On the topic of peace

But what do we mean by peace? This is something I’ve given a lot of thought to, especially during the time I spent volunteering within my local “peace community” (i.e., non-violent social justice activist organizations). And I gotta say, my thinking on the subject has taken new shape over time.

“Peace” has become a shallow buzzword. People on youtube like to sign off with the word, even after spouting off hard-core against another group of people. It’s an overused word, like “love,” covering such a broad spectrum that it’s become incredibly hazy to the point of being trivialized. What do we mean by “peace”? What might it look like? In detail. People like to start rattling off what Lennon said in the clip above, saying it’s about peace in the home and peace in the schools and peace on the planet. But what the hell does that even mean? What would get us there? And what would it take to keep us in that frame of coexistence if ever humans did ‘evolve’ to that point?

I’ve been forming some ideas.

Ask yourself: which individuals tend to be most peaceful? Those with shit to tend to, in other words people with jobs and/or responsibilities and/or creative endeavors that absorb a good deal of their time and energy. Now let’s pause there. I’m not a fan of nor advocating for busybodyness — there are productive and nonproductive uses of our time and ways of earning income (that being a discussion all unto itself). But ever heard the saying that “idle hands are the devil’s tools”? Yup. We get bored, go looking for entertainment and wind up getting into mischief. We know this. And I happen to think unsatisfying work provides an added incentive to seek out new stimulation.

What I love about the concept of gardening/small-scale farming is that it calls for our physical labor, at least in a conceivably sustainable setup where many more people contribute to food production and Big Ag’s oligopolies are broken up into more manageable and fairly competitive pieces (keeping in mind monopolies and oligopolies are anti-trust violations and anti-capitalist in terms of disrupting the free market by making conditions hostile to small businesses). While technologies surely can aid us in ways our foreparents could only dream about, I do believe the exertion of our own physical labor is good for us. If it weren’t we wouldn’t have so many people buying gym memberships and workout videos. Physical exertion is good for our physical and psychological well-being, yet it’s become for many estranged from the activities required for earning a living.

When you honestly consider this it almost seems like by splitting the two apart, we created new problems: the centralization of food production scheme (i.e. Big Ag) that allows most Americans to not participate in any way directly with their food’s creation; as technology advances and populations increase due to a stable and relatively cheap food supply, many of the jobs made available involve office or service work that are widely considered soul-draining, boringly repetitive, and wouldn’t be undertaken if not for need of a paycheck; there’s now a need to find time to exercise outside of working hours, and a collective lack of motivation to run on a treadmill has led to an obesity epidemic. We are now consumers, and many consume more than we expend in terms of our individual energy. This appears to me like life out of balance, and what’s worse, I can’t see any real benefit to sticking with the current status quo.

Modern agriculture is heavily dependent on fossil fuels from start to finish in the process, and its distribution network has trucks and ships and planes headed in all directions around the clock and around the globe. (That show about ice road trucking up in Alaska springs to mind.) We’ve grown utterly dependent on this system, and heaven forbid it ever shut down.

We could go on to think about the risks associated with the heavy use of pesticides and fertilizers (including the possible link to bee populations dying off, which crops absolutely require), the shitty conditions for animals inside factory farms (and what it does to us to knowingly dine on disrespected beasts — spoken as one diehard meat-eater), GMOs and high-fructose corn syrup in damn near everything, the bullshit business practices and marketing schemes that most Americans have no way of escaping, etc. But this appears sufficient to prompt others to consider the value of one’s labor and how perhaps we might have had our fingers on a good thing before we allowed it to get jacked up to the extent it is today. Or perhaps that was a necessary phase in human history because of the innovations it has brought, though, too, there’s the infrastructure it’s spawned, and that is ultimately what holds us back from turning any other way. We’re bound by laws and property taxes and the need to earn money in order to survive in this modern world. Near-subsistence living, in this setting, doesn’t look practical.

We’re in a conundrum here. No question. Perhaps we can focus now on utilizing what we’re able, like purchasing produce from community-sponsored farming networks. But it’s tough to circumvent the Big Boys these days. Damn near impossible.

So going back to this idea of peace, it seems like the most productive and meaningful trek toward that goal requires a diffusion of power. Because part of the problem today is people feeling and largely actually being disempowered. I’m not a fan of that word either thanks to its over-usage, but the concept remains relevant at the core. How much power do any of us really possess anymore? The power to choose between brands and service providers? How many choices truly exists in a sea of illusive conglomerates?

What do average, ordinary people want out of life? Many will say work that feels meaningful, love and support from family members and friends, good food, good beer and wine, good sex, a sense of belonging somewhere and an ability to contribute something to society of value — a relatively simply life, in all, albeit one rich thanks to social ties and labor that serves a worthwhile purpose. Rearing young up well and producing the sustenance needed to continue living both fit the bill, as do plenty of other tasks and jobs needing to be fulfilled to serve the needs of people.

