Sunday, July 27, 2014

Comic Assimilation

Everything's a comic book now. Great, sequential art, hurrah. Comics engage the brain less than reading, which is why they're increasingly popular. They're not as bad as TV, at least.

We have this broken sense that imagination occurs without imagination--that better and better forms of artistic expression will be more and more realistic and representative. Pictures trumped storytelling, moving pictures trumped pictures, movies with sound beat quiet ones, and virtual reality will trump those. Bigger explosions, more closely-detailed scrotal curls, and all that. Even more immersive will be virtual reality where you can pre-select an option to not realize, during the experience, that it's virtual reality, so that you're totally into it, man. And then you'll get out, and it'll be, like, "Woah, so you're the Vince Goldberg? You made that? Oh, man, that was awesome!"

Considering how well brain function shuts down to the TV, will VR show a corresponding drop? No, not really; in fact, it can increase it, but it'll be artificial (and build a dependence that'll have worse long-term effects than TV). What we're missing in representative art is that the magic happens inside the mind. The artist is a medium; the viewer is the artist, and art can only happen when the viewer-artist views what the medium-artist has rendered, and it sparks the viewer-artist's brain to create its own version of what is rendered. That moment, where someone reads, "The elephant was purple, knotty of trunk and weary of eye," and gets some kind of image of the purple elephant--that is the creation; the art. That is the closest way we have of sharing in the wonders of that elephant. The spark happens when the viewer's imagination is engaged, rather than merely the viewer's faculties for directly duplicating--for mere remembering; reproducing--in her or his head, what s/he has already seen.

The better artist, the true artist, causes the viewer to create via viewer's imagination. It is an inclusive, mutual, infinite act. The artist is a teacher and a guide; a flash of a Degas prompts a more intelligent, involved response than careful study of master realism. Even if that ballerina actually existed, rendering her realistically would bar the viewer-artist from knowing her as well as the one who takes the final step beyond an impressioned suggestion. Reproduction, by contrast, is exclusive, singular, and fixed. The photographer has made an argument; the tampon in a teacup is a statement. The viewer applauds; responds; argues; but, the work has already been done. It is a tombstone, inviting you to speculate how that impression got there, but not to complete it yourself.

Better art is superior communication, using but transcending the five senses, and going directly to the source of mind. As "hands off" as possible makes the finest connection. We have to speak or write something down, yes, since we're not particularly telepathic, but while you can exclusively touch braille, see printing, or hear words, getting the full experience with the other four senses shut off, progressively more complicated stages of conveying information result in a processing effect akin to the difference between eating a frozen dinner v. food prepared five minutes ago from real ingredients.

We can never divorce ourselves entirely from the distortion of process while we're here; that's not the point. Even if we grow our own organic food, we might still live fifty miles from an industrial zone, and one or two atoms might float their way onto the tomatoes before we make our marinara. There is a staggering difference, though, between what the organic farmer nurtures for that-evening sale at the Manhattan five star to what the indentured servants reap via machines and Roundup for insertion some months later in the slicer at Mickey D's.

Naturally, we want to make it easier to sell our product, so we start doing more of the work for a lazy population of viewers. They're not smart enough to imagine Superman, so we simply draw him, and then they can't even bother with that anymore, so we animate him, dress some guy up to look like him, and eventually, hire a team of programmers to make a complete VR Superman experience. We lose the ability to describe him in a mouthful, a paragraph, or a page. They lose the ability to take that description and turn it, in their own heads, into the real Superman.

And we've achieved less of a connection. Not only are we all dumber, but by doing the work in advance for the viewer, we've taken away their ability to construct the final image in their head. The Superman they picture will no longer be Superman; it'll be some drawing, or actor, that we've used to make up for our inability to describe anything.

Art dies on the assumption that we have the technology to fully render everything we imagine. We don't. The transcendent quality of what we were thinking of when we first imagined a character--the real thing we made that connection to--is not something we can render. The best thing we can do is to describe it. A viewer-artist can then take that description, put it in their own head, and use it as a conduit to try to connect to the real thing of which we heard our own whisper. That's the connection. And without any spiritual bullshit behind it, it's also the step that most stimulates the brain. It makes us more intelligent and discerning, in tiny steps, to do that kind of thing, which is why prose and sequential art and television and immersion worlds are descending levels of art (even if they're also fun and wonderful and valuable in their own ways).

We can try to draw it, and that's great. There are different realms and different reasons why rendering something in another way might be better. But that bears almost no relationship to why comics got popular during the propaganda years of the Great War, and why the ease of avoiding prose holds increasing appeal to the legions of today-people. Doing a comic, or a movie, is like taking pictures of a single stage performance of a story. It can never be the story, no matter how great it is; it's just one take on it. It's showing someone else your own viewer-art instead of granting them the gift of being able to learn about their own, which is why increasingly "realistic" entertainment is the forte of elites. By fixing in place, "This is the way it was there," art becomes an act of base creation, rather than something transcendent or graceful; a defecation which demands admiration for its source, rather than a channeling of something glorious and faraway that can't be directly experienced from here.

Castled

So Nathan Fillion was in Firefly, which despite being popular and profitable enough otherwise, got canceled. Firefly was about how an evil empire used a galactic surveillance network and evil black operatives (sic, wink) to torture children for State purposes. The evil empire propagated mind-altering drugs, turned millions of people into rabid zombies, and then used the resulting rabid zombies to wreak terror across the galaxy, stifling free economies and butchering dissidents and sheltering a thin layer of middle class people on its central planet.

And Nathan Fillion was the rugged captain who'd once fought in the war against the empire. After the war lost, he ran his own delivery business, but kept getting harassed by imperial forces who wanted to search and seize. And some sheltered middle class people got on board his ship, thought Fillion was boorish for his lower class habits, and eventually learned that their own lives had been boorish, and came around on the whole concept of empire.

Mr. Fillion also began taking the steps of effective change. He began to rebel against the empire--not in the stupidly unrealistic, elite-preferred model, like George Lucas uses, where a rebellion is really about the true elites re-seizing power wrongfully taken from their noble bloodlines with inborn qualities, but a rough and rugged and generally realistic one, shooting backwater imperial cops, exposing state secrets, and refusing to give up the freedom that he'd had before the fall.

Joss Whedon got to make Firefly because he was a rich Cali brat with rich parents who got him in the door, and the Powers That Be had been happy with his inoffensive teen drama Buffy, but once he'd matured as a writer, he produced something that had something to say, so they shut it down, leaving fanbois and fangirls everywhere oh-so-briefly distraught. This reminds us that it's not merely connections or money, but message. People disappear when they get off-message at the wrong time.

But no worries, because Nathan Fillion soon got another job. He got to play a pulp mystery writer in Castle, which is crapping its way along to six seasons strong, now. Like Batman and about 23% of other western movies, Castle teaches us that New York City is the hub of world culture and equality. It reminds us that, if cops had even more resources, they could solve crimes even faster. It teaches us that constant electronic surveillance of everywhere and DNA/fingerprint databases of everyone on the planet need to be established. It shows how annoying it is when people try to get lawyers or invoke their 5th Amendment rights, because that proves that they are either guilty of murder, or hiding a dark/deadly secret that needs to come out to protect their families and the rest of the city. Delays in obtaining warrants are deadly, damn those formalities, because it makes the episode longer, and lets criminals escape, if someone has to wait thirty minutes for a magistrate to issue a warrant based on a vague mix of a cop's internal assumptions and hearsay.

Why, oh why, do local police departments not have access to the kinds of expensive drone camera and imaging technology that the DHS does? Dammit! Why is every stupid private citizen's new kitchen remodeling design not required to be detailed inside police supercomputers before the project gets approved? If only they had more firepower, cops would stop being outgunned by murderous hooligans! Criminal investigations do not have racial aspects--in fact, cops are not only your friend, they are everyone's friend, teacher, and uncompensated social worker. Cops only threaten people with physical or social harm if those people are reprehensible and deserve to be threatened, and every interrogation turns up useful information. If cops had the power to send people to jail for lower standards, then our cities would be even safer. Private citizens are a shifty bunch of bastardous, self-interested suspects, who always know something valuable but who always want to hide it because of the negative influence of the Constitution.

Successful businessmen are good, wonderful people. Failed businessmen are prone to commit murder to try to prop themselves up in the competitive world that they couldn't fairly navigate on their own. Escorts are sad, benighted, yet beautiful women, who desperately need the attention of manly men or strident women from state social services departments, who can explain to them that getting out of "the life" and into a job working part time at KFC is an improvement. If escorts had any brains or freedom of their own they would have chosen a different line of honest work that didn't involve exposing their forbidden bits to people outside of brief sequential monogamous relationships, which are not themselves related in any way to economics.

A double-irony as to Mr. Fillion's career is that, in Firefly, his character showed the wrongness of torture and interrogation. Fillion and one of his shipmates got tortured for information they didn't really have by an insane, power-hungry rich dude. The torture was portrayed as brutal, pointless, sadistic, and wrong. It exemplified the darker side of humans. And then suddenly, in Castle, Fillion is torturing information out of captives who swear they don't know anything. Just like in the rest of the American shows, of course, the captives turn out to be lying, because contrary to reality, torture is effective in obtaining useful information. The torture was portrayed as just, fair, necessary, heroic, and right. It exemplified the nobler side of humans. And it showed how, if cops were just allowed to torture suspects, they wouldn't need private citizens to do it for them. Complete reverse.

