Saturday, June 24, 2017

Moderation (Kamran K ) : Resisting the HYPERinteresting Arms Race

(1) For reasons that would take many treatises to fully explain, the active practice of moderation as a virtue has been largely forgotten by peoples worldwide. When this happens- and indeed whenever it happens- two things quickly ensue: (a) the people become more and more addicted to whatever happens to trigger dopamine pathways in their brain (while this varies somewhat among persons, there are usually a few common activities involved) and (b) the people become absorbed in various ARMS races of various sorts that know no signs of ending and in which the competitive struggle to win the ARMS race has become detached and separated from actual benefit to human persons engaged in the arms race.

(2) Beginning as early as Rousseau's time, the intellectual elite began to conceptually trash the "common man" who- despite his relentless and difficult toil in factories- was often referred to as the "petty bourgeoisie." The common man who simply worked a factory life and then came home and ate simple meat and potatoes with his family and kids was increasingly imagined as "boring" and "not interesting."

This was itself the outgrowth of a NOVEL tendency on the part of humans to view themselves as INDIVIDUALS and to judge each other as INDIVIDUALS. For many many generations, humans did not so view themselves. They were members of tribes clans churches or other communities and had no individual identity separate from these things. It did not even occur to anyone to regard anyone as an INDIVIDUAL, let alone judge them as boring or "not interesting" because they for example did few things other than work on the farm, have kids, eat basic food, and then shit and piss somewhere and restart this cycle of living again the next day. Ad infinitum.

(3) Life in this country proceeded in the same community-first way for many decades. It was not terribly important to one's reputation in the community whether one had an interesting set of hobbies, went to interesting restaurants or bars, traveled to "exotic" locations across the globes, had interesting sexual tastes or kinks, wore unusual dress with a motley crew of colors and designs, or even had unusual philosophical and ethical beliefs including whether one was vegan, polyamorous, a feminist or enviromentalist, and so on and so forth.

None of all this seemed to matter to people in most US communities in the 50s-90s. Why? What did matter then? Generally, what seemed to matter then was an overall evaluation of one's character and personality as either productive or unproductive to one's family and overall society. If one was generally productive, then this ensured one's generally high reputation in the community; if one was not productive, this generally ensured one's low reputation in the community. All of the other details as to one's personality, behaviors, and viewpoints were viewed as MINOR TRIFFLES and vastly insignificant compared to this first ultimate assessment.

(4) The situation is very different now, particularly among the younger (under 40) segment of the population. What has happened is an absolute REVOLUTION in how people are valued, made popular, achieve status and increase ranking in competitive struggles for money, sex, honor, and all the rest. And as with most modern competition, what started as a competition between a few has become an arms race for all (or nearly so).

(5)  The blog author has been aware of this development for quite some time. His review of thousands of dating profiles confirmed that the young of today DESPERATELY wish to project a digital image of their lives and their own personality as HYPER-interesting. When one starts to look for it, one sees this trend nearly everywhere, at all times. The unspoken unwritten mandate is this: thou must project thy life to others as HYPERinteresting, constantly changing and fluid, not "bound" to any traditional viewpoints or "dogmas," containing a very wide array of RANDOM interests and likes, which all constantly are changing. Randomness in particular is celebrated because- at the very least- randomness is different.

For many, perhaps most of today's youth, the desire to be perceived as living a hyperinteresting life TRUMPS all other social wants. Meaning one wishes to be perceived as a hyperinteresting individual MORE STRONGLY than one wishes to be perceived as a fair and decent person, as competent in one's work, or as a good friend or family member.

(6) A digression is warranted here. Today's youth caught up in the hyperinteresting arms race should have read their Nietzsche. Carefully. They didn't and have become non-interesting in their pursuit of hyper-interesting for reasons that Nietzsche knew full well.

Simply, if one is to have a UNIQUE certain style and taste, then it should be actually unique. Meaning it has not been copied from others and is not EASILY copyable by others, either now or later. So thusly if one is to be unique by virtue of owning a dog, it should be a dog that no one else actually has and can not easily obtain. One's relationship with that dog should then also be unique and not of a nature that one sees everywhere. If these are not so, then one should recognize that one will not be HYPERinteresting to others by virtue of one's dog; one must locate one's hyperinterestingness in something else.

The youth of today- with but VERY rare exception- all seem to center their claim to being HYPERinteresting in the VERY SAME set of behaviors and values. These include: (1) a complete and full embrace of political liberalism, with everyone liberated to do and say whatever they want whenever they want to, (2) a complete and full rejection of corporate life and the serious pursuit of money or a career, (3) a fondness for travel to very exotic locations, (4) a fondness for fashion of unusual colors and styles, (5) a complete and full embrace of pet ownership as a valuable "life-changing activity," (6) an embrace of "healthy" eating (which is actually not healthy at all given the fondness for alcohol) and regular exercise); with respect to the eating, a rejection of "bland" or other "junk" foods, and with respect to the drinking, again a rejection of "bland" boring beers and spirits, (7) a passion for "trying new things" such as skydiving, (8) a rejection of traditional marriage and traditional duty/responsibility-centered relationships, (9) a rejection of traditional media and popular shows and an embrace of niche-centered programming, typically found on YouTube, (10) an embrace of selfies and filtered photographs of RANDOM locations, and (11) a penchant for involvement in various social justice movements which seek to establish new rights for peoples and even animals. This list is not exhaustive.

In addition to the same basic things being used by millions of youth as the foundation of their claim for being hyperinteresting, the hyperinteresting project of many fails because it is too bound up in negativity. Being against various things is- in the long run- not a great method of becoming interesting.

