Have you ever wondered why mainstream movie-making in the last twenty years has gravitated towards remakes, sequels and prequels of previously successful movies? Why do movie studios keep on making newer version of old hits? What is purpose of making progressively inferior sequels or prequels of questionable quality? Now there are some who would say that all literature, theater and cinema is derivative (cleverly plagiarized and recycled) and there is some truth to that. But that is not what I am talking about. Let me explain my point with a few examples.
The original Star Wars and lords of the rings franchises are indeed clever rehashes of epics centered around reluctant hero trope. Furthermore, such epic stories are found across diverse cultures and eras. However reading the Odyssey, Scandinavian sagas or even the much earlier Epic of Gilgamesh does not diminish the enjoyment of watching the original star wars films or the LOTR trilogy because while they all have the same basic story structure, each one takes great effort to create and populate its own unique and self-consistent universe. Similarly modern superhero characters have more than a passing resemblance to the trans-human/semi-divine characters that populate ancient myths and stories. Yet once again, the creators of most modern superhero characters took considerable effort to make them and the worlds they inhabit as unique and richly detailed as possible.
Now contrast this level of creativity and effort to that seen (or not seen) in the Star Wars and LOTR “prequels”. Or take movie remakes- Why do most modern movie remakes and sequels suck so badly? Compare the original Robocop movie to its recent remake. Or compare the remake of Total recall to its far more innovative original version. This is not to say that every remake, prequel or sequel sucks. There are examples where the reboot was as good or better than the original such as Scarface (1983 vs 1932) or the Mummy (1999 vs 1932). Note that both examples of successful remakes mentioned in the previous sentence were quite different from the original versions. Having said that movies in which the remake, sequel or prequel are better than the original are exceptions and not the rule.
But why is that so and what does it have to do with the true nature of capitalism?
The short answer to that question is as follows- trying to relentlessly increase and optimize monetary profits from any new source of income will always kill the proverbial golden egg laying goose. The somewhat longer answer to that question requires us to first take an honest look at what capitalism (or any other materialism based -ism) is really about.
In the preceding paragraph, I hinted that the tendency of capitalism to kill golden egg laying geese is shared by other material-based ideologies (such as state communism). But why would that be so? Aren’t materialism based ideologies more “scientific” and therefore superior to other ways of looking at the world? Well.. it depends and here is why.
Materialism based (reductionist) models work best when the systems are small in size, fundamental in nature and/or tractable. So materialism based models are perfect for doing things such as predicting the motion of planets, understanding the physical nature of matter, launching artificial satellites, synthesizing some new chemical compound or designing a new engine or vehicle. Their predictive value starts to decrease as the systems become more complex or chaotic- yet they are still quite useful for understanding phenomena as diverse as biological evolution, speciation or weather systems. Reductionist models however reach the end of their usefulness when we enter the realms of complex, fundamentally unstable and adaptive systems such as human societies.
Models based in reductionism work well only as long as the fundamental components of the system and interactions between are constant, predictable and measurable. We simply cannot do that with human societies of even basic complexity. This is where reductionist thinkers make two fundamental errors.
Firstly, they try to use an external and artificial standard unit (money) to keep track of exchanges in the system. While the amounts of money exchanged might initially have some correlation to the actual value of most interactions in the system- it always reaches a point where the amounts exchanged between components in the system has little (or no) correlation to the actual value of the interactions. However the quantity and flow of money in the system are now increasingly seen as the only legitimate measure of value of anything or any person in the system. Money becomes a proxy measure for something it can no longer be accurately used to measure.
The triumph of money as the only way to measure the worth of anything results in the second type of reductionist error. The quest for more money results in the ever-increasing use of reductionist models (and thinking) to optimize interactions and actions. It is this mindset that leads to mediocre, insipid or just plain shitty movie remakes, sequels and prequels- while simultaneously starving truly innovative ideas and concepts. The people who make decisions about movie funding therefore have little interest in the quality or craft of the final product. They are principally motivated by the predicted monetary returns on their ill-gained money.
That is why capitalism, communism and all other reductionist -isms, which use artificial gameable proxy units, to model the real world ultimately end up destroying the very things that make their existence possible.
What do you think? Comments?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
The consistent and simultaneous fall in violent ‘crime’ rates for the USA, and pretty much every other developed country, over the last 20 years has baffled many ‘experts’. They have offered a multitude of often conflicting explanations for this phenomena ranging from a reduction in childhood exposure to lead, an older population, better policing, legalized abortion to longer prison sentences. But there are two major problems with almost all of their explanations.
1. They assume that A leads to B. For example- Low ‘IQ’ = more ‘criminal’ behavior or longer prison sentences = fewer ‘felons’ on the street.
2. More importantly, they assume that ‘crime’ is not a manifestation of something far more deep-seated.
Let us start by trying to define what ‘crime’ is, and is not. What make something a crime, anyway? Is it the net negative effect of an action or behavior or is it something else. I have partially answered that particular question in one of my older posts- How Laws and Legalism Destroy Societies, but let me summarize it thus:
All ‘crimes’ are defined by laws, rules and regulations rather than by their actual impact on society.
Here are a few examples. Consider prostitution, which at its core is an exchange of sex for money. Why is it illegal in some countries such as the USA? Is the exchange of sex for money in prostitution fundamentally different from a similar exchange occurring in the course of a marriage, cohabitational relationship or during the creation of a pornographic film? Or take drugs like marijuana or opiates.. isn’t all the criminality associated with them due to the fact that they are illegal in the first place rather than their effect on human behavior? What about the onerous rules and regulations associated with living in gated communities? Do they serve any purpose other than mollifying the egos of a few prissy bitches with control issues? What about laws and rules used by monopolies to extract rent or hinder competition? You get the general idea..
Which brings me to another point I made in that post
Laws are made by those with power for maintaining and extending their parasitic behaviors.
