Why follow the leader? — another excerpt from the book “The True Believer”

Feel like transcribing a little bit this afternoon. Been a long and stupid weekend. So, picking back up in Eric Hoffer’s book The True Believer (1951) on page 108, section 92:

The total surrender of a distinct self is a prerequisite for the attainment of both unity and self-sacrifice; and there is probably no more direct way of realizing this surrender than by inculcating and extolling the habit of blind obedience. When Stalin forces scientists, writers and artists to crawl on their bellies and deny their individual intelligence, sense of beauty and moral sense, he is not indulging a sadistic impulse but is solemnizing, in a most impressive way, the supreme virtue of blind obedience. All mass movements rank obedience with the highest virtues and put it on a level with faith: “union of minds requires not only a perfect accord in the one Faith, but complete submission and obedience of will to the Church and the Roman Pontiff as to God Himself.” Obedience is not only the first law of God, but also the first tenet of a revolutionary party and of fervent nationalism. “Not to reason why” is considered by all mass movements the mark of a strong and generous spirit.

The disorder, bloodshed and destruction which mark the trail of a rising mass movement lead us to think of the followers of the movement as being by nature rowdy and lawless. Actually, mass ferocity is not always the sum of individual lawlessness. Personal truculence militates against united action. It moves the individual to strike out for himself. It produces the pioneer, adventurer and bandit. The true believer, no matter how rowdy and violent his acts, is basically an obedient and submissive person. The Christian converts who staged razzias against the University of Alexandria and lynched professors suspected of unorthodoxy were submissive members of a compact church. The Communist rioter is a servile member of a party. Both the Japanese and Nazi rowdies were the most disciplined people the world has seen. In this country, the American employer often finds in the racial fanatic of our South—so given to mass violence—a respectful and docile factory hand. The army, too, finds him particularly amenable to discipline.

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People whose lives are barren and insecure seem to show a greater willingness to obey than people who are self-sufficient and self-confident. To the frustrated, freedom from responsibility is more attractive than freedom from restraint. They are eager to barter their independence for relief from the burdens of willing, deciding and being responsible for individual failure. They willingly abdicate the directing of their lives to those who want to plan, command and shoulder all responsibility. Moreover, submission by all to a supreme leader is an approach to their ideal of equality.

In time of crisis, during floods, earthquakes, epidemics, depressions and wars, separate individual effort is of no avail, and people of every condition are ready to obey and follow a leader. To obey is then the only firm point in a chaotic day-by-day existence.

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The frustrated are also likely to be the most steadfast followers. It is remarkable, that, in a cooperative effort, the least self-reliant are the least likely to be discouraged by defeat. For they join others in a common undertaking not so much to ensure the success of a cherished project as to avoid an individual shouldering of blame in case of failure. When the common undertaking fails, they are still spared the one thing they fear most, namely, the showing up of their individual shortcomings. Their faith remains unimpaired and they are eager to follow in a new attempt.

The frustrated follow a leader less because of their faith that he is leading them to a promised land than because of their immediate feeling that he is leading them away from their unwanted selves. Surrender to a leader is not a means to an end but a fulfillment. Whither they are led is of secondary importance.

[Bold emphasis mine]

Stopping there on page 110. That piece jumped out at me when I read it the other day, so I wanted to share it with others.

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.

Hatred as a Unifying Agent — an excerpt from the book “The True Believer”

Another excerpt from Eric Hoffer’s book The True Believer (1951), picking back up on page 85, chapter 14:

Unifying Agents

HATRED

65

Hatred is the most accessible and comprehensive of all unifying agents. It pulls and whirls the individual away from his own self, makes him oblivious of his weal and fortune, frees him of jealousness and self-seeking. He becomes an anonymous particle quivering with a craving to fuse and coalesce with his like into one flaming mass. Heine suggests that what Christian love cannot do is effected by a common hatred.

