Growing up, I was always a bit different.. OK.. a lot different. Most of it came down to how I perceived, or mentally modeled, the world around me. This alternate model the world in turn affected how I saw the actions and behaviors of other people around me.
Case in point- As a child, I was unable to understand why most people had such strong, yet almost always unreciprocated, obsessions about celebrities. I also found it odd that most people were so enthusiastic about belonging to groups or institutions that either did not care about them or cynically used them as slaves or worse. Similarly the ability of ideologies (religious and secular) to repeatedly attract millions or billions of faithful followers without delivering on their promises in an objectively verifiable manner made me question the ability of most people to think rationally.
In contrast to that, I never cared much about what people who were not helpful to me thought about me. I was also unable to obsess about the lives of sport-stars, musicians, actors or other “famous” people. I never felt the need to ‘truly’ belong to any groups or institutions. I just could not commit myself to any cause or ideology. That is not to say I was ignorant or oblivious of the world around me. I was very well-informed about what others thought about me and had a better understanding of current affairs, trivia and ideologies than pretty much anyone around me. Nor was I oblivious to the supposed benefits of group or institutional membership.
Yet I was unable to care about any of that stuff beyond the level necessary to be appear normal.
Some might see this as lack of drive, motivation, positive-thinking or any of the other fairy tales most people keep telling themselves. I, however, saw things differently. From my viewpoint, people who exhibited “mainstream” behavior were the real suckers and morons. But how did I come to this conclusion? and why did I reach it at a much younger age than most who eventually get there?
Well.. It comes to careful observations.
I realized early on, by looking at the lives of people around me, that being kind and helpful to people was almost never rewarded- especially on a quid-pro-quo basis. Now one can certainly extend this observation and decide to become ‘extra’ evil and manipulative, but maintaining minimal and very conditional connections to others is a far more effective and practical response to living in a generally unreciprocative world. Face it.. we live in societies where even ‘close’ relatives and friends are unlikely to help you in any substantial way. So what is the point of caring about, assisting or even spending time with them? Do you really think people spend all that time on FB, Twitter or watching TV because they are somehow magically addictive?
I simply understood this fact much earlier than most. It also helps to be born in an age where technology finally made it possible to reduce personal contact with useless or malevolent people without becoming too lonely.
Then there is the issue of how most people spend lots of time following the lives of “celebrities” or trying to somehow get into their inner circles. Even as a child, I could never understand why so many people worshiped movie stars or sportsmen. What is the point of caring so much about people you will almost never meet, let alone reciprocate it? But where does one draw the line between enjoying the performance of an actor or musician and going into the hero-worship or obsession mode? In my opinion, something like say.. trying to find more information or material by some performer on IMDB or YouTube, is about personal entertainment. However buying a product or service because some celebrity endorsed it or wearing a jersey to express support for some sports team clearly crosses the line into unrequited hero-worship.
My cynicism about group and institutional membership was also based on what I saw as a child. It was obvious to me, even then, that most members of groups or institutions never benefited from their commitment, effort or sacrifices for the “greater good” of those groups or institutions. In almost every single case, a small percentage of people at the top of those groupings took away almost all of the gains obtained through the hard work and sacrifices of their rank-and-file members. We can see this dynamic all around us in groups and institutions as diverse as non-profit organisations, small businesses, large corporations and universities to the armed forces of modern nation states. I would go so far as to say that the “normal” mode of operation for pretty much every single type human grouping or institution is identical to a ponzi scheme.
Let us now move on to the topic of religions, ideologies and other belief system. Once again, I was never able to understand how anybody could believe in something as ridiculous as a god that cared about human beings. I mean.. look around you. Do you see any evidence of a trans-human entity or entities that gives a damn about human, animal or any other kind of suffering or pain? Does believing in god improve the materiel quality of your life? Does it feed the hungry? Does it cure the sick? Does it make you a “better” human being? Does it address or correct obvious injustice? I could go on.. but you get the point- belief in god or gods does not achieve anything for true believers. It can however provide a cushy livelihood for priests and provide a justification for looting those who believe in other invisible sky-dudes or dudettes.
Secular religions, such as capitalism, provide another and more modern example of this phenomena. Why are those who slave for, yet never benefit from, capitalism its most ardent and vocal supporters? Why are people getting ass-fucked by the invisible hand of the “free market” often its biggest cheerleaders? Why are all those white knights who support feminism and defend the honor of women not getting laid? Conversely, why are those who support a return to traditional masculine values so eager for female approval, even if comes from a chubby and mentally unstable groupie?
So.. did you notice a common theme running through all of the examples mentioned in this post?
OK.. let me spell it out. In every single example, the majority of people seem to enthusiastically keep on doing something they “know” will benefit them- inspite of a wealth of evidence and repeated reminders that it won’t or is incapable of doing so. So what drives the majority to people to keep on doing something that does not work or cannot deliver on its promise? Are they all suffering from permanent brain damage? Or is something else behind this odd pattern of behavior?
I believe that the answer to this apparent paradox lies in understanding the nature of loyalty and its linkage to the human urge to hurt others even when doing so is not profitable.
I shall explore this issue in an upcoming post.
What do you think? Comments?
Have you ever wondered if capitalism could become a victim of its own “success” in ways other those put forth by Marx over a century ago. While it is certainly possible that the effects of declining profits and progressive impoverishment of the majority will derail capitalism in a world where there is not much left to plunder or conquer in an economically viable manner, there is an alternative (and possibly synergistic) pathway for things to fall apart.
The reason you have probably never heard of this ‘other’ pathway is because the conditions that made its existence possible are relatively new. Even today- most economic thought, literature and analysis is the product of people mired in the mindset of previous eras. It also helps that doing so keeps the rich patrons of these sophists (economists and intellectuals) happy and thereby ensures a steady stream of table scraps.
So how did I stumble across this pathway? Well.. it comes down to an extension of one of my observations about human beings. We are often told by “intellectuals” that human beings do things because they are naturally competitive. But how many people would jump through all the hoops and cripple themselves in ways that are considered “normal” in developed societies if they were really doing it for themselves?
What kind of moron would slave away for a house in the suburbs where he would be subject to the simultaneous tyranny of his aging hateful wife and municipal zoning guidelines? What kind of idiot slaves away to live his life surrounded by superficial and scheming people at work (colleagues) and home (neighbors)? What idiot would slave away in occupations that involved high stress or high levels of insecurity? What moron would enter vocations with decade long education and internship requirements but not much in terms of job security?
It is clear that the mindset, worldview and behaviors of the average blue- or white-collar person in all developed countries are blatantly irrational. So why do they persist, or more accurately- why was that behavior so prevalent in the past?
In one of my previous posts, I had put forth the idea that civilization as we know it is a ponzi scheme. I chose that particular term since it best describes the overall structure, mode of functioning and life-cycle of civilization. But it also describes how they grow and become bigger. Civilizations, like ponzi schemes, require a continuous influx of new naive members to scam, exploit, enslave and sacrifice. But why? Well for one you have to pay off the higher ranking (but non-apex) members in the scheme. But there is another reason especially relevant to the fate of capitalism in developed countries with low rates of fertility.
A significant minority of people who cannot move up the pyramid will eventually understand the true nature of the system, even if that realization occurs at a subconscious level.
Civilization always results in a significant minority of its members becoming cynical, disloyal and self-serving once they wise up. There is therefore a constant and unrelenting need for more naive suckers to replace and possibly help eliminate those who have wised up. Finding such new suckers was very easy in the pre-contraception era when the average women has more than two kids who lived to adulthood. But barely or below replacement fertility makes that much harder and hence we had immigration for decades. But today even countries like Mexico and India, not to mention China, have fertility rates that are close to or below replacement.
But what does any of this have to do with an alternate pathway for the demise of capitalism?
The answer to that question lies in the high level of similarity between civilization and capitalism in one area – producing cynical burnouts with nothing left to lose. However capitalist societies are also far more efficient at producing such individuals as they burn the inter-personal goodwill and institutional loyalty of their lower ranking members at far higher rates and levels than their pre-capitalist counterparts. Furthermore, the continuous and ultimately counterproductive competitions that characterize such societies are unsustainable in the absence of high level of growth and some wealth redistribution. The high ambient instability of careers in such societies, even those which involve a lot of personal investment and sacrifice, do not make things any better.
Many societies with these features attempt to stabilize themselves through social welfare programs and regulations to improve career/lifestyle stability. While such measures can be partially effective in the short to medium term, they fail in the long-term for reasons linked to human greed and short-sightedness. Moreover they do not produce fewer cynical burnouts- only slightly less bitter ones. There is a reason why even countries as ordered, stable and affluent as Switzerland, Germany and Japan are not full of highly motivated and enthusiastic people.
Now some of you will say.. but what about the USA? isn’t it an exception to the pattern of capitalistic societies having a significant number of burnt out and cynical people? and isn’t the per woman fertility slightly above replacement or something like that? Well.. let us go through each point.