All ‘crimes’ should therefore be seen as attempts by the less-powerful to do what the more-powerful are already doing. Don’t believe me? Here are some examples: The system labels you as a ‘murderer’ if you kill another human being, but it is OK if you are a cop- even if you killed the ‘wrong’ person. Similarly, a death caused by a negligent or greedy doctor will almost never result in prosecution, but try doing that if you don’t have an ‘official’ medical license. Or consider how easy it is for a business to declare bankruptcy and stiff its creditors as compared to doing the same via personal bankruptcy.
Which brings us to one of the more peculiar question about the motivations behind committing ‘crimes: What combination of factors, circumstances and conditions makes the risk of getting caught worth the potential payoff?
A few of you might say that people who commit ‘crimes’ do so because they cannot accurately assess the risks because of their supposedly low ‘IQ’, poor future time-orientation or some other assorted bullshit reason. I think otherwise because the very fact that laws, rules, regulations, penalties and prisons have been unable to stop ‘crime’ suggest that there is something else driving the need to do what they do.
I believe that all ‘crime’ is driven by the HOPE for a better future.
People sell sex and drugs because they want to have more money and a better life tomorrow. Organised crime exists because its members can reasonably expect more income and a better lifestyle in the future. Also note that ‘criminals’ always try to maximize their life-expectancy and profit rather than go all out nihilistic and watch the world burn. Even revolutions require a significant degree of belief in a better future, and this is why people revolt on the streets in Turkey, Brazil and Egypt but not the USA, Germany or Canada.
I therefore see ‘crime’ as an expression of hope in the future of that society.
‘Crime’ rates in the USA were high during the 1960s-1980s because those who committed ‘crimes’ had high hopes of a better future. Similarly the high rates of ‘crimes’ in South- and Central- American countries should be seen as an expression of faith in the future viability of those societies. It is also no accident that low-crime societies like Japan, South Korea, Germany, Switzerland, Sweden etc are also full of people who have no hope for a better future. If you don’t believe me, just look at their fertility rates. How else do you explain the decision of so many people who live comfortable and relatively safe lives in paternalistic societies to not have kids?
They have already figured out (at some level) that their rigid and formulaic societies do not offer a realistic chance for a better future. However they are also not opting for suicide without a pretty good reason. So they just go through the motions of being alive in a somewhat detached manner, if only to keep up the appearance of systemic vitality and purpose.
We also cannot forget the role of modern-medical technology, especially contraception, in enabling this to occur on a scale unthinkable in any previous era. In those eras, surplus fertility would have quickly provided new suckers to replace the disenchanted and world-weary. However, that is not the case today and not just in the more affluent countries. Even the less affluent ones such as India, China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Mexico and Brazil have fertility rates that are near, at or below replacement levels. We just don’t have that seemingly infinite supply of new suckers anymore.
What do you think? Comments?
Many readers might have noticed that depictions of people and institutions in popular culture are often at odds with reality. In previous eras, the gap between fictional images and reality was less glaring, because people had access to only one or two sources of information, often under the control of elites. Furthermore the communitarian nature of living in those eras made it difficult to hold opinions and ideas that were at odds with the “majority” even if the consensus was stupid, irrational and suicidal. The spread of ubiquitous communication technologies, such as the internet, and very high levels of social atomization has irreversibly changed that situation. Hence the gap between fiction and reality is now wider and far more obvious.
For example- It is now common knowledge that both sides in the American Civil War were almost equally racist and believers in some kind of mythical white racial supremacy. Likewise, many now know that those who founded the American Republic did so to enrich themselves, rather than start some noble experiment in democracy. Another example is the now widespread understanding that the ‘New Deal’ and other populist sops from the FDR era were driven by political, rather than humanitarian, considerations. However these now common, if somewhat alternative views, are still rarely depicted in mass media which tries to unsuccessfully reinforce the old myths.
One of the widely promoted dissonance in popular culture and media concerns the large gap between the image of various institutions and measurable reality. TV shows are full of noble cops, smart detectives, thoughtful judges, competent and selfless physicians, teachers who care about their students when even a cursory observation of real life suggests that the converse is true. TV and Films (henceforth referred to as ‘Hollywood’) even promote the idea that intelligence agencies are full of competent, motivated and enthusiastic people possessing tons of ‘super-secret’ and useful technologies with an almost omnipotent control over events when events in real life have repeatedly shown that to be wishful thinking.
Let us now explore the dissonance between the media-driven image of large corporations and compare that to observable reality.
The story-lines of many popular films from the last 30-odd years such as Blade Runner, Alien and its sequels, Prometheus, Gattaca, Terminator and its sequels, Robocop and its sequels, Resident Evil and its sequels, Total Recall, Watchmen, The Island, V for Vendetta and many more revolve around or involve large corporations. These large corporations are depicted as being greedy, amoral, omnipotent, led by competent people and based on long-term plans and strategies. But how much of that is reflective of reality?
While there is no argument about corporations being supremely greedy and amoral; the remaining attributes are some combination of mythology, paid propaganda and wishful thinking.
Ask yourself.. Do you see much evidence that corporations led by competent, disciplined, creative and intelligent people? Do they act as if they are led by people with any of those qualities? Do their changing fortunes reflect that? Why do most large corporations cease to exist for a decade or two? Why is the downfall of large corporations usually due to obvious mistakes? Why are these deadly and obvious mistakes rarely fixed in a competent manner? Why do plans to fix obvious mistakes frequently cause larger mistakes? Does the observed behavior and life cycle of large corporations resemble an intelligent entity or a pretty stupid but greedy parasite?