Mass movements can rise and spread without belief in a God, but never without belief in a devil. Usually the strength of a mass movement is proportionate to the vividness and tangibility of its devil. When Hitler was asked whether he thought the Jew must be destroyed, he answered: “No. . . . We should have then to invent him. It is essential to have a tangible enemy, not merely an abstract one.” F. A. Voigt tells of a Japanese mission that arrived in Berlin in 1932 to study the National Socialist movement. Voigt asked a member of the mission what he thought of the movement. He replied: “It is magnificent. I wish we could have something like it in Japan, only we can’t, because we haven’t got any Jews.” It is perhaps true that the insight and shrewdness of the men who know how to set a mass movement in motion, or how to keep one going, manifest themselves as much in knowing how to pick a worthy enemy as in knowing what doctrine to embrace and what program to adopt. The theoreticians of the Kremlin hardly waited for the guns of the Second World War to cool before they picked the democratic West, and particularly America, as the chosen enemy. It is doubtful whether any gesture of goodwill of any concession from our side will reduce the volume and venom of vilification against us emanating from the Kremlin.

One of Chiang Kai-shek’s most serious shortcomings was his failure to find an appropriate devil once the Japanese enemy vanished from the scene at the end of the war. The ambitious but simple-minded General was perhaps too self-conceited to realize that it was not he but the Japanese devil who generated the enthusiasm, the unity and the readiness for self-sacrifice of the Chinese masses.

66

Common hatred unites the most heterogeneous elements. To share a common hatred, with an enemy even, is to infect him with a feeling of kinship, and thus sap his powers of resistance. Hitler used anti-Semitism not only to unify his Germans but also to sap the res0luteness of Jew-hating Poland, Rumania, Hungary, and finally even France. He made a similar use of anti-communism.

67

It seems that, like the ideal deity, the ideal devil is one. We have it from Hitler—the foremost authority on devils—that the genius of a great leader consists in concentrating all hatred on a single foe, making “even adversaries far removed from one another seem to belong to a single category.” When Hitler picked the Jew as devil, he pooled practically the whole world outside Germany with Jews or those who worked for them. “Behind England stands Israel, and behind France, and behind the United States.” Stalin, too, adheres to the monotheistic principle when picking a devil. Formerly his devil was a fascist; now he is an American plutocrat.

Again, like an ideal deity, the ideal devil is omnipotent and omnipresent. When Hitler was asked whether he was not attributing rather too much importance to Jews, he exclaimed: “No, no, no! . . . It is impossible to exaggerate the formidable quality of the Jew as an enemy.” Every difficulty and failure within the movement is the work of the devil, and every success is a triumph over his evil plotting.

Finally, it seems, the ideal devil is a foreigner. To qualify as a devil, a domestic enemy must be given foreign ancestry. Hitler found it easy to brand the German Jews as foreigners. The Russian revolutionary agitators emphasized the foreign origin (Varangian, Tartar, Western) of the Russian aristocracy. In the French Revolution, the aristocrats were seen as “descendants of barbarous Germans, while French commoners were descendants of civilized Gauls and Romans.” In the Puritan Revolution the royalists “were labeled ‘Normans,’ descendants of a group of foreign invaders.”

Pausing for just a moment here, in today’s heated battle of the sexes we can also see how each sex is being framed as if foreign through the use of Evolutionary Biology and Evolutionary Psychology teachings that in the hands of some are being misused to drive a wedge between the sexes by playing up our distinctions and differences. The argument tends to be that women and men are hard-wired to be very different, and while this certainly tends to be true on some levels, the push here is to gloss over similarities and also to ignore cultural influences that arguably have tremendous impact on how we live, what roles we adopt, and how we view ourselves and one another. In short, the evo-psych-fused-in-with-evo-bio argument can be used by nefarious individuals to narrow the inquiry so severely that it produces a false dichotomy that serves the purpose of promoting polarization between the sexes.

