A companion blog, The Metacognition Project, has been created to focus specifically on metacognition and related consciousness processes. Newest essay on TMP: Goals and Problems, part two

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The True Nature of Property and Ownership

There is the general presumption that places, objects, processes and even ideas can and should be “owned.”  Two important omissions occur in this presumption: one is that what it means to own something is clear when it is not and, two, that the very nature of what is meant by ownership is changed when something is assigned to different forms of social organization, from individual, to small group, to institution, to the society as a whole.  And, of course, the most basic presumption itself may be false.

Ownership implies that something is held in a protected condition, i.e., the thing is “protected” from association or use by a selected group of, or even ‘all’, others.  Another implication is that permission is not required, or selectively required, to use the thing owned.  Private ownership, private property, is an extreme form of this in which it is presumed that there is the right of forceful protection and absolute control of the thing owned; that no permission is required for ANY use by the owner.  Private ownership presumes isolation of the thing owned from the system of influences within which both the owner and the thing owned reside.

The polar opposite of private property or private ownership is not public ownership, but is non-ownership.  Ownership, in this view, is clearly an artifice.  It comes first in the form of territory ‘claimed’ and protected chemically by simple living things, moves through various stages in which all organisms evolve a variety of devices to protect physical space and resources from selected others, while at the same time evolving various devices to defeat the protective devices of others.

In this process no organism can act as though either it or that which it protects exists in isolation from surrounding influences; quite the opposite, all of its adaptations are in response to those influences.  In a very real sense the adaptive protection and use of space and resources by living things is not ownership of territory and resource by the organism as much as it is a form of permission being obtained, by adaptive response, from biophysical reality. 

The arrival of living things on the earth established a new relationship with space and ‘resources’, actually created the category of resource, but ultimately created only a quasi-form of ownership as relationship; living things remain the ‘property’ of the living system rather than the other way round.

The Consciousness System of Order (CSO), when structured by biophysical reality, adapted to the Living System, comprehended it and functioned within its influences with ease and great efficiency.  When the information organizing capacity of the Consciousness Order initiated the ‘escape’ of the CSO from the immediate influences of biophysical reality, the CSO became self-referencing, was only marginally limited by reality and so created many ‘realities’ that it was no longer able to distinguish among.  Groups and individuals clung to various forms of these ‘realities’ as one would cling to bits of floating debris from a shipwreck – and they fight to hold to them with the tenacity of a drowning man.

One of these ‘realities’ was a perversion of ownership and property.  In the long forming and present iteration of private property, property is not supposed to have a place in the flows and patterns of influence.  “Mine is mine and has nothing to do with yours.”  Since this has come to be so deeply believed, it makes the actually functioning of much of the world around us appear incomprehensible.  And it makes the most insane arguments appear rational.

“Since mine is mine and yours is yours, then I can do anything I want with mine and it should not matter to you – if it does, then something is wrong with you.”  This is, of course, crazy.  My use of space and material, my waste, my wealth, my actions, even my simple existence influences you, and you influence me.  Rejecting or denying the vast ecology of influences sets the stage for misunderstanding and inappropriate action on a grand scale; we call it modern life.

So, what is the best way to organize the use and distribution of space, objects, processes and ideas?  It is important to understand, no matter what the answer to this question, that we cannot get there from here.  We are so deeply committed to ‘realities’ in diametric opposition to biophysical reality that there is no way to release those ‘realities’ and move to another without terrible consequences to some important and powerful constituency in modern life.  And furthermore, we have no reliable way to decide among the ‘realities’ being offered and are drawn therefore to selecting action on the basis of perceived immediate benefit within the limited system of our present beliefs.  Quite a mess we’re in!  Be that as it may, it is still a worthy exercise to plot an escape from the dilemma.  Like in a cartoon, perhaps drawing a doorway will work to find a way out.

“All property is theft.” (Pierre-Joseph Proudhon)  “Everything should be assigned, by capitalism/private property processes, ownership relations.”  These two extremes represent how it is possible to imagine the absurd when there is no clear biophysical basis to guide our comprehension.  Living organisms require a certain amount of space and ecological productive capacity to sustain.  This means that they require that all other organisms be successful at sustaining ecological productive capacity; a necessary function of stable ecosystems.  A clear implication of these facts is that there are “property” relations in the living order that humans might use to give some understanding and limit to our own imaginings about property and ownership.

