Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Sanitized

Long ago, professional American football players played with little to no padding. When they collided with each other on the field, they were more likely than 21st century players to bleed or crack bones, producing a violent appearance to onlookers. Once, this was part of the attraction of the game, and evinced its draw in style from rugby and other ball-movement team sports: the reality of athlete against athlete, checked by their own body weight and strength.

Then came the idea of increasing the marketing appeal of the game by the addition of helmets, a little bit of padding, and ultimately, such ridiculously extensive full-body padding apparatus that the old limits were discarded. Sleek pads and uniforms covered the head, eyes, jaws, nose, limbs, crotches, etc., and as a result, over the decades, players were able to crash into each other with terrific force (as judged relative to the little water-composed beings doing the crashing). Now, the head, shielded by layers of plastic, foam, and steel, could be rammed at a rigid part of another player's body at full speed, and if anyone bled, it would be largely concealed; surface wound occurrence/notice rates went down.

Concurrently, more insidious damage happened to the players. Football players began getting early-onset dementia at a staggering rate. In exchange for making the sport appear nicer, all the cushioning had in fact allowed deeper, more terrible wounds--Alzheimer's Disease at 35, forgetting your family and how to use the bathroom at 40--to occur. The body used to be its own guard, and while you might bleed or break an arm, the presence of your skeleton would discourage more frequent full-force crashes, because the limitations of skin and bone would guard against constant jarring.

As legions of layered equipment slowed relative sprinting speeds (even as overall speeds increased proportionate to regular increases in measured human athletic ability), players could be proportionately larger, carrying more mass at less cost to movement within the game, and the crashes could get heavier and more frequent. It appeared to be a good idea, if you didn't think about it too much. All that padding makes it look safer, cleaner, and healthier. But underneath it, the dark secret remained: more padding means the ability to disguise the surface pain that the body uses to warn against increasingly traumatic injury. Internal organs, including the brain, began to pick up the tab with irredeemable conditions that replaced a few months nursing a broken leg.

Boxing saw this same transition. The sport initially sold itself as tough and brutal, but after it achieved a little financial success, it vastly increased its market share by sanitizing the blood and padding the fists. Punching someone in the head is a tough business, particularly repeatedly; skulls are hard, and although the target doesn't enjoy being punched, the best-trained, strongest knuckles are generally far weaker than your average skull. As padding increased, blood and cuts and broken fingers went down, and the brain paid the price of making cash-paying fans not have to see all that gross blood: boxers were able to throw so much heavy leather all over the head, rather than timing careful blows to preserve the unguarded knuckles, that they began to get dementia pugilistica and other conditions far worse than broken noses, bruises and bleeding. Because boxing appeared more violent up-front, many more decades of fully-padded knuckles, ready to strike the human head hundreds of times more than un-girded knuckles used to be able to, have brought these effects to boxers generations ahead of what football players are now feeling.

Even cage fighting and mixed martial arts are now suffering this transition. Promoted initially in its American inception by the Ultimate Fighting Championship as raw, bloody, and "real," mixed martial art promoters across the U.S. are now requiring fighters to wear grappling gloves (with increasing levels of padding from the old sparse leather ones), which cushion the knuckles, make the fights appear "cleaner," and allow repeated, heedless, full-force punching to the entire head.

The price will likely be the same as in boxing and football: horrific long-term harm in exchange for a short-term illusion of peace and tidiness. It's not just in professional sports that this pattern appears; humans once defecated by squatting, and in order to remove themselves from this indignity, developed elevated-seat toilets. For the luxury of that unnatural position, they've achieved escalating levels of IBS, hemorrhoids, constipation, and magazine-/computer-using jokes in movies. The kiss of cool, clean porcelain seems like such a good idea, rather than using your legs, but in a long-term medical sense, it's not worth the price.

These are the consequences of a progress in power alone; a progress with concern only for more progress. The "how" is ever there, and good for it, but the absence of the "why" may well prove the overall experiment a failure; the lack of a healthy ethos may rob us of any of the benefits of progress, and leave us in a panopticon whose making can only be attributed to us.

As Michael Crichton warned, once, a martial arts student may have waited for weeks for permission to train, then swept floors for years, then studied for years before learning how to kill with her bare hands; now, a gun may be purchased with, shall we say, far more swiftness (or, more directly related to the point, a week of lessons can immediately teach deadly techniques that can be employed on the unsuspecting).

We've certainly inherited the technology and information-disseminating ability of our mothers and fathers, but to what end? Our ability to make war is now cleaner on the surface, just as the cushioned blow to the boxer's skull appears less brutal than a bare-knuckle strike that splits the scalp at half the speed. However, the consequences that we've learned to ignore are deadlier by far.

But one recent example: modern military forces frequently use depleted uranium munitions in bombs, or on the ground, to punch holes through tanks and buildings and immediately remove the enemy's fighting capability. Perhaps fewer soldiers are killed in the taking of the tank--but the depleted uranium poisons the land for more than The Great Binding Law would allow.


(From Global Research.)

Beyond "seven generations," certainly; think at the least "tens of thousands of years." It effects not only the dark peoples far away; it hits close to home, too, once you've breathed the fumes. Video link, there; check it out.

Denying the first atomic bomb tests, the effects of Agent Orange, or the poisons of "modern" wars go hand in hand. In a hundred years, when the instant national and scientific pride melts away, the cheerleaders of "improved war" will be viewed by history--even a history written by as self-centered an authorship as we have now--as just another set of monsters who didn't care.

The one-eared, conical-headed births of great-great-great-etc. grandchildren 17,000 years after the Iraq War have no place in the script of our glorious technological progress, because for just one day in all of space and time, the only blood some people acknowledge is that of the soldiers listed in government records as formally involved in any given battle. This line of thinking is that of the binge drinker who feels good right now and denies that this may change, or the man who genuinely believes that he can live on credit cards alone because he'll never have to pay the money back (think Homer Simpson chuckling that the house "gets stuck with the bill" for his home equity loan).

DU aside, starvation and denial of water claim lives even in the immediate teevee sense of American "right now." In the span of a few football seasons, even. We may not recall Madeleine Albright's "the price is worth it," so here's a snip:
Lesley Stahl on U.S. sanctions against Iraq: We have heard that a half million children have died. I mean, that's more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it?

Secretary of State Madeleine Albright: I think this is a very hard choice, but the price--we think the price is worth it.

--60 Minutes (5/12/96)

(courtesy Fair. Video can be googled easily.)

These are not "violent" deaths, nor are they limited to that particular rape of '90s Iraq. Yet, because "the boots of an invading army" were not then heard in Iraq (or in other starved countries), it looked nonviolent, and could be considered "progress." The consequences--children starving slowly to death; perishing of dysentary after water-treatment plants are bombed; getting leukemia from DU shells found near the house--are terribly real, but they're not so glitzy as war movies lead Pinker and Brin, et. al., to expect from "real violence", so they don't exist in their minds. Ergo, progress!

The recent operative parable that frightened away Brin was:
If a man comes to my apartment with a knife, and I go outside and he rapes me, that's "violence." If I see that same man standing outside my apartment with the knife, never come out, and starve to death for fear of leaving and being raped, why does that not count as "violence"?

Unanswerable for some, though it's really a simple question. The woman starving to death is not dying a violent death; "violent," in the sense it's being used in the question, is not "starvation." Any associated Pinker apologists can, quite literally, answer the question without fear, by saying that the second situation is entirely different, because being stabbed is a major thing as far as one person's physical integrity goes, and is utterly different than starving. Depending on one's pain tolerance or personal quirks, it may be better to die by either the knife-rape or the starvation; the starvation could be better, and more humane, in that it could allow the trapped victim time to come to terms with herself and say her goodbyes to the world, where a quick knife injection might not.