Firstly the USA is not an exception to the pattern of capitalistic societies having a significant number of burnt out and cynical people. It was just a late comer to that club for reasons I shall explain in a moment. As I have previously said, ponzi schemes can grow and appear stable as long as they can afford to pay off the higher ranking (but non-apex) members in the scheme. So things looked great as long as those born between 1930 and 1945 were getting excellent jobs and enjoying the fruits of rapid and fairly egalitarian post-WW2 expansion. They started dimming a bit when those born between 1945 to 1961 started their working lives but things still looked good and the overall system had enough inertia to keep the real party going into the 1990s. The fall of the USSR, opening of low wage countries like China and India, low interest rates on credit and the housing bubble helped the USA stretch it into the mid-2000s.
But the real cracks were visible as early as the mid-1980s. It was the beginning of an era where wages of average people stopped keeping pace with productivity or inflation. It was also the beginning of a breakdown in the implicit social contract that had existed in the USA since 1933. Lifetime job and stable careers slowly became a thing of the past, as did the formal and informal social welfare system. While this trend initially affected only the blue-collar workers, by the early-1990s even white-collar workers started feeling its effects. While the tech boom in the later half of 1990s and housing bubble in the first half of the 2000s masked the decline somewhat, it was obvious to many that something fundamental about the system had changed.
But which age group is most observant about such subtle but fundamental shifts? Is it the people who grew up before the 1980s and 1990s or those who were born and grew up in those decades? My point is that the mindset, worldview and behavior of those in their 20s and 30s today is a far better indicator of where things will go. So what do we see in that group?
Do we see tons of optimism in that age group? How many of them believe in a stable livelihood or the possibility of lifelong relationships? How many of them have kids, let alone one or two kids? How many will eventually have more than two kids? How many of them trust institutions? How many of them believe in a bright future filled with endless opportunities for growth? How many of them are crushed under student debt and working part-time jobs that don’t require degrees? How many want to move to faraway cities? and if not, why not? and most importantly- are things getting better or worse?
My point is that people in that age group have, throughout the developed world, become cynical burnouts. Even more importantly- the system has far less leverage over them than their parents generation.
Now there are many minor yet highly publicized reasons for this lack of leverage, from the growth of the internet, game consoles and smartphones etc. But the two major reasons are seldom mentioned so let me do that for you. First.. you cannot threaten what does not obviously exist (their children) or things whose existence is a matter of blind faith (secure livelihoods, meaningful relationships). The threat of sudden job loss, intermittent poverty and a generally uncaring and cruel society cannot extract enthusiastic compliance from somebody who sees that as inevitable even if they play by the rules. You cannot threaten a long-term homeless guy with lifelong poverty, especially if he knows that his compliance does not guarantee you will honor your end of the deal.
Secondly- social pressures don’t mean a lot in societies where almost every relationship is superficial, adversarial or mercenary in nature. This is especially so in an era where less fucked-up alternatives are readily available. People are no longer restricted to interacting with those in their immediate physical vicinity and now often prefer those who are not. Who wants to hang around people they don’t trust, despise or don’t care about.
But what this have to with capitalism, especially its american incarnation? Let me put it this way.. capitalism requires the majority to work hard and sacrifice for the enrichment of a small minority. However getting the majority to keep on playing this rigged game requires a decent chance of mediocre rewards (real or imagined), skin in the game (future of their children, family, friends) and social reinforcement. Without them- even the best lies, propaganda and marketing become useless rather quickly.
In the past capitalism could get around such problems by tapping into the then almost limitless supply of naive young suckers and desperate wannabe-american immigrants. However we no longer have a surplus of naive suckers or desperate immigrants who want to be american- and that is not going to change anytime in the near future.
What do you think? Comments?
More than a few of my previous posts have centered on, or around, an odd but rarely asked, question.
“What is the point of accumulating money beyond the ability to spend it?”
Now, stupid sophists defending the status quo might say that its is impossible to determine what is enough. Curiously these sophists are seldom well off, let alone truly rich, making their defense of the status quo a bit odd. Perhaps they believe that their incessant barking on behalf of the rich might get them get a few more table crumbs or leftovers. But who knows..
Anyway, back to the question at hand. I have previously written that the reasons for accumulating money beyond the point of usability cannot be rational. But what if they are still logical. Confused? Let me explain. An action can be simultaneously logical and irrational, because logic is a mechanistic process in which the inputs don’t have to be factual or real.
For example, burning women accused of having sex with the devil requires that particular entity to exist in the first place and is therefore irrational. However it can be perfectly logical if you were one of those perpetually fearful and greedy semi-retards who believed in the existence of the devil, especially one interested in having sex with human females.
Coming back to our era, a closer look at much of what we think is ‘normal’ and ‘right’ just does hold up to rational scrutiny. Many of my previous posts are about the sheer irrationality underlying a wide variety of systems- from the basic structure of “civilized” society, the bizarre illusion of money, the worthlessness of supposedly important inter-personal relationships to the futility of loyalty to institutions that demand it. To put it another way- most conventional expectations, norms, rules and behaviors are not rational. But what if they are still logical? and more importantly- what does that say about the real nature of the human mind?
One of the main feature of conventional models for the human mind, be they religious, secular or “scientific”, is the assumption that human beings are intrinsically good, rational, caring or at least capable of all those things. Even religious models that portray human as sinful and fallen, or whatever their secular equivalent are, allow for the possibility of being saved, lifted or “enlightened”.
But what if that is not the case? Could it be the vast majority of humans, including the supposedly smart ones, are fundamentally incapable of being rational.
This question is best answered by looking at the entirety of available evidence (aka historical evidence from multiple sources) factoring in the inevitable underlying contexts and biases. Throughout most of the last 5,000 odd years (aka the age of civilization) the general standard of human living was very low and even the very rich were an infection, poisoning or puncture wound away from death. To make things easy and clear, let us temporarily ignore the actions and behavior of insecure and desperate people under constant stress or duress.
We will therefore, for the time being, willingly ignore most of human history- even though it strongly suggests humans are highly irrational.
Let us focus on societies where a combination of resources and technology make it possible to deliver a very high quality of life to all their members. In case you are wondering, I am talking about the situation in developed countries after WW2- especially after the early 1960s. Studying such societies allows us to eliminate the role of scarcity on human behavior or the ability to reason.
Does the functioning of these societies suggest that humans are capable of rational behavior when not under any real resource constraints?
The answer to this question is complicated. From the end of WW2 to the late 1970s, the socioeconomic changes in these countries suggested that human beings might be capable of rationality- at least under certain conditions. Those times were characterized by very significant technological progress and considerable improvement in the living standards of the median person in those societies. This era was also characterized by fairly low income inequality and a realistic chance to improve ones position in society. It was as if after millennia of screwing around without anything to show for it, human societies had finally found the ability and institutional structures to provide a safe, stable and reasonably good existence for almost all of its members.
But there have been many changes since the late-1970s and almost all of them have taken those developed societies increasingly further away their early post-WW2 vision. But why? It is very clear that we do not lack the technology, resources, productivity or ability to extend the general socioeconomic improvements that occurred within the first three decades after WW2. But every single developed society has abandoned the path of improving the lives of its median, let alone its poorer, members.
How can we account for the rise of neo-liberalistive/neo-conservative (neo-feudal) ideologies throughout developed countries since the early 1980s?
There are those who see this is the result of clever propaganda, institutional capture or mass media-driven brainwashing. While this line of thought might sound appealing to those who see average humans as fundamentally good and therefore gullible victims, there are reasons to believe that it is not the case. You might have noticed that a lot of the ideas recycled by neo-conservatives or neo-liberals, from “personal responsibility” to “work ethic”, are actually old lies and fairy tales.
So what makes people want to believe in obvious lies such as “work ethic”, “meritocracy”, “invisible hand of market”, “creative destruction” and “personal discipline” while discarding other equally old and popular lies about the role of divine entities in human affairs.
Are people really that stupid, unobservant and innumerate? Then there is the troubling question of why the middle class is so eager to believe in the lies, scams and bait-and switches which trick, hurt and abuse them the most. Surely, they are not that retarded or unobservant. I also don’t believe that this behavior is due to learned helplessness. A rational person who understood his lack of control over events would not strive for the benefit of those who were abusing him.
Could it be that most people believe in or play along with norms, rules and paradigms that are against their rational interests because it provides surreptitious satisfaction of much deeper urges in their minds?
In a couple of my previous posts (Link 1 and Link 2) I had suggested that hoarding money beyond ones ability to spend it was irrational as it offered no real objective benefits to the hoarder. But what if hoarding money was about depriving others of resources, security and happiness rather than improving your own existence. Furthermore, what if the behavior of the rich is merely an exaggeration of how most humans relate to each other.
Have you considered the possibility that the primary intention behind almost all “normal” human interpersonal interaction is to somehow con, swindle, abuse, hurt, maim or kill the other party?