But that’s far from what we have. So far that it seems like a pipe dream, nonsensical utopianism. And perhaps that’s correct — maybe it’s not going to happen. But that’s one place where we may have power, and if we were able to exercise it we could, through boycotting efforts made possible by providing more for ourselves, possibly dismantle the mammoths calling the shots currently. We buy what they sell because it’s quite nearly the only options on the shelves. And this extends far beyond agriculture. Whatever happened to human handicrafts in America? Now everything we purchase is shipped from China.

We are not free and never will be free because we have lost touch of how to care for ourselves. Unless we recover this ability, we will have little say over the course of modernity unfolding. We will be led so long as we remain unable to lead ourselves, and if we can’t even provide for our most basic needs, will we not always wind up as slaves to something or somebody else? What ground do we have to stand on otherwise? As it is now, most of us are being swept along on a moving train, watching life whirl by while feeling powerless to stop and settle down into a less chaotic existence.

This is not all people of today’s fault, but it is our problem. I personally do not own a yard or property, so this all can’t help but be offered up as mere food for thought.

So around and around we go. Without power within our own hands and labor that feels meaningful that also provides something of actual value, we will remain agitated. In a world ablaze with warfare and divided by deep economic disparities, and in societies where we feel trapped by laws we’ve never even heard of and conditions we never willingly signed up for, we will remain anxious. A situation like this leads people to start chomping at the bit in hopes of finding political resolution to what ails them. Therein enters mass movements that attract disgruntled souls wishing for change that they know not how to help bring about. And from there we see clashes and great rivalries and much bickering and people feeling like they must choose a side to identify with. Everything becomes framed as a competition, another spectator sport, which devolves into a senseless back and forth where people lose focus on what really even matters.

And on and on it goes.

You want peace? Well, I want relative peace. Peace at any cost holds no appeal to me. Human life involves drama and problems and disagreements and conflicts, and I accept that. Child-rearing isn’t all about hugs and encouragement; it also necessarily involves discipline and rules to follow. We cannot escape all authority, but we could certainly reassess what authorities we’re willing to tolerate and abide by. One authority our efforts will never fully trump is Nature, that being a given, our human constructs paling in comparison. So it seems to me we have a choice to either work within it or continue fighting an uphill battle to nowhere we really want to be. The latter allows us to be more lazy and unproductive — it’s become the path of least resistance.

I’d love to see others and my own self find ways to become engaged in this dilemma, and hopefully as a result of needing to cooperate to a larger extent in order to problem-solve and through focusing our attention on more productive uses of our time we will leave one another the hell alone so far as nit-picking and generally behaving like asses with nothing better to do than start unnecessary drama.

Maybe getting back to basics on some level would do us all more good than we realize. And maybe through that the goal of achieving some sort of peace will stand a better chance.

Hurts me soul too

That was “Hurt Me Soul” by Lupe Fiasco, this being a song I stumbled across a little over a year back on Pandora Radio. Tonight it was chosen specifically due to its title.

Hurts me soul.

I hurt a bit lately. Changes. A couple current family-related concerns drudge up old memories and the blues. Drudges up some anger too. But whatcha gonna do? Can’t change the past. Just trying to keep managing the present as I go. Like my guy reminded me tonight, I do have most of what I ever wanted now, today. That being the love and company of my partner and support of close friends and Grandma, a non-corporate means of earning a living, keeping a roof over my head and food (and beer) in my belly, all the books I’ll ever have time to read, a reasonably well-behaved feline, a decent car, entertainment, freedom from participating in past lifestyle choices, etc. So why let the past poison the present? Well, that’s the tricky thing about our pasts…

It lives on in our minds, replaying bits and pieces triggered by whatever’s going on throughout each day. Smells, sights, similar circumstances, etc. The past doesn’t just fade away because we may will it to do so. And it never stops being a part of us. It’s what shaped and molded us, for better or worse — everything that occurred in the past and all the people we came into contact with interacted with the cores of our being and together helped chisel the art that is oneself.

Free will enters in to whatever extent, but is it not also influenced by the expectations of others? We certainly weren’t free to choose our families or the people we were tossed in with by them in our early years. And if you come up with any discipline you know you certainly weren’t free to interact in that environment and with those people as a free, autonomous agent. Resentments form and can simmer for years.

And then we hit adulthood and people expect you to flip a switch and turn off concern for all of that. Mine it for its good points and let the rest go. Spent much of my 20s trying to do just that. It was a worthwhile endeavor that taught me a lot about myself and others. Broadened my empathy for people I’d previously over-simplistically caricatured.

But I continue to struggle with the notion of forgiveness. It’s an Oprah-ballyhooed trendy idea. Forgive whoever who has wronged you so that you can feel better within yourself. You can release the anger and resentment and pain all on your own with no effort or apologies needed from the other parties. You can choose to not be controlled by your pain. You are responsible for your own feelings — no one else can make you feel anything. Those are the claims. Yeah, well, in case it needs to be said: it’s nearly all bullshit. It’s a guilt-inducing lie that tells the individual that they and their emotions can and do exist in a vacuum where they hold the reins and wield all of the power, independent of what others may do to us.