Carrying on, picking back up on page 88:

68

We do not usually look for allies when we love. Indeed, we often look on those who love with us as rivals and trespassers. But we always look for allies when we hate.

It is understandable that we should look for others to side with us when we have a just grievance and crave to retaliate against those who wronged us. The puzzling thing is that when our hatred does not spring from a visible grievance and not seem justified, the desire for allies becomes more pressing. It is chiefly the unreasonable hatreds that drive us to merge with those who hate as we do, and it is this kind of hatred that serves as one of the most effective cementing agents.

Whence come these unreasonable hatreds, and why their unifying effect? They are an expression of a desperate effort to suppress an awareness of our inadequacy, worthlessness, guilt and other shortcomings of the self. Self-contempt is here transmuted into hatred of others—and there is a most determined and persistent effort to mask this switch. Obviously, the most effective way of doing this is to find others, as many as possible, who hate as we do. Here more than anywhere else we need general consent, and much of our proselytizing consists perhaps in infecting others not with our brand of faith but with our particular brand of unreasonable hatred.

Even in the case of a just grievance, our hatred comes less from a wrong done to us than from the consciousness of our helplessness, inadequacy and cowardice—in other words from self-contempt. When we feel superior to our tormentors, we are likely to despise them, even pity them, but not hate them. That the relation between grievance and hatred is not simple and direct is also seen from the fact that the released hatred is not always directed against those who wronged us. Often, when we are wronged by one person, we turn our hatred on a wholly unrelated person or group. Russians, bullied by Stalin’s secret police, are easily inflamed against “capitalist warmongers”; Germans, aggrieved by the Versailles treaty, avenged themselves by exterminating Jews; Zulus, oppressed by Boers, butcher Hindus; white trash, exploited by Dixiecrats, lynch Negroes.

Self-contempt produces in man “the most unjust and criminal passions imaginable, for he conceives a mortal hatred against that truth which blames him and convinces him of his faults.”

69

That hatred springs more from self-contempt than from a legitimate grievance is seen in the intimate connection between hatred and a guilty conscience.

There is perhaps no surer way of infecting ourselves with virulent hatred toward a person than by doing him a grave injustice. That others have a just grievance against us is a more potent reason for hating them than that we have a just grievance against them. We do not make people humble and meek when we show them their guilt and cause them to be ashamed of themselves. We are more likely to stir their arrogance and rouse in them a reckless aggressiveness. Self-righteousness is a loud din raised to drown the voice of guilt within us.

There is a guilty conscience behind every brazen word and act and behind every manifestation of self-righteousness.

70

To wrong those we hate is to add fuel to our hatred. Conversely, to treat an enemy with magnanimity is to blunt our hatred for him.

71

The most effective way to silence our guilty conscience is to convince ourselves and others that those we have sinned against are indeed depraved creatures, deserving every punishment, even extermination. We cannot pity those we have wronged, nor can we be indifferent toward them. We must hate and persecute them or else leave the door open to self-contempt.

72

A sublime religion inevitably generates a strong feeling of guilt. There is an unavoidable contrast between loftiness of profession and imperfection of practice. And, as one would expect, the feeling of guilt promotes hate and brazenness. Thus it seems that the more sublime the faith the more virulent the hatred it breeds.

73

It is easier to hate an enemy with much good in him than one who is all bad. We cannot hate those we despise. The Japanese had an advantage over us in that they admired us more than we admired them. They could hate us more fervently than we could hate them. The Americans are poor haters in international affairs because of their innate feeling of superiority over all foreigners. An American’s hatred for a fellow American (for Hoover or Roosevelt) is far more virulent than any antipathy he can work up against foreigners. […] Should Americans begin to hate foreigners wholeheartedly, it will be an indication that they have lost confidence in their own way of life.

