Sunday thoughts on the neocon vision and our possible futures

Got angry the other day, but moods like that come and go. Caught up on sleep and felt a bit better. Created a video to capture my thoughts that cold and rainy day, but I don’t care to link it here. Just was an honest depiction of how I feel with all of this some days. But my own life isn’t bad and my job is wonderful most days. Storms and bad weather come and go, and I enjoy walking outdoors. Just eagerly awaiting spring up here, chomping at the bit, wishing this state didn’t cycle between summers and winters and skip the springs and falls. Transition seasons are the best. This year nature has decided to be a tease. Maybe next week we’ll finally be in the clear.

But I meant what I said. Edited it carefully to ensure that’s what I shared with others. Neocons drive me wild. Militant pro-lifers freak me out. We have technologies for everything, and that’s all fine and dandy, but when it comes to reproductive choices we should remain living in the Middle Ages. That’s some weird stuff. And I know why they believe that — because the more of us there are, the more competitive with one another we become. The less we each individually come to matter; the more interchangeable we become. Cogs in a wheel. Humanity being bent into machines for economic purposes. That sounds like hell on earth to me. I can’t imagine a worse way to live. How completely meaningless that would be.

Nineteen-Eighty-Four-George-OrwellOften I juxtapose in my mind between the themes in George Orwell’s Nineteen Eight-Four and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. I imagine both outcomes in a blended way. First Nineteen Eighty-Four‘s vision of strict class stratification; history being rewritten or disappeared; Big Brother Government communicating with us through spying computer screens (quite ingenious that he thought that up in the 1940s); being told how to live and expected to strictly conform; bratty, spoiled children rule and snitch on their parents (and adults are encouraged to snitch on other adults); genders divided and cold toward one another, treating sex as if rape, stubbornly locked in competition.

Brave-New-WorldOr maybe life is more of a pick your ending kind of book, assuming technologies advance in key areas that make Huxley’s vision possible: strictly stratified society determined by social engineering strategies, with babies all born in laboratories and all women on birth control; casual sex rules the day and pair-bonding is actively discouraged, beginning at a very young age; all citizens enjoy the drug Soma, which in small doses sounds like a lot of fun, but on gigantic doses proves lethal, enabling it to be used for euthanizing people; people have been turned into pets and it’s not clear exactly what all they do, though they maintain a lower working class (intentionally designed to be simple and stupid) to keep up on the laborious and assembly-line tasks.

Sounds to me like choosing to be made to be outright servants or dumbed-down pets conditioned to accept our chains and give up our humanity. Thankfully we’re not limited to those two possible narratives. But they go through my mind when I see and hear what’s going on out in society. Try my best not to stay up on the news these days, but bits leak in anyway. Always so much bullshit. What’s really astounding to me is that more people aren’t piping up about so much of this. Are they not scared? Because the levels of anti-depressant and anti-anxiety drug prescriptions tell another story. Do happy people take drugs that say right on the label may cause “suicidal ideation”? Especially when reports now claim, in terms of treating the symptoms the drugs are actually designed to treat, they’ve proven no more effective than taking placebo pills. That’s no good.

People try to be happy, I give ’em that. But there’s a lot going on and it seems many would prefer not to look at it and see it for what it is, as if others will magically step in and resolve the problems for us, no effort required out of the rest of us. But that will never work. The answers being given are ones that serve a master that doesn’t care about the fate of humanity. It is about acquisition and dominance and little else. Why allow something as important as our destiny be left up to be determined by people proving not to have common people’s best interest at heart? Why wait for heroes to save us from ourselves, and how could they anyway? If we choose to stubbornly ignore what we’re confronted with and offer no active response toward a better way, where do we expect to wind up? In heaven?

big_brother_kindle

I believe heaven and hell to be only relevant when discussing life on earth, and both are entirely subjective. We possess the power to create heaven or hell for our own selves, for one another, and for other living beings. This is the truth, which we can clearly see. Whether heaven or hell await us in an afterlife or not, we do know approximates of heaven and hell await us right here, right where we stand today. This was demonstrated repeatedly by peoples of the past, even in wealthy societies. The future is not completely left up to chance nor has it 100% been pre-determined. We do possess some free will, enough to impress on one another and hopefully also enough to better govern our own selves.

