scribble

LAUNCHING ROCKETS AND LOOTING RIOTS

AMERICAN YING-YANG

Today, May 30th 2020, is a day of extreme contrast in the story of the 21st-century United States of America.

Cape Canaveral, Florida became the site of the first space mission launched from American soil for a decade. The government cut NASA funding to the Space Shuttle program in the noughties and SpaceX, owned by billionaire Elon Musk, took up the challenge (and expense). Today their ambition came to fruition.

Meanwhile, in thirty plus cities across the country, mass protests entered a fourth day of conflict, with outbreaks of violent urban unrest. The country is teetering on the edge of civic breakdown.

We present polarization in America in terms of politics, a person’s ally versus enemy defined by which side they support. This interpretation is a calculated misdirection.

The schism at the heart of America is being hidden by the political tribalism. It’s not economic. It’s not conservative versus liberal. It’s not entirely a question of race, though racism is a major symptom.

Today’s wildly contrasting narratives of rarified engineering ambition and grass-roots rebellion against injustice are illustrative and we can embody the schism by two very different American exemplars; one good, one evil.

Good is epitomized by the pioneering entrepreneurial collaborative excellence of Space X – pick any of their guiding lights, Elon Musk included. Good includes most scientists, more than half the artists and writers, a multitude of hard-working citizens bearing responsibility for families day on day. Good listens. Good tries not to be racist. Good doesn’t believe might equals right. Good sees compassion as a quality worth having. Good is well represented in America.

Evil is the racist entrenched monopoly on power, committing violence against many but creating nothing that’s not seized as part of a perpetual consolidation of authority. Evil is represented by half of the country’s billionaires, most of the corrupted politicians, racist police, petty fascist enablers. Evil is loud. Evil is racist because race is an obvious sign of untermensch in-group out-group targeting. Evil believes might be right. Evil sees compassion as weakness. There’s no shortage of evil cast members.

MURDER, MEDIA AND MISREPRESENTATION

The brutal murder of George Lloyd in Minneapolis MN lit the touch-paper of years of accumulated resentment. As the SpaceX Falcon-9 Heavy Rocket carried Dragon2 and its crew into orbit, the governor of Minnesota (and other high-ranking politicians) signed off orders to mobilize the National Guard, imposing curfews to legitimize the violent suppression of the protesting citizens.

With the SpaceX achievement, we have an exceptional aspiration made into a reality: designing and building a renewable launcher rocket capable of carrying manned spacecraft into orbit; reusable spacecraft good for docking with the International Space Station and – longer-term – making the journey through interplanetary space. It’s a step on the way to humankind’s next giant leap: putting a man (or woman) on Mars.

Back on Earth, in the affluent United States from which Elon Musk’s rocket was launched, we have an abused, exploited section of the American population – tens of millions poor people, mostly black and brown, growing year on year – exploding onto the streets after the latest police brutality. It’s not an isolated incident.

The extent of the discord comes as a surprise to many Americans. Media and carefully conditioned confirmation bias have been selling echo-chamber audiences on the talking points of entrenched power. Normally this means a cultural segregation that perpetuates a long-standing economic apartheid. When necessary, e.g. times of social unrest, the message focuses on blaming insurgents, insinuating sinister forces like anarchists and agents of ‘foreign’ interference.

Most effective of the media misdirections is abuse of scale, as information sources fixate on amplifying sensational incidents of violence, as if they’re the norm and not the exception to overwhelmingly peaceful protest. It amounts to selective disinformation, false emphasis, practised by all flavors of media. It leaves most Americans out of touch with the great currents at play in the nation.

George Floyd protests are a case in point. The murder is compounded by wilful misrepresentation driving a wedge between sections of society whose aims ought to converge. Divide-and-rule is perennial. The people on the streets aren’t protesting on a whim or to blackmail the authorities for special treatment. It’s a population crying out against injustice and it’s not confined to a single race or demographic.

Millions of Americans, ground down by a system that’s evolved (over the past 50 years) to weave exploitation into every tendril of society, are desperately pushing back against the segregated lived reality of their lives. Police racism is a fact, however oblivious middle-class suburbanites may be. Most Americans of color endure oppression not dissimilar to the social divisions once enforced in law. Civil Rights won in the 1960s were a short-lived hope.

And so the people take to the streets in protest, ostensibly in response to the murder of George Floyd but in reality a wound deeper than any single injustice, relentless police brutality just the tip of the iceberg.

21st-CENTURY SLAVERY

As the exploration of space unites the best of human collaboration in pursuit of ambitions as boundless as imagination, the endemic abuse of poor, disadvantaged citizens – particularly those not born to the privilege of the white entrenched authority – commits new atrocities and tightens its socio-economic grip on a dispossessed underclass that’s as inhumane as the corrupt “separate but equal” dogma of the Jim Crow laws.