Why the fear of the question, though? The cognitive break that Dr. Brin and/or his supporters/Pinker supporters are seeing foreshadowed is the desired end-result of sanitized killing. They don't want to admit that the woman's fear could be legitimate, and that such a legitimate fear could lead to the same effective result--death--as the direct application of the knife, because they need to believe that children disintegrated by cruise missiles or killed by lack of food aren't really being "killed." It's an act of god, for which the technologically-advanced nation can't be held responsible--even if, like a rapist with a knife, the technologically-advanced nation is prowling the skies, seas and roads all around the sanctioned nation, keeping food and medicine from going to its trapped people.

Like boxing, football, and much of the rest of our glittering world, the progress is illusory, and may even be a regress. Serfs now have cable TVs; does watching them at home alone, or with a few family members, beat telling stories by the fire with dozens of one's kith and kin? TVs in and of themselves are great, certainly, but much technological advancement has gone hand-in-hand with the segregating of people from one another. Having 1,100 friends on facebook is great, and communicating with people all over the world on a blog is great, too, but does it beat the 25 really good personal friends you once might've seen every day? Maybe; maybe not. But the latter should not have to be sacrificed for the former to be made possible.

Take also the standard "rape" umbrella: many modern women learn to shut up and not report date rape, or date unwanted-grope, or passing-out-and-possibly-later-being-pregnant; they learn not to go out alone in certain places or at certain times; they learn not to wear certain things in certain places or at certain times. Their fear--their realistic expectation of what might happen in any given place--is often real. Their assessments are often real. Yet, when their vigilance and limited movement keeps them from being raped, it can appear on paper that the problem has vanished entirely. "There's greatly reduced rape," say the worlds' Panglosses. "What progress we've made!"

...citizens no longer revolt so much, because of accurate assessments of what the result would be. And colonized populations die quietly of starvation, aware that even if they steal an AK and shoot six occupying soldiers per civilian freedom fighter, the attack planes will come swiftly down and eliminate the neighborhood.

What has really happened in this sanitization is that people have become more and more accustomed to the increasing technological power of the dominant...well, let's just call them "nations." No longer are open wars declared, and militaries faced off against one another, because each nation already knows which is the superior. Ergo the formal "war" doesn't happen, and the cautious woman is not raped. But this is a cost borne by the terrified woman, or by the weaker army. It is not a justice, but a yielding ahead of time, out of fear, in hopes of avoiding the certain tragedy.

And the ultimate results in numbers of war dead are higher anyway. For the benefit of stabbing fewer people up-front with a sword (ew, bloody, ick!), we progress to stabbing relatively fewer while poisoning dozens or thousands of times more of the children of the land for millenia. For the benefit of fewer dead soldiers, we carpet-bomb enemy locations into chunks of viscera whose numbers can never be accurately counted.

Let us not forget that cleaner horrors aren't just still evil (despite their repackaging since the 8th century), but that they're actually more evil, and dirtier evil. The prevalence of more "advanced" war by robot bombing, veiled diplomatic threats, and economic destruction should not be cheered as a progress, but decried as yet another foul type of weapon serving the same end. Fewer bleeding boxers on Day 1 means more braindead boxers on Year 5. Fewer dead soldiers on Year 5 means mountain-ranges more dead soldiers and civilians and afterborn children on Year 10. Like smoking or sexual abuse, the wounds are on the inside. The snickering catcalls of the fawning pragmatists of the age that "the unseen is not real" are as boorish and willfully ignorant as those who mock the invisibly disabled for using the good parking spaces.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Next caller, you're on the Sean Hannity show

Just another banhammer log. Italicized quotes are David Brin's.

"Recall I wrote about Somaliland four years ago. Attempts to fix somalia (sic) should have started here."

Ah yes--those stupid Africans, who just can't "fix" their own oil-rich country without our help.

But are they in more need than those backward Chinese?

"We should press China HARD about such things as ecological harm and labor rights etc. And intellectual property. They are definitely more positive than negative. But they need pressure."

The idea that extra-dark, Oriental, and/or Far-Eastern peoples need to be forced to do things by the west is in no respects a new one. People who starve, rape and kill tend to justify what they do by arguing that the victim "needs" it.

Brin is not standalone remarkable as a pundit; he's the most staid, moderate, pragmatic American there is, feeling accordingly that there needs to be a lot of benevolent imperialism, and that mass child war-deaths are regrettable but mandatory. Simultaneously, he maintains strong mainstream opinions on how domestic fiscal policy should be adjusted. What makes him useful is that he's not a stock news correspondent, but a stock entertainer. Like Clooney pushing Obama or Rowling urging on the search for Lord Saddamort, we see in Brin an example of the entertainment of the age: yet another line drawn between the Flavian Amphitheatre and the Senate; between the games and the dirtiest work done by the proconsuls' hirees.

The elite entertainers and killers are one. This, such an integral connection escaping most critics of the age, is the soulless deathmask of pop art. It is a mighty step for many to contemplate withdrawal from the charade of the grand old American death parties and their electoral superbowl, but on the internet, or rarely in person, many are rediscovering consideration of prudently avoiding evil.

A subtle distinction for those who have come to that awareness, and one of the next avenues for improvement, is exploring how licensed entertainers nourish the process. The gladiatorial games are truer to the people than is the actual battlefield; they give the people spirit for what happens on the battlefield, and they permeate every avenue of life, even setting boundaries on their imaginations. Moving onward from Rome to that neoclassical revival tent with the red, white and blue stripes, it is the simplistic parables and clannish mockery composing our own circuses, books and movies that prime the individual for resignation to lowered expectations and hard takes on gritty reality.

Back to the world of internet banhammers, here's the one that really did it:
Dr. Brin,

Is it appropriate that Pinker decided not to call "violent" deaths attributable to starvation/water-poisoning/cheaply preventable disease/exposure due to war?

If a man comes to my apartment with a knife, and I go outside and he rapes me, that's "violence."

If I see that same man standing outside my apartment with the knife, never come out, and starve to death for fear of leaving and being raped, why does that not count as "violence"?

Is the second situation progress?

As this one once said in a different world, "and then that fat idiot Limbaugh cut the mike, and I couldn't talk to him anymore. He so obviously couldn't answer the question."

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Pain

Have you ever felt physical pain? It can be charted on a graph; every variable associated with it can be displayed on a screen, to trillions of characters. The greatest prosaic minds, and a thousand starving poets, alongside a million monkeys with touchscreens, could write about the crushing of your finger by the hydraulic press.

Every detail thus recorded imaginatively could be joined to every scientific record of the event, along with videos of the crushing of your finger, the results of a concurrent electroencephalography, and a soundtrack of your yell.

No part of this description, nor all of it, taught in painstaking detail over centuries, would be able to fully transmit the experience; their synergy would fail to convey exactly what it had been like for you to feel your finger crushed by the press. Each mind could create its own version of the event; could imagine what it would be like; could review the photographs and oil portraits of your finger before, during, and after, and imagine what the pain was like for you.

Is that data all that stirred the universe while your finger was being crushed? Was there nothing unique and non-quantifiable in your actual experience of the moment? How it troubles the little legions of soul-accountants, that there might be something there that they can't punch into their calculators or chart on their graphs.

What Simple Stories Sell: Framing, Part 3

(Succeeding Part 2, with income taxes and cars; Part 1 with framing in general, and, in spirit, The Sad State of Art series.)

