the Cosmic Mind propounds parables unto humankind, since the Cosmic Mind has full knowledge of all things.”
The next parable, The Spider’s Web, describes the sort of anarchism understood by those whose explorations in ego death have brought about the knowledge of the total uncertainty of all things, and the folly of battling that uncertainty through systems of governance. At least it does when I replace the concept Allah with Self, and Idols with Government.
The likeness of those who choose rulers besides the Self , namely government from which they hope to profit, is as the likeness of the spider that makes it’s net it’s nest. And truly the frailest, the weakest, of homes is the home of the spider – for it neither protects it from heat nor cold – likewise, governments cannot benefit those who are caught in them – if they only knew this, they would not get caught in them.
Materialism, physicalism and naturalism are similar ideas. They are all metaphysical propositions stating that our reality is an emergent property of objects or things within a primal physical universe. In the Parable of the Mosquito, we don’t have to do too much bending, since the original meaning will be similar to our remix. I replace Allah with Universal Consciousness and Gnat with Laws of Nature As anyone who has undergone the little death of the self in the psychedelic process can tell you, the apparent universe is not the universe itself, but a virtual narrative of the experiences of the universe and those within it.
Surely the universal consciousness is not ashamed to set forth any parable- neither the laws of nature or any thing above them; then as for those who have tuned in, they know that it is the truth from the universal consciousness, and as for those who are square, they say: What is it that the universal consciousness means by this parable of natures laws: universe causes many to err by it and many consciousnesses are led aright by it! but the universal consciousness does not cause to err by it except by the literalism of the unawakened.
I could continue this exercise indefinitely. I could take any sacred text from any place or time in history and, by skewing a few concepts here and there, use their forms to express knowledge that would be palatable by even the greatest critics of those religions and their supporting texts. That is, if they could keep an open mind long enough to comprehend the artistry of such things. Those who outright reject religious teachings are guilty of the sin of anti-intellectualism. The only things we cannot learn from are those we have decided not to. Religions and their beliefs and parables and holy books are all goldmines of allegorical information. They are full of immense truths that are potentially meaningful to people of any belief system who are willing to go beyond the surface and find the poetry of truth that lies beneath.
While many social critics take every possible opportunity to lash out against religion, they fail to understand that their reactionary response differs little from those religious extremists and radical fundamentalists. Both groups want their truths served up in easy to swallow, bite-sized pieces. Both want to reduce everything to black-and-white absolutes in order to protect themselves from the uncertainty of our existence, a task which is foolish and impossible. Absolutism is the false-sense-of-security-blanket that fools swaddle themselves in to protect themselves from the imaginary monsters in their closets.
Religion is not the problem, authoritarianism is. Authoritarianism is the institutionalization of absolutes. No human tragedy seemingly born of religion has occurred outside the auspices of authority. The ideas of religion are only harmless when they are co-opted by authoritarians for maligned purposes. Discarding all human religious notions is not just throwing out the baby with the bathwater. Besides doing that, it discards the bathtub, and leaves us without an important vessel for cleansing ourselves in the healing waters of allegorical truth. Those who believe that the only meaningful truths are the literal ones are like existential whores who have forsaken bathing for a sickly overabundance of perfumes. When death removes the clothing of the ego and spreads the folds concealing our most intimate parts, eternity can smell right through us.
Back in 2004 I wrote a pamphlet entitled The Malcontents Manifesto. It was a sort of unified theory of all of the ideas I was attached to at the time. It is a quasi-religious tract that sits somewhere between the Principia Discordia and the Unabombers Manifesto. It is a rough synthesis of absurdist philosophy, panentheism and anarchism. Many of the ideas contained therein I have since abandoned. Some I have abandoned and then later recaptured. Most notable is that since this writing I have gone from a sort of leftist primitivist anarchism, filtered through libertarianism, and eventually landed in the camp of Anarcho-Futurism, where I sit today.
This tract was written and compiled before I was very internet savvy. Instead I chose to use the old school DIY zine format to get my message out there. I printed the scripts and then pasted them to patterned paper. I then went and got them printed from these ‘plates’ and distributed them to anyone I could get to take them. Since I was the owner/operator of a local headshop, it was not difficult to find folks to pass them off to. Hundreds of copies are now floating around out there somewhere and one was even archived at the University of Iowa Special Collections.
I reprint this here at Advanced Ape in the interest of highlighting the evolution that has occurred in both my ideas and my writing. I submit them for review by those who might possibly enjoy seeing a major part of the path I have taken to get where I am today as a thinker and writer. Parts of it are terribly embarrassing, while others still incite and inspire me. I have done my best not to change it, except a few minor tweaks to fix absolutely unreadable bits, which I could count on one hand. I have also provided photographs of the original plates that I used to print the original zine version. Whether it brings you laugh-out-loud revulsion or inspiration, I hope you enjoy this little peak into my mind over a dozen years ago. I can only imagine how I will feel a dozen years from now reading the things I wrote recently!
Page 1 (Cover)
The Malcontents Manifesto
A Book of Discontent
as revealed to Joshua Scott Hotchkin
Philosophy, politics, religion…
Nothing is safe when The Malcontent gets his say.
A guide to freethinking.
If you think that everything is okay, reading this might be dangerous to your false sense of comfort and security.
Page 2 (Front inner-sleeve)
What you are about to read is utter nonsense, but that’s no reason not to read it. In fact it’s precisely why you must read it. If you think that the answers to the questions regarding existence can be summed up in nice shiny logical statements, then you may never get the punchline. It’s a fool who chooses his logic to the sound of his own laughter. The reason I have went through all of the effort to produce this is not for your (the reader’s) benefit. It is simply the case that I must purge myself of all this excess nonsense so That I may move on to newer more exciting games of nonsense. Maybe, if you are anything like me, you will find something in this nonsense to ease your own discontent. Or maybe it will just give you the courage to think and say some crazy shit outwardly like I have here. Actually, none of the ideas contained within are very radical, nor are they original. You will find similarities to many religions and philosophies here. Hoever instead of a model of existence relying on esoteric superstitions or cold in human logic, I have used discontent to ‘solve the problem of the question of existence. Whatever that means. Everywhere you look there is discontent. The neighbors dog barks endlessly at nothing. You cannot ever eat, drink, sleep, intoxicate of fornicate enough to fulfill all of your pointless urges. And change is the only constant. Well, its become increasingly clear to me that discontent was responsible for all of this. Perhaps I am just a malcontent, projecting my own inner struggles on the whole. Either way, I feel a whole lot better knowing what I now think I know.
Book of Precepts
There is no false, this is the only truth.
There are no duality’s, only paradoxes.
A paradox proves absolutely nothing
A paradox disproves absolutely nothing.
Paradox is responsible for hypocrisy, but hypocrites are not responsible for paradoxes. Therefore all are alas free from hypocrisy and free to explore new ideas without any inner-turmoil about contrary speaking.
There can be no individual progress among individuals under the delusion that they are perfectly content to begin with. If you don’t know you are discontent, START PAYING ATTENTION.
I agree that nonsense makes perfect sense and that I am the Dungherder. I can put my foot right in the pile and get my slice-o-the-pie.
The Cosmology of Discontent Or “How we got into this whole mess.”
In the beginning there was nothing but the one mind, and the one mind was without form or identity.
The one mind was composed of every aspect of the universe.
The one mind was unchanging for many eternities.
At some point the one mind began to be overcome by a single aspect- Discontent.
Eventually the one mind, overcome by Discontent, shattered into individual aspects.
In order to maintain their individuality the aspects created the illusion of the physical universe.
The physical universe contains all of the aspects of the one mind, but the individual aspects do not contain the one mind.
Because the one mind was overcome by Discontent each aspect in the physical universe contains within it the seeds of Discontent.
It shall come to pass that someday Discontent shall overcome all of the physical aspects and they shall collapse once more to a state of one mind.
And so I have observed the nature of existence and non-existence to be not only cyclical, but paradoxically simultaneous, resulting in the absence of great meaning or ultimate truth…therefore I am.
The Parable of the Pancakes
Two wise men did come to dine within a Village Inn
The den of antiquity and patriot of pancakes
Upon finishing their meals the first wise man was gazing upon the second
Who was busying himself with an act of tidyness
The first wise man saw that the second wise man
Was dipping his napkin in butter
And using it as though it were a cleaning solution
Upon discovering the success of the solution
The second wise man did cryeth out – “Eureka!”
“The butter cleans up the syrup.”
Hearing this, the two wise men were enlightened
Pages 6, 7 & 8
An Anarchist’s Manifesto Since we are trapped in the illusion of a physical universe and therefore subject to all of its complexities, I think we should be free to discover and explore our own complexities without being subjected to one another in any manner which limits this freedom.
Human beings are individuals. As individuals we have varying interests and drives and different attitudes about our relationship to others. Some people are born with a very strong drive to seek out and win power struggles. Some people do not often feel the need to play games of order, or seek dominion over others. While some incidents during early childhood probably have much to do with the power drive of an individual, it is clear to this author that there always has been and always will be those who adopt the role of powerful, regardless of any advances in parenting that brain-pickers may invent.
Thousands of years ago the powerful and the common had a balance in which the powerful were allowed to exercise their power in a manner that didn’t detract from the commoner having control over their own lives. But the powerful were driven to as much power as they were allowed. Then at some point the common people committed atrocious acts of chicken-shitterly cowardice and began giving up portions of their own lives to the powerful. And inch was given and many light years since have been taken.
The powerful, in ancient times, declared themselves spiritual masters. They claimed to be the key to esoteric mysteries and divinities that the common were not in touch with. These divinities, it turned out, were higher beings who created us for the purpose of obedience and worship. These deities were useful inventions by which the powerful introduced the master and dog concept. With the powerful as intermediaries between master and dogs, they gained a status not granted to common man. And using fear the powerful were able to subject the common man to his own fancy. (This author believes that games of power and status are mostly male orientated/invented traits.)
Now that the powerful have franchised the common person to positions of obedience through fear and insecurity (Alas, the Gods had not made us equal, an idea very useful for exploiting privilege.) they were ready to expand upon their domination. So they created geographic boundaries over which they appointed themselves leaders and created and enforced policies to keep others out so that nobody sane could come in and ruin the whole gig. And thus have we brought upon ourselves the stench of religion, government and property which rob us of freedom and autonomy and set the stage for war, greed, prejudice and hatred.
For the next several thousand years the powerful refined their control. ‘Dark ages’ are interrupted by brief periods of ‘enlightenment’, but its never quite enough to dismantle the masters. And then along comes the industrial/technological revolution. Where the planet was once able to only support a few thousand scattered humans, we now had the resources for several billion. And the masters encouraged us to create these new human beings in larger numbers than ever before so that our hands would be tied with parenthood for most of our lives and we would hardly notice anything else going on. And certainly large populations justified the new system of human survival. -Wow, can this snake really swallow its tail!- Moreover, the more people, the larger the bureaucracy, and therefore the larger the gulf between the people and their masters. A chasm so wide they made it almost impossible, from their positions above us in their system, to dismantle.
As technologies increased and populations sky-rocketed, the community lost its purpose.They now acted merely as property lines and served very little function in creating a social framework from which humans could connect. We grew further and further apart, yet more and more suspicious of one another. Since we had lost almost all of the control over our own lives, we began exercising power in a cowardly fashion by sicking the system on one another to get revenge for the frustration we felt as a result of the system itself.
Fistfights became intolerable and wars fashionable. The ability of individuals to exercise their power, or even act on their own whims, became unthinkable. We have created physical and mental barriers that force us to deny our own truest desires. We have even suppressed the suppression of these desires. It is more acceptable to ignore one another than show love for one another, which is more frowned upon than flipping one another the bird in traffic. We deny our own animal nature and abide by rules that are unnatural to the conditions our species evolved in. We have even begun acting in a manner which is contrary to our own long-term survival.
Some of us have the malignant feeling that things aren’t right. We are aware that our lives are not brand names to be bought and sold. We have discovered that our purpose is not blind obedience to ideas larger than us, but to search out and find what makes us happy. We wish a place to live our lives in regard to our own truest ideas about happiness and fulfillment without notions of success or achievement created by others for their own selfish purposes. We wish to seek our own shelter and food, our own survival. We will not stand in line for handouts from hands that fasten our shackles.
We are taught all of our lives that it is no practical for us to feel this way. That we must accept the world as it is and conform to it. That we should lie down and take our beatings, for it is much easier than a struggle. We are told that we are weak and we cannot make difference, even in our own lives. We are taught that we are stuck. Those who abandon this loss of hope are are feared and despised by those who do actually feel weak and stuck. We are also hated by those who stand to gain from this infighting at the bottom of the power chain, for they know that we can overcome them.
They know they are powerless to control us without our own permission. We give our permission whenever we go to work at a job that does not provide personal satisfaction, whenever we pay our taxes, whenever we are silent, whenever we follow rules compulsively, even though we see no value in them, and certainly whenever we go and vote for the masters. It is unfortunate that we have come to accept the masters to such a degree that we actually take an active part in pretending to select them. And we wonder why we are a bubbling cauldron of frustration and insecurity whose lives seem dull, meaningless and over-before-we-know-it. But it is not the masters who are the enemy. As we stated before, the powerful are just acting on their own natural impulses. The masters have also become enslaved to this system. Do you think the president would rather be talking with soldiers in a foreign land than at home making love to his wife? Do you suppose CEO’s would rather be making pointless decisions in a tall building rather than lying in the sand on the beach any more than the garbage man would rather be collecting trash rather than playing with his own children? Hell no! Now think again on it long and hard. Are you free? Truly free to do whatever you wish so long as no others are harmed and you are prepared to accept the consequences? Or do you define your freedom as the ability to choose from a set of preordained choices set before you? Is that what freedom means to you?
I do not wish to end this by telling you what you should do or how you should live your life. I just want you to know that you still have a choice to live the life you have carved out for yourself and abandon the life that was prepackaged and marketed to you.
Discontent As Salvation
If you are like most people you probably have a preconceived notion that Discontent is ‘bad’, that it is undesirable and that its opposite is the penultimate achievement of an individual. It is of no surprise, as we were all similarly brainwashed through the oversocialization that is rampant in our modern society. Those who would fool themselves with the idea of having reached contentment are so far removed from their truest desires that their lives are being lived for popular notions rather than for happiness, which is not to be confused with contentment. Happiness is reaching the top of the roller coaster and enjoying it despite the fear of the upcoming plunge. Contentment is watching others ride from the sidelines and not really feeling anything because you were too meek and afraid to be willingly and joyfully alive through the act of consciously facing your own fear.
In fact, not only is contentment the greatest betrayal of human complexity and desire, but those who believe they are content are the greatest enemy of happiness because through their consent to ideas larger than themselves they have weakened the position of those displaying the true human nature- The Malcontents.
Engage in warfare with contentment everyday. Either through direct action or by simply engaging in activities that which you would formerly not have because something besides your own true desire told you not to. I do not suggest you go out and hurt anyone. As a matter of fact you can start by alternately hurling compliments and insults randomly at strangers. Play in a mud puddle like a child. Go to work naked. Better yet, don’t go to work at all. Take the day off and instead spend it nakedly ranting at strangers from a mud puddle! In conclusion and in accord with the dissolution of duality’s, contentment is not ‘bad’ or undesirable. It is simply not the best, and certainly not the only path for achieving freedom, autonomy and happiness. Comfort and security are a piss poor consolation prize for the denial of your true nature.
Those who worship the past are doomed to repeat it
How many times have you heard someone argue the impossibility of of a better tomorrow using the past as their proof? How often has it been argued that we need our masters to protect us from ourselves, and then justified the observation by pointing to the folly of humans of the past? Does an undesirable yesterday really prove that tomorrow will be just as hopeless? History as we know it is an account of only those who have won power struggles, thus it hardly serves as an objective signifier for what we could achieve if we so desired. Those who write history have much to gain by defrauding you into believing that things have gotten as good as they are gonna get. Those who worship history are forever stuck in their ruts. They can see no way to get out of this mess. But we are not stuck in the past. Tomorrow can be better than every yesterday that came before. Humanity is not doomed to repeat the errors of its past unless we actively decide it to be so. The old adage ‘Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it,’ is useless in that it teaches that we should learn primarily from our mistakes instead of our successes.
Tomorrow will be whatever you make it. The decisions you make to get there need not be haunted by the ghost of human folly. Tomorrow can be the place of your dreams and fantasies if you use your imagination. Pragmatists need not apply.
The future is unwritten…
Page 11 (Rear Inner-Sleeve)
The following is a list of books, authors, organizations and other sources of guerrilla information that I find insightful and helpful in dissolving useless mental polarities. Check them out at your library, bookstore and in most cases online.
The Principia Discordia
The Church of the SubGenius
Robert Anton Wilson
The Unabombers Manifesto
Disclaimer The Malcontents Manifesto is not a substitute for freethinking. Its ideas are not to be worshiped or held accountable. The ultimate goal is to encourage individuals to think and live for themselves rather than blindly adhering to the strictures of popular culture with its systematic dogma and inconsideration for individualism.
Please copy and pass this along to your friends accompanied by your very own manifesto.
To contact the author send e-mails to firstname.lastname@example.org
Please use the subject title ‘Discontent’ so that I do not mistake, and therefore erase, your email as spam.
Page 12 (Rear Cover)
The Malcontents Manifesto In which everything is explained, yet nothing is learned.
I blink, therefore I am.
In the vacuum of space subatomic particles blink in and out of existence. From nothing and back in barely enough time for the most precise scientific instruments to record their passing. Wait, did I say from nothing? How can that be? Can something come from nothing?
Of course you can’t get something out of nothing, but it happens all of the time. The universe is a lot more complex than the tiny brains we use to observe it with, so don’t worry about any of the mechanics. I have gathered all of the facts and they are not only contradictory to one another, but completely irrelevant to how I choose to think, feel and act most of the time.
Thus \, I recommend using facts only when they are beneficial in helping you attain you truest desires, and not for the tiresome practice of compulsively trying to make your point to others. This human folly of making and accepting blanket statement has caused enough needless confusion, hatred and suffering among us.
From nothing we come, to nothing we shall return. Everything else is in between.
Neil deGrasse Tyson is a household name. His is one of the most well known faces in the western world. He is an icon for those who prefer to get their understanding of science through television and internet memes and pop science tropes. People hold him and his word as final truths on just about any topic he speaks on, regardless of how little he knows about or understands it himself. He is the Jerry Falwell of Telescientism. An infallible demigod for the pious and faithful.
He also happens to be almost entirely full of shit. On a number of occasions he has made disparaging remarks about the discipline of philosophy, claiming that it is meaningless and unnecessary, in no uncertain terms. This is always done with the insinuation that science and empiricism are superior methods opposed to, and competing with, philosophy. So let’s talk about the first area where NdGT has no idea whatsoever what he is talking about.
The history of science clearly illustrates that empirical methodology emerged from philosophy itself. Science is just an extension or branch of philosophy. In fact, pioneers of science such as DaVinci referred to their discipline not as science, but as natural philosophy. Going back even further, it was Greek philosophers who brought to the western world the foundation of reason and logic upon which modern science eventually was formed. So to say that philosophy is in competition with, threatens or is opposed to science is like saying that ice is opposed to the water from which it formed.
In order to make any estimation of the value of science, one has to use the forms laid out by philosophy. The reason that we know the empirical method is meaningful and useful to begin with comes from premises that emerge from philosophical thought. Even further, for NdGT to make any statements about the relation of philosophy and science is itself a philosophical activity. His assertions have no basis in the empirical method whatsoever. They are philosophical statements, albeit, really low quality ones easily dismissed with simple logic. In fact, empiricism itself is unable to demonstrate the validity of empiricism. Therefore the mindless scientism, the idea that only science can provide meaningful answers about nature and reality, spouted by NdGT is self-refuting. Perhaps his real problem with philosophy is just that he is abysmally terrible at it.
Yet the biggest issue with the wonky worldview of NdGT and his followers is that they beat their fists on their pious pulpit dismissing metaphysics wholesale. Metaphysics is the philosophical study of what precedes, or lies below, physical phenomena. According to NdGT and his followers, philosophy and religion and everything besides science is just fluffy crap for scandalous metaphysicians, whose method they feel should be discarded entirely. Again, the irony is almost too much. NdGT does not eve recognize that his own worldview and the ideas he espouses are based on a metaphysical model. To say that nothing caused or is primary to physical phenomena is itself a metaphysical statement. Just a very naive and ignorant one.
