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
Tuesday, March 26, 2013
If you spend any time reading, listening or watching the modern “intelligentsia,” that is, the range of media from broadcast news, through talk-radio to internet postings of all stripes, an impression of the world of human troubles can begin to form: the revolving commercial/political door, global warming, financial pirates, vacuums of ‘leadership’ and the laundry list of lies, thefts, genocides, murders, wars without accountability, waste of money and other resources – it just goes on and on.
From the progressive camps we hear that we must sign petitions (I get a couple a day from Move On), join and take over the Democratic Party, stop the XL pipeline, return to full employment and economic growth and so on. The social forces of reaction, preach that humans need not consider the actions that they take on the planet’s biophysical systems because our efforts are too puny to affect such an infinite place as the earth, and when that argument fails, as in cases where it is completely clear we have changed some place beyond habitability, we are told that God has made the earth for us and that ‘He’ will see to our needs. These are the arguments of madness regardless of the numbers who believe and support them.
The reality is that we must seriously consider the full picture of how we are to approach a future in which our actions are so destabilizing that many of the planet’s biological passengers, as they have evolved over the last many millennia, will be gone forever in an ecological paroxysm. What are the conditions that must be meet over the next several years – economic, ecologic and personal – to accomplish the restabilization of major environmental processes – biophysical cycles, climate, biodiversity and ecosystem integration? There are essentially two levels of consideration: the unalterable general requirements and the debatable specific actions (I know that I have left out important considerations from what follows and so I encourage the reader to add to or modify these lists for themselves).
• Reduction in human use of planetary resources to a level roughly half, or somewhat less, of what is being used now, to make the summed total human ecological footprint equal to about ½ of the earth’s productive capacity (humans are currently using about 1.5 times that capacity).
• Complete (or nearly complete) secession of the use of fossil fuels, with the use of non-carbon sources for energy production as the only viable form of replacement, and ultimately a return to the capture of the solar flux as our primary energy source.
• Reduction in human population to about one quarter of the present population over the next several generations, with a goal of global human population approaching 1 billion by 2100.
• Reduction in the use of biocides and ‘chemical’ fertilizers toward zero levels – or to levels demonstrated scientifically to pose no threat to biophysical systems.
• Reduction in extractive and bio-extractive industries, chemical manufacture and general industrialization activities, including transportation, to levels at which the physical changes and pollutants created can be absorbed and processed by biophysical systems.
Specific actions (set one options – the “we are all in this together” model):
• Reorganization of agriculture to sustain soils, greatly reduce the use of biocides, increase the variety of food crops along with more widely distributed food production so that total diet can be derived as much as possible from the local region.
• Much larger percentage of the population involved in primary food production, at least on a part-time basis, as response to the reduction in mechanization of farming.
• Literacy and broad, basic education as an imperative, especially communication, health, economic, political and ecological education of women.
• Transparency of commercial and political action attained through an increased availability of full-access, unmonitored communication systems, especially distributed internet and cellular technologies, with an emphasis on developing high quality, accurate language translation software.
• The down-sizing of economic activity would require that individuals, small groups and immediate communities redevelop the expertise and organization to meet a variety of the primary needs presently met by industrial production and distribution systems.
• Emphasis on direct democracy enhanced by both general education and communication capacity. The necessary, but dangerous, trend to localism would need to be countered by global communication systems and international education goals.
• Capping of private wealth accumulation to a small multiple of modal wealth, something like 5 to 1. Total community wealth accumulation also limited by world modal wealth levels, which would be determined by the maximum sustainable human ecological footprint.
• Modal material wealth must be reduced slightly, but arithmetic average wealth must be reduced to approximately one tenth of present levels by large reductions from the high end of the continuum (paper wealth far exceeds the capacity of the earth to deliver goods and services and yet that wealth is a demand for such delivery).
• Social expectation for small families (or extended families with shared children) supported by both the education of women and the supportive social networks associated with agricultural activities.
• As difficult as this appears in today’s zeitgeist, end of life expectation will have to change dramatically. Devoting significant medical technology and practice to extending life, devoting a third of our medical expenditures to the last year of life, is madness. The human body wears out, gets damaged and is attacked by other living things; this must become, again, a natural expectation. It will become more and more important to give our emotional and practical resources, and understanding, to living with grace and dignity rather than the present extraordinary attempts at living long.