Then there is the issue of large corporate projecting an image of omnipotence and efficiency. Is that really so? Are large corporations capable of anything approaching omnipotence? Are corporations capable of stable governance on the size- and time- scale associated with governments? Can they exist without a friendly government that will help them socialize losses and privatize profits? Do large corporations actually have realistic long-term plans or strategies? Do they have realistic ability to implement them on their own?
Large corporations talk a lot about meritocracy, but does the preponderance of evidence suggest that to be the case? Do you see evidence of corporations promoting competent or intelligent people? Why is promotion inside corporations so dependent on your social network and milieu than any demonstrated ability? Why are the upper ranks of corporations always made up of bullshitters, scammers, sociopaths and other assorted conmen who are good at networking, playing the system or just being lucky? Why are the top executives and decision-makers in corporations almost always clueless about the business models of the enterprises they run? Why do those in top corporate management positions jump ship so frequently, usually after collecting massive bonuses not linked to the long-term fate or outlook of the corporations they head? And why does paying these people tens to hundreds of millions in bonuses for their expertise in making corporations run better in the long-term always achieve the opposite?
Talking about innovation and incentives to innovate.. Why are large corporations so bad at innovating even though they spend so much money, manpower, time and powerpoint shows to make themselves more ‘innovative’? Corporations claim to have ‘superior’ leadership, corporate structure and in-house ‘geniuses’- yet they require so a lot of publicly funded assistance from governments. Why do large corporations require so many tax breaks, direct payouts, protectionist laws and tariffs and sweet-heart deals to even approach profitability? Why do the long-term plans and visions concocted by the best and brightest almost always fail? Can corporations actually put together, let alone implement, any long-term strategy? And yet after all this publicly funded assistance they still fail, implode, run aground, require government bailouts or help with remarkable frequency and regularity. How come?
Why do those who talk about rugged individualism, free enterprise, capitalism, personal responsibility and ‘going galt’ expect to be nursed, coddled and treated like severely sick, retarded or spastic kids? Why do the proud ‘producers’ behave like pathetic ‘moochers’ they claim to detest?
Which brings us back to the main question posed in this post- Why is the Hollywood image of large corporations so incongruous with reality? And why has the degree of dissonance increased over time? In my opinion, the mass media image of large corporations is based in a myth that those in power desperately want others to believe. The media image of corporations is best understood as propaganda and disinformation. It is an attempt to make the masses believe that the current system is “natural”, meritocratic, omnipotent and capable of defending itself. In a way, the media image of corporations is similar to the propaganda pumped out in totalitarian regimes which extols the virtues and greatly exaggerates the power of ruling party, coalition or oligarchic families.
The reality is rather different and rapidly becoming apparent. It is now obvious to a growing number of people that large corporations are pretty much the opposite of what they claim to be. Their apparent successes in the past are increasingly seen as some combination of scam, luck and parasitism. I however do not expect the Hollywood image of corporations to reflect this rapidly growing awareness. It is likely that they will, if anything, double down and amp up the propaganda- because dying parasites have no other option.
What do you think? Comments?
In the past, I have written about the arbitrariness of social definitions for what constitutes sane and insane behavior. I have also pointed out that behavior and attitudes considered insane today were once seen as hallmarks of sanity, and vice-versa.
To put it succinctly, definitions of sanity and insanity other than those associated with easily measurable physical or biochemical brain damage are almost entirely subjective.
But it gets worse.. Throughout human history, most so-called “normal” people have actually followed, revered and worshiped people who likely had measurable brain damage. Don’t believe me? OK, let us take a cynical and critical look at the founders, prophets and saints of almost all traditional religions. Have you ever noticed that a lot of their so-called revelations, visitations by non-human deities, mystical or cosmic experiences and voices in their heads have a lot more in common with the symptoms of serious brain disorders such as schizophrenia, temporal lobe seizure, assorted brain tumors, episodes of hypomania and even the effects of hallucinogenic drugs than anything remotely paranormal.
I would go so far as to say that all traditional religions are largely based on creative interpretations of the rantings and ravings of a few people, who were lucky to have the right amount and type of brain damage at the right time. A person who seriously believes in any religion, especially of the traditional ‘revealed’ variety, is therefore basing his or her life and worldview on the selectively edited experiences of a few brain-damaged people. Given the role and importance of traditional religions in shaping human history, customs and behavior- it is fair to say that the world we live in today was largely shaped by the minds of brain-damaged people. Maybe that is why all civilizations, past and present, are so bizarre, irrational, dystopic and generally fucked up.
But it does not end there.. In the last 200 years, we started replacing traditional religions with secular ones such as capitalism, communism, randism, consumerism, neo-liberalism etc. While these newer religions might appear to be different from each other, they do have a few peculiar common characteristics. One of them is their obsession with money.
All secular religions are really about the “right” way to create, distribute and circulate money.
While they all try to cloak the true nature of their obsession through the use of rhetoric, philosophy, logic and reason- it is easy to see through their smokescreen by posing one simple question.
Does the ideology in question mean anything in a world without money?
The idea of a world without money might seem odd, most transactions in human history and prehistory did not involve the exchange of money. Even after the concept of money was invented, most people did not use it as they had little or no money to exchange for goods or services. Yet for some peculiar reason, the world did not stop nor did humans go extinct. Money as we know and use it today came into being in the post-renaissance world, especially the last 200 years.
Now, some of can grasp the idea that all forms of money are notional and therefore not real. The ability to create, lend, spend and transfer money is therefore based on the ability of institutions to enforce rules and regulations which favor a few people over everyone else. Money appears to be real only because almost everybody is a willing participant in the mass delusion.
But what does all of this have to do with worshiping and revering brain-damaged people?
The answer lies in how we perceive, rate and treat other people. In most parts of the world, the behavior and attitudes of people towards others are largely based upon how much money one participant in the interaction estimates the other one has or can demonstrate possession of via some proxy display.
Therefore almost everyone wants to have as much money as they get their hands on, preferably by depriving everyone else of it.