The undercurrent of admiration in hatred manifests itself in the inclination to imitate those we hate. Thus every mass movement shapes itself after its specific devil. Christianity at its height realized the image of the anti-christ. The Jacobins practiced all the evils of the tyranny they had risen against. Soviet Russia is realizing the purest and most colossal example of monopolistic capitalism. Hitler took the Protocols of the Wise Men of Zion for his guide and textbook; he followed them “down to the veriest detail.”

It is startling to see how the oppressed almost invariably shape themselves in the image of their hated oppressors. That the evil men do lives after them is partly due to the fact that those who have reason to hate the evil most shape themselves after it and thus perpetuate it. It is obvious, therefore, that the influence of the fanatic is bound to be out of all proportion to his abilities. Both by converting and antagonizing, he shapes the world in his own image. Fanatic Christianity puts its imprint upon the ancient world both by gaining adherents and by evoking in its pagan opponents a strange fervor and a new ruthlessness. Hitler imposed himself upon the world both by promoting Nazism and by forcing the democracies to become zealous, intolerant, and ruthless. Communist Russia shapes both its adherents and its opponents in its own image.

Thus, though hatred is a convenient instrument for mobilizing a community for defense, it does not, in the long run, come cheap. We pay for it by losing all or many of the values we have set out to defend.

Hitler, who sensed the undercurrent of admiration in hatred, drew a remarkable conclusion. It is of the utmost importance, he said, that the National Socialist should seek and deserve the violent hatred of his enemies. Such hatred would be proof of the superiority of the National Socialist faith. “The best yardstick for the value of his [the National Socialist’s] attitude, for the sincerity of his conviction, and the force of his will is the hostility he receives from the . . . enemy.”

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It seems that when we are oppressed by the knowledge of our worthlessness we do not see ourselves as lower than some and higher than others, but as lower than the lowest of mankind. We hate then the whole world, and we would pour our wrath upon the whole of creation.

There is a deep reassurance for the frustrated in witnessing the downfall of the fortunate and the disgrace of the righteous. They see in a general downfall an approach to the brotherhood of all. Chaos, like the grave, is a haven of equality. Their burning conviction that there must be a new life and a new order is fueled by the realization that the old will have to be razed to the ground before the new can be built. Their clamor for a millennium is shot through with a hatred for all that exists, and a craving for the end of the world.

75

Passionate hatred can give meaning and purpose to an empty life. Thus people haunted by the purposelessness of their lives try to find a new content not only by dedicating themselves to a holy cause but also by nursing a fanatical grievance. A mass movement offers them unlimited opportunities for both.

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Whether it is true or not as Pascal says that “all men by nature hate each other,” and that love and charity are only “a feint and a false image, for at bottom they are but hate,” one cannot escape the impression that hatred is an all-pervading ingredient in the compounds and combinations of our inner life. All our enthusiasms, devotions, passions and hopes, when they decompose, release hatred. On the other hand it is possible to synthesize an enthusiasm, a devotion and a hope by activating hatred. Said Martin Luther: “When my heart is cold and I cannot pray as I should I scourge myself with the thought of the impeity and ingratitude of my enemies, the Pope and his accomplices and vermin, and Zwingli, so that my heart swells with righteous indignation and hatred and I can say with warmth and vehemence: ‘Holy be Thy Name, Thy Kingdom come, Thy Will be done!’ And the hotter I grow the more ardent do my prayers become.”

77

Unity and self-sacrifice, of themselves, even when fostered by the most noble means, produce a facility for hating. Even when men league themselves mightily together to promote tolerance and peace on earth, they are likely to be violently intolerant toward those not of a like mind.

The estrangement from the self, without which there can be neither selflessness nor a full assimilation of the individual into a compact whole, produces, as already mentioned, a proclivity for passionate attitudes, including passionate hatred. There are also other factors which favor the growth of hatred in an atmosphere of unity and selflessness. The act of self-denial seems to confer on us the right to be harsh and merciless toward others. The impression somehow prevails that the true believer, particularly the religious individual, is a humble person. The truth is that the surrendering and humbling of the self breed pride and arrogance. The true believer us apt to see himself as one of the chosen, the salt of the earth, the light of the world, a prince disguised in meekness, who is destined to inherit this earth and the kingdom of heaven, too. He who is not of his faith is evil; he who will not listen shall perish.