(7) One could interject at this point and ask what is the vice in any of this? What is the harm in any of this behavior? As with all other arms races, the initial participation in the competitive struggle brings benefits. The negatives only begin when one can't get out of the cycle and FEELS PRESSURED to continue COMPETING MERELY for the sake of WINNING some prize that doesn't even exist.

So, for example, there is nothing wrong- and indeed much to be celebrated- in the development of a unique human personality that has- over time- developed a whole host of unique behaviors and values OF MERIT AND SUBSTANCE. The merit and substance requirement is critical and prevents one from becoming TRULY interesting by virtue of a fondness for MERE randomness. One could develop a robot that woke up everyday and RANDOMLY displayed an interest for this or that, said random things that betrayed random emotions, etc. This would ultimately become annoying rather than interesting.

(8) Our reflections on the modern hyperinteresting man will continue shortly.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Humility (Kamran K): In the Zone between 0 and Perfect Knowledge.

(1) Socrates boasted that he was the smartest and best man alive because he alone truly and fully knew how ignorant he was of the things most worth knowing. Is this type of humility desirable or possible today? What would be a more honest assessment of the state of human knowledge as we find it today, both in individual human persons and in humanity as a whole.

(2) It could hardly be challenged that humanity has IN FACT learned millions, billions, and trillions of things since Socrates lived. In a digital form, the world wide web is a testatment to all of the facts and information- as well as reasoning and ethical values- humanity has learned over the eons. So, too, the millions of books found in thousands of libraries worldwide each provide evidence of ample knowledge humanity has amassed in the past 2000 years.

(3) Having said that, in almost any area of human knowledge it could also be maintained that quite literally nothing is known absolutely perfectly. Perfect knowledge as to any fact or information is a truly high bar. To have perfect knowledge of anything (say the perfect diet for human health and fitness) means that one is already in full and complete possession of all information and facts relevant to the issue. But even more is needed. One would also need to demonstrate a mastery of all potential objections to the validity of any area of one's claimed knowledge. And finally one would also have to show the continued accuracy of all of the facts and information one claims to know perfectly, requiring some sort of annual updating of one's facts and information.

(4) With respect to (seemingly) ANY area of human knowledge one considers, perfect knowledge still eludes humanity and, by extension, individual human persons. Humanity and individual persons surely do know many things, even one could say a "shit load" of things; but none of these things is known perfectly.

Anyone interested in approaching perfect knowledge on any issue will routinely engage in the following behaviors: (1) browsing for new studies and information relevant to the issue; (2) interacting with leaders in the field; (3) carefully isolating what in fact is known and what is not; and (4) creating and conducting trial-and-error experiments to illuminate grey areas.

(5) Many persons do of course act (or pretend) as though they have perfect knowledge. The requirements of public life- particularly the requirements of politics, the media, business affairs, and even dating- often demand that persons act as though they have perfect knowledge on some issue when their knowledge is usually imperfect but still "good enough" for most purposes most of the time. But when challenged in some crisis or in circumstances that are challenging and non-repetitive, one sees that their knowledge is lacking in some form or another.

(6) It may take humanity many thousands of years to reach perfect knowledge on any issue of significance. It may take even longer than that for the really hard issues, like how to distribute economic goods fairly or how best to pursue human happiness or how to include people's religious beliefs in the context of an otherwise secular society. Or how to reach zero murders, robberies, or rapes in a given decade in just one country, let alone worldwide.

(7) Until then, the sober-minded will continue to view with skepticism the claims of any and all persons that claim to have fully mastered or perfected knowledge on issues, big or small.

Politics (Kamran K): The Death of American Political Progress

"Show me anything as strong as that in our age of vice and railroads, but I say in our age of vessels and railroads...Show me an idea that binds men together today with even half the strength as in those days. And, dare say then, that the water of life has not been weakened and polluted under this star, under this network that has entangled people. And don't try to scare me off with your wealth, the rarity of famine, and the rapidity of the means of communication! There's more wealth, but there's less strength; the binding idea doesn't exist anymore ; everything has turned soft, everything is rotten, and people are rotten..." (Dostoevsky, The Idiot)

(1) Dealing with some of the most complex issues of the day- and having to deal with these issues in a manner that is fair to all- the politics of even the most enlightened society will be somewhat error-prone. Still, a good society will have a politics that gets most things right and tends to get progressively better as time unfolds. It certainly will not keep bungling and making a mess of the same political problems for decades, even centuries.

(2) Political progress, like most things, is not guaranteed. The society must somehow select politicians that are able to gather the most relevant and accurate information on the political issues of the day and then critically reason through and evaluate the competing political solutions to those same problems. Ideally, they will then present their proposed solutions (in comprehensible and honest form) to the people and gather whatever feedback the public can offer before implementing final law.

(3) All of this political action does not happen in a vacuum. It occurs in a given society or nation at a specific point in time. In turn, that society or nation must have a certain bare-minimum shared identity, wisdoms, or values in order for its political system to even have a chance at working well. There must be a shared non-trivial CORE of identity PREMISED IN MORAL VALUES to which the community can ANCHOR its politics upon. This shared identity offers some picture- rough and vague in outline though it may be- of what the community believes a flourishing society would look like.