This zero-sum behavior might sound irrational to some since the utility of money is directly proportional to the level of function (or dysfunction) in that society. That is why even a dollar millionaire in India has to put up with inconveniences which somebody with a decent job in a developed country would never have to. Similarly, rich people in many western countries can go about their lives without worrying about kidnappings and the level of violence routinely seen in South and Central American countries. But why is that so? Why are most developed countries reasonably safe, functional and relatively nice places to live in? and were they always like that?
The answers to these questions lie in numerous large changes to the social, economic and legal structures of these societies within the last 100-odd years. Prior to that, the quality of life in these countries was pretty low and comparable to what is seen in many parts of the ‘third world’. Most rivers and lakes in developed countries were once toxic open sewers, epidemics of infectious diseases were common, malnutrition was rife, high level of day-to-day violence and brutality were seen as normal and the rich also suffered the consequences of living in such dysfunctional societies. Then a lot of events (various labor movements, communist revolutions, WW1, WW2) happened and forced the rich in developed countries to accept a more equal distribution of wealth. This trend went on until the late 1970s when an extended period of peace let the old ways and ideas creep back into societies. Popularly called neo-liberalism or neo-conservatism, it is really a form of neo-feudalism.. one with far fewer downsides and many more upsides to an increasingly international class of moneyed people.
But what does any of this have to do with people still worshiping and revering brain-damaged morons?
The answer to that question requires us to understand an important but often ignored shift in the nature of religiosity in developed countries. Most of the populace no longer believes in traditional religions, especially the ones who claim to be pious. However the desire to believe in scams.. I mean religions has not changed and most people now believe in one or more of the many secular religions such as free-market capitalism, libertarianism, feminism etc. But as I said a few paragraphs ago, all secular religions are really about to who gets to control creation, distribution and circulation of money. It is therefore fair to say that most people are actually worshiping various socio-economic models, none of which have much to do with reality. And all this to get some sort of secular salvation.
Which finally brings us to what the past 1,100 words were leading up to..
Are the founders of secular religions any less brain-damaged than those who founded the older ones? Is somebody who claims to perceive the ‘invisible hand of free market’ any less delusional or sophistic than the guy who heard an ‘angel speaking from within a burning bush’? Is the concept of ‘homo economicus’ any more real than ‘original sin’? Is somebody who believes in making money at all costs that different from some guy who wants to save the souls of heathens or convert infidels at any cost? Is a priest who justified the rants of a greedy sociopath that different from an academic who shills for some ideology.. any ideology that will pay him enough to afford a comfortable life? Are people who are willing to destroy the lives of thousands and millions so that they can have a couple of billion dollar really alright in the head?
And what about all those morons who worship, revere, follow and obey banksters, managers, businessmen and other rich people who just got lucky? and why do these morons listen to the priests.. I mean academics who are slavish turd polishers? Believing in models of the world that clearly diverge from observable reality is always a bad idea and it never ends well, yet most people don’t seem to care. But why?
What do you think? Comments?
I was originally going to post this article a few days ago. However my desire to be reasonably sure about what I am about to say made me procrastinate till the general direction of information was more supportive of my hypothesis.
A lot of people are wondering if the Boston marathon bombers were driven by religious beliefs. While there is no doubt that their actions were influenced by a certain set and interpretation of religious beliefs, that angle does not explain how they became radicalized and extra-religious in the first place.
As we all know, both were Chechens who were born and partly grew up (especially the older brother) in an era when the outside world was especially unstable and hostile from their viewpoint. Having said that, they did not come from a family that was especially poor or religious nor had they lost any close relatives in the conflict. Their father and uncle appear to be reasonably well-educated and secular, if somewhat shady, people. If you look at older pictures of that family, they just don’t give off the ‘we are so religious’ aura.
So what happened? How does a guy who was into sports, clothes, cars, babes and making lots of money become a religious radical? Why does a guy who was looking forward to getting american citizenship and perhaps a spot on the american olympic boxing team as late as 2009 decide that bombing the Boston Marathon was his purpose in life? and what about his younger brother? How does a reasonably popular stoner who made extra cash by selling pot and involvement in car theft rackets decide that joining his older brother in waging “holy war” against the country he grew up in was a good idea?
The conventional explanations for this turn of events range from something about hot-blooded Chechens, some mysterious radicalizing preacher, the internet, a conspiracy to advance public acceptance for militarization of american police forces and a host of other explanations that you can find on the intertubes. But what if we are missing a far more obvious and straightforward explanation for their religious radicalization?
Is religious radicalization, especially of the Islamic variety, a consequence of systemic socio-economic dysfunction?
It is hard to ignore that the increasing religiosity and radicalization of the Tsarnaev brothers, and their mother, has a pretty strong correlation with their declining fortunes and hope for a better future in the USA. Tamerlan, the older of the two brothers, was not an especially religious Muslim or even a traditional Chechen in his late teens and early 20s. He moved out of his parents house, was chasing chicks in nightclubs, living with pretty attractive women, was perhaps involved in pot-grow operations and trained for MMA competitions. He did not exhibit any strong interest in spreading the word of Islam beyond trying to convert his pretty fit girlfriends.
The younger brother, Dzhokhar, was even less of a religious guy. The interviews of people who used to hang out with him suggest that he was pretty much your basic stoner who sold extra weed on the side. There is very little in his background or known tastes in lifestyle, music, media or women to suggest that he was a religiously observant person. If anything, he comes across as the small-time drug dealer/ entrepreneur type rather somebody who believed in 72 virgins.
I believe that the roots of their radicalization lie in the changing nature of american society. For many decades, but especially between the 1950s to mid-1990s, USA was the best place to immigrate- legally or “illegally”. There used to be lots of real opportunities for immigrants to make it big, or failing that- at least lead a pretty comfy and prosperous middle-class lifestyle. Even poor and ‘less-educated’ immigrants had a pretty decent chance of making it into the middle-class. However things started to change for the worse in the late 1990s. It became harder and harder for both “native-born” and immigrant americans to remain in the middle-class, let alone climb into it.