The idea that the qualities of all physical phenomena are emergent properties of matter and physical states is the metaphysical position of physicalism, materialism or naturalism. NdGT’s espoused ideologies are all dependent on the superiority of this metaphysical premise. This makes him just as ideologically dangerous as religious figures who make pseudo-scientific claims. Claiming authority over ideas that one fails to understand their own self, while using their public position to spread these misguided dogmas, is exactly everything he claims to be opposed to.
The physicalist position is that a phenomena’s physical properties are the only ones worth considering. Physicalism is the idea that the entire truth of a thing rests solely on it’s measurable physical properties. This is, in fact, the same reasoning employed by every racist, sexist, homophobic and otherwise bigoted belief system ever. The Nazi scientists went to great lengths to attempt to illustrate the superiority of the Aryan descendants based solely on the physical differences between ‘races’. The most backward hillbilly klansmen similarly justify their own superiority via claims that the physical differences between ‘races’ define them. Every backwards thinking, arrogant and dogmatic bigotry in history was predicated upon the same physicalism that underlies NdGT’s entire ideology.
The persistent cultural ideology that this Telescientismist is a beacon and champion of human progress fails to recognize that he contributes almost more than any other living being (Go away, Bill Nye, nobody is talking to you.) to the greatest hurdle to scientific/human discovery and progress in modern times.
Physicalism is the geocentrism of our times. It impedes ideological progress both culturally and scientifically. An emerging paradigm of philosophers and scientists are beginning to reject that notion. These mavericks are pioneering new theories and models that are able to hold up to scientific scrutiny far better than physicalism, while also being more consistent with other methodologies like philosophy and psychology. While the public are still enraptured by the pervasive physicalism that has endured since the dawn of industrialism, the new ideas that lead to even greater human progress are under construction. People like NdGT are dangerous charlatans pinning people to the past and impeding the evolution of human civilization. And while he does so, strutting around with the self-assurance and conceit of a celebrity, he is profiting from and rubbing elbows with people (Koch brothers, FOXtv) whom his followers generally tend to be ideologically opposed to. NdGT stands for something in the public eye that he is not. He is not an anti-establisment champion of reason and progress, he is a spokesman for that establishments ideas and agendas, and a barricade against the reason and progress that would expose them.
It is time to stop putting Neil on a pedestal. He has not earned that position, nor is he using it to lead to the human and scientific progress that the people who put him on it claim to be seeking. It is not just that he is so completely and utterly full of shit, it is that he is a dangerous megalomaniac peddling garbage that reinforces the greatest threats to humanity.
Pretend that you have just opened a cool, crisp can of your favorite soft drink. You take a few short sips and savor them, then take in a long gulp of that sticky sweet stuff. Now, if I ask you to describe that can of soda, how would you respond? My guess is that most of us would use adjectives like- cold, sweet, refreshing, etc. A huckster might instead describe the can rather than the beverage it contains and say it is- cylindrical, opens at one end, is predominately red and black. These are all of the directly observable qualities or experiences of the can of soda. They are its explicit messages.
Now let us say that you wanted to start a soda company of your own. What are the things you would have to know about soda to do so? Surely you would have to understand the explicit nature of soda in order to make a product that is enjoyable and marketable. But you would have to know some things about cans of soda that can not be related directly by cans of soda themselves. You would have to know about ingredients and the supply chains by which you attained them. You would have to know about properties of the packaging to be used.
If you followed those bits of explicit knowledge further down the rabbit hole of implicit messages you might learn about the resources used to create the ingredients. You might also learn of the labor used to harvest and adapt them and the socio-political implications of that process. And from this you could continue branching off endlessly into infinite new paths of knowledge that all contribute to a fuller knowledge of a can of soda. Eventually your description of a can of soda might be something like, ‘a sticky sweet beverage, often chilled, and reliant on resources, labor and supply chains associated with industrial era global oligarchs who often exploited their laborers/consumers and the environment in order to increase profits from selling a product with disturbing health implications, and gaining a monopoly on socio-economic paradigms in the process’.
Everything you observe or experience has both explicit and implicit properties. Before we go further, lets get a better understanding of what those two concepts mean.
Explicit properties are obvious. Those properties are apparent through observations and direct experience. They are the properties on the surface. They are the content of the subject. Explicitness ‘is what it is’.
Implicit properties are not obvious. They often require further thought or research of properties or connections not immediately apparent to an observer. They are beneath the surface of the thing itself. They are its contextual information, knowledge that creates a big picture of a world in which soda exists and its implications and underlying effects in that world.
I have spoken a lot recently about implicit information. Recent articles on Chaos, Like Buttons, Institutions, Facts, Niceness, Survival and Memes (and more Memes), as well as others, have all been an attempt to describe the often overlooked implicit information all around us. I have spoken about content vs. context and signifier vs. signified, as well as other semiotic confusion I often encounter with people. I have discussed Marshall McLuhan’s idea that The Medium Is the Message, which is an excellent example of understanding the difference between the explicit and implicit; as well as why implicit information has greater effects and consequences than explicit info. Because it is easier to attain the explicit and ignore the implicit, we often find ourselves ignoring implicit information and its importance.
Here is an interview with McLuhan that, although long, contains an incredibly rich amount of information and explanation on the topic.
When McLuhan spoke up there of mediums he included social systems and other cultural artifacts and ideologies. Besides the obvious mediums that appear in media, he was talking about how the implicit information about a thing always says much more about its meaning and effect on individuals and society than the explicit.
As our world grows more technologically and socially complex, we are bombarded with ever more cultural artifacts and social systems. There are always more and more mediums being created. And through media we are consuming more and more of the explicit information contained in them. As the bombardment of explicit messages increases, the implicit messages become increasingly hidden and faint. In order to keep up with the increasing amount and complexity of the explicit we have had to ignore the implicit to make room in our expanding collective consciousness. As a result we are constantly applying this shortcut compulsively. We have turned off our implicit thinking, critical thinking, in order to manage the avalanche of explicit information in our environment.
One strange outcome of this paradigm is that modern studies and tests assure us that we are growing increasingly more intelligent as a species, based on scales which measure our ability to regurgitate explicit information. And what determines the sort of explicit information test results reward us for regurgitating often depends on external agendas or attempts to specialize. The agendas are intentional attempts by power structures to condition our thinking and responses to be amenable to the power structures those agendas were created by. They dumb us down to manipulate us using explicit information overload and engineering. The specialization is a response to socio-economic paradigms which reward us for filling in areas of labor necessity that also often works in the overall favor of power structures. Yet the specialization narrows our knowledge to such a degree that even most specialists are buried in the explicit knowledge of their area of expertise to the degree that they cannot see where it fits in the bigger picture.
“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.”
-Robert A. Heinlein, from ‘Time Enough for Love’
Before we continue to analyze the problem of implicit-blindness in our society on the surface, lets look at another form of explicit information that behaves in very much the same ways as memes. In fact, many memes past and present have incorporated this far older medium into their own. The medium I am discussing is ‘platitudes’. Platitudes are common sayings that convey what generally seems like universally agreeable statements. But those explicit statements are always loaded with implicit context. And even when the explicit seems universally agreeable, deconstructing the implicit messages within it can reveal a platitude as being poorly thought out or outright deceptive or false. Yet because the assumption of universal agreement is also a part of sharing that platitude, those who reject it on the terms of implicit falsehoods can face social rejection, or be told that they should ‘chill out’, ‘stop overthinking it’ or not be so ‘unreasonably disagreeable’. Yet when the reason for disagreement comes directly from an investigation of the platitude using reason itself, intelligent responses to intellectual automata are not only considered acts of aggression, but make one susceptible to acts of counter aggression by those who reject the implicit. Lets look at a simple platitude-
Love is all you need.
This one is really simple because it has only three main areas we need to deconstruct to view the implicit information which negates the explicit message of the statement. Due to structure we will work in reverse with the three concepts.
Need- What is need? Need means that a condition must be fulfilled to avoid negative consequences. Human beings have several needs, but only a few of them must be met to basically live. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a standard often used for identifying the needs of human beings in their order of importance. Love is somewhere in the center of the pyramid of these needs, although one could, in theory, live without it.
All- How long do you think you would survive if all you had was love? How happy and mentally/emotionally healthy would you be if the only need being met was love, or even just stopped there on the pyramid? Does ‘all’ have any meaning in this context or is it just a small word with lots of hyperbole?
Love- Of all of the qualities of human experience, love may be the most subjective. Though we all agree that it seems to exist and even have similar experiences of it, we cannot say exactly what love is. Yet there are some things we know about love. Love can make you feel good, and it can make you feel bad. Loving someone, therefore, means that you will both make the other feel good sometimes and bad others. In fact, sometimes love requires us to hurt others, in order to protect them from dangers they are unable to recognize or protect themselves from.
When John Lennon wrote that trite crap, do you suppose he meant to say that ‘sometimes hurting other people for their own good is the only requirement for survival’? It is possible that he meant that. He died from an overdose of admiration before I was old enough to even consider that question. Yet what 99.99% of people think he is saying is that ‘so long as we make each other feel good, everything else will take care of itself’. In this case, even the explicit message is pretty dopey and vacant. Yet when examined even further for its implicit message, it is a completely idiotic and meaningless statement. Yet it has become so culturally persistent that it is now essentially a universal platitude.
(Exercise: Try reading the lyrics to Imagine by John Lennon while uncovering the implicit messages and see if you can get from one line to the next without wanting to knee his rotted corpse in the groin.)
Explicit information is subjective experience calling itself objective knowledge backed by the certainty of majority consensus. We are able to prop up our own self-awareness and identity on the explicit with very little danger to those concepts. Agreeing about the explicit forms the basis of social interactions and becomes a path to popularity or other social rewards. The explicit is often the feel-good content of daily interactions. Because it often makes us feel good or rewards us otherwise, it becomes a path of least resistance at best, and a total crutch at worst. When you add this to the fact that it is far easier to deal with the explicit, implicit messages are constantly being ignored, denied or scorned.
Yet explicit messages are like dots in a ‘connect-the-dots’ exercise. They are a necessary part of the end product, but are meaningless themselves. It is the lines between which gives shape and life to those dots, and the lines are the implicit. Our ignorance, distaste and rejection of the implicit is creating an intellectual environment of all dots and no lines. Even while humanity is acquiring more dots all of the time, we are becoming more like white noise than a clear signal. If we do not learn to be more connective in day to day life, to see the bigger picture or the forest through the trees, then we will eventually be awash in a cosmic sea of useless information. Dots that connect to no other dots. The noise of which will be too great to concentrate upon the implicit and save us from the feedback chamber of horrors that is explicitness overload.
It is critical that we begin to stop thinking from so many assumptions and operating from the micro. For our intellectual evolution to continue, humanity must train its minds to operate more often from the macro, and from that bigger picture to never take any information for granted. The society on the surface is one in which critical thinking is replaced by assumptions, in which we are always zooming in and never out; and in which explicit messages do not act as paths to implicit investigation, but become barriers to thinking about anything beyond its mere appearances.
The Cult of Niceness is an umbrella term that I use to describe many different behaviors and ideas. I first noticed the problem when I was only a child. Observing adults I was able to notice that they sometimes put on an appearance of niceness in order to cloak some other agenda. I began to understand that ‘nice’ was sometimes just a deceptive ruse used to manipulate others in some way. Usually just to create an image of themselves for others who did not know them well enough to see through it. Other times it was in order to coerce people into thinking, saying or doing what they wanted thought, said or done. I quickly noted that often the attempt to appear nice was actually just a form of passive aggressiveness that somehow worked, no matter how obvious the charade seemed to me. And I quickly refused to play into that disingenuine mindgame myself.
As a result people often think I am either an asshole, socially unrefined or both. Genuine authentic honesty is a virtue we all pay lip service to, but most people are repulsed when they actually encounter it. The very same qualities that would cause people to label me also made me immune to their classifications. Integrity and consistency generally only feel good to the person attaining them, and painful to those whose cognitive dissonance they incite. People will then push you to admit to some kind of self-loathing in order to gratify themselves, and if you do not concede they will tell you that you think you are better than them and everyone else. I have never been concerned with popularity contests or other competitions. I am not trying to be better than anyone else. I am trying to be the best possible me. Along the way I am trying to assist others in being the best possible selves they can be. I have a sneaking suspicion that the more we all improve ourselves, the more peaceful, harmonious and joyful the world we share will be. So I refuse to apologize for being who I am, even if you don’t like it, or if it makes you like yourself less.
The Cult of Niceness (CON) is predicated on peoples insecurities. It is self-doubt and existential malaise regurgitated in statements synonymous with suburban mommy talk. It is the special snowflake speech mounted on the hood of day-to-day life like cattle horns on an oil magnates Cadillac. It is an attempt to be rewarded, validated and gratified for doing absolutely nothing deserving of those responses. The most insidious part being that not only is the behavior fake and deceptive, it also takes advantage of other peoples falsehoods and self-deception. People who like themselves do not feel the need to bully others into artificial niceties through such manufactured discrepancies. While everybody knows that the person the bully always loathes most is their self. And make no doubt, insisting that others perform the same CON roles that you are trapped in is just a form of social bullying.
Social media has, like it has with everything else, magnified this human weakness to stupendous proportions. The CON is what drives most online interactions. One of the most common behaviors that makes this apparent is the act of sharing self-deprecating thoughts in order to get rewarded, validated and gratified for an apparent act of humbleness that is actually just manipulative neediness. People will describe their weaknesses, failures or other unfavorable quirks in the hope that it will get them attention. They will self-loathe in order to fish out compliments. They will don a mask of vulnerability and timid dislike for themselves just so that others will respond to them in ways that help them identify themselves as superior to others. The CON has created an ideology that suggests that superiority comes in the form of humble self-deprecation. But oddly enough, only people who really do dislike themselves can be fooled into thinking that appearing to dislike themselves makes them better than everyone else.
Numerous messages online tell us that all we need is love and that if only we were all nice the world would be a perfect place. These oversimplistic reductionisms are dangerously ignorant. Not only because they deny the value humanity receives from a complex range of behaviors, but because they also suggest that niceness is a quality only measured in appearances. People do cruel things all of the time in order to achieve the most positive possible outcomes. If you have never hurt someones feelings with your honesty in order to save them an even greater pain, then you probably have never really loved somebody all that much. Friends and family members rely on one another to deliver harsh truths that would save them from entering treachery hiding in their own blind spots.
Given that our world has become riddled with so much conceptual ignorance, we have created great areas of blindness that threaten humanity at large. Pointing out the misconceptions and false premises that these blind spots are predicated on is itself a great kindness to our entire species. But when you fail to stroke peoples delusions or confirm their biases or point out all of this behavior their reaction is usually just to label you an asshole or as socially unrefined. By protecting themselves from the abrasive cognitive dissonance you would cause them in the name of niceness, people are poking holes in their own raft and calling it a waterpark. When people have more desire not to feel like they were wrong than they do to actually try and be right, it becomes impossible to reach them. The truth often does hurt, and those who put niceness before growing pains are wearing their ignorance with an idiots welcoming grin.
I am not just complaining about the CON because I find it distasteful. I am giving a dire warning about it because it is very important for a few different reasons. The first reason is that it is an affront to reason itself. The CON is one of the things which is contributing to the dumbing-down of humanity and ushering in the Idiocracy. The second reason is that we are entering an era of humanity that will center around the reputation of individuals. If the Reputation Economy of tomorrow is built upon the falsehoods and appearances of the CON, then we will be living in an Idiocracy in which everyone appears just as robotic, plasticine and saccharine sweet as The Stepford Wives. It will be a Nerf Hell or a Smile-Or-Die Dystopia. So my warning about this problem is not the revenge or ‘diss-track’ some people will think of it as, as they act out all of the ignorance I just warned against here. It is the solemn cautioning of a Trojan Horse at our gates. If we invite the CON into our lives because it sure does look pretty great on the outside, we are gonna be in for a big surprise when it starts unpacking its dangerous contents. Consider this a warning.
Just because I am suggesting that you do not take part in compulsive and coercive niceness does not mean that I endorse its opposite, compulsive and coercive assholery. Sometimes being an asshole, or doing things you know will get you labeled as one, is the course of action that will lead to the best outcomes for all. But doing it compulsively and as an act of senseless aggression is really just the same problem. The world has no shortage of people who are assholes just for sport. The internet is full of these people. This is not the opposite of the CON, it is just the other side of the same bad coin. Trying to exploit peoples weakness by provoking an emotional response just to reward, gratify or validate ones self is a giant pitfall we must avoid if we don’t wish to lead others over the edge of sanity like intellectual lemmings.
The CON is a dangerous social precedent to set. It is a falsehood of appearances with all of the philosophical complexity of a big purple dinosaur singing songs to children. It is important not to tread on the feelings of others for no good reason, but sometimes there are good reasons, and other times you cannot help how other will emotionally respond. Yet we cannot protect our Feelz to such a degree that it allows us to remain in ignorance to the extent that our species devolves intellectually in the process. Try to be nice when it is appropriate, but you are under no obligation to smile and nod bobble-headedly in the affirmative when the CON asks you to try their kool aid.
The debate over the shape of the planet that we live on has gotten back into full swing recently. It seems that people everywhere are professing a belief that the world is in fact flat. Surrounding this rejection of a spherical earth are other doubts about other theories of nature, such as gravity. Suddenly it has become popular to believe that the knowledge about nature we take for granted is wrong.
There was a point in history in which humans believed that Earth was at the center of the universe. When Copernicus and Galileo came along insisting that the world was revolving around the sun, they were scoffed at by all of the ‘rational’ people of the time. And even though the logic supporting geocentrism was not able to withstand the scientist’s new model of the universe, people persisted in believing we were smack dab in the center of the cosmos simply because everyone else seemed to believe. Geocentrism was popular knowledge, and in almost all cultures throughout history, popular knowledge always acquires more widespread acceptance than fringe ideas, even when those outlier ideas have superior reason and evidence supporting them.
Now, I am not saying that in the current debate that flat-Earthers are engaged in is supported by superior reason and evidence. But it is quite true that most of the people opposing the idea that our planet is pancake shaped are themselves only using an appeal to the majority as the basis of their argument. I have not seen many people dropping some serious science on flat-Earthers, but rather just generally deriding them and their belief from a position of ideological superiority supported only by the idea that something must be right if everyone else believes it. Especially the ‘experts’.
It is one thing to have trust in people who have devoted more time to studying a phenomena than you have. We cannot possibly all test every human idea, so it becomes necessary that we place some basic faith in others to help us understand our reality. However when that faith is transmogrified into absolutism and certainty, then it quickly goes from rational to irrational. Unless you have hurled yourself away from the gravitational pull of this planet and made several passes around it to verify the shape of the planet yourself, your own belief in a spherical Terra is merely a matter of faith. Yet what I am seeing in social media is a lot of certainty about the roundness of our planet. And in almost all of those cases that certainty is unjustified.
I myself have never hopped off this planet to make a qualified measurement of its shape for myself. While I suspect that the ball model works better than the pancake model, I am not certain. I am certainly not certain enough to begin deriding others for their equally uninformed matters of faith. For all I know the planet could be shaped like one half of a giant bunny rabbit that was hollowed out. And since for all intents and purposes I am pretty much unaffected by planetary geometry, I don’t really mind that some people have wacky opinions about it. In fact, truth be told, my opinion may seem to you to be the wackiest of all.
No matter what side you take in the planet shape debate, you are starting from the assumption that the planet is a Thing which precedes humanities conscious ideas about the planet. This is another dogma I am not too quick to buy into. What if the planet is just a manifestation of our perceived notions about what the planet is? What if our collective beliefs about the planet are able to influence how we perceive it, or even what it ‘is’? What if nature and all of reality is not a noun thing, but a fluid verb that responds to our ideologies about it? You cannot have an idea about what something IS without having an idea. It is therefore not rational to rule out that what we are observing is some feedback of ideas, and not a universe that exists independently of them. You cannot think of a thing that exists independently of thought without thinking. It is therefore far more logical to assume that whatever reality is, it has a direct relationship to our thoughts about reality, not that they are separate or independent of one another.