I struggle with my own impulses and shortcomings and am not here to place judgment on others necessarily, just sharing my own thoughts.

We are not so weak as to be inconsequential. This I firmly accept as true.

Anger is not something to automatically fear in others or reject in ourselves. It serves its purposes too. I don’t believe people can honestly and deeply reckon with truths without it boiling us up inside at times, assuming we’re talking about people possessing functioning consciences. Because what we have going on today is some wicked stuff, and it’s not okay, and I wish to GOD we didn’t have to support it. Tax week. Ugh.

It hurts to hand over money to the IRS, knowing what it’s going to fund. Don’t others feel this way, and if so, what can we do? I personally recommend self-employment, though it’s probably only a matter of time before that option winds up being squeezed out of existence. The IRS prefers to collect our money upfront and out of every paycheck. So many comply and accept those conditions, and this creates a conundrum when it comes to telling the IRS to stick it. How does one collecting a paycheck throw off the IRS? Is it possible? If not, so long as we work, we work for them, and our fate is sealed if this isn’t changed.

What power can we claim to possess if we cannot refuse to pay a corrupt government? The power to boycott matters because money is all those jokers seem capable of responding to.

the_irs

Widespread Conformity vs. Heaven

Cameras remain weird and fascinating to me. But one downside of filming a talk (versus writing it down) is that so much time is taken up just rambling along, and so a bunch winds up having to be left out for brevity’s sake. I don’t want to make some major, hour-long doozy of a video. What hell that would be to edit, and how boring to listen to coming from me. Well-aware that I’m not a good speaker, but ah well. The course I feared most in college was Public Speaking. The camera provides a safe enough distance to experiment and play around.

Got things I’m thinking about, might as well jabber some about them too. Why not?

Well, in the second clip above I was talking about what I call “natural hierarchies” and pointing back in time. Probably some genius out there will pipe up to say enslavement existed long before corporations broke onto the scene, and yes — preemptive duh. Part of the film had to be cut out due to crappy sound quality where primates were mentioned, but nevertheless we’re focusing here on primitive humans, all of whom lived in small clans and tribes, over thousands and thousands and thousands of years on up to the few small, isolated groups that remained outside of civilization until the 20th century (which have since been disrupted by foreigners — tribes of Papau New Guinea readily spring to mind). It’s what humans and our progenitors did and do. Try as we might, it’s seriously doubtful we’ll be able to overcome that significant fact of life. Humans are intensely social beings.

My imagination tends to like to swim in the pools of the very, very distant past, the early agrarian past, and where that knowledge and understanding might someday lead our species (maybe, possibly, assuming we don’t wind up nuking ourselves into a new Stone Age — a common worry). And I just like to wonder what our options are, theoretically. In my mind I can envision a modern agrarian renaissance, made all the more necessary because gaining independence from the current setup requires regaining control over food production. This is where the organic and small family farm development really comes in handy, but I believe this is calling for more of us to be involved to whatever degrees. Because in order to feed ourselves currently, we must earn money, and to earn money many people are expected to tolerate unfulfilling and/or soul-sapping and/or low-wage employment positions that tie into the economic slavery game confronting all of society. Even if you’re not employed by some big-dog corporation, chances are you’re still getting hosed. Self-employment is becoming less and less the norm as people turn toward businesses to earn what they need.

We have grown separated from the land. Many of us do not know how to provide for our basic sustenance, hence why we can be so easily manipulated as a population. Our needs all come through working for money, and money is needed to attain nearly everything under the sun today. We do not control the money supply, nor have much say over how it is managed. We are dependent, in other words, and this is not a secret.

Beyond reclaiming our ability to care for our own selves to the utmost in terms of what’s vital for our existence, so as to break away from corporate mammoths with serious quality control issues and unethical business practices, we’ll also gain benefit from working the land again and reacquainting ourselves with the natural world that in recent decades Americans have abandoned and instead taken to being distanced casual observers. It is my belief that many will find a greater sense of purpose and appreciation for their lives if they could reconnect on an elemental level with all that is needed to nourish our bodies and take back power into their own hands and into their own communities where shared values can be flaunted, embraced, and explored.