In upcoming parts of this series, of which there will be many, I shall demonstrate how my model of the human mind is a far better fit for available evidence on human behavior in a variety of situations.
What do you think? Comments?
Most regular readers of this blog are aware that I have an extremely low opinion of human beings in general. But don’t mistake my general disdain of humans as misanthropy, because it is not.
Misanthropy is the end result of an unbridgeable gap between an initially positive image of humanity and the pathetic reality.
I never had a positive image of humanity. At best, I was hopeful about finding a few more people who were not completely consumed by greed, pettiness, stupidity and useless malice. This is also why I have never fallen for many of the scams that occupy the minds of most people, especially the so-called “smart” ones.
I was also always aware that my views about humans were very different from almost every single person I knew in “real” life.
You might think that my mindset has a lot to do with a generally “negative” view on life in general. This is especially likely if you grew up in a culture that celebrated mindless “positivity” and conformity masquerading as individualism. Some of you might even claim that my worldview has to do with my lack of “achievements”. Let us talk about that for a minute.
I have had more (paid) sex with more sexually attractive women than almost of you will ever have, unless you take the paid sex route.
And though not in the thousand-plus league, I crossed the hundred mark many years ago. And yes, almost all the sex I have had in the last 10 years has been of the pay-by-the-hour variety. But why did I take this route in the first place? Why don’t I spend all my free time ‘gaming’ women? As I have said before, I have nothing against the basic concepts of ‘game’ and it is good to possess a spine and self-respect. It comes down to the logical consequences of my views on other people and humanity in general.
I live to make myself happy and lack any significant interest in impressing other people.
But why live for yourself and ignore or barely acknowledge other people in “real” life? Wouldn’t that have a severely negative effect on the quality of life? What about having long-term relationships, friends, acquaintances and a supposedly rich social life? Wouldn’t living for yourself be kinda dangerous, sad and pathetic? OK.. here is my counter question.
Have you objectively analyzed the quality of life of those who live to impress other people?
Engaging with other people beyond the bare minimum or accepting hardships to gain their supposed admiration or respect would be worthwhile IF there was a proportional payoff down the line. But does it work like that in contemporary societies? Do the vast majority of those who play by the rules, try to impress others or sacrifice for others get anything worthwhile for their investments?
What about those who enter outwardly lucrative careers such as medicine or law? While they are materially better off than many others, it is very clear that most are not quite happy with their lives. Those who entered careers such as medicine, law or academia had to spend many years, probably the best ones, slaving away towards obtaining papers which allowed them to enter rent-seeking professions.
The worst part of their Faustian bargain is that almost all sexually attractive women would rather have sex with a drug addict in some minor cover band than a doctor, lawyer or academic.
The same is true for those supposedly honest CONservative, and suspiciously white, blue-collar workers. Not only are they seen as totally disposable widgets by the capitalist they worship but the women they cherish would rather have sex with a local small-time drug dealer than a supposedly honest, family-minded man aka a drone. Here is another question.. would a woman like to have a sex with a stupid mercenary (the guy who joins the armed forces) or the sly asshole who dodges authority. I have always found it odd that veterans can’t figure out that they are just washed up and damaged mercenaries who have no power to enforce the contracts made by their employers (armed forces) who in turn are a front for bunch of ultra-rich sociopaths.
I have a strong suspicion that the majority of women understand, at some level, that most of the guys they are supposed to be happy with are actually nothing more than credulous and easily manipulated morons.
Most people (especially men) are stupid suckers who get conned, fleeced and exploited and yet they will never accept they were conned in the first place. They will just vent their cognitive dissonances online and call it the ‘manosphere’. Now some of you might say.. “But what is so bad about such people. Aren’t they otherwise decent human beings who got scammed?”
Let me answer that in two parts.
1] Idiots, drones, assholes and other assorted human scum are problematic even if they are the ones left holding the empty or shit-filled bag. Their very existence allows more specialized sociopaths to flourish and inflict misery on others.
2] Most people (especially men) are solipsistic, stupid, short-sighted and selfish. They would gladly sell you out for a 20 $ bill or less. It is very unlikely that they will they ever help, or be able to help, if you required any real assistance. To put it another way, most people are reliably useless and borderline sociopaths.
Therefore there is no reason to ingratiate yourself to them, try to impress them or care about them in any way beyond the minimum necessary to keep them out of your way.
Why invest your time and effort into endeavors that don’t pay? Why play along with people who want to see you fail and suffer anyway? Why work for assholes who will get rich of your well-intentioned sacrifices? Working together and caring about each other meant something when humans lived in much smaller groups where all those things mattered and were rewarded. We don’t live like that anymore. Screw the opinions, tastes and egos of all the transient and useless people who pretend to be something they are not. Talk and promises, both explicit and implicit, are just worthless simulacra of what they used to be. Don’t get fooled by outwardly friendly and anodyne behavior that is based in deception, greed and ritual rather than anything real.
In my opinion, the most rational way to make important decisions is to constantly ask yourself- “Will this course of action increase my chances of getting what I really want, irrespective of the opinions of all those other useless people around me?”
What do you think? Comments?
As many of you know by now, I detest anything that is justified by words such as laws, rules, civilization, culture, religion or ideology. All of those respectable-sounding words are simply different versions of the same basic scam – abusing, exploiting and impoverishing people under the name of diffuse and seemingly trans-human authority.
The ephemeral nature of these supposedly trans-human concepts is especially obvious when you study the aftermath of systemic failure in older civilizations and nations.
How many of people still worship the supposedly all-powerful gods of various older civilizations that went extinct or were destroyed? What about their supposedly perfect and divinely ordained system of governance of failed civilizations and nations? What about the inherent ‘correctness’ of their belief systems, customs, rules and lifestyles? A skeptical reading of history shows us that all subjective mental models of the universe are adult versions of fairy tales. All contemporary and historical civilizations or nations (that we know of) are, and have always been, pathetic ponzi schemes.
But how is this connected to my contention that the concept of vacations helps perpetuate voluntary slavery in contemporary societies?
Before I go any further let me say this; I am not anti-vacation or pro-work by any non-sophistic definition of those terms. Doing something you don’t care about, or hate, to justify a deceptive social system paying you barely enough to live is slavery in all but name. It is especially reprehensible for this to continue in an age where increases in non-human productivity make it possible to provide universally high standards of living without everybody working hard or in many cases, at all.
Almost all modern jobs, occupations and vocations are therefore nothing more than sophistic names for voluntary slavery. They do not serve any purpose or have utility beyond making a small percentage of equally pathetic and rapidly decaying human beings feel in control.
It is about paying people to torture themselves doing largely useless stuff they don’t care about.
But what do dystopic systems based on paying people to torture themselves have to do with vacation time. Well.. it has to do with the nature of torture. See, if you torture people continuously they might stop caring or just die. That means you have to find a whole new set of people to torture. Finding new subjects for torture was easy in the old days when almost every woman has 7-10 live births. However the rapid advances in medical sciences within the last 100 years coupled with the widespread availability of contraception had caused a severe and irreversible reduction in the number of naive newcomers who could be tortured through work.
Therefore it became necessary to create concepts like vacations to allow the tortured voluntary slaves to partially recover and retain some hope for their future.
It is no coincidence that countries with multi-generational low-fertility tend to have more vacation time that relatively primitive ones such as the USA. The substantially longer duration of vacations in west-european countries is therefore not about any real moral superiority than their inability to find enough naive newbies to torture through work. It is worth noting that the USA has entered that zone (low fertility + vastly reduced total immigration) within the last five years.
What do you think? Comments?
In the past few years, media has spent a lot of time focusing on a small but rapidly growing number of parents refusing to follow the ‘expert’-approved vaccination schedules for their children. Even many self-proclaimed normal people (stupid morons) like to demonstrate their “normality” by condemning parents who do so without trying to understand what is the major driving force behind this newish phenomena.
But why is the modern anti-vaccer movement a newish phenomena? Haven’t there been anti-vaccers since the original smallpox vaccine was introduced in the 1800s?
And this brings me to my first point. While there have been ‘anti-vaccers’ as long as there have been vaccines, the traditional ones opposed vaccinations for reasons that are quite different from most of those who do so today. The traditional anti-vaccers saw vaccines as un-religious, un-traditional, immoral or somehow opposed to their mental model of the universe. While people like that are still around, the majority of anti-vaccers today are driven by a very different set of concerns about vaccinations.
These concerns are based on a very realistic assessment of the intentions of those who promote an ever-expanding vaccination schedule than pleasing an imaginary skydude.
The real conflict is not about the science behind vaccination. Sure, you will always come across a few especially loud and fervent believers in invisible sky-dudes. But the majority of anti-vaccers today are not scientifically illiterate or any more delusional than the ‘experts’ who oppose them.