So who knows. Maybe at some point in the past, conforming to the beliefs about what it was in conscious beings, the earth was flat. And as those beliefs changed to one in which the world was round, well so be it. And maybe the beliefs about planet shape are shifting towards the flat and astronomers in a few hundred years will send us evidence from space showing that the planet is actually a giant frisbee, while Round-Earthers are derided in public for their silly archaic notion that the planet is shaped like a ball.
And maybe all of these people who are professing to believe in a flat earth are in fact some kind of social magicians using the flat earth idea as a way to illustrate our awkward obsession with unearned certainty and the dogma it necessitates. Or maybe it is some unfamiliar sect of Discordians collaborating in a giant mindfuck in order to derail the Illuminati’s plan to immanentize the eschaton through very obscure methods. I don’t know. And neither do you. The only thing you can be certain of is that you exist. Everything else requires an open mind and sense of humor.
And also, the Earth actually is shaped like a hollowed out half rabbit, though you aren’t ready for that knowledge yet. But your kids are gonna love it.
Our human hubris reassures us that we are the dominant form of life on this planet. This is done through a delusional semantic trick by which we have narrowly defined what constitutes a life form. So long as we keep that definition confined to traditional narratives, the delusion prevails. We are currently empowering that falsehood by insisting that life conforms to some basic principles based on physical characteristics, such as a genetic structure. This materialist fiction, predicated on a metaphysical assumption that is full of circular reasoning and self-refutation, then goes on to define life by what it IS and not by what it does; thereby employing the logic of every narrow-minded bigotry to ever exist.
So if instead of defining life by what it is, perhaps we should define it by what it does. And once you begin viewing life from the perspective of it’s verb-state, rather than it’s noun-state, it begins to become clear that our current definition of life is narrow, restrictive and exclusive of other macro-systems that behave exactly as we do.
In it he discusses how non-random organizations behave in the very same ways that everything from cells to plants and animals do. He defined several levels at which all living systems tended to do at least one or more of the following- process energy, matter or information in their environment. At the micro level he considers the cell the smallest LS, with the nation state at the other end. We organisms are only the third most complex LS’s of eight, with the supranational LS at the top. In relative evolutionary terms, the supranational entity is pretty recent.
At every stage above us in the complex matrix of living systems interacting with one another there resides a life form dominate to us. The power, influence and abilities of these entities are greater than any human could ever achieve, which is why the socially aberrant psychotics that work most closely with these systems attach themselves to them. Their opportunism is essentially waste management of a more dominate life form, like bacteria that turn organic waste into proteins that can be converted to energy. The ruling elite are the lips of humanity, suckling directly from the rectums of these more dominant life forms like some kind of Human & Nonhuman Centipede flick. Since they get first taste and are not the ones being fed to the dominate life forms, they are perceived as dominate human beings. Their power, influence and wealth are all products of their gleeful association with the predatory entities who lie above us on the food chain.
This truth about the nature of life forms is precisely why it is not possible to expect these living systems to stop harming us. When we think of entities like the nation state as something we have full control over and can use to limit and punish itself, it is akin to carrots believing that they can prevent humans from eating them by appealing to humans to put carrots lives above their own nutritional needs. The nation state cannot be made to stop preying upon us in order to meet our preference for not being consumed by it, because it has to eat and we are a plentiful (and apparently delicious) food source in its environment.
Terms like ‘accountability’, ‘regulations’ and ‘checks and balances’ are meaningless misnomers that we have weaved into our delusion of superiority. To those entities above us, those terms are like camouflage or other evolutionary paradigms that make it easier for them to trick their prey. For us to believe that we can make these higher order systems put us before themselves is a foolish vanity supported only by our self-deception, which exists only to support our vanity itself. It is a circular reasoning that makes us weak and keeps us obedient to the predatory entities and the humans who work most closely with them.
A few of the levels above the organism (individual) do provide symbiotic benefits. Voluntary associations and communities empower humans by giving us a stronger hand to work together with. By the time we get to cultural systems we begin to see some aggression enter the relationship. Force, coercion and compulsion all begin to occur in the interactions of these entities. By the time we get to society and the nation state it is a full on parasitic relationship with all but a few of us on the losing end. The so-called 1% are not winning the evolutionary game, they are just benefiting slightly more than the rest of us by selling out our entire species. And so they use their power to create the narrative that these systems are necessary in order to prevent us from becoming prey to one another, while using those irrational false constructs to feed us to the beasts above us.
Yet this is just not so. Those larger entities were created by human beings. We brought them into this world and we can take them out. And we should. As soon as possible. They are growing exponentially. While it may be true that there will some injuries among our species as a result of working together to kill them, those injuries are nowhere near as grievous as the ones the predatory parasitic entities will be forced to inflict on us as it requires more food to feed its exponential growth. None of our fears about what we might possibly do to one another are rational when compared to what will most certainly be done to us all if we do not slay the beast before it is too big to kill.
Oh my fellow fishies, do you hear me when I tell you that the thing in front of you that looks like a tasty worm is actually the tongue of a larger fish using its oral appendage to lure you in so it can swallow you whole? Do you hear me when I tell you that the exotic display before you is not a glory to behold, but a clever trick to entrance you while a far more advanced fish takes advantage of your stupor to prey on you?
Or will you continue to insist that the bigger fish are the only thing keeping us from eating one another, while they feed lavishly upon us? Will we join together in a swarm to strip the meat from the bones of our common enemy, or will we stand divided to be more easily picked off under the false pretense that the big fish are immortal and eternal?
And what pray tell, my fellow finned friends, would you say if I told you that we could kill the big predatory fishes simply by removing our consent to be eaten? Yes, it is that easy. The living systems above us do have a genetic structure and their dna is our belief, faith and consent. If we were to take those from it, its physical structure would collapse and we would be free. And when all the fishes eventually stopped fighting in the ensuing confusion, the waters will calm and we will no longer live under the constant threat that accompanies low status on a parasitic and sometimes cannibalistic food chain.
The nation state is not the solution to the weakness of man. It is the primary beneficiary of those weaknesses. It is like the vampire, it can only harm you on your own home (planet) if you invite it inside.
The most dangerous enemy is the one that is capable of convincing you that it does not exist. Our misguided belief that our institutions are just tools that are subserviant to us, rather than a clever master using us as tools to its own ends, lies at the very heart of the enemies subterfuge. We apply our own shackles and prepare own bodies for consumption through our hubris, ignorance and fear. The enemy is within.
Recently I invited my friends on Facebook to submit a meme, which I would then provide a critical analysis of, getting to the underlying context of these memes that often goes overlooked. Humanity has an awkward obsession with being content focused to the point of excluding the context of the things we consider. Our literal interpretations of the objects and subjects in the external world often gives us only a shallow understanding, and leaves us blind to the unspoken messages that lie within all things. And it is often these unspoken messages that have the most profound effect, even when we are not aware of them doing so. In fact, especially when we overlook them.
In the past I have criticized memes from a general perspective. That exercise failed to engage many people, I suspect, because they were unable to draw from the general a message about the specific. So this time I have chosen to use specifics to make a general statement about the underlying context of memes. That is, they generally say much more than they actually say.
As with any political cartoon that bashes one of the two accepted mainstream positions, the problem is accidental validation. While you may hate all political sides equally, or just find the humor funny, the people who view it are going to filter it through their own beliefs. If they dislike the politician being made fun of, it may help to strengthen their ideology regarding the supremacy of the ‘opposite’ candidate. Which then goes on to validate that person’s belief that the state is necessary, justifiable and welcome based not on a judgement of the state itself, but the assumed belief that it is necessary to support MY statist figurehead in order to protect myself from THEIR statist figurehead. So it further polarizes both ends of the mainstream political spectrum while also validating the necessity of the state out of the fear created through false dichotomies.
While specifically suggesting that the reptilian conspiracy theories are outlandish and ridiculous, those people who think all conspiracy theories are ridiculous will have that belief validated. It further paints conspiracy theories as absurd and moronic. Yet conspiracy is natural part of all power structures throughout time. So to disbelieve them off hand because they do not fit the mainstream narrative conditions people to shallow literalism, which then allows them to be even bigger targets for the conspirators within the power structures.
Further, it relies on a format that has been repeated often enough that it has an instinctual association with ‘funny.’ Like a laugh track, it forces its humor through simple psychological shortcuts. Attempting to appeal to people’s instincts in order to gain their consent for mainstream consensus paradigms is pretty much always unfunny to me, though.
There are all sorts of problems with this one, but the most obvious is that it is blatant scientism. It appeals to people’s fascination with science, as well as their naive ideas about what science is and does. It uses the chemical symbols to reassure you that it is really super scientific stuff. But what is actually happening is very unscientific. The idea that our subjective experiences are only side effects of brain chemistry belongs not to science, but to the metaphysical assumptions of physicalism/materialism. Neither of those ontologies can be empirically verified, so it is not only not science, but by making ‘scientific’ claims about something unverifiable by science, it is actually anti-science. When scientism puts its metaphysical assumptions ahead of the actual science, it does so with complete ignorance and disregard for the strengths and weaknesses of the scientific method. And science is a method, not a worldview.
Further, it reduces our experiences to some strange combination of determinism and meaningless cosmic accident, which is degrading to human consciousness.
But when you add anything even faux sciencey to internet cultural tools like memes, the recipe is always one which results in a further ignorance of science and philosophy.
The problem with this meme is that it pretends to teach you something. But every idea is so obvious that only the most intellectually bereft would not have already determined these ideas themselves. Knowing these things is too obvious. It is putting them into practice that is difficult, which the meme gives no helpful advice on doing.
Since all it tells us is what we already know, the only purpose of this meme is to gather validation or consensus. And nothing waters down the truth like the necessity of repeating it compulsively where it is unsolicited and unrequired.
These sort of memes get around because they easily get likes. “I agree (duh) so LIKE.” And getting likes feels like validation and approval. And there is nothing wrong with validation or approval, but when you are disguising it as informative, it takes all of the meaning out of information. When this happens enough we trade our logic for emotion in an unbalanced way that is harmful to intelligence.
There are some memes that have a very concise message displayed graphically whose message is more or less direct.
But these are still problematic in that they reinforce the meme pattern in general. After being inundated daily with numerous memes that we know may not be completely on the up and up or are complete bullshit or pandering for validation and attention, the meme defender will point to one like this and infer that because this meme displays less of the awful characteristics that most memes carry then memes must be okay. They are the ‘good cop’ of memes.
But the system of meme has become ridden with intrinsic issues which make the good deeds of a few memes pointless as a guide to understanding memes.
There are no good memes. There are just memes that don’t intentionally dumb us down, but the system of meme does.
This is an attempt to discredit an ideology by reducing it to a mere absurdity, devoid of its complexity. And even if that ideology is in fact absurd and fails to recognize its own complexity, simply dismissing it by making fun of it is intellectually dishonest. The use of a childhood icon also insinuates that the believers in that ideology are themselves childish. By reducing the ideas and the person, it only serves to antagonize, and not to teach. The choir might all be giddy with this kind of preaching, but it alienates the congregation and puts them at odds with the far better ideas you are trying to replace theirs with. Therefore it is mostly just mean-spirited masturbatory posturing that hurts the cause of those who would perpetuate the sharing of this meme.
This is really the same as the other one. It is an attempt to win an argument by belittling the opponent. So the contextual problem is the same.
Content-wise, it suggests that Lions are those who allow themselves to be caught up in the largest association of organized violence ever. If the point is that lions are brave, then this fails because it is not brave to be a joiner. Especially when you are joining the winning monopoly on violence. Therefore, in this case, those standing against the ‘lions’ would actually be the brave and courageous, as it takes far more of those qualities to stand against this den than with it.
Secondly, lions aren’t what protect lambs. Lambs would be hunted and slaughtered and eaten raw by lions. So the idea that those claiming to protect us are lions while we are sheep really illustrates the true nature of these lions and not the delusion that they live under. They are not our protectors. They are our predators.
I have no idea what is even going on in this meme. The words in the back appear to be comprised of buzzwords and stock phrases. I do not recognize the picture, but perhaps it is recognizable from other memes and their context is being carried into this one by repetition of the image?
There are a lot of memes like this. There is a group on Facebook called The Absurdistan Association that has all sorts of stuff like this. I imagine that it is part in-joke used to identify the sharer as ‘in the know’. It may also just be an attempt to be absurd through nonsensical image propagation.
If it is an in joke sort of thing then it is really just another form of consensus gathering and self-validation and groupthink identity building.
If it is an attempt at absurdity it fails on two levels. The first being that absurdity is not just randomly random. It is highly constructed randomness for specific effect. Absurdity is not a way of saying nothing; it is a way of saying something through clever juxtaposition. But you cannot be making an absurdist statement if the audience is limited to those in the know of the parts beings juxtaposed. The second reason is that the activity and medium of meme has become such a cultural norm itself that they cannot be considered far enough outside social norms to be absurd.
Mostly, this just seems to be what would result when the activity of meme-ing became a meaningless compulsion.
(note- an explanation from the person who shared this meme with me: “It’s really just an obscure kinda joke. It references the “Serbia Strong” meme which… I don’t even know where to begin. I guess it kind of mocks a strange, esoteric nationalism / adversarial positioning that was so popular in early 90s Eastern Europe that it inspired folk music and other strange behaviors”.)
Remember when you were a kid and you would spend ridiculous amounts of time ‘playing’ an arcade game without having put any quarters into it? This seems like the meme version of that.
Besides that it is an identity thing. The people who made, liked and shared this image want you to know that they do not like Obama. And since they feel no need to provide specifics with that message, the reason they do not like Obama is probably because they identify with the other side of the partisan false dichotomy. Either that or their reasoning is even more suspicious, like racism, and they are just smart enough to know that indicating that specifically is a social faux pas. But not smart enough to make a meme that actually attempts to illustrate some idea specifically.
Whenever something that began as clever becomes too popular, eventually the biggest idiots get a hold of it and completely ruin any semblance of purpose in it. Or illustrate the underlying insidiousness of it through accident and irony.
I would consider this an infographic. And while infographics may contain some of the residual contextual issues of memes through similarity of mediums and use, there is a bit of a difference. My critique here is not very strong. The worst thing I have to say for it is that it is a visual version of the ‘This Topic for Dummies’ books. If the infographic inspires you to further investigate the topic, great. But if it inspires you to be a barely informed expert in conversations on the subject, then it is intellectually irresponsible.
This is an attempt to appeal to people’s morality through their desire and identity. To be opposed to this meme is to appear either anti-woman, repressed or homosexual. Morality should be arrived at through logic and reason, not appealed to through instinct or identity-seeking or fear. To draw the connection between the differences in vaginas as a reason to support diversity actually undermines diversity by suggesting it is a value whose laurels rest only on shallow interpretations of what creates genuine differences in individuals and cultural groups.
‘That face you make when…’ memes.
First of all, these memes never say anything at all. There is no message. There is no lesson. And they are not even funny. The only function they have is recognition. And since they are usually faces from entertainment media, the recognition is that of mainstream media consumers. The statement is ‘I also watched that/I consume the same media commodities as you/I recognize what facial expressions mean’. Nowhere in that does any thinking take place. It just begs for validation and interaction without earning it. It is attention whoring with no other purpose.
i fear a day when this behavior reduces our language to the most simple of bullshit.
Woman comes home from work. Man flashes photo from TV sitcom of famous ‘How was your day, dear?’ moment.
Woman responds by flashing famous movie photo of someone with exasperated face.
Man flashed ‘uh oh’ face photo from Home Alone.
Child walks in, plays a short sound clip- ‘Wakkity smackity Doo!’
Cue laugh track.
Ah, the sunday school atheist memes.
First, this meme is not for generating any kind of theological or philosophical conversation. It is just making fun of people by reducing their beliefs into an absurdity. And since atheists tend to have more influence in internet culture it also says that ‘we make better memes, so we are smarter than you and your beliefs are dumb.’
In particular this seems to be addressing the problem of evil. Yet is does so with such reductionist hyperbole that it misses all of the nuances contained in that theological doctrine. It is thus the anti-theist version of sunday school parables. It becomes the sort of watered down and literal interpretation that is practiced by the people it is meant to mock.
Further, it does not differentiate between the many concepts that fall under the banner ‘God.’ It addresses only the modern evangelical theistic entity from Abrahamic traditions. Yet it is meaningless when examined in the light of pantheism, panentheism, pandeism, etc. Many other philosophies that include some form of primal being have addressed the problem of evil quite well.
This meme goes after the low-hanging fruit. And people who go after only low hanging fruit do so only because they are on a similar level of intellectual inconsistency.
I hope that I have illustrated just how much meaning lies hidden inside memes. Though you may like the surface message of its content, a meme might actually say things you disagree with or wouldn’t want to say yourself. The widespread compulsion of meme sharing has created a communication culture full of far more unspoken messages than spoken ones. Memes, like medication, all have side effects. So before you swallow those pills, be sure that the consequences are not worse than the benefits. And in the case of memes, the medium is itself the message, an idea I plan to explore in my next discussion on the topic.
Thank you everyone who helped by sharing the memes I used in this experiment. You know who you are!
If there is any single event that defines America’s compulsion with mindless consumerism, there is no doubt that that event would be Christmas. The ancient pagan holidays (Yule, Saturnalia, etc.) from which Christmas was derived were later co-opted by Christianity, giving the holiday not just new meanings, but new purposes. Yet even the change of metaphysical premises changed Christmas very little compared to the effect that a highly developed industrial civilization has had on it. Christmas has come to be defined almost exclusively by the activity of gift-giving/receiving.
Some will argue that it is also about spending time with your family. But nobody should need a specific reason to do that. Nor should they have to do it on a specific day because that is the day that everyone else is doing it. That is compulsive behavior, and it has nothing to do with the Wheel of Life or Birth of Baby Jesus that inspired it. And while those holidays often included gift-giving, until recently they were not centered around it. Gifts were not just another compulsion conditioned into us through ‘tradition’. And yet I don’t really give a swimming shit about ‘the true meaning of Christmas’, I think that we can examine the mindless consumerism of our culture parallel to Christmas as a way of seeing the psychological functions similarly underlying each of them.
As a child I failed to enjoy toys. Or at least, it seemed to me like I was unable to enjoy them in the way that other kids did. Sure, video games and bb guns were always fun, but most of the plastic junk that ended up under the Christmas tree or was acquired during the rest of the year were only really valuable when being shown to friends that did not own them. Yet playing with little plastic people, except when attempting to blow them up midair, was never rewarding to me. For this reason I failed to understand the appeal of Star Wars, a movie that seemed little more than an extended commercial for Star Wars swag, then and now. I had always assumed that I was either doing something wrong or was just somehow not gifted with the ability to enjoy playing boy dolls. Yet as I have gotten older and observed others, I do not think I was alone in that.
I think that we were conditioned by marketers to believe all these toys were somehow fun. And we believed it so much that we told ourselves that it really was fun. And when we saw others telling themselves how much fun it was, we decided to believe it was fun too, lest we get left behind as the fun train trailed off into the funset. Now I think that most of us never really found it fun, even if we told ourselves that it was. Even those people who still think their childhood fun centered around all these little plastic lumps of merchandising probably really never felt contented in the ways that more genuine fun like a splash-fight or nighttime outdoor hide and seek made us feel. And so I submit that it is this inner subconscious recognition of our failure to find any meaning in junk toys and the ‘fun’ they provide that causes adults to try to make up for it by living vicariously through their children. Surely they will have the fun that we never really felt, right? And so each generation has to buy harder to try to fill in that hole. The more toys that failed to fulfill you, the more you will buy to attempt to fulfill the next generation.
It is like an addiction. We are chasing the dragon of fun. We remember how great that first time seemed and are constantly trying to get back there. But the truth is that not only can we never return, there is nothing to return to. It was all a myth. That first fix wasn’t that great. It only seemed so because it was the only one that we never did out of the necessity of compulsion.
So then if our gifting behavior is comprised of unnecessary consumer items that promise to fulfill us but only doom us to more desire than we can ever fulfill, what about a holiday centered around gifts? Could it be that Christmas is just as empty as useless plastic tchotchkes? Could it be that we keep trying to outdo every last Christmas to make up for how empty they make us feel while promising us fulfillment? In Christmas, toys and mindless consumerism, are we just chasing the dragon like heroin addicts and serial killers?