And it’s shit like that that makes me skeptical of the extremes people are willing to go to, in this case in the name of individualism. The notion of individualism taken so far as to expect us to behave as if completely atomized and capable of behaving with robot-like control over our minds and bodies is the talk of psychopaths, not ordinary people. Such cultural expectations would prove unsustainable due to the widespread psychological harm it would do. This damage arguably is going on already.

What a terrific performance by the Avett Brothers.

The tragedy of all that stated above is that more and more seem to be accepting Oprah and Co.’s logic, ignoring the reality that there remains a tension between each individual and all others they interact with, extending out to wider society and then to all of humanity. It’s a web, and it also stretches back in each one of our pasts to all interactions with others and our environments experienced before. Sounds abstract, but we intuitively understand this or at least behave as if we do.

People may want to argue that bringing in our connections with others is some sort of scapegoat in our attempt to deflect personal responsibility outside of ourselves, holding to the belief that we each possess ultimate power over our emotions and our lives and that those who can’t toe the line are just lazy and lacking in will power and therefore deserve to be miserable. But who do you figure they’re referring to in that last bit? Why, most of us, that’s who. Nearly anybody possessing a conscience and sentimentalities of the heart.

Some people want to talk nowadays as if everything ought to boil down to “logic” and “reason” and “rationality” and “proof” and “empirical evidence” and mathematics, but that’s only one half of life. If that’s the yin, where’s the yang? It’s in our heart-felt emotional lives, our connections with others, our families and clans of belonging, our impulses and creativity — so much of what makes life feel worth living. We are social beings first and foremost, which is to say that if logic gets in the way of that, we tend to stray from being too logical (always while convincing ourselves that we’re indeed very logical — when don’t we?).

I’d argue sticking with the “yin” described above and neglecting the “yang”-side of life will prove a serious detriment to humankind eventually, making it illogical in the end. It’s pandering to a life out of balance, and when scales are tipped too far one way they tend to ‘knee-jerk’ back in the opposite direction before settling out. It’s anyone’s guess how long it could take, this being a process that plays out on and on and on.

Individualism vs. collectivism is the great social paradox. It’s a tension that cannot be naturally resolved. Not that I see it as a problem necessarily needing some sort of permanent resolution. It’s just the way life is, and we experience it on many levels, from the political sphere on down to our interpersonal dynamics and the memories that spin off from that and follow us throughout our lives. We like to think we individually are so mighty as to not need help from others, but it is an illusion disproven from the moment of conception. No human is capable of being an island, not fully and completely. Adults who attempt it frequently wind up going mad with depression. We are social beings, first and foremost.

Our lives are woven in the fabric of this tension. We are products of paradoxes that we have little choice but to learn to live with. Because they belong to the designs of the natural world, the framework we are bound to exist within.

Brings to mind another funny paradox about living as slaves. Humans have enslaved one another for at least as far back as civilizations have existed and perhaps even before then. Slavery is probably what allowed civilizations to come into existence in the first place. Cheap expendable labor, freeing non-slaves up to tend to other matters, like sitting around theorizing. Slavery allowed the West to rapidly ascend, and it arguably formed the foundation for capitalism (though we don’t call it slavery anymore, preferring economic jargon that sounds more sophisticated and somehow less barbaric). Capitalism was special, though, in that it freed masters from responsibility for their slaves. No more needing to house or feed them, while still not being required to pay employees a living wage. It’s clearly evident this, at bottom, is a cost-cutting scheme dreamed up by masters-of-old.

But anyway, what’s funny is that slavery is what we humans are fighting to try to stay out of with one another, now taking the battle to the political arena, and yet without slavery ever having existed the world would look very different today. Most people would likely still be either farmers or hunters out of necessity, because people would have to pull their own weight as best as able. This means big, centralized civilizations would serve no function, and therefore wouldn’t have come into being. Rather than be slaves to other groups of people, all humans are left to contend with their dependence on nature, the ultimate slave master. People wishing to escape that reality wound up in no better position unless they belonged to the master class(es), oftentimes determined by technological advantage achieved off the backs of those previously conquered. And which is worse? In the end will we not wind up being forced to contend with nature as ultimate master anyhow?

Ah well. Strayed far off the original topic of guilt, resentment, family, and individual power to forgive and move on. How much power does one individual possess, and does that amount of power fluctuate throughout our adulthood? Can we always help weak or tormenting spells, and should we always try to stomp them out? Do they not potentially provide value as well in allowing us time to think and ponder and rehash and soul-search?

Which brings me to the thought that initially inspired me to blog this evening: I am a soul; I have a body. This came to me after reading the titles of a couple of videos by atheists disputing the idea of people possessing souls. They say there is no evidence that souls exist, and I can’t help but chuckle. None of us really understand what a soul is, and how can we? It’s understood intuitively as representing our essence, of which our body is the vehicle. How might someone convince a skeptic of this truth? Probably can’t, because it’s not of the realm of science, at least not at this juncture. I suppose it doesn’t matter much what others happen to think on this topic — at least not to me. It’s not even a subject we can wrap our feeble languages around, let alone hope to prove or disprove.