It shouldn’t be necessary to deconstruct the systemic abuse of black, brown and white poor Americans. It’s endemic. It’s by design. It’s the violence of a thousand cuts. Details are publicly available e.g. the works of Chomsky, Zinn, Hobsbawm, Beard, Bayly, Woodward, exposing the genuine history behind our national diet of propaganda and thinly veiled morality tales.

For the sake of the archetype, let’s consider the so-called prison industrial complex. It connects the widespread protests against police brutality to the gross, larger picture of an American justice system subordinated to the needs of a pre-Civil Rights white racist paradigm. It is anti-poor more than specifically anti-black, but there’s a negligible difference when most of America’s poor underclass are ghettoized blacks and migrant brown-Hispanics.

At least 37 states have legalized the contracting of prison labor by private corporations that mount their operations inside state prisons. The list of such companies contains the cream of U.S. corporate society: IBM, Boeing, Motorola, Microsoft, AT&T, Wireless, Texas Instruments, Dell, Compaq, Honeywell, Hewlett-Packard, Nortel, Lucent Technologies, 3Com, Intel, Northern Telecom, TWA, Nordstrom’s, Revlon, Macy’s, Pierre Cardin, Target Stores, and many more.

In privately run prisons, they receive as little as 17 cents per hour for a maximum of six hours a day, the equivalent of $20 per month. The highest-paying private prison is CCA in Tennessee, where prisoners receive 50 cents per hour for what they call “highly skilled positions.” Federal prisons might pay up to $1.25 per hour for similar. No surprise the mega-corporations back this 21st-century reboot of modern slavery.

The red-lining of ghetto neighborhoods, underfunded schools, gang culture, a government-sanctioned proliferation of illegal drugs into black and brown sub-cities ring-fenced by aggressive police enforcement, relentless race-motivated sentencing, broken public services, divisive affirmative action that’s more rhetoric than reality, inculcating the school-to-prison pipeline, forcing exceptions into alienation that isolates and drives the best and brightest to migrate into middle class obscurity.

The legislative price of keeping the black, brown and immigrant races as an underclass means a small percentage of poor whites get swept along too. Nobody at the top of American society is shedding tears over a few million crackers. 21st-century America is a stealthy reassertion of the Jim Crow spirit, cynically expanded to include Hispanics, poor whites, and immigrants in their millions.

Make no mistake. The race-profiled populating of prison labor quotas is deliberate and unjust. Three strikes rule made law in the 1990s is a case in point. It’s law in 13 states.

Contrary to the propaganda, the record numbers of jailed Americans aren’t a case of American justice responding to a rise in violent crimes. Crime in America has gone down. Prison populations aren’t full of incarcerations from gangland turf wars. Ninety-seven percent of federal inmates were convicted of non-violent crimes. Over 50% of the current prison population remains incarcerated not for the original crime but for a new inmate punishment extending sentence length. It’s a bleak picture.

Facts of the prison industrial complex are unambiguously stark. Look them up if you doubt this conclusion: America has created a version of forced slave labor in the prisons, overwhelmingly using black and Hispanic labor. It’s systemic racism, a corporate government grift, that defines lived reality for millions of Americans. Police violence in the street may be a catalyst for protest, but it’s the waiting embrace of prison slavery that underscores every encounter with American justice. Underestimate the impact of this constant threat at your peril.

STOLEN VALOR

SpaceX successfully launched its Falcon heavy rocket after years of painstaking development. It carried the Dragon2 capsule from launchpad to the International Space Station. Dragon2 is docked at the I.S.S. for a return in six months.

It became necessary for privately funded SpaceX to develop these technologies because the US government had downgraded space exploration (and therefore NASA budgets) to the lowest levels since the 1950s. America wasn’t prepared to take the risk or put money into the vision of a spacefaring future.

It fell to multinational Elon Musk, South Africa born, Canada educated, to take the risk and bear the financial burden for restoring America’s space capability. NASA itself held SpaceX to most stringent criteria before signing off on using Musk’s technology; and only then when the over-funded Boeing and Northrop Grumman failed to push their own tech to the starting line. SpaceX and Elon Musk’s triumphed despite Government parsimony. Its biggest obstacle hasn’t been technological but the systemic bias favoring old corporate grifters over ambitious SpaceX.

But the launch was an unmitigated success. The President and the nation watched the rocket launch from Cape Canaveral, same launchpad used by the Moon mission. It may not have helped plow the field or plant the seed or tend the shoots or harvest the wheat or grind the flour or bake the bread, but proud American nationalism was sure as hell going to appropriate the triumph for its own self-aggrandizement.

As protests turned to riots across the country and police supported by National Guard opened fire on peaceful protests, military-trained NASA spokesmen were all over the media proclaiming American triumph, American innovation, American greatness, American technology, America’s American America. The first bullethead, covered in flags, in front of a flag backdrop, repeated America 114 times in a 3-minute interview. Can anyone say talking point? No mention of SpaceX or Elon Musk. Not even a word of thanks. Space X launch control has no flags. It isn’t a symbol of jingoism. How ironic it should be the NASA-military exploiting Musk’s achievement, to fill the vacuum of their own lack of innovation. It’s a singularly American twist on the concept of “stolen valor”.