Corporate win.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Rebels With Too Many Causes

One has to be, on some level, a pacifist, in order to justify to oneself the idea that mass pathological study is itself sufficient. Christian martyrs might go to the lions, apparently losing the day, but their arguments were, at least, internally consistent:

"This is all a test, demonstrating how you are bound for Hell, while I will win forever in Heaven."

...ergo it didn't matter how many Christians were thrown to lions, or how many provinces went under Legion boots, because the triumph of evil in the real world was a proof to the supernatural aspects of the theory itself.

So, if you are all possessed of a belief in some kind of transcendent justice based upon faith, kudos!

If you're not--if you're atheists who tell people aloud that you're agnostic, weighted by a heavy awareness of the exploitative nature of a thousand years of organized human religion--then what do you have left? You can write another screed on the wrongness of throwing religious dissidents to lions. You can organize a mob to protest outside the Coliseum. You can spend decades raising awareness in the most influential residential neighborhoods of the imperial seat...and yet, the Legions will triumph in spite of all of our living-room discussions. Rotting crosses will continue to line the roads, and Senators will continue to rape Aquarii. Even if lusty, courageous barbarian heroes should someday pillage the provinces, it will not be because of any of our chatting; any of our theories; any of our indignation.

But seriously, we're losing, and none of our talking is saving any lives. It's not getting the prisoners released or stopping the bombing of children. And we know it.

Rebels With Too Many Causes

That's why we must apply a grain of salt to any of these intellectuals (ourselves included) who offer cool new analyses of the latest tyrannical act. No matter how much we like them; no matter how "right" they are: there exists a gigantic unspoken truth behind everything they say, namely, "How worthwhile is it to talk about all this?" And most of them don't answer that question. They leave it open to interpretation, and yet, even as they do all their talking and article-writing, for which they are often being paid by the very forces they condemn, they adopt the mantle of "rebel."

Here are the dissidents:

(1) The Evangelical. The Evangelical Dissident promises the eventual victory of goodness at the hands of a supernatural force. E.g., "God will make things right. Therefore, it is sufficient for us to merely hang out, discuss how stinky our rulers are, and not offer effective resistance to atrocity happening here, because this isn't the real game." The Evangelical may be wrong, but at least she is not a hypocrite. The Evangelical's genuine belief in the supernatural force means that it is consistent for the Evangelical to do her best inside an evil system, draw a paycheck from Imperial Suboffice #17-B, and resist only by posting blog articles discussing how evil the Empire is. However erroneous the supernatural claim, the claim would, if correct, vindicate the Evangelical's inaction. The Evangelical may be completely, flagrantly wrong, but at least her equations balance out.

The Evangelical Dissident's downfall is the requirement of proof: the Evangelical's promises can never, by their nature, be proven in the natural world, so her arguments are not taken seriously until people have time to contemplate being near the end and see something new. The Evangelical is highly vulnerable to a hypocrisy only she knows: if she doesn't actually believe herself, she isn't really an Evangelical, but a lying Bourgeois.

(2) The Bourgeois. The Bourgeois Dissident admits up front that the dissident's theories have no hope of stopping another thousand years of war. E.g., "It is hopeless. We are powerless to stop these people, but at least we're among the lucky few that can obtain intellectual stimulation from discussing how horrified we are at their actions, before we die." The Bourgeois Dissident is not a hypocrite because he has admitted that his theories are discussion fodder only, and that they will never better the world. While the Bourgeois talks, whole peoples will continue to be tortured and murdered. Genocide will run rampant. All these things are regrettable, to the Bourgeois, but in a catch-as-catch-can world, the Bourgeois Dissident sees no alternative but to propagate his disgust among those who share his views.

The Bourgeois Dissident's downfall is his association with Empire. Because the Bourgeois admits that he will never change the system, he is a part of the system...but at least he's not a hypocrite, nor a Fool. He knows his arguments are verbal masturbation, which he finds far more pleasurable than standing in front of an imperial tank.



(3) The Fool. The Fool Dissident genuinely believes that more detailed discussions of elite wrongs will eventually sway the people to make changes. The Fool thinks that elites are merely ignorant of the badness of killing people, and that, if confronted with visceral descriptions of warfare, or detailed charts proving corruption, elites will be shocked to their senses and start behaving well.

The Fool may also cherish this belief about ordinary people. Perhaps she thinks that, if presented with corruption charts, ordinary people will suddenly demand change. The Fool can wile away decades of being mocked and marginalized, never losing her belief that, if she just gets another thirty seconds on a local radio program, she can make people "wake up" and take back "their" government.

Although the Fool Dissident is lamentably in error, she is not a hypocrite. Her staggering historical ignorance and blazingly wishful thinking make her more naive than even the most delusional Evangelical, yet because of that delusion, she is able to be internally consistent. She is wrong, but she is not a liar--provided that, like the Evangelical, she actually believes in her heart of hearts that people will be able to process her knowledge and effect change if only she has educated them.

The Fool's downfall is experience. An experienced Fool knows that the masses have ever either loved their rulers' corruption, or hated it yet been too cowardly to change it, both for a number of psychological, sociological, and political reasons that will forever stymie her attempts at elucidation until control systems are broken through violence. An educated fool knows that the masses, and the elites, have already seen all the "bomb victim" photos, already know that the government is on the take, and simply don't give a shit. Maybe the Fool is right--if children were birthed well, raised well, and taught well, they would respond to her knowledge. In the face of the Empire's control at each level, however, one has to be a true Fool to think that the system will be changed by "spreading awareness."

(4) The Lily. The Lily Dissident genuinely believes in pacifism. He would never raise a fist to defend himself, and believes that no one else should, either--ergo, even though he does not suffer from the Fool's delusions, or the Bourgeois' hideous honesty, the Lily Dissident cannot advocate effective action. The Lily truly believes that inert civil disobedience is what makes empires fall and redresses grievances. He ignores the violent crushing of the Black Panther Party and the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., while celebrating the American Democratic Party's stillborn Civil Rights movement as a triumph for shifting so many millions of black people into integrated urban poverty, street starvation, and federal detention facilities. The Lily celebrates what little he knows of India's history, and attributes the withdrawal of the British Empire to Gandhi's activism, rather than to budgetary issues and geopolitics. Hundreds of years of civil disobedience to the United Kingdom, bringing only a violent response against the natives, are ignored because, in one country, Britain happened to be pulling out around the time one particular movement got started: proof positive, to the Lily, that his method changes the world.

The Lily's downfall, like that of the Fool and the Evangelical, is the question of whether he really thinks it's true--if he thinks that, by lying down in front of Dick Cheney's Bentley, he could convince Cheney to stop and not run him over. Or, he could acknowledge that Dick Cheney would run him over, but cling to pacifism anyway, believing that it is morally right regardless of its real-world failures. True Lily Dissidents are exceedingly rare, because Lilies must believe that it would be wrong for police to use violence to stop a man from raping a woman: as soon as a "Lily" claims violence is okay in certain circumstances, he becomes a hypocrite for disavowing violence as a tool to stop the rape and murder of tens of thousands of Arab women.

(5) The Hypocrite. The Hypocrite Dissident is the most common by far. The Hypocrite enjoys the comforts of empire, yet laments the price necessary to maintain them (but laments not enough to change them). The Hypocrite is aware of the police state nationalism, educational boundaries, and chemical pollution that affect each new citizen's ability to analyze dissidence, and the Hypocrite is often intimately familiar with the impossible nuances and power-plays of making policy changes, small to large--yet, the Hypocrite manifests a firm belief in peaceful activist changes. This dissident can discuss a hundred years of media message control, political stifling, and open corruption, while simultaneously claiming that making inspiring Youtube videos or writing articles filled with archaic revolutionary jargon might effect large-scale change.

What differentiates the Hypocrite from the Fool is the question of belief: the Fool, through ignorance or fantasy, believes that education will prompt the common masses to vote or revolt, while the Hypocrite knows the details of how thoroughly the common masses are controlled, and knows, often word-for-word, how his message will be dismissed by the pre-loaded corporate dismissals provided the masses via popular culture.

The Hypocrite knows that the power of old capital and entrenched MIC interests would be sufficient to cleanly remove even a radical president who was suddenly elected, and to correspondingly soothe the masses afterward--so even if an impossibly fantastical, 0.00001% chance, viral internet campaign swept in some Green Senators and a Green President, the Hypocrite knows that the deep government could remove them as easily as JFK and Wellington, and nothing would change.

Flirting with pacifism, wishful thinking, and bitter fantasy, the Hypocrite realizes that he is only another talking head on late night cable, reaching only those who already understand and utterly powerless to change anything by talking. His downfall is complete before it can begin, for he knows the failure of his non-quest, yet pretends to be questing anyway.

Room For Argument

There's room for argument in all those. Is the Lily correct? Does lying down in front of Dick Cheney's Bentley really make his heart grow three sizes in one day? Will explaining things in clear terms to Bill Gates make him stop destroying childhood education? Those are ridiculous arguments, but they're not hypocritical, so they can be rationally made.

Is the Fool correct? If we all saved up and took out a week straight of full-page New York Times ads, would people suddenly realize that the past twenty presidents have been corporate puppets, and demand a rewrite of the Constitution and the jailing of every living politician? Ridiculous, of course; people would immediately identify it as stupid leftist propaganda, and skip to the next page. (Ted Kaczynski tried to get a message out, anyway, got one out, got a lot of readers, and thereby already proved that argument partly wrong, but maybe Fools think they could make a better case than he did, and they're probably right.)