So I continue on in speaking and thinking as I do on that. And today I am aware of suffering within my spirit. It began with a memory popping in mind first thing this morning, and more reflections followed as the day wore on. It happens. Even if I could fully forgive everything, I can’t forget. Beyond that, I’m not convinced everyone deserves forgiveness, particularly those who never ask for it. Maybe on some level it becomes the right thing to do, just to release the situation and let it rest as what has already come before. But a desire to stay the hell away from certain people seems unavoidable as well as healthy in plenty of cases. And then there’s grief over what’s been lost or broken, that being a tough pill to swallow and simply accept. To say that we can and should simply exercise our power to repress and move on strikes me as shallow and non-introspective, and in people who aim to do this I’ve witnessed the pain popping up later in life and dismantling their present. So it seems to me something we can’t simply walk away from and ignore but rather must go through and out the other side of, however long that may take.

But what does one do if stuck? I guess that’s where will power must come into play. If I will not direct myself, others may try to use me to serve their own ends, or I may be abandoned by those who lose faith in the health of our connection, and I wind up a slave to circumstances then.

Harshly put, Firefall. Noted.

… All is easier said than done.

… Is it really coming down to picking our preferred form of slavery?

Just thinking out loud again.

Tonight’s thoughts on Corporate Amorality

Paying special attention at the 21-22 minute mark onward, culminating in the hallelujah moment coming at 24:15.

Did you catch that? “When people call corporations evil, what they’re really saying is that they’re simply completely amoral … compared to a shark.” Yup. That’s exactly what I mean when I refer to corporations as amoral. Having listened to the video up to this point while tending to laundry, and also as a big fan of the documentary “The Corporation” since several years back (even gave it as a gift a couple times — go. watch it. now.), this discussion has me nodding along in agreement. And most especially on that point. I do use the word “evil” because it is still extremely relevant. What is evil? Are all forms of amorality evil? No, it doesn’t make sense to accuse the natural world of being evil though its processes strike us as impersonal and oblivious to our moral concerns. Yet when it comes to human beings and human constructs, morality absolutely does factor in, and must. That corporations operate amorally while they affect all of society and everyone and everything in it, gone global — this is a problem. A legal fiction now dominates our economy and is determining legal policy swayed in its favor. It is a legal fiction that tremendously impacts and has radically altered societies across the world, changing the ways we live and work and eat, yet it claims to be above and beyond morality. How so? How can that work long-term? Insanity is required to place faith in a gameplan like that.

Just the myth of perpetual growth becoming somehow a sustainable strategy going forward, forever, was your first clue that someone’s loopy behind the wheel and hell-bent on driving economies into a straightjacket. It’s not science, folks — it’s just economics. Big egos are at play here. This is not the land of microscopic particles or predictable scientific theories. No, this is about people. Art and life in motion, hustling and bustling. We people function within moral codes in our social settings, from societies on down to neighborhoods to nuclear families to individual persons. That’s the way it goes. We are naturally moral beings, which is to say everything we create that is of the realm of people cannot help but be influenced by our moral sphere. It is a human construct, therefore we are responsible for it. The dream that we can create something that we can set and then forget is gimmicky cheesiness that we’ve not evolved far enough to deserve to entertain the notion of.

People don’t like to hear that, but it’s true. We’re still a rowdy, greedy lot. We’re fallible, and that means everything we touch can wind up misused, even if we never saw it coming and were mistaken in thinking we knew perfectly well what we were doing. As humans, we fuck up all the time. Such is life. Moral failings are a part of life. Yet when it comes to the corporation, created and managed by people, employer to and provider for people, we want to pretend it should be treated as if on the level of natural phenomena beyond our control? Completely unregulated? Allowed to roam around free to monopolize and oligopolize, to buy political power for prices collectives of ordinary citizens couldn’t possibly compete with, to produce products that turn out to be dangerous without government or citizen collectives’ oversight?

Sounds like a brilliant plan. Bet it won’t work. People who imagine something like this working are dreaming of some well-oiled machine that functions in a predictable fashion, yet they can’t seem to follow the predictions to their unsavory end. It’s become a centralization of power scheme, plain and simple, and it affects us all profoundly. And it openly admits to being amoral by design to boot. What a hell of a conundrum. I’m just surprised so many people continue to cling to this as if it’s really a long-term-sustainable plan. That’s Disney fantasy, folks. We’re talking about the accumulation of power here. People are working through this construct — this is no act of nature, this is a product of humankind. We live interdependently in societies.

There’s a very weird and disturbing trend of people jumping on board, blindly, backing this notion of “progress,” as though it’s a given. It must occur, right? Things must continue getting better and better, right? Like that too is something predetermined by…what exactly? A god? No. The universe? Thought that was supposed to be amoral too. Karma? Good luck? What makes people so sure that the future will be an ascension in terms of progress that will truly benefit humankind? Technological progress doesn’t automatically equate or positively correlate with human progress, not in the way people like to think. We’re deluded. Been fed a steady diet of bullshit for so long that most of us can’t figure which way is up any longer.

But that’s all I have time for at the moment.