BLOATED AMERICAN PARASITES

Two themes embodied by the spaceflight SpaceX being appropriated by NASA-military parasites and the authoritarian crackdown on citizen protest, when the desperate American public is trying to cry ‘stop killing us’ loud enough to be heard; not for regime change but for regime to be true to the live free, live the American dream commitment it’s supposed to be protecting.

In reality, we have compromised the American dream. Not because it’s an impossible hope but because there’s an entrenched parasite draining the lifeblood of the great nation and this parasite has wrapped itself in all the old bullshit rhetoric, stolen valor nationalism, status quo fear mongering. It has appropriated every symbol and trope, to spoon feed the population on terror and docility while it gets its arse exploited to feed the vampirism of a small entrenched in-group of racist, xenophobic crony-capitalist luddites.

No wonder those types hate China so much. They envy China’s authoritarian rule – it’s an unapologetic gangster state – and it’s disregard for the value of ideas. Our American crony-capitalist elite must wish they could exploit the American citizens as easily as Xi Jinping’s totalitarian cabal subjugates a billion plus Chinese. As it is, the American exploiter must fight a daily battle to keep the population in the slaughterhouse line, blacks and browns front and center.

Like most clever parasites, the American exploiters disguise authoritarian avarice in all the most evolved, intelligent ways. Looking legitimate is important; and to be fair, they’re fooling most of the population. There’re documents aplenty breaking down the means by which this control manifests itself, but my concern isn’t the politics but the socioeconomic and cultural reality: it is a losing formula. Not because it’s authoritarian but because it’s not meritocratic; and knowing it is ring-fencing a moribund, entrenched class, the system has evolved to appropriate the creative dynamism generated by the American model while suffocating the population’s freedom, including its freedom to create, to compete and to move society forward.

The end-results are obvious in 2020. The contrast of peaceful protests in 30+ cities, police crackdowns, tear gas, looting, and media whitewash versus Elon Musk’s seamless SpaceX achievement, docking Dragon 2 capsule with the I.S.S., launching and landing a 23-storey Falcon rocket on a dime, couldn’t be more apt. SpaceX is the exception. Authoritarian suppression (albeit not always in our face) is the norm. And the United States as a nation degrades relative to the rest of the world.

People talk about the inevitable decline of great empires and some wag their fingers at America saying “you’re next!” but why can’t America be the exception to the rule? The parasite bleeding the nation’s vitality is hiding in plain sight. It’s a version of the same parasite that devoured past great civilizations. All the US has to do is exculpate the parasite and let the founding principles be free.

America uses American exceptionalism as an effective propaganda tool, but this too has been corrupted by the parasite class. It has become a cover story for appropriating the talents and the energy of new generations, imported skill and debt-financed speculation based on a rigged unsustainable financial system. We were flattered by the enormous momentum built up in the nation’s expansion through the 19th and early 20th century, an unparalleled melting pot of the best of the world liberated by being American from the oppression of a long line of “old country” orthodoxies. Victory in the Second World War was the apex of this influx of autonomous potential.

DEFEAT FROM THE JAWS OF VICTORY

We don’t have to be economists to know the United States of 2020 is not the superpower it used to be; despite the enormous military expenditure. Truth is, America isn’t weaker militarily. There’s no challenge from outside the borders of the fifty states. The country’s deterioration is economic and cultural. From “winning” the Cold War, the generation that should have reaped a reward for America’s triumph was subverted into wage-slave servitude by the moribund Boomer class.

American exceptionalism is a facade, a stage-show braggadocio invented by snake oil salesmen to massage the vanity of an audience, conning them into giving away money and mindlessly following the latest demagogue bullshit. America’s greatness comes from its pioneering self-reliance, its open competition of interests that fuel aspiration, reward freethinking, enrich the entrepreneurial spirit. America’s unique society accepted the unequal reality of a level playing field of better and worse competitors. The country accommodated winners and losers without falling into a winner-takes-all game of monopolies.

America as a moral force and a society evolving, innovating, leading the world, can’t be allowed to degrade into perpetually playing out the results of a single period immediately following the Second World War. We have already lost decades to the vast military industrial con. It led to the boomers inheriting the world and they’ve spent half a century building a system of divide and rule, to block out everyone else, particularly the average American citizen. The unnecessary exploitation of the poor – undereducated, by design, racially segregated, by patient exclusion and bogus alienation strategies – must end.

The natural world-defining dynamics of the United States have corrupted, to enrich an increasingly lazy, parasitical 1% who’ve become anti-entrepreneurial, power-crazed and sociopathic. Corporate government monopolies steal the best of the nation’s ability, exploiting it, exhausting it, losing all the essential vitality of new generations. We’re stuck in an old broken paradigm that went bankrupt 50 years ago. Society’s declining trajectory gets worse each year. Ultimately, it’s defeat snatched from the jaws of victory.