We can come up all sorts of explanations for what drove this change, but the net effect has been that a rapidly increasing number of americans (especially among younger age groups) do not believe that the system will treat them fairly. They routinely see connected ivy-league educated sociopaths make mistakes and still collect their millions and billions, while competent and loyal people like them get screwed over. While this double standard has always been a feature of american society, the system had kept it from becoming the dominating feature of american society for many decades. I believe that the collapse of the soviet union in the late 1980s-early 1990s unleashed the full greed of the ‘elites’ resulting in the openly and highly dysfunctional society we live in today.
While CONservative morons might not see anything wrong with this change, almost everyone with more than half a brain understands (at some level) that the current socio-economic system is highly dysfunctional. All stable and functional societies remain so only as long as most people living in them believe that the system is largely fair, reasonable and worth their while. People will either withdraw from or stop co-operating with systems that are seen as dishonest, abusive or non worth their while.
It is very likely that the Tsarnaev family immigrated to the USA in the early 2000s under the impression that they would be afforded the same opportunities as people like them used to as late as the early 1990s. But a lot changed between the early-1990s and the early-2000s. Many of the paths and opportunities that would have allowed them to move into the middle-class or beyond simply did not exist. The father was reduced from a stable legal job in a ministry to fixing cars as an unlicensed mechanic. The mother went from a homemaker to somebody hustling for small jobs. While these trials and tribulations might initially have been dismissed as temporary, they soon realized that was not the case.
It certainly did not help that Tamerlan’s promising boxing/MMA career started to unravel for reasons that were unfair and beyond his control. The younger brother, Dzhokhar, while clearly not stupid was just not an academic. He, like his older brother, preferred a life with booze, drugs and babes- and who can blame them. Which rational person would prefer to live like an under-sexed dweeb for the ‘chance’ of higher future earnings in a society with an obviously broken contract.
To make a long story short- the rather shitty experience of the Tsarnaev family in the USA, as individuals and as a group, was very likely what drove Tamerlan and Dzhokhar on a path of self-directed religious radicalization. In a way, they are far more like James Holmes (Aurora Theater Massacre)and Adam Lanza (Sandy Hook Shooter) than somebody who was indoctrinated from birth to fight some religious war. Also note that Holmes and Lanza came from highly secular backgrounds and therefore found secular justifications for their actions (mental illness, autism/nihilism). The Tsarnaev brothers justified their actions through religious beliefs mainly because they were more familiar with religion than fashionable psychiatric mumbo-jumbo.
What do you think? Comments?
Some of you might be aware of a phenomena known as MGTOW in which men slowly disconnect from society and have no intention or desire to fulfill traditional social roles or expectations. While the initial reasons behind this shift in developed countries might have been the loss of manufacturing jobs during the late-1980s coupled with the social and legal effects of feminism- that is no longer the case. MGTOW has often been characterized as ‘losers’ trying to justify their relative poverty and social ostracism. While I am not denying that the initial wave of MGTOWs might have done so out of necessity, it is clear that the ones who are going in that general direction now are a rather different and far more numerous group.
But before we go there, lets us quickly talk about why the impact of MGTOW was rather limited through most of human history and pre-history. As I have said before, societies where the average woman could expect more than three of her kids to reach adulthood functioned under a very different dynamic from those where women has replacement to sub-replacement fertility. Under the zero-sum conditions and mentalities that have characterized humans throughout their history, extra kids were just more fodder for the machine. High fertility rates ensured an endless supply of morons to scam, abuse, work to death and generally try to cover systemic mistakes. In such societies, a man who went MGTOW was not particularly missed and often quickly forgotten as the other human apes went about living their sad, shitty and meaningless lives. That plus the low-level of social organisation and technology meant that going MGTOW had almost no deleterious effects on wider society.
Things fundamentally changed once the average number of kids per woman dropped first below three and then under two. But why? What does sub-replacement fertility do to a society as far as it ability to function under the old scheme is concerned? The answer lies in the rapidly growing divergence between old assumptions and reality. Under the old assumptions (also known as culture and tradition) young people were disposable widgets who could be used, abused, scammed and exploited to levels that are fundamentally incompatible with civil society. The so-called ‘losers’ could be rapidly replaced with fresh and naive morons so that the cycle could on and on- with periodic disruptions such as war and pandemics.
But as the industrial revolution spread and changed societies all over the world, the underlying assumptions started changing. Initially there was a population explosion as technology increased the number of kids who would survive to adulthood. However within a generation of two, most people caught on to the changes and started having fewer and fewer kids. This reduction in fertility is now global and even ‘extra-religious’ middle-eastern countries have rates below three- something that would be unthinkable even two decades ago.
But what does all of this have to do with MGTOW? How do men slowly dropping out of society and traditional expectations affect the system at large?
The answer lies in understanding the principal delusions and main belief under which all societies operate. All societies are based around the idea that world around them is in some sort of stable and ‘natural’ equilibrium that is very hard to disrupt. While most people can accept the idea that a comet hitting earth or something along those lines will change their ‘reality’ forever, they are largely and willfully blind to less dramatic and slower changes in the conditions which make their ‘reality’ appear stable. The vast majority of people, especially those who grew up in a previous era, believe that the world never really changed since their teens and twenties. In their mind the world of today is different from the one they grew up in largely because of better gadgets, pills, cars and some superficial social changes.