Scientology Weirdness (Jason Beghe’s interview)

Stumbled across another scientology “documentary” (if it’s to be taken that seriously), and it tripped a thought of Jason Beghe’s interview on his involvement in scientology. Watched it a couple years ago and am now rewatching it tonight.

Scientology looks likes some weird Hollywood-promoted act. It’s a play on religion constructed with new-age, sci-fi, pseudoscientific “logic.” That’s why it takes on psychiatry — that’s its competition.

But then sometimes I wonder if scientology isn’t a clever attempt to demonstrate the absurdity of both religions (the dogma, not the spirituality religions were originally meant to help connect people with) and the fields of psychiatry and psychology when invested with so much power to decide the narrative applied to the entire population despite lacking evidence to support their basic premises.

The main premise being that humans’ psychological states deserve to be classified and treated as if “disorders,” frequently employing the metaphor “mental illness.” Yet who defines what “order” is by comparison? Is “order” simply what people with Ph.D.s and M.D.s say it should be? Is it what suits a functioning society, nevermind that our government is unarguably corrupt and that what we have going on today will prove unsustainable in the long-term? Why should we want to adapt to this unsustainable fantasy that is proving psychologically unhealthy? Because it makes living easier? No it doesn’t, not when so many people are living this deluded and/or depressed, having trouble finding meaning in a life that revolves around a paycheck or a salary and that has us pitted so bitterly against one another, locked in competition, communities and families destroyed in the process. We’re constructing a bizarro world in the U.S., and we feel discontent because so much of our time is preoccupied with bullshit. Welcome to modern times.

But anyway, back to scientology. What if it’s a cleverly orchestrated acting job intended to make a mockery out of both religious cults and pseudoscience? Because even if it’s not intended to suit that purpose, it’s sure doing a fine job. Interviews like that above also demonstrate just how easily people can get caught up in what they want to believe; like Beghe said, once people have invested time, money, and ego, it’s made all that much harder to turn back and critically assess the situation. Folks don’t like feeling like idiots. I don’t either, but I realize I am one.  lol

What interests me, though, is how deeply people are craving new narratives to follow. And I can relate to the yearning. Life is crazy, life is mad, to quote an Enigma song. But L. Ron Hubbard’s narrative proved to be—aside from being full-blown batshit—just another pyramid scheme and ridiculous hoop-jumping contest. But people buy it for reasons similar to why they buy into Evangelical Christianity. They want to belong to a community that appears to be leading the way. They want to direct their energies at something they wish to believe in.

And don’t we all, in one way, shape, or form?

21st-Century Schizoid Americans

[The video for King Crimson’s 1969 performance of “21st Century Schizoid Man” was removed on youtube, damn it all to Hades.]

Amazing song. It became a favorite almost immediately after stumbling across it on Pandora 2 or 3 years back.

Want to marvel more at the talent that goes into creating a sexy piece of music like that? See this “Premiata Forneria Marconi” cover of it:

Blows the mind. Daaammmn. What artistry, nothing like the techno-pop auto-tuned crap churned out today.

Every once in a blue moon I just like to chill with this song, run it through 2-3 times, let it sink in. This song’s peculiarity grabbed me right away. And then you look at the lyrics, and it’s sobering poetry:

Cat’s foot iron claw
Neuro-surgeons scream for more
At paranoia’s poison door.
Twenty first century schizoid man.

Blood rack barbed wire
Politicians’ funeral pyre
Innocents raped with napalm fire
Twenty first century schizoid man.

Death seed blind man’s greed
Poets’ starving children bleed
Nothing he’s got he really needs
Twenty first century schizoid man.

Right on. I get it. This is one of those songs worth us 21st-century schizoids meditating on from time to time. But maybe that would actually lead to more mindless nihilism (as opposed to conscious and principle-guided nihilism I suppose, having now listened to others’ arguments drawing a distinction).

And maybe what I typically think of when I use the word “nihilist” in an insulting fashion are people who are so deep in apathy that they no longer care what they believe in. They choose not to think that far ahead, or they reassure themselves and others that the future will simply sort itself out. Technology and scientific research are bound to pave the way to universal happiness, don’t ya know? Because they don’t really believe in anything, they turn their attention to everyday life and willingly become consumed by mindless entertainment with little to no educational value at a time when we really need to be paying closer attention to what’s going on around us all.

Because we’ve dropped the reins. Who’s running this show? Still placing faith in the invisible hand of the market? This is not a pure capitalistic economy in the U.S., not by a long shot. And our economy is fusing with our political institutions, or, more accurately, it’s buying out its seats and positions with campaign contributions and lobbyist bribes.

And who do we imagine is responsible for this? It’s not as if it came about through an act of God, if by that we mean the deliberate workings of a supernatural force or being. No, it’s the vast majority of people on earth’s fault — WE THE 99%.

Now, I was born at the beginning of the ’80s, and of course life in the U.S. has been bullshit for a long time before then. It’s been bullshit since WWI. It’s been bullshit since the Civil War. Might’ve been bullshit right out the gate, but who knows? None of us were there. The documents passed down tend to be those of famous and influential people of a given time, not opinion polls collecting data on what average folks had to say about things. Gotta keep it in perspective.