Why does Christmas start earlier and end later every year?
Is that the mark of something we are satisfied with/by?
Why did I see people come into the bookstore where I work and spend gift certificates they got last year to buy gifts this year? Could this possibly indicate that there is really no meaning in this giving, but just an endless cycle of compulsion, as in addiction?
Why has Christmas shopping become a violent sport if all that giving is in the name of love and caring, and not just some selfish instinct to overcome our own fears of meaninglessness and inadequacy through competition?
Christmas has been co-opted by a new religion, the religion of the oligarchs. And they use Christmas as a way of making you feel guilted into massive amounts of spending that benefits nobody but them. It is as in The Parable of the Broken Window, where we see that breaking windows in order to fix them actually detracts from wealth by distributing it without value being created in the process. Yet you can be sure that even if the window fixer and community were not experiencing an increase in wealth from intentionally breaking windows, the window factory owners in another town were. This is the case of consumerism and Christmas in a global industrialist oligarchy. Christmas consumerism is based on the creation of a false need, just like the breaking of windows.
We are conditioned to believe that we must buy each other gifts for Christmas. More and better every year. But there is no real need for this. There is not even a good reason. Just a compulsion implanted by clever marketers working for the oligarchs. Our economies and communities do not gain value or increase wealth by Christmas consumerism. Nor do most individuals. Only a select few are actually gaining anything from all of these acts of senseless shopping. And the reason all of the shopping and preparations begin to feel more like a job than a holiday is because that is precisely what it is. Christmas is slavery in sleigh bells and a stupid sweater.
Spoiler Alert: The dragon is never caught. The bad guys win and everyone else is enslaved in their meaningless mindfuck forever. The end.
One of the most tragic paradigms of the human intellect is that of literalism. When we fail to address or understand things beyond their face value, beyond the most obvious observations and descriptions, we not only fail to fully understand something, but gain a false and delusional understanding of it in the process. When so many of our starting premises for our opinions, ideas and beliefs are constructed from these literalist misreadings of reality, it begins to have a massive effect, one that remains invisible behind the wall of literalism we have constructed through consensus.
The most unfortunate sort of literalism is that which we apply to ourselves. When our self-concept and self-awareness becomes constructed around delusions spun out of a refusal to investigate our deeper motivations, intent and inconsistencies, it becomes possible for us to become our own worst enemies. We can be unwitting co-conspirators of everything that we despise in the world when we fail to read more deeply into our own thinking and behaviors. And we can also be manipulated by those with a better sense of the power of obfuscation through literalism. And as distasteful and painful as it may be to hear, most of us are guilty of taking things too literally or shallowly much of the time.
I could spend days discussing the ways in which literalism becomes a tool of self-delusion, but for the purposes of this article, I wish to discuss the function and meaning of positive social media rewards and how our failure to exercise self-awareness may be having disastrous consequences on our social and intellectual environments. So before I discuss how this literalism becomes problematic, let us look specifically at Facebook and the ‘like’ button and try to understand the full range of motivations we exercise when clicking it.
I do not specifically or literally like this, but I am clicking like (etc.) because…
I approve of your interest/fascination with the topic.
I want to appear friendly.
I want you to feel safe in this conversation so you continue to play along.
I have not liked anything of yours for awhile, so I will like this to remind you that I like you.
I want to remind you that I exist.
I really dislike ‘the opposite’ of this.
I feel sorry for this person and want to show support, regardless of the content of the thing I liked.
This confirms my biases.
This validates me.
I want you to like me.
I will ironically like your insult in an attempt to dis-empower it.
I like everything I see on this topic, regardless of actual content.
I appreciate that this probably annoys certain types of people.
I want to smash my genitals with this person’s genitals.
To appease The Algorithms.
Some of these reasons are purely manipulation. Some are genuine attempts at kindness. Others are measured activity for specific effect. We use likes to rig the system, whether it is the rigid social media system itself or the only loosely definable system of human relationships and social interaction. But this much is clear, ‘like’ does not always mean you actually ‘like’ something. And if we are being honest we would see that most of our ‘likes’ are either not steeped in an actual appreciation, or off of one so weak that we are watering down the nature of appreciation itself.
Human values are largely constructed from consensus. What we view as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ is, at the very, least strongly influenced by what we believe others also view as ‘good’ and ‘bad’. Values do not necessarily gain their worth through majority rule, but they are often formed by it. And this process is largely non-conscious. We do not walk around aware of the fact that we are absorbing other peoples values, or that we are creating them. It just happens little by little over time. There are rarely any apparent indicators of this process in the real world. Most of the reward/punishment stimulation happens in the sub-context of our interactions. But in social media, this is quite different. We are aware of our ability to reward certain thoughts and behaviors using ‘likes’ or ‘upvotes’ or any of the similar social media tools. But that awareness of the tool is becoming increasingly ignorant of the cost, long term effects and larger understanding of it. We are creating new sets of human values without really understanding that we are doing it or how it is being done. And although this is true of humans throughout history, we are now doing is at an exponentially rapid rate. We are reconstructing reality and our values at unprecedented speeds.
One can drive a car a few miles per hour and not pay much attention to what is going on around them, and there will probably not be very great consequences if something goes wrong. But when you speed up and continue to speed up more and more without raising your awareness to match, you are almost certainly heading straight for a disaster. This is true of both automobiles and social paradigms. The like button may still look and feel like a slow car, but that is because it sped up slowly without us realizing it, as often happens when we experience things incrementally relative to our position to them. That car is now hauling ass and our ignorance and/or denial is going to lead to a disaster if we don’t increase our awareness of the car, the road and ourselves.
Back to social media. The like button and its counterparts are tools that the programmers use to determine what content we will see in our feeds through calculated algorithms. This keeps their content in the range that their advertisers want. When we ‘like’ something we are setting an agenda. And when we set that agenda we are creating mainstream paradigms and manufacturing normality. And thus we are creating values. This makes social media a powerful tool for ideological revolutions. We can create new norms and overthrow old dogmas by manufacturing consent for new ideas using social media tools. Yet this requires a highly organized and self-aware set of behaviors to be coordinated by large numbers of individuals. And while that is happening, far more often social media is being used with far less understanding and consciously calculated attempt to create better values.
This is where those ‘fake’ ‘likes’ become a problem. They are working to create values without awareness that they are doing so, or even necessarily what values they are creating, and what the effects and consequences of them will be. When our reasoning for using the like tool is done without regard to the effect that doing so has, we are transforming our value systems rapidly and blindly.
This happens in a lot of various ways, but let us illustrate it with some examples.
There is a man. He is a very handsome man. Very handsome. Even a profile picture of this man can douse panties faster than a fire hose. However, this man is also very stupid and somewhat immoral. He ends up posting idiotic political ideas a lot. Most of his followers do not agree with his stupid beliefs, opinions and ideas. But damn if they wouldn’t give up a year of their life just to have a steamy encounter with the man. So in the chance that there is any hope he will notice them, they like his posts, even when they mostly disagree with them. Over time, people see all of these likes and wonder if this guys isn’t on to something. Women view him as valuable to other women, which raises his attractiveness and the ‘likes’ it brings. Men view his worldview as appealing to women, and so begin to adopt it. Over time, the handsome man has gained a following of people who would have never approved of or shared his values on their own. But the subcontext provided by his attractiveness manufactured consensus over time.
There is a woman. She is a stupid and petty woman. People show up in her post threads just to watch the train wreck. The thing is, if she suspects you disagree with her, she will either ignore you or block you. So in an attempt to stay on that horse, people like her comments and give brief nods of consent. Over time the woman becomes more certain and enamored of her idiotic beliefs. Her confidence becomes a fuel which propels her into an even greater spotlight. And the more spotlight she gets, the more it appears that she deserves it. And the more it appears that she deserves it, the more skepticism breaks down and her audience grows. As it does, her idiotic and often hateful ideas grow with her. And thus ‘likes’ that were given ironically become a force which actually empower the target of scorn.
Many people have come to be critical of the government. Therefore when we see a post that is critical of government, we like it to insure that government-critical messages are seen throughout social media. The problem is, these critical messages often contain an error in their reasoning or an untenable solution to the problem. So when we like this message based on the criticism factor alone, in order to make it more visible, we are also making the erroneous logic and poor solutions more visible. Since we cannot choose how others will receive these packages of ideas, the greater effect might be something we would not have chosen to contribute towards. Where we liked the criticism of government because we wish to see an end to that institution, others may see a message that says that since government is flawed, we need more government to fix the flawed parts. So our like actually contributes to intellectual and social momentum that goes against our values.
There are likely millions of ways in which our ‘likes’ may have such similar unintended effects. And these effects, though perhaps not intentional, are shaping the world we live in. While using social media reward tools is a conscious action, the outcomes it produces are something far harder to determine. So we should exercise a high degree of awareness about our use of this tool. We should reserve our ‘likes’ for things that we not only truly and actually appreciate, but only for those that we find great meaning in. We have cheapened likes through overuse and as a result it is cheapening our values. We may give these likes with the very best of intentions, but that is merely the content of ‘liking’. Far more influential on the world we live in than content, is context. And the context of the like mechanism is incredibly complex. When something is incredibly complex, it is wise not to use it unless you are certain it is absolutely appropriate.
This is not just nitpicking. Our world is rapidly transforming. The central tenet and ends of this transformation is reputation. Reputation is being constructed from platforms like social media and tools like the like button. If we are not very careful and consciously alert of the world we are shaping with these tools, then we are going to end up a sloppy, gaudy mishmash of accidental values that result in a technological dystopia. We are in a transition period in which the rapid construction of a new era for humanity is being formed through interactions that are happening without a very great degree of awareness. If we do not begin to exercise some self-restraint and control and start to consider our actions in a much larger context, then we are in that proverbial car I mentioned earlier, using our heads to press the acceleration pedal down instead of to look out the windshield and see where we are heading and what else is out there.
I plan to begin using the ‘like’ button much less. Almost not at all. It is unfortunate that some people will find me to be cold and anti-social for doing so. I will almost certainly be measured by the stinginess of my like button usage. My failure to provide reward stimulus in social media forums will probably get me ignored or distrusted and despised. I will likely appear to be a total dick for not playing along with the game of coercive and compulsive liking. Yet I assure you that I do so not because I do not value the contributions and thoughts of others, but because I value them too much to water them down with automata and overly obvious behaviors.
Here is how I will now be using the like button, and suggest others who share my concerns do the same. Only like original content that I completely agree with and support. If I have no connection to the person who created the content, chances are that I will not like it unless the topic/subject and the ideas about them are something I am actually truly and fully amazed by. I will never like a meme, for it comes with its own complex set of problems. I will not like comments, unless they contain content that is absolutely flooring. Liking something just because I agree is intellectually dishonest, condescending and pretentious. I will no longer like anything for a reason other than that I actually specifically and literally like the actual content concerned as well as the context which it belongs in and contributes towards. And while I am certain that this is not going to make me very popular in social media, as least I can be comfortable knowing that I am not contributing to the Idiocracy by misusing and underestimating a very powerful tool that is shaping our future whether we believe and understand that or not.
It is not the things that we intend to do that become ruinous to our species and world- it is the things we do not intend to do, understand that we did, or that produce outcomes contrary to our intent because we didn’t think it far enough through. Humans can no longer just do what feels good and hope for the best. Our civilization is far too complex and becoming increasingly so. We stand now on the precipice of enlightenment or oblivion, and only constant attention to the world around us and making the right choices based on a high degree of understanding will save us from the latter.
Ronda says to the bartender, “Shot of bourbon with a beer back, please.”
Charlie then orders, “Double shot of bourbon, no chaser. I prefer to go bareback.”
Not be outdone, Trump asks the bartender for a triple shot with a vodka chaser, explaining, “Any more than three shots and I usually end up on the floor casting vomit spells the rest of the night, but what the hell, right?”
The bartender pours the drinks and while handing Trump his vodka chaser wryly comments, “May the fourth bewitch you.”
Although my opening pun seems to explain the title of this article, it was not the inspiration for it. The title came from pulling a few keyword subjects out of Google’s biggest searches of 2015. It is an obviously blatant attempt to opportunize on the internet’s most popular themes. And while I will certainly take any traffic that comes this blogs way, I really am trying to make a larger point here. Much of what you see on the internet has its genesis in similar logic. Capitalizing on popularity without much regard to the quality or originality of content. That is what makes ad revenue and that is what gets the greatest response at websites and in social media.
Author Bret Easton Ellis, perhaps best known as author of the cult classic novel American Psycho, recently wrote a piece sharing some of the same concerns I have been having about internet culture. In ‘Living In the Cult of Likability‘ he discusses how technical aspects of social media lend themselves to an ever-narrowing channel of groupthink, compulsive approval and unearned validation. He further goes on to discuss what this means in a Reputation Economy. While I think he is mistaken in suggesting that we already have a RepEcon, he is absolutely right about what this behavior would mean to such a paradigm. A saccharine, plasticine dystopia. In the words of Quasi’s Sam Coomes…
“A cardboard world of painted skies, ’cause we all must agree to believe in the lies.”
Where Ellis misunderstands a reputation economy is that he sees the early evolutionary markers of the thing as the thing itself. A RepEcon is not really possible alongside scarcity and currency-based economics. It cannot be achieved until certain technological and sociopolitical advances come about. Yet despite the fact that we do not have a RepEcon, we do have a lot of the early indicators of one. As I have discussed in the past, online rating and review systems as well as the way that social networks are structured and how monetary rewards for online content operate are all glances into the future in their infancy. In them we can see how a RepEcon might operate, and based on that, Bret is absolutely correct to be concerned and a bit horrified.
Should a future in which reputation is the economic status of the individual ever happen, and that reputation is determined on the metrics, culture and validation symbols that are intrinsic to the burgeoning progenitors we have now, it will be a neon Idiocracy. The internet has become a bastion of pandering, marketing and manipulation. At the same time it has also increasingly become a source of identity, status and passive consensus. The combination of these things is that the most popular content is often the most calculated and manipulative garbage which then becomes culturally canonized by our most basic desire to gain acceptance. It is creating a feedback loop in which what we want and what we are given are increasingly narrowing in scope into the most basic things we can agree upon. We are told what to like, which then sends back a signal about what we like, which then is used to create more of what we were told to like to begin with. And every time these symbols travel around that feedback loop these lose more of their signal and become ever-degrading symbols devoid of any substance except that which can be exploited by opportunists as another way to manipulate us.
The sad part is that in social media, we do most of this to ourselves. The vapid patterns of behavior in Facebook and elsewhere are self-replicating patterns of self-validation and consensus gathering. From posturing the perfect life to expressing ourselves ever more simplistically through the appealing reductivism of memes, we are creating a lowest common denominator of the individual by which we are identified by ourselves and others, especially the predatory opportunists. These forms continue to reduce human experience and distill it into a picture of normality which we are then invited and inspired to achieve. The current forms of online reputation gathering and display work not to create value from the reputation of the individual, but from their acceptance of and aspiration to a false construct of normality.
And there are far more insidious ways that technology is catering to us against our best interest. One researcher believes it will be possible to derive our emotional states from how we are using our mouse. He plans to use this technology as a tool for web designers and marketers to cater to the responses of their users to certain types of content and formatting. Using the information, site administrators, content creators and advertisers can then produce online materials geared for the lowest common denominator. Big Data is watching our every move and figuring out how to best profit from it. It is spawning more and more technologies to measure our responses so they can be used to manipulate us into behaviors that profit those funding Big Data. It does so at the expense of the individual and at the complexity which drives human progress towards greater harmony by creating an illusion of harmony that is nothing more than an intellectual trap.
Where my original vision of the RepEcon was starry-eyed and wistful, I have come to see some of the catastrophic pitfalls should that reputation economy be based on the values perpetuated by the current forms of social media, internet culture and these technologies intrinsic technical structures. A healthy reputation economy requires healthy sets of human values that strive towards higher complexity, not more meaningless consensus constructed from the manipulative paradigms of the industrialist era. If our values do not improve and come to recognize the beauty and strength of outsiders, eccentrics and other staples of a healthy intellectual community, then the RepEcon will evolve humanity into a pitiful Idiocracy of desperate infantile behaviors seeking validation by denying their own individuality.
I have a few more upcoming articles about the RepEcon planned for the near future, just as soon as I get done spending the loads of cash that flow in from this blog. Don’t be afraid to click those share buttons just below. 😉
As a long time Discordian I was excited to see the internet spreading the message of Discordianism far wider than pamphlets and books were ever able to. I find the philosophy suggested by this ‘satirical’ religion to be in possession of some valuable truths with ideological premises that can be used to understand all facets of reality. I believed that were Discordianism to ever reach a greater audience, the encroaching Idiocracy might be avoided. So I have been devastated to find that the internet, particularly social media, has managed to dumb down Discordianism itself into a meaningless excuse for all sorts of mindless and often juvenile behavior.
While you can find evidence of this behavior at Reddit, Tumblr and other online meeting places for ‘Discordians’, nowhere is it more pronounced than on Facebook. The Discordian Society group on Facebook has almost 12,000 members and is the most prime example of Discordianism having been co-opted by AOL-era internet trolls. And while trolling itself is a valid form of Operation Mindfuck when done properly, the type being done by these people has no particular ideological agenda, but is just an outlet for cheap shock and attention seeking of the most juvenile sorts. These people have so little reverence for actual Discordianism that they even dumb it down further by calling it ‘Disco’.
Disco Trolls do not understand that the parables regarding, and satirical veneration of Eris are actually a complex recognition of the nature of existence. Instead they think that Eris is a symbol of literal chaos-worship whose rituals require acts of chaos. Besides missing the point here, the juvenile behavior is not even chaotic. It is just crude low brow shock humor that often includes sexism, racism and other bigotries and bad ideas as their premise. There is nothing chaotic about that. There is nothing even ‘edgy’ about it, which is the aim of Disco Trolls. Edgy would be to upset some mainstream ideologies and status quo paradigms, not to vacuously replicate them in your own image for shock value. In a world being dumbed down, intelligence is edgy. But intelligence is regarded by Disco Trolls as a cause for ridicule and abuse. Any attempt to act outside of the narrow confines of their groupthink activities is despised and when you point out their general intellectual blasphemy you are met with vicious attacks of the kind that Greyface himself would take pride in.
The most common activity taking place on Discordian social media is the making and disseminating of memes, which is also the most common activity throughout most of social media. There is nothing at all edgy about memes. Nothing could be more commonplace or normal than meme-ing. And quite possibly nothing could be more dangerous to critical thinking and human intelligence than the anti-intellectual context of that medium, which seems to replicate like a virus, invading places where there was once healthy intellectual tissue with image based reductionism and oversimplification. Yet if you point this out to Disco Trolls, their only comeback is to invoke the internet buzzword ‘butthurt‘, which is a spell people online use to ward of any attempts at actually understanding someone else’s ideological position. In the rare case a more extensive argument was made to defend memes, it was to call the behavior an art form, which is like calling commercial jingles music. It is also suggested that memes are similar to the images used in The Principia Discordia, but the contexts of time and medium make that comparison meaningless.
What all this adds up to is a large group of people who are convinced they are being rebellious by taking part in the most normal activities possible, while trying to spread their false discord by kindertrolling their own choir. And as if all of this attention seeking juvenile behavior were not obvious enough, Disco Trolls often appear to be emotionally damaged and self-esteem deficient individuals who use blatant hyperbolized sexuality to booster their frail egos. Sharing nudes with strangers online is not edgy sexuality, it is a desperate plea to get attention with the least amount of effort. There is nothing wrong with human sexuality, but people who wrap their identities in it are not healthy expressions of it, they are examples of emotional insecurities not so dissimilar to the sexually repressed. Lest you believe I am just being a prude, this behavior has nothing to do with sex, and everything to do with validation. There is nothing transcendent about people seeking validation by appealing to the instincts of others.
Why do I care so much about morons co-opting the the name Discordianism and using it as a label to justify stupid, sophomoric behavior? Because social media is where people are likely to first encounter Discordianism these days. And where those philosophies once were able to awaken people to some powerful metaphors through humor, those who encounter Disco Trolls may never see the deep truths contained therein, and will instead be redirected to participate in a symbolic replica of Discordianism with none of the substance. What was once a tool of enlightenment has been relegated by social network habits into another factor in our devolution. It has made an illness of a medicine.