Consequently, patterns of social organization and functioning are still based on assumptions that may have been true 60 or even 40 years ago. But what did society look like four or six decades ago? The average fertility for one was still comfortably above replacement as were lifetime jobs and expectations of socio-economic progress for all. A lot of how society operates today is still based on the continued validity of these assumptions. The older morons still believe that most people will still marry, have kids, live in suburban houses and endure long commutes to their meaningless jobs by cars. While that assumption had some validity as long as the last surplus generation with some hope, aka Baby Boomers, were heavily represented in the working age group- that is no longer the case.
However a significant part of the economy is also dependent on these assumptions holding true- or at least not changing too quickly. Entire sectors of the economy such as the education, housing, financial planning etc are completely dependent on the status quo as are many not-so-obvious ones such as tax revenue estimates, electoral politics and many others that appear unconnected (physician remuneration) but are not. Even assumptions about how people will work or not work, behave or not behave, think or not think are based on the old models being true. Which brings us to one of main, if not the main, assumption underlying belief in continuity of the status quo.
All developed, and almost all developing, societies are grounded in the continuity of a very specific male mindset. It is best described as a scenario where the vast majority of guys will slave away, sacrifice and generally endure abuse for a reasonable chance at getting some mediocre pussy, some respect and children. While that scenario played out very well in the age before effective contraception, feminism, unstable jobs and social atomization- that is no longer the case. The average woman thinks she is too good for the average guy and can even profit from such behavior. While men from older generations still believe in the validity of the older ways, the younger ones clearly do not and hence are far less likely to be married or in LTRs. It is hard to believe something if you can see evidence to the contrary at every turn and almost none to support it.
Today the majority of men disengaging from society are young, well-educated and aware of their odds. They are not 50-something guys ruined by their divorce after decades of believing the lies that society told them. Nor are the younger bunch disengaging from society to live a hermit-like existence. They are still connected to society to some extent, but they are certainly not engaged with it. They are very distrustful of the system and don’t care about its future. They are best seen as cynical and informed opportunists who are acting in their own self-interest.
But how will this change affect society? Will women beg men to take them back to an earlier time? Will society recognize the folly of its ways? In my opinion neither women nor society will move in a direction as large groups of people are fundamentally incapable of non-viral behavior. They will always try to optimize for the short-term even if doing so was almost certain to cause long-term problems.
So how does widespread MGTOW among the younger generation enter into this equation? and how does it affect the possible outcomes?
To understand this, you have to look at how entities faced with declining long-term prospects shore up their short-term. The usual and almost certain response involves more extensive rent-seeking and exploitation in the short-term. It is therefore not surprising that school systems want more money, universities keep on raising their tution costs, cars and houses become more expensive, physicians and hospitals demand more money etc. They do so even when it is very obvious that those paying for it are increasingly unable to do so. But the belief in, and addiction to, growth is so entrenched that they would rather eat their seed corn than try to fix the problem.
There are, of course, longer-term limits to such behaviors based in reality rather than perception. Eating your seed corn, cannibalizing your future and crapping on your future supporters works only as there is an adequate supply of fresh suckers to replace the dead, burnt out and cynical ones. But is that a realistic option in a world with low-fertility rates? Modes of behavior that work when the average woman had over three kids who made it to adulthood just don’t work in a world where the average woman has less than two kids.. period. Even computerization and extensive automation do not solve the problems as machines do not consume or circulate money.
To summarize, MGTOW among the younger generation of men will destabilize the current system by inducing it to react in a way that increases its short-term gains while simultaneously destroying its longer-term viability.
What do you think? Comments?
One of the most peculiar beliefs exhibited by human beings, especially when acting in large groups, goes something like this..
“Institutions that appear to be big, powerful or long-lived are especially competent and capable at what they claim to be doing.”
But is that true? Are such ‘successful and persistent’ institutions really competent and capable, or are other factors at work? What makes some institutions bigger, more powerful and long-lived than others? I am trying to compare and contrast what can be observed in the real world to what many people (even the ‘smart’ ones) apparently believe. So let us begin by asking a few simple and related questions- Do institutions, successful or unsuccessful, really give a shit about so-called ‘sacred’ concepts like meritocracy? Do they actually hire and promote the most competent and visionary? How do they become successful, bigger and long-lived?
I have noticed that most human beings desperately want to believe that we live in a ‘just world, because the alternative to that simple-minded belief is pretty depressing. But the universe we live in is not bounded by our models about its functioning. Therefore most people have to regularly perform extensive and often unconscious revisions to the narratives they want to believe. Almost nobody wants to admit that they made incorrect, hasty or bad decisions. Even fewer want to admit that they were short-sighted, greedy, stupid, cowardly, arrogant or driven by the decisions of people around them. It is psychologically much easier to be wrong like almost everybody else that right like the heretic who thinks differently.
Of course, being wrong like everybody else has never been particularly desirable or profitable. The quality of human existence throughout most of history and pre-history was so poor precisely because people preferred to be wrong and stupid like everybody else.However, people tend to have a short and selective memory about that sort of stuff. I would go so far as to say that we celebrate the bad decisions, simple mindedness, deprivations, stupidity and shortsightedness of yesteryears under the guise of tradition.
So what does all of this have to do with belief in institutional competence?
The answer lies in how people explain the surrounding world to themselves. If you believe in a ‘just world’ driven by meritocracy and existing for a higher purpose, you might also believe that apparent success in that world is due to real or intrinsic superiority and competence.
For example- The longevity of the Catholic or Orthodox Churches could then be interpreted as a sign of the intrinsic superiority, competence and timelessness rather than luck, chance and the result of human stupidity and credulousness. Similarly the dominance of Microsoft in certain sectors of the software market could pass as a sign of intrinsic competence and guile rather than a series of lucky breaks and mistakes by potential and often superior competitors.
Another example is the supposed superiority of the american socio-political system and ideologies. It is easier for most people to believe the ideologies and behaviors which supposedly make it so, are superior as long as the system can deliver some token and highly publicized signs of its ability. But as we have seen in the last decade, but especially in the last 5 years, it is increasingly obvious that the whole system and ideologies underlying the facade were rotten, defective and full of lies and fake promises.