And it’s inquiries like these that are schizoid in their own right.  Ha  High abstract thinking requires a bit of unsanity, to quickly paraphrase the message discussed in a recent video by Professor Anton:

I appreciate the way he thinks, mild in manner and all.

Back to “21st-Century Schizoid Man”…

So, how did we let this happen? How did we let modern life become what it is? Well, one thing humans did is placed a tremendous amount of faith in science and technology to deliver an impressive future we’d enjoy. As noted above, we assumed the market would somehow bring this about (though much scientific research isn’t determined by public input or purchasing power, but rather through political allocations we trust elected officials and appointed persons to carry out responsibly on our behalf — and how has that worked out for us?). Humans tend to choose entertainment over seemingly abstract duties and responsibilities, and plenty are overworked and lack time to devote to taxing inquiries. We’re kept so busy with trying to figure out how to navigate in modern life, and our social lives have become infinitely complicated now that we come into contact with so many varied people on a regular basis.

Every temptation under the sun exists today and can be had for the right price. In a sense, we in the U.S. do live in a modern-day Sodom and Gomorrah. That chips away from people’s orientation toward commitment, honesty, dignity, practicality, intuition, imagination, thrift, and heart. We’re a bunch of kids in a candy store, and it’s not a secret. Nothing feels truly off-limits. What does dignity even mean today when everything’s for sale, including most of our souls? Can we even grasp which way is up? What might that look like? What fundamentals continue to truly matter in this day and age?

Is this what nihilism means to some people? To be stripped of everything you thought you believed in and then try to reconstruct a narrative that may be more convenient or perhaps tailored according to principles we individually define for ourselves? Sounds nice in theory, but how many of us possess the willpower, fortitude, and well-developed conscience to properly direct our lives in an honestly productive fashion? How many want to do so beyond keeping up appearances? Today’s “sin” seems to lie in not keeping up appearances and thereby setting others at unease.

How much faith do I have in us? Aggregately? Not much. In select individuals? Plenty. In myself? I don’t know. The game has warped me. We humans are not infinitely malleable and our environments play such a major role in molding us; life in today’s concrete jungle and all that spins off from that is creating a specially challenging situation to contend with.

We must be in hell

It’s been a rough month.

Have a little bit of time left this evening to unwind before heading to bed. Actually it’s already too late, but dammit, I just need a little time to myself. Been so busy lately and under the weather.

Thank God there’s always music. Just randomly wandering through my music playlists…

[…]

Keep your children from doing wrong

Cuz you know damn well they’ll go to hell

[…]

Some say that hell is below us

But I say it’s right by my side.

Evil in the morning, evil in the evening

You know damn well that we all must be in hell

That was Nina Simone singing “Go to Hell.” It’s the sort of song that grows on ya quickly. It succinctly and briefly puts into words what I feel is true as well: that the hell to be concerned most with is the one we’re creating right here on earth.

An afterlife is beyond me. No one can say for certain, because those who know for certain aren’t here to tell. And that’s fine. The only worry I have with such an idea is the fear of being reincarnated. lol  But whatever. I heard or read recently someone saying that if that were the case, wouldn’t the best goal be to create a life worth living, a life we’d be proud to repeat? Sounds nice in theory at least. I’d be satisfied with us simply not co-creating hell on earth, however we might get around that.

Brings me back to pondering on the idea of attempting to create order (as through a bureaucracy) actually leading to greater disorder than expected, which I believe was discussed by Rick Roderick when talking about Marcuse (posted a few posts back on here). Makes me wonder if the inverse isn’t true as well, that when we back off on attempting to micro-manage everything and allow communities to be what they will and be molded by the individuals that reside there, that this chaotic arrangement might actually lead to greater order across the board. Perhaps a few basic principles deserve to be universally respected to maintain what peace is possible, but the fewer the better. People have to want such a way of life to work, and without concerted effort on the part of individuals choosing to live in accordance with a better way, all attempts will be undermined again and again.

But there’s no way to get everybody on the same page. Again, the fewer principles to be universally respected, the better chance for widespread compliance. And no, there’s no point adding “thou shalt not kill” to that short list, because people do kill and sometimes it’s even justifiable. If people’s hands are tied too tightly, they won’t go along with it. But before exploring what few universal principles might be worthy of adopting, we need to outline the ultimate objective they are meant to serve, which I believe is to allow the greatest amount of freedom for all balanced against the call for justice.

In what I’m envisioning here, more detailed mandates, codes, and laws would necessarily vary and be broken down to the community level where they have a chance of being enforced and where public compassion and individual mercy has the power to remain involved in social processes. But on the macro level, keep it simple, stupid. Because at that scope very little can be enforced without a heavy top-down, centralized approach to governing the masses, so the masses must ultimately be responsible for governing themselves, which obviously boils down to communities, then families and kin, then the individuals. I see no other way to keep from living in some form of a Nanny State.

But of course this says nothing about how to get out of our current predicament which is closing us in whether we like it or not. And perhaps nearly everything I come up with is little more than pipe dreams.