For a transitional time we could keep much of our ways of thinking – with modest changes – if we changed our most basic illusion: As a general belief, humans, especially the technologically powerful, think of the earth, its spaces and resources, as “belonging” to humans.  Reversing this to the more reality based understanding that humans, just like all else, “belong” to the earth would be an important beginning. 

We are certainly the product of the earth in every sense: the stuff that makes us, the evolutionary process and history that formed us as possibility and actuality, the biophysical stability of the biosphere that allows and sustains us and the ecological systems that can, even if we deny them at this moment, give order and genuine purpose to our lives.

The more we learn about our origins, our historical process and our biology, the more it is obvious that notions of our superiority and difference are relics of early attempts to make sense of our incredible adaptive powers.  Physically we are incomprehensibly integrated into the biological.  The human cells of our bodies, while making up the majority of the mass, are outnumbered by bacteria and other organisms that are essential for our functioning.  Our cells are a scaffolding upon which hundreds of species and trillions of other cells live and work.  The oxygen we breathe comes from plants.  The water we drink is distributed, cleaned and stored by living and earth processes.  The soil from which plants grow is made by complex biophysical processes and in amounts that we could never replicate.  All the earth’s cycles and systems conspire to maintain temperature, atmospheric and water chemistry, energy flux, protective envelope from harmful solar radiation and a dozen other conditions.

As long as people think of the earth, its space, products and processes, as things to be owned, i.e., to be held exclusively or limited to selected individuals and groups, or even whole societies, the incentives for domination and acquisition will prevail to drive people toward ways of living that ignore and deny the biophysical reality within which we ultimately must live. 

It is at least a beginning to realize that the concepts and functions of property and ownership, as we currently use them, are dangerous and artificial structures.  Even with out clear alternatives such an understanding will make possible the recognition of options as they appear in our thinking, support those who recognize intuitively the madness of these ideas and give courage for the experimentation needed to find the right spot on the wall to draw our door.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Why I Write This Blog

I have no idea why people come to this blog site.  I do know that many people come and return.  I am mystified both that a few people visit regularly and that millions don’t trample all over the site in a species’ quest for understanding.  But, I would write and post if no one came at all.

In my little office there are several filing cabinets.  More than one has drawers filled with notebooks and loose-leaf filled manila envelopes, file folders and boxes: diaries, personal reflections, poetry, other creative products.  Some of it dates back to the 1950s.  And every word, every drawing, every photograph was done to satisfy some question or inclination of my own.  It is not that I do not love you, dear reader, I just cannot for the life of me understand why anyone interested in these things wouldn’t be doing the explorations for themselves: thus my wonderment that anyone comes here at all and, at the same time, that ‘everyone’ doesn’t stop by to see if there might be something interesting.

I write to see the words laid out, and am charmed and appalled in the reading of them on the electronic page.  I also write and store the writing in this way so that someday my children will have a ready source to rediscover the man who was their father, a way of discovering the influences that hide in their lives, influences that guide them and trick them from behind the scenes.

And the last reason that I write and post these words is to add my little contribution to the patina on the forming sculpture of these times, the patina that colors and gives texture to great events beyond our insignificant existence.  Each molecule of oxygen that combines with the copper and other elements contributes in its own small measure to the final result.

Friday, May 20, 2011

There Just Isn’t Enough Productive Capacity

Where do we begin to understand the cacophony of events occurring in the world around us?   There is a grand theme, not just hundreds of unrelated accidents.  Most major events have to do with land space, energy, material, food and water resources; who has access to them, who can claim them and who can control them.  Those events that don’t seem to be related to resource issues are very often smoke-screens to hide actions that involve resources [1]. Ultimately there just isn’t enough productive capacity left on the earth for everyone, including the rest of life in the biosphere.  That is the key.  Who would know that better than smart economic forecasters working for major corporations (corporate managers would view this as private propriety information)!  And who would be in a better position to act on that knowledge than corporate managers and others in the economic elite? 