Sooner or later, all human institutions run out of the ability to repair cracks in the facade and put on impressive-looking shows to distract the willingly gullible majority. However most people will never lose their belief in institutions till they literally collapse in front of their eyes, and even then a few will never accept that they were willing participants in their own deception. Why wake up from a dream that almost everybody around you also seems to enjoy? But a dream is just that- a dream.
What do you think? Comments?
Some of you might have recently heard that the Chinese government in considering changes to its one child policy. While many see this as a reasonable attempt to reverse the demographic decline, a few commentators have expressed doubts about whether such a change would have any effect on the willingness of the Chinese to have more children. They point out that ethnically and culturally similar neighboring countries have fertility very similar to those in China, even though they lack an official one-child policy. If anything, China has a slightly higher fertility rate (1.6) than more affluent east-asian countries such as South Korea (1.2), Japan (1.4) and Taiwan (1.1). Even many culturally similar but not that affluent countries in the region have pretty low fertility rates; Vietnam (1.8), Thailand (1.6). Only the war-ravaged, poor or extra-religious countries (Laos, Cambodia, Philippines and Malaysia) in East-Asia have fertility rates above 2.
So what is going on? Why do so many east-Asian countries have such low fertility-rates in the modern era? Was it always so? When did it start to change and why?
Conventional explanations for this phenomena have tried to spin this low fertility rate as evidence of East-Asian intelligence, thoughtfulness, conscientiousness or degree of investment in their offspring. There is however a very big problem with any such “positive” explanations for this precipitous drop in fertility in that region. For almost all of recorded history, fertility rates in East Asia were freakishly high. Furthermore the general living conditions, levels of over-crowding, frequency of food shortages and mortality from infectious diseases etc were much bigger problems in the past than they are today.
Any hypothesis based on the idea that East-Asians are devoted parents would have a hard time explaining why so many of them are having no children or just one token child. But aren’t we all told that East-Asian parents are very devoted to the welfare of their kids and deeply involved in the lives- maybe a bit too deeply? Why would a socio-cultural-ethnic grouping with such a strong tradition of having children and raising them “properly” stop having them at the very time in human history when doing so has become very easy and safe?
Even more curious than the low-fertility rates of East-Asians in modern times is a look at what factors are associated with having the least number of kids. Other than higher levels of education, it is wealth and status that are associated with few or no kids. While this correlation has been previously observed in other developed countries, it is especially striking in East-Asian countries where the combination of a first-world lifestyle and high levels of education almost always translate into one or no kids. So what else can explain the precipitous drop in fertility rates in East-Asia in the last 60-70 years? Why haven’t the rates stabilized or recovered to levels of around 2- even in countries which have enjoyed reasonable economic stability? Why are economic incentives so ineffective at getting them to have more kids?
There is another way to look at this issue. However taking that route involves killing many ideological ‘holy’ cows and beliefs about what human beings are and are not.
Most of us want to believe that human beings are fundamentally intelligent, thoughtful, reasonable, capable of objective thought and largely rational in their actions. However a brief reading of human history or even short interactions with a few people around you will show that it is not the case. I could write entire books on why the self-image of human beings is so at odds with reality, but that is something for another day. For the purpose of this post, let us concentrate on the effects of such self-delusion on humans and the societies they live in.
While most human beings want to have children of their own, the mix of reasons and beliefs that drive them to have kids is sensitive to their circumstances and true motivations. People who used to live as hunter-gatherers or in small agriculture-based communities wanted kids for company, help, status and future care. Since accumulation of money was either absent or irrelevant in such communities, their motivations for having and caring for kids were not tainted by such extraneous considerations.
“Civilization” changed that.. Large scale agriculture, even in the pre-industrial era, created highly hierarchical societies which depended on a constant supply of naive and disposable workers who could be conned into working hard with the promise of a better future. While slaves and indentured laborers were one option, having more children was a much better option. It is not an exaggeration to say that people who belong to long-lived civilizations are far more likely to see other humans, but especially their own kids, as the principal means of improve their monetary and social status regardless of the cost of such behavior on their kids.
A lot of the ‘peculiarities’ in East-Asian parenting styles make sense if you are willing to consider the possibility that the relationship between parents and their children in those cultures is far closer to an employer and their employees.
The ‘tough love’, striving for higher productivity and ‘quantifiable’ achievement at all costs, enforced conformity and obedience, unspoken rules and protocols in everyday behavior that seem to characterize relationships between East-Asian parents and their children are exactly the things you expect in work relationships. This commercialization of the parent-child relationship is however not without its drawbacks and problems. For one, it creates damaged and very unhappy human beings who require constant threats and external pressures to behave “properly”.
The system worked for as long as it did because of the lack of effective contraception. The introduction and spread of effective contraception made it easier for unhappy and dysfunctional people to avoid having children. Also women can now make decent money by working and can thus achieve all of their material goals without the inconvenience of having kids. Since East-Asians, more than any other group, have seen kids principally as a means to attain their own material goals- it stands to reason that they would have far fewer kids if other (and easier) avenues to reach those goals were available.
What do you think? Comments?
I recently saw a post by RooshV in which he wrote about how communication technology based surveillance, data mining etc would somehow create a revolution- and disintegration- proof conformist society, rather like a lite version of 1984. As it turns out, I had considered these issues and written about them in some of my older posts.
My overall conclusion was that attempting to pull of such a thing with any degree of sincerity would mark the end of viable society. Note my choice of words- ‘viable’ not ‘optimal’, ‘functional’ or ‘dysfunctional’.