(4) This nation's politics has been BADLY regressing for some time and is now almost totally bankrupt because we citizens no longer share ANY non-trivial common identity ROOTED in a shared moral wisdom or ethical values. This nation was founded by a people that did share such things. The Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, the Federalist Papers and many other documents are proof of the shared values and wisdoms that the nation shared as a political community back in 1776. Despite some disagreements on the margins, Jefferson, Madison, Washington, John Jay, Alexander Hamilton agreed upon a shared identity of moral wisdoms and values of what a decent American society would look like and what types of values would guide a decent American politics.

Between 1776 and 2017, these shared values and wisdoms have been completely destroyed and demolished by the nation's total and complete embrace of capitalism and money worship (some other causes are at play but none as important as this one). For many decades now, the governing "morality" of this nation has been greed dressed up in euphemistic form as the "need" to ever grow GDP and corporate profits (which is not a true need because one can have a healthy economy that is not perpetually growing to the maximum).

Unfortunately for us citizens, greed is not a morality. Greed is an ego-driven narcissistic EMOTIONAL impulse that cannot bind people TOGETHER; importantly, greed knows no limits whatsoever of any destruction it may cause itself or others. Greed- and particularly American greed- does not supply the shared identity, wisdom, or values upon which a political community can be built.

In a society where the governing "morality" is greed, everyone views everyone else as a competitor for scarce resources. Everyone is eager to get as much from others as possible while giving them as little as possible when the roles of buyer/seller switch. This extends all the way up to how people view the government; people do indeed want to pay the government as little as possible in taxes and then receive as much benefits as possible through tax refunds, disability and Medicare, etc. Decent persons endure- but never embrace or celebrate- life in such a society: "If I could never have been born, I certainly would never have chosen existence on such ludicrous terms!" (Dostoevsky)

5) What could still be considered shared American values or a shared American identity are usually simple BABY cliches and/or platitudes and/or trivial hedonistic behaviors that are not of sufficient complexity to anchor a political community. Americans do seem united in their valuing of a safe and secure country where crime is low and terrorism never happens. And Americans do love their beer and football and porn/sex and Instagram/Facebook and vacations to exotic beach destinations and chain restaurants, etc. But what sort of modern day politics can be based on these incredibly obvious truths or these incredibly banal behaviors? It should not be surprising to note that the actual substance of modern political campaigns has gotten progressively more banal and trite as the years have passed.

(6) The reader may object here and argue that liberal often Democratic intellectual elites have championed DIVERSITY as the going-forward ultimate American value and identity (Obama as prime example). But can one actually maintain DIVERSITY of viewpoints and lifestyles as a shared political identity, particularly as an identity upon which a politics could be founded upon? Politics by definition is a process in which ONE- not many solutions- are reached to the political problems of the day. Politics is not a college seminar or campus in which different ideas and behaviors are all floated about, all considered, and none ultimately adopted.

Diversity of viewpoints and lifestyles can be one aspect of what the nation's shared values and identity protects but it cannot be the bedrock identity, wisdom or values upon which a people's politics proceed. For one to see this, simply consider the political issue of what is a fair distribution of wealth in a nation between LABOR and capitol? How is this issue resolved by reference to the value or identity of DIVERSITY? It is not. The take-away point: diversity as an ultimate value is simply silent on most of the hard political issues of the day. It sounds great at campaign speeches; it doesn't progress a politics forward.

(7) Until this nation can somehow re-establish a shared national identity, wisdom, or values, it would do well to acknowledge that it lacks one. This would cause the federal government to DRAMATICALLY shrink in size and complexity and scope and the various states (which are MUCH more likely to have shared identity, wisdoms, or values) to proceed forward with a coherent politics based on a shared moral ethical compass.

Less Washington, more Sacramento.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Justice (Kamran K): Comrade Consumers...

"Labor produces all other forms of wealth; that is to say, it produces wealth for all others but itself..."
Karl Marx. Das Kapital

"The driving motive and determining purpose of capitalist production is the self-valorization of capital to the greatest possible extent, the greatest possible production of surplus-value, hence the greatest possible exploitation of labour-power by the capitalist."
Karl Marx, Das Kapital

(1) Man's history has long involved a struggle between the forces of capital and those of labor. There have been ebbs and flows, with some periods a win for labor and others for capital. It is right and good and just for labor and capital to seek a dynamic homeostatic position that fairly compensates everyone involved for their respective time, efforts, and contributions, intellectual, physical, and otherwise: "each such function, whatever may be its nature or its form, is essentially the expenditure of human brain, nerves, muscles, and sense organs." (Marx, Das Kapital)

Over the past three or so decades, however, the homeostatic balance has been completely lost. The situation is not unique to the fortunes of capital and labor; a very similar loss of homeostasis can be seen in MAN VS. ENVIRONMENT wherein man's "need to survive" has generated the exploitation and wide-scale destruction of  Earth's biosphere. The wins have been so decisive for capital over labor that the mercy rule may need to be imposed and capital given the decisive victory for as far as the eye can see: (a) "heaped-up wealth confronting the worker grows apace and confronts him as capital, as wealth that controls him. The world of wealth expands and faces him as an alien world dominating him..." & (b) "having tired one set of hands by working them throughout the day, they had another set ready to go on working throughout the night..." (both from Marx, Kapital)

(2) From whatever perspective one considers the issue, capital has grown in strength and might and influence while labor has been absolutely pulverized. In the US, CEOs often make 300-400 TIMES what the average worker in the same company makes. Large shareholders of those same companies can and do earn many multiples of what the CEO makes through capital appreciation and dividends. Today, capital calls all the shots, makes all the rules, takes none of the physical or health risk, assumes almost no financial risk...AND MEANWHILE GETS ALMOST ALL OF THE REWARD when things turn out well.