Diversity is what I’m suggesting, brought about by separating off and dividing up according to what allows communities to prosper. Shared values being an important consideration, tempered with however much or little tolerance will vary from community to community. There is no such thing as one size fits all when it comes to the cultures and communities we feel most at home in.

In a way I can see this as a new free market where people segregate off into their respective corners and create the communities they endeavor to. People unhappy here may relocate there instead, if admitted. Ten thousand villages, with privacy-loving stragglers housed in between, aiming to live better within their means, able to understand that efficiency isn’t everything, not always. Some life processes are more pleasurable when left to be, but in plenty of other ways technology will prove amazingly important in this movement I dream of. Agriculture that makes better sense, with Farmer Joel Salatin providing an innovative example for country-dwellers. Urban examples are still in the works.

But how far off the grid can most of us realistically step? I don’t know. Hard to imagine the whole staircase at this point. But the first step I believe is to return our available land toward more productive uses. Lawns soaked in chemicals, made to look artificial, are a waste of time, money, and energy other than providing aesthetic enjoyment (which matters as well, but why be limited to focusing on something as superficial as artificially-derived beauty?). Perhaps if we could start there, more ideas will spring to people’s minds over time. Maybe.

It’s a fanciful wish, I know. Not terribly practical or realistic in our current state of affairs. I know. But that’s what heaven on earth looks like to me. Greater diversity with truly free trade between groups of people, unregulated from on high (aside from perhaps agreements on principles that extend to all, including non-invasion pacts). But how long would such a paradise even last? Probably not long enough before groups got uppity and tried taking each other over. Bummer.

But ah well. We’re free to dream, if nothing else.

Caricaturizing Womankind

A video I filmed recently titled “Contradictory Thoughts About Womankind (+ additional thoughts on generalizations)”:

Just a light rebuttal to the weird and contradictory claims made about “most women.” If it’s true that people realize generalizations can take us only so far, then why are they tossed around willy-nilly in nearly every conversation that comes up relating to gender/sex? How does flinging around such assumptions add to these conversations and enhance one’s understanding of others? How does caricaturing entire human groups not render people blind? And why is there so little discussion on the roles cultures play in influencing people’s behaviors and attitudes through history on up to today?

“Neil deGrasse Tyson: Atheist or Agnostic?” (plus additional ponderings)

As stated by Neil deGrasse Tyson himself: “Neil deGrasse Tyson, widely claimed by atheists, is actually an agnostic.”

I totally appreciate his explanation there and couldn’t agree more that it’s about remaining curious, so why limit ourselves with categories? Just explore life as you feel driven to. In the immortal words of Joseph Campbell: “Follow your bliss.”

There’s so much to explore out there and within our selves. So many layers of perspective, with the macro and micro shifting accordingly, infinitely looping or cycling in whatever way that plays out (a tesseract springs to mind):

Tesseract2

How it looks to any one of us is just as we see through our own unique individual human lenses. Movements and religions provide people with an external narrative (meaning one not formed within the individual but rather one which we can adopt, as defined by others who typically came before us). External narratives are interesting to ponder on and learn from, but I can’t see myself adopting some ready-made philosophy or religion. It’s just not my bag. And even when people do, they each still experience it through their own individual lenses, and how can it be any other way?

Been doing a good bit of thinking this past week on “collectivist” mindsets and considering the role of conformity when it comes to group-adopted narratives of whatever stripe. It seems we’re becoming conformity-driven in a new and conscious way these days, partly to satisfy modern economic demands and duopolistic political ambitions, but I also I think because people are afraid to stand on their own two feet, preferring the comfort of blending in with the rest of a herd. And I think that’s a lot of why fascism comes about, not just because rich people can and do benefit off of it, but because we humans are scared of our own individuality and the responsibilities it entails (especially in relation with acknowledging our own fallibility). People feel alienated enough by new technologies and scientific understandings that have been actively uprooting traditional thought.