The Bourgeois isn't going to lose any political arguments, either. His rallying cry is "Nature, red in tooth and claw," and if he's honest, an argument with him goes to the level of spirituality. The Bourgeois is completely internally consistent, and even though he's only a Hypocrite in disguise, he's really intelligent and fun to read.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Ghost Dance

It may be time for the Palestinians to consider the Ghost Dance. No one else cares enough to fight for them. Intervention is unthinkable; hypocritical non-intervention is the order of the day. It's clear that Israel is going to exterminate them down to a negligible population of aboriginals, perhaps trapped on tiny reservations and granted casino rights--or just keep right on steamrolling until every Arab inside those ridiculous 1948 British borders is dead.



If you're not up on it, the Ghost Dance was sort of a "goodbye, us" from the dark aboriginal tribes of North America. A Paiute with a sadly westernized name (Jack Wilson) started it in the late 19th century, when two things had become massively apparent:

1) The genocide was not going to stop;

2) The well-equipped white invaders were not going to leave;

3) No other country in the world cared enough to send a modern military in to stop the invaders and help the natives;

4) No amount of massive, world-historical hypocrisy, however well-documented, however staggering and lopsided, however flagrantly inhuman, was going to reverse what Columbus had begun.

And Palestine is certainly there. It was certainly there a long time ago, perhaps, even, on Day 1 of the attack. Maybe even before the slaughter began; when the first Zionists were discussing National Socialism as a means of encouraging white European populations to migrate into the oil lands.

So the Paiute turned traditional tribal circle dances into a Ghost Dance. Jack Wilson began traveling around the country, telling Native Americans that if they did not drink, and if they overlooked tribal divisions and embraced brotherhood, the white invaders would stop massacring the tribes, and eventually go home--and the tribes would be reunited with their murdered ancestors.

It was a last gasp, of course. Certainly some people believed in it, but more likely it was like that moment when you hold someone's hand and tell them that the doctors said they'd made a mistake on their scans and the cancer was retreating, just because you wanted to give them one last night of restful sleep before they passed away. Give the Indians some credit. It was a confessional; an absolution; a ritual of acceptance; a plea to the Powers That Be that the passage on could be easier. It also won the historical war against the white invaders. Because the Ghost Dance was so tragic a movement, it proved for once and for all the hopelessness of the tribes' plight, and settled forever the question of Who Was Responsible, just in case anyone would have been stupid enough to see innocence in Columbus or Netanyahu, Cortes or Ben-Gurion.

Really, what else are the Palestinians going to do? Fight back? Even every single one of them suddenly resisting in coordination would fail. Make a plea to the international community? The international community doesn't care. Everyone was eager to sign on to a war to save the Kurds from Saddam Hussein, but no one wants to save a Palestinian.

Even some Palestinians don't. Just you wait--in a hundred years, when the genocide is "over," some half-Arab, half-Jewish Obama-equivalent will be the Prime Minister of Israel, and he will mastermind the invasion of Egypt, or something, while simultaneously assuaging ordinary liberal Israelites that their lamentable century-old racism against Arabs has been solved, since, like, they voted for the half-Arab guy. How ignoble, how treacherous, how truly vile that Sambo will be, selling out his own blood to make old murder look shiny and new.

The burglars have kicked in the door, taken over the living room and the kitchen and the dining room, shot the family dog, cleared the fridge, raped the daughters, tortured the sons, moved up the stairs, taken over the spare bedroom, and the last two Palestinians are huddled in the guest closet, occasionally flinging a fork. It's time to come to terms with things. It's time to dance in a circle and pray that pure living and brotherhood will reunite you with your ancestors, because there's a better chance of that working out than there is of the white people deciding to spare the rest of the family and let them keep any of the house. It's time for the Ghost Dance.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Anti-Debt Rebellion ~ Ninth Hope

Friends are closer than you think. Succeeding Hope 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

Debt, right? 5,000 years, maybe, or...longer?

Our elections are corrupt. Too much money is in politics. We don't have democracies, we have "representative republics," where positions are decided based on popularity contests. And those popularity contests are dependent on money--so much money that everyone but the previously wealthy is weaned out of the process before it begins. And even within that world, elaborate, entrenched "party" machinery controls who gets positioned for what; who is allowed to collect donations, who may say what without getting drummed out of politics forever.

Our leaders are corrupt. There isn't even an illusionary separation between public office and kickbacks, anymore. Our leaders openly own stock in corporations that are directly affected by the policies upon which they vote, legislate, execute, or judge. Obama owns Oracle and Microsoft and Halliburton, and he doesn't even care that we know. Feinstein owns Costco and Sam's Club, Apple and General Electric, Target and Honeywell, and business is good. Military officers procure billions of dollars in spending for defense contractors, then "retire" into high-paying executive positions with those same defense contractors.

Our schools are corrupt. Our housing markets are corrupt. Banks lie, cheat, and steal, working together with "academic" firms and "employer" firms to dupe entire generations into fake "job training loan" programs, while simultaneously protected by and funded by government regulators. Professional licensing schools control life-sustaining and pain-relieving drugs and surgical procedures to corner the market on life for humans as well as animals, shattering decades of young peoples' lives on the slim promise of something like security. Everything has the mantra "free market" until it's time for the government to use taxpayer money to "bail out" the most sophisticated, wealthy, and powerful causers of the problems, and imprison the poor to make examples of them. Hundreds of colleges lie to teenagers about middle class lifestyles, raping away billions in suffering-defined, non-dischargeable debts.

Our entire system of exchange, markets, and money is corrupt. We go to war, massacring thousands, then millions, and more, based on flimsy lies that we don't even have to work very hard at. Even when we know, we don't care enough to do anything other than quietly complain on the internet. And while we complain, we know in our bleeding little hearts that, however much we care, that caring represents a quantity significantly smaller than how much we care about a 0.5% sales tax increase in our municipality.

We make brazen grabs for natural resources that have belonged to others for centuries, lying to ourselves and the rest of the world as though anyone's actually falling for it. Our entire monetary system is based upon a privately-owned elite bank, the "Federal Reserve," that can inflate and deflate the currency for the country, and for the world. The same people run the "International Monetary Fund," using armies and nuclear weapons to threaten poor nations to agree to repay "debt" based upon funneling taxes to private corporations with total effective control over governments.

Basics

Basic stuff, right? No matter which thread you pull, no matter where you follow the trail, it leads to "The Fed," or some form thereof. The wars are driven by financial elites; recessions are spawned and sustained; billions of people go hungry and disenfranchised; the resources of entire continents are controlled by liars and thieves. Elections here and there are paid for by the imaginary billions of dollars that go to media elites, who are groomed and puppetmastered by the tiny number of media megacorps that decide which "issues" will be permitted brief, sound-byte-ish public attention for...et cetera.

We get it, right? If we're here, we probably understand that, at least, there is something slightly screwy about what we're doing here. I'm not saying I "like" or "agree with" every link this one may have thrown into the prose up there, so don't get distracted. Right here, right now, we're going to assume that you've figured out there might just be something a little wrong about western militaries, universities, and central banks, and how they control what happens on most of this planet. Try to fix anything--war, poverty, oppression, democracy, freedom, whatever--and you keep ending up back at the network of transnational financial elites that control all our politicians, companies, and all the powerful fictional entities that govern this world of ours, for better or for worse.

Two Ways

Consider, now, two fundamentally different ways of viewing the world. The first one is material; materialism; realism, five-sense perception-based. This is the idea that the things we can sense right now--feel; touch; experiment--and the things we can imagine--guess; write; comic; speculate--are everything. Ever. It's an arrogance, by definition. It's a stilling; a murder; a universal spaying with cold, rusty blades.

Yes, we're back on it again. Markets. Sciences. Severed eyeballs. The less easy, less popular, embarrassing garters beneath the court dances by which we've ritualized all the rest of our dissents. Cry, cry again; cry for your terra, by whatever number, to think that the same things that troubled you in your birthing blanket are still here, now, as you tell the hospice workers what you'd like from the kitchens for your maybe-last supper. Tell a little joke about whether or not you'll even "make it," of course--just to show how good-natured and accepting you are. And actually, there's a chocolate cake every day! Takes the edge off dying. A slice of chilled chocolate cake with a side of legalized pot on slow-release; who fears the absence of afterlife, anyway? The body just has a way of shutting down. All the old episodes of Bewitched, streamed constantly to your bedroom, and sure, it's not exactly elegant, but everyone here is so nice, so experienced, so good-hearted, that when you talk about what comes next, you can almost believe--in those few magical, special moments--in the delusions that there's some kind of life after death.

We're back on it again. Yes, I can still upset you. No, it's even worse than that. Wait'll you find out. Your own beeping electronic monitor awaits.

Two Ways, Deeper

The humane and profitable corporate management of transition got us off the subject. Return. Contemplate the mindset of the "I know everything": if your perceptions can reveal all, and that's all there is (until your you-blessed progeny develop some new gadget that expands it further), then that is--sic--all there is. This. What you can see, feel, hear, touch, taste, fuck, and cry over. It's a random blurb. It's the elevation of the five chartable senses above all others. We dismiss instinct as electronics; we disbelieve in our sense of grace because it's housed in something our machines can't currently track, because we can cut apart cadavers and find taste buds on tongues, but, like so many inquisitionists burning people who believed in "germs" because they didn't have good microscopes, we don't believe in it.