There’s nothing wrong with the ideal of a free, pluralist society of competing interests, driving innovation and excellence, bound in shared defence against external threat (when necessary). To do this won’t require the violent overthrow of fat white boomers but – instead – a little less greed, a lot less hypocrisy, and the necessary liberation of millions of poor white, black and brown Americans.

America doesn’t need new founding principles. Electoral reform, affirmative action, politically correct word policing, misdirections designed to confuse. What the country needs is more honest SpaceX aspiration and less military-NASA appropriation.

In fact, the details can take care of themselves. All we need to do is to bring reality in line with those precious ideals we’re sold on from the moment we open our eyes to see a star-spangled banner on the ceiling of the maternity ward or kindergarten classroom.

Standard
politics, society

UNIVERSAL BASIC INCOME IS A LEFT-WING LIBERATION IDEAL THAT RISKS RIGHT-WING AUTHORITARIAN CONTROL

Universal Basic Income isn’t a new idea but it’s getting a lot of airtime lately and winning supporters, especially as the economics are shown to align with what seems like a clear and present social benefit. In short, U.B.I. means everyone in the country receives a minimum baseline income, from the government, to take care of the necessities of life. It’s usually presented as no-strings attached i.e. available for all, regardless of wealth or employment status, and it’s separate to provisions like welfare, social security, disability allowance. The economics square because it’s an injection into the circular flow, stimulating and stabilising local business, rents, high street spending, etc. Traditionally UBI has been advocated by the left wing as an egalitarian measure liberating the working class from poverty and resisted by the right as a handout encouraging the poor to refuse necessary menial jobs, contrary to the principles of austerity.

Now, democracy can be a way to elect a fair representative government and to an extent this is what it has brought about in most of the industrialised world. For this dynamic to continue working, however, against pressure from mature crony capitalism, the population must remain politically ‘woke’ to their best interests. Anything less than an educated – and vigilant – population results in vast swathes of the voter public susceptible to propaganda. This tends to be controlled by authority and corporate money, dangerous if left unchecked.

DEMOCRACY UNDER SIEGE

Authoritarian vested interests will always be on the lookout for ways to consolidate power. Corporations are immortal so work their profit agenda with patient manipulation, fixing on populism as an effective tool to condition the most naive sections of society via its worst instincts, to vote as best suits the agenda of vested interests. This can include voting away everyone’s rights, your freedom included.

The potential for a dictatorship of the voting majority is a systemic vulnerability, and it’s inherent to universal suffrage. Individual freedom comes with risk, including the potential to be suckered into a mobthink that enables authoritarians to make evil laws through apparently benign democratic institutions. This is playing out in the Brexit supporting working classes in the UK who’re enabling a national erosion of free movement and human rights. Ironically, they’ll be first to suffer the worst of the long-term consequences just as having been duped by the Conservatives in 2010 ended up being a vote for austerity and the corrosion of public services on which they most relied for quality of day-to-day life.

Frustrating dupes indeed yet unlikely to understand let alone thank anyone trying to point this out. To date, the entrenched interests have been content to imperfectly but exploit the credibility and docility of the electorate, admitting of periods of push back (i.e. left-wing governments). This, flattered by the advance of technology, has amounted to general progress for the middle class and, until the 2008 crash, the impression of a decade on decade improvement for the working classes too. The unbroken uptrend ended in the post-2008 recession.

The terrible twins austerity and populism have been the risky but audacious response of an establishment whose priority is continued shielding of their institutions and individuals from the consequences of the 2008 economic crisis. At some point there will be a voter backlash that brings a genuinely left-wing anti-establishment government into power. UBI will be on the agenda, an obvious antidote to austerity, and it’ll be a temptation for any benign government trying to protect and compensate those voters responsible for putting them in power. UBI will be an easy sell, no doubt. It’ll have enough popular support to win through, even in a climate of artificial fear and habitual xenophobia. Sadly, Universal Basic Income will also be the most dangerous risk for the long-term future of free society since the Second World War.

EDUCATION EDUCATION EDUCATION

Education is the key to a genuinely robust democracy, but few countries have educated their citizens top to bottom. Recent governments on both sides of the Atlantic testify the truth of this vulnerability.

A “woke” voter public isn’t achieved through taught dogma, nor necessarily by dint of education to some middle class paradigm. Rather the electorate needs to be given a certain level of independent self-awareness. Lessons in pragmatic cynicism would be a good start – e.g. when facing any public narrative, focus on following the stakes, the money and the power – in short, the voter needs a toolset for cutting through rhetoric and propaganda and snake-oil salesmen that hoodwinks them into voting on their worst instincts. Without it, democracy is as likely to throw up authoritarian abuses of power as a non-democratic politburo; and with greater durability when it happens. The state powers-that-be know this.

Many countries approach broad qualitative education as a basic provision, seeing it as a safeguard against extremism and short-term fads that work against the national interest. In the US and the UK it’s been government policy to resist the creation of an awakened electorate at all costs. This mandate has been a consistent feature since the expansion of universal suffrage.