Or perhaps people are pushing toward greater conformity because they crave security extended society-wide to protect and shelter their relatively comfortable domesticated lives, and they don’t realize this shortcut (this trend toward fascistic conformity), in trying to fashion a better reality through seeking to politically and legally impose their ‘idealistic’ will on the rest, comes with major pitfalls that have potentially devastating social and psychological consequences. People like to assume most of us are resilient enough to bounce back from whatever experimental conditions humans strive to put in motion because we’re still here after all this time, but I do not share others’ blind optimism there. Maybe, maybe not. Depends on whether we care to focus purely on physical existence or to take into consideration the importance of quality of life tailored to our species (as opposed to us trying to tailor ourselves to suit The Machine humans have brought into existence and allowed to dominate). What is the value of an existence many wind up loathing and wishing to escape?

It’s a very weird time to be alive, but then again, when isn’t? *shrugs*

Lots to ponder…

“What created the universe, if not God?” and ramblings on constructing a personal philosophy

The1janitor’s answer to the question “What created the universe, if not God?” (at 1:45):

“I don’t know, but I’m not just going to believe the first thing someone tells me without evidence either.”

 

That pretty much sums up the default position of my own beliefs as a self-described agnostic since the mid-90s. That’s my basic core attitude in a nutshell, succinctly put.

I’d been raised as a Christian (Methodist), spending several of those years living in the Bible Belt of the Deep South, but my grandma’s Christian teachings differed a bit from what I found in churches. As in she placed a great emphasis on Jesus’s love, devotion, and ability to forgive our shortcomings as fallible people. Grandma spoke a lot about Jesus, still does, goes on and on and on, always has and always will. But there wasn’t much fire and brimstone in what she had to say. Basically she turned Jesus into a friend and an overseer, someone on our team and wanting to see us all do better, not just some chosen few. It was a simple, humanitarian take on the religion, and I got a lot out of Grandma’s way of seeing things.

Well, then I went to church and we all know what’s typically found there. Basically the screws came loose holding me in religion as soon as I hit adolescence, which then terminated my interest in organized religion a couple years later. It deserves to be stated that some self-professed “Christians” are true-blue assholes. Especially preachers, but don’t get me going off there.

But whatever. I wound up taking a decade off from giving a shit about religion is what ultimately came about. For a long time, my agnosticism basically consisted of me not really wanting to care about the issue for a spell. “God” as described by the biblical narrative is so obviously a myth that doesn’t translate into a literal reality. Plenty of atheists take pleasure in teasing Christians about this, but what real good does that do? Just makes people think you’re a jerk. I was at a point where I’d had enough of religion and competitive arguments on the matter, seeing as how they spring up everywhere and over anything.

And through not seeking religion or even something behind religion, I freed myself up to learn on what felt like a more neutral analytical platform, which proved very beneficial. Through learning about matters that don’t directly relate to religions, it brought me around to questioning the narratives we’re commonly taught, to questioning everything. Going so far that a few years ago I began letting the notion of Jesus back in a bit more, or at least the parts of the myth that strike me as most meaningful and challenging to ponder. That’ felt like the right thing to do, even as I struggle and live in contradiction to some of the values it calls into attention. But I find the myth (story, call it whatever you will) of Jesus to be so valuable in terms of navigating our social world — like the lessons it teaches about reconciliation and forgiving one another and worrying about our own damn hypocrisy and other shit we need to work on instead of focusing on everybody else’s. It’s about living simply and within our means (which is becoming damn near impossible in this money-whore economy), about sharing with one another, about caring for the downtrodden and others who may not enhance our status or offer us a direct reward.

Why? Simply because being alive is a big deal, or at least it feels like it is for us humans, and we are capable of enduring such incredible suffering, so why add to it unnecessarily? But we all do from time to time, even despite harmless intentions. That’s going to happen. Nobody is perfect. It becomes a matter of whether we’re working on ourselves to become better than whatever we were, and that’s a personal journey we each embark on — a thorny, subjective experience if there ever was one. I’m not here to preach to others who happen to stumble across these written words, but to the universe I admit my sins (again, call it what you will — I define sins differently than some) and recognize I have a long way to go. A long way, and no shortcuts have appeared so far, not real ones anyway. Setbacks are never fun, but they happen too.