So if you participate in the above described behaviors but actually have some intellectual honesty, dignity and respect for Discordianism, you might want to consider changing your habits. And if you read this before you have been indoctrinated by Disco Trolls into their pink world of false slack, don’t confuse those intolerable Normals for Discordians. And if you are one of those Disco Trolls who reads this and you get pissy and defensive about it, remember- “Tis an ill wind that blows no minds.”
“Let me hit you with some facts.” – Is this a metaphor about relating facts or about our growing misuse of them as tools of aggression?
Since the dawn of the ‘Age of Reason’ western culture has been heavily concerned with transcending the subjective nature of the individual by seeking out methods that aspire to some degree of objectivity. This was all set in order with the understanding that absolute objectivity was not possible. Even if an objective truth existed, we could not experience it without running it through our subjective perceptions and interpretations. Yet while objective methods are a noble achievement that has done immeasurable good for human progress, over time we have increasingly come to believe too literally in the validity of objective truths, often observed as an over-reliance and unshakable faith in facts.
“As a matter of fact.” -Although this term now carries a connotation of facts as sole mediators of logical validation, it was originally used to separate statements of facts from those of laws, facts being irrelevant in the eyes of the latter.
What exactly is a fact? A fact is a single piece of information that we are able to verify through observations, predictive models, repetition and consensus. A fact is a single factor we can use to draw logical conclusions from. But facts are not themselves conclusions, nor is any conclusion based upon a single fact worthy of rational consideration.The most useful and durable conclusions are often those consistent with the greatest number of facts. Yet even with millions of supporting facts a conclusion may be useless or irrational. Facts are always subject to our subjective perceptions and interpretations, so facts alone are not reliable enough to be the sole basis from which conclusions are drawn.
Example of Misuse of Facts:
Police and their supporters often attempt to use a limited set of facts to make very broad conclusions. One of the most commonly misinterpreted and misapplied facts is this- “Violent criminals are unpredictable and can commit violence against LEO’s at any time.”
The conclusion they draw from this is- “An officer is justified in using deadly force whenever the feel they are in danger.”
The first and most obvious reason this is a bad conclusion is that not everybody who makes cops ‘feared for my life’ is a violent criminal. Often they are sick, scared and confused individuals who are in need of patient and compassionate assistance. It also ignores a number of other facts, especially the facts of law, morals and decency. The singling in on a single fact to support a conclusion which codifies violence into an acceptable part of police routine fits with far fewer facts than it negates. And so the use of facts here is often too limited to support the conclusion that police are justified in so much wanton killing.
A better way to interpret the real fact of danger might be this- “Protecting and serving the community is a dangerous job, so those who are more concerned with their own safety than with that of every member of the community should not become police officers.”
A strong conclusion often owes far more to logic and consistency than to facts. Logic is a basic set of rules we can use to measure the validity of any statement. Thus logic can dictate what facts are relevant to our questions, statements and conclusions, and which are not. It can tell us the relationship between individual facts or sets of them, and suggest a pattern of analysis appropriate to our basic premise. Yet even after you have made conclusions from logical interpretation of facts, those conclusions are unreliable until they have been tested against entire networks of interdependent and complexly related conclusions. The more consistent they are with the bigger picture of human knowledge at large, the more useful and durable they become. Conclusions that negate more outside knowledge than they confirm are considered weak, regardless of how strong they may appear a single entity. Rational thinkers are therefore more concerned with overall ideological consistency than with individual facts.
This highlights another prominent problem in our modern intellectual climate, which is that most of us are far less concerned with being consistently rational than we are with being Right. Our competitive and dichotomous nature often eschews the evolution and improvement of our individual intellectual landscapes, so instead we seek out symbolic gestures of truths that can be weaponized to obliterate our ‘opponents’. This describes the average persons relationship with facts. They are mental bullets fired from the barrel of our egos.
“Time to face the facts.” -Does it say anything that we think of facts as potentially harmful, or as some kind of punishment?
The misguided obsession with facts as the only meaningful part of human knowledge is not only irrational, it is another factor contributing to our dumbing down. When we treat facts as commodities to be consumed and excreted for our self-gratification, we move ever further away from the holistic models of human knowledge that provide us a view at the bigger picture. Factnaticism becomes a method by which we zoom in to a single facet of knowledge out of ignorance or intolerance of wider views. They become mental crutches by which we validate our emotional states and confirm our biases while at the same time shutting ourselves off from new ideas, information and perspectives.
In and of themselves there is nothing wrong with facts. But an over-reliance on them based on a misunderstanding of their purpose and function for the sake of self-gratification, identity and external validation is a massive problem. Firstly because it is wholly irrational, in-compassionate and destructive to our critical thinking faculties. While at the same time it is also a problem because it undermines the value of facts; as well as their analysis and interpretations. When facts become weapons of mass instruction, the reasonable epistemological faith in their meaningfulness and usefulness will erode under the intellectual attrition created by this small mindedness.
And on a personal level, if you don’t use facts wisely you will be used by them, or used by those for whom facts are only convenient tidbits for controlling the contents of your mind.
Facticuffs- The use of facts to draw wide conclusions from limited intellectual vigor for the purpose of ‘winning’ a discussion.
Human beings possess a great number of virtuous characteristics. Much of what makes us unique individuals are the infinite possible combinations and degrees of these virtues (and flaws). Most of the time we are able to recognize the virtues of others and honor them. We generally have no problem appreciating virtues in others that we do not possess ourselves. Yet today there is one virtue that our culture makes a great show of proclaiming the most virtuous of all virtues, while at the same time largely failing to recognize and appreciate it. In fact, those who possess it often become the subject of scorn. That virtue is intelligence.
If I said that I was good at sports or could draw or play the piano well, nobody would accuse me of being an intolerable egomaniac or narcissist. However, if I were to make any claim to, or even insinuate intellectual prowess, I would be derided and despised by people at all levels of the intellectual spectrum. I am intelligent. I worked incredibly hard to get that way for little more reward than the despair entailed by being intelligent in an unappreciative and apathetic society. Just as athletes endure the physical pain of training and artists and musicians endure the emotional pain of bare expression even while practicing, I have put a lot of painful effort into rising above the average intellectual standards of this time and place in history. This is not to say that I am one of the most intelligent people in the world (definitely not) or that it makes me a better overall human being. It is simply a recognition of a virtue I have achieved through a great amount of conscious effort over many years. Yet it is a certainty that this very writing will create the kind of backlash against me that I specifically discuss as being a major problem for our species.
As a writer for CopBlock.org I am regularly subject to attacks against my intelligence. Ignorance can be found in no greater abundance than where it pools up around authoritarianism. These attacks happen in place of a rational rebuttal of the things which I wrote. This alone is often a potent clue as to the intellectual capacity of the commenter, but their intelligence comes into even greater question when you examine the vocabulary, conceptual over-simplicity and logical fallacies that their responses consist of. Even worse is that they judge my intellect (rather than my ideas) not on its own merits, but on the sole basis that I disagree with their opinions and worldview. The wider the intelligence gap between myself and the commenter, the more voraciously vicious and resistant to reason they become.
That some people have a lower capacity for intellectual pursuits is not itself problematic. What is troublesome is the inability for people to recognize intellects greater than their own, and for them to center their attack based on their ignorance of intelligence. I would not expect people to agree with another’s opinions or worldviews based solely on a judgement of their intelligence. Yet when people fail to consider new information and ideas due to an underlying prejudice against those who disagree with them, which they falsely equate with intellectual inferiority, they create a feedback loop of circular reasoning that reinforces and strengthens their ignorance. This is the most surefire way to obtain and maintain a state of stupidity. When you ignore or deny everyone who might be able to teach you something new or how to see things differently, you create yourself a trap in which your evolution and growth are stunted completely. And this is now occurring at an exponential and alarming rate.
This growing pattern has created a hostile and dangerous trend in our society. An increase in the sum of human intelligence does not require everybody to rise above average. History is full of individuals whose singular efforts were able to bring new knowledge and its resulting applications to all of humanity. All that was required of humanity was to recognize, respect and trust those geniuses and their ideas. The dependence on a tiny fraction of individuals to recognize and solve the worlds problems and questions has worked tremendously well in moving our species ever ahead. Yet as the trend of denying and even despising superior individual intelligence has rendered useless a resource that our species has always relied upon most for progress and clarity.
As intelligence itself becomes a less acknowledged and respected trait, it faces extinction. Devaluing it, or instead valuing a false symbolic replacement, means that it will decrease as a selection trait for breeding partners, which leads us down an evolutionary path to self destruction. When we fail to respect and honor intelligence we remove the motivation for individuals to seek it out and attain it through hard work. Finally, it diminishes any examples of intelligence which could inspire future individuals and become a basis for their own explorations. We are quite literally creating the perfect evolutionary conditions by which the virtue of human intelligence could become extinct.
It becomes necessary to ask how we got to this point. While public education, mainstream media and the other tools of the oligarchy are obvious targets, I suspect a far more insidious threat has recently become a massive part of our collective consciousness. The problem I am discussing is our increasing tendency to replace substance with symbols. Like the Scarecrow who can only recognize his own intelligence after the Wizard of Oz gives him a diploma, we have come to identify symbols for intelligence as being intelligence itself. The top down bureaucracy of modern society has created an ideology which reframes intelligence as a commodity. It has become the consumption and acquisition of these symbols that we equate with intelligence. Our lauding of intelligence as the ultimate virtue serves only to pay lip service a concept that has been rendered meaningless in the semiotic confusion surrounding it. We have redefined intelligence in accordance with our widespread vapid consumerism, or at least, have allowed it to be redefined thusly for us by those who profit from that ideology.
No where is this symbol over substance problem more apparent than on the internet, especially in social media and comments sections. The internet has acquired a wealth of symbolic baggage that replaces or attempts to dismiss critical thinking, rational argumentation and the cogent expression of complex ideas. It has become a veritable battleground of compulsive reductivism, where every aspect of human experience is distilled down into a MEME. And when we are not busy oversimplifying complex ideas in image forms, we use a limited vocabulary of buzzwords in place of a rational response. Rather than consider somebody’s thoughts and ideas, we dismiss them as being BUTTHURT and then walk away as though victorious. Since emotional states are subjective individual phenomena, they cannot be measured externally by those not directly experiencing them. So it is logically meaningless to make conjecture about another person’s emotional states for the purpose of attributing the products of their intellect to them.
The internet has created an entire language and method for dismissing those we disagree with for the very worst and most misguided reasons. And since the frequency of this behavior increases all of the time, we are spending ever increasing amounts of time and effort contributing to our own dumbing down. We become ever more proficient at practicing our ignorance with great efficiency, thereby alienating ourselves from and destroying the intelligence needed to save us from this self-perpetuating cycle. Unfortunately, these behaviors are now transcending the internet and becoming part of our in-person interactions and penetrating the entire fabric of our culture.
The fictional world of Mike Judge’s prophetic film ‘Idiocracy’ is increasingly becoming our reality. Ignorance and symbolic impostors of intellect are celebrated, reinforced and rewarded, while genuine intelligence becomes more and more alien and unrecognizable. Many people can no longer even recognize the authentic substance, let alone exercise healthy ways of reacting to it. If Einstein were alive today it is not unthinkable that his genius would be met with the assessment that his ‘shit’s fucked up and he talks like a fag.’ This momentum is creating a real-life Idiocracy that, if unchecked, could lead to the destruction of our entire species and planet. In the modern world, an Idiocracy could not exist long. We rely on intelligence for things as basic as maintaining nuclear power plants which would, without the attention of intelligent humans, create an existential risk of massive proportions. We could very literally self-destruct from our own de-evolution into willful ignorance and prideful stupidity.
Despite the fact that I just went into great detail explaining the grave danger of the rising ignorance of intelligence, I am certain to be subjected to the very behaviors I just warned against. People will still take the opportunity to prove my point by responding in the very ways I have rationally deconstructed for them. Like children at arcade without quarters, they will insist they are winning when they have failed to understand even the most basic facts about the game. Their pointless button-pushing and joystick movements will come in the form of responding with memes or the old ‘yer just butthurt’ and their victory statement will be the frustrated child’s cry of “Nuhn uhn, YER STOOPID!”
And yet I must seriously consider that to be the case. If I were really all that smart I might attempt to destroy the very fabric of the universe and spare us further shame and misery, instead of making feeble attempts to help our species rise above its own ignorance and the doom it entails. Maybe all those super villains had it right.
In the past few decades an insidious ideology has taken root in the American consciousness. Based on irrational fears and a neurotic inability to accept the most basic facts of our existence, this pervasive worldview has infected every corner our culture. It transcends class, race, gender, sexuality, religion or any other categorical division. It often comes paired with extreme prejudice, xenophobia, paranoia and excessive hubris. It has penetrated our communities, institutions and even made its way into our recreation. This ideology, which elevates the quantitative measures of our existence far above its quality, is something I like to call the Cult of Survivalism.
If you think that this problem is limited to’ preppers’ and right-wing extremists, you have not been paying very close attention to your surroundings. Each day you are bombarded from every direction with subtle-to-glaringly direct messages about safety and survival. The constant reminder of your immortality paired with false-yet-profitable reassurances invades everything. It drives mindless consumerism, while it feeds endless warfare and the police state. It works as a reverse bait, attracting us away from our critical thinking, morality and ethical principles. It drives corporate profits and the growth of the state by manipulating and taking advantage of our greatest weakness. And it reverse engineers the tale of our journey through history to rationalize a crippling attachment to our own darkest thoughts and the terror they create for ourselves and others.
The Cult of Survivalism tells us that ‘survival is everything’. Whatever you have to do to come out alive is the right thing to do. An underlying tenet of this worldview is that death is not okay. Even in a nation full of people who supposedly tend to believe in a higher power and afterlife, death is lamented as an intolerable side effect of living. Our inability to come to terms with the inevitable and the uncertainty it entails causes even the truest believer in heaven or reincarnation to recoil at the thought of their own mortality.
We have become so obsessed with living that we have consented to waive the benefits it confers so long as a false sense of security is safely blanketed over every aspect of daily life. So irrationally deep has our fear of death become that we have allowed living to be put in a partially animated state in order to drag ourselves grudgingly through time without regard to meaning or purpose. And in the name of survival, not only will we surrender our freedoms, liberties and psychological well being to those who most threaten them, we beg of them to spare us the certain uncertainty we cannot escape even with the greatest leap of logic. So sanctimonious have we become about self-preservation, that we no longer care to question what we are preserving or why.
You will die. There may or not be an afterlife. What happens between then and now cannot be measured meaningfully in time, but only in joy, love, hope, creativity and the subjective qualities that provide the meaning and purpose of our otherwise indefinable lives.
Our police are full of individuals who are trained in-house and by culture at large to ‘fear for their lives’. In doing so they kill indiscriminately. We forgive them even when it seems obviously unjustified because we sympathize with the fear, and not with the victim. Our military and its soldiers are praised for wanton killing, even if it involves more innocent casualties than targets killed, because they ‘die for us and protect our freedoms’. Again, we rationalize wholesale death, not because it directly resulted in lives saved or improved, but because the symbolic gestures alone signify an emotional truth that does not reconcile at all with the observable truth.
Even those who promote individual liberty and recognize the deceitful machinations of the ruling elite are prone to survival at any cost ideologies. We use physicalist definitions of reality to ward ourselves against all other truths.
Television and other media are ripe with apocalyptic themes, from zombies and aliens, to all manner of existential risks. The zeitgeist of our time is an existential fear that eschews rational reflection of our being. We are constantly reminded to fear our death, be reminded how immanent it is, and asked to sacrifice our individuality, morality and ethics to avoid it. If this is the case, we might as well be dead. Death provides an uncertainty which implies limitless possibilities. The Cult of Survivalism reduces us to a mere part with a singular trivial purpose. It robs us of a curiosity and understanding towards the nature and inevitability of our demise. The Cult of Survivalism is the ultimate form of denial.
Today the United States and the western world claim to be at war with ‘terrorists’. However the definition of terrorism used by police and the military, as well as the other alphabet soup of government bureaucracies, is far more applicable to them than anyone else they supposedly ‘protect’ us from.
It is little wonder then that we are gripped with a pervasive cultural Islamaphobia. Any culture that produces even a fraction of people willing to die for a better quality of life are easy to label ‘others’. Those whose values are more important than their survival provide a direct threat to the American ideology that values can easily be cast aside if it facilitates even a tiny chance of existential endurance. And from this difference between us comes the justification of wholesale death. The world is doomed by our cultural bias toward Cult of Survivalism ideology, especially when it generates so much backlash against us and feeds an ever-growing cycle of violence. As long as two opposing groups are willing and able to find subjects to participate in a war of attrition, peace can never be made.
Accept death. Do not welcome nor fear it. Do not invite or needlessly deny it. Accept death and your life has meaning and purpose. Deny it and you also deny any justification for your own existence. The Cult of Survivalism is already passing around the cups, but so long as not all of us have drank their Kool Aid, there is still some hope to escape the self-fulfilling prophecy of total annihilation that is the central belief of their worldview.
When you examine the social phenomena of scientism, the dogmatic belief that science is the only meaningful way to understand or convey ideas about our existence, it begins to become clear that the reason it has become so cultural invasive is the tenuous ideological relationship between science and technology. There can be little doubt that technology has improved our lives in untold ways, even while sometimes harming us and the environment in the process. The gratitude for technological advancements are then often given to the scientists who developed them, and in the process science itself becomes elevated to a God-like status of creation. Considering how a quasi-religious belief in the infallibility of the empirical method has grown from this paradigm, it might be fair to ask- Is science really solely responsible for technological advancement?
Lets explore this through the medium of technology itself.
Ralph wants to make his girlfriend a piece of jewelry for the holidays. His 3-D printer is capable of creating any design out of precious metals, so long as he can program its parameters properly. Even though Ralph is quite capable of programming any design, the analytical prowess that allows him to do so does not really help when it comes to aesthetic creativity. So using Google Image Search, he looks for a design that he can program into a 3D model. The resulting jewelry is beautiful and his girlfriend is duly grateful and impressed.
Now the question is, did Ralph create the jewelry? Sure, he programmed and operated the machine, which in turn manufactured the jewelry. Yet it is possible that the machine could be programmed to do a web search and transfer 2D art in to 3D jewelry without Ralph. But what the machine could not do is to create the original 2D artwork itself. And even if it could, it would only be predicated on algorithms obtained by studying the artwork of humans that came before the machine. At least for now, machines have no aesthetic prowess. While at the same time, machines are already beginning to illustrate the ability to reprogram themselves and adapt human artifacts into computational models. Ralph is the weakest link in the chain.
Now let us explore this another way.
Janess grows up reading science fiction novels, her favorite of which is a series featuring a machine that allows people to share sensory perceptions. So intrigued is she by this fictional technology that during the course of her education she takes a path that will lead her into a career which allows her to explore the possibility of creating such a device. And lo and behold, she eventually does create such a device, which radically changes the face of the world for the better in uncountable ways.
Should Janess receive all of the credit for the creation of this device? Would she have grown up to do such a thing had she never read those books as a child? Would any scientist have ever imagined the invention for themselves had not it been used in a purely speculative matter by the author first?
It is quite possible that, yes, they may have. Creativity and analytic thinking are not necessarily exclusive of one another. Yet when we look around us at the world of modern technological marvels, most of them do have a genesis in some purely abstract idea that preceded them in paintings, sculpture, literature, film, etc.
Science fiction, since its inception in the latter half of the 19th Century, has been the sketchbook for many of the technological artifacts we use today. Long before we began building rockets to travel into space, the idea was dreamed up by writers like Jules Verne, who then inspired early rocket developers like Jack Parsons. Before you were ever reading articles like this on a handheld electronic device, writers like Isaac Asimov were writing about them, while cinematic artists then adapted visual forms of them in science fiction outlets like Star Trek, which then influenced the scientists and designers who created them.
What I am trying to relate is not that science is unimportant. I am not even trying to rank importance here, but to illustrate the interdependence between the seemingly divergent methodologies of art and science. Yet scientism has done just that. It has given undue credit to a single methodology and ranked human methods and disciplines according to it’s own singular criteria. And such a cultural force could be potentially disastrous.