There is also this: when we renounce the self and become part of a compact whole, we not only renounce personal advantage but are also rid of personal responsibility. There is no telling to what extremes of cruelty and ruthlessness a man will go when he is freed from the fears, hesitations, doubts and the vague stirrings of decency that go with individual judgment. When we lose our individual independence in the corporateness of a mass movement, we find a new freedom—freedom to hate, bully, lie, torture, murder and betray without shame and remorse. Herein undoubtedly lies part of the attractiveness of a mass movement. We find there the “right to dishonour,” which according to Dostoyevsky has an irresistible fascination. […]

Thus hatred is not only a means of unification but also its product. Renan says that we have never, since the world began, heard of a merciful nation. Nor, one may add, have we heard of a merciful church or a merciful revolutionary party. The hatred and cruelty which have their source in selfishness are ineffectual things compared with the venom and ruthlessness born of selflessness.

When we see the bloodshed, terror and destruction born of such generous enthusiasms as the love of God, love of Christ, love of a nation, compassion for the oppressed and so on, we usually blame this shameful perversion on a cynical, power-hungry leadership. Actually, it is the unification set in motion by these enthusiasms, rather than the manipulations of a scheming leadership, that transmutes noble impulses into a reality of hatred and violence. The deindividualization which is a prerequisite for thorough integration and selfless dedication is also, to a considerable extent, a process of dehumanization. The torture chamber is a corporate institution.

[Bold emphases mine]

Stopping there for today, on page 94.

Professor Robert Sapolsky lectures on Human Behavioral Biology

Stanford professor Robert Sapolsky lectures in the course entitled Human Behavioral Biology:

1. Introduction to Human Behavioral Biology

2. Behavioral Evolution

3. Behavioral Evolution II

4. Molecular Genetics I

5. Molecular Genetics II

6. Behavioral Genetics I

7. Behavioral Genetics II

8. Recognizing Relatives

9. Ethology

10. Introduction to Neuroscience I

11. Introduction to Neuroscience II

12. Endocrinology

13. Advanced Neurology and Endocrinology

14. Limbic System

15. Human Sexual Behavior I

16. Human Sexual Behavior II

17. Human Sexual Behavior III & Aggression I

18. Aggression II

19. Aggression III

20. Aggression IV

21. Chaos and Reductionism

22. Emergence and Complexity

23. Language

24. Schizophrenia

25. Individual Differences

Watched the first several video clips a few months back and then the last clip tonight, but I’d like to find time to start over from the beginning and work all the way through the course lectures. Hopefully soon enough I can get to that, but in the meantime it’ll be saved on here for easy access.

Because love matters most

That’s an awesome performance of a timeless song. Loved that song for as far back as I can remember. Always felt meaningful and drew out my sympathy. It’s a song that’s always relevant in one way or another. These days I listen to it and cringe a little, wishing to not harm my lover like the woman he sang about.

Another song known to evoke similar feelings is this:

I do believe it helps to meditate on songs like this from time to time, either to preemptively check oneself or while reflecting on sins one has already committed.

(Sidenote: And, as always, though the disclaimer shouldn’t be necessary, when I use the word “sin” it isn’t intended to be taken in some strictly biblical manner. Sin remains a relevant concept regardless of what any religion specifically had to say on the matter.)

It’s no secret that I’ve sinned. Would go so far as to label myself a sinner. Not a perfect person by any stretch and never will be, because that’s just not realistic. Working on it, forever working on it. What am I talking about? That’s for me and mine to know about. Just sayin’ I do get it, and I am trying to become better than previous points in time have proven me to be. Fallibility and episodes of reckless judgment come with being human, whether you’re a woman or a man. No human is an island, and none of us came to where we stand today on our own, for better or worse, though ultimately the power to transform is said to reside within our own individual selves. But old habits and ways of coping die hard. Not offering that last bit as an excuse so much as a humbling realization.