But moving on from that, I’ve kinda come to blend teachings like those of Jesus with the Golden Rule (and the reversed golden rule: Do not do unto others what you would not want done to you) and things I’ve picked up from authors and a few philosophers, creating a hodge-podge of sorts. Some parts of it are set more firmly than others; some questions still free-float in orbit around the core beliefs and attitudes I wish to uphold within myself. Some items may wind up dismissed over time after proving incompatible or inconsistent with what I’m aiming to be, as to be expected as one grows and learns. This could be considered the construction of a personal philosophy, but it has no name and doesn’t need one. Just an inquiry in response to the call of living, figuring out how one wants to approach this existence and others sharing in it, what standards to set for oneself and what to aspire toward. By and large, it presents itself to me as a personalized social philosophy of sorts, because that’s where the emphasis is primarily placed: on directing myself and relating with others and on the social constructs humans created that we’re currently expected to live with (like the blessed government and economy). In my view, the ultimate goal is to create a sane society. (Notice that I didn’t say a rational society though, because I am giving up on that dream after figuring out humans aren’t terribly prone to remaining rational, much as we may like to think otherwise. But that’s another topic for another time.)

In a nutshell, that’s what the moral/social/individual life is about. Out of this inquiry stems the sociological, the psychological, the philosophical, the existential and metaphysical, the parental, the legal and political, the economic, and, for some, the religious or ‘spiritual’. It all ties together; none stand alone because all are interrelated and in places overlapping. That is what is meant when I refer to our social world. (We can then tie in the environmental and natural since our habitat is part of who we are, which is where sciences and mathematics get introduced, leading into technologies and profound new understandings that have dramatically impacted how we experience the world in modern times. It’s all such a huge fascinating web that not a one of us could possibly cover all the ground there is within one lifetime, alleviating all concern about ever getting bored.)

It truly does help to have some sort of narrative to guide us, and I’ve come to believe its creation must be personally undertaken by each one of us. We each mold and shape what is within us, and we each are definitely primarily responsible for maintaining our own ships (in other words, monitoring and consciously guiding our own behavior and choices to the extent we are able). Because no one else can or should be responsible for managing us for us. Such strikes me as a form of slavery, so it appears we have the option of either shaping our own selves up to standards we’ve given deep introspective thought to and can devote ourselves to, or else risk being pushed by the tides or coerced into being who someone or something else determines we ought to be. We see the direction our countries are headed already, making this inquiry all the more timely and worthwhile.

But anyway, that had very little to do with that man’s video. lol  Kinda in the mood to go off on tangents this weekend. Ha! Out.

Personal conception of God

The concept of “God” as I understand this has very little to do with what Abrahamic religions have to say on the matter. Religions are mythologies, historical tales and explanation systems, and I appreciate them for whatever value they can offer as such.

In reply to my video response on atheism being dumb, someone mentioned gnostic atheists and agnostic theists and I had to go look that shit up. Still don’t care much about breaking it down to that level, but apparently it’s worth noting that yes, we humans are able to clearly realize that what’s written in the Bible or Qur’an isn’t to be taken literally, at least not in this day and age when we’re able to know better. To do so requires relying on magical thinking that defies natural law. But acknowledging that doesn’t completely demolish all value religions contain, nor does it imply that because the Christian myth of that which we call “God” is patently false that it logically follows that all possible ways of perceiving “God” must be false as well.

This word “God” has everybody hung up on either trying to defend it or to destroy it, and personally I try to stay outside of all of that these days. “God” is a word intended to point at something beyond human comprehension, so arguing over whose understanding is most accurate seems pretty pointless. For some people, the concept of “God” involves what may be described as a force of nature, not some entity in the sky that determines the direction of our lives or answers prayers or sends people to heaven or hell. I happen to agree that the biblical narrative is a fairy tale notion of “God” that does unfortunately little to advance our understanding of this ‘phenomenon’ (for lack of a better word) for people today.

People ask why folks even need a “God” to believe in, and I think that’s part of the puzzle right there. Why have religions been an important part of human history for as far back as we can study our species? Is this merely a feature of humanity to where we’re searching to infuse our lives with meaning, or is this humanity’s attempt to comprehend and make sense of a larger natural order that we seem able to experience on some invisible level, yet can’t prove or explain its existence?