Two ways. The random grabbery of sensations: one. The belief that what current gadgets can reveal is everything, which justifiably sucks despite cute babies and moving symphonies. Let me quote Mr. Payne, whom this one has criticized before (here):
US society is but a formalized version of nature, red in tooth and claw (sorry about the corny phrase yet it is fairly accurate). Leadership and competition are always emphasized as we grow up. We are relentlessly bombarded with the glories of leadership and competition from our earliest youth and on into adulthood. Basically we are brainwashed to believe that leadership and competition are good and wholesome, and that leaders are to be held in awe. You hear it from all quarters, for example, so and so is a real leader while this other so and so isn’t much of a leader, this from people who are intelligent and perceptive, yet not quite perceptive enough to realize that they have been brainwashed by our culture. Yes, I know, some people bridle at the mention of the word ‘culture’, yet culture does exist and does exert a profound impact on our world view of reality, whatever reality may actually be.

But is what is touted as team spirit really about team spirit? Or is it something else. Here in the US we compete for everything. We compete for status, wealth, and recognition. Cooperation is relegated to cooperation with those that can help us achieve status, wealth, and recognition. Other than that it is a cutthroat society where it’s everyone for themselves, and if you can’t cut it, why then you end up homeless, penniless, and an outcast from society. You will be told that it’s your own fault that you are, in the vernacular, a loser. ‘Loser’ is an interesting word for it reflects the military/organized sport mentality that has been drilled into our brains since childhood.
-Rob Payne, still stuck in eternal high school here.

And a similar sentiment from Im Exil, buried deep in the comments here:
Hindsight, as they say, is always 20/20. When I started graduate school in the fall of 2001, I was just shy of thirty-six and a white male heterosexual upper-middle-class Ivy League git. Under such "privileged" circumstances, I really ought to have known better, but, as the Germans say, "Aus Schaden wird man klug"--you wise up from harm. In retrospect, I am stunned at my own obtuseness and naivete throughout. I began grad school (M.A., History) at a third-rate, large, urban state university, with intention of shifting to a better one for the Ph.D., a leap I eventually made, but after another year I finally quit (see my comments elsewhere).

At the large urban state university's history department, I recall being very "impressed" with the prevalence of Ivy League or similar Ph.D. pedigrees among the faculty. The history department had plenty of Columbia, Yale, Harvard, Chicago and even Oxford graduates. I had absolutely no understanding of the economics of modern university administration that had brought about this phenomenon. At the time, I thought, "Well, perhaps this isn't the most prestigious university, but look, they do have faculty with very impressive credentials, so it will be an auspicious start for me." I was probably better informed than most, and all of this was already thirteen years ago; the statistics today are far grimmer. Small wonder, then, that universities by now are widely perceived as having duped and bilked a gullible public desperate for credentials--for external validation, as it were--that will prevent its children from falling out of the middle class, as I did long ago. With hindsight, I recognize that when it comes to economic survival, it is a matter of hard skills--and lots of them--that ultimately count. To those blog readers under 25: YOU ARE IN COMPETITION WITH EVERY OTHER HUMAN BEING ON THE FACE OF THE EARTH: DO NOT FORGET THAT FOR ONE MINUTE. If you can speak Russian, Mandarin or Arabic, but none of the other contenders for the position can; if you can solve this or that computer "issue"; if you can fix the engine, increase sales revenue, make some nagging annoyance go away (legally), convince skeptics to change their minds and to open their wallets--you will have a job. Otherwise you will die.

We know this unhappiness. This is capitalism. This is the lie of "the market." This is Hobbes. This is modern Darwinism, fascism, pop-science, debt-based evolution. When we're afraid, we tell ourselves, "It would be nice if Other Stuff, but this is all it really is, so we just have to make the best we can." That conclusion--the "Primacy of Our Senses" conclusion--creates the pop sciences; the eugenics, the capitalism, the genetically-engineered superbabies of the impotent rich, and the ultimate contest for money. It creates the thousands of years of layered debt obligations that have stymied the sciences, the arts; that have created the medieval and modern superstates that conquered worlds based on notions of genetic superiority, and imposed austerity and "debt repayment" schemes of various kinds on post-genocidal populations of inferior people.

This is the way it has to be. If--if, and only if--random mutation.

The Resistance

In reality, though--in real human history, and in our present--we have seen that these things are not true. We have come to realize that, like the Fed, the IMF, and Bono, the blazing white lies of greed and power are just global extortion rackets. Let me tell you a story about the other ways you can conceive of the world: a story about the real Earth, and its real humanity; a planet where artificially measured, immortal, mathematical debt and power relations are resisted. Resisted, and resisted well and thoroughly, over thousands of years, beginning with dark people from the dark continent.

Africa--real, black, cradle-of-life, cradle-of-civilization Africa--has spawned three gigantic rebellions against the creditor lords. All of these rebellions were eventually subordinated, whitened, and bought out by the lords of war and debt. Judaism, Christianity, and Islam represented successive economic theories, far more powerful than the white-written "Wealth of Nations" or "Das Kapital," which repudiated "debt" as an organizing force behind society. The other thing these rebellions share in common is that they were destroyed by racism: their African creators were vilified or marginalized, paler people (then completely white people) co-opted their banners, and rentier economies absorbed all of them in order to alleviate the threat they offered. Now, to look at the cultural factions that bear their names, you'll see as much disgusting racism and hypocrisy as at a U.N. meeting, and the revolutions have been so perverted and neutered that their current forms are, to anti-debt rebellion, as Obama is to change or Rowling is to art. But these things did happen, and there is a lot to learn from them.

Because of the wretchedness of the corporatized, eerily Caucasusized nature of the bought-out brands as we see them today, it's pretty difficult to look back. This one is with you on that. But it's worth it. We will see, when we look at the various "prophets," that anti-debt rebellions are not too academic or lofty for people to understand or act upon. Instead, we'll see that billions of people have been consistently able to rebel against corrupt financial warlords--our current submission, and the submissions of the past, should not be read as proof that we can never save ourselves, nor fix this world. The ways that these complex economic messages motivated billions of human beings to resist financial warlords may be, in fact, our best Earthly model for effecting positive change--and in finally admitting to ourselves what we've done to Africans and their message.

Continued in Part 10.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Arken Incentives ~ How We Did It

We faced the free rider problem before, along with the issue of incentives, and found easy solutions to both. Actually, what we learned was that those problems were not inherent human problems, but rather, caused by the very same perverted incentives we had developed--sort of a "chicken and egg" issue, at first glance, until we realized that neither of them were responsible, and it was the farmer's doing.

On this subject, Joe wrote:
Those arguments strike me, conscious or not, as being rationalizations for the economic status quo rather than how to best ensure that everyone pulls their weight. I get the idea in principle, but it’s hard to ignore the fact that one very small and wealthy class of people benefits massively from controlling everyone else’s access to resources. I’d say it’s more about keeping the rich rich and the rest of us in a state of dependency.

The impetus for individual effort would be what it’s always been: work or go hungry. Except that in a “system” (for lack of a better word) where resources weren’t artificially restricted, there wouldn’t be anything preventing people from being more self-sufficient. And if some people still didn’t want to do anything, that’d be on them. It’s not like there aren’t entire segments of the population who don’t work now, and it’s not because they lack an external impetus, it’s because artificial scarcity has essentially locked them out of the job market...My problem with conventional politics (not saying you subscribe to this) is that there’s no vision. This is the way things have always been and probably always will be, so we’ll applaud programs that throw a few crumbs to the poor and get all excited about some corporate welfare scheme dressed up as reform, and vote some more frauds into office while doing our best to ignore how little their slogans have in common with reality.

On the same subject, Anonymous wrote:
There is no doubt that capitalism necessarily destroys self-sufficiency. But on the other hand, it creates these enormously productive centralized systems of production that are physically capable of satisfying everybody's needs with very little effort, at the cost of individual contribution becoming practically negligible and meaningless. This is where the vision becomes unclear to me: say, somehow the power of capital is weakened, and "the public" gains control over the key production systems. then what? these systems are complex, and require expensive training, organization, and upkeep. Today, you get people to invest years of life in training to become nuclear engineers to man the reactors by promising them juicy salaries (and conversely - by being threatened that if they don't, their future is to be walmart workers). But, if you remove status and survival anxiety from the equation, what will ensure that enough people will devote years of their lives to become nuclear engineers?

The impetus 'work or go hungry' is fine for activities that do not require long commitments, but how do you create the conditions to foster long-term effort and commitment? And once you do, how do you ensure that this elite class does not monopolize power once again? (e.g., "give us more, or we're turning off the reactor!")

I'm not disputing or defending the fact that artificial scarcity mostly enables exploitation of the many. But what if the highly productive systems we are now dependent on are so interwoven with economic and political power that we cannot simply change the regime without dismantling many such systems as well. Not that this would be a bad thing, but it would help to have a better vision of what will come in their place.

The issues being tossed about are, here, considered age-old: should we try to take care of everyone? And, if we do so try, will we then encourage people to rely on gifts, rather than to do anything useful? Traditional western capitalists argue that, without incentive, people will largely stop working. Inert and purposeless, unmotivated by pain of starvation (or fear of starvation, or some other negative thought experiment), they will either die off, or just forever exist purposelessly, dragging down those who actually try.