The emphasis on math and science in our culture, through educational institutions and media, comes at the expense of arts and humanities. Our dogmatic insistence in the superiority of the empirical method in creating more human and environmental wealth and harmony than other methods may have a destructive cost. What would happen in a world full of scientists? Who would create the symbols and ideas that inspired their developments? Who would explore their social influence and ethical consequences? Science without art is like a lab technician without a theoretician. Science without art is like an instrument without a melody. Science without art is like conductivity without electricity.
Our ideologically embarrassing pitfall into the clutches of scientism has become a potentially destructive strain on the relationship between the interdisciplinary feedback that allows different kinds of human intelligence to work together for the greater good. It becomes critical then not just to question scientism in culture and science itself, but to restore the prestige deserved by the arts and humanities so that they might thrive. Not just because they are a part of our humanity, but because their neglect will eventually have destructive consequences for science, technology and the health of our species and it’s environment.
What can I say about Butthurt that has not already been said? It was a word. And we used it. I used it. Everybody used it.
Some people said that Butthurt was just another slang term, like all the rest. But slang is a subcultures way of going against the status quo. When it has been co-opted by mainstream society it is no longer slang. It is no longer a meaningful challenge to the majority consensus.
So we must take responsibility for the death of Butthurt. Through our repetition we robbed it of its vitality, purpose and meaning. Rather than using only as a taunt for people who were so frustrated they could no longer respond reasonably to an argument, we began replacing reasonable arguments by dismissing our opponents with the claims that they were just ‘butthurt’. It is funny how the very thing Butthurt stood against, it eventually became.
Let us not remember Butthurt as it was just before it died. Let us not remember it as the substance that had become completely erased by the symbol for itself. Let us remember it in a time when it stood proud and tall, imposing utter wreckage on those who let their emotions and other automatic responses replace sound reasonable arguments; not as the emotional response it eventually became itself. Let us honor it by engaging in critical thinking and having discussions of merit that do not just immediately slide right into internet buzzwords and cliches.
And finally, let us not take it’s name in vain. Remembrance of Butthurt should be done in silence, reverence and piety to Intellect.
In Pornhubs name we pray, Ramen.
Butthurt was preceded in death by ‘Epic’ and Memes and is survived by ‘Like A Boss’, Game Requests ‘I Support the’ and Star Wars Syndrome.
The more time goes on, the more that I really come to hate internet memes. It would be enough to hate them for just how stupid they are on their own merits, but when we consider that they may also be dumbing us down, they go from to idiotic to problematic.
The first issue applies mostly to memes under the category of ‘humor’ or ‘funny’. The problem is that most of them are not funny. In fact, most of them do not even seem to be very authentic attempts at humor. In many cases some generic image and statement are slapped together and rely merely on contextual premises. This is especially true of images that get meme’d over and over again. Take, for instance, Conspiracy Keanu. The subtext that the meme is funny precedes the actual memes that are made from it. From this presumption all sorts of terribly stupid, innate or boring bits of texts can be pasted over it and it still has a supposed underlying funniness because the image is a symbol that is meant to suggest or imply humor.
This is much the same way that laugh tracks work. A mediocre or terrible sitcom relies on laugh tracks to make the unfunny seem funny. It provides a contextual funniness that exists only in symbol, but not in substance. It is an attempt to subvert your reasoning and taste in order to draw a desired response. It is manipulation. And so are memes. And while almost nobody intends to manipulate others with memes in the symbolic way I have discussed, it happens nonetheless. And it is happening on such a wide scale that its total effect on our culture and consciousness should not be so easily discounted.
Next worse are the memes that use shock or snark in their content. The shock memes are really the most juvenile form of internet humor there is. That is not to say that there is not some value in shocking media, but at the same time that memes are intended to be shocking, the nature of its medium makes it a highly conformist activity, which negates any meaningful shock value. When memes are the norm, there can be little shocking about them. So it largely becomes a masturbatory circle of jaded fools trying to outdo one another in order to seek attention. And its okay to desire attention, but to do it in such a cliched and pedestrian way is pretty disgusting.
Snark is similar. Yet the thing that is extra gross about meme snark is that there is an underlying assumption that meme snark equates to truth. Many people will use one of these memes in comments sections to dismiss entire complex ideas. Meanwhile the irritating self-satisfaction of the sharer is obvious, while at the same time unearned. The subtext beneath memes becomes a form of automatic thinking. The medium gives weight to something via unspoken contextual clues while being devoid of any meaningful content.
The usage of memes as responses to larger ideas or dialogues is infuriating. It is intellectually lazy. It replaces opportunities to have meaningful discussions with the automated behavior of simply pasting in a meme. And there are no logical responses to memes, so they rob logic and reason and intellect from the entire situation and replace it with visual cliche. Despite the potential of the social media to awaken minds and provide a forum for information exchange and valuable discussions that lead to growth and evolution, it has become a wasteland for seeking attention and validation for completing the merely symbolic function of meme distribution.
This problem, the problem of symbol over substance, permeates our culture both online and off. We reinforce our own ignorance and automatic thought and behavior by replacing things of merit or substance with things that have nothing more than a symbolic function. This kind of problematic thinking and acting permeates every subject and issue we face. Politicians and advertisers have long understood how to manipulate us using our automated responses to certain symbolic stimuli. The subliminal. The unspoken but implied. These tricks are used to disrupt our reason and free will. So why in the hell would we be using similar tricks to entertain one another? The result of meme activity will be to further degrade free thinking and reason. Not as part of some grand conspiracy, but as a side effect of an activity we saw only as harmless fun, rather than as a contribution to the reinforcement of our own worst mindless habits. It does not matter what is intended. The effect transcends your motivation.
So for Eris’ sake, stop with the memes already! If for no other reason than to return some value to them by removing all of the mediocrity and repetition. And if you ever reply to me in an online conversation with a meme, prepare to get this article in response!
Details of a study claiming that true female heterosexuality is scientifically disprovable hit the internet today, causing an explosion of ‘I knew it!‘s to blanket social media in a matter of hours. And while everyone was busy validating their own sexual fantasies, I was once again left feeling alone and alienated in a culture so quick to swallow whatever scientistic snake oil it was being sold by sketchy researchers doing dubious studies.
The first hint that the study results and their eager media approval were total cockamamie bullshit were the words ‘all’ and ‘never’. These kind of absolutes just do not exist when discussing individuals, who are all fundamentally unique. Since my readers from CopBlock.org will recognize that I have often claimed that all cops are bad, I will explain the difference. When we speak of all cops as being bad, we are referring to the institution of policing as whole. In a rigidly defined system, such as policing, it becomes possible to make a generalization about all of its parts. But sexuality is not a rigidly defined institution or system, so we can not generalize about the individuals identity within these parameters. Further it defines women as a single group, rather than as one classification among many in a wide spectrum of individuals.
“Groups are grammatical fictions; only individuals exist, and each individual is different.”-Robert Anton Wilson
Let us first examine the science and its assumptions.
First of all, the test group is insufficient to make statements that apply to all women. I very much doubt there were aboriginal women tested at all. In fact, I am sure many other categorical parameters used to define women were not present for the study. Yet the conclusion includes statements about even their sexuality. Next, the size of the study is a pretty small sample group. There are several known medical conditions that exist that would not be found in a sample group of that size. So even if the study was an accurate marker of those who participated, it cannot account for all women.
My next issue is that the conclusions are based on physical response, but deny the individual experience and identity of women, making it both misogyny and scientism in one fell swoop. Earlier studies looking at sexual fluidity found that women were more likely to have physical response to just about anything remotely related to sexuality than men, including animals copulating. However, if one were to conclude that women were all into beastiality, there would be some serious concerns about the people making those statements. A biological response to a phenomena does not always lead to causation. And certainly when it comes to something as personal as our sexual preferences, these automated physical responses mean far less than how one experiences desire. It is our desire for specific kinds of sexual behavior that defines our sexuality, and not a statistical analysis of machine-acquired information. Denying our desire as the key component for sexual preference identity is the scientism of physicalist philosophy. While denying women’s own individual accounts and experiences of their sexuality in favor of strict binary absolutes beyond their own conscious desires absolutely reeks of the projection of male fantasy onto all of womanhood, and thus has at least a flavor of misogyny mixed in.
A common ‘conspiracy theory’ found often on social media is the claim that a movie, television show, book, etc. from before a major event predicted the event in question happening. The most popular of these involve 9/11, and these supposed ‘predictions’ can allegedly be found in The Simpsons, Back to the Future and a number of other cultural icons. While it is completely irrational to believe that 9/11 happened in the manner claimed by government and mainstream media, it is also irrational to believe that the events were predicted beforehand. In fact, the insinuation is generally not that the events were ‘predicted’ but were hinted at by the monolithic agency that both makes and influences media as well as government. But why would ‘The Illuminati’ (or whatever you wanna call it) go through all of the trouble of planting clues years ahead of time about an event that they planned to maintain secrecy over?
If you ask me, that seems both unlikely and irrational. I have a better idea.
Let us imagine that reality is two dimensional surface extending outward from any phenomena through space and time (the two dimensions). Since reality is a product of consciousness, an argument which I have made several times in recent articles and will not repeat here, let us call this two dimensional surface consciousness. Now let us regard every phenomena or event as a point somewhere along that surface. The occurrence of events and phenomena will cause a ripple to spread out from this axis point of space/time. The more potent the event/phenomena, the greater the ripple. A kid dropping their ice cream cone in the sandbox would effect, concern or be known by very few people, so its ripple would quickly dissipate.
However, an event like 9/11 that is known by and affects a large number of conscious beings would create a much larger ripple. This ripple would carry the symbols the event conjures in consciousness outward in space and time. Therefore our consciousness would contain symbols or ideas about the event even before it happen, which would then be manifested in the works of conscious beings. In this way we might imagine that the symbols of those towers falling would be embedded in consciousness to the degree that they would appear before the events that ‘inspire’ them ever occur.
If this ripple effect were real, how else might we notice it in reality?
Our last look at ‘predictions’ were all hindsight. However it is true that predictive powers do seem to be indicated by things like ESP and in the strange world of quantum theory. Psi-research has presented many instances in which predictive powers are far above statistical probability, suggesting that at some level, humans can and do consciously and/or unconsciously ‘predict’ events before they happen. The subatomic world is full of non-local interactions between particles, something Einstein was not very keen on and called “spooky action from a distance.” Despite his misgivings, years of research do seem to indicate that particles react to the activity and measurements of particles over great distances. But just as Einstein imagined gravity causing ripples in the space/time matrix, so might events. Especially if those events have more ‘gravity’ on conscious beings. Could the effects of ESP and quantum activity both be related to the same ripples in time/space that cause 9/11 to occur in cultural symbols long before the actual event?
How about even more intangible and arcane phenomena? Premonition, somewhat distinct from prediction in that it is often less specific and can occur in altered states of consciousness like dreaming, could also possibly be another area in which we can see this ripple effect.
Deja Vu, the feeling that you have experienced something present in the past, might also be a product of this ripple effect. The particular feeling that you have experienced an event/phenomena already may be due to the fact that you actually have, yet you were unable to understand the information you received prior to your arrival at the epicenter of time/space consciousness from which it flows outward from.
Synchronicity is much the same. The seeming connection between unconnected events/phenomena may be a conscious experience produced when ripples overlap and influence one another. The intersection of these ripples, experienced as symbolic abstractions, may just be an effect of remembering in reverse on more than one level at a time.
Regardless of whether or not this theory of the ripple effect is true, the number of non-local phenomena we experience as conscious beings is undeniable. Each on their own is easily dismissed as anomaly. Yet when we consider the recurrence of several forms of non-locality in the experience of human beings, we might be wise to view the phenomena as related. And if they are related, what is the singular cause? If the cause is just that we are faulty agents of consciousness who mix things too casually or project too easily, then the combined argument for anomaly becomes weaker in theory than in observation. While if we consider that reality is a bit stranger than we tend to imagine, but still depends on some logical forms, the idea of the ripple effect, remembering in reverse, becomes a plausible answer to a great number of phenomena regularly experienced by conscious entities throughout space and time.
Whether or not we believe in this phenomena will largely depend on our ability to break free from linear thinking, direct causation or any other dogma that rules our belief system from outside of ourselves. Which is to say, disbelief is itself just another ripple effect of ideological artifacts outside of our current space/time location.
While mainstream materialist science (scientism) attempts to build a working unified theory of reality, its agenda of producing profitable and pragmatic results often interferes with a cogent connectivity and consistency of data leaves it blind and ignorant to conclusions that actually support the evidence.
These are the questions that we hear in relation to problems that we encounter in our civilization. The central tenet of our belief system is that ‘doing’ is the only meaningful activity. We assume all problems just need a fresh coat of action in order to stop being problems. Yet this critically misses the obvious truth that under all those layers of action past the fundamental problems still remain. No matter how many times you try to freshen up an error, it still remains a failure at its core.
Even more insidious is what is meant by ‘doing’ most of the time. In our state-based social/economic/political systems, ‘doing’ often means employing the force of the state or of majorities. ‘Doing’ often means creating new systems to impose your will on others, or reforming old systems to do the same. More often than not, ‘doing’ is an act of aggression, or a contributing factor to other paradigms of aggression.
The old lady who eventually died of horse swallowing after a series of escalations following a fly ingestion incident was stuck in a feedback loop of ‘doing’. A rational person would have stopped swallowing things after the fly (not doing) and attempted to cough or vomit up the fly (undoing) if it posed a real threat, which it did not. It was only the act of repeated doings that escalated the situation to fatal levels, which is usually the case in these kind of matters.
Undoing may be argued to be a form of doing, which is right in some sense, but false in others. When I speak of undoing I mean tearing down, not to make room for building anew, but just to be rid of a thing that was not working. Too often our undoing is just part of the process of doing something else in its place. So I would suggest that what differentiates true undoing from doing is that it is followed by not-doing.
Doing nothing. Leaving things be. Minding your own business. These are things humans are not very good at. When we talk about ‘doing’ we do so with the urgency of belief that we must have a plan of action at all times. Yet we compulsively ‘do’. We need never worry about that. We should concentrate instead in where we fail, which is undoing and not-doing. These are the skills we should be developing as individuals and as a species.
I think the reason we have this problem is that extroverts have, by their very nature, become the default keepers of social systems and mainstream ideologies. Introverts who want to be left alone and leave others alone in the process are usually hiding out in a safe place while the extroverts are out ‘doing’ things. But as anyone whose tendencies lay nearer the introversion end of the scale knows, that ‘doing’ can make coexisting with extroverts extremely painful. Their insistence on compulsive interaction, and social systems which require and promote it, forces the rest of us into institutions and cultural paradigms that do not meet our needs.
Yet intelligence seems to be on the side of the introverts. And the internet has given a forum in which that intelligence can be heard, shared and adapted into solutions. If the pen was mightier than the sword, then the keyboard is hundreds of times more powerful. And it is here where we need to launch an attack against the primacy of ‘doing’ and the tyranny of extroverts. And to do so we must dismantle the false narrative of compulsive, busy-bodies who insist that we must keep swallowing larger critters following the unfortunate thing with the fly.
It is time we recapture the lost arts of Undoing and Doing Nothing. This old jalopy of a planet already has enough ‘doing’ on it to keep it going for a long time to come. Before we can do anything that doesn’t just add to the problems created by doing, we must undo much without worrying about what will take its place. Doing will happen as a course of human nature. Undoing and Not-Doing are far greater challenges for individuals and our species. Lets put our time and energy there and see if maybe we haven’t just been trying too hard and suffering from our overachievement.
My interest in the philosophical implications of chaos and order were piqued in 1998 when I first read The Principia Discordia, a humorous book produced by an absurdist religion based on an arcane bit of Greek mythology. Discordianism is the faux worship of Eris, goddess of chaos, and while it is thought by many to be a merely satirical piece of surrealist art, its metaphors resonate on a level of great truth. Yet it would be difficult to understand these truths if one were to hold onto the mainstream misconception of chaos and were unable to distinguish it from disorder.
Let me explain the difference in the most basic terms possible.
Chaos is a large grocery store with every ingredient ever imagined from which an endless amount of possible food combinations could be used to create unique meals.
Order is the shopping list, the recipe and the process of prepping and cooking. And sometimes you get a tasty meal.
Disorder is when you get something else. Disorder is when the meal is inedible or poisonous or burns the kitchen down in the process.
Disorder is what happens when the conversion of chaos to order goes awry. Which becomes more likely each and every time you apply order, and becomes a certainty when you apply it destructively (more on destructive vs. creative order below). Disorder, distinct from chaos, is usually what people actually mean when they use the term chaos. However, the failure to be able to distinguish means that people react to disorder by attempting to bandage the wounds it creates with a misapplication of order.
Let us examine the Principia Discordia’s retelling of that arcane Greek myth:
THE MYTH OF THE APPLE OF DISCORD It seems that Zeus was preparing a wedding banquet for Peleus and Thetis and did not want to invite Eris because of Her reputation as a trouble maker.
This made Eris angry, and so She fashioned an apple of pure gold and inscribed upon it KALLISTI (“To The Prettiest One”) and on the day of the fete She rolled it into the banquet hall and then left to be alone and joyously partake of a hot dog.
Now, three of the invited goddesses, Athena, Hera, and Aphrodite, each immediately claimed it to belong to herself because of the inscription. And they started fighting, and they started throwing punch all over the place and everything.
Finally Zeus calmed things down and declared that an arbitrator must be selected, which was a reasonable suggestion, and all agreed. He sent them to a shepherd of Troy, whose name was Paris because his mother had had a lot of gaul and had married a Frenchman; but each of the sneaky goddesses tried to outwit the others by going early and offering a bribe to Paris.
Athena offered him Heroic War Victories, Hera offered him Great Wealth, and Aphrodite offered him the Most Beautiful Woman on Earth. Being a healthy young Trojan lad, Paris promptly accepted Aphrodite’s bribe and she got the apple and he got screwed.
As she had promised, she maneuvered earthly happenings so that Paris could have Helen (the Helen) then living with her husband Menelaus, King of Sparta. Anyway, everyone knows that the Trojan War followed when Sparta demanded their Queen back and that the Trojan War is said to be The First War among men.
The point here is that by being selective about the guest list, an act of order on Zeus’ part, the conditions were set for the disorder that was the first major imperialist war in our written history. An ever-increasing trend that has done little to enrich our existence.
Perhaps you are familiar with the adage that a butterfly flapping its wings in Brazil could lead to a hurricane halfway across the world. This is known in chaos theory as the Butterfly Effect. It essentially describes the interconnectedness between all things and how even the slightest action could snowball or lead into much greater ones.
Yet we are a universe in motion and have little choice but to remain active. This is why Discordianism suggests that we do not create a dichotomy between chaos and order, but between the creative and the destructive. It is thought that creative chaos is more favorable than destructive order. Yet if we wished to apply this knowledge to our actions, the subjective area where creative/destructive are defined is still problematic.
However, this problem is simple to solve so long as we define the two aspects relative to the theory, and not necessarily with linguistic preciseness. Creativity is that which seeks to enrich the individual (and perhaps others) without intruding upon or limiting the choices of others. Destruction is that which seeks to enrich the individual (and perhaps others) by intruding upon or limiting the choices of others. Creativity requires and nurtures self-discipline. Destruction seeks control. The cost of that control often comes in the form of disorder. Or at least that is how it would be experienced by everybody outside of the destructive force.
It is therefore authority over others which is the destructive force of the universe. Authority is often recognized falsely as a valid attempt at order. But true order, that which is not just a conduit for disorder, comes only from voluntary cooperation and mutual consent. The opposite of mutual and voluntary is aggressive, which takes the forms of force, coercion or compulsion. Our existence as individuals is a strong indicator that whatever our meaning and purpose in this existence are derived from must have something to do with that individuality. When authority organizes force to impede on individuality it doesn’t just violate the meaning and purpose of the individual and existence, it leads us down the destructive path to disorder.