It is important to learn how to think like someone with little concern for other human beings or ecological reality, and whose primary interests are increasing personal wealth and power.  From that perspective there are two ways to view the matter: first, over the long-run, per capita consumption of energy, material and productive capacity will have to drop.  It doesn’t matter that some sectors, energy for example, might be further from a bottom than others; it will be the weakest link, the most nearly used up, that will set the standard.  The distribution of capacity is what will matter, and setting one’s self up with, at least, some control over distribution would be a major goal. 

There are only two routes to such control: knowledge and wealth; both can be translated into power.  And since capacity is a zero sum game, knowledge and wealth must either be spread in nearly equal proportion or be highly concentrated; there is no middle ground: differences in power, beyond a certain point, motivate the drive to greater and greater power.  Only near equality or nearly absolute power over nearly absolute servitude can be stable, and only near equality can be sane in the sense of comporting with Reality; Lord Acton was right about absolute power, though it not only corrupts behavior, it also corrupts and twists the mind into insanity.  The present values and beliefs about how the world works distort our living relationship with life almost beyond recognition or remediation. 

Secondly, over the short-run one must also remain competitive, even actions that contradict long-run goals have to be taken, if required, to stay in the game. To use a sports metaphor: American football, fourth down, seconds remaining, 7 points to tie and send the game to overtime and another chance.  The best player is hurt; is he to be saved for the possible overtime action or is he used, probably used up, in the last plays that can tie the game?

It is that decision that corporations make everyday: use up pollution-sink capacity of rivers, lakes, oceans and atmosphere to stay in the game.  Destroy human lives to stay in the game.  Court a new population of consumers, discarding the old, to stay in the game.  Reduce overhead, increase profits at any cost to the living world, since if you don’t, someone will and you will come out a dollar short and a day late.  Cut the throat and move on; if you don’t, someone else will.

If these kinds of decisions have to be made on occasion, they can be integrated into a more general adaptive process that comports with the larger realities of a sustaining biosphere.  But, if decisions of desperation are daily fare, the “normal” form of business, then failure is a certainty.  All margins of error, all capacity, will be soon exhausted – unless new sources of capacity are constantly discovered and added; clearly an impossibility on a finite planet.

This is where our business and political behaviors have brought us.  These are the values of the economic and political elite; these are the “values” of madmen.

The first step out of this predicament is to recognize and name the madness.  The initial response to insanity doesn’t require that it be explained or repaired, but it is required to see with clarity its actions and influences if one is to avoid being trapped in its excesses.  But be prepared; this is a lonely pursuit. 

The great movements of history have all been driven by madness, to be caught up in them is to be a part of the madness.  All great movements have violated conditions of reality.  A whisper, an inkling, teases my thought that there is another way, that I am, and others are, the measures of possibility.  I am an ordinary man, country raised, tossed by the fates into the full range of human experience.  There are millions like me; if I can see the world with some clarity, if I am willing, even desirous, to discover how to live within the limitations of biophysical reality, then why not a movement driven by sanity.  It is just a thought, an imagining.  But this too, even if apparently embedded in biophysical reality, requires a hubris beyond reality.  Well so be it; on with the show.
[1] Abortion, homosexuality and drug issues are used to reduce social-services spending, to distract from power grabs and other actions that reduce the financial and organizational power of the Great Many in favor of the economic elite.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Consumption Is The Engine [1]

The last essay made a rather strong indictment against corporatism, but it did not get to the root of the issue.  The key is in the nature of power and the incentive systems that underlie and form around power.  Think of these complexities in terms of a physical example as a useful metaphor:  an auto engine supplies the power to turn the drive wheels of a car; the potential power in the gasoline is released by the design of the engine, but is not, itself, what moves the car forward.  The car, by its motion, has its own power created by the power of the engine, but, once and while moving, a power independent of that engine.  And additionally (if not finally) there is the power to get me from point A to a point B where I can exert an influence not possible at point A.

A car is a relatively simple example; social, political and economic power are more complex.  But, as with the car, there is a nexus, a central organizing principle that must be returned to for basic understanding.  For the car it is the engine.  There are different designs that use different fuels, there are different ways of delivering the motive force to the mass of the car, finally though, an engine must convert potential energy to kinetic energy for any of the other expressions of power to manifest no matter how powerful such forces may seem once created.