Actual Lazy Jerks

There are actual lazy jerks out there, of course--people who will literally go inert, even confronted with a choice between utter financial/social ruin or great success, and demand that their sickened egos be endlessly coddled. People who will, even in the best of circumstances, ruin everything, and abuse and leech and destroy, never feeling sufficient shame to change their behavior. Whenever we consider these kinds of philosophical issues, we must acknowledge that they exist, and that any system we come up with shall have to deal with them.

Capitalism feels like a great way to deal with free riders, because their unfairness--their unwillingness to contribute to the livelihood of others, combined with their blind eagerness to draw upon resources produced by others--seems to perfectly suit a free market. It will only be just desserts when they crash and burn, goes the argument, and it will prevent them from reproducing either their ideas or their genes, saving us all future pain.

There will occasionally be people who pop up like this on their own, but in Arka, we discovered that it was economic competition that created the vast majority of these people. It was simply a fundamental economic incentive.

Pursuit of Profit: The Motives That Sustain Us

Capitalism rationalizes itself on incentivizing the production of more than an individual needs to survive, by allowing the individual to accumulate excess goods and hold them privately. In this way, goes the argument, people are motivated to do more work than they need to sustain themselves--and thereby support families and countries, to the betterment of all. That's the "profit motive." We also assume, under capitalism, that we have a natural aversion to work (the "lazy motive"), which is why we need the profit motive to get us moving. Additionally, people don't want to get hurt or to die, so the "death motive" should keep them, at a minimum, trying to avoid starvation.

So we've got three forces here, on which modern economic theory bases all its assumptions: people (1) want profit, (2) would prefer to relax rather than work, and (3) don't want to suffer/die.

Imagine, now, that you create a system based on these assumptions. Whammo, capitalism. Socialists may assume a fourth motive, the "altruistic motive"--the desire to better the welfare of all, even if it involves more work than necessary to simply sustain the self. More clever socialists reject that motive, arguing instead that avowed socialism is a better expression of the profit motive, because those who intelligently pursue profit with long-term interests in mind will realize that they get more profit when they give some of their labor to take care of the poor. E.g., housing the homeless saves me money in the long run, ergo conservative Republicans in Utah can act more rationally and humanely than idiot neoliberals in California.

Here's our list of motives again for review:

1. The profit motive--the individual wants to better itself.

2. The lazy motive--the individual would prefer relaxing to working.

3. The death motive--the individual wants to avoid suffering yet continue existing.

4. The altruistic motive--the individual wants to better other individuals/things without specific individual reward.

While the first 3 are assumed true by almost everyone, even the bleedingest-hearted of avowed socialists, the latter one is debatable, so we'll generally throw it out. Clever capitalists will claim that (4) requires them to be even more behind (1), because they genuinely believe (or see great personal benefit from pretending) that individuals pursuing private profit will result in the best consequences for everyone. They think, or pretend to think, that the selfish motivations provide the only road by which the greatest heights can be reached. It's the normal Ayn Rand/Tony Stark/America thing. It's capitalist market-evolution theory, yet again--the belief that being a murdering, heartless, selfish prick who demonstrates genetic superiority through a free-market rumble is the one who deserves to survive.

Droopy-Ears Bunny Heirarchy

Okay, we're on topic now. All the issues are at the forefront of the mind. Now, this one will tell you how we did it in Arka; how thousands of years of a society based around the Law of the Arena (for here, think "law of the jungle") was converted into something better (and how it later fell).

There is an incentive, or a profit motive, that applies to economies, and there are lazy people who will take advantage of programs for the general welfare. It happens. What we did to improve things was to design incentives into society that weren't backed by corresponding death threats. We first established a baseline, a goal, that life's intensity was the most valuable thing. In all of its increasing forms, it was the most valuable. We began with mere reproduction, creating a hierarchy that began with Void (pre-vacuum, unaffected by spacetime), and moved to Vacuum (establishment of spacetime rules and physical properties) and then onto stuff like inanimate matter, animate matter, and stages of consciousness, from the most dimly aware insect to (at the time) humans.

From there, we went into the more complex forms of life, and broke down sensations and awareness. From despair, to pain, to fear, to neutral; to comfortable to warm fuzzies, upward to ecstasy and next bliss. The hierarchy ended up looking like a bunny picture with droopy ears, where the highest lightform energy, call it "bliss," was near the top, but the drooping ends of the ears--springing from life, but able to dangle lower than it--could be states of such despair that they had less instant value than inanimate matter that they drooped beneath. (For example, living under extended torture might be less attractive to an individual than not living, ergo the bunny's ears could droop downward, becoming considered less valuable than inanimate matter.)

The primary goal of society was to go higher--at each level, to move things upward. To obtain more spacetime, more matter, more life, and more happiness. Anything that produced a net subtraction was a crime, while anything that produced a net gain was good.

Example 1: Bob rapes Tanya. Bob obtains ecstasy, Tanya fear and pain and despair. Crime. Bad. Wrong.

Example 2: Tanya jars her raspberries for the winter. That day, she eats dry bread and is kind of blah about it. That winter, she has raspberry jam on her bread and feels mild pleasure. Good. Right.

It was all pretty easy and instinctive, since it's what we'd all been trying to evolve toward anyway; expressing it as a social mandate ended up as pretty much a libertine's paradise.

Incentive in Earth

So, everyone was fed and sheltered, and given teaching and healing, also. (We'll do more specific anecdotes later; for now, stick with principle.) The problem from here is, what incentive did we all have? What motivated us to do anything at all? Firstly, we had the understanding that this was all pretty nice, and that if enough people didn't do their part, it would collapse. That underlying recognition--that generalized, social understanding of potential collapse and destruction--is a far stronger force than people acknowledge here, even as everyone fantasizes about the latest zombie apocalypse or spends time discussing the "free rider" problem in such detail. Clearly, we're interested in and thinking about the survival of all, not merely of ourselves.

Bigger than that, by far, was honor. Looking at many centuries of our past, we could determine that what most motivated people to succeed at things was a desire for recognition, by other people, that they had done well. In Earth, we can see this clearly: people pursue honor ferociously, even when it comes with no money, or with a high chance of getting killed. What tiny grasps of "honor" we socially allow have incredible motivational power. For example, soldiers--even in the sheltered west, people join militaries, give up a lot of freedom about career and lifestyle choices, and risk getting their reproductive organs blown off, all for those fat salaries. Army example: Privates start at $18,378/year, as well as getting generous communal housing and food, and being first in line to get their reproductive organs blown off and/or to die. Even inside the military, people are extraordinarily motivated for pointless little merit badges, the right to wear a certain kind of beret, or other nuanced internal honors that no one else knows or cares about, and that don't come with a raise in pay.

You can see this with Earth children, too, as they pursue status symbols that have no connection to wealth or power--or that cost wealth and power. Kids go after their own merit badges, gold stars, or "best kickball player" certificates; older kids, even in high economic times, will eschew jobs in industry and pursue a PhD in the hopes of earning the now-dubious honor of calling oneself "doctor," just because there are no other social distinctions to earn in most of the west. Wealthier kids will put aside business jobs starting at $75K with real prospects for advancement, then spend 8 years making nothing in medical training, and outlaying $250K in academic costs, in order to get out of residency and work at a family practice for $100K a year where no one ever gets raises because they're all "rich" doctors already. And they'll do it just because the distinction--the assumption of intelligence and service--motivates them after that MD. So that, for the rest of their lives, their opinion at the Thanksgiving table is accorded just a little more weight.

People desperately want to satisfy established rituals of general approval, and they want it more than money. Criminologists know that so many (occasionally "most") violent killings occur in the context of posturing rituals: men don't want to "back down," so they get shot to death, when they could've just held up their hands and whimpered a little, and ended up alive. Investment brokers throw terrific fits and lose their jobs when they get the smallest bonus in the office that year--a mere $2.3 million, when everyone else got over 2.7! Our perceptions of our own relative status influence behavior more than we like to pretend. Sure, it's cool to say that you make decisions only for money (or maaaaybe pussy), but that's not how people actually behave. People will spoil adult relationships, or just waste a lot of money, in order to prove a point to someone who was a social better in middle school (and who now lives in a different state and couldn't care less).

Poor people prove this point, too. On disability assistance, with no hope of ever becoming wealthy or important, ex-cops will still try to pick up more cougars than, or out-drink, their friends, in pursuit of some embryonic conception of achievement and success. They'll hurt their elbows trying to prove they can still play golf just like before; they'll break their own hearts and egos for a couple months in a row, until some chubby forty-five-year-old blonde-dye is willing to overlook their knee brace; they'll lose their upgraded cable subscription because they spent too much of their monthly check on beers for prospects...and still, on they go, trying to improve their perceived status in an isolated community they've decided to care about.

Rich people prove this point, too. People worth, say, forty million dollars could retire to travel a world full of exotic mansions, have group sex with or just get massages from escorts all day long, eat organic cuisine prepared by a rotating cycle of five-star chefs, or do any other nice thing you can imagine. And yet, so many of them lead hectic, idiotic lifestyles, rushing from place to place to "make deals" that no one other than a tiny subset of people care about. And they do it personally, when they could be out having all that other fun instead, and appointing very competent (probably more competent than they) business managers to do it all. Yes, they're still banging escorts and eating great food, but they're also stressed and overwrought and losing sleep and getting sick and all that other stuff, because they want to go a little higher on the Forbes list, not be thought of as "out of it," or prove something to their dead father....and still, on they go, trying to improve their perceived status in an isolated community they've decided to care about.