This reality would be far less bad if the CAPITAL group of persons far exceeded the LABOR group of persons. Here, too, reality has been catastrophic. The situation today is that those with access to CAPITAL represent a very elite segment of the population while the ranks of LABOR teem with EVERYBODY. If one is in the LABOR group it is next to impossible- as in POWERBALL lottery winning impossible- to join the CAPITAL group. Facebook, Google, and Snapchat founders are token exceptions to the overwhelmingly dominant rule. Another exception exists for exceptionally attractive women in their 20s who have yet to marry. They can marry into CAPITAL but to do so they must usually be stunningly attractive, winning the genetic beauty lottery many times over.

(3) Examples of CAPITAL's domination are too numerous too list and need not delay our attention here. One statistic tells nearly the entire story: in 2014 the percentage of US GDP going to corporate profits hit an all-time high while simultaneously the percentage going to working men and women as wages hit an all-time low. What statistic captures the reality of capitalism better than this? None. What statistic better refutes Adam Smith's idea that capitalism- through an "invisible hand"- will deliver the most public good and benefit of all competing economic systems? Simply put, the reality of economic life on planet Earth is one in which CAPITAL has assumed a position of complete and total domination of LABOR.

(4) CAPITAL has been armed- all the way through- with every intellectual and legal advantage the system affords to those with the financial resources to pay the fees of lawyers, financial and business consultants, real estate agents, accountants and tax gurus, etc. Which means that CAPITAL has essentially FROZEN its dominant status into governing law in the form of all manner of complex and complicated contracts, statutes, treaties, laws, court decisions, property rights, and all the other legal infrastructure that modernity permits CAPITAL to enjoy. Even if it wanted to compete, LABOR hardly has a chance anymore.

Furthermore, CAPITAL has access to limitless advertising and has non-stop promoted its interests in this area too. By impressing upon youth and impressionable young adults over and over and over again- in arenas as diverse as TV, internet, billboards, radio, and celebrity advertising- that one's dignity and worth and value is tied to the nature and quality of material possessions one can purchase and maintain, capital has been able to keep LABOR addicted to status-driven consumption which keeps business profits booming year after year.

In sum, CAPITAL has looked after its interests and dominant position VERY very well. But it did overlook one BIG thing that could retilt the balance toward a just state of affairs, toward the interests of LABOR.

(5) Capital was never able to fully insulate itself from the power of the consumer. US GDP remains largely (estimates range as high as 70%) tied to the spending decisions of the consumer. Here, at last, one finds a crumb of freedom remaining in the hands of LABOR. And crumb it certainly is when considered on the individual level. No single consumer can do anything to CAPITAL even if he/she were to cut personal spending to zero overnight: "each puny, weak, and contemptible." (Marx) Indeed, even many hundreds- perhaps even many thousands- of consumers would do little to CAPITAL were they to drastically curtail their spending.

But what if 5% of LABOR did this? What if 10%? 25%? 50%? What if members of LABOR took turns doing this for months on end?

(6) The path to peaceful change of the System is now in view. CAPITAL has effectively taken control of politics, and- by extension- the military. CAPITAL is legally in possession of all of its property and so even the non-violent taking of this property would be criminal. BUT CAPITAL cannot force LABOR to spend its money in any particular way. Labor can make a true stand with how it allocates its money and, for example, withhold all business from those companies that have particularly egregious histories of poor worker compensation, consumer fraud and scams, outrageous income inequalities between management and workers, a history of violating various labor laws, and so on. LABOR still has freedom and with freedom comes power.

LABOR's power is, indeed, so potent in this regard that it could cause a total RESET of any industry any time it wishes. LABOR could, for example, cause the bankruptcy of nearly the entire restaurant industry by making the overnight decision to eat all meals at home for the next two months. These may seem like extreme measures, plagued by their own unique risks and discomforts. But LABOR may one day simply be "fed up" with the status quo and be more than willing to "have a go" at "roughing it out." Maybe, just maybe, LABOR will be able to rise above its habitual pedestrian comforts and likes for a brief period in the service of a grand old ideal known as JUSTICE.

(7) Comrade consumers...

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Freedom (Kamran K): Yawn Away Baby!

"Here, however, are you at home and house with yourself; here can you utter everything, and unbosom all motives; nothing is here ashamed of concealed, congealed feelings."
Nietzsche, Zarathustra

"And all those are my equal who give to themselves their Will, and divest themselves of all submission."
Nietzsche, Zarathustran

(1) As discussed, the System is now totally dominating the people and their life destiny. As a frustration release sieve, the System does permit some very trivial ultimately meaningless freedoms to the people. These include such things as free pornography, endless physical exercise opportunities, cheap food (loaded with saturated fat and sugar) and alcohol, cable TV, endless social media use, and a culture of rampant sexual license and promiscuity. None of these freedoms does anything to facilitate a person altering the trajectory of their life toward the GOOD. Each of these freedoms does not alter (leaves totally intact) the fundamental dynamic we've discussed: the System dominating the People and paralyzing their collective life destiny.

(2)  To maintain human dignity and identity in an environment such as this is no small task. Freedoms must be located that are not of the type discussed above (the freedom to chase Facebook likes) AND which are strong enough to allow the exertion of some force back on the System and its total domination of the people. But given the System's TOTAL domination, these freedoms are exceedingly difficult to locate and articulate.

(3) We advance today one of the few such remaining freedoms: the freedom to YAWN. Although at first blush this may seem like a trivial comical freedom of the sort discussed in paragraph 1, it shows itself to be a power almost unrivaled in modern civil society.