The anti-fact groupthink polarising British and American society today is an inevitable consequence of many decades’ anti-education legislation. It’s also playing out a corollary: gradual economic degradation relative to the rest of the world. This loss of ground had been mostly offset in the 20th century by ugly but utilitarian global economic imperialism – making the most of historical advantages – but can’t be kept from the people forever.

Poor education means an increasingly unproductive unemployable population. This is a bad long-term outlook that’s been clear for decades. It’s one trend that’ll compound the need for Universal Basic Income as calls grow for a solution to the increasing pressure on social security. Automation, likewise, continues to advance, making more and more useless the narrow vocational training most receive in British and American state schools (i.e. one that keeps the proletariat busy but needs no progressive higher education). 

Education nowadays needs to equip abstract lateral thinkers and adaptable problem solvers, but this will not happen. It is considered too dangerous by governments with a history of doubling down on perpetuating social divisions based on wealth, to prevent any kind of political awakening slipping in by the back door.

LEFT AND RIGHT

The Left has no history of express opposition to Universal Basic Income and will probably bring it into their manifesto as a necessary vote winner against the winning formula of populism and fear used by conservative opponents. At first, the Right will resist the “handout” mentality; while they remain in power.

In the ebb and flow of winner-takes-all electoral systems, the Left will get into power. UBI, pitched as an antidote to austerity, also is a practical quick-fix to the degraded welfare system. It’ll be demonstrated as economically manageable (even beneficial) while also simpatico with the extant capitalist paradigm. No boats need be unnecessarily rocked by bringing UBI into the mix.

The stability insured by introducing UBI will be a key point as it flips from being a thorny question of public spending to one where citizen rights, expediency, manifesto promise and state security align. It’s easy to see how UBI, as a government subsidy, will quickly gain support from entrenched business interests. Consider the plight of low-rent landlords and high street retailers. Support will quickly spread through the media to speed up UBI being sold to the population, establishing itself as a new civil expectation.

THE OPIATE CANNULA

The Right will have seen the wood for the trees by this point. They’ll consult their backroom think-tanks and progress to publicly wanting UBI to bring society closer to a stable paradigm. This stability is the key, however. For the Right it means helping to ringfence the hegemony of the 1%: the top stays at the top, the rest stay at the bottom. UBI can handle food and shelter and life’s necessities, and it won’t be hard for a government of either stripe to indoctrinate the electorate into voting for continuity long term.

UBI will become a gateway drug to perpetual populism, a democratic totalitarianism where the 1% rule forever and the 51% + always vote ‘the right way’. Take out ambition by conditioning an appropriately limiting school system and life for the lower classes becomes something akin to a pleasant reality show. The Left will have been suckered into supporting perpetual UBI because it seems like a liberation for the people, a solution to any burden on society to provide its citizens’ home, food and – on paper – freedom from oppression.

It may well be a kind of solution for these universal human needs, but then so would be a hospital bed and a never-ending opiate cannula. If the government were to propose the latter, one would correctly suspect it might abuse its status as the ‘dealer’. It shouldn’t be an enormous leap of the imagination to perceive how a society addicted to the no strings Universal Basic Income could see the creation of millions of docile proletariat voters easily manipulated ‘from above’ into acquiescent conformity. This subversion of mass voting includes underwriting an authoritarian government with all the firm foundations of modern democracy.

SAVE OUR SOULS

How will anyone persuade an uneducated, self-centred electorate to vote against such appealing short-term security as no strings attached Universal Basic Income? Telling them they’ll be voting away some abstract future freedoms will seem a flimsy tautology, more likely to trigger a knee-jerk reaction against than encourage people to reject UBI. What if the lumpen proletariat prefer comfortable subjugation in the safe embrace of permanent fascist totalitarianism? Comfort might matter more than freedom. And if the majority vote away freedoms they don’t care about, in return for the certainty of Universal Basic Income and its implicit absolution from annoyances like unfulfilled ambition or opportunity or difficult aspirations for self-improvement, what can (or should) the democratically powerless intellectual minority do to prevent it?

Standard
contrarian, people

“SEE IT, MOCK IT, DISMISS IT”

A little overkill? Anti-lockdown protestor armed with a ROCKET LAUNCHER and two pistols in giant holsters becomes an internet hit as he takes time out from North Carolina demonstration to order a Subway (Daily Mail, 12th May 2020)

Maybe these people are idiots. Maybe the fake rocket launcher is a dumb flex. But responding with see it, mock it, dismiss it approach, however tempting, is a bad habit to indulge. It can become a system of confirmation bias. By excluding everything disagreeable, we end up engaging only with the agreeable i.e. confirm what we already knew and block out any chance of learning something new.

The world, if we try to take in its entirety, can be information overload. We’ve no choice but to curate the data we engage with.

What should we use as criteria for curating the world of stuff that won’t descend into confirmation bias or alienation? Popularity is one metric. But the ultimate in popularity is viral content, and we know what’s viral is often bullshit.