The conflict is about which vaccines are suitable for general use based on a realistic evaluation of the risk-benefit ratio of that particular vaccine.
Let me explain that point with a few examples. How many of you have been vaccinated against botulism (all subtypes), anthrax, epidemic typhus or yellow fever? Effective human vaccines against these diseases have been around since at least the mid-1940s. So why don’t we vaccinate everybody against these diseases along with diptheria, tetanus, whooping-cough, chickenpox etc? Or what about rabies? We have multiple extremely effective human vaccines against that disease, yet they are used almost exclusively as post-exposure prophylaxis. People who work with lots of wild or domesticated animals such as veterinarians or people who hang around bats are among the few who take it pre-exposure. Or what about smallpox? Why did we stop mass vaccination against smallpox once the disease was eradicated?
It is about the benefit-risk ratio of a given vaccine versus the probability of encountering that pathogen in the real world.
For example, the bacteria that cause tetanus or diptheria are found in soil and can survive without human hosts. We simply cannot eradicate them. In the absence of vaccination they can cause life-threatening and often fatal disease at a level serious enough to prominently show up on the mortality statistics. The same is true about whooping-cough, though it is more about the morbidity than the mortality. Even less problematic diseases without an inanimate reservoir (chicken pox, measles, mumps, rubella) can be problematic because of their hyper-infectiousness and ability to travel across the world inside their human hosts.
But what about pathogens (Neisseria meningitidis, Haemophilus influenzae type B) that are uncommon? what about pathogens that are not endemic (Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B) to entire countries? Should we vaccinate everybody against these diseases or just restrict ourselves to epidemiologically defined high-risk groups? It certainly makes a lot of sense to vaccinate teenagers attending university or joining the army with the meningococcal vaccine. Similarly vaccination against HepA and Hep B make a lot of sense if you are going to visit a country with low levels of sanitation. But why everybody?
Then there is the issue of partially effective vaccines such as those against especially pathogenic stains of Streptococcus pneumoniae, HPV and rotavirus. While few doubt that vaccines against the worst rotaviral strains reduce the risk of severe diarrheal illness in children, they are often pushed by the medical profession to be far more effective than they really are. The same is true of vaccines against HPV. While the vaccine will certainly reduce the incidence of cervical cancer it won’t have much effect on the less problematic stains of HPV that also cause genital warts. However it is frequently pushed as an anti-genital warts vaccine rather than as one to reduce the risk of cervical cancer.
Let us also talk about vaccines that work as designed, but not as well as intended. Vaccines against Influenza A are the best example of this peculiar and problematic class. While they do indeed elicit a good immunologic response against the strains utilized in their creation, the antigenic drifts characteristic of influenza epidemics make many of them partially or totally ineffective by the time the epidemic reaches the vaccinated individuals. Sure, you can get some cross-protection if the strain infecting you is similar to the one you were vaccinated against- but that is about it. Yet each year, we spend tons of money and resources on vaccinating people against influenza. It certainly does not help that a lot of people vaccinated against influenza go on to later fall ill from strains they were not vaccinated against.
The problem with the public image of vaccination has little to do with the science behind it. Instead the problem lie in human follies such as trying to make the maximum amount of money by pushing vaccines for uncommon diseases and promising stuff that is based in marketing rather than hardcore science.
It certainly does not help that the healthcare education system is some countries, such as the USA, selects for people who make decisions based in monetary and legal considerations to the exclusion of patient welfare. It is a game of who can extract the most money while still looking good and legal, irrespective of whether they are helping the patient or not. While not all physicians are like that, the ones who end up on committees and expert panels are frequently the worst suited to be on them. The defensiveness and misplaced elitism of physicians also does not help the cause of promoting evidenced based medicine, including vaccination.
In conclusion, the modern anti-vaccination movement is a reaction to the almost exclusively profit driven and legalism ridden medical systems seen in countries such as the USA.
What do you think? Comments?
Continuing onward from the previous part of this series, let me describe the long process via which I reached the conclusion that human vectors are far more problematic than pathogenic humans. Part of this journey has been described in one of my older articles, Nazis as Corporate Drones, in which I proposed that the mindset of loyal Nazis was remarkably similar to the ideal american corporate drone. But why? Why do some people make loyal Nazis or good corporate drones, while many others just don’t fit in such institutions or care about their assigned tasks. A glimpse into what makes loyal Nazis and corporate drones can be found later on in the same article and I quote..
It does not take a genius to figure out that moderately ambitious personalities with little ability for independent thought, but just enough brain-power to carry the task they have been assigned, will flourish in such institutions.
It is however clear that being an average, mediocre and conformist simpleton is only part of what makes a loyal Nazi or corporate drone. If that was not so, almost any guy on the street could be molded into a mindless loyal Nazi or corporate drone. But that is not the case and history shows that most people make incompetent Nazis or corporate drones. That is not to say they are stupid. Indeed, those who do it inefficiently understand the nature of the job much better than those who do it efficiently.
So what are the extra conditions, predispositions and circumstances necessary to create loyal Nazis or corporate drones?
Interviews of those who committed genocide in the name of the Third Reich are a good place to start. I have read many transcripts and seen many interviews of such people and here are some of my observations. The vast majority of those who participated in such activities appear very normal, even ‘extra-normal’, on multiple levels. Almost all of them had families, wives, children and dogs. You can see photographs of them enjoying picnics, fishing, beach holidays, family functions during the same time they were killing thousands of unarmed people in their day jobs. They do not appear to have any conventional mental illness nor do they display any real remorse, guilt or conscience for what they were doing. They seemed to more concerned about their promotions, living quarters and family lives.
Now some of you might say that they were just trying to make the best of what was at hand. Maybe they were trying to protect their minds from the realities of what they were doing. I could buy that argument but for one very glaring problem- they were very enthusiastic, motivated and diligent at performing their ‘daytime’ jobs. Many had great pride at their efficiency at doing what they did. That is most unlike a person forced to kill someone else to stay alive. And one more thing- the behavior, attitudes, mindset and worldview of the average loyal Nazi was very reminiscent of the average faithful Mormon, something we will revisit later on in this series.
It is especially fascinating to see that the moderate intelligence, blind obedience to large institutions, child-like faith in authority, clean-cut lifestyle, strong family ties and extreme conformism was especially prevalent in loyal Nazis as it is in american corporate drones and faithful mormons. But was that just a simple coincidence or does it point to something else? What about other genocides during the 20th century? Were the perpetrators mentally similar to the loyal Nazis or corporate drones?
To answer that question, let us look at the other great genocide of the 1930s-1940s aka Japanese rule in China. While the Japanese killed more Chinese than the Nazis killed Jews, it is not as well documented as the later one. To complicate matters further, most Japanese still do not accept that what they did was wrong and veterans of that era are very reluctant to talk about their actions. However even a basic understanding of Japanese history and society would suggest that Japanese are not especially violent in Japan. Indeed, it is and has been a remarkably safe place as long as stable governance exists. So what accounts for the most peculiar Japanese behavior in China during the 1930s-1940s?
Here is my theory.. the average Japanese had all the features of a loyal Nazi. Everything from the moderate intelligence, blind obedience to large institutions, child-like faith in authority, clean-cut lifestyle, strong family ties and extreme conformism was even more prevalent in Japanese society than WW2-era German society. Curiously, they also make excellent corporate drones. Coincidence? I think not! The same is also true for the loyal british bureaucrats and soldiers who slaved away and committed various genocides for the empire. They were all cut from the same metaphoric cloth.
In the next part I shall explore how all of this fits into the world of today.
What do you think? Comments?
The transmission of infectious diseases from one host to another can occur in a number of ways. Some involve direct physical contact between the two hosts or their bodily secretions and excretions, others involve an inanimate intermediary such as water, food or soil. A small but significant number of pathogens utilize a temporary host, often of a different species from their main host, to jump from one host to the other.
Temporary or secondary hosts that facilitate the transmission of a pathogen are known as vectors.
Most of you are aware that certain genera of mosquitoes transmit malaria and a number of other viruses and parasites. Fleas transmit diseases such as plague and epidemic typhus. Houseflies facilitate the spread of many pathogens that causes gastrointestinal illnesses and ticks transmit the bacterial species that cause lyme disease among many others. I could go on, but this post is about the dynamics of human societies, not medical microbiology.
In the past, I have often compared the true elite (the 0.1 or 0.01%) to mindless pathogens whose purpose for existence seems to center around stealing from and damaging their hosts, regardless of the long-term consequences. But how do they do that, given their rather small numbers both in absolute terms and as a percentage of the total population? Did any genocidal tyrant ever personally kill even a tiny fraction of the people who died under their rule? How many Jews did Hitler kill with his own hands? what about Stalin? How many people did Stalin kill with his own hands? How many Indians did Churchill personally kill? In all of the above cases, and every other instance of genocide, those who gave the orders were almost never involved in carrying them out.
The same is true for leaders who order their nations into war, CEOs who fire thousands of people, bankers who steal trillions from millions.