(4) The freedom to YAWN is literally one of the last freedoms we lose as conscious human beings. So long as mind is conscious and more or less operating normally, we maintain the freedom to YAWN at literally anything that is happening around us.

(5) By yawning, we communicate- and communicate forcefully- that some purported reality or achievement is simply not that impressive to us. When we yawn, we are WITHOLDING our admiration and respect for some reality or experience. No matter what spin or advertising or force is exerted to transform this reality into something that would command our respect and admiration, we have the total right to say NO! I am not in the least impressed or amazed. And I will, accordingly, YAWN!

(6) Consider, for example, the opening of a series of new hotels in a busy downtown US city. We could, like the many, act impressed with the lights, 70-story height, 5 star rating, 12 restaurants and spas, 13 bars and nightclubs that such a hotel offers. Or we could simply YAWN. Seen this too many times before in 30+ cities of the world. The experiences offered in this place are all on a very low level of human consciousness (mainly food, physical comfort, and sex chasing). We see this place for what it is- simply a massive tonnage of steel and glass designed to extract as many dollars as humanly possible from anyone that steps foot inside its doors ($40 for a piece of chicken breast, some veggies, and a glass of wine. "And thatll be $25 for parking, sir!"). YAWN! Next experience, please!

Similarly, we hear of someone that has gained admission to some Ivy League school like Harvard or Yale. Rather than, like the many, expressing respect for the genius of such a person, we can simply YAWN. We know, more likely than not, the person will graduate from the school with an A-/B+ average (it is harder to do worse than this), pursue one of five career paths (law, business, medicine, academia, or I-banking) that dramatically limit his/her freedom, intellectual development, and quality of life. Ten or so years after graduation, the person will be, more likely than not, working round the clock making a high salary which is almost totally absorbed by the costs of marriage, KIDDIE (e.g. childcare), and housing in NYC or SF or LA or DC or Boston. Further, the person will be woefully unattractive/out of shape and STUPID liberal. Again, to all of this how should one react other than to simply...YAWN!

(7) Rather than continuing to list examples, let us articulate common characteristics of YAWNable realities and persons and their behaviors:
  • Their behaviors, both micro and macro, are repetitive and highly predictable. They follow a pattern of life that has already been done hundreds of thousands even millions of times by other persons on Earth. What is there admirable and worthy of esteem in this! YAWN!
  • Their behavioral motivational patterns are trite and banal. They don't seem to be motivated to do anything for reasons that are truly personal to them and are compelling in an inspirational sense. YAWN!
  • When they speak, these persons or organizations repeat trite cliches that reflect they don't have a mastery of the concepts they are discussing. They spew forth much bullshit and much vague platitudes that one has heard literally thousands of times before with no tangible effect on one's life or quality of mental consciousness.  YAWN!
  • They are motivated in their actions and speech by the goal of ordinary commercial gain to serve ordinary trite and banal purposes. Granted persons must engage in activities of ordinary commercial gain and so one is not saying this type of behavior is "bad." It simply is not worthy of respect or admiration just as one does need to hiccup a few times a day but no one could be impressed by THE BURP. YAWN!
(8) Yawn away baby! Yawn away!

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Wisdom (Kamran K): Reflections on NEHS and SHS

"As a matter of fact, day after day, we live far beyond the bounds of our consciousness; without our knowledge the life of the unconscious is also going on within us. The more the critical reason dominates the more impoverished life becomes; but the more of the unconscious and the more of myth we are capable of making conscious the more of life we integrate. Overvalued reason has this in common with political absolutism: under its dominion the individual is pauperized."
Carl Jung, On Life after Death

"It consisted in a gradual but swiftly progressive obliteration of space, time, sensation, and the multitudinous factors of experience which seem to qualify what we are pleased to call our Self. In proportion as these conditions of ordinary consciousness were subtracted, the sense of an underlying or essential consciousness acquired intensity. At last nothing remained but a pure, absolute, abstract Self. The universe became without form and void of content. But Self persisted, formidable in its vivid keenness, feeling the most poignant doubt about reality, ready, as it seemed, to find existence break as breaks a bubble round about it. And what then? The apprehension of a coming dissolution, the grim conviction that this state was the last state of the conscious Self, the sense that I had followed the last thread of being to the verge of the abyss...The return to ordinary conditions of sentient existence began by my first recovering the power of touch, and then by the gradual though rapid influx of familiar impressions and diurnal interests. At last I felt myself once more a human being; and though the riddle of what is meant by life remained unsolved, I was thankful for this return from the abyss- this deliverance from so awful an initiation into the mysteries of skepticism." 
William James, The Varieties of Religious Experience

(1) Normal "everyday" human consciousness ("NEHS") is primarily geared toward bodily survival and the maintenance of human physical bodily integrity. Although it permits an occasional daydream here and there, it focuses almost entirely on matters that either directly affect bodily survival or those that provide the means to it (in modernity, this means work for $).

For these "everyday" tasks, NEHS is well suited and almost always does its job rather well. The resulting reward for NEHS is the body does make it another day, the human survives another day, week, month, or year.

(2) NEHS is not well suited for- and does not typically produce- states of feeling or experience that could best be characterized as "transcendental." These are states of feeling or experience that are so above the quality of everything experienced before that they do seem to belong to another level of experience, a different and better level of reality. They are so good that literally no human being has ever voluntarily left a transcendent experience; it has always been cut short against our wishes.