Popularity is also highly subjective, but from the perspective of an individual at its epicentre, a popular belief feels like fact, e.g. in the country of Atlantis, the citizens believe in X. In every other country, the citizens believe X is nonsense. X becomes an accepted fact in Atlantis, and a strange custom of delusion everywhere else. This shouldn’t be a reason for hostility towards Atlantis.

Being locked into seeing world only from a first-person perspective is limiting. Most of our beliefs come from facts of life we absorb unconsciously, on trust, from our peers and our surroundings. Some people were lucky to have had an upbringing with both access to facts and an education in the tools needed to test them. Some were unlucky. It’s crass to deride the latter, uncivilized to show sympathy only to the former.

It’s good to practice seeing through other people’s eyes. Imperfect, but worthwhile. Find the point of empathy with the person behind a dispute is the key to sympathy (which makes communication better) and solution (if there is a way to reconcile the disagreement).

We must put popularity in its place. It is never a justification, if you care about ideals like truth and fact and moving forward in life. The popularity of a thing may be the reason you know about it, but should never define how much time you much time engrossed in it.

It’s up to you to pinpoint objective reasons to value the popular thing, independent of “everybody else is into it”. There’s only so much time in the day. We must make choices about what we engage. Use familiarity and not popularity to decide how much time you give.

Rule of thumb: if it’s not familiar, make yourself familiar if it’s significant enough to deserve your finite time. If it’s familiar, give less time or no time at all. No point thinking over things you’ve thought through before. It doesn’t make you smarter and reinforces confirmation bias.

How much time should depend on how important it is to your life and how important it is to other people’s lives – if those other people are important to you. There’s no point researching an unfamiliar thing that’ll never affect your life and isn’t important to anyone else you love (or hate).

If we apply see it, mock it, dismiss it” to everything outside an immediate circle of everyday familiarity, it’s a recipe for never evolving beyond the orthodoxy. As time goes by, a brain limited by orthodoxy becomes a brain marked by ignorance.

Cults commonly teach see it, mock it, dismiss it” to cult-members as part of brainwashing, protecting against truths that risk undermining the cult’s agenda. Polarized society eventually absorbs the same brainwashing. It is tribal loyalty self-policing the edge of in-group orthodoxy, ring-fencing them against a better understanding of anything and anyone identified as out-group.

By making out-group connections less and less likely, polarization grows. Everybody loses in that dead-end dynamic.

Take these protestors in North Carolina. Life experience (peer pressure) conditions them to use see it, mock it, dismiss it against threats to their team’s orthodoxy.

They invent vaccines to enforce socialist-like collaborations and then make injections compulsory to drug the gullible population. They impose indiscriminate lockdowns as a power play, to control people. They using the ‘we are in this together’ lie to train citizens to be subservient sheep. Meanwhile, a shadowy transnational cabal continues to lay the foundations of the New World Order.

There is a constant stream of media to define the orthodoxy. Daily news cycles respond to the need for detail on how to respond to every topic (according to your team or tribe). Conformity is a form of unquestioning, docile acquiescence, and through this truth gets rewritten by a political agenda. Common sense data on virus spreading, infection demographics, lockdown pros and cons: servants to the orthodoxy never engage.

Combine total conformity and constant social media conditioning and the individual drowns in cruel pastiche: whining social justice warriors, virtue signalling cryptofeminists, gun-toting anti-vaxxers, flat earth religious fundamentalists, Antifa bullying the elderly and the solo journalist, white supremacists enslaved to self-important conspiracy theories.

We can do better.

Let’s take a hot button issue with established orthodoxies: gun control. The Second Amendment is not a simple subject but most people have chosen a simple answer “no guns! guns are a prison!” or “yes guns! guns make us free!”. Opposing orthodoxies reframe every opportunity for nuanced thinking into a purity test for in-group, out-group tribalism.

The gun hating orthodoxy disallows empathy with the right to bear arms and the gun loving orthodoxy disallows sympathy with outgroup good faith. When every subject is cast in this polarized dynamic, society becomes perpetual lockdown in the same unchanging stagnant pattern. Individuals naively questioning an orthodoxy become casualties of the mob.

How do we push back?

Reforming an orthodoxy from within is, ironically, far more difficult than making personal connections with people and beliefs outside of the ready-made in-group answers. To a point, you can research without being noticed.

The protestors in North Carolina weren’t violent. They were polite enough to ask permission to eat at Subway. They were intelligent enough to be aware their armaments could threaten; and sensitive enough not to want to intimate the Subway staff.

The opposing orthodoxy casts them as “neocon right-wing” protestors i.e. gun-toting, racist, anti-vax luddites. They show no sympathy. No mention in the public conversation of these protests being against erosion of freedom, that it’s an undemocratic enforced imprisoning of an entire population. Surely even if you disagree with the protestor politics, the ideal of freedom championed publicly by individuals should be worth more than being part of a censorious bandwagon condemning the individuals in a deafening cry of conformist subservience.