Why any of this discussion of framing the narrative, in the sense of "using deceit to exclude from consideration unwanted portions of an argument that, if lost, could result in substantive change"? Art. Aristotle, a genuine prime mover in the narrative march of western civilization, and teacher to the great imperial murderer Alexander, wrote of stories, "A whole is what has a beginning and middle and end."

This is the same cursed structure that still haunts humanity: the traditional narrative or dramatic structure, which breaks the limbs of imagination and repackages it into a fable, play or movie fit for predictable consumption. Setup, conflict, resolution; intro, rising action, climax, falling action, denouement. This is the story of the Bible; the story of American Exceptionalism; the official state story of most nations. It's what people expect from their leaders, their rebels, and their entertainers, to such a powerful degree that the most strident political disagreements are often no more than a conflict of preferred narratives. Greatly divergent stories, perhaps, but still stories built around narrative structures of exploiter and exploited--and in that, they're really the same story with different members of the company playing different roles.

It is the narrative structure itself that tends toward antilife; toward evil; that tends to counter the living world. The clear beginning and end is the simple story of a life beginning with either Birthday or First Memory or Earliest Photo Album, and ending with Obituary or Funeral. It segregates away cell formation, the "sub"-conscious, and the many contributors to life and self that are not Joey's First Trip To The Pool or Georges' Big Bang.

(Yes, David, your oh-so-scientific worldview and cosmological foundation is based upon the Book of Genesis and its ordained male priesthood.)

The little segregations, as tools or playthings, can be good and fun. Traditional narrative structures may tend toward evil, and be constantly exploited that way in the societies they've built, but they're great fun, and very useful, in coming up with reasons for birthday parties or 21 minute shorts with commercial breaks. That's okay, if the presence of such structure can be dosed alongside a healthier, more prevalent free imagination. Narratives should be boundless discoveries, not maps with borders; yet, a mind conditioned on narrative structure approaches the free-form narrative with the squeamish, automatic fear of the "hamburgers and hot dogs" child being first presented with punjabi baingan bharta.

It's even expected in nonfiction. Journalists and public speakers are trained in, or pick up along the way, the art of confessing to or implying a narrative structure in their punchy, short articles, their long, in-depth denunciations, or their faux-casual sales pitches. Once a mind built to deal with narrative structures has been presented with an opening hook, examples are expected: when did something like this happen in the past, and who were the ghouls that committed it? How are these ghouls continuing their work today, and what would be the terrible climax if they were allowed to run rampant to conclusion?

And then, the contractor is to provide hope--how can we resist the ghouls? How can we fight their depredations? Give us the answer.

In the absence of this structure, the structure-conditioned mind often becomes upset. "How dare you not tell me what to do? I may agree; I may offer some small criticism; I may reject you entirely. But you had better tell me where you're coming from and what you're getting at, or I don't have time for this."

It could be a simple inertia; a laziness; a desire to not have to come up with the answers on one's own. There's certainly an element of that there. When you go to all the effort of reading some words, why shouldn't their assembler be responsible for telling you what to make of them? As Calvin once said about movie sequels, "Man, there's nothing I hate more than paying five bucks and having to deal with some new plot."

It can be, in a very primal sense, frightening to encounter a story where, at first blush, only phantasms of meaning are present. Without rails there to guide you, the open space between stars and dimensions can ever hint and suggest at problems in the most basic ways you think about things, while not quite "form"-ally defining them or telling you what to do about it. In the forgotten nethers of that mind that doesn't really belong to you, seeing the fences shimmer away takes you "back" to that evertime where you were not allowed to stay; where you were taught to fear and reject formlessness, and cling to ordered structures and beginnings and ends. What could there be out there, betwixt and beyond the First and Fifth Acts, to be so angry about?

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Sapphic Chess


Standard chessboard. Ugh.

The primary problem with chess, and its keen attraction to little ordering machines, is its phallocentric royalism. Besides all the religious and patriarchal dross suggested by the requirement of protecting the king is the inglorious nature of "winning" the game in the first place: to checkmate, not to actually defeat, the king. Every other unit in the army is incapable of taking action without the king's holy presence. Besides hampering the other pieces in their movements, the "protect the king" requirement replaces a large chunk of real strategy potential with disallowed moves: moves that might put the king at risk. The inability to risk or lose the king, even in the stale checkmate of "defeat," not only weakens all the other pieces on the board, but makes the king ultimately weak, for all its false strength: the king, unlike all the other pieces in the army, cannot feint, deceive, or greater still, sacrifice itself for the good of its presumed comrades in arms.

The surrealism of a chess match presumes armies coming to stop on the say-so of the king when he is ultimately threatened. Two pieces fighting alone can checkmate the king of an army thirteen or fourteen strong. In this way, chess is the multiple-choice intelligence test of the gaming world, where "why?" is never allowed to enter into the equation. Eminently superior is Sapphic Chess, Arken Gallery's own variation, where replacing the matched king and queen with two queens is the smaller of the rule adjustments. No checks, no checkmates; just victory through resignation, the elimination of the last opponent's piece, or the inability of one player to move (as in the sole remaining two pieces being pawns pinned front-to-front). No draws, no interruptions of strategy by the inability to allow an impotent king to face risk, and no duels that do not end in death.

Chess, like IQ tests, remains such a big deal because, even if the "king" were replaced by a similarly hampered (and powerful) queen, or gay king, or transgender Jewish handicapped Eskimo upwardly-mobile pawn-king of mixed color, the presence of any "invaluable" piece suggests the linking of the whole board's life to that of a pivotal player. It's the bad kind of classification; it's making it possible to destroy 16 pieces by only destroying 1, like a domino society where one stubbed toe becomes, instantly, 16 stubbed toes.

The "stupid" brutality of chess is a representation of imperial war: it is not a contest to completion, but one of dignified nobles exploiting their various commands--who are much more powerful than they, but easily coerced into obeying orders--into shadow-boxing to death, with the king never allowed to take risks. Ever behind security, the king may worry about losing soldiers, territory, and influence, but his own life will never terminate. He may be exiled or otherwise lose power, but can't lose his life because the universe depends on Him. The rigid nature of move/timed counter-move/move/timed counter-move presupposes the identical abilities of all castes of chess society. Every rook is like every other rook; every bishop is like every other bishop; every pawn is certainly like every other pawn. The only differentiation of the pieces is their division into the roles they must play for the expansion of the king's territory.

Monday, August 20, 2012

The Bad Kind of Traps: Framing, Part 2

Succeeding Framing.

How are some common narratives framed, directly and indirectly, to conceal the real story, e.g., what's really going on? In order to tell any story, even a lie, terms have to be used that can be understood by most people, and these can't be the terms of the real game, because the real game is unfair. Simultaneously, though, the narrative has to include an element of unfairness, in order to help explain the losers' feelings of unfairness, and give them a battle to fight to keep them busy.

The Income Trap

Almost all western "tax" debates are framed as a story of conflict between the rich and the poor. Myriad tricks are employed, by those who are aware of them and can afford them, to alter the percentages of taxes paid, but generally, those with higher incomes pay at a greater rate, and those with higher incomes pay a greater amount overall than those with lesser incomes. The story defines taxes as "income taxes," indirectly implying that "income" is "wealth." Because most people don't understand the nature of currency creation, this works well.

The narrative goes as follows: "Some people are rich because they earn more than others. Some people are poor because they earn less than others. Accordingly, it is fair to tax high earners more than low earners."