The success of such ‘endeavors’ depended around their ability to commandeer the temporary loyalty of a minority of the population who carry out their orders and wishes. Without these people, or should we say.. vectors, the malicious wishes and desires of the elite would be little more than pipe-dreams. They would have no ability to influence anything beyond their immediate environment and even then they would probably be quickly killed off by the first few people they tried to harm or steal from.
The elite in every social system are therefore completely dependent upon the continued existence of a much larger number, though still a minority, of vectors to carry out their malicious designs. I should also point out that exterminating one group of elites often results in another bunch filling their spots and continuing the malicious behavior, if in a somewhat different direction.
Exterminating vectors and their progeny is the only foolproof way of destroying elites.
But who are these vectors in human societies? How can you identify them? How did they arise in the first place? What motivates them? What is going on inside their little heads? What is their survival strategy? How do you break them? How do you destroy them? How do you prevent their reemergence?
Vectors in human society can be identified by the nature of their jobs, their level of enthusiasm for their vocations and the underlying motivation for doing whatever they do. Vectors work in jobs, occupations and vocations that directly (or indirectly) serve the elites, implement their dystopic visions, enforce their ideas and collect rent for them. Vectors are also distinguishable from other non-elites by an unusually high degree of enthusiasm towards their often openly dystopic and inhumane vocations. Many of them are true believers in the inherent goodness of whatever they do and believe that the elites really embody virtues. Almost every single vector sees himself (or herself) as morally superior to the people they are robbing, abusing and killing.
One of the most peculiar and distinguishing feature of vectors is their high levels of devotion to their own family and children. All vectors are great “family” men and women. They invest a lot of themselves in the upbringing of their progeny. As you will see later on, this presents a particularly interesting and exploitable vulnerability.
In the next part of this series, I shall list the most commonly encountered vector subtypes, what they do, why they do it and what motivates them.
What do you think? Comments?
Let me begin by clarifying that this is not a hit piece against asians or their “cultures”. A lot of the issues I will talk about in this post are almost as prevalent in other “cultures” and pretty much all other large human organisations. So let us define what “cultures” are and are not.
Cultures are large and impersonal human organisations that survive by offering illusory membership benefits to the majority of its members in return for unquestioning obedience, conformity and sacrifice by those very same members.
The defining feature of every cult, religion, nation and culture throughout human history is that they are all scams to enslave, exploit and abuse the majority for the benefit of a very small minority and their flunkies. They have no interest in delivering on any of the promises they routinely make to the majority of their members and will actively resist attempts by others to do so. With that in mind, let me talk about the old observation that made me write this post. Years ago, I observed that many otherwise divergent asian cultures had a peculiar set of common behaviors and attitudes centered around happiness.
Asian cultures are almost fanatically devoted to promoting and enforcing anti-happiness.
Whether it is the exam and hierarchy dominated culture of China, the ‘everyone is watching you’ culture of Japan or the excessive family sacrifice dominated culture of India.. there is an almost deliberate effort to destroy the happiness of most individuals in each system. But to what end? Who benefits from all this hard work, status jockeying, enforced conformity and sacrifice? Has the average (or median) Chinese ever benefited from any of that hard work, rote memorizing and bowing to authority? What about the average Japanese? What about the average Indian?
Some of you might say that the economic growth and development experienced by Asian countries within the last 60-70 years is proof that the ‘asian way’ of anti-happiness produces good results. My counter question is: OK, so why did it not work for the previous few thousand years? Why did it take the industrial revolution, imported from outside, for asian countries to finally lift the living standards of their median members? And why didn’t the scientific and industrial revolutions start in countries that supposedly respected and rewarded learning and intelligence? Then there is also the question of why Asian countries resisted the scientific and industrial revolution for so long.
Even today educated Japanese people believe that the bloodlines of people descended from survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are tainted. Educated south Koreans obsess about blood groups and their Indian counterparts still take astrology a bit too seriously. Note that I am not claiming that people in western countries are any better when it comes to believing in bullshit. But should you not expect more from educated Asians, especially since they are typically more science literate. But what does any of this have to do with enforcing anti-happiness?
I recently wrote a post about how pleasing others progressively lost its value. In that post, I wrote about how the relationship between an individual and the larger group is fundamentally adversarial. Only external constraints and limitations can prevent either party for abusing the other to the point of non-viability. That is why small and personal groups can survive for tens of thousands of years while highly centralized and functional “nations” can unravel after the death of just one charismatic despot.
But what about malfunctional social systems? How long can they survive if they keep on exploiting, abusing and stealing from the majority of its members to benefit a small minority. The answer is dependent on the availability of new surplus suckers. Only the continuous creation, indoctrination and exploitation of more naive younger members can prop up dysfunctional social systems such as civilizations. Which brings us to the next logical question.. what is the exact role of parents and other older members of these systems in exploiting their own children.
In one of my previous posts, once again, I had speculated that the relationship between asian parents and their kids is most similar to that between an employer and his employees. But how is that different from a less dysfunctional parent-child relationship? What makes the ‘asian type’ parent-child relationship different from that in.. say hunter-gatherers? The answer lies in the balance of give and take for both parties. In more “primitive” societies parental investment is based in expectations of reciprocity rather than calculations of net economic gains from each offspring. To be clear, I am not implying that people in ‘primitive’ societies are intrinsically better. They just cannot get away with that shit..
So how does you maximize the net economic gain from each offspring? The answer is as simple as it is unpleasant. Happy and self-confident people do not make good slaves or indentured workers. The best workers are perpetually unhappy, insecure, fearful, paranoid and willing to hurt themselves for approval from their abusers.
The best way to create compliant workers to keep the ponzi scheme going is to constantly belittle your kids, compare them to others, guilt them into slaving for your benefit and interfere in their normal sexual development. It also helps to create mini-systems of worthless honorifics, enforcing proper slave behavior, participating in complicated but meaningless rituals and seeing patterns and omens in everything from numbers to cloud patterns.
What do you think? Comments?
More than a few of my previous posts have explored the idea that “real life” relationships and friendships have now become useless or net negatives. I should also add that relationships at work, where an increasing number of people hang out to escape from their family and friends, are even more dysfunctional. This lack of functional and trustworthy relationships in all spheres of life is probably the major reason why people in ALL developed countries are clockwork oranges, though it is more plainly obvious in some countries (USA, Canada) than others (Germany, Japan).
But this post is not about how bad things are right now or will become in the near future. Instead, it will focus on how the current state of affairs became the norm.
Most popular theories of alienation revolve around the primary and secondary effects of money, capitalism, industrialization, post-industrialization or scientific progress on human society. In my opinion, the real cause of alienation runs much deeper than socio-economic developments in the last two centuries. Having said that, many aspects of ‘modern civilization’ have certainly made things worse. But what is this underlying problem I keep referring to? Why is it so hard, and perhaps impossible, to fix? And does it have any impact on what humans can evolve into or whether they have a future?
In it most basic form, the underlying problem is a fundamental contradiction that occurs in any group of self-aware biological individuals and can be summarized as-
Individual success in any group requires the individual to cheat, exploit, abuse and impoverish other members in that group. However the individual also simultaneously requires the trust, faith and active cooperation of those other members to survive and succeed. Conversely the group always benefits by exploiting its most vulnerable and naive members. However it also requires the trust, faith and active cooperation of those very same members to keep the gravy train rolling.
This fundamental contradiction is not a serious problem in primates and was largely a non-issue for humans as long as they lived in small bands of hunter-gatherers. In those settings, immediate feedback from the group and individuals prevented both from becoming especially abusive. Sure.. somebody could still become big chief, have more fancy headgear and a few more hoes. But there were real limits to what an individual could get away with in such groups. On the other side of this equation, the group itself could not neglect and abuse its most naive members as that was the quickest way to lose willing members.
The emergence of ‘civilization’ and therefore much larger groups disrupted the old pseudo-equilibrium by making it easier for the weaseliest individuals to insulate themselves from the consequences of their actions. This is not to say that all consequences for bad behavior disappeared and a significant minority of lords, rulers, kings and emperors did not die of natural causes. The lack of technology also limited long-term damage of such one-sided excesses and the high-fertility rates prevalent in those eras helped repair any serious damage to the system.
This new pseudo-equilibrium kept on playing itself, over and over again, for the next few thousand years. People kept on fighting largely useless wars, new prophets routinely offered alternate pathways to “salvation”, empires rose and fell, people kept on building palaces for evil and dead people, famine and epidemics killed large percentages of the population etc. But nothing really changed and the average person was as poor, miserable and insecure at the beginning of the classical civilization model (~ 3000 BC?) as towards its end (1800 AD?). To put it another way..
Most of recorded history is a glamorized account of jumping from one garbage pile into another.