For access to transcendent realms of feeling or experience, consciousness must somehow exit NEHS and find its way to SHS ("super human consciousness"). There are only a few roads available from NEHS to SHS. Some (such as drugs and extreme physical activity such as skydiving) are fraught with health risks and dangers, including death. Others (such as music or meditation or philosophy or exceptionally gifted writing) are less risky but tend not to produce the same peak level of SHS nor produce any type of SHS most of the time for most people. Religion may offer the most SHS with the least risk, but requires a total lifestyle orientation and commitment for many decades of life. Increasingly, fewer people are willing to make this level of commitment to (literally) anything. For the very very lucky few, romantic love may also offer access to SHS but access through romantic love requires the most unbelievably perfected type of love that is almost "nowhere to be found" here on Earth.

There does not appear to be any other way for man to reach SHS. 

(3) A life that never reaches SHS and remains always on the level of NEHS is- no matter how traditionally successful- emotionally impoverished. A life that ever briefly enters SHS (even for a few hours every few years) MAY become an emotionally vibrant one if one is able to leverage the insights gained during the SHS experience into some sort of overall reorientation in mood and personality when one is back in NEHS. For this to happen, the experience one had in SHS must be very carefully recorded and analyzed to see what clue it offers for behavior on the level of NEHS.

(4) Even at its best, the life that NEHS permits to go forward becomes increasingly routine, habitual, formulaic, and UNmysterious with each successive year. Modern advances in technology and computing are accelerating this trend at a dizzying pace much to the disappointment of many who wish to view their life as something more than a challenge to see who can do the most banal mundane things in the best way in the least amount of time:  "He must sense that he lives in a world which in some respects is mysterious; that things happen and can be experienced which remain inexplicable; that not everything which happens can be anticipated." (Carl Jung) Science and technology continue to be celebrated as modernity's heroes despite a rather ambiguous OVERALL effect on human life and happiness and emotional/physical vitality: "Rationalism and doctrinairism are the disease of our time; they pretend to have all the answers." (Jung) 

NEHS gets increasing information about almost everything in one's environment, masters that information, and allows one to effortlessly "cruise control" through this environment for months, years, and decades. Nothing really surprises any longer, down to the last detail. Nothing is ever very challenging very longer, down to the last detail. Nothing ever emotionally moves one any longer, down to the last detail.

Suddenly, via access to SHS, all of this familiarity and comfort is temporarily exploded and one is literally delivered into realms of consciousness containing truths that one can and should anchor an entire life upon:

Swiftly arose and spread around me the peace and knowledge that pass all the argument of the earth,
And I know that the hand of God is the promise of my own,
And I know that the spirit of God is the brother of my own,
And that all the men ever born are also my brothers and the women my sisters and lovers,
And that a kelson of the creation is love.
Walt Whitman

You must forgive yourself and love yourself...You must forgive yourself and love yourself...You must forgive yourself and love yourself...You must forgive yourself and love yourself...You must forgive yourself and love yourself
Madre Dos

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Politics (Kamran K):On the "System" and the "People"

"In imagination, individuals seem freer under the rule of the bourgeoisie than before because their conditions of life seem accidental to them. In reality they are less free, because they are more subjected to the domination of things." Karl Marx, The German Ideology

"Connected with this is a class which has to bear all the burdens of society without enjoying its advantages. It is excluded from society and forced into extreme oppositions to all other classes. It constitutes the majority of all members of society..." Karl Marx, The Germany Ideology

Humanity, the world, the "people" are now effectively under the total control and domination of "the system." By the system, we refer to (primarily) a global economic elite of some 100,000 persons with net worth in excess of $100 million (these persons represent 0.0001% of the world's population). Despite its anti-egalitarian nature, this domination of all by "the system" would actually be grand and good if "the system" was progressing, generating a positive sum balance life experience for the vast majority of humanity across many different arenas of life. Would that this were so!

After having had ample time to "stand and deliver," the system can now be evaluated to determine how it's doing. Is the system delivering? Is it succeeding? Is it at least progressing toward success? Has it avoided abject failure?  By most objective evaluations of the system's performance, it has been a huge failure, leading humanity very close to the abyss and to complete and total cataclysm and human extinction.  What is really striking today is that WHATEVER and WHICHEVER arena of life is considered- whether international relations or physical fitness and vitality of the people or the reduction of war or the environment or the news media or the economy or sexual relations or education or terrorism and crime prevention or the development and perfection of common sense and critical thinking or toleration and understanding between religious groups or access to quality and affordable health care or the promotion of "fellow man" citizens possessing integrity and displaying honesty and moral virtues or general business practices and advertising- the system's record of achievement is miserably poor. A few isolated achievements by the system (invention of smartphones and LCD TVs) cannot "white wash" this complete record of failure across generations in so many areas of life.

Understanding the need for proper optics and the nuisance of constant rioting and revolutions, the "system" has created many self-styled "democracies" which are purportedly "in place" to effectuate the "people's will." Consuming much of the people's time and attention, these democracies rarely deliver the people's will. For at least the past 50 years, the people in almost any democracy have been "for" good jobs, safe communities, quality affordable health care, quality affordable education, higher wages, less traffic, less scams and frauds perpetuated by businesses. affordable housing, and less racism. Few, if any democracies, have delivered ANY of these things to its people in any non-trivial no-BS stable way. Few, if any, democracies have even delivered any progress or progression on any of these things to its people, even despite "the bar" on these issues being so low to begin with!