This story provides two levels of basic unfairness. For the traditional conservative, the higher tax on the higher earner is unfair, because some combination of skill, hard work, and success is being punished. The benefits of government--public roads, security, NPR--are charged more heavily to the high earner. For the traditional liberal, the tax rate on the high earner is unfair because it is not high enough. Various types of unfairness within the economy combine to allow the super rich to pay tax on their income at lower rates than the very rich, the middling rich, the middling, or the poor. So, the battle becomes one over income tax rates, deductions, and other ways in which taxes are applied.

What makes this battle so consistently useful is that it's an illusory battle. Real wealth is not "income," but, literally, wealth. Wealth--accumulated assets. Most wealth is transferred not by income, but by inheritance. The great fortunes and the power behind them are transferred socially and familially. Any manner of "fair" tax regime would tax accumulated holdings, rather than the earnings thereupon or the earnings of labor. Income is used because even the simpleton can understand "income"--the occasional tithing the laborer receives for labor is understandable, so when elite media talks about an argument between policymakers on how much income tax "the rich" should pay v. how much "the poor" should pay, the simpleton is able to believe he understands the debate. Win or lose, adjust or maintain, any scheme of taxing "income" will fail to break up the great, nigh-perpetual fortunes of the super-powerful, which guard the assets that would really be able to accomplish things.

The Traffic Trap

Which type of vehicle gets the least mileage per gallon per effective movement of people and/or cargo? A Hummer with one passenger? A Prius with five passengers and two bikes? A semi truck laden with goods to be moved to another city? A semi truck on an empty run?

A modern city bus full of forty commuters?

None of the above; the least efficient vehicle is the vehicle that is at a stop but still running. Zero miles per gallon is egregiously worse than the 8 to 10 reported by the nastier set of large SUVs and trucks. Mass transportation is not an instant solution, either; trains and cargo ships regularly hover, burning fuel, while waiting for other ships/trains to make use of limited access points.

Where do we go from there? Just a little example of framing. Any argument over fuel efficiency--including Prius v. Hummer, or electric cars v. solar-powered city buses--that fails to take into account the least efficient vehicles is, like the "more or less income tax for the rich" argument, a deceptive narrative.

(On this one, as opposed to on "income taxes," there's a little more western perception of the core problem; a few voices suggest that not only will fuel sources have to be adjusted, but the entire western city and lifestyle needs to altered to make stop-and-go vehicles obsolete.)

Stopped vehicles, running at zero, depend upon the incredible stupidity and flagrant dangers of designing any transportation system where large, fast, heavy segments of traffic are meant to cross paths almost constantly: the intersection. Cars, trains, port entrances, approach/exit runways... Even in a society favoring the individual convenience of single-unit vehicles, this can be easily avoided in car traffic through the use of vertical space ("passes," over or under), but only with an initial investment in design and materials that takes a few years to pay off (the reduced casualties would be an incidental, though instant, by-product).

Traffic intersections, like income taxes, are designed to steal from the poor at the expense of the rich. Those with massive assets need not worry about idling at a red light in the way that those who must rush to work in order to pay for food do. Those with lives of free time need not worry about hurrying home to sleep or be with family--just as those with a net worth of twenty million need not worry about paying any income tax, while those with a net worth of zero and an income of $50K may indeed need to worry. Ergo a critique of the pickup truck v. the bicycle, or the $500K salary v. the $30K salary, is not the real battle, but an illusion for purposes of distraction.

Framing

A great liar, Karl Rove, masterfully employed traditional narrative structure to market Dubya for President. What he called "framing the narrative" was the development of a simplistic story structure to sell Bush. With a ranch purchased around 1999, then sold just after Bush left office, the Bush backers guided the cowboy/Reagan/American outdoor image close enough to victory that some judicious and/or judicial tampering resulted in a win. The "9/11 attacks" (their temporal nomenclature its own nasty little story of trademarking a space on the Gregorian Calendar, which was otherwise in the public domain) gave Rove the perfect "beginning" and "end" to Bush's narrative toward the 2004 victory, and similarly, "racism" and "health care" gave Obama his own narrative. (See Ringer here for a good, brief business description, and TCT here for more.)

"Framing the narrative" is a formal lying technique. The simplest lying is "saying something not true," while framing the narrative is more advanced, employing medium-level techniques such as "not telling the whole truth," and derivations thereof, such as "implying that a proffered story is the whole truth." Slight rises in collective information management ability make more skilled lying necessary for public manipulation, as any given "Obama" can no longer claim that the sky is green, or will soon turn green; however, an impassioned, banal speech about popular concepts--puppies; anti-racism; hope--can be presented as a substitute for tangible positives.

Machiavelli, Sun Tzu, Sade, and others like them used to be able to directly and honestly express the techniques of brutal lying and self-interest, while now, because of the general consensus that lying is "bad"--even for powerful people--the powerful must alter their language so as to instruct their young in lie-do by cloaking it in terms that are themselves deceptive. So, one must read between the lines to figure out what business/marketing/politics are all about, even though the essential techniques never actually changed. "Lying is good and necessary. Lying convinces stupid people to do things that help you at their expense. Here are some ways to trick really stupid people, kind-of-stupid people, and people who have begun to figure you out."

Illiteracy used to allow the powerful to speak in code--written language--about how to lie for success. Spreading literacy rates among the less powerful, while a good thing in and of themselves, were neither the perfect solution nor a solution. As more people learned how to read the old texts, newer coded disciplines were developed and made progressively more arcane, until even highly literate people with multiple degrees could be exposed to the enigma machines that described how the powerful would lie, cheat and steal to rule the world, without most of these literate readers being able to accurately process what was really going on. Ergo modern history.

You don't need to be formally schooled in pharmacology, accounting, medicine, political science, law, customer service, computer science, urban development planning, marketing, or international finance to understand the clouds of deception that divide powerful from powerless, anymore than you would have, hundreds of years ago, needed to have read The Prince to have figured out that any given European monarch was a lying, exploitative murderer who would do anything to get more power. The most integral animal instinct--the whisper from the amygdala "I'm being screwed" always was, and remains, a master key to understanding the ways that even the shiniest of the modern disciplines maintain castes.

Continued in Part 2.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Homonormative

Classical Male Homosexuality and the Patriarchy

Amidst the founders of what we think of as western "classics," and the creators of what become hegemonic American society--ancient Greece--we see not only the massive use of children for sex, but also completely open male homosexuality. Throughout the Greek and Roman empires (link here for those of the "Greek was not an imperial model" outlook), men loved and made love to their male friends, boys, slaves, and prostitutes, and procreated with their wives. Romantic affection between men was "so normal" that it was, perhaps, even "more normal" than heterosexual affection in the 21st century American empire.

From these traditions came all the patriarchal stuff that evolved out of the classics of western civilization. Men, and only men, voted. Wealthy, powerful landholders ("tops"?) had more power than anyone else, in a society designed exclusively for them and their freedoms. Weak men, along with women and children, could be owned as slaves. As the classical tradition developed through the ages, it brought with it the consolidation of polytheism into monotheism, where singular male gods continued to propertize women, children, and weak men. Middle-eastern anti-homosexual trends from Judaism pushed male homosexuality into the closet, where it remained for centuries.

Who was really pushed "into the closet"? Not everyone; merely those who lacked the political savvy, cash and authority to play their cards right. The seeming centuries of "attacks" on homosexuality were not really attacks on homosexuality, but an excuse for killing and asset seizure against certain homosexuals. This is similar to why The Right Kind of Blacks can get the cops in trouble when the cops try to treat them like poor blacks/whites/potential Mexicans.