But what does any of this have to do with why pleasing other people progressively lost its value? How does the course of ‘civilization’ reduce the value and utility of interpersonal relationships. And why does industrialization and its sequelae speed up that transition? To answer this question let us look at how living in increasingly larger societies transforms the nature, direction and utility of the ‘individual-group’ dynamic for the median person. But before we go there, let me ask you a related question.
Is human behavior mostly driven by what people truly believe in or what they can get away with?
If you look around with an objective mind, it is clear that most human behavior is driven by what people can get away with. The majority of people do not possess independent core beliefs strong enough to influence their actions. They just make up or copy the lies, delusions and justifications necessary to push on with their mindless agendas. Most people, including the so-called clever ‘high IQ”ones, are really no better than monkeys, dogs or viruses.
Which brings us to the real reason humans want to please other humans. It is about really about trying to ensure reciprocity. The core idea is that if you are nice to other people, a significant percentage of them might be nice to you or at least not become your adversaries. This strategy works very well in small to medium-sized communities where people know each other over long periods of time. But it also requires most important decisions to be made at the level of that community. Any serious break in the feedback cycle which allows weasels to slip away or non-local entities having a big say in important local decisions undermines the integrity of the system and that is why ‘civilization’ was the original cause of alienation.
But pre-industrial era civilizations were quite provincial. It was still pretty hard to pull of very large scams and escape to another continent or shield yourself with lawyers and contracts. Moreover the basic family, extended family and community networks were reasonably strong if somewhat frayed. Those networks gradually changed over the course of the industrial revolution and society became increasingly atomized, impersonal and dependent on relatively autonomous institutions.
Now there is nothing fundamentally wrong with any of these changes at the theoretical level. Their real life implementation is however rather problematic and destabilizing. For one, they require you to make the assumption that almost all people are basically decent and thoughtful human beings. As I said at near the beginning of this post, external and systemic constraints are the most reliable check on the opportunistic and myopic tendencies of humans- both as individuals and groups. Removing those constraints allows the most greedy, deceptive and murderous individuals to succeed and shape the institutions of that particular society.The success of the worst also encourages imitators and fence-sitters to jump in the fray thereby speeding the race to the bottom. Note that all of this occurs without any of traditional safety nets and feedback loops that characterized previous eras. This is the stage where a society tries to compensate for the loss in social cohesion by passing an every increasing number of laws, rules and regulations. It also tries to create new communal identities centered around flags, movies and sport teams.
In the end, almost nobody can trust anyone else. Even parents and children see each other as adversaries to be conned, exploited and scammed for the most trivial of gains. People start assigning precise monetary values to every basic human interaction and need. Almost everybody is willing to back stab their friends for the equivalent of a 20$ bill. Yet almost every member of such unstable and fragile societies try very hard to appear polite, decent and honest. They are almost obsessed with portraying themselves as civic-minded, law-abiding and thoughtful. It ultimately degenerates into a competition where people try to make and model the most ‘realistic’ mask of normality to cover the ugly reality beneath the mask.
You can either join in this mask making competition or you can admit the unpleasant reality to yourself. The first choice is easy because it is socially acceptable. The second requires you to be fairly misanthropic. Then again, what is the point of pleasing systemically dishonest people who do not care, or have any stake, in your well-being?
What do you think? Comments?
Many of you are probably aware that pictures and videos of small or otherwise cute animals are among the most frequently viewed and shared categories of media on the internet. Some have linked this phenomena to recent technological developments, namely the ease of sharing them on the internet. Others see it as a symptom of formerly hard-working and obedient slaves slacking off and amusing themselves. Yet others see it as people longing for child surrogates in societies with low fertility. I, however, have a very different theory.
High levels of interest in the welfare, company and humane treatment of animals are just one manifestation of a predominantly subconscious understanding that loyalty to members of your own species is now almost universally counterproductive.
Did you catch the most heretical part of what I just said? Let me repeat it, once again- “subconscious understanding that loyalty to members of your own species is now almost universally counterproductive”. Yes, I am implying that interest in the welfare, company and humane treatment of animals is less about altruism than recognition that almost all members of your own species (including those you relate to) are adversaries. Still confused, let me explain..
Most educated morons try to model the dynamics of human societies based on what we sorta know about bee colonies, wolf packs or troops of monkeys and apes. While small human groups in the past had some resemblance to troops of monkeys and apes, we have gone way past that stage. Human societies, especially those found in countries with at least a basic level of industrialization and technology, are unlike anything else in the entire animal kindom. The combination of self-awareness, relatively long life spans, widespread contraception, ubiquitous communication and transport technology has removed many of the constraints experienced by other animal species AND opened up possibilities without any precedent.
The flip side of this somewhat Faustian bargain is that it creates many new possibilities and opportunities for humans to screw other humans.
But why are these new possibilities and opportunities to screw each other over such a big issue for humans? Aren’t we smart enough to avoid the pitfalls of engaging in counterproductive archaic behavior patterns? Well.. not really. OK, here is a thought experiment. Imagine a world where chimpanzees evolved the intellectual ability to make decent metal spears, swords and knives. Do you think that these new abilities and tools would not have an effect on their societies? Would it not increase the chance of chimpanzee conflict and deaths rather than decrease it? The short answer is that such an evolutionary development is very likely to create chimpanzee societies which are even more centered around war, conflict and killing.
But why would that be so? Wouldn’t chimpanzees who evolved the mental ability to create metal weapons go on to evolve the ability to be more restrained? My answer is.. sure, some chimpanzees could certainly go on to evolve the mental ability to have a conscience or think in the long-term. But how could those smarter chimpanzees stop the ones who are just smart enough to make and use metal weapons but not smart enough to recognize the long-term consequences of their actions. It would take many generations and scores of horrifying wars before enough marginally clever chimpanzees got killed for the cleverer ones to prevail. As you know, it did take a few centuries of conflicts and wars culminating in WW1 and WW2 to convince most people in West-European countries that militarism was a bad idea.
The introduction of new ways to kill, enslave and screw other individuals will always cause a lot of damage before “things work themselves out”. However the process of “things working themselves out” can sometimes take longer than functional societies can keep on existing. Furthermore, a new development can always upset any forming or nascent equilibrium. But what does any of this have to do with viral pictures of cute animals, people spending tons of money on pets and the loss of loyalty to fellow humans?
The answer lies in how humans form, join and maintain functional groups or societies. A lot of human behavior, unlike that of other animals, is not instinctual or hard-wired. One of the advantages of having a large brain is that we can learn and modulate a lot of our instincts, and this has some peculiar consequences. Bees don’t think when they form or join colonies and wolf packs are formed and maintained through instinct and smells. Only the ‘higher’ apes and, perhaps, dolphins display the beginnings of individuals evaluating their willingness to give back to the group based on what they are getting out of it.
The sense of self and selfishness are thus two sides of the same coin.
As I have said many times before, functional human societies cannot exist or persist if most individuals in it believe that they are not getting a fair deal. Which brings us to the world we live in today and also what preceded it. For most of human history and prehistory almost every person belonged to some or the other small group that they could trust. Now, I am not claiming that things were perfect or everyone was happy with the arrangements. But pretty much every person could expect a core group of people to care for, help or stand behind him or her.
But is that still true? How many of you can trust your employers to not screw you over, for a very small gain I might add. How many of you can trust the government, or its various institutions, to treat you fairly most of the time? What about the many corporations you deal with every day? What about your parents? What about your friends? Your girlfriend, fuck-buddy, wife or whatever else? Your kids?
Every one of these institutions and individuals repeatedly make loud assertions that they are trustworthy, only to repeatedly demonstrate otherwise.
A lot of this untrustworthy behavior is the result of a rapidly changing matrix of possibilities. They pull that shit because they can get away with it, at least in the short-term and it is not going to get better. And here is the worst part- almost everybody is doing it to everyone else. Consequently a lot of people now prefer to limit human contact. Do you really think that TV or radio would have become so popular in the last century if society was not already pretty dysfunctional? Would people in functional societies spend so much of their free time using smartphones, social media or playing video games?
The high and increasing levels of interest in the welfare, company and humane treatment of animals in the last 30 odd years is therefore just a proxy of what we think about each other, including those who are supposed to be in our ‘in’ group. We have reached a point where the companionship value of another human being is so low or the associated risk so high that association with animals such as dogs, cats and pigs is more emotionally fulfilling and safer.
What do you think? Comments?
The latest development in the Edward Snowden saga is that three countries in south america have offered him political asylum. There is of course the question of how he will get there, but the very clever trick pulled by Russia and Bolivia earlier this week has made it very hard for the USA and other “western democracies” to stop him.
Some morons are already yammering about how the CIA might try to target him in South America, how “those” countries are shit-holes or wondering about what he will do for the next few decades. I have one quick answer to that.. Bradley Manning. The fate of Bradley Manning and other recent whistle-blowers who did not (or were not able to) escape the USA after leaking evidence of systematic wrongdoing is enough to convince any sane person that Snowden did the most rational thing. In any case, why should he care about the opinions of people who have no interest in actually helping him? Would you bother pleasing people who wanted to see you suffer?