One thing about this life—and this is where terms like “equality” break down for me—is that we don’t all come from the same places or come up with similar influences. We are not equal in this way and cannot be. This causes us to be incapable of walking in another person’s shoes, because we will never see what they saw, how they saw and experienced it, even if our situations sound comparable. Because it’s not just about the environment itself; this involves a dynamic play occurring between the individual and his or her personality coming into contact with environmental conditions and influences, including other persons. If I am not you and we cannot help but be unique due to the dynamic interplay between who each of us is at the core and what we’ve been exposed to over time and how this has vitally shaped us, we will necessarily struggle in coming to know one another. Hence the maxim that you never really know someone, not completely, through and through. Given enough time, we’ll all surprise one another.

Some are better at keeping secrets. Some are more effective liars. Some are compulsive and reckless, maybe because they don’t believe they care about living, maybe because they’re hurt inside and have formed unhealthy habits for coping. I assume those better at keeping secrets and lying may be less prone to feeling their conscience clamping down on them and demanding change. And maybe those who prefer solitude over close ties and regular companionship aren’t as worried with concerns over being alienated and deserted by loved ones. But it worries me. As one admittedly difficult woman out here in society.

Popularity never meant much to me, and it still doesn’t. But my loved ones do. They are my world and without them I wouldn’t know who I am any longer. That’s just how life feels for me. So there’s a push inside for me to continue working on changing some of my problematic ways, the ones that have or may hurt those I care most about.

And that’s as much as I care to say on that topic tonight.

Unwinding with the tunes of R.L. Burnside (plus my personal update)

That was R.L. Burnside’s “The Criminal Inside of Me.”  drinking  Came across that song for the first time recently, and it cracks me up. Gotta love the tunes of R.L. Burnside.  bitches

So let’s keep his tunes going in what’s left of this Saturday evening:

What’s the news over in my little sphere? Well, my back’s feeling a lot better, so that’s fantastic. It’s easy to take for granted how much we depend on our backs to do anything and everything until they get hurt, and boy did that shit hurt. But then it just started lessening and now the nerve isn’t even pinched anymore. Kinda miraculous really.  lol  I’m wondering if it wasn’t my old car’s seat that wasn’t causing most of the problem *shrugs*  But thank god that pain moved on. Gotta count our blessings where we find ’em.

Had to rush a pet to the veterinary emergency room yesterday due to heat exhaustion. She’s an indoor/outdoor cat with freedom to come and go as she pleases, and unfortunately we had some very hot days here this past week. I stop over twice a day while her parents are out of the state and happened to find her last evening in the backyard in a bad state and in desperate need of help. Man, it scared the shit out of me. She was disoriented, frothing at the mouth, lethargic. I called her mom, found the pet carrier, and just loaded her in the car and drove her straight on.  Her temperature was 107.5 degrees I believe the vet said, and they hooked her up to IVs immediately. And she’s still there, might bring her home tomorrow. That’s my first time in all these years to deal with a real emergency like that. I’m just grateful to have arrived when I did. An hour or more and she might’ve been in much worse trouble. She was fine in the morning when I visited, was indoors and took her antibiotics just fine, no problems at all, but 8 hours later and it was a whole other story. Sad situation that was. But the vet says she’s doing well now and they’re keeping her for observation. But lord, I feel bad for her parents having to face that vet bill, quoted as being between $1100-$1700 before all is said and done.