Worse than this, what certainly does not happen through democratic politics is any attack or weakening of the elite power structures of the "system." These are understood by all to be the true "sacred cows." One could advance the thesis that the system intentionally creates the entire "bulky" political machinery and apparatus as a self-defense mechanism, understanding that the political apparatus is structured in such a way that it will never turn on it (the system) to bring it down while always acting as a frustration absorption sieve for "the people." As demonstrated by recent turn of events, the "system" does understand that the people are increasingly fed up with it and want politicians that will threaten to "dismantle the system." The system has begun to deliver politicians that promise to dismantle the system during campaigns but ultimately the system (as always) has the last laugh when it clamps down on these same "populist" politicians once in office, rendering them effectively powerless to do anything to weaken the system.

At this point, one could query what is the purpose and goal of the system? What do the system's elites actually want? Very simply stated, the system's elites most dominant goal and purpose is the maintenance of global HOMEOSTASIS. The system's elites have concluded that homeostasis of the world is in their long-term interests even if it involves widespread suffering and injustice inflicted upon "the people." The system's "moral compass" is simply too weak and atrophied to factor and weigh-in these variables appropriately. 

The system's elites want to preserve their wealth and privilege in its current form for at least the next few generations (beyond 300 years most people don't care one way or the other what becomes of anything). They want to keep all their material goodies (fancy car and boat, mansion, access to the finest restaurants and hotels, access to attractive sexual mates) and want to feel reasonably confident that their supply of such material goodies will not be interrupted for many many years to come.

To the extent that some very small trivial improvement for the "common man" will result in an outsized BOOST to the chances of achieving global homeostasis for many decades the system will of course favor MICROprogress of this sort. It will allow this sort of MICROprogression to flow through the political process  This is precisely why the system has been in support of sexual freedoms of various sorts, such as abortion and LGBT rights, the expansion of freedom of expression of various sorts, and, to a lesser degree, why it has favored policies ranging from animal rights to mini-tax refunds and breaks to small health subsidies (Obamacare), Microprogress of this sort can be achieved without any weakening of the system's privilege power and wealth position. 

Monday, December 12, 2016

Moderation (Kamran K): Finding the GOLDEN MEAN in Speech

(1) Pessimistic evaluations of present day humanity (and its reasonably likely trajectory) find deep support in the swift, incredible, and now total "DULLING DOWN" of public speech.

(2) The blog author has noted this trend for years but has been reminded of it recently while watching commercials on TV. Increasingly, the most "polished" and expensive commercials are accompanied by music that has either (1) no lyrics whatsoever (indie or electronic music), (2) lyrics with words that make no sense (most modern music), or (3) lyrics with words that are exceedingly trivial and banal, the type of speech that would appeal to a child of about 5-7 years old.

(3) It is obvious why things are so. In an increasingly polarized society where everyone's identity or self-esteem is exceedingly fragile, speech must be carefully tailored to ensure no one is offended by the speech. For if someone is offended, sales could be lost, people responsible for the speech could be fired, lengthy social media hate campaigns could be launched, someone's reputation could be sullied as "bigoted," people could become depressed, and so on and so forth.

(4) Beginning in the corporate sphere, this trend has now accelerated and become the norm everywhere. What makes social media posts so trivial and banal today, so sleep inducing? They are completely permeated with dulled down speech, with cliches and other trivial and banal statements that an adult in their mid-40s has likely heard repeated some several thousand times over the years.

What explains the current national obsession with discussions of food, weather, the best places to get the best deals, home remodeling, and sports? What explains adults in their mid30s and mid40s engaging in constant witty banter where conversations (increasingly digitial) become one "LOL" exchange after another. These are basically areas where speech is extremely unlikely to offend anyone with a sane temperament.

(5) Here and there, people are rebelling against this trend but in a totally futile way. They are resorting to speech that is inflammatory to shock and grab attention. But, when stripped of its shock-value, the speech is often either totally false, illogical, incoherent, and still trivial and banal once the shock-value has been taken out.

(6) What is needed now is NEITHER more dulled down speech about food/weather/sports/sales NOR inflammatory language about other topics that readily reveal lack of fundamental insight, wisdom, consideration of alternative viewpoints and values, and so on. What is required is an exchange of frank truths about the current human condition and trajectory that reveal somewhat serious grappling with realities as they are in their non sugar coated, non "witty banter" condition.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Politics (Kamran K): Capitalism and Democracy? No Easy Marriage.

(1) Capitalism has transformed most everyone that lives within its borders. But, precisely, what are these transformations? And are these transformations destroying democracy and the minimum components of the "democratic spirit" at the same time?

(2) Worldwide, those adults 30 and older living within capitalist economies are capitalist consumers FIRST and above all. This does not mean these adults don't have other sentimental attachments, to perhaps a church, a football team they support, a pet they adore, a gym they frequent, a writer or thinker they respect, and a style of music they love. These all still exist, are all still fully "REAL." Yet these dalliances are also all still MINOR.

The DOMINANT daily thought patterns of capitalist adults- including their overall long term hopes and fears- center on their ability to (1) increase MONEY IN as much as they are able without unduly sacrificing quality of life and (2) reduce MONEY OUT as much as they are able without unduly sacrificing quality of life. As the days, weeks, and months "come and go" they repeatedly return AGAIN AND AGAIN to this dominant topic and seek AGAIN AND AGAIN new or better solutions to it. They spend tremendous amount of mental attention on this central topic and many of their behaviors fall in line with the various decisions they have (tenatively) reached on this topic.