In a nutshell, for me this is about a natural order of sorts, having something to do with consciousness, but I haven’t the foggiest clue how to explain to others my own exploration beyond that, just as I doubt anyone else is able to. We each make sense of living in our own unique ways, this including any and all conceptions of “God” or any other belief systems (including atheism and agnosticism). It doesn’t appear possible for any two of us to truly and completely share in our understandings, no matter how close our views may seem, because we cannot see into one another’s minds or experience living behind one another’s lenses.

Even when someone refers to themselves as atheist, that doesn’t tell you their whole story necessarily either. Because someone embraces a label doesn’t allow us to see how he or she has evolved in his or her thinking over time, nor how they may continue evolving (or devolve perhaps) in their understanding as time moves on. This is one of those matters that calls out from the center of our individuality, and there will never come a time when an “objective truth” can be said to exist here. The concept of “God” is just too big to be caged like that. Why do we feel the need to cage and label anything and everything anyway?

People’s quests for certainty is a big reason why I tend to keep my ‘spiritual’ ponderings restricted to interactions with close friends and family, because being cornered and then demanded to explain and defend the merits of one’s own rationale for believing as they do frankly gets old and isn’t particularly fruitful in this instance. If some folks want to take parts of the Bible literally, I suppose that’s their prerogative, and the only time it comes to bother me is if they expect me to believe and behave as their beliefs tell them they should. The situation is made all the more complex since some are hell-bent on forcing the rest to bow down and live according to their expressed beliefs, which is bullshit whether they’re religious or anti-religious or something else in outfield.

I would be happy if we could suspend the fighting for a spell and turn our attention to learning about religions of old (starting way back before the Big Abrahamic 3) and delve into what morals and teachings they imparted, taking into consideration the historical and cultural context to the best of our abilities. Then perhaps it will become clearer to some why religious narratives were important and why a new narrative of some kind is still needed today. Religions started off as narratives, but the narratives going forward need not be like any that came before. We can get beyond religions, this I do believe, in reference to the inflexible group-think exerting too much control over people. We can choose to journey beyond untenable limitations and explore for ourselves, and there’s no reason any new narratives that come into creation can’t allow that to be so.

It’s a tricky topic to speak on when so many people have a set way they want to look at life and aren’t too open to how others see things. For me, it all ties together, from the social realm to moral and philosophical questions; from studying the physical realm, space and time to all forms of life (sentient or otherwise); from individualism to the wider collective(s); from mathematics to language and poetry; from power to play; from love to sexual exploration — all factor into my understanding of that which I’ve come to think of as “God,” yet “God” isn’t caged by any of that. “God” is not an it or a thing or anything resembling a person. That’s my take on it, and I doubt that’s cleared up much to state this. Oh well.

There’s a feeling associated with my understanding of “God” and I can sense this in others at times, whether they be religious or spiritual or not. The way I say it is something “speaks to my soul,” and often enough it reaches me through music. Hence the gospel songs I post and share, plus plenty of songs from other genres. Music is like my church, and through listening and letting its messages and melodies move me I am brought to a feeling of connectedness on some level with others, with the wider human experiment in living and its melodrama and our striving to reach beyond where we stand in a given moment.

There’s no way to be clear on this subject, just no way at all. It truly speaks to a subjective experience in terms of how one relates with this concept and how far we decide (or are able) to follow it. I get to feeling like talk of this nature is deemed as pure crazy by some, but that relates back to us not being able to see life through one another’s eyes, leaving us forced to rely on inadequate words to point instead, and lord knows words are always up for individual interpretation. What I mean by “God” will never be what you or she or he means by “God,” at least not in any definite sense capable of being objectively understood and proven.

So around and around we go with our words and claims and arguments and so forth. We humans truly are an odd and interesting bunch.