Political "service"--and the reason it's even considered "service" with a straight face by these guys--is similar, for elites. They could spend their lives relaxing, but they're so hollow and narcissistic (like the rest of us, devoid of social purpose) that many of them want to become subjects of national lampoonery by repeatedly losing elections for town council, finally becoming a State legislator, making a name for themselves, becoming a Senator, and then signing on as running mate to some more famous person's presidential campaign. If they get elected, they try to kowtow to as much of the deep government as they can, give a few speeches, and play a lot of golf, but they still end up having to go places and talk to people and do other work that they don't want to do.

Broken

Why do they do all that crap? Because they're driven by the same pursuit of something, anything, like honor, that many of the rest of us are after. Living on Earth is like being in a society where sex has been outlawed, and then forgotten about--we're all after something we desperately want, but because "honor" is considered an outdated social concept, no one knows why they spend their time as they do. We're all so atomized and ignored, that when we get a little bit of fame--by people looking at our Facebook account, say--we act just like celebrities, releasing banal, politicized "statements" about how nice it is to have a vacation with our kids, or how shocking the latest massacre was, how much we identify with the victims, or whatever else. The smarter among us tend to get irritated at the blatant mental damage our politicians and celebrities put on display, but that's exactly how most of us would act were we in their places.

(Just watch some yahoo with a blog that starts to get a "lot" of hits or comments. Suddenly, he's deleting negative stuff, calling people trolls, and enforcing arbitrary communal standards. Other small-time celebrities have been doing this for years. Make a guy a Water Services Supervisor, and he gets more aloof when approached by confused customers at the Walmart who think he must be the manager because he's wearing a tie. Local models, pseudo-professional, who make $15K a year doing isolated shoots for local businesses, will suddenly become snotty when approached without proper deference. All of a sudden, it's like someone just burst into John Kerry's office during a tough trade deal, trying to show all the foreign diplomats pictures of their grand-dogs: aren't you aware of what you're interrupting?)

Incentive in Arka

We captured that power, establishing systems that acknowledged contribution along the hierarchies above. First, we ran through centuries of using a complex arrangement of titles that was actually quite fun--something like a Royal peerage, but where titles were only earned by service, never inherited. People could walk around calling themselves whatever they wanted, but centralized registries verified real titulature, and gave people and society goals in life. Invent a new product, save a life, engage in certain quantities of dedicated service in certain more difficult fields, and you could earn a globally-acknowledged right to a corresponding title. Everyone knew and understood what it meant, so you got that conversational pause when they realized who you were and what you must've done.

And these meant things to people, in a serious way, yet without all the gushing we see in comparative situations here. For example, the British crown hands out titles to entertainers, now, only as a way of trying to appear relevant: "You're really popular right now, so here's a title, and everyone please think that lavishing luxury upon our inbred asses is somehow related to culture!" Still, you see how western media fawns over the things, don't you? Marks of accepted social distinction are a powerful incentive. As we base our cultures around capitalist evolution and genetic supremacy, it's only natural that "blood" and "rich & popular" should be our standards.

In Arka, the other titles had the opposite effect, driving the positive behavior of the free individual, and toward the betterment of all. People would spend, literally, decades of their lives working to clean, maintain, and improve food machinery, hoping to obtain the honored status that their great uncle had. And once they got it, they'd grow old and die happy, because the acknowledgement meant something. In their later years, they had an air of gravitas about them, similar to the way some people do now, in certain areas of the country, if they've been a volunteer pediatrician in Africa, or a combat veteran in Vietnam. People would scan their ID, blink, and say, "Oh, Lord Drysil! This'll be free today." It seems fantastical from this perspective, of course...but if you've ever seen a train full of people break into random cheers for some poor embarrassed private headed to boot camp in his BDUs, you'll understand the untapped potential there.

The incentive to be thought well of is a powerful thing; far more powerful than we've been doing on Earth for a long time. So much of what drove the French revolutionaries, and early Americans, was the incentive of acknowledged social advancement--freed from the Ancien Regime or the British monarchy, and with the old titles either slapped down (France) or made illegal (America), people thought they had a chance to be recognized for their efforts, rather than their blood. Unfortunately, those revolutions crafted societies where obtaining money or political office were the only real "incentives" available. Women could become mothers, and men own their own farm or head a family; you could become either "the Mayor" or "the richest man in town." Other than that, society had nothing to offer. No goals, no direction, just the "pursuit" of happiness. It was all as random and pointless as an evolutionary theory based on selfishness, producing the predictable results we see today: a nation of insane, selfish, pointless people, desperately looking for standards of some kind.

High Arka

All the different titles ended up getting a little silly in Arka, so after a while, they were scrapped for something more simple. Extraordinary service gained the title "High," and if you kept it up, or engaged in the nebulous practice of helping others to ascend to High, you could be "Highest High." So, if you were Francine, and you'd worked with sick children for 8 years, and then one day the building caught fire and you got three of them out and took some burns, you could be High Francine. If you kept at it for another decade or two, doing some rare research and guiding apprentices toward doing what you were, you might become Francine, Highest High.

There was bullshit involved, of course, but way less of it than you see now when people are jockeying for the "sales manager" position at some car dealership that'll go out of business in five years. Structuring things around honor, and specifically enunciating these social values, seemed to steer people in the right direction. Like the Olympics, most people didn't expect to end up playing there, but they appreciated that it happened--and it became, over time, very easy to identify what it looked like when some kind of cheating occurred. After a while, it settled into a very nice groove where everyone sort of cared, tried their best, contributed, and so forth.

Some people fought like hell to earn honors and didn't make it; others had a lucky breakthrough. But it ended up being all in good fun, because there was never the penalty of being cast down to starvation and homelessness if you didn't "succeed." The ethic of service permeated everything, in much the way that cash has America: people valued the honor so much that they wouldn't lie about it in private anymore than they would burn cash in private. The intrinsic value of the titles, and what they said about all of us, kept us moving.

Motivational Effects

People built big firms, big buildings, and public art. Cities prided themselves on being clean, or healthily overgrown, or giving. We started with just feeding children, as this one discussed earlier, as part of our leaving behind societies based on death-competition. That expanded to feeding everyone, and sheltering everyone, and healing everyone, then teaching, as at each stage, it proved a cheaper way to manage things, besides being "right" (back then, "cheaper" still mattered).

To protect it for the future, they realized society needed a goal--a purpose--and it became the promotion of light/life, which resulted in the drooping bunny hierarchy discussed above. Once that was in place, and when more kids had had a chance to grow up without death-competition in the backs of their minds, Arka became pretty heavenly. Incentivizing titles that translated to direct social honor was so powerful that it's hard to describe it. People would spend their whole lives, happy and fulfilled and social, trying to help one of their number, a family or friend, gain the High title, and then break down in tears when they got it themselves instead. Along the way, a few thousand lazy people took advantage of lying around all day, and just consuming, but you read that right--a few thousand, on a planet that, at the time, hosted over 14 billion. The ethic of purpose was like what we now call "Christian charity" multiplied a thousand times over. It was a firm planetary stamp of approval on certain kinds of behavior, and it worked.

This one can't even tell you how good it was during the peak. The advancements we saw...the science, the games, the trinkets...the whole feeling of the place was almost unimaginable from here. Like, if you stand in a long line to buy a lottery ticket, you know what the people in that line are thinking--it was like that, but in a positive, holistic direction, even just to walk down the street. You would not want to come back here.

For just being here, the important variables to put together are the ways that society can arrange itself to further itself, rather than destroy itself. The most arbitrary connotations of "success" create the bulk of output behavior; that's what culture, as part of evolution, is meant to do for a planet. In the same way that the Federal Reserve System in America incentivizes behavior by proclaiming that currency will have value, other firms can be structured so as to apply value, by fiat--and people will live for it, and die for it. Fiat honor, if you will. If our goal is something other than "survive; accumulate," then it can happen. We can fly.

You can have fiat honor alongside currency, of course. In High Arka, we had currencies aplenty. Above and beyond the basic stuff for promoting generalized life--bed, meal, healer, learning--there was all the other stuff that "capitalism" here likes to claim exclusive license to. Plenty of people wanted to get rich, to buy buyable stuff, to relax in higher degrees of luxury, and to set their own distinct standards for achievement, against which they could base a competition with others. And they did it, and they had whatever wicked fun those types get from it--but they did it without forcing everyone to play, and it mostly burned out after a while, anyway, because guaranteed sustenance meant that no one was willing to buy a shoddy widget.

Ergo, there were no shoddy widgets. Society defined its own successful, so to the vast majority of people, having a better ship or a fancier suit really didn't mean anything. Most Highs were in working clothes, busy trying to make things better (though to be fair, what were "working clothes" there were made, and perceived, much differently than here). Long story short, so many people were assumed to be emperors in disguise that most people ended up treating each other with kind, honest deference all the time, until after a while, it wasn't even an act. No shoddy widgets, because no one had to buy anything, so whatever you wanted to sell had to be pretty fantastic, so whoever was making it had to be skilled and invested in, and there were no bad working conditions, because anyone could walk at any time, so everyone and everything had to be nice, or else it meant community housing and fixed meals. Everything was clean and got cleaned up even when no one was looking, because there was never an incentive to gain from leaving a mess, as it would've only provided someone else with a free good deed to clean up after you (and the competitive people hated that, believe you me. even in places that still used asphalt-style roads, there were no potholes, and those roads themselves didn't last very long either).