The dominant daily thoughts patterns of most people in any capitalist economy ROUGHLY take these forms:
  • Can various fixed expenses (transportation, health insurance, clothes, food and drink, shelter, utilities, routine recreational pursuits, cable/internet/phone fees, membership in various preferred organizations, taxes) be somehow manipulated and reduced without undue sacrifice in quality to reduce the total expenditure out?
  • Can various income generation activities (job, investment in stocks, real estate assets, networking with friends, family, and alumni, training for new work) be somehow manipulated and increased without undue harm to one's quality of life?
(3) Nietzsche and other philosophers have made various negative evaluations of the "spirit and soul" of such a person. These are of no interest to us at this juncture. What is hardly subject to dispute is that SUCH a person simply spends too much of his time in mental thought patterns that are not conducive to his informed and quality particpation in the democratic process. Such persons are not bad or stupid on this account; they can live lives of total decency and virtue as they go about their lives. They may be wonderful- and even highly intelligent- persons; they simply are not ideal democrats.

Who would be the ideal democrat? Simply, the ideal democrat is able to do THREE things well (i.e. not perfectly): (a) identify the most important issues that deserve to be resolved via the democratic political process; (b) gather the most relevant and reliable information bearing on these issues; and (c) participate in a respectful, though still spirited dialogue, with other political actors with the sole aim of generating the BEST solution to the issue that appears reasonably likely to succeed based on all of the facts, information, and best reasoning available at the time.

(4) The habits of mind, traits of character, and critical and other mental abilities required to become an ideal democrat is within the reach of all persons if they are sufficiently motivated to become ideal democrats and their behavior and thoughts fall in line with this genuine motivation.

As discussed above, 99% of adults living within capitalist economies are dominantly preoccupied with the thoughts patterns identified in (2) above. To the extent they are so occupied- and to the extent they become increasingly so occupied as years pass- they become that much less capable of the kind of participation in the democratic process that one could- with confidence- label "worthwhile."

(5) We are not in a position to evaluate the relationship between capitalism and democracy. Capitalism's gains are obtained at the expense of gains in quality democratic participation.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Wisdom (Kamran K): Earning the Wisdom License

(1) What quality, above all, signals a human person's arrival into enlightened wisdom or even adult maturity? When does one earn one's WISDOM LICENSE?

(2) Among many plausible answers, we suggest one herein: the ability to intelligently articulate why one's fundamental passions are aligned as they are. A fully perfected person would be able to articulate a compelling statement- filled with compelling reasoning and information- as to why exactly he favors this or that in his life and to just this extent and no more. An imperfect person would be unable to offer any coherent statement on these points, beyond the perfunctory he or she "really likes" A, B, or C or believes that it improves their "spiritual well being" and "overall quality of life." These are not articulations of any deep reasonings but rather the mere repetition of tired cliches.

(3) By fundamental passions, we mean an adult's dominant preferences in terms of place of residence, cultural attachments, musical interests, sporting activities and other dominant hobbies, romantic and sexual inclinations, political leanings, attachment (or not) to money and what it can purchase, preferred vacation destinations, and things of such ilk.

(4) All adults receive a free pass on this test into their mid-30s. Up to that point, character is still forming and all sorts of lengthy, often dangerous trial and error experiments must be conducted to determine what one's dominant preferences actually are: "and I was now...beneath the point at which I had started. I was down in the cellar of society, down in the subterranean depths of misery . . . I was in the pit, the abyss, the human cesspool, the shambles and the charnel house of our civilization." (Jack London) It is impossible in advance of a trial and error experiment to have well reasoned ideas on what one's dominant preferences are and why they DESERVE to be dominant in one's life. It is acceptable to be a herd-like follower deep into one's 20s and even early 30's. It is no sin to be in the herd at some point in your life; the sin is being trapped in the herd all one's life.

(5) As the mid-30s and beyond are reached, a mature enlightened wise adult will begin to accumulate a whole host of well-settled well thought out dominant preferences for what he or she does and does not like to do, what types of persons he or she does and does not enjoy the company of, what sorts of intellectual subjects do and do not excite him or her, and so on.

(6) A whole series of further statements are appropriate as to this last point.

  • The more time and energy a person devotes in a sphere of life the more one would expect his or her reasoning for favoring that sphere so dominantly would be well thought through, able to survive various forms of objections and critiques. 
  • As life progresses and one's situation and environment in life also evolves, one would expect the reasoning to become more robust and supported by actual facts and developments of the person's own life. 
  • The articulation should be both subjectively and objectively compelling to intelligent decent persons of liberally oriented sensibility as to the human GOOD. An articulation that remained fully tied up in one's own subjectively formulated reasoning and information would be deficient. 
  • Negative dominant preferences- what one does NOT like to do or whom one does NOT like to associate with etc.- should also be well thought through and capable of a semi-intelligent articulation. For someone to say they "hate the rich because they are arrogant" or they hate "office work because it crushes the soul" is woefully insufficient. Dominant negative preferences often completely wipe out entire realms of life that one could otherwise explore and benefit from in myriad ways. One could argue that one's reasoning as to dominant negative preferences should be even more developed than dominant positive preferences.
(7) Persons able to pass these tests receive their wisdom license. Given the ways of the world and the present configuration of humanity, they will be EXTREMELY rare in having received this license at any point in their lives. Persons receiving the license will always remain perplexed as to the various behaviors, feelings, and habits of their fellow man. Even while remaining friendly and kind to such persons, they will see such persons as not fully free, not having fully chosen why their life is structured precisely as it is, why one's dominant habits and likes are X rather than Y or Z. They will wish that their own lives- so much as they are capable of preventing this from happening- will never proceed down the same random road.