• An emphasis on and acceptance of the fact that the present human dilemma is the consequence of uninhibited and uncontrolled expression of our powers to create change; that, fair or not, “reasonable” or not, the next few generations will have to make the controlled and inhibition-based changes required to sustain both the species and the structure of life presently on the planet.
* * *
It can be assumed that those who benefit from the present distribution (mal-distribution) of wealth will not willing give up such sources of power, impunity and insanity. Only great social pressure, even verging on revolution, can bring such changes. But such is our Catch 22: actual revolution would violate almost all of the mandatory conditions as well as throw the whole game into the second set of options.
Specific actions (set two options – the “every man for himself” model):
• The pathological members of the political and economic elite (increasingly recognized as a large percentage) attempt to gain control of as much wealth as possible as rapidly as possible using it to wall themselves off from the rest of humanity. Private wealth would remain, essentially, unlimited; human footprint requirements would be met by reducing the number of people rather than reducing wealth concentration.
• Development of military/policing systems and technologies for the containment and control of the general population, along with the increased use of surveillance technologies.
• Domination of media and information sources, increased secrecy in both commercial and political institutions and the denial of communication frameworks and platforms for the general population.
• The expansion of a variety of totalitarian forms of governance in actuality, regardless of what they are called, but all based on oligarchy and plutocracy.
• Population reduction by “natural attrition” can be encouraged by economic isolation and the withholding of essential needs. Accompanying plans to allow great population reduction can be reinforced with various chemical and biological agents if need be.
• The incitement of internal and external conflicts that both aid in wealth concentration and serve as a distraction from the discovery of genuine self-interest among the multitudes.
• Economic models based on several different forms of forced labor increasingly put into place. The fact that in today’s economic design almost no one can, by their own hand, meet their most basic needs gives those in control of the money-based production and distribution system huge leverage to extract the labor desired on any terms that allow life to continue.
The mandatory conditions could be met by either option one or option two, but is more likely to be met by option one, if it could be enacted, since option two contains violent deviations from Reality and the constant danger of internal disruption leading away from essential action.
Reaction today will only forestall any meaningful response other than supporting option two by omission. Ultimately, my only objection to the progressive approach is the focus on specific projects while remaining committed to present habits and understanding on almost everything else. This is a prescription for running around in circles.
The plutocratic oligarchs do not require a change in understanding, reorganization or new outreach. Business as usual for them is the road to option two. They don’t need to rethink the insane reality in which they reside.
The Great Many have it all to lose, either because they are enslaved by the plutocrats or because the earth’s systems convulse before corrective changes can be made in, first, our beliefs and attitudes and then in our actions.
How to accomplish these things (in option one) is unclear, but the first step could not be more clear: these ideas must be spread widely, argued, understood and made part of a great many people’s acceptance and expectation for their future. Only then will the synergy for action, sufficiently effective and powerful to oppose option two, be possible. The strongest force in the human world is an idea that a critical mass of people understand, accept and expect to be made real.
Thursday, March 14, 2013
My genes were born into a world in which the limits of their possibility were to be decided by the height of the sky, the width of the rivers, the rain in its season. Certainly, the experience, habits and tools of the people with whom I found myself would likewise be impacting on a whole range of possibilities, but within them it was my most gene-felt goal to express myself as fully, wholly and broadly as my hand-in-glove fit with the natural world would allow. It was not long coming that I began to realize, at a very basic biological level, that my genes had been betrayed.
We lived for the first few months of my postpartum life with my paternal grandparents. The grand (sic) mother instructed my foolishly naïve mother that I was not to be held, that breast feeding was dangerous for both mother and child, that children were not to be coddled (which, of course, included being cuddled) – my poor father! Millions of years of perfectly good, first class evolution down the drain.
It took me nearly fifty years to figure out what was going on: nature had died as a guiding force in human life; with supreme hubris, supported by monumental incompetence, humanity took on the task of guiding its own fate. This responsibility was taken on without one single capacity necessary for its actual accomplishment; the devices used to hide our incapacities invented the gods,… and invented pocket knifes, refrigerators and financial derivatives.