Others have said something about how he has broken the “law”, how he should trust the american “legal” system or martyr himself like MLK. My suggestion is.. you go first. If you believe in the whole “nation of laws” and “fairness of legal systems” bullshit.. you are either retarded, brainwashed or just playing dumb. Furthermore, why should anyone martyr themselves for a bunch of retarded assholes? Has he not already sacrificed enough? What kind of moron will accept daily humiliations from the bully and yet question the methods of someone who is standing against the bully?
There is however an interesting, if little noticed, parallel of this story with events in a video game series – Half Life 2. The main protagonist in that game series and the prequel (Half-Life) is a physicist known as Dr. Gordon Freeman. As you can see below that character has more than a passing resemblance to Edward Snowden, something that has been previously noted on other blogs.
But the parallels between Snowden and Freeman run even deeper. The Freeman character just like Snowden did not start out as a person out to bring down the system. Infact the first few minutes of ‘Half Life’ shows him to be an otherwise unremarkable scientist at a secret government facility. He becomes what he ends up becoming the main character largely because of a combination of circumstances and events beyond his control, or G-man puts it at the beginning of ‘Half Life 2′- “the right man in the wrong place can make all the difference in the world.”
I find it fascinating that the society in ‘Half Life 2′ has more than a few parallels with the USA today, or more precisely where it is heading. It is a society where a few alien overlords and their immediate human collaborators (the ‘Combine’) enjoy unimaginable luxury and power. It is also a society where the rest of the population live on daily food doles in dilapidated buildings and constant surveillance. The only real jobs are in the police and security apparatus who have monthly quotas for beating, torture, harassment, SWAT-style raids and all the other spectacle accompanying such a system. Did I mention ubiquitous propaganda, surveillance drones and killer drones. In this dystopic society ‘well-behaved’ subjects are known as ‘citizens’ and those who rebel and join the underground are considered to be ‘anti-citizens’.
Anticitizen is a term used by the Combine to designate a person as a threat to their control. The Combine use the term ‘anti citizen’ because the behavior of Anticitizens is the opposite of that of citizens (or at least, the Combine’s definition of a citizen as a person under their rule who does not resist them). Each Anticitizen is given a number representing how dangerous they are to the Combine, and ranked in descending order.
As the story progresses in ‘Half Life 2′ Gordon Freeman ends up becoming “Anticitizen One” or the living being who poses the most danger to the Combine. But what danger does a physicist running around in high-tech hazard suit with a crowbar and a few other weapons pose to the Combine? What damage could he possibly do? His only allies in the beginning are a bunch of people in the underground, a few friendly aliens and the mysterious G-man. In contrast the Combine has all the military resources and equipment that you could want.
The answer to that question becomes clearer you play ‘Half Life 2′. To make a long story short, he becomes a symbol of the non-omnipotence of the Combine. The very fact that he manages to stay alive, out of the Combine’s clutches and keeps on damaging the system in increasingly public ways makes it increasingly harder for the Combine to keep the subdued rabble under control. His continued existence makes it increasingly harder for the Combine to make their ‘subjects’ keep on being good compliant slaves.. I mean ‘citizens’. The ‘subjects’ already know that they don’t have much left to lose and now they have an example of somebody who is defying the system and staying alive.
If you have followed the current events and read a few of my previous posts on Snowden, you know what I am talking about. The brouhaha over Snowden is more about what he represents than what he has leaked or will leak in the future. It is more about the damage to their image of omnipotence than about specific names, facts or figures. And that is why Snowden has effectively become “Anti-Citizen One”.
What do you think? Comments?
Media hypes trumpeting the discovery of “new”, “revolutionary” or “breakthrough” treatments for some, or the other, type of cancer are often seen as textbook examples of bad journalism. However, a more detailed look at this phenomena reveals that the researchers, institutions and corporations featured in such articles are every bit as guilty of perpetuating the hype as those who report it. Infact there is very good reason to believe that journalists are, at best, minor beneficiaries of such scams.
Things have gotten so bad today that the majority of “breakthrough” anti-cancer research published in “top-notch” peer-reviewed is no longer reproducible. And let us be clear about one thing- this problem of irreproducibility is not restricted to the discovery of new anti-cancer therapies as potential new therapies for treating conditions as diverse as Depression, Psychosis, Type 2 Diabetes, Alzheimer’s, Coronary Artery Plaques etc have experienced a similar large increase in rates of failure at every step in the process of drug discovery.
There are those who make official-sounding noises about how all the “low hanging fruit” have been discovered. Others make similar noises about how certain diseases (especially cancers) are too complex and tricky to treat. However a closer look at their theories reveal them to be ex post facto rationalizations for explaining their failures. The same people who talk about “low hanging fruits” and “limits of biology” used to sing a very different tune as recently as a decade ago.
So before I go further, let me briefly trash both their arguments. Firstly, it is impossible to determine what is a “low-lying” fruit without the benefit of hindsight or historical revisionism. Similarly, our understanding of biology is still too fragmentary to make any reliable assessments of feasibility- especially in areas where we have few (if any) significant successes. Would you take cooking advice from someone who cannot cook an edible entrée? What about advice on sex from someone who has never done it successfully? Get it?
Consider antimicrobial drugs- especially anti-bacterials, anti-protozoals and anti-fungals. For millenia, infectious diseases were not even considered to be infectious- let alone caused by microscopic life-forms. Even after the discovery and initially reluctant acceptance of the microbial theory of infectious diseases, it was considered almost impossible to specifically target them as earlier attempts (from 1890s to early 1930s) had almost universally ended in failures.
Then a guy working at Bayer discovered anti-bacterial sulfonamides and suddenly everyone started believing that it was not only possible but fairly easy to discover such drugs. Similarly synthetic anti-malarials were a pipe-dream for over 70 years before Chloroquine and Mepacrine were developed in the 1930s. The same is true for many other drug classes as diverse as antihistamines, anticholinergics, natural opiates, synthetic opiates, anti-depressants, anti-epileptics, anti-psychotics, anti-inflammatory, older immunosuppressives, many anti-hypertensives and many others.
Even drugs developed based on some understanding of their mechanism of action such as beta-blockers, ACE inhibitors and even ‘statins’ were developed before we understood their mode of action- which in some cases we still don’t quite understand.
The history of successful drug discovery is therefore mostly about good observation, bold guesses and oodles of good luck.
But what does all of this have to do with our current inability to develop truly effective anti-cancer drugs.. you know the type that can give people almost normal life expectancies. Why have we failed so badly in that area? Why have extremely large amounts of money, “brains” and effort yielded so little? Why do researchers get so excited over some drug that has semi-decent efficacy in one particular variant of an uncommon type of cancer? Why have the largest improvements in cancer therapy come from better diagnostic and imaging technologies rather than drugs? What is going on? Why does throwing ever larger amounts of money, people and resources at the problem not improve the situation?
Some of you might believe that big-pharma is suppressing real cancer cures to keep on making money by selling barely effective or toxic drugs. I believe otherwise and will explain my reasoning in a minute. Now, I am not suggesting that corporations including big-pharma posses anything even vaguely resembling conscience or morals. However believing they are “suppressing cures” implies that they have a grasp on the problem- which they don’t. Let me explain.
Previously, I said something about most breakthrough drugs being discovered before their mode of action was understood. Ever wonder why that was the case? Could it have been that our ability to synthesize hew molecules exceeded our ability to understand their mechanism in the golden era (mid 1930s-early 1990s) of drug discovery? Or is there something about trying to understand the mechanism of drugs or finding new targets for therapeutic intervention that somehow short-circuits the ability to find newer breakthrough drugs? And how is any of all this relevant to our inability to develop truly effective anti-cancer drugs?
Here is the answer.
Drugs discovered before the era of “modern biology methods and techniques” (beginning in the 1980s) were almost always discovered and structurally fine-tuned by testing them in animal models of diseases conditions carefully selected to resemble their human counterparts. But doing so required a very good understanding of functional physiology, pathology and limitations for each animal model. To put it another way, you had to maintain a roster of specialized people who had spent decades developing and studying animal models of human diseases. Their expertise was also pretty hard to transfer and replicate easily. You can see where this is going..
The advent of ‘modern biological methods and techniques’ appeared to herald an era where a completely reductionist approach to biomedical research was within reach. People thought that we would be able to develop drugs against anything and everything of we just cloned every receptor, obtained a crystal structure of every protein and enzyme, made every transgenic mice model possible or made millions of compounds to explore every chemically feasible structure. For a time, from the early 1990s-mid 2000s, it appeared that the new ways would make the older ones look stupid and unproductive.