This is a complex inquiry within each of our own selves, that is if we’re aiming to remain open to it. Then it’s made all the more complex when a bunch of us want to get together and argue over what can or can’t be or what’s idiotic to believe. What does it even mean to “believe”? I understand this to be an inquiry never headed to becoming a rigid set of beliefs cast in stone, deemed complete and no longer changeable. At least for me. Science proved to be a game-changer for humanity because its methodology and findings dramatically altered and enhanced inquiry of this nature, but scientific inquiry hasn’t done away with ‘spiritual’ inquiry, nor has scientific exploration solved (and perhaps it cannot solve) what all is being asked here. Questions remain open, and I guess my experiences with atheists have given me the impression that a number of them jumped off the train at that stage in their journeys and decided that was far enough, as if that’s all they needed or were interested in knowing. That’s fine for them, I guess, until they start dismissing people with differing views as ignorant fools living back in the Stone Age of intellectual discourse. What’s folly to me is assuming one can know everything worth knowing, and that’s it, case closed, turn the page. How is that not dogmatic thinking in its own right?

Isn’t it about striving to become better, to grow? Guess it depends on how one perceives so-called “objective reality.”

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[Update Sept. 29th, 2014: edited for typos and greater clarity.]

Divvying everything up

Tonight I’m thinking about all this either/or, black/white, this/that talk that’s become the norm in public discussions. Everything’s reduced down to a debate, and so many seem hell-bent on proving their “opponents” wrong or incompetent. People seem to be running around with their dukes up, spoiling for some sort of hostile confrontation that serves as an opportunity to vent their frustrations.

Often I’m reminded of the “two minutes hate” in George Orwell’s book Nineteen Eighty-Four, imagining people gnashing their teeth behind computer screens.  lol  Sad but true. So many reasons to diss and “hate”: racial clashes, political bickering, the sexes going to battle, warring ideologies and competing economic theories, religions vs. anti-religionists, etc. Lots of bullshit keeping people distracted.

But even if this bullshit is sown among us common folk from on-high, it’s still ultimately our responsibility to face and handle it. Nobody else can do this for us, so the responsibility must lie with us, right? And that’s where the issue gets really sticky, because, much as I tend to get pretty dismissive about knee-jerk labeling of one another, underneath it all there are competing philosophies that do deserve our attention. It’s a matter of struggling to figure out where the root of so much of this lies. Where’s the ultimate source of contention? Likely there is more more than one worth considering.

One important way it does boil down is to competing ideas on centralization vs. decentralization of power. Which of those do the currently powerful seek to support? Decidedly, centralization of power. Which of those do those aiming to become powerful support? They may pay lip service to decentralization in so far as it improves their chances of seizing power, at which point they revert to supporting the centralization of power. Why? Because these types of people aim for a disproportionate amount of power, and it’s not uncommon. Part of the human condition so far as I can tell. Some take it further than others, especially those lacking empathy or desire for meaningful connectedness with other humans.  Psychopathy (or sociopathy — are we still using the terms interchangeably?) is imitated by disenchanted people who’ve been peddled nihilistic fantasies.

It’s an effective strategy, but what’s particularly interesting to me here is that while colluding interests obviously help bring this about, plenty of us unwittingly perpetuate the problems ourselves. I’ve been guilty in the past and may still be guilty in some ways now (forever fallible).  Lots of people support the status quo through what they do to earn a living — hell of a conundrum that can be difficult to avoid. Plenty of us mean well but then get caught up in ideological bias without realizing it. Takes time to figure things out, including our own thought processes. Biases are a part of life, threads woven into the fabric of our individual subjective living experience. No two lives can be identical, and the uniqueness this grants us can feel like a double-edged sword at times. A sense of alienation accompanies this relatively new marvel of individuality taken to new heights.

It helps to put it in historical perspective.  The latest major rise of individualism came about during the Enlightenment Era, heralded as a brand-new way for humans to experience living, no longer mentally or materially shackled to familial clans as had been the case up through most our species’ history. Individualism as Western people experience it is truly revolutionary, unprecedented. But what allowed this to be so? What else occurred alongside this psychological leap within human beings? Economic and technological advancements ushered in new habitats and lifestyles, opening up our choices in terms of what to buy and where and how to live. People now are given the option to isolate ourselves, to live alone, to commute alone, in some cases even to work alone,  and now (thanks to the internet) to shop alone. We can choose to learn as much as we are able alone. Porn and sexual novelties make it easier to enjoy sexual pleasure alone. Many frequently dine alone. There was a time when this sort of thing spelled disaster for unlucky members of our species who found themselves abandoned or excommunicated, because so much of living involved socializing and individuals’ needs were met through the concerted efforts of clansmembers. No one person could manage it all on his or her own.