There are a number of candidates for the role of engine in the human machine.  Greed or selfishness is often given as one, and grandly misused in economic theory.  Hierarchies of need such as Maslow’s seem to illuminate many darkish corners, but are only very weakly focused on political and economic realities.  Technology is often offered as a prime mover, yet it too is more product than essential force.

The consumption behavior of the Great Many has to be the primary engine.  It drives the greed of the sociopaths of corporatism; their power comes from the ‘motion of the moving car’ not the engine itself.  The engine has to have RPM, torque, horsepower (speed, volume, number).  The greedy try to speed it up as a way to have more power for themselves.  The wise try to slow it down, to save gas, to reduce wear and tear, to just give time to see the sights and to delay the inevitable clash and crash with the end of the high-speed road.  Politics and religions try to steer.

It is the movement of bodies and materials in the action of consumption that moves the human enterprise.  At one level it is simplicity itself: if many people want “it”, then behaviors form around “it.”  If none, or only a tiny few, want “it”, then “it” doesn’t form relationships with human action.  No one has yet been moved to corner the market on dragonflies since there is, as yet, no market, though a tiny few humans collect them, photograph them, benefit from them and in general admire them. 

There are, however, markets for food, space, shelter, transportation (from shoes to space shuttles), informing and empowering ideas, entertainment and distraction, medical interventions and drugs; the list has become quite long.  Once there is a great many who will consume a thing, then – like the car metaphor – whole systems of power relations form: a complex structure of incentives, each power relation spawning another and another.  And moving it all along is the consumption, not of just a few, but of the masses.

Corporations are just one of the spawnings, but one that has, in the manner of an effective parasite, found its way to the essential source of its own needs – not only does the corporate structure supply material for consumption, it also uses its power to increase consumption, thus further building its power; ‘the increasing speed of the car is converted into a more forceful push on the gas petal!’  A moment’s reflection will tell you that this is a bad idea whether for a car or a society.

Collectively, humans behave like that animal that we are.  Increase food supply and we increase in number.  Increase adaptive powers, we fill more environmental niches and dominate more territory.  What we cannot do is increase in number and domination of territory, and retain the modulating, integrating and inhibiting behaviors that integrate our existence into the complex sustaining design of the biosphere. And if I’ve been too opaque: our unreflective action on the world is screwing up the ability of the earth’s surface to support life.  But that is an end result, not the nuts and bolts of how we are doing the screwing up.

We are faced with some very simple equations:
Nh(Y1+ Y2)= Th ; Ec- Th= Bc.  
Total human population times required consumption plus discretionary consumption per capita equals total human consumption, and the earth’s capacity minus total human consumption equals the available balance of capacity.  Discretionary consumption and population are, at present, of such size that the balance of capacity is negative.  But even if this were not so, the dependence of social and economic functioning on growing the size of discretionary consumption is destructive of human relations.

One of the values of writing simple mathematic expressions is that the terms can be looked at unambiguously (this also one of the dangers of so writing).  Looking at the formulas above it quickly becomes clear that there are only two terms that are variable: Nh and Y2, population and per capita discretionary consumption.  The other terms are either fixed amounts or are in fixed relations based on those two values.  If we accept, even just for the sake of argument, that these formulae represent the situation, then we are freed from magical thinking, at least for a moment.

It is a clear conclusion that institutional designs requiring increases of either population or discretionary consumption are inherently destructive [2]; economic growth is, therefore, a primary force for driving the balance of the earth’s productive capacity into the negative; but is also strongly incentivized by the power needs of an economic elite.  In other words, it is in the short-term interests of the economic and power elites to destroy the world upon which they ultimately depend.  It is becoming clearer that to act in disregard of such an obvious reality is a form of insanity.

It should also be increasing clear, as with the metaphor of the car, that the momentum (greed for wealth and power) cannot be reduced without reducing the output of the engine: it is simple physics; the engine must slow down for the car to slow down.  Only then is the momentum reduced.  I would extend the metaphor to include other forms of transport and argue that car speeds should be reduced to no more than that of a running man except under the most extraordinary situations and possibly not even then.

Again for clarities sake: the basic engine of the human machine, consumption, must slow down from its present levels; the discretionary component must supply almost all of the reduction.  The reduction, unfortunately, cannot begin with the highest levels of discretionary consumption, but must begin with the Great Many since it is their consumption that is the motor moving the machine.  Only by decreasing speed can the momentum (the power of the insane elite) be reduced. 