But religions and religious practice were only a sideshow – the real game was the ballooning of social dominance far beyond the first to eat, sexual priority and the power to decide where it was most pleasant to sit. Combining social dominance biology with the newly acquired ideas of gods and the capacity to concentrate wealth produced a monster: the class of humans who told others what to do, and used mystical origin as justification. This has always been done out of a pathological mix of insular belief and hubristic cynicism; no one human being can tell another human being what to do without some measure of that pathology.
The world today is awash with “being told;” there is almost nothing left of… Not even enough left to know what exactly to call the design of human life that was once how we lived. Don’t get me wrong; this is not nostalgia for some mythical perfection. It is, however, a recognition that, as a biological being, humans have biological qualities needing certain environments and actions to manifest. It is, moreover, an argument that ways of living that offer some reasonable degree of expression of these qualities are preferable to the rejection and denial of those qualities – especially when done for the convenience of a dominating class.
Chimpanzees and gorillas, wolves and the big cats, make terrible ‘pets’ as adults. The reason is very simple: they don’t take well to being told what to do. They wish to fully express their adult nature as competent proactive entities in the world. Since there are very few such animals living among us, we have created very few controlling structures related to them, other than cages and some laws limiting who can “own” them. But there are billions of equally recalcitrant animals with even greater potential for demanding self-expression, and for these animals the dominating classes have spent their major energies to create vast interlocking systems of power for their control – the controlling of humans is the greatest of all human projects.
There are, of course, some very good reasons for having systems for control of humans. The little buggers can get into, or out of, anything. Hide a tasty food and someone will find it. Secret away the most desirable females and they will escape with or without the help of some non-dominant male. A small group of the individually not-so-powerful can, by banding together, become powerful. Subordinate humans can think up all manner of mischief and challenges to being controlled. The dominating classes have always had their work cut out for them, but, as expected for humans, they have been diligent.
Which leads us to the world of today. Not only are people told what to do, they are told what to do so as to be told with evermore efficiency. The subordinate classes have been trained to keep their own members compliant in the greatest bait and switch of all time: if you help keep your neighbors in line, you can get to be a junior member of the dominating class, even a framable certificate for the den as clear evidence that you have done as instructed.
* * *
The most advanced form of domination is capitalism. It is the design of capitalist systems that devices to channel the value added by productive action (usually worker’s labor) into capital-capture are created at every opportunity. Such opportunities occur with every transaction of exchange and with every change in the relationship of labor to capital (technological changes, staffing patterns, educational level changes, capital organization, labor organization, laws of all sorts – all change is an opportunity!). When we realize that every single opportunity is zealously exploited, no matter how small or apparently tangential, we can begin to develop some intuitive sense of an economy that lets the capitalist pattern of motives run wild without the significant controls and “training” that might allow this “beast” to exist within the world of life affirming values and needs.
What is so insidious about this economic design is that those who are being “told what to do” do so with minor objection or are replaced by the more willing. Falling into the personal behaviors of advantage seeking is natural to any biological entity, and a major source of innately inhibited behaviors in all “higher” animals other than humans.
Only a fool would build a monster or monster-machine that could destroy him and all around him without designing-in serious controls and a secure off-switch. But that is exactly what we have done. Not that there has been no warning: Adam Smith, Karl Marx, Henry George and many others of equal intellectual power and authority have pointed out the principle dangers, but not drawn sufficient attention to the most insidious one – that it is the nature of a smallish percentage of the human animal to ferret-out every possible advantage in a situation, both in the moment and with some consideration of future opportunities; that hundreds and thousands and millions of people will be looking for such advantages, many taking a very generous, for themselves, view of what society might judge to be criminal; that these millions of advantage seeking moments would become, not an aberration recognized and frowned on by the community, but a central tenet of society – and so release the monster from any human jurisdiction.
In our present distorted perspective, the long-standing intuitive understanding of the dangers to the community of wealth concentration has morphed into the rejection of community rather than the rejection of wealth.