This shift cannot be overrated for its significance in impacting human psychology, which is something we continue struggling with adjusting to. Community had always mattered, and now we appear to be witnessing its dissolution, replaced by collections of people referring to themselves as communities despite members remaining unfamiliar and distant with one another. That’s a big change. Instead of depending on one another directly, we look toward government and agencies and businesses to supply what we need, and this is very often decided through competitive and coercive rather than cooperative action.

On a side-note, I’m reminded of the scene in the movie “Network” where the newscaster is talking about people living with anxiety, retreating to their homes, clinging to their radios and toasters and begging to be left alone.

Can’t speak for the rest of you, but I’m mad as hell too. It’s a natural reaction to a society out of wack. Part of the problem is just that so much change has occurred so rapidly that we’re made disoriented, especially now as each decade brings a plethora of new shit to get acquainted with. Easy to be dazzled and distracted in today’s world. Difficult to discern effective courses of action from wastes of time, particularly when it comes to waging legal battles through the largely defunct ‘proper channels’. Humanity is atomized into individuals set out on our own singular trajectories, trying to connect with others when able along the journey. Some are more introverted than others and relish so much solitude;  some grow deeply depressed due to lacking meaningful connections and a sense of purposeful living.

This is where modern “collectivist” movements attract attention, providing people with something to belong to, an affiliation to identify with, and access to others with relatively similar views to debate and socialize with. The “hating” toward the “opposition” provides members of the collective in question with something to bond with one another over. That last part is very important, because that’s the glue holding together modern groups. People feel the need to collect around some common goal(s), and standing in opposition to another group of people is an easy strategy open to all sorts. Anyone willing to obstruct the goals of “the opposition” is welcome, so long as you don’t harshly critique your own group in the process. Heck of a price of admission, but when people are lonely they do crazy things such as this. People do crave to experience a sense of belonging and identity, this being integral to how one’s personhood is defined.

Looked at from that angle, is it any wonder some people flock toward “collectivist” ideologies and movements? But this word “collectivist” isn’t a bad word in my worldview, per se. Humans are social creatures, yet individualistic at the same time. Hell of a way to be, but this is what human existence consists of. The balance varies from person to person and across cultures (and subcultures), but the fact remains in place. I am unable to comprehend individualism as if in a zero-sum competition with collectivism, as if individualism could win out and utterly defeat collectivism. No, and I don’t think we’d actually want that if it were possible. But does collectivism theoretically possess the power to potentially stamp out individualism? Maybe so. Hence why I’ve come to think of it rather as a ratio than an either/or proposition. Say, 70/30 in terms of protecting individualism and catering to collective concerns. Because individualism requires safeguards to ensure it won’t be so easily overtaken by collective/conformity-minded pursuits, but those ultimately responsible for policing this and making sure the balance isn’t tipped too far are our own selves, we the individuals. Authorities will not encourage the proliferation of independent thought and action, because that’s (rightly) perceived to be a threat to their own claims to power. Citizens have so far demonstrated we’re terrific at dropping the ball repeatedly, thanks in large part to us not being able to agree on barely anything and spending so much time fighting one another.

Sometimes I have to laugh at the ridiculousness of the situation we find ourselves in. Not sure how to remedy it other than to strive to distinguish 2 or 3 core principles a great many of us can agree on enough to at least respect and uphold to provide some needed framework that binds us into a collective on one level, but through each individual’s choice and initiative. This means leaving aside all the ways in which we differ in views for a moment so as to support an effort that is of potential benefit to all humans.

The idea is to create a new (well, actually based on an old attempt that we Americans failed at) framework on which new narratives that serve common people rather than merely the most parasitic among us can have a chance at existence. There likely will have to be multiple narratives since there’s no way one size will fit all. There’s plenty of room for flexibility here, if we could only agree that we, as individuals as well as the communities we take part in, want to be in greater control of our destinies rather than submit to being leashed and muzzled by others vying for the power to exploit our labor and play on our psychologies to suit their own dreams of gaining wildly-disproportionate advantage. It’s called slavery, folks, and regardless of the form it may take, it’s the same old song and dance.

Just some thoughts during a loooong night awake with a cold.  sick