There are no other options.  Totalitarian governments will not do it; they are always made of the elites.  Democratic governments will not do it; they will be taken over by elites using the arguments that increasing speed is good for all (your 10 year old Ford can draft their Aston Martin).  We must understand that when our human machine reaches a certain speed, the power of our momentum creates the insanity of power and economic elites, that they will always push for more speed and that they are always destructive.  The Great Many create the niches in which the elites thrive, and only by reducing our consumption, reducing the speed of the human machine, can the elites be brought back toward sanity; they will not, cannot, realize beyond the boundaries of their niche.

At the moment the Great Many are in thrall with the elites, are absorbed into the margins of elite insanities – and so don’t have easy access to the sanity that is possible.  But there are many of us who are beginning to understand that the choice is between the destruction of the planetary surface as living sanctuary and slowing down the human machine by consuming less both for our own personal good and to take away the momentum of greed and insanity that our pace of consumption creates.

This is an exceedingly difficult message, but it is a message and, I believe, the only one with a chance. Spread and refined it might begin to have an impact.  It is a message contained in all the world’s religions so it is not completely foreign to our thinking, and it is easily understood once the veil of elite insanity is lifted. 

[1] Thanks to ronfromdownunder for his comment on the previous essay.

[2] Discretionary consumption is undergoing a forced reduction in the USA (and some other places where it has been high), but only as a strategic move on the part of the economic elite.  As the elite self-perception and legal boundaries move beyond nation-states what matters becomes total consumption of an expanded vision of the Worldwide Great Many.  The economic elites recognize that greater total consumption can be made to happen by reducing consumption in the USA, which was maximizing in any case, and fueling worldwide consumption though at initially lower per capita levels. This will be very difficult to counter since the Worldwide Great Many are unlikely to feel any natural restraints to what is called ‘increased standards of living.’

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The New Secessionists

Preamble: The issue is not whether humans act as isolated individual units or as collectives, it is whether the collectives within which we function are to be dominated by a cabal of individuals or to be the expression of the needs and wants of the whole measured by some socially beneficent democratic process.  The arguments being made today for ‘individualism’ and personal freedom are really arguments for the cabal and not, as so often portrayed, arguments for democracy.

There is, of course, nothing new in this problem; it goes back to the earliest writings on government, and was a major divide in the formation of the USA: the dominant cabal is always afraid that their authority will be limited by the masses and the masses are always afraid that they will be misused by the cabal for its own purposes. 

Elites and masses have different needs; the greater the material and physical separation, the greater will be the differences in needs and the less comprehension and compassion the one will have for the other.  There is no way around this fact.  It is as immutable as the physical laws.  The only solution, if it can be called solution, is for the differences to be small.

The history of human change has been the history of increasing these differences until today some ‘individual’ humans are said to have in their personal control material wealth equal to the summed total wealth of millions of other ‘individual’ humans.  These elites have no contact with the masses and vice versa. The only understanding that one can have of the other is complete misunderstanding.  The Reality that every human being, the living ecosystem structure and the physical materials and energy flows of the planetary surface are locked together in interdependent systems is utterly and totally lost in these failures of understanding.

A corporation is a cabal with a mission to use some need of the masses to gather to its leaders as much wealth as possible.  Kings directed God’s authority through themselves, used armies of sycophants and soldiers and ‘Lorded’ over the masses directly.  Corporate cabals corner the market on a commodity, product, idea or service and extract a pittance from each transaction so that adding it all up creates a large, even kingly, pile.  So, in a sense they ‘earn’ their princely place in the firmament as opposed to Royalty’s divine right.  But, while it is the king’s job to govern the whole of the thing, it is the corporate cabal’s job to have the final costs be less than the final sales.  These are two quite different frames of reference, and what we are seeing today is a great conflation of these quite different principles of organization.

It is not states now that wish to secede from the Union, although some opportunistic politicians are striking that pose, it is rather the Corporate Confederacy.  Corporate entities were given possibility and “birth” by human created infrastructure, economic and social stability, but now that they have consolidated wealth power to a point that equals nation-states, their managers realize the possible power to secede from the political state, to be free of its control and, consequentially, be free of any obligation to the human beings upon which the corporate entity depends for their detailed function.