Back to music.

Moving on to one of my all-time favorite songs:

Switching genres to accommodate another favorite of mine, “Blood, Milk & Sky,” paired with some cool fractal imagery:

The folly of science-worshiping

A number of people today are science-worshipers.

Now, what do I mean by that term? A science-worshiper is someone who places a tremendous amount of faith in science and scientists to save humanity from itself. What do I mean by that? Well, have you been listening to people out and about in our society? Many seem to be laboring under the illusion that scientific advancements automatically should be equated with “progress.” Many of these same people can go on and on about all the innovations and luxuries we enjoy today that wouldn’t have been possible without science, arguing that scientific exploration has wrought more benefits than harm and always will.

When I interject to say it’s unwise to assume future success will automatically follow past successes, this is dismissed. When I question whether these advancements have truly, aggregately, done more good than harm, I’m considered a loon. Why is that? Because people are blinded by science. The latest in technology. Some people apparently can’t handle their precious adoration of all that is scientific being scrutinized by “Luddites” like myself who wonder if it isn’t such a good idea to run headlong into the future without any pause to ponder what it is we’re trying to do here exactly. The science-worshiping attitude seems to be that all problems that will arise can and will be remedied by the application of newer and better scientific innovations. Cased closed. Luddites everywhere be damned.

But no, the case is not closed simply because some folks choose to approach the vast topic of living in a decidedly scientific era through a largely uncritical lens. That is their blind spot, which they can’t see because they’re in attack mode and out to ridicule anybody and everybody who isn’t as madly in love with all that is scientific as they are.

I do love scientific exploration. Always have. BUT, doing so doesn’t require me to be devoted to defending all that is scientific as if we have some sort of war on. The war’s already been won. Didn’t you get the memo? Science won out. It’s here to stay, folks, assuming we don’t somehow knock ourselves into a new Dark Age. There’s no need to defend it tooth and nail against anyone who wishes to critique what technologies are being used to do and how they’re altering our world in ways that aren’t uniformly positive.

I, for one, pay attention to how our technologies have come to alienate us from one another (in conjunction with other cultural realities, including population density, globalized communication and trade, grand economic imperatives that all are subjected to, etc.). The swift transitioning of life at this point in time is mind-boggling for nearly everybody, because we’re having to learn so much for our own selves, the old ways being on the way out and rendered obsolete in the new world we’re helping co-create. Wisdom of old stands no chance in a topsy-turvy age that has us redefining our values and tolerating lifestyles that are basically imposed upon us.

So where does the new wisdom come from then? From one another, from the wider collective, from the greatest number of people capable of reaching some sort of consensus. People like to bat around the term “democracy,” but what they’re really getting at is majority rule. On one hand people will argue that we each have rights and voices that deserve to be respected, YET when it comes to what impresses most on us, it boils down to what the majority of people have come to expect from one another.

And this leads back to my criticism of science-worshipers. Many of these people seem incapable of comprehending how much they’re accepting as if it’s granted. And how do they know so much? Because they read it in a journal somewhere, or in the newspaper, or saw it on television or in a documentary, or learned it in school. Where else would they get all this information that they claim to know?

See, we’re relying on what others tell us, yet again, this time scientists and so-called “experts.” And who are they? Employees of institutions mostly, which can and does lead to conflicts in interest. Because scientists, like everybody else, are trying to earn a living here. And like everybody else, they aren’t impervious to personal biases or being ego-driven or simply being wrong at times. They are human beings, not superheroes. Scale ’em back down to reality and have a closer look. Take notice of how the FDA actually operates and how much overlap there is within it and corporations backing research tied in to the economics game. How much truly independent research do we think is really going on out here?

And even if most scientists prove to be decent, upstanding people with sharp minds and boatloads of integrity, they aren’t oftentimes in control of how they’re findings wind up being used by others, namely the institutions they work for. So you see this isn’t simply about bashing scientists or science here, not for me; it’s about following the money and trying to remain realistic about what’s actually happening within the realm of scientific exploration, rather than just focusing on some idealized set of events we wish were taking place.

Now, here’s the real kicker. We common laypeople (some of whom may be “experts” or scientists in one field or another, but all of us are laypersons when it comes to everything outside of our own individual focus) are trusting information handed down by scientists. Which scientists? Typically the ones backed by their peers. But what if the majority of persons—all persons, including scientists—are laboring under popular illusions?

This point is most clearly demonstrated when we turn to the pseudoscientific realm of psychiatry. It’s come to receive widespread support within American society, going so far as making people out to be lunatics who speak out against what it’s doing. This is a field that donned a scientific veneer so as to be taken as seriously as medical science, but without actually curing a thing and possessing no diagnostic tests that clearly tell us much. So the MRI scan shows the brains of these children to light up in places that differ from the “normal” majority of other kids? So what? That still doesn’t tell us much. Techniques of this nature are being used to lend credence to a field that makes money through aiming to “correct” non-conformists, whether that be active children or adults unwilling to slap on a smile and perform for others in this collective delusion pretending life is dandy, just peachy keen.