Yet because we have misunderstood all of this, because we have created a false dichotomy between order and chaos and have failed to distinguish between the latter and disorder, we have become blind to our own predicament. As the disorder spawned by our faulty outlook increases, so does entropy. There must be some limit to how much entropy reality can contain. So besides being a philosophical nuisance, the misleading ideologies surrounding these terms and concepts, may actually pose a threat to our existence. We have seen this on a smaller scale. The empires of the past have fallen, such as Rome, collapsing under their own weight. Yet a danger much greater than nation states could befall us. The advancement of our knowledge and technology and other tools of order continues to increase exponentially. The resulting disorder which may follow in the collapse of all of this order may pose a threat to existence itself.
While it is not a certainty in any empirical sense, authority could theoretically collapse our entire universe. Not just in the physical sense, but in the sense that we are conscious beings whose ability to bend our nature to accommodate authority could at some point result in a critical mass. That critical mass might be a psychic implosion of our sentient consciousness, or it might just drive us mad enough to destroy ourselves through desperate attempts to correct our trajectory with yet more destructive acts of order.
Authority is not just the enemy of an individual. It is the enemy of ALL individuals. While it may currently only have the power to damage us one at a time, or in isolated groups, it could very well snowball into a disorderly frenzy of entropy which causes the heat death collapse of our universe, metaphorically or literally. There is a threshold where they become indistinguishable.
Before we can begin to correct the problem we must understand it. And to understand it we must first understand its most basic terms. Familiarize yourself with the distinguishing characteristics of the three terms as I have presented them. Think in them and speak in them and act accordingly to them. See if it doesn’t change your entire worldview. And share them. This one seed of knowledge may be the most important lesson for humanity, a species at the cusp of its own maturity. Peering into the uncertainty of that future is perhaps frightening. Which is why we tend to avoid it at any cost. But we may not always have that luxury.
The favoring of order over chaos, of authority over anarchy, is that final attachment to our immaturity. It is like the fear we face when we first leave our parents home. Yet there comes a time to leave behind certainty and security and head out into the vast possibilities of our own individuality. And even though we may fumble and make great mistakes, we will also be learning and adapting and evolving as individuals. Authority may have been a useful tool for fashioning creative order from chaos, but at some point it becomes a detriment. This is where humanity stands. We can step out from under the safety blanket of authoritarian ideologies and accept the consequences of the learning process, or we can rot in our parents basement while we bleed the household dry with our refusal to seek independence.
Embrace chaos, for in it lies all possibilities, great and tragic. Yet with an attachment to destructive order alone, there is no doubt what the outcome will be for our universe as well as our species and everything else within it. Do not let fear or ignorance keep you dependent on authority and its intrinsic tendency towards disorder.
I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.
The number of earth-like objects being found in photos from the Curiosity Rover continues to rise. Most recently a bear, a dog, a mouse and a bearded man were all supposedly spotted in photographs beamed back to Earth from Mars. While it is entirely possible that these anomalies are simple probable false images or that the interpretation is pareidolia in action, some believe these objects may actually literally exist there. Which is going to sound incredibly reasonable compared to the theory I am about to lay down.
For most of my life I would look into the night sky and marvel at the grandeur of it. The sheer immensity was humbling and afforded enough possibilities to keep my imagination well-stirred. Recently, however, I look out there and wonder if it even exists and is not just an illusion. Is the entire sky and the billions of points of light within it really there, or is it all just a projection of consciousness?
So what of the sky? Was Earth once surrounded by primordial blackness? Did some single phenomena cause the first star to appear, only to be followed by others as that star caused us to consider greater possibilities for the hovering blankness above? Before the invention of telescopes, were there fewer stars in existence? Did creating a tool which would allow us to see more of the sky create an interdependent belief which allowed our consciousness to form more of them? And once we created those pinpricks of light, wasn’t it inevitable that we would try to observe them more closely so we could create more complex beliefs about them, and thus widen the scope of our reality?
So lets say, for arguments sake, that everything that exists is just a manifestation of consciousness. And that the night sky itself is nothing more than a projection of our own beliefs about the night sky. If this were so, and we created tools to go and investigate the manifestations of our belief, what would we see?
What have we seen on Mars so far? Mostly we have seen the things we expected or hoped to see. Very few real surprises have appeared. Rocks, dust and evidence of water. But what if our ‘exploration’ of Mars is really just a creation? What if we are adding complexity to a manifestation by investigating it with tools we believe show us something more real than ‘mere’ conscious projections? And what if by using our consciousness to sculpt this manifestation out of our beliefs, we are mixing in other signals from our consciousness? And what if those symbols are appearing to us in photos as bears, mice, dogs, men and the other number of things we have seen in these photos?
What if existence is not a thing? What if taking reality literally is foolish, yet necessary as a tool for creating it? What if there are no really real things, but only ideological forms of them manifested in the intersection of individual consciousnesses we call reality? And what if Mars is only in our head, along with symbols, like animals and humans and other Earthly objects? What if we are terraforming the red planet with our beliefs and while it is taking place random symbols from our consciousness are filling in the blanks until we create a more complex picture? What if the entire night sky is just a blank canvas which we paint on with our beliefs?
Does that sound crazy?
Okay, maybe it is…but what if it is also true? What then of alien species? If an alien species were created from our consciousness and beliefs, what would that mean for humanity? Consider a few things here. First, we would have to imagine a species more intelligent than ourselves, as any ‘aliens’ capable of reaching us first would have to be more intelligent, according to the narrative of our beliefs. In artificial intelligence theory, the point at which a computer can create a computer beyond our ability to understand the new technology is called a singularity. There are any number of theories about what would happens to humans after a singularity, after our own intelligence is surpasses by one superior to us. Many of these theories do not bode well for what might become of us, while others just leave us so transformed we would be unrecognizable to our current selves.
So what if we were to manifest a species more intelligent than ourselves, who could then manifest a species more intelligent than itself, and so on? Would this be a way of rapidly increasing the complexity, interconnectedness and size of our own consciousness; or a way toward extinction through obsolescence?
Or what if we are the product of an earlier manifestations consciousness? What if the only thing evolving is consciousness and we take its manifestations so literally that we believe the manifestations are evolving themselves?
So the next time you look at the stars, try not taking them literally. Or anything else for that matter. Even if they do exist as actual matter that preceded human consciousness, you are missing out on a lot of interesting ways to view your tiny little insignificant corner of existence by only experiencing stars, and reality in general, in this way. And that you are experiencing something at all is pretty much all that any of us know for sure.
An unfortunate tendency of otherwise reasonable people is to evoke ‘Natural Rights’ in their arguments against the ever-encroaching advancement of the states authority. While I find no fault with the argument that the state is an invading alien force against the individual, when the basis of that ideology is that nature has inalienably bestowed some set of specific rights upon us, it begins to feel vaguely like the ‘social contract’ and other precepts of statists and authoritarians.
Natural and legal rights are two types of rights. Legal rights are those bestowed onto a person by a given legal system. (i.e., rights that can be modified, repealed, and restrained by human laws) Natural rights are those not contingent upon the laws, customs, or beliefs of any particular culture or government, and therefore universal and inalienable (i.e., rights that cannot be repealed or restrained by human laws).
The concept of natural law is closely related to the concept of natural rights. During the Age of Enlightenment, the concept of natural laws was used to challenge the divine right of kings, and became an alternative justification for the establishment of a social contract, positive law, and government — and thus legal rights — in the form of classical republicanism. Conversely, the concept of natural rights is used by others to challenge the legitimacy of all such establishments.
Natural rights are considered ‘negative rights’, which are those which protect you against actions by others, whereas ‘positive rights’ are those which supposedly guarantee you specific actions which may be performed by you or on your behalf.
Natural Law is the basis of Natural Rights, and is said to be the basic principles bestowed upon humanity by God, nature or reason, depending on whatever wacky belief system you subscribe to.
Since a personal supernatural entity refuses to confirm or enforce natural law, let alone its own existence, ‘bestowed by God’ is not a rational argument.
Since nature is the sum of all existence and the interactions of its parts, and since we see the violation of natural rights occur regularly within nature, ‘bestowed by nature’ is not a rational argument.
Since ‘reason’ is the ability to provide coherence and consistency between phenomena, perception and conclusion, reason implies not a singular objective set of principles, but rather a way of arriving at them, ‘bestowed by reason’ is not a rational argument.
Any concept of rights that are granted are logically flawed. Natural rights depend on agency and volition by an external force. Which leads us back to the statist idea that rights only exist when backed by force. Giving that force a metaphysical cause does not change the idea that force is the enemy of the individual. Whether it is subservience to the protection racket of the state, or to that of God, nature or reason, rights that exist as the extension of forces more powerful than the individual violate the same Non-Aggression Principle that ‘Natural Rights’ advocates often adhere to.
The entire concept of rights is flawed. A ‘right’ is an attempt to turn a belief into an absolute objective constant. While those beliefs may be rational and beneficial, the attempt to codify them into the answer in the back of the book of existence is illogical. Positive human interactions are not formed by rights. They occur only with mutual voluntary consent of all involved parties, the details of which will change from one interaction to the next.
It is constants that interfere with humans right to interact in mutually acceptable ways. Rather than arguing for constants, liberty minded people should be arguing against them. Natural rights are, contextually, nothing but another immovable framework. While their content may appear beneficial, adopting the rigid context to apply them is using the same ideological tools of the state. There is no way to evolve beyond that institution so long as we are using the same sort of thinking it employs.
“Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law. Love is the law; love under will.” -Aleister Crowley
For a more detailed and humorous argument against Natural Law and Natural Rights check out this book, free to read online, by the greatest philosopher of the 20th Century- Robert Anton Wilson.
The Golden Rule (TGR), which states that one should treat others as they themselves wish to be treated by others, is pretty much the standard moral foundation of all cultures; especially in the western world. However, the entire premise in helplessly flawed, which can be demonstrated logically, emotionally, spiritually or by any other metric. A simple explanation will suffice for a beginning.
No two people are exactly identical. Not only do we vary by shape, size, genetic make-up and other physical factors, our entire subjective world is completely unique to each one of us. Our inner world- our thoughts, our desires, our fears, our passions, our joys, pains and everything else about us is completely one-of-a-kind. Given this basic understanding of the nature of individuals, it would be absurd to assume that other people wish to be treated how we do. Let us explore some obvious examples.
The most glaringly obvious demonstration is the existence of masochism. A masochist is an individual who likes to experience domination, insult or injury at the hands of others. The opposite is the sadist, who likes to experience the same things, only at the expense of others. It would be quite simple to dismiss masochism as a valid argument if all masochists were extreme examples whose proclivities were simply mental aberrations or psychological deviants. Yet there is a whole range of masochism and the large majority of of those displaying this characteristic are otherwise normal, healthy people who just happen to like pain, humiliation and surrender in safe doses. While that is perfectly valid, if these people assumed we all desired such treatment and attempted to provide it, many of us would not be very happy about it.
A still somewhat obvious example of the problem of TGR that has a lot more real world application is the personality division between introverts and extroverts. Again, the scale here is entirely grey with all possible points between represented by some individual in the world. Introverts, not necessarily opponents of human interaction, prefer some control over the timing, duration, subject and method of interaction and often require processing periods without which they are stricken by anxiety. Extroverts, on the other hand, prefer most kinds of interaction over none at all; with loneliness as the chief cause of their anxiety. We can see how an extrovert might attempt to avoid their own negative states by initiating interactions, however if their target is an introvert, that attempt to alleviate might become a cause of stress for the other person. While both personalities and sets of expectations are valid, they do not necessarily mix well, which can create a zero sum game. Even two introverts or extroverts might ‘rub each other the wrong’ way if timing, method and other factors have differing levels of desirability to the two participants.
The Golden Rule is inflexible in navigating the desires and needs of others by starting with the faulty premise that they are the same as our own. Besides the two above examples there exist as many differences between individuals as there exist individuals. Even though a large part of the human experience bears some categorical similarity between us, the details differ absolutely. Even when we wish to do right by others via attempts to cause them to reach universally pleasurable states through our actions, we may have no idea how to get them there. The map to pleasure, pain and everything in between differs absolutely for all people. When we send others on a journey that they find insufferable where we found it delightful, the destination is unlikely to be the same or to bear the same effect.
Yet there is a rule almost as simple and beautiful as TGR that we can use to guide our interactions with others-
DO UNTO OTHERS AS THEY WOULD LIKE DONE UNTO THEM. IF YOU DO NOT KNOW WHAT THAT IS, ASK. IF YOU DO NOT CARE TO ASK OR HONOR THEIR WISHES, LEAVE THEM ALONE ENTIRELY.
Almost every social, political and economic institution in the modern world denies the basic right of those who just want to be left alone; or at least have some control over when, where and what kind of interactions they have. Because the modern world is predicated on force, only the needs of very few individuals are ever met, and never even then completely, no matter the expense to others they compile in their attempts. Centralization of power and control made up of systematic hierarchies are attempts by the few to have all of their needs met by the many. That is why collectivism is never about the greater good, but about the good of those who are able to define and enforce their own ideas about the greater good, whether directly or through subterfuge. A civilization predicated on authority is one that ignores the most immediate and enduring truths about our existence as individuals.
We are not the same. No package meant to contain and serve us all could ever please any. By allowing these forces of authority to command the central tenets of existence for all individuals, we only insure the misery of all. We have attempted to create a balance between good/bad (right/wrong, happy/sad), etc.) by removing the opportunities to ever reach the heights of these possible states. In doing so we have robbed ourselves of our very meaning, sentencing the individual to a life of servitude to an idea that no single individual holds.
The Golden Rule is a great example of our faulty moral ideologies. By following its faults we can begin to see the world we live in a more honest way. The world we live in is largely constructed from fear, which we then try to alleviate through absolutes like TGR. Yet when we see how incompatible absolutes are with the variance between individuals, and since we undoubtedly exist experientially as individuals, we should not allow ourselves to be guided by or force others to obey absolutes. Unless they want to, which you should verify via their own answers first, and not just what you would want.
Franchise would be the proper term here, as the Star Wars series has always been much more than some movies, but part of a large scale marketing campaign to sell an endless trove of collectible junk. While it was not the first cinematic offering to extend itself into a cross marketing campaign of goods based on its characters and themes, it was perhaps the first to be so successful at doing so. Even as a child I observed that liking the movies was not enough. You had to prove how much you liked it by having more Star Wars swag than the other kids in your neighborhood or school, and getting it first. These products became status symbols for an entire generation of young men who learned through this marketing campaign that your worthiness to others and yourself could be measured by what you owned. Star Wars became an accelerated course in rampant mindless consumerism aimed at children.
More symbolic buffoonery was also hidden within the Star Wars phenomena. Star Wars came to represent intelligence. Because society had observed that geeks and nerds flocked to science fiction, aligning yourself with that genre was a way of identifying as a geek or a nerd, which obviously made you smart. And since it had rolled up a hundred years of that genre into a slick package easily digestible by the general public, it was the proverbial honey you take with a bitter pill. Which is exactly what good science fiction, with its complex speculative themes and explorations into humanity, ethics and morality, is. Yet rather than swallow that pill, the public just sucked the honey off and patted themselves on the back for being one of those intelligent nerds/geeks who ‘got it’.
With its faux science fiction veneer, it also became a champion for ideologies about technology and science. By equating these status symbols with intelligence wrapped in science, it made a powerful cultural statement about scientistic ideologies and beliefs. Nevermind that it never actually promotes any actual science or the rational underpinnings of the empirical method. Merely aligning oneself with anything appearing even remotely sciencey soon became a cool thing to do, which has led us away from an understanding of what science is and does and why, and into the vast dogmatic worldview of scientism. Just as Star Wars helped to sell science fiction to mainstream audiences using an inferior replica of the actual thing, it also contributed to the cultural tendency to acquiesce to the knowledge of all things even labeled science, regardless of whether it is or not.
The symbolic suggestions contained in Star Wars don’t stop there. An ideology of dark/light, good/evil, etc. promoted the dangerous tendency of humans to think in false dichotomies. The binary logic which traps the thinking of so many people is evident all throughout Star Wars. To oversimplify any subject into a question with only two possible answers has been the folly of almost every wacky belief system humans have ever devised. From the Heaven or Hell of Abrahamic religion to racism to two party politics, the THIS or THAT and nothing else way of thinking has been one of our species greatest obstacles. Yet that entire fallacious dichotomizing is a central tenet of the Star Wars universe and the films help to validate these toxic ways of thinking by making them appear grandiose and heroic; and by implanting them in the head of the films target audiences- children.
In so many ways, even if the George Lucas or anyone else ever intended them to be, these films serve as little more propaganda for some of the least enlightened parts of the contemporary world. And even worse, they are designed for consumption by children, who then reinforce these ideas through rampant materialism at a lovely profit to those who shove this trash out there.
However, none of these reasons or all of them combined is as valid as this single reason for boycotting Star Wars films. They fucking suck. The entire series, from the very beginning, cannibalizes older science fiction themes and devices in a way that dumbs them down and strips them of meaning. It is full of terrible one-liners, childish gimmicks and coated in a sparkly cover of special effects that appeal to the sort of boyish minds that like to see things burn and explode. The characters are all shallow and two dimensional. The plot devices are paper thin and see through. And the entire package comes together not so much as an homage to truly great science fiction, but rather as an affront to the possibilities that genre has always offered in the way of making you think. Star Wars doesn’t ask you to think. It asks you to buy and be a loyal repeat customer.
The people who make Star Wars think you are dumb and want to capitalize on that. The only thing more sad than that is how many times film-goers and collectors prove them right. Prove them wrong, #boycottstarwars
This is the first in what will be several articles regarding the Game Metaphor, so let me start by explaining that. It is really simple, actually. Just imagine the world, the universe and all of reality is the most complex game in existence. Not literally, but metaphorically. Not that this existence is an actual game, but by studying reality in the language of games, we can understand it in useful ways. Since video games are the most complex form of games, it is that model I have found it most useful to draw metaphors from, even though I am not at all a video game enthusiast.
Further explanation of the Game Model will be provided as we discuss reality through this lens. Where we will begin is via an explanation of the people who exist within this reality. I have long noticed that a great number of people tend to display a lower amount of sentience. They possess less metacognitive facilities (thinking about thinking) and display less awareness of their selves and their environment. However, this distinction is not so much about intelligence as it is about the ability to perceive and process.
For this reason I think that any scale of a persons sentience would be far less like an IQ test and much more like an obstacle course. Highly sentient people move with grace and purpose stealthily through every day life, whereas many people are prodding, poking, fumbling beasts who seem to be navigating the world with toddlers body and mind. I can spot a low sentience being whenever an individual or groups crowds needlessly together, especially in busy passageways or near choke-points like doors or intersections. The highly sentient person cracks a door and slips through, while the low sentient folks open it all the way and then amble through. The lowest sentience types may even just stand in the doorway holding the door, despite the fact that there is a reason that the door exists, which is to separate things inside from those outside, like bugs or temperature. While I used to think that these people were merely stupid or selfish, I now see that they are quite unable to understand the bigger picture and thus the context in which their behavior is not in line with meaning and purpose of things around them. You may think I am just venting about a pet peeve here, but how we react to our environment really is an indicator of our awareness.
If you have ever played a game, you have undoubtedly encountered non-player characters (NPC’s). NPC’s are those figures in a game who do not represent a game player. They make up the shop keepers, the townspeople and the other game characters who are more like props than they are like actual people. They are mere functionaries, serving a specific limited purpose in the game, from selling magic swords to simply filling the empty space. If you have ever watched these characters react to the game environment you have likely noticed that they either have very narrow behavioral patterns and that these are often graceless, blocky and clumsy. Exactly how low sentience humans behave. So this was my first clue that reality may have its own NPC’s, those who I earlier labeled low sentience individuals.
For a long time I have been concerned with predeterminism and free will, specifically, which of these is the correct way to view human behavior. I had argued very heavily against predeterminism, predicated on the fact that I could logically deduce that predeterminism necessitated a serious self-contradiction. However, this was also centered around the idea that humans were logical beings, which was an obviously flawed precept. It was when I began to use the Game Model that I realized it was not an either/or proposition. I began to see us as programmed with a basic set of scripts. Evolutionary traits and instincts are part of every humans composition. Yet in some the ability to break free of this limited programming and act as conscious agents with full volition will occasionally manifest. However, since it does not in most folks, predeterminism really does steer many peoples behavior most of the time. Thus, reality has its own share of NPC’s, that is, individuals with limited scripts and an inability to expand them on their own. Often it seems the only drive for these game entities is to fancy up their Avatars, which is the reason for a civilization increasingly engaged in so much materialism and compulsive consumerism.