Surely, over the years, some people tricked or manipulated their way into title, but all they got in return was respect from people they'd never cared about to begin with. Those types, as a result, didn't feel it was worth their effort to even try to game the system. They could pursue money and enhanced private pleasures, if they wished, by following the socially available course to such: by working, hard and personally, for the immediate and provable and long-term benefit of others, for a long period of their lives. It brought out the best in a lot of those assholes, let me tell you (although really, there seemed to be way less of them around in those times, at least compared to here). Most of the lazy ones turned out, arguably, to be the ones who would've been cruel, powerful successes under a death-based system. Honor, it seemed, only rewarded those who would've cared in the first place. Those who most earnestly believed in the need for incentives to prevent starvation turned out to be those who knew their own character was that of the parasite. A title was only an empty envelope to those who just wanted a triumph based on the backs of so-called "losers," anyway.

The key to preserving goodness was in the immovability of honor. The preservation and promotion of life could not be challenged. In the best times, for literally hundreds of years, for someone to suggest a slight cutback on food delivery (because it was cheaper, we shifted from centralized distribution to a postal-style weekly grocery delivery not long after the feeding program itself was established) would have been like someone now executing a random person by hand, live on TV, while announcing that it was being done for no reason whatsoever. Honor was sacrosanct in a way that has no social equivalent in Earth 2014.

Motivating Laziness

A side effect of death-games (market competition in an abandonment-possible society) that we picked up on during the earliest of the good times was that "capitalism" actually breeds the kinds of despicable laziness that capitalists use to justify themselves. This argument can even be made here. What free riders rely upon is the lack of free rides. By making starvation (or homelessness, or lack of medical care, whatever) an inevitable consequence of failure, free riders--lazy jerks--are motivated to obtain charity. The establishment of a death-game society is like an advertisement for lazy people, because the absolute nature of non-assistance waiting at the bottom gives great bargaining power to lazy people. Lazy people can say, "Help me, or I die," and it gives them an instant (although terrible and pitiful) power over those who are not lazy. Because we are human, the conception of someone dying motivates many of us to want to prevent that death/suffering--so we will send welfare checks to a lazy dude watching TV all day, but not help his counterpart who works in the factory.

Take away that death, and provide food and housing and doctors, and suddenly, the lazy have no more argument. They can't threaten the rest of society with a rock bottom, because there's a pillow. It eliminated all that stuff, and lo and behold, we discovered that capitalism was actually the cause of not only the poverty of the unlucky, but the willing poverty of those who just wanted to abuse others' emotions to get something for nothing. "Something for nothing" had no value in Arka, ergo almost no one pursued it.

Capitalism motivates the willingly lazy, because its "profit motive" combines with the "lazy motive" to encourage living by charity. Just like a free market will motivate some people to work hard to pursue a lot of private profit, it will motivate others to not work to pursue a lot of effort-free profit--it's one of the most rational actions for a rational player in the game, namely, to risk one's life in a gamble to obtain free profit. That's the little piece of all this that, ironically, Ronald Reagan had partly correct, even if every single other thing he said was atrociously in error. Ronald, of course, wouldn't concede that it was the profit motive itself that encouraged some people to exploit their lives for free profit. However, mathematically speaking, the highest proportional return on an investment is anything, provided that the initial investment is zero. In a skewed, selfish, terrible way, that makes some welfare recipients the most rewarded of all capitalists (depending on the kind of graph you're working with, and not the case with most welfare recipients, but it is for some of them, and the motivation is there as a direct result of capitalist thinking).

The Fall

The economic point as to Earth 2014 is made, though since we're in the story, we'll finish telling it. So back to High Arka. Didn't last forever. As technology advanced, we began to create larger networks where we could achieve more effective control over things than we could in the real world. (A comparative word here is probably "virtual reality.") Unfortunately, some of us allowed that to bring back all of the problems from long ago--the obsession with controlling real things, like solar weather, planetary weather, and disease evolution. Just like it had before, control led to control, the selfish people were ready to take advantage of that, and things eventually changed.

After an extended pleasant period in High Arka--many generations, even there--darkness started to creep over the underlying system. Curiously, it happened with the titles first: they started to get awarded more often, then more often still. It probably started with something of an egalitarian movement, alleging that it wasn't fair that this or that person got something, and another didn't. Somehow, it was overlooked that one of the fundamental characteristics of a High was supposed to be humility, and that it was a higher honor to be known privately as someone who should've been it, but wasn't discovered (and higher still for no one to know). That just went out the window, in the pursuit of some kind of standardized society where we had to prove, using graphs and charts, that titles were being done fairly.

(Movements like that were hypocritical and ironic from the start. The selfless society does not concern itself with an individual's reward; she who serves is already High in spirit, so she who complains that she is not being acknowledged for serving has immediately unveiled herself as disinterested in service and unfit for reward. Philosophies designed around making sure that any individual or group "gets" something are, with a few exceptions, indicative of dangerously selfish trends. Mistakes were inevitable, and in the good years, before the "me, too" crowd of selfies began gaining power, no one cared about the mistakes. At the peak, Highest Highs were always trying to quietly give their titles up, only to be told what they already knew, namely, that they couldn't because now they had an even greater duty, that of exemplifying what they had done. On a side note about aging, that made "retirement" rare, as no one was scorning help, so corporations didn't have to hold six figure seminars on dealing with knowledge attrition. On a second side note, elders, being unisolated and useful, were not so dangerous and expensive and liable to lose their minds, so entire swathes of the death-based economy completely vanished.)

In a sense, the fight over titles didn't really matter. Everyone was provided for, so it was ridiculous that the titles began being treated with such a covetous flair. There never was any enforced privilege to the title; if a Highest High lost her money, she was in the same community housing and fixed meals as everyone else. You couldn't order anyone around, or anything like that. Sure, everyone was free to--and did--honor those who had titles, but it was a free, informal thing. You could spit on someone's shoes, and the penalty wouldn't be any greater whether they were High or not.

But it happened anyway, this obsessive balancing. The purse came into it, and people began buying their way through, and you know where it went from there. Titles started having associated privileges, fixed in law; people would cite their forebears' lack of a title as proof of injustice; people started using the titles in casual conversation, putting up their titles on buildings or doors or letterheads, and everything got cheap and common. Hailed as an advancement all the time.

And before long, we were charging for everything again. There was a time when planetary transportation was free and automatic (although that was a system we had inherited, not built), and energy, along with housing and all that. Then they're telling us to keep things working, we had to pay for it use by use...different network access, from dreams to phantasil, got "improved" in exchange for tithes, and before very long, it was over.

This one isn't really sure how to avoid that, on account of not having been anywhere else recently. I know how to avoid it, but barring the right kind of education and maintenance of principles, this one doesn't know how to "encourage" that kind of person to avoid the desire for control, chilling, and Void. As far as economics, though, that's how you do it: you establish boundless goals of improvement and expansion based around the infinite, expanding universe, so that you never run out of purpose and never stop growing; you provide for the most valuable of all human incentives, namely, human recognition; and, you ground those incentives in a fixed honor system based on those goals. Even the stupidest, most pointless incentives--like a fifth Seraphim name, or a "Highest High"--are of priceless value in motivating people to produce colossal surpluses to prove what they always wanted to prove in the first place: that they were a good part of their planet.

That's how you beat capitalism. That's how you absorb realism and make it the most humane thing there is. It's how you define every Earth economics "problem" as grounded in a desire to pursue exploitative death instead of expanding life. There are people out there who quit their jobs to play 16 hours a day of MMOs so that they can receive a special level 99 dungeonmaster sword that will be irrelevant when the next expansion is released in 6 months--they do it because, like all the other examples from before, they're pursuing a social recognition far more important than a salary or a nice retirement home. The defining of boundaries of honor pinned to worthwhile planetary goals absorbs and transcends the mere profit motive like a hurricane eating one of Trump's sneezes. Complete win.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Inflation

Long ago, this one suggested that inflation was used to water down middle class savings, to which a reader commented:
Elites dislike popular control over corporations, but they (especially they) also dislike inflation. In fact, rapid inflation (not out of control hyper-inflation, of course) is the best thing that could happen to the commoners - the debt melts away, the wages go up, and the consistently rising prices stimulate all sorts of rag-tag economic activity.

This is also why the tradeoff between inflation and unemployment is a completely false one, and this is also why the Fed entirely gave up on full employment half a century ago, and focused on curbing inflation instead...
There's a point to the idea that elites dislike inflation. If things were that simple, yes, inflation would theoretically help people, by reducing the effective value of their debts. For example, if you owed Visa $1,500 in 2014, and in 2015, $1,500 was only worth $1,400 in "2014 dollars," you made $100 and Visa lost $100--all within the artificial world of fiat currency, but accepting that as real, you made $100 and Visa lost $100.

Since elites derive their power from rents derived from property law--this ridiculous theory about why certain people are entitled to sit on ass and collect money, while others must work--inflation, in theory, waters down their holdings. Elites control banks, to which people constantly owe money, so inflation reduces the effective value of the debts, "freeing" people.

Let's not forget who we're dealing with here: the same people who invented private property, fiat currency, loans, interest, the delusional narcissist serial killer known as "economic theory," and inflation. These people are not about to let a reduction in effective value of debts actually harm them. They made all the rules that govern these economies, and they retained the power to formally and informally change the public and concealed aspects of these rules, and how they really affect things. Ergo, the popular illusion that inflation harms them is a myth--inflation is actually a tool used to limit elite membership by decreasing the effective value of underclass attempts to save.