A pure secession from the state is, however, not easy (or possible); it is a bit like trying to separate consciousness from the brain in which it resides.  The model is that of an organism trying to become free of the demands of its individual cells – some element of the organized whole dominates the actions of individual organs and cells while divorcing itself from their needs.  Such a view, of course, would tend to be held in secret by the economic elites, and would be not only an incredible hubris, but also an incredible mangling of metaphor in the service of an insanity.

And so business is moved to a more old fashion form of escape – freedom through domination: the Corporate Confederacy must actually take over government in order to be free of it.  (The prescient reader will be ahead of me.)  When one state secedes from another, it must create all the machinery of a new state often using the old state as template; like budding a new plant from the old one.  Some things are specifically rejected, otherwise there would have been no secession in the first place, but for the most part new states, in such situations, are much like the old.

But the Corporate Confederacy doesn’t want to create a new state, corporate managers just want to be free from the obligations of citizenship in a state; they want all of the institutional support, stability and coercive power, but none of the responsibility to the people and the institutions upon which corporations depend.  This presents the corporate confederacy with the dilemma of how to be free of a structure that it requires in order to exist. 

What we are seeing today is the opening parts of this struggle.  The first impulse is to destroy the existing structures that seem to oppress corporate action – to, by whatever means, create the conditions in which corporations can act with impunity – and to replace them with models from the corporate template. But the corporate template is remarkably incomplete for the purpose and corporate authority would have no idea of how to do this.  Autocratic authority is an early choice, supported by all of the “tricks of the trade” and wealth power.  And so we are seeing a kaleidoscope of pathologies working, like maggots in a dead body in the tropical sun, to get a piece of the action.

Governing, which equals control, from the corporate perspective is a matter of putting the right people in place to give the right orders – tough-minded corporate loyalists who will the toe the line of the bottom-line, and see to it that ‘those below them’ do to.  This is not ‘evil’ in the corporate frame of reference, no matter how much suffering and injustice is experienced by the ‘consumer’ of corporate governance: “It’s nothin’ personal, Roco, ja know, it’s just business.” 

But can nation-states allow corporations to actually manifest the insanity of corporate secession?  I can’t speak for A. Lincoln – he did plenty of that for himself – but while he offered many reasons for rejecting the secessionist demands of the southern states, I think he would have been somewhat flummoxed by our corporate secessionists; the shear craziness is mind-boggling.  To recap succinctly: corporations have gained sufficient power that they can effectively fight governing regulations, but must take over governing to finally be free of it.  They are utterly unequipped to actually govern, but don’t realize that, being, as they are, blind beyond their frame of reference.  They can buy anything and almost anyone, but that only functions in the corporate frame, not a true governing frame of reference.

Faced with these facts, I think that Mr. Lincoln would have had the courage to fight a different kind of civil war, perhaps an even more difficult one than the Civil War actually fought.  You will remember that that one had armies marching and fighting at our doorsteps, killed possibly a million of the nation’s citizens, did billions in damage and is still remembered bitterly by a major section of this nation.  What would be the consequences of denying the Corporate Confederacy its secessionist plans?

There are a number of parallels.  Many southern members of congress dissolved their loyalty to the Union before 1861, but remained in their elected positions acting in ways damaging to the Union.  Comity disappeared and was replaced with open hostility. Today, corporate senators and representatives are showing that their loyalty is no longer to the Union, the constitution or the people, their disrespect for those who don’t share their perspective is obvious and some of their behavior is in violation of their oath of office.

The arguments have a familiar ring to them.  The southern Confederacy couldn’t imagine functioning without a captive labor force over which they had complete control.  They required ‘freedom’ from economic restraints imposed by a hostile Northern government (which was actually doing the bidding of northern business interests).  The Corporate Confederacy is trying to remove all employment protections and regulations to effectively create a pool of serfs from which they can select labor completely on their terms. 

A mythology was created in the south that the plantation system and slavery were beneficial to all concerned, a natural and God given arrangement.  In the face of sound economic argument that such a system was fatally flawed, the myth was fertilized with social arguments and fears.  The “free market” ideology of today is a similar myth and its failures are hidden behind a smoke screen of abortion talk, homophobia and racism.  Again what the myths share in common is the supporting of the narrow short-term interests of an elite or corporate cabal.