On another note, my computer went on the fritz a few days back. It’s been having problems with overheating for a while now, but finally it got bad enough to where I had to take it in to have the pros handle it. But $60 later, it’s back home and functioning once again. Had to rely on my back-up computer for a few days there, which had PCLinuxOS installed from back in 2009, and I never could get the hang of that particular operating system, not being terribly knowledgeable with using Linux. Wound up having to install Windows XP instead, but I went to Linux on that system because XP had proven so unstable on it in the past. I’m very interested in installing Linux Mint xcfe (version 13 or 14) on it, but there’s something wrong with the damned computer to where I couldn’t get Unetbootin to load properly from my external drive so as to install Linux Mint’s ISO. Gonna have to figure that out eventually.

What else is going on over here? Lots of drama in my personal life, but that’s not something worth discussing on here. Might as well admit that much of it’s due to my own damn fault and just leave it at that. We still love each other, but problems arose that I didn’t handle well once upon a time, and that left emotional scars that are very slow to heal for us both. Sad situation. But maybe time will turn things around. I don’t know. One thing I do know is it’s taught me a valuable lesson of what never to do ever again. Shame on me. But it’s not the world’s business.

What else? The new used car is working out nicely, though it does have some grinding when I brake that I hope to have looked into eventually when time permits. Already put close to 800 miles on the car in the nearly 2 weeks I’ve owned it, with a busier week coming up — my vehicles must perform as work mules, that’s their role. ‘Tis people’s vacation season, so I work a great deal in the summer. And I look forward to this car serving me well over the coming years.

Only other thing left to say is I’m living and learning like usual. Making mistakes, yes, but trying to learn from them. Some shit I seem hellbent on learning the hard way rather than vicariously through others, but such is the way life goes sometimes. I’m stubborn and admittedly a free bird in ways.

That’s enough of an update for now.

The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil

The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil – a 2007 talk by Philip G. Zimbardo, Professor Emeritus of Psychology, Stanford University:

Zimbardo’s latest book, The Lucifer Effect, attempts to understand how good people do evil deeds. His talk outlines his involvement as expert witness for the defense team of one of the military police officers responsible at Abu Ghraib, and also provides a rich history of psychological research into the kind of behavior transformations evident in Iraq. First, Zimbardo presents a slideshow of Abu Ghraib abominations, including some digital photos that were not widely distributed by the media. Then he digs deep into the archives for a horrifically illustrated tour of experiments that make a persuasive case that certain, predictable situations corrupt people into wielding power in a destructive way.

He describes Stanley Milgram’s 1963 Yale-based research demonstrating that people will behave sadistically when confronted by “an authority in a lab coat.” A vast majority of the subjects delivered what they were told were dangerous electric shocks to a learner in another room, to the point of apparently killing the other person. Researchers skeptical of his results replicated them. This time, professors demanded that students shock real puppies standing on electrified grills. Zimbardo’s own prison experiment turned an ordinary group of young men into power-hungry “guards,” humiliating equally ordinary “prisoners” in the basement of Stanford’s psychology building. The descent into barbarity was so rapid that Zimbardo had to cancel the experiment after a few days.

The recipe for behavior change isn’t complicated. “All evil begins with a big lie,” says Zimbardo, whether it’s a claim to be following the word of God, or the need to stamp out political opposition. A seemingly insignificant step follows, with successive small actions, presented as essential by an apparently just authority figure. The situation presents others complying with the same rules, perhaps protesting, but following along all the same. If the victims are anonymous or dehumanized somehow, all the better. And exiting the situation is extremely difficult.

Abu Ghraib fit this type of situation to a T, says Zimbardo. The guards, never trained for their work helping military interrogators, worked 12-hour shifts, 40 days without a break, in chaotic, filthy conditions, facing 1,000 foreign prisoners, and hostile fire from the neighborhood. They operated in extreme stress, under orders to impose fear on their prisoners. Zimbardo believes the outcome was perfectly predictable, and while never absolving these soldiers of personal responsibility, believes justice won’t be done until “the people who created the situation go on trial as well: George Tenet, Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney and George Bush.”