Rising Tides

In Wealth and Power, we previously addressed the nature of changeling economics:
The real value in money, and the value that the elites have always understood since they made the Enlightenment switch, is the power it represents in sufficient quantity and type of investment: the power to never have to work again unless you want to. The power to have a say in "government." To maintain this kind of power, elites think generationally. It's not enough to be "rich" in the "now." To actually be rich, you need to be so wealthy that your holdings can generate enough income on their own to:

1) Replenish themselves over generations, weathering inflation.

2) Maintain luxurious lifestyles/appearances for the family.

3) Tithe the process that sustains you, by buying candidates, media, and controlling social policy through charities. This is the real "tax" that elites pay among themselves, like country-club membership fees in the Earth Club.

Flashes in the pan can sometimes manage (2), or very rarely (3), through savings alone, but as long as they spend it up within a few decades, they're not really part of the system: they're Cinderella at the ball, and everyone else knows the trappings will disappear at midnight.
That's the way it works with inflation: inflation is a constant attack on everyone, which attack can be easily endured by elites. Like releasing a very low quantity of toxin into an environment where only the 1% can afford the long-term medical care necessary to address the effects of the toxin, the only people permanently harmed will be the underclass. We looked at this "washing out" effect in Chips in the Casino:
[T]he human race can only bear the burden of so many parasites leading extravagant lives, before it breaks. And when it breaks, the parasites’ wondrous, star-studded lives will end. They will be thrown down with the rest of humanity, and forced to produce something useful to survive. And they already know that they can’t do that.

So, they need to protect the exclusivity of the parasite class. They need to guard the numbers game against the by-products of its own rules.

They do this by regularly “washing out” the rising middle class. Here is where inflation and financial crises come into play: by manipulating the game to cause periodic crises, those who have almost attained the heights of elite status can be knocked back down to the peasantry. Then the cycle can begin anew.

To understand this, imagine a society on the slopes of a mountain. Above five hundred meters elevation the elites have built their mansions. Most peasants have their houses at one hundred meters. As time passes, wealthier middle-class peasants begin building houses higher and higher.

When [the building reaches a height of] four hundred meters, the elites release the dams, and flood the hills. All houses below five hundred meters are wiped out. The elites endure a minor reduction in their quality of life, but in return, everyone below four hundred meters has to start from scratch. And the cycle begins again.
So what if elites lose a large "percentage" of their imaginary "debts" and "rents"? They invest nothing real to obtain those returns (they "invest" only fictitious components of their colossal social power). Inflation doesn't harm them, because any reduction in their pretend numbers is offset by reduction in the threat posed by middle class savings. Moreover, rents have usually already been adjusted to exceed inflation.

Inflationary Counterparts

In 2014, Manual Labor owes Visa $1,500. In 2015, inflation causes that debt to be worth, to Visa, only $1,400 in "2014 dollars." However, Manual Labor's debt is now $1,531.76, because of two "periodic finance charges" as well as his regular accrued interest. It appears as though Visa, while making money, may have made very little money as a result of the past year's inflation ($1,531.76 - $1,500.00 = $31.76).

However, in 2014, Middle Manager has paid off all his credit cards. His home equity is valued at $80,000 in 2014 dollars, and in 2015, subject to the same rate that hit Visa vis-à-vis Manual Labor's balance, Middle Manager's $80,000 of equity drops to a value of only $74,666.66 in 2014 dollars. Middle Manager, though, is still bound by the terms of his mortgage, so he continues paying off the house pursuant to its value in the year he bought it (probably at a far higher value than it is worth in 2015). Years later, when Middle Manager is ready to downsize for retirement income, his investment will have been hit hard--although, during those years, he gets the benefit of paying property taxes to local construction companies for upgrading the gym and the administration building at the local K-12s.

At the same time as the elites, via joint holdings in Visa, have "lost" some money on Manual Labor's watered-down debts, they have achieved a net gain. Their real estate holdings have lost face value, but where it counts--relative value (pursuant to the elite Law of Contrasts, the only way they can perceive value is relatively)--they are now worth more in comparison to Middle Manager's holdings. Their liquid holdings allow them to snatch up assets, be they stocks or bonds or houses, at a lower value, while many retired Middle Managers have to sell them to supplement retirement income. Later, when values are up, those with the flexibility to do so (elites) will switch to cash. Their capital gains on hard assets in the meantime will far exceed the "losses" they will endure when their cash holdings suffer a few years of inflation.

As between Middle Manager and Manual Labor, elites have lost $68.24 on Manual Labor ($100 lost by the devaluation of Manual Labor's debt from 2014 to 2015, offset by the $31.76 of interest), but correspondingly depleted Middle Manager's holdings by $5,333.34. This means that it takes more than seventy-eight Manual Labors gaining reduced debt in order to offset the loss suffered by just one Middle Manager--on home equity worth, in this soft-shoed example, only $80K. Even better for rentiers (collectors of rent; parasites), Manual Labor may have a mortgage of his own, so even if he could be said to have "gained" $100 (less interest) on his outstanding Visa bill, he also lost so much on his home equity that his loss is staggering overall.

Manual Labor probably owns a car, too, which is devalued in all the other lovely ways that homes are, but often even faster. He continues paying his car loan at 2014 dollars, while the effective value of his car--even if he didn't drive it a single mile--is reduced due to inflation. If he's not a homeowner, the company that operates his apartment building raises his rent in accordance with matching inflation. There really is no way for him to win, except in some fanciful economy where bargaining power allows him to force his employer to give him constant cost of living raises.

Less intelligent capitalists often blame the poor for "not saving," but actually, many of the poor try to save--and are stymied, yearly, by those innocuous inflationary and consumer price changes that come out of the seeming blue to fuck up their plans to set aside a couple grand for later. The fight is fixed at every level, so it takes sheltered lunatics or classy alien bastards to advocate that they really could get ahead--even when working multiple jobs and pinching literally every penny results in a small yearly surplus that is constantly emasculated by coordinated inflation.

Washing Out

Far more important than merely making money, though, the inflation game produces a priceless effect. By destroying the value of Middle Manager's $80K in home equity, and of Middle Manager's $120K IRA, elites have ensured that Middle Manager (or his children, or their children, et cetera) will not themselves become elites. Bill Gates is willing to lose a bajillion dollars of imaginary value, so long as the same recession also crushes the chance that a hundred thousand new middle-class households will develop reliable savings sufficient to let them become low-order parasites. It doesn't matter to him or his fecal ilk, as throughout any numerical downturn, they will retain the ability to be forever secure atop unbelievable piles of money.

Manual Labor's tiny "gains" on his Visa bill are offset by corresponding reductions in the value of his own home, car, and checking account, so even when he appears to win, he's already lost.

In Middle Manager's world, America is filled with doctors and engineers and pharmacists making six figure salaries; if these people were able to reliably accumulate wealth in hard assets, then after a generation or two, they could join the elite rentier class, thereby taking for themselves some of the proportional share of elite power. By periodically destroying the value of various investments, bankers can stock-hop and nation-hop their way around the world, living extravagantly off interest, never producing anything of value, and always able to buy their way into protected niches.

Yawn. The Romans saved us from barbarians, France saved us from the Prussian tribes, England saved itself from Napoleon, America saved itself from King George, yawn, yawn. Same story, same bankers, always privately secure in whatever the hegemon is for those few generations.

Other Systematic Considerations

Naturally, the "inflation" would only hurt elites, via one of their holding companies (say, Visa), if Manual Labor had seen a corresponding increase in his wages. Instead, the corporate media received memos (<----cool/evil) that year that "inflation" was going to be used to justify nationwide reduction in wages and working conditions. Manual Labor was lucky not to lose his job, and he didn't even get a demotion or a reduction in pay! However, he's now paying a greater share of his health insurance, and is required to lease a company-owned vehicle in order to get to job sites. The same-sized paycheck, or even an increased paycheck, is devalued by the inflation that made his Visa bill theoretically smaller, so as he buys groceries and pays his bills, he's constantly hemorrhaging the same dollars and cents, to the benefit of the same owners, that he's supposedly saving through increased paying-off power on his Visa bill.

Hyperinflation, like pre-Hitler Germany, is no more of a boon. Debts vanish, but the immiseration of the populace leaves them even more pliable pre-dead subjects. Before that kind of thing hits a country, elites have gained new citizenships, or taken control of hard assets in other places, so they're never around holding the bag with others when it's time to wheelbarrow your way to the dispensary.

That claim--that hyperinflation is bad--is pretty easy to understand and accept. What has proven really clever about economic theory, though, is elites' constant hint that inflation "hurts" them. It's hilarious, since they create it, and their publications and talks constantly indicate, tongue-in-cheek, that they dislike it...and what, other than their open acknowledgement of their concern, could be a better clue that they actually don't care?

(After all, look at Saddam Hussein--when he gets installed to rule Iraq, they say he's a reliable, stable leader--which is our clue that he's a genocidal madman. Years later, Saddam has calmed down, and is actually doing a fair job keeping western-funded extremists from tearing the country apart. He starts to reflect on his life and decides that maybe, he can leave Iraq better off than he found it...at which point western elites begin calling him a genocidal madman. Well, you know that story.)

Saying that elites worry about inflation is like saying that they worry about Palestinian home demolitions or social breakdown in north African oil-producing countries (sic).