It is time to take a stand against this corporate secession and reattach corporations to the control of nation-states; this would be obvious if it was clear that the choice was actually between social democracy and fascism.  As bad as the nation-state model has been, it will be better than government by corporate power.  It would be the corporate model to create a Government Division, but it would have to make a profit.  There is no place in corporate thinking for “something for nothing” which is how government services tend to be viewed, except of course for those services that extract wealth from the many and put it into the "capable hands" of corporate managers.

While there many differences between secession by regions of nations and secession by an economic segment of a nation, the biggest is that the Corporate Confederacy cannot and will not govern even if it succeeds in its version of secession by domination; it is still secession of responsibility!  The purchasing power of the Corporate Confederacy is so great that the world’s greatest sophists can be bought to present the corporate argument via the corporate owned media allowing for the illusion of governing to be maintained for a time.  The only actual governing style available in the corporate frame is a brutal and distant autocracy, and ultimately the people will decide just how much of that kind of abuse they will take.

(In my research for this idea I came across this piece by Roger Bybee posted in January of this year in which he talks about corporate secession) 

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Real Reality

After Reality, the ‘real’ is not so much an absolute as it is where we decide to make a stand: thus the famous line about death and taxes.  Of course, taxes have become less of an issue for the very rich and the very poor (in a bit of a perversion of symmetry, a relatively fixed number are getting very much richer while an increasing number are getting poor at a relatively common level of subsistence – both have worked out, quite different, ways to pay as little in taxes as possible); death, however, remains clearly high on the list of unavoidable Realities.

Reality, the one with the capital R, can seem very far removed from our daily concerns: the relation of mass to gravity, the velocity-mass-energy relation, the behavior of various atmospheric gases and a host of other Realities guide all regular events, but it seems that we need give them scant attention – they seem to take care of themselves, until they don’t produce the desired result and then we squeal like little piglets.  Just as the proper functioning of our heart muscle is ignored until it begins to fail, that moment is almost always too late to do anything about.  And thus an attentive attitude would be warranted, if seldom given.

But there are so many realities, of the not capitalized sort, to take our attention.  Here is a generalized hierarchy: Big Reality; earth’s biophysical processes; species relationship to ecosystems; effective natural economic unit’s relationship with a specific habitat; relationship of individual organism to the natural economic unit.  An example or three will help.

A tiger is top predator in its ecosystem.  The individual adult tiger is the natural economic unit and so each individual must perform the full range of tigerly behaviors.  Adaptation/evolution functions through the simple success of individual tigers.  Tiger behavior is integrated into the ecosystem especially by limiting the numbers and improving the stock of its prey species, waste from kills and, to a much smaller extent, by its direct physical impact.  Tiger reality is made of the landscape, vegetation, direct sights and smells of other organisms all embedded seamlessly and without exception in biophysical and ultimate Reality.

The lion is top predator in its ecosystem, and so closely related to the tiger that a crossing will produce a liger or tigon.  The pride of lions is the natural economic unit and so various lion behaviors are parceled out among the pride members. Adaptation/evolution functions through the success of the pride unit based on the success of individual animals and their integrated contribution to pride success.  Lion behavior is integrated into the ecosystem by limiting the numbers of its prey species, waste from kills and, to some extent, by its direct physical impact.  Lion reality is made of landscape, vegetation, direct sights, smells of other organisms and the social/behavioral relations within the pride all embedded seamlessly and without exception in biophysical and ultimate Reality.

And now the example of real interest: The human is top predator in its ecosystem which has become the whole biosphere.  The community was the natural economic unit for most of human existence, but has become more and more distorted and is now made up of a great variety of combinations without a clear taxonomy or comprehensible order.  Adaptation and evolution have been almost completely separated as change phenomenon; biological evolution has ceased to function on historical principles since the sources and especially the time domain of adaptive pressure are new to biology; adaptation has been largely taken over by a new system of information ordering and is functioning outside of a presently comprehensible framework.  Human behavior is not integrated into its ecosystem(s), but actively modifies, in complex and various ways, all ecosystems that humans enter.  Human reality is made up of human power relations organized as social, political, economic and, anomalously, religious (this is, ironically, an instinctually based holdover form from primate community organization); also, the “landscape” (often anthropogenic), sights and sounds (can be largely media based).  Human reality is unavoidably embedded in biophysical and ultimate Reality, though not seamlessly and with large, duration limited, exceptions.  I’d say we are a mess.