But then reality intervened and it became obvious that almost every new technique, methodology and ‘paradigm’ introduced since the late 1980s had produced a lot of data but no real or large therapeutic breakthroughs. To make a long story short, the new reductionist ways failed to produce the breakthrough drugs they promised. The area of cancer research was probably the one most affected by this generalized failure of reductionism in drug discovery.
But it was too late. Most scientists recruited in the system since the late 1980s were the product of this reductionist mindset as were the programs that funded the university that “educated” them. Simultaneously, big and medium pharma was overrun by MBA-types who believed that bio-medical research was something amenable to reductionism and cranking out well-understood widgets. It did not help that small pharma also became a get-rich-quick scheme. I have not even touched on the toxic effects of widespread management fads, corporate intrigue, reorganizations, mergers and financialism. Consequently the whole pharma ecosystem detached from reality and became a bizzaro game based on legally acceptable fraud and exaggeration, publishing lots of crap, making cleverly worded claims, selling crappy ideas in nice packages and doing everything except discover truly innovative and efficacious drugs.
It just so happened that the true start of ‘big’ publicly-funded cancer research (early 1980s) coincided with the beginnings of reductionism and MBA-style thinking in pharma research (mid-1980s). This overlap resulted in many unfortunate synergies- from scientists who were indoctrinated in reductionism, public systems that did not fund the older ways and an industry that abandoned what used to work for what sounded and looked good. You get the general idea..
So, the real reason we cannot yet cannot cure most cancers is that we have spent the last 30-odd years trying to do everything but cure common cancers in human beings
Of course, people could admit that they screwed up. They could admit that reductionism is particularly unsuitable for understanding and modulating biological systems. But who will do that? Who is going to expose themselves to ridicule? Who will risk their careers? Who will admit that hundreds of billions and decades was spent on chasing mirages and delusions? Who will admit that they are clueless?
What do you think? Comments?
The viewpoint that “bad boys” are far more attractive to women than “nice guys” has become pervasive enough to be considered almost mainstream. I would even go so far as to say that it is the dominant viewpoint in younger age-groups. As many of you also know, a lot of ink and electrons have been spent on trying to understand why women prefer “bad boys” over “nice guys”. Some have tried to explain this phenomena by invoking deterministic scientific-sounding concepts such as evolutionary psychology and hypergamy. Others see it is a moral failing of secular societies, secondary effects of feminism or lack of long-term planning etc. In my opinion, all such explanations are ex post facto rationalizations rather than objective explanations. Moreover, they almost willingly ignore or gloss over a very important question.
Why should women prefer “good guys” over “bad boys”?
The conventional reasoning for why “good guys” are better than “bad boys” centers around the first group being better providers than the later. Somehow that is supposed to translate into “better reproductive success”. But how does that reasoning play out in the real world- as far as humans are concerned?
Let us, for a moment, hypothesize that humans are semi-mindless and deterministic machines devoted to reproducing themselves- like bacteria, worms or wolves. How would a world where that hypothesis was true look like? Here is a clue.. is there a correlation between the number of children people have versus their ability to have and provide for them. Do you see billionaires having hundreds and thousands of children? If not, why not? What about upper-middle class types? How many have a dozen kids? Why not?
Now some of you might say.. “it is not just about how many kids a couple has, it is also about whether you can provide them a good upbringing and life”. OK, so how much money and resources does it take to raise a child properly? and when do you reach the point where extra money does not improve things any further? Well.. as far as the world we live in today is concerned, there is no real gain from spending more money and resources than those spent on raising an average upper-middle class child. Beyond that point, extra money does not affect survival-linked outcomes. In fact, for most purposes the viability of a child born to working class parents is statistically almost identical to one with billionaire parents.
So why are billionaires not pumping out kids by the dozens? What about upper-middle class professional couples? Why aren’t they having half-dozen kids each?
The answer to this apparent paradox has two major components. Firstly, human beings are not semi-mindless machines devoted to reproducing themselves. Secondly, having kids often diminishes the general quality of life for those who have them and most people are aware of that effect. Furthermore, having kids no longer guarantees social contact, assistance or care in your later years. Consequently, it is no surprise that human beings today are just not into having kids. The “nice guy” strategy of being a ‘better provider’ worked as long as having children was a net positive. Once having children became profitless and optional, women just did not need the stable provider-type.
I can almost hear some of you say “OK, that could explain why women don’t care for “nice guys” anymore, but why do they detest them? What makes “bad boys” attractive?
The conventional answer to that question is that “bad boys” are attractive because they are more popular, dominant, rebellious, mysterious etc. But is that really the case? Is it what they are or what they are not? Confused? OK, let me explain..
The belief that “bad boys” are attractive because they exhibit some or the other characteristic is widespread. It can explain why certain highly visible types (entertainers, sportsmen, musicians) make a lot of panties drop. But how do you explain women lusting after barely known musicians, low-level drug dealers, semi-functional alcoholics and others who are considered as “failures”. What makes women prefer such “failed” men over “conventionally successful” guys?
My answer to this apparent paradox is as tasteless as it is unconventional.
Willing slaves inspire disgust and contempt, not lust and passion.
The vast majority of jobs throughout human history, including our era, have always been based in voluntary slavery. Indeed, there is a direct correlation between the willingness of slaves to humiliate and debase themselves and their compensation in the voluntary slave system. Consider for a moment the idea that the long educational requirements and probationary periods for conventional high-income occupations such as physicians, scientists, lawyers, architects, engineers etc are about selecting especially willing slaves rather than perpetuating meritocracy or ensuring competence.
Now ask yourself- What kind of person would end up in such conventionally well-paid careers? Do you think that a servile mindset would not spill over into their personal lives?
Let me put it another way. What are the chances that a person with any significant degree of self-respect, ability for independent thought or autonomous agency will end up in a well-paid and “socially-acceptable” occupation. What I am trying to say is that “nice guys” both established, and aspiring, have more in common with well-trained dogs than human beings. They can jump through many obstacle courses, learn amazing new tricks and be loyal companions. But at the end of the day they are just that.. dogs who serve others for meager rewards.
In contrast to that, “bad boys” are in it for themselves even if they are not especially successful. They possess autonomous agency, something that “nice guys” lack. While women may not explicitly think in those terms, it is pretty obvious to them that “nice guys” are semi-retarded voluntary slaves. Sure, they can often make decent money and enrich the woman they are with. But is it ever possible for that woman to continuously overlook the fact that she is with an easily manipulated, servile and spineless human being. Can you really get turned on by an anthropomorphic pet dog?
What do you think? Comments?
One of the most peculiar, but overlooked, criticism of Snowden by mainstream ‘pundits’ and ‘experts’ goes something like this:
He is just a guy who did not complete high school or attend university and does not know what he is doing.
OK.. Let us take this criticism at its face value and see the logical consequences of each resultant scenario based on what has occurred to date.
1. Let us assume that not finishing high school or attending university is a marker of below-average intelligence or capability, adjusted for occupation.
So how could such a dumb guy get hired by the CIA, NSA and all those private contractors who worked for them? Snowden had absolutely no trouble finding a sequence of well-paying jobs requiring high-level security clearance. It also seems that his supervisors in every IT job he ever had never said or wrote anything negative about him. Does that not strike you as rather odd if we assume that he was borderline incompetent?
So either he was very competent or the recruitment system at the CIA, NSA and their numerous private contractors is broken. Take your pick..
2. Moving on to the second possibility, namely that he might be good at what he does but does not understand the “larger” implications of his disclosures?
So what exactly are the “larger” implications of his disclosures? What did he leak about anyway? Did he leak a list of people employed by the NSA or CIA? Did he leak the addresses of people employed by these organisations? Did he leak the names of their kids or spouses? Did he leak their credit card numbers? Did he disclose information about targeting the military infrastructure of its “enemies” or “friends”? Did he leak the technical details about the methods used by the NSA?
He simply leaked general internal documents and information about the NSA and its partners in other ‘anglo-saxon’ countries spying on everybody in the world- including their own citizens. He exposed the utter hypocrisy and duplicity of ‘anglo-saxon’ elites towards other countries and even their own citizens.
And let us be clear about one more thing, Snowden was perfectly aware of the very large impact of his revelations. He was also quite aware of the fate of past whistle-blowers and the amount of effort the american system would spend on hunting him down. The very fact that he chose to hide in Hong Kong instead of a European country or mainland China also shows that he understands the constraints and limits of american power far better than the ‘ivy league’ and ‘oxbridge’ types.
And this brings us to what I think is the real reason behind the fury of ‘elites’ at his real-world impact versus his formal educational achievements.
Higher education in the USA and many other developed countries is not about improving your mind. It is about whetting people based on their ability to jump useless hoops and demonstrate their loyalty to people who detest, abuse and exploit them. It is about finding people who are spineless, malleable, timid, conformist and yet retain a modicum of intellectual ability. It is about finding marginally clever slaves who are willing to betray each other and work themselves to death to gain the approval of their masters.
So far, it appears that Snowden did not turn out to be that type of slave.
What do you think? Comments?