Small wonder the protestors become defensive, their tribal orthodoxy reinforced by the relentless mob negativity. The anti-lockdown protests may be misguided, but it shouldn’t be hard to find a point of empathy with the corresponding stereotype of “sneering, blue-pilled liberals” serving the agenda of a perverted New World Order lizard-leadership.

The protestors are ideologically but not socially conditioned so their public display is childish, e.g. contrast of fake rocket launchers and polite survivalists needing lunch from Subway. By accepting reductive ideological polarization, we feed into it. The protestors wear the weapons in a pig-headed (but not insincere) attempt to connect. It’s easy to dismiss them as infantile, potentially dangerous morons. We should resist doing so.

We’re led to practice see it, mock it, dismiss it to the North Carolina protestors. Much of the media works to reduce them into out-group caricature, to coerce us to dehumanize the individuals. Good luck finding sincere reporting on the protestors putting their case. Nowhere in articles will the “reporter” offer anything to understand the protestors (or their protest). Perfunctory soundbites don’t count. They will repeat the same ones in a thousand outlets, typically cherry-picked to play to the stereotypes.

It’s a depressingly common misuse of mainstream media. Their gig is to turn stories into orthodox-serving clickbait for the good for the owner’s politics and the profit of the organisation’s advertising business. Provision of news is secondary. Truth subordinates to corporate direction, which is simple: political agenda plus profit, unless political would mean no profit, in which case profit comes first.

Ultimately, none of these cartoon versions of the world are helpful to the honest citizen, whatever their political tribe. Both comic strip orthodoxies ring-fence confirmation bias, conditioning the protestors in North Carolina and the conformity-police condemning the misdirected expression of public spirit. Different sides of the same echo chamber.

It should be counterintuitive for us, as individuals, to subordinate ourselves to media business model and uniform tribal identity. Yet we do, because the media model and the in-group out-group orthodoxy are ubiquitous. Two sides of the same divide-and-rule coin, both reinforces the stagnant, unchanging pattern of polarized society.

As freeborn individuals (for now) we’re not forced to have such low, xenophobic standards. Divide-and-rule is an authoritarian axiom, to atomize a population. If we don’t resist it, future generations will exist in an ever-decreasing circle of free choice.

Reach out. Listen. Research. Understand the out-group, ideally from their in-group perspective. It’s easy to do, and it does not mean agreeing with the out-group. It’ll reveal new (and better) reasons motivating both sides.

Put yourself in the group and find the angle that’d satisfy you, personally, as motivation for public protest against lockdown in North Carolina, with a prop rocket launcher on your back and a conviction the government was not governing in your best interests.

Take yourself beyond the slogans to the actual substance of why one side is right and the other side is wrong; or why both sides are versions of right and wrong. Also, it humanizes the out-group individuals in a way that undermines the agenda of divide-and-rule authority as nothing else.

Nothing in the real-world is black and white, but many things are swathes of gray and silver.

The “see it, mock it, dismiss it” mindset is a lazy affirmation that goes nowhere but divide-and-rule tribalism. When you use it, you are training a corrosive, tardive dyskinesia of the brain – the in-group, out-group habit – that eventually becomes chronic and irreversible.

Standard
people, pushback, scribble

APRIL FOOL’S DAY 2020: WHY DO SOME SAY REMAINING IGNORANT BY RESISTING CHANGE “FEELS” BETTER THAN LEARNING EXPERTISE BY EMBRACING KNOWLEDGE?

What’s curious is that, in many cases, incompetence does not leave people disoriented, perplexed, or cautious. Instead, the incompetent are often blessed with an inappropriate confidence, buoyed by something that feels to them like knowledge.

DAVID DUNNING (Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 1999)

Learning is time-consuming. It’s difficult to acquire Knowledge. Most knowledge isn’t necessary. People conflate equilibrium with status quo.

Learning upsets equilibrium in the short-term. Knowledge changes status quo permanently. Knowledge supersedes Ignorance. Ignorant is inferior state to Expert. People mistake Expertise with Elitism.

People defend autonomy and self-worth as essentials of life. Equality is an essential ideal. Elitism is an enemy of Equality. Ignorance and Knowledge can be tools of Elitism.

Equality misdirects rejection of Elitism into rejection of Expertise. Ignorance finds itself in harmony with equilibrium and status quo. This is a dangerous corollary!

Those who lack relevant knowledge look at what they don’t understand and imagine nefarious deeds.

AMY TEUTEUR (Push Back, 2016)

Asking yourself “How Wrong Am I?” is the best question you can ask yourself. At least once a day.

NOTES

Dunning-Kruger: about any opinion or conclusion you have, involving the behaviour or motivations of other people (or groups of people).

The answer must explain the behaviour or motivations, in such a way it’d be plausible for you or your in-group, e.g. if a few key external circumstances were different.