Within that seeming repression, though, was the hidden power-based male homosexuality of monasteries, lords, and slaveowners. This was not the homosexuality we think of today, but a homosexuality of a different kind; a male homosexuality that largely shut out the opposite sex for all purposes except breeding, child-rearing, opinion-mattering, public appearance, and household management. The rich and influential raped their way through the ages, occasionally siring children as they went*, but the lusty heroes of their literature were ever tireless warrior men. The repressed, "naughty" homoeroticism of buddy action movies and Schwarzenegger finds its nexus in the same literary tradition that produced centuries of segregated stories about young men going to battle.

(*Endless worry about "when will the royal line have an heir?!" explained. Why was it so difficult so often?)

Patriarchy, and its associated invisible classes and repressions, was built, in Greece and then Rome, on the backs of powerful men, who wished to keep the exclusive company of other powerful men. Is this so impossible to imagine? Why? The western classical tradition is one of male-only warrior societies, male-only politics, male-only property possession, male-only voices, and male-centered entertainment. There was, of course, always procreation, but the dirty secret of male-centered sexual desire--and the open, non-secret trumpeting from Greek and Rome--is the massive expression of male homosexuality inherent in the development of patriarchy and the warrior empires and elite politics of today.

Now, as "open," modern male homosexuals try to gain more social acceptance, it can seem laughable to equate male homosexuality with repressive patriarchy. After all, the Catholic Church, and other bastions of religiosity and heterosexuality, have demonstrated how thoroughly non homosexual they are, right? It wasn't all just an act?

Of course, it was an act. The repressed male politicians and public figures who now sweatily warn that acceptance of homosexuality will lead to bestiality in Times Square are, rather obviously, worried about their own private philandering and their own errant thoughts.

Homosexuality in Batman

Consider a 20th bastion of patriarchy and western literature: Batman.

Courtesy toyzone.

Ironically, as male homosexuality theoretically became "more" accepted in the "west" throughout the 20th and 21st centuries, D.C. comics and the latest round of movie-churners have been judicious about scrubbing any of the old homoerotic traces out of the franchise.

(Updated 3/2/2015: looks like someone shut down toyzone's essays about Batman, Robin, and their tight leather suits, as well as web-scrubbing the scan of Bruce Wayne and the Boy Wonder sharing a bed.)

The Batman franchise isn't alone in demonstrating strong old-style homoeroticism alongside old-style patriarchy. Most traditional American comics of the 20th century followed this trend. Action is focused on a man (or men) who wear tight suits and have incredibly muscular bodies; they have little to no time to see their token girlfriends because they're busy battling with other men. Women have very little role in the lives of the old heroes, except as: screaming damsels to be rescued by said incredible men in tight suits; secretaries answering the phone; or, occasionally, being the butt of sexist jokes. You'd almost think that the creators of these franchises were far, far more interested in men than they were in women.

Homosexuality in Lord of the Rings

Lord of the Rings is another suitable example. J.R.R. Tolkien--a soldier, then academic, with a keen lifelong interest in classical male adventure tales--produced his famous, massive, multi-volume sets with such a low female-to-male character ratio that it would make John Wayne blush. Females appear so rarely in his tales that he achieved his goal of recreating a classical "mythology" for England (because, goodness knows, all the old English tales simply vanished somewhere, ergo the need for his scholarly creative work) by duplicating the near-utter exclusion of women from his story.

Tolkien did so in conjunction with old-style male homosexuality. For those who have actually pored through the tiresome, stilted, history-textbook-like journey of Sam and Frodo to Mordor, the hobbits engage in some serious stroking and cuddling in order to reassure one another.

As ironically as in the modernized Batman, though, increased social acceptance of male homosexuality came at a price for Frodo and Sam--their homoerotic encounters were scrubbed entirely from the movie, except for in one place: when Frodo prepares to leave Middle Earth at the very end of the recent movie trilogy, he gives Sam a kiss on the forehead. Production notes tell us that this kiss was added at the behest of actor Ian McKellan, who had read and understood the subtext of Tolkien's work, and wanted at least a hint of the physical aspect of the Sam/Frodo relationship to show through.

What Effects Does the Repression Have?

In this graphic or prose literature, we see that modernization made the repression even greater during the 20th century. Zeus was more important than Hera, and certainly more important than Aphrodite, but the Greeks at least had their female leads showing up more often to get raped, rather than vanishing entirely for hundreds of pages, or doing nothing more than serving mead to a party of sturdy male adventurers.

In many of the new Batman movies, we've seen an emphasis on brave, heroic women, who either force Bruce to face tough emotional facts (cringe), who demonstrate independence by doing boxing workouts (Nicole Kidman/cringe), or who learn how to use whips (Michelle Pfeiffer). This has come at the price of removing the old traces of homosexuality. Similarly, in Lord of the Rings (and the forecoming Hobbit product), the producers completely changed or flat-out added characters to make up for the dearth of women. Besides serving drinks and getting married, women did nothing in Tolkien's original story, with a single exception: Eowyn rode off to war, in disguise, over her father's objections, and stabbed one enemy. And she was a princess, e.g., daughter of a manly warrior-king. But still, she was at least one female character out of thousands of pages who did something. The producers militarized Arwen for their movie version, so we got a sanitized version of old-style patriarchy, except one where the men are now straight.

Revising history in this memory-hole-like way is nothing new for commercial entertainers, who see nothing as sacred; they can be rightly abused elsewhere. For the purposes of examining the terrible things that happened to women over the course of patriarchy, though, we should consider whether the male-only focus of so much classical history had any connection to the way the classical patriarchs approached their own homosexuality.

Reevaluating Homosexual Takes

There are as many measurable sexualities as there are people times measurable instants of time in any given universe, but in the context of modern perspectives on male homosexuality, there seems to be a distinct type that drove patriarchy, male monotheisms, and the great war-making empires. To call it "repressed homosexuality," while more accurate in modern times, would be in error, as the imperial Greeks and Romans were more, if not totally, open about it. Now, we primarily see this in the west only in the few fading bastions of the American Republican Party and the dying old-style boardrooms: the kind of ridiculous, hyper-masculine focus that frets and worries about open sexuality, while believing that fit young men in snug military uniforms should line up, pose in salute, then travel overseas to do battle by, ideally, firing objects into other young male combatants.

This is something, though, that we must learn from. Violent, patriarchal male homosexuals (consider Lothar Machtan's thoroughly researched Hidden Hitler) have had a powerful, consistent, deadly impact on history; "homosexuality" as a caste has not been the perpetual downtrodden creature it is presented. Rather, certain homosexuals have been marginalized, while others--maybe even the majority of them?--have been exceedingly powerful in shaping the course of human history. It seems more likely that, as time goes on, the "liberation" and "acceptance" gained by some homosexuals for the first time will be part of a slight adjustment in media perspective on certain lifestyles, while the same elites will continue to run the show. If we convince ourselves that the issue of sexuality is solved as soon as everything is made formally legal and socially equal, we'll be neglecting the real story of centuries.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Neverpotter and the Wardrobe

Under the streets of London there's a secret world which is Neverwhere!
Neverwhere is a dark mysterious place of shadows, tunnels and abandoned underground stations populated by assassins and warriors, angels and vampires, talking rats and a hierarchy of nobility!
This world is called "London Below"...and sometimes London Below spills out into London Above...

From Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere.

And more:
Richard Mayhew is a very ordinary young man. He lives in a flat, has an expensive fiancee and a rather dull job.One day Richard stops to help a young girl who mysteriously suddenly appears in front of him, lying injured and bleeding on the pavement. He takes her home, cleans her up and is more than a little surprised when she informs him that her name is "Door"...