Let us begin by looking at the topic through the prism of history. The idea of creating conformist societies in which everyone spied on each other and snitched for an extra helping of food or other favors has been tried since the beginning of ‘civilization’. So how have these past attempts fared? Have they delivered stability or have their leaders (or elites) been able to retain power over any significant length of time?
The simple answer to the above stated questions is that any serious attempt to pull of such things almost inevitably causes the destruction of that system- typically after 1 generation of economic stasis. If you could engineer social and regime stability through repression, snitching and surveillance- the USSR would still be a viable entity and East Germany with its extensive snitch-based spy apparatus would still be around. China would not have to spend all those resources trying to patrol the internet within its borders nor would North Korea be so concerned about keeping up its ‘image’ with the home audience.
But have you wondered why oppression-based societies wither, fail and come apart? They certainly do not have to worry about the opinions or ideas of heretics and they can use any combination of hard and soft force to put down internal dissent and rebellion. They can even control news about important event and restrict what people can say in the public and often in the private. So why do they progressively become more fragile and dysfunctional?
The answer to that question is not found in the goodness of the human soul (if something like that even exists) or the human need for freedom. The increasing levels of fragility, dysfunction and ultimate failure of all oppression-based regimes are largely due to a set of factors and dynamics that escapes paid ‘intellectual’ shills.. I mean ‘famous’ thinkers and ‘great’ philosophers.
Oppression-based societies fail because of the nature, staffing, growth and evolution of organisations which implement those policies. These issues (or systemic defects) are fundamentally uncorrectable because they are part and parcel of the structure, functioning and evolution of any hierarchical organisation. I should add that human attitudes and tendencies also contribute to the trajectory, stages and end results of societal failure in oppression-based societies.
The first clue to what can go wrong in oppression-based societies comes from understanding the actual working dynamics of mature information gathering and intelligence services. Irrespective of the degree of automation and computerization used for intelligence gathering or processing, these organisations are shaped by the limitations of those who work for them and fund them.
So what kind of person ends up working for such organisations?
Contrary to what most of you think- almost no person employed by these organisations is a genius, a creative thinker or even highly motivated. The stifling bureaucracy, political intrigue, pettiness and hierarchy inherent within such organisations does a very good of excluding the truly intelligent, competent and capable. The average ‘successful’ employee in these organisations is therefore almost always a moderately clever but supremely mediocre and risk-averse person whose sole purpose in life is to get a steady pay, obtain a few promotions and then retire with a nice pension. They have no real motivation to do, or even think about, anything beyond what is necessary to achieve their personal goals.
Even the adventurous and enthusiastic ones quickly realize that it is easier, safer and much more profitable to sit in an air-conditioned office in some government building than stick to their youthful dreams of adventure and fame.The upper levels are no better and usually staffed by people with considerable expertise in self-promotion, back-stabbing and saving their own asses. While they try to convey an image of competence, reach and omnipotence; it is rather clear that they are anything but what they claim to be.
It is also important to understand that large organisations are hostile and impersonal environments in which careers are linked to largely worthless and frequently counterproductive metrics of performance. The success or failure of people in organisations depends on their ability to game metrics or create new ones to justify their job or acquire more power and resources. Since we still pay people to be busy or at least appear so, the ‘successful’ ones try their best to do so- even if that causes more problems than it solves. It is therefore no wonder that people who are paid to solve problems create more of them and increase the cost of solving them. The people paid to suppress dissent and monitor others therefore have a lot of incentives to create or imagine more problems than try to do their job.
So what happens when deteriorating external conditions make those who fund such organisations put their foot down and make them actually do what they claim to be able to do?
The short answer is that it exposes their incompetence and inability to perform their jobs, but the longer answer is far more interesting and revealing. It begins with understanding why the rulers or elite in any society would want to increase oppression inspite of the well-known risks of doing that to their own futures. Elites demand more oppression at home when they sense that they cannot maintain their current or expected lifestyles and positions through ‘normal’ levels of exploitation. This usually occurs after the existing socio-economic paradigm has started to fail in a visible manner, often for reasons beyond human control. The first instinctive response to reductions in economic rent and wealth transfer is simply ramping up plain oppression and propaganda and try to make everybody else work harder for less. The ‘simple intensification’ approach will however quickly reach a plateau necessitating the next step- namely extensive and systemic repression. However doing so starts a chain of events which ultimately causes that society to come apart.
It starts with an expansion of intelligence gathering, interpretation and law enforcement capabilities which in turn requires the recruitment of more personnel to work in those organisations. While filling these positions is usually easy, especially in times of general economic stasis and decline, increased recruitment in these areas creates a few problems. Firstly, it is necessary to create a constant stream of more work to justify the continued existence of these new positions. Therefore these agencies become increasingly obsessed with seeing and creating problems where none exist. Secondly, the extra powers and perks given those who work in these organisations become addictive and often result in more power grabs and abuses. These changes are not ignored by the rest of society and the organisations which benefit from them are increasingly seen as vile, extortive, corrupt, incompetent and harmful- even by those who used to support them.
The rapid loss of public trust and respect is however not a concern for these organisations as they simply don’t care about the opinions of ‘other’ people. Moreover, there is no shortage of people who want to work for them, due in large part to the generally bleak prospects of employment outside the “spying-law-order” complex. The continued increase in employment in this sector does however worsen the general social dysfunction and loss of trust in the overall system mentioned in the previous paragraph. At this stage, the routine operations of these organisations starts to adversely affect the normal functioning of other institutions and organisations which are critical to the viability of that society.
Eventually this dysfunction results in an abrupt and unpredictable (but inevitable) cascading failure of the core networks, facilities and institutions which keep that society viable. It certainly does not help that almost none in such a society has any desire or interest in resurrecting the previous status quo. While large and hierarchical organisations are very capable of exploiting orderly societies, they are unable to do so once those societies lose order for more than a few months.
What do you think? Comments?