And then there are those who, through some combination of accident and self-design, become more aware of the bigger picture. Their own awareness and that of their environment expands until their behavior becomes a measured action in response to their environment and not just a prescribed reaction. Unlike NPC’s who play the board one move at a time, a Player is the person who who looks many moves in advance.
However, there are not just Players and NPC’s, but also Programmers. Where Players are those who evolved beyond their initial conditions as a NPC (the true meaning of Original Sin or the Fall From Grace), Programmers are those who have evolved past merely playing the game into shaping and creating it.
Reality is nothing more than our collection of beliefs about reality. Reality does not exist, but is in a constant shape of flux, being recreated in every moment of our existence. So if you want to change reality, you have to change what we believe about reality. This is not easy, since you cannot change any single aspect of reality on its own. I could not, for example, change the color of the sky simply by getting a majority to believe it was a different color. The color of the sky is an interconnected belief, dependent on many other beliefs about reality. To change the color of the sky you would need the belief that does that to be consistent with other beliefs, which is to say, you would have to change a greater number of beliefs to do so. This is why we cannot magically recreate reality with our will, as some New Age adherents often propose. We cannot do so because every aspect of reality is dependent on many other aspects and requires a great consensus in order to manifest.
And this is the very reason why the world needs NPC’s. They are those whom, by imprinting new beliefs upon them, become the sort of canvas on which reality is painted. They are, in effect, the battery that powers reality through their belief. So while my ranting may seem an effort to justify the superiority of some individuals over the majority, that is not my intention or belief. What I am attempting to illustrate is that our Universe is not an object. Existence is not a thing. It is the numerous manifestations of the consciousness within it, of which we are all agents. And as agents, we have different roles to play. And as such, it is necessary that we not exhibit the same levels of sentience as one another. It is the contrast between levels of awareness which allows the game to evolve, rather than being stuck in the same game screen forever.
This is why certainty is bad. Certainty is a glitch in the programming which prevents evolution. Modern people seek what IS true rather than what CAN or SHOULD or MIGHT be true. However, what IS true once belonged to those other categories. Be defining reality as a permanent structure, we are making it so. By empowering people a sense of false intellectual equality, we are preventing programmers from instigating further evolution by imprinting new realities on NPC’s who think they know it all, or at least that all can be known as eternal objective absolutes.
There is no awakening. There is no spiritual endgame in the works. Quite the opposite is true. Reality is becoming more unstable. It is weighed down by dogmas of objectivity and permanence. It is stuck in its current permutation because a handful of programmers are using the beliefs of the masses not for evolving or improving the game, but to bending it towards their own narrow agendas. Their purpose is not expand the parameters of play, but to narrow them in order that they might exercise power and control.
And this brings us to the final truth, since NPC’s cannot be seen as fully responsible for or able to understand their own actions, they cannot be blamed for what they do. However, the Players and especially Programmers can and should be held accountable for the evils they manifest. That evil takes the form of authority, and so long as the only Programmers that NPC’s recognize are those in authority, the game is going to stagnate. Until at some point it freezes up and we have to power down, blow out the cartridge and restart from the beginning, as has been the case with so many past civilizations. I believe that an awareness of the functions of reality and the individuals within it can disrupt this. Recognition of the game model may be the secret weapon that allows our reality to beat the boss and level up. The goal is not to transform every NPC into a Player or Programmer, not some great awakening, but rather just refocus the content of their beliefs from ideas implanted by authoritarians to those ideas created by the seemingly insane programmers who are seeing a possible future that is at the same time unimaginable and beautiful.
“Reality is what you can get away with.” -Robert Anton Wilson
There is barn behind a solitary house deep in the country. In this barn, converted into a workshop, a man named Petrov has spent almost thirty years dedicated to his life’s work. That toiling involved the invention of a curious apparatus he calls the Eternity or Infinity Machine, named after it’s two possible functions.
The Eternity function allows the contraption to replicate itself so that when its parts wear down another machine made in it’s image can perpetuate it’s existence.
The Infinity function allows the contraption to complete any possible task, such as computing, ditch digging, writing epic poetry or anything else that might have been possible for it’s creator to achieve.
However, since the device has a limited ability to process resources while completing it’s functions, it can only fully commit to one of it’s two possible states, or it will not operate efficiently at either. So the decision must be made whether to switch the machine on in either it’s Eternity or Infinity function.
Petrov was very proud of his machine. For this reason, he was partially inclined to ensure that it endured long past his own lifetime and in eternal perpetuity. Yet he was also concerned that a machine whose only function was to continue it’s own existence was inherently without any meaning or purpose.
Infinity, on the other hand, meant that the machine may complete any possible number of enduring works during its existence that would last millenia. Certainly creating lasting achievements was another kind of immortality. And the benefits it yielded would (theoretically) apply to the whole of humanity. Yet an emotional and instinctual drive to see to the perpetual existence of his own creation, which was predicated on his own history and lineage, was strong.
So vexed was he by this decision, that he eventually found himself unable to make that final choice. And so as not to have wasted his whole life’s work, he has asked that you make the decision for him.
Which function should Petrov assign his invention, Eternity or Infinity? And more importantly, why?
NOTE: As a parable, there is no right answer to the questions it poses. It is not meant to trick you and cannot be solved like a riddle. Assume the parameters given are absolute. For instance, the initial function chosen for the machine cannot later be changed. This exercise is meant to engage the reader in and introspective analysis of existence and the meaning and purpose of life; as well as call into question the practice of biological reproduction as a compulsive behavior. The use of absolutes, while inapplicable in reality, serves here to foster greater self-awareness rather than objective truth.
In 1998 I first began using the internet regularly. I immediately recognized it as an outlet for communicating in ways that I found more difficult to achieve in real life conversations. And as a result, I began to put more and more stock in the friendships I have made there over the years.
The usual rhetoric, even on the internet, suggests that internet friendships and activity are not as meaningful as real life activities. And yet the internet exists in the ‘real world’ and should not be seen as separate from it. How human beings communicate, interact and play has evolved through both social and technological advances all throughout time. We can even observe it doing so in our lifetimes, as technological advance has accelerated rapidly and exponentially in recent decades. So to view internet friendship as less real or meaningful as those friendships we nurture in physical presence is false.
The reasons that I have come to love the internet are many. Yet I will describe only those that describe its use for social functions.
The first is that the internet allows us to find friends with similar interests and values more easily than in physical presence. Outside of the internet, your chances are astronomically low of meeting people in your geographic locality who share a large number of your personality traits, opinions and joys. The smaller or more remote your location, the more difficult it becomes to seek out the like-minded. Yet since we should not limit ourselves to those who think, feel and act like us, the internet also provides a much larger range of viewpoints than location alone. Where we may avoid people we don’t like and miss their viewpoints in ‘real life’, we may be more likely to absorb thoughts, experiences and ideas that we would otherwise not take in.
The second, and I suspect more personally important reason, is that I simply prefer text to talk. Talking is easy to mess up. But in a format where we can edit and refine our thoughts, we are able to break free of social limitations, necessities and difficulties to have more poignant, distinct and revealing conversations. There is no awkward silence in text, at least not in the same way it exists in speaking conversations. There are also less expectations for when a reply will come. All of this affords one the ability to reread, absorb more deeply and formulate the most appropriate and elegant response. Not that we always do this…not that I always do this, but we are always afforded that opportunity. And besides that, it is also difficult to endure stammering or endless side-lining in others speech difficulties or quirks. Sometimes the sort of brunt immediacy of speaking/hearing create conditions in which good communication becomes far more difficult.
So having spent years online making and fostering friendships, I often find myself more active in and attached to many of those relationships than in most of my traditional friendships. And like in traditional friendship, the people I have formed bonds with online provide support, challenges and pleasure. We fight and make up. We laugh together and share sorrow. And we help one another grow as individuals.
One internet friend, a person I never met in real life, yet have known for years, recently died. Diane Miller is one the rarest of friendships I ever had. It is rarely that we see others as truly equal to ourselves. While we may admire and envy our friends, we often think of ourselves as the smarter, or more talented or kind one; usually depending on the qualities we value most in ourselves. With Diane I felt she was equal to me in all the measurements I weigh most heavily in myself (and thus in others). And I am an unusually confident and cocky bastard, so this is very rare for me.
When I first learned of her death I was filled with a great sadness. As she would have expected of me and done herself, I explored that feeling. And having done I found that my sadness was not fer, but for me. Diane had no fear of, or exaggerated desire to avoid death at any cost. Neither did she regret her life or feel she still had things to make up for. She contracted an unknown illness months before and passed away quietly one morning during breakfast. She did not fight for her life by becoming dependent on the medical systems and social structures and other necessities they operated alongside. She was also had her own unique views on spirituality and our deeper nature which kept her from being to attached to the world or afraid of leaving it. So when I realized I should not be sad merely because her life ended, I figured out why I was actually upset.
No longer could I ever call on her intelligence, wisdom and wit to inspire me or set me straight. No longer could I seek her opinion, her counsel or her support. This is why I was distraught at her death, and will continue to mourn for this selfish loss for awhile.
So I find it hard to believe that my friendship with Diane was less real or meaningful than ‘real life’ friendships. The sort of loyalty, dependency and love inherent in those friendships was exactly what I knew I would miss most when I lost my ‘internet friend’.
(From the wall posts I read after her passing, many people felt much as I did about her, and she seemed to be a great friend, mentor and inspiration to many.)
There is nothing less real about the internet or the relationships it fosters than anything else in existence. The internet is wonderful tool for learning, sharing and connecting. It, like everything else, is a tool by which we are learning to be whatever it is that we are. We should not disparage it or any other new paradigms. Least not since they occur ever more quickly all the time. As Diane would have said:
“There must be some reason over seven billion people chose to be here right now.”
Answer the following question: Why does a car drive?
Now ask other people around you. Did your answer and theirs attempt to explain the mechanics of internal combustion engines? If so, you were not paying close enough attention to that question. Yet you would not be alone. As a culture we have begun to obfuscate the meanings of why and how by using them interchangeably. Many people will answer the ‘why’ question with a ‘how’ answer. This simple bit of semantic confusion has become more widespread, leading us away from a more complete understanding of the world we live in.
Just in case you do not understand the difference, let me explain.
How does a car drive? That question asks us to understand the car as an object or mechanism. It requires that we explain the functions which allow the object (car) to complete an action (drive). To answer this question we can give an explanation of internal combustion engines, transmissions, wheels and any other number of practical insights into the physical attribute which allow a car to drive.
Why does a car drive? That question asks us to understand the car as conscious entity exercising its own will and volition. Without going into panpsychic philosophies, we will just assume the car contains no consciousness, volition or will. Therefore we cannot answer this question because it is a nonsensical question with no possible answer.
Yet we do not like unanswerable questions in our culture. And we most often deal with them by either avoiding those questions or reframing them so that there is an answer. This is often the case with ‘why’. Since ‘why’ is not subject to methods that use attempted objectivity, we either diminish the importance of the answer if not the question itself. And where we do not do that we often just replace the ‘why’ with ‘how’ so we can come to a gratifying answer.
It is rather a shame that we have allowed ‘why’s stock to plunge. While we cannot answer it with the empirical methods that our culture gives preference and precedence to, it can still provide us with answers even more meaningful and useful than ‘how’. Answering ‘how’ gives us simple practical solutions, but when it comes to the motivations and intentions of conscious beings will their own will and volition, there are no easy answers. When answering ‘why’ reveals a problem, the solutions it presents can seem insurmountable.
For instance, ‘Why did that man in Oregon commit a mass shooting at a community college?’ is not only hard to answer with any reassuring accuracy, it is also capable of providing an answer that we cannot easily work with. Yesterday I spoke about a possible explanation for why the shooting, and others like it, occur. However the reasoning I gave was that violence escalates as a result of a power imbalance between individuals and their society and its institutions. Given that my theory was correct, solving that problem may seem impossible to many, since it requires a total rethinking of political, economic and social structures and calls into question the existence of the state.
Meanwhile our president and media pundits immediately used the tragedy to prepare us for more laws and assaults on our liberties, the very problem that I believe creates these kind of mass killers. This was done quite slickly by reinterpreting the school shooting as an issue of ‘how’ and not ‘why’ it happened. Since it involved guns, it is falsely reasoned that if we remove guns (how) then there will be less or no more of these tragedies.
Yet guns were not the reason that this happened. They did not provide the motivation or intent to kill. They did not exercise their own volition or will. The killing happened for subjective reasons that only the shooter fully knows, yet may not be completely aware of himself. Even if we removed every gun from the planet, if the reason he committed these atrocious acts still existed then there is still a likelihood that the individual would have committed awful violence in some other way, since guns do not have a monopoly on killing.
Yet since we can address the how more easily then the why, it is supposed that this is the most logical way to proceed. However, it is far less logical, even if it is more practical. In much the same way that it is often easier to treat the symptoms of a disease than the disease itself, we use our existing structures to treat social symptoms without daring to look at the disease. And that is because the disease may be the very same existing structures we ask to solve the problem. And unfortunately, too many of us still lack the imagination to understand how human societies could function without structures modeled and reliant on the force and violence they are created to alleviate.
As we continue to answer shove every social problem through a how-shaped hole, we continue to produce only the sort of quick gratifying solutions that eventually become problems themselves. Using ‘how’ as the hammer that see’s every problem as a nail has kept us from asking and attempting to answer ‘why’ these things occur. And so our problems only get held off. The future of humanity is quickly becoming a closet stuffed full of the junk we didn’t have time to find a proper place for. Someday it will buckle and its hinges and latch will no longer contain the big problems we only had time to give little answers to. So it is becoming ever more important that we end our intentional ignorance of all the ‘why’ questions we have avoided by throwing a quick ‘how’ over it.
The why/how problem is an issue we have created through many social influences, from statism to scientism. Many people are now unable to distinguish the difference between those questions as that difference becomes more and more important. It is a sort of secular nihilism that we use as a smokescreen to deny the questions that have no easy answers. Why portends that our questions are not small problems to be easily be fixed, but large ones with cosmic significance. When we dig into why we are often unable to rest easily on our assumptions and dogmas. And often we never find completely satisfactory answers, but in attempting to search for them anyhow, we often ask ourselves new questions that help us to expand our overall thinking.
And this may be the reason that we ignore ‘why’ and replace it with ‘how’. Thinking is like doing the research that cures a disease, when most people would rather just take a pill that helps them forget it exists.
As news is pouring out over a tragic act of violence that just occurred in the form of a mass shooting at Umpqua Community College near Roseburg, Oregon, pundits all over the political spectrum are gearing up to use this tragedy to illustrate how their ‘opponents’ and their policies are responsible for the phenomenon.
While the liberals on the left will surely blame the existence and availability of the weapons used, conservatives on the right will surely suggest that it is the product of the breakdown of social values and morality resulting from the absence of religious fervor.
In this way the two false public relations fronts for the single political oligarchy can attempt to misdirect any plausibly genuine anger at the misery created by the sum of their policies into streamlined talking points, electoral tools predicated on the tragedy that their system must surely have helped to create to begin with.
While there is always a wildcard element in humanity, the rogue individual who feels the need to commit the most heinous atrocities for reasons most of us could never comprehend, the independent mass murderers and serial killers are not the historical norm. These seemingly random acts of violencecontinue to increase in America, even as other crime related homicides decrease. While we can look back and find evidence of violence in the pre-industrial era, it is rare to see individuals acting outside of the jurisdiction of authority committing murder against large numbers of people, with no real substantial or practical motivation to do so.
Is it possible that psychosis is on the rise? Could the psychopathic and sociopathic tendencies towards wholesale misery, destruction and death be increasing in response to some new environmental stimulus in the modern world?
Many criminologists will trace the modern phenomena of mass-killing by independent agents as having begun in the late nineteenth century. In Britain, Jack the Ripper is considered an early model for the modern psychotic killer, while America has H.H. Holmes. In the time since, the phenomenon has continued to increase. Both serial and mass killing have evolved from the deviant oddities of history into a modern reality which continues to rise with no end in sight.
Is it any coincidence that this trend began during the strongest push of growth of the industrial era and continues to rise as the paradigms that hold the industrial world together become even more omnipresent and omnipotent than ever before? Well, first of all, what paradigms have held the modern world together during our species’ ascent into an industrial civilization?
While I could list the aspects involved, the paradigms really come down to the increased power afforded political systems by modern technology, which allow for the creation of ever more powerful monopolies on all aspects of existence. The tools of oligarchies, such as imperialism, corporatism and welfare/warfarism, have become distinctly more powerful and durable as a result of the benefits of industrialism. And with these come an unending stream ‘thou shall nots’, codified as laws, which protect the property, lives and agendas of the most successful industrialists. In order to to insure themselves against the masses, the police state has arisen. And not just literally as an increase in the numbers of and power of police, but as all aspects of life become subject to strict regulation and control.
All of that regulation and control is upheld by force, or the threat thereof. Our entire society is largely glued together, not by the sort of cultural values, ethics and morals that historically held societies together, but by this threat of force. Whether it be extortion, imprisonment or death, force is the ultimate arbiter of all human interactions in our current system. Violence is power and power is survival and success in a culture of monopoly.
While this highly complex social structure predicated on force is often measured in large demographic and sociological terms, we forget that it also has an effect on every individual. The psychological issues that increase in the monopoly and totality of centralized power are rarely ever spoken of, and surely never mentioned in the academic circles funded by the power structure itself. Yet as every aspect of choice and possibility for the individual are narrowed by the needs of that system, there must surely be some effect.
Anyone who has been around small children recognizes that their need to exercise power by controlling elements of their environment differs among different children. Some children have a strong need to feel in control and get things their way while others are content to acquiesce to the more powerful children or adults around them. Whether this is cause by nature or nurture matters very little. Genetics and imprint conditioning likely both play a large role in the differing need for power evident in different people. This is likely to always be the case.
It is also most likely that those who are imbued with this need for power and control are most often those who either rise to the top of the systems predicated on them, or become social deviants who exercise these innate drives in more subtle ways than the psychopaths in charge of the monopolies. Yet as power increases in any regard, powerlessness elsewhere must also continue to increase. So what we would expect to see in a system that grows more powerful is for the threshold of powerlessness to grow. In other words, as there is more power, more people are likely to feel disempowered than before the increase. And as more people respond to the psychological and cognitive dissonance of being powerless, their reactions increase in both strength and numbers.
As the strength afforded to the system and the elite who navigate and profit most greatly from it increases, the backfiring response to it will also increase. The psychological well being of any group of people held under the control and power of small group will suffer as their own controls and powers are increasingly diminished. What we see in the modern world as a rise in horrific violence committed by deranged individuals is likely a result of a loss of personal choice, responsibility and independence.
Those who would use tragedies like the one in Oregon in to push for more laws or systematic protections are either unknowingly or deliberately making the problems worse. Every action has an opposite and equal reaction. As a result of our caustic and inadvisable attempts to harness the monopolies of power to try to reach a tragedy free world, we have actually increased the conditions necessary by which those who would commit tragedies are created. Through psychological, economic and cultural feedback created by this push-pull between individuals and the institutions they are forced to obey, the only way to go is up. By trying to control problems created by control, we only create more problems.
Sometimes you swallow a fly. When you try to swallow a spider to catch the fly you begin a chain reaction that has only one inevitable logic: self-destruction. As attempts to use the monopolies of control, power and force for our own means increase, when they are clearly tools for denying us our own power as individuals, the only things that increase are the control, power and force of those institutions and the tragic deviant behaviors of the others stuck in this cage with us, but with less ability to endure it.
The rise of the the modern psycho-killer is not a problem to be solved by authority, it is a problem created by it. Until enough of us realize that, we just keep swallowing solutions that are more dangerous than the problems created through prior ingestion. Trying to use the system to fix problems created by the system is like trying to stop an avalanche by firing ever larger snowballs into it. And those individuals who senselessly kill masses of people are that extra snow now returning to us in the avalanche.
I would like to mention that there undoubtedly other contributing factors to this phenomenon, however it is likely that even these factors could be shown to have a relationship to the increasing gap between individuals and institutions of authority.