Because of course, standard white guys named after anatomically nomenclatured kings have been ever so helpful to the poor girls of the Celtic Isles. But let's look next at:
The novels revolve around Harry Potter, an orphan who discovers at the age of eleven that he is a wizard, living within the ordinary world of non-magical, or Muggle, people. His ability is inborn...While the fantasy land of Narnia is an alternative universe and the Lord of the Rings' Middle-earth a mythic past, the wizarding world of Harry Potter exists in parallel within the real world and this is how Potter's world contains magical elements similar to things in everyday life. Many of its institutions and locations are recognisable, such as London. It comprises a fragmented collection of overlooked hidden streets, ancient pubs, lonely country manors and secluded castles that remain invisible to the Muggle population.

The shadow world in London, this time regurgitated as Harry Potter.

And another, this time from C.S. Lewis:
The story begins...when four siblings...are evacuated from London to escape the Blitz. They are sent to live with Professor Digory Kirke, who lives in a country house in the English countryside. (country house in the countryside? you don't say!) While the four children are exploring the house, Lucy looks into a wardrobe and discovers a doorway to a magical world named Narnia...Upon returning to our world, Lucy's siblings do not believe her story about Narnia. Her older brother Edmund enters the wardrobe and meets the White Witch, who introduces herself as the Queen of Narnia and befriends him and offers him magical Turkish delight which enchants him. She encourages him to bring his siblings to her in Narnia, with the promise that he shall rule over them.

...another alternate world hidden in England, waiting only the brush of strong white Englishmen to penetrate and surge through it.

Why are the British so driven to write about secret worlds hidden beneath their own? Like the mutilated rape victim decomposing under a Freudian trapdoor, it's their guilt over the complete rape-extermination of the Celts and other native peoples of the isles. Whereas their bastard spawn in America had at least stopped directly and formally massacring aboriginal Americans by the late 20th century, Britain was still stomping on the recalcitrant Irish, at the point of the sword, bayonet, and the pasty, puffy English cock. They sense that their little island is a graveyard; they sense that everything they live in was built upon the bodies of the murdered. It's cathartic for them to regurgitate stories about hidden English worlds where little people with some of their victims' fabled traits are still living--and then, to rut and "save" those people.

Once they'd murdered their monotheistic imperial way to the very ends of the isles, and been stopped for a while by the project of snarling at Spain and France for native-raping rights everywhere else, a curious sense of loss set in among some of the populace, which has never been satisfied. What happened to the past? Where did all those people go? Where did this land, and its history, come from?

Those filthy Humperdinckan murder-partiers. American Anglos name streets, states, and professional sports teams after the people they butchered, while British Anglos are much more refined, and have the decency to steal not only the names and labels, but the entire histories and spirits of the peoples they butchered, and rewrite them into ordinary-British-guy-saves-day versions of secret history. So we have Neverwhere, and Harry Potter, and Narnia, and The Borrowers, and no end to the tales of the magical peoples who "vanished" to magical alternate-worlds underground, just waiting for roguish 007-like Brit men to discover and fuck and save and rule them.

News flash for British authors: the Celts are not mostly gone because they mysteriously lurk underground in a magical land where they keep charms and tricks. They are gone because you murdered them, slowly and deliberately, over centuries. Your "secret world" tales are a failed attempt to rejuvenate yourself, by pretending that the murdered Celts vanished of their own volition, rather than were ground under the boots of your marauding greatfathers. Endlessly, you strive to work through the guilt by telling tales of little lily-white Richards, Harrys and Eddards, who blast and fuck their way into prophesied, magically-ordained victory. And who also save the magical people, and get worshiped by them, rather than wipe them out and establish a bunch of forward Anglo bases and East India Companies. Because it was all prophecy that you won, right? The lost magic always ends up belonging to the Muggle-Brits, in the end.

Americans have movies where white boyz learn the secrets of Indian warfare, but at least the Indians get to play a part and be heroes, and at least some guilt is regularly, even overwhelmingly, expressed. The cavalry can be the bad guys, as Americans work through their own genocidal guilt, but with the Brits, there is no such guilt. Toms, Dicks and Harrys discover the magical underworlds, become prophesied masters of them, and save the silly little native peoples from magical enemies, while never having to ask themselves how those people got there.

Here's the current nasty apex glaring at the Olympics opening ceremony:

Friday, August 10, 2012

Survivors of IOZ

"I'm just a patsy."

Whenever necessary, there seems to be a single white madman ready to stir up public opinion. Sometimes the madman is drugged, confused, and shipped off to solitary and closed courtrooms; sometimes they're just killed. In the case of the latest one, was he, as Inkberrow suggested pursuant to state media reports, acting on behalf of whiteness or Christianity?

And should we always accept Pravda's version of the incident?

Cycles in Green

0:00 The first little cell explores the first little world, expressing itself in a way that always returns to its individual tone--the tone, itself, its own blend of a thousand pitches made there one.

0:15 A theme develops within the individual, internally complex and eternally simple. Sustainable on its own, yet searching. A rhythm of experience and routine, with an unexpected newness, drive the little cell onward toward something, but what?

0:35 Strings embrace percussion; the cell is not alone. First in hints, then in a fuller sweep, the melody finds itself a harmony to something greater; bones on which flesh is lain.

0:47 Reeds take up the romance of the cells, expressing something that neither could on their impossible own. Even so sheltered and drowning in the reeds, percussion and string course now through new paths that they had not found before. Always together, always alone.

1:32 Something entirely new appears, borne of the journeys and their intermixing--a cell, a face, a picture, a feeling--connected to what came before, and for a moment, deceptively a climax. So perfect that it plays at being "it"; the solo that was a duo that was more, then seems to be a component of only this new solo. And again, the players learn that the melody was not theirs, nor, truly, a melody in the sense that they had once thought a melody to be, for it may vanish. The flutes and their sweet, boisterous romance have fled with the advent of this new face, which watches its predecessors fade about it.

2:12 At the beginning and the end of it all, a new individual starts out in exploration, expressing itself in a way that always wants to return to a certain tone, on an adventure never before made. Strings hint, at its edges, that something similar to this last mischief may happen again.

Raging sea, a familiar face, a new face; woman, man, child.

From the goddess Yoko Kanno, Innocent Green.

Collateral Damage

A forgotten pair of casualties.

Two guys--let's call them Stan and Marshall--met in high school, in a little southwestern town. They went to college at the same school, and somehow, even after Stan dropped out and Marshall graduated, and they moved in together, they managed to convince their parents they were just "splitting rent" or "business partners." Stan repaired cars; Marshall worked in a prosecutor's office for a few years as a clerk, and occasionally bought unrecognized collectible clothes at consignment shops and made a tidy profit reselling them on eBay.

Mostly because of Marshall, who saved like a fiend, they did better than a lot of their friends. No kids, no dogs, no expensive drinking or traveling or eating-out; Marshall insisted that they save what they had, and after he ended up managing a Costco, and Stan got hired to run the service department at a Toyota dealership.

Things were looking up as they hit their 40s. It had taken god-only-knew how many brown-bagged peanut butter sandwiches for lunch, but they had a few hundred thousand saved, were still "looking for the right wives," and Stan's mother passed away and left him a little plot in Iowa. They visited it once, but there was nothing there, so they sold it to some cousin, or something. There weren't many places to go in automotive repair at the time, and Marshall was getting tired of the retail life, so they looked into starting a business of some kind. It was hard; so many things failed in their first year, and if they took a huge risk, they'd lose all of the little nest egg they'd accumulated.