Standard
contrarian, questions

60 SECOND CONTRARIAN: “Science versus storytelling”

For us human beings, born primate, bred storyteller, we are terribly mismatched with our technological future. Philosophy and narrative become our poetry and metaphor; socio-economics define the play in which we all have our parts; but reality, the fundamental nuts and bolts, truth and fact, to which science aspires to understand in a way that carries objective meaning across generations: this must be sold in iambic pentameter soliloquy when in practice it must be communicated in relentlessly practical lingua franca prose.

Standard
contrarian, questions

60 SECOND CONTRARIAN: “What is reality?”

UBERCYNIC PODCAST – TEST PRE-EPISODE 1

Reality is an objective aspiration to see the world as it is, subjectivity held to account by science. It is the distillation through the scientific method of the observed, experienced environment – from the proximately tangible all the way to universal conditions – separating the erroneous white noise of bias, habit, ephemera and error from those persistent peer-reviewed conclusions that most accurately codify the diverse crucible of existence.

Standard
pushback, society, words

SPOONFEEDING THE WARM DIARRHOEA OF SOCIAL MEDIA OUTRAGE

Social media is a quixotic chain gang, prisoners shackled together by some antithesis of merit – failed wannabe artists, lazy scavengers of other people’s renown – craving the recognition talent might have brought them, to fill the void of unfulfilled sociopath self-regard.

Social media populates a ‘court’ of public opinion towards which the tireless chain gang beats out ‘targets’ from the soft cover of the media landscape.

The spotlight soon fixes its coruscating glare on the accused and the occasions act as hate amplifiers, weaponizing self-important virtue-signalling into an emotional gluten, coagulating facts, context, scale, nuance and individual human empathy into the vicious viscous bile of mob outrage.

The court verdict – guilty – is inevitable but the chain gang has become addicted to the authoritarian power of the moral high-ground, focusing the ‘court’ on its duty to democratize a death sentence by apportioning the outrage bile, given a little salt by repetitions of word violence (outing, predator, victim, criminal, exile, power, abuse) so the chain gang can finally come into its own: preparing the public gallery for the next iconoclasm, self-congratulating as the spoonfeed the open-mouthed mob on warm unforgiving diarrhoea.

SOCIAL MEDIA IS A QUIXOTIC CHAIN GANG, PRISONERS SHACKLED TOGETHER BY SOME ANTITHESIS OF MERIT – FAILED WANNABE ARTISTS, LAZY SCAVENGERS OF OTHER PEOPLE’S RENOWN – CRAVING THE RECOGNITION TALENT MIGHT HAVE BROUGHT THEM, TO FILL THE VOID OF UNFULFILLED SOCIOPATH SELF-REGARD.

POST-MODERNIST ANGULAR MOMENTUM AND SOCIAL MEDIA GRAVITY DRIVE CHAIN GANG ACCRETION AND THIS IN TURN SENDS JETS OF EXCESS PRISONER ENERGY INTO THE NEBULOUS REAL-WORLD. PRISONER RADIATION IN THE MEDIA LANDSCAPE SOON EXPOSES POTENTIAL ‘targets’ AND, ONCE EXPOSED, AN INDIVIDUAL ‘TARGET’ IS VISIBLE TO THE ENTIRE CHAIN GANG.

Spotlights worked by the trembling, eager prisoners fix the accused in the coruscating glare of innumerable self-important virtue signals and the ‘court’ is in session. These occasions serve to amplify impersonal hate into an emotional gluten, coagulating facts, context, scale, nuance and individual human empathy into a game of competitive outrage.

This is the human cloud; the virtual mob in action. It’s an animated torrent of data streamed at higher and higher bandwidth, a vicious viscous gestalt of digital volition rendered with real violence into the real life of the ‘target’ with all the old-fashioned bile of a good old public execution.

Standard
psychology, scribble

IDENTITY – THE SELF – IT ISN’T A WHERE, IT’S A WHEN

They say the self is an illusion and as proof they ask: “Where is the actual you?

This is hard to answer. Is it in the skull, behind the eyes? We know that isn’t specific enough. They can identify no region of the brain as the physical you. No snip-snip of grey matter extracts the essential you nor is consciousness a necessary component of a functioning brain.

We presume ourselves to be an emergent phenomenon of neurons networked by synapses but brains are common to a plethora of species, many not sentient let alone conscious. We do not understand how or why the light of consciousness switches on. Identity is self-evident – it is the “something is happening” at the base of all conscious experience, yet it doesn’t emerge fully formed when we’re born. Potential only becomes “something” over time, but even meditation shows this is susceptible to dissolution and chemical-altering drugs show we can change it beyond recognition. And none of these phenomena pinpoint to a single locus in physical space.

But perhaps “Where is the actual you?” presumes too much. It may be the wrong question.

What if the conscious self that identifies as you isn’t a thing in any three dimensional spatial sense? What if “something is happening” is only objectively true in that moment, without reference to the past or the future? This would make consciousness and identity a product of cause and effect: an event, more or less predictable under prescribed conditions but not necessarily a physical thing that itself persists. It becomes the sum of disparate parts that needn’t exhibit coherent continuity to satisfy its own definition.

Consciousness need not be a where. It only needs must be a when.

Standard