What is real to us is so different from person to person, group to group, society to society, that there is no ‘us’ at all!  There is just so much… – without description or qualification – just so very very much that the experience of it all must, of necessity, be of disconnected bits and pieces stitched together to make a variety of disorderly wholes [1].  It is here that subordinate realities begin their insidious work; and we have made a fetish of the arbitrary differences.

We often hear that this thing or that thing is the reality to which we must attend: “The reality is that the media is lying to us.” “God and his revealed truth is the only reality that matters.” “It is a reality that universal healthcare would reduce total costs by 1/3 to 1/2 of present expenditures.” “Allahu Akbar.”  “Humans were, in reality, seeded on the earth when the mother planet from which we come was dying.  There, all the living things had consciousness; that is why we are the only conscious species on the earth.” “a2+b2=c2.”  “Sioban Magnus really shouldn’t have been eliminated from American Idol.”

I think that the reader would have varying reactions to these statements of “reality.”  But the position that you take on any one of them, or almost any other for that matter, would be more a matter of ‘taking a stand’ than a capturing of the certain truth.  It should be obvious that such a state of affairs cannot continue for very long in evolutionary time terms.

Of course, there is a terrible difficulty here if there is to be one Reality or at least a limited number of realities within which the human species must live – but be reminded that every other species of life in the nearly 4 billion year history of life on the earth, billions of species, have lived in Reality, have faced every moment of every day the force of gravity, the rain of solar radiation, the working of muscle and hormone: It is life’s bargain with the physical world.  Rationally expecting, even with our remarkable adaptations, that we would be the 100 billion to 1 exception is a bit much.  Believing it, on the other hand, is easy, even though quite mad.

Again of course, Reality doesn’t solve the problem, it only presents and finally enforces the solution.  My answer is, as with our plans for communicating with other “intelligent” life beyond the earth, to begin with and return to the most basic certainties.  If speaking in prime numbers and atomic properties is good enough for talking to other worldly aliens, then it should be good enough – at least in some version – for communicating with each other; we certainly are not doing such a good job right now with existing methods.

The theory behind sending messages in the most basic mathematics and science facts is founded in the assumption that life forms capable of receiving (or sending) such a message would be completely familiar with the information.  I am not suggesting that we humans begin communicating in geometry or plant physiology, but that there are very basic realities that majorities will understand and can respond to.  We are quite clear, and fully agree, that there are “realities’ about which we disagree.

Existing power structures make this problematic; small powerful minorities (by definition insane in the largest sense) could easily delay and misdirect honest majoritarian attempts to assemble a Reality based set of subordinate realities that could reintegrate human life into evolutionary time and biophysical essentials.  But no matter how it happens it will be messy, and it will have to come from the last reservoir of sanity in the human presence: the Great Many, those who still confront the uncertainties and vicissitudes of life with some regularity.  How they are led will also be key [2]: they can be led by those who attempt to energize, collect and organize the remaining species’ sanity or led by the insane power-mongers with whom we are all too familiar.

We may be seeing the stirrings of such a process of change with the popular resistance to elite control in the Middle East and in several places in the US (ignored as much as possible by corporate media).  But these are like the breathing, on its own, of an infant; not even close to the first steps of walking.  As long as the Great Many can be mired in hundreds of separate, competing and arbitrary realities, kept agitated and fearful of others who are just like them except for the cut of their clothing or the language that they speak, then humanity will serve other masters than Reality and its ultimate judgment. The tiger lives in Reality.  The lion lives in Reality.  Humans must also live in Reality; that is just the way it really has to be.

[1] Humans are just not that complicated, so if there is great complexity, then we need to discover its origin.

[2] In any system there must be a controlling design or agency; what or who that is makes all the difference.  Who is to control our social/economic condition; ourselves or someone else?  If it is to be someone else, then by what authority?  If the authority does not somehow arise from the people then no matter how seemingly benign, it is still despotic.