They went to trade shows; they watched webinars (Stan only faked those; he was asleep on the couch most of the time, the way I hear it, while Marshall took all the notes in a 79 cent back-to-school spiral-bound); Stan even called a few of those 800 numbers stapled to the sides of telephone poles. Eventually, they found something just right for them--a recognized brand with a good track history in their area. To buy into a franchise spot, get a slice of the national and regional advertising campaign, and get something a little more reliable, it would cost around $450K. They scraped together a mortgage on the home they'd just paid off a few years back to get the total together. Stan gave his notice, and Marshall started interviewing local teenagers to work the counter. They found a good location, had to come up with another $20K to get some construction guys to put the right facade on the front, flew to some god-awful skyscraper in a big city to sign all the papers, took a three-day training course, and finally got home. Four messages from Marshall's father about concerns that life wasn't headed in the right direction, and was he ever going to call the divorced daughter of that guy he'd once known from Hewlett Packard? She'd lost some weight; it was time to settle down, already. Marshall? Marshall, pick up?

At last, it was the big day. Their Chick-fil-A opened to tiny neighborhood acclaim, with a beaming Stan standing behind the register, while Marshall burned his hands in the back trying to teach a couple high-school kids how to use the frier (it'd looked a lot easier in the demonstrational video on the training course). Apparently, one had closed down a few streets over when some old guy had burned out, so they picked up a lot of repeat business. A year later, they only had $387K left on the loan, when they woke up one morning to find out that some figurehead in some city somewhere had said something about gay marriage.

Naturally, they lost all their friends. If it hadn't been for the assholes unknowingly buying extra sandwiches to support that whoever-guy in New York Or Whatever who'd said That Political Stuff, they might've been ruined right away. Still looks tough, but Marshall and Stan have been through tough times before. Sucks to start over at fifty.

"Maybe we should've done a Subway, or something," Stan mused late one November night, when they looked over the dismal figures, now that the righteous asshole-stream was gone.

Marshall shook his head. "The body image thing! That--that Jared guy; I can't stand him!"

"I know, but...!" Stan hurled a pile of receipts toward the tall, grease-soaked gray trash receptacle; each one missed and drifted, confetti-like, to the floor. "Well, fuckin' fat Jared is better than 'How can you look at yourself in a mirror at night, you evil corporation!' I mean, come on! I'm not a 'stooge'!"

Marshall patted him on the shoulder and went to gather up the receipts before they got crumbled into the non-slip mat. "I'm not running a Subway. This'll pass."

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Reservations

...just heard a bright young physician complain that (Indian) reservation work wasn't worth it, because the people are fat, drink too much, cause their own problems, "just want a pill to make it all better," and "don't listen to you."

Update: while we're on the subject of old-fashioned racism, here's David Brin sounding the White Man's Burden in 2012:
"We should press China HARD about such things as ecological harm and labor rights etc. And intellectual property. They are definitely more positive than negative. But they need pressure."

Recalcitrant natives tend to need pressure. /kipling

Monday, August 6, 2012

You Got Played, Again

(Yeah, the Chick Fil A thing. /sigh)

That was a brilliant, Rovian move on the part of Dan Cathy (said owner of said restaurant), assuming he was the one who actually thought the plan up. By saying something controversial, he got his company massive, free media attention. All the western media-following consumers are thinking about and talking about chicken-related fast food, franchise independence, profit margins and dipping sauce.

As we know from the annals of professional lying, almost any kind of attention for a food business is good attention. Someone dying at a Chick Fil A from salmonella: bad attention. Chick Fil A appearing in the news for any other reason: good attention. If Saddam Hussein's favorite restaurant had been Chick Fil A, it would've been a good thing for the industry at large.

Dan Cathy probably doesn't really care about gay marriage, or if he actually does, he probably cares about it 1/10,000 as much as he cares about making more money. And by releasing a carefully timed statement, he's just used America's various outspoken pride movements as patsies to carry the message of his product across the land. They're all working for him, each and every time they use word-of-mouth to spread the gospel of Chick Fil A. Non-coincidentally, all the major corporate news outlets are squealing about this tidbit of oh-so-important information, like so many celebrity divorce nuances or investment tips on a low-urban-murder day.

Cathy's investments, of course, aren't limited to Chick Fil A; he's more than ready to cash in not just on the purchase of products from his franchisees, but also from any "rebellious" business that flows to Chick Fil A's "competitors," in which he, and the rest of the 1337, own stock (um, diversified portfolios).

You got played. Crushing as it may seem, it wasn't about gay marriage, body image, childhood diabetes, or medic-alert wristbands for disadvantaged children--it was about using your excitement over the cause of the moment to turn you into a hypnotized missionary for the piece of trojan chicken code concealed in your pre-scripted indignation. The cake is a lie.

Nach, here this one is, doing her part to spread the word further. Resist the MSM? There are none who can.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Obligatory Media Acknowledgement

So, Gore Vidal died. A rich, white, western, Anglo-American, male, famous, internationally-traveled, influential person died, of old age, after massive medical care and public attention, leaving behind a throbbing legacy of fans. Watching the pitiable crooning over this particular media event is utterly similar to watching people moved to tears by the pre-competition special on how a particular American athlete got to the Olympics by overcoming Adversities X and Y in her or his social life.

In the behavior patterns and thought processes of the coolest, wildest, most radical, most-out-there fringe western commentators, there is very, very little difference--if any--between the idolatry of the Obamabots, the red-staters, and the "no one else has ever been daring about their sexuality or outlook" radical writers of teh internet.

Remember just a few months ago, when you were mocking the concern over Romney's pajama obsession and comparing it to the concern about the Somalian genocide? But get a guy on your side--an "unappreciated" cultural icon with dozens of published works, obscene piles of dirty blood dollars, and decades of media attention and name recognition--and you're squealing at the red carpet like a 45 year old fat woman waiting to catch a glimpse of a 17 year old vampire actor. The same deathly culture that drives Hillary to obliterate Iran and Moore to resignedly approve Obama's mass murders has space, too, for you in the elevator--step aboard, and wave your hands slowly, little sea anemone. There's room for one more. What, did you think you were the first person to come out? To get abused? To feel depressed? To grasp for conveniently-placed blinking buoys in a stormy sea? Put the cameras on your pet issue, and suddenly, your struggle to play collegiate football is the stuff dreams are made of. And wouldn't that be so terrifying, to you? If it really was, and you were right, and so were the other guys, and you realized you were nothing more than another subject cheering for a different branch of His Royal Majesty?

(Oh, but you already knew that. You were being funny and ironic. So sorry--carry on.)

Updated for those who haven't yet seen this old fecal gem thrown around; here's the quote:

"For America to survive economically in the coming Sino-Japanese world, an alliance with the Soviet Union is a necessity...After all, the white race is the minority race and if the two great powers of the Northern Hemisphere don't band together, we are going to end up as farmers--or, worse, mere entertainment--for more than one billion grimly efficient Asiatics."
-Gore Vidal

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The Important Thing

As a new religion ascends, humans may wonder, "So?" The new religion often does not seem as dangerous as the old. In Reflecting Sci Fi Attitudes and That Ass Brin, this one discussed the adjustment of monotheisms between the religious and the scientific, or more specifically, the ongoing replacement of market leader Christianity with science. As the transition continues, cannier religious businesses will adjust their product offering to include more science, while die-hards will stay firm before their passing into cult status. The Mormon Church is one such growing, successful example; Joseph Smith paired his early fantasies and franchising around astronomical theories of the time, ergo the "your own planet when you die" and the "skinny men live on the moon" theories, alongside his stunningly clever embrace of early anthropological theories to pad out his "Christian cities in the new world" fiction. The human desire for connectivity and individual examination will be replaced by Freudian psychoanalysis for those who can afford it, but barring an economic shift, congregation-style business will still be necessary to offer emotional/spiritual solace on a large-scale donation model.