Because a field of study utilizes scientific techniques, that still doesn’t qualify it entirely as a full-fledged science. Anyone can make up a scheme and set about trying to find evidence to support it, but if the evidence is incapable of being falsified (either because there’s not enough information available to go on or because the wacky scheme was hatched rather as an attempt to garner support for what’s ultimately being used as a social engineering project), it isn’t science. Not if that word is to maintain any value.

On the topic of psychiatry, I’ll link to external sources that can break down the situation in greater detail:

Let me say briefly that my own attitudes toward the fields of psychology and psychiatry were shaped growing up in the ’80s and ’90s, witnessing people around me taking these prescribed psychotropic drugs and learning how easy it is to get them (even general practitioners hand them out like candy). So my viewpoint on this has been shaping up for a long time on its own, but then a few years ago I stumbled across the works of Dr. Thomas Szasz, a psychiatrist who was critical of his own field. And what I find when I talk to people on this subject is they are quick to dismiss Dr. Szasz because he was a voice pushed to the fringe and drowned out by the vast majority who work in the field and sing its praises. Why overlook the concerns of that man? Simply because his views ran counter to what the majority wants to believe. I speak his name and promote his books because they provide a very interesting way of understanding how the psychiatric field has come into being and what it has historically been used for. His arguments strike me as very compelling. But why would they compel someone who’d prefer to believe the opposite is true?

And this is the crux of it, folks: oftentimes we believe what we want to believe. We tend to seek out sources that bolster beliefs we already have and to be resistant to contradictory evidence and arguments. Many, many people go along to get along. They will accept what the majority is up to, uncritically. If this many people believe something is true, it’s not likely to be wrong. Right? Wrong. And history has shown us this again and again. People are wrong all the flippin’ time, even scientists (and decent ones are willing to admit this). Life involves trial and error. Human biases have a tendency to get in the way. Plenty of the most influential seekers of truth up through history were viewed as heretics in their communities, and some were killed as a result. We know this. And yet many continue fallaciously making appeals to the majority. Why? Probably because it feels like the safest bet. And it requires less legwork out of us, because information corresponding with popular viewpoints is pasted everywhere.

People believe what they want to believe. And they also believe who they want to believe. Based on what? Personal biases. Conformity pressures. None of us are immune to this. But it still comes down to beliefs, because we laypersons aren’t conducting these experiments for ourselves — we’re trusting what others claiming to be more knowledgeable put forth. We’re placing faith in them to use proper methodology and to not be biased by political and economic pressures. We’re placing faith in them to know better than we do because they claim access to information the vast majority of us aren’t privy to. That is a form of faith. What is faith but an enhanced level of trust?

People can argue all day that this and this is verifiable, but if we can’t personally verify it for ourselves, it’s just chatter. It’s big talk that we can’t back up. Because, in reality, most of us just don’t know. We trust the doctors and scientists to know what we don’t know and to act on that knowledge in our best interests. How is that not a leap of faith all unto itself? Especially when it comes to the latest findings or highly abstract subject matter. How does this differ all that significantly from people centuries back placing faith in priests who also claimed to know on matters that the common people couldn’t access and comprehend for themselves (in the times before the advent of the printing press)? People today will argue that “one is true while is the other proved false,” but hindsight is 20/20, folks. How can you be so certain that what you strongly believe today won’t prove false someday as well?

And what reason is there to assume that scientific exploration alone can provide the full picture? What does science teach us about morality and philosophies? How far can it really go in helping us create lives infused with meaning?

With modern life in hyperdrive and new technologies being spit out daily, how can we pretend to know so much? When I contemplate it seriously, all of this demonstrates to me is yet another way in which we humans are growing increasingly dependent, in this case on “experts” and the explanations and arguments they hand down.

This blog entry was read and recorded and then uploaded as a video on YT:

Best conversation in cinema!

That was a clip from the movie “My Dinner With Andre,” which I haven’t watched in a few years. Very interesting yet simple film, this point in the dinner conversation between these two men being the best part.

It is available on Netflix.

Couldn’t express how much I understand where the character of Andre is coming from here.

We humans have embarked on a new era. I really like how Andre ponders whether the 1960s was likely the last major display of natural humanness, all decades since pushing toward a weird, robotic, and what I consider highly domesticated, all-new way of life, worldwide. With everything in me, I too wanted to run, but where to? There turned out to be nowhere to go.

We can’t hide from the future. We can only engage it in one way, shape, or form. Actively or passively. We might escape through death, but even that isn’t guaranteed. Might be reincarnated. Might find out that life truly is eternal in that sense. *shrugs* Who knows? The thought unsettles me too, as I’ve grown quite fond of the idea of someday winding up as inert worm food. There’s peace in the belief that one’s life cannot go on indefinitely. Bullshit for all eternity sounds tiring and pathetic. And perhaps if we don’t shape up our acts that’s what we wind up with.

But jokes aside, the “pantheistic” expression of consciousness that the Andre character discusses here is age-old wisdom that we humans seem to have a hard time grasping. And even when we comprehend it on some intellectual level, that says nothing about our individual ability to walk down that path.