"The important thing is not to stop questioning"--Albert Einstein said these words, but just as Jesus said, "Judge not, lest ye be judged," the quotations of a scion, no matter how numerous, powerful, or direct, may not stop legions of later acolytes from drawing fixed conclusions and decreeing that people need to be judged and questions need to stop being asked.

How to survive it? From the last time around, we learned that questioning led to ostracism or death. The direct provision of proof, when contrary to the desired narrative, is essentially worthless. Rich social fixtures like Galileo might have survived with a mild slap, while the poorer sort were nailed to crosses or burned at the stake. The masses, over many centuries, were unswayed by arguments of logos or pathos; the primary early form of expansionist monotheism, Judaism, still exists today, and is seeing a resurgence in its fundamentalist ("Orthodox") wings, while Christianity and Islam, though a bit younger, are undergoing broader, though similarly doomed, fundamentalist revivals.

The past cycle also showed us that leaders, even thoughtful ones, would not be swayed by pity on a large scale. While individual acts of kindness, like hiding a Jew in the attic during a Nazi purge, may have occurred off-record, the primary drivers of the older religious societies--and greatest profiteers therefrom--showed themselves, over dozens of generations, to be more than content to burn children as witches. Orbs through the telescope or some basic conception of human dignity notwithstanding.

From studying the ascension of Christianity, we know that religions take on a docile form before achieving state-level power. Their followers are punished, and made martyrs of; thrown to lions. They struggle to reveal demonstrations of truth and power, which sway small followings, then larger, to their sides. To the joy of onlookers, they prove the truth of the faith, repressing doctrinal questions and establishing narratives with a firm beginning that is not questioned, and an ending that may be open to interpretation, as long as the rest of the timeline is accepted.

Once the movement achieves its full strength, though, the gloves can come off. Inquisitions may occur, heresies be punished more fully, and managers given more perks, and more discretion in abusing the deviant. Once-docile Christianity became the crusader. A seemingly harmless, helpful idea about opening brotherhood and peace to all became the crusades that still ravage the world--however silly the idea might once've seemed, when someone warned that those lion-morsels were going to be dangerous someday.

In the early phase of science's ascension, we know that questioning "dark matter" or "cosmic strings" leads to similarly bad results, in the sense of careers dependent on government grants, media access, or industry posts. Science, once a tool of testing theories and suggesting that they might possibly be true, has become, as commonly presented and thought of, "the truth." Corporate publications rank major, government-approved universities based on endowments, which rankings then elevate the status of individual practitioners, and their corresponding work--which further elevate the university, attracting more donations and power. To be any sort of serious scientist, publication occurs in journals controlled by the government and industry presses, which make their first bar to access the successful purchase/study of a degree under earlier practitioners, who gained that power through similar subscription. When journals achieve a consensus, it becomes irresponsible, even dangerous, to question it.

Like early Christianity, science is not domestically murderous in its punishment of heresies. It has swiftly moved to preeminence as the most dangerous force on the planet, finding a cozy relationship with religious leaders worldwide to employ new technologies in the service of death. In the interests of studying hypocrisy, one may consider the argument of scientists who advocate any type of gun control. When the NRA says, "Guns don't kill people, people do," and scientists laugh and urge various bans, the scientists may then turn around and develop fighter-bombers and assault rifles that slaughter tens of thousands, while disavowing any responsibility for what those "bad eggs in the military" do.

What we learned from Christianity's ascension, though, is that this phase does not last. Once the unquestioning engineering- and physics-based religion that has co-opted the open-minded term "science" becomes more dominant, it will do what all other religions do: find it intolerably dangerous to allow the non-scientific to live. Throughout many versions of this cycle in human history, people have observed, in some form or other, "it is a short step from burning books to burning people." Shutting out "bad thought" precedes punishing "bad thought," precedes killing "bad thought," just as, in gorillas, throwing leaves, hooting, and pounding the chest precedes the intimidate charge and, at last, the use of body weight and teeth. Deviant scientists are now driven out of universities into the bad job market, for asking the wrong questions--not very harsh. Not at all like pushing a troublesome individual out of the cave for questioning whether or not there really is a rain god. After all, we humans have come so very far, we never do things like that anymore. He was only thrown out for irresponsibly refusing to acknowledge the veracity of theories that have consistent and broad support across the whole of the scientific community.

Again, how to survive it, when it comes? Its leaders will not be swayed by morality; even the Protestant Reformation, a comparatively mild adjustment to the Christian narrative, took centuries, claimed countless victims, and resulted in, ultimately, a militant American fundamentalism that now out-kills the Catholics. Neither will the masses be swayed, and looking for small acts of kind understanding will be as risky as asking to be hidden in that attic before the Gestapo comes.

Patient acquiescence, then, like that of so many handmaids, will remain the safest bet for the later generations that face the next inquisitions. Bring your sheep to the altar; dance for rain; go to Mass; take a Phys 101 class and cheer when they heal the boy with the game leg by using an undetectable instrument.

How to break free of the cycle? Swaying religions have always founded themselves on child-converts, rather than risking confrontation with the adults of the previous theme. Scientists now lament the troubles of dealing with stupid fundies, who just won't get it, just as Christians lamented the troubles of dealing with the Jews, who just wouldn't understand that Jesus was the Messiah prophesied in the Torah. The various councils of Rabbis may still be upset at their hashemitic kin in Canaan (those not yet eliminated by the progress of democracy) who have not understood that the Epic of Gilgamesh was really about Noah, not Gilgamesh. What we now call "science," like those movements before it, built its ascension on children. Each movement offers itself to the future by taking control of the education and upbringing of children. Old religions ran orphanages, convents, abbeys, etc., and took children into them, raised them under the proper theme, and eventually, controlled the world. The corporate-university "science" priests now have the public school, which they impressed upon most governments when the science Enlightenment hinted that Christianity's fall would come in just several centuries.

By making the case to the state that state-controlled mandatory education would result in more reliable subjects than those who might find a higher loyalty in God, state lessons took precedence: lessons in civic good behavior, approved history and literature, and math and engineering produced a higher incidence of obedient, hard-working citizens in most of the western nations, the majority of whom shared, regardless of their religion, a common sense of past, present and future.

Which isn't to say that the idea of education, or free education for all kids, or even everyone, is bad. When we examine the history of the physically abusive, racist, sexist, weapons-engineering, violently nationalistic schoolrooms of western Europe and America, we see the religious overtones that have controlled the funding and implementation of these particular institutions since their inception. The occasional nice nun is a reality--and can have profound effects, on individuals or groups. The occasional good "class," or even the frequent good "class," can and does occur within the system. And, good! Perhaps enough cunning operatives in these places could pass on, broadly enough, the messages "Do not stop questioning" and "Do not judge with finality." Perhaps some freedom lies there, in giving to children the secret message to empathize and understand.

It isn't, though, to be found in the new breed of false science-priests, who have abused nearly beyond recognition the movement whose mantle they have claimed. Science was, and should be, if not the celebration of new ideas, at least the study and consideration of them--even unpleasant ones that topple decades of research and lofty careers. Daddy grew up and became an abuser himself.