Many, if not most, of the present plans for “changing the economy” or for “building a sustainable economy” do not even begin to address the most important issues driving the destructive nature of the present system. New currency models, co-op ownership, economic growth models based in quality rather than quantity, socializing capitalism and other similar approaches, while valuable beginnings, will only be gobbled up by the processes described above without recognition of and action on the most basic issues. The three principle issues are:
The acceptance of concentrations of wealth outside of community control as appropriate and “natural.” And, quite possibly, the concentration of wealth in general! Concentrations of wealth require great amounts of that wealth, distributed as coercions, to be used for wealth’s protection. Otherwise, such concentrations would collect a crowd and would be distributed and used by “organic” processes. The prevention of this “organic redistribution” has become the major force in our societies, exceeding the valuing of life and the conditions sustaining life; not the least, ignoring the special capacities and qualities of the consciousness life that are part of every member of the human species.
That the present pathological relationship with environmental processes requires, absolutely, a return to a non-pathological condition. Regardless of every other issue, this one is non-negotiable and the ultimate consequence of the next issue.
The social biology or evolutionary psychology of the human animal must reset or replace much of the anachronistic, mythical beliefs that inform our Consciousness System processes. The Conscious System of Order has no design or device for directing adaptation toward veridicality, nothing equivalent to evolutionary process in the Living Order, other than the total failure of a belief system as it confronts the biophysical Reality (philosophical logic and science, up to now, have been largely impotent beyond the creation of technological products). Yet, we have the capacity to put off such failures for a time in small and immediate increments. The result is the cycling of societies through a great range of ascendance and collapse – kaleidoscopically in geologic time. The resulting cumulative suffering of humanity is to the apocryphal lemming’s march into the sea as multiple forest fires are to a paper match.
* * *
We are all born into the world to be proactive members of a human community, a community that we support, that supports us and within which we have the opportunity to express our genetic and consciousness endowments. That elements of this description have been co-opted by the capitalist system as a means to dominate the masses is no accident; it is the biggest lie of all.
Rather than being supported in the great varieties of expression of human happiness and fulfillment, we are being told what to do at every turn, to the point that self-reflection and true self-interest are considered both dangerous and, by controlled definition, un-American (or un-British or un-Muslim, etc.). But, this should not be a new thought for anyone; everyone feels it in one form or another. We accept it every day and in every way: cameras to the left of me, scanners to the right, here I am, stuck in the middle with you.
The daily grind has been described ad nauseam and need not be repeated here. To the slavery of work without purpose other than money has been added a whole list of complex coercions: credit scores, credit itself, due dates for all the different payments, onerous hoops to jump through for healthcare and other insurance related “services,” the idea of insurance, all the various “rents” that must be paid for the use of land space, the water we drink and the very air we breathe. It is not difficult to understand the Libertarian impulse as a kind of knee-jerk response to this constant amorphous blanketing of life’s daily experience – especially so for an animal that is biologically designed to take charge of itself; a gorilla would not put up with this!
It is a fool’s errand to try to remake society without first remaking your own life. The fault of Libertarians is that they accept society’s values, yet want to reject its restrictions; they want to have everything without doing what they are told. Refusing to be told what to do requires that one give up significant portions of society’s productions as well as protections, both of which are ultimately stifling.
Striking the balance between human self-determination and community stability will require a return to environmental sovereignty; humans are not suited to be King.
Friday, March 8, 2013
The counter-terrorism programs being developed around the world, especially in the developed (meaning rich) countries, are simply preparation for the social unrest that will come with the full implementation of elite plans for domination of the majority of the human population. Nothing else will work.
Either the economic elite dominates and controls the consumption and general behavior of the masses or the great wealth and impunity of the elite must be forfeit and a broad socialism with severe limits on individual wealth and power created (the possible means for this being unclear). However, the elite have no intention of becoming part of an egalitarian society.
The human world has become polarized beyond comprehension – and so is not comprehended. There are a few millions of people who have not the slightest recognition that there are fully human others with lives of value equal to their own, but living very close to the margins of biological survival. To most of the rich, not being rich is ultimately disqualifying of any worthiness. Impunity is the seedbed for this form of insanity.
For the billions of people who live close to the daily toil required to supply basic needs, the lives of the super-rich are incomprehensible, but, through a twisting path of reasoning, enviable. It seems simple: “I have just enough or nearly enough to get by, it must be great to have anything and everything whenever you want it.” And so, the Great Many feel somehow connected to the super-rich through this “understanding.”
What these billions don’t understand is that the economic elite think of them as so many tons of metal ore, as so many barrels of oil to be moved around, as so many hours of labor to be used or as so many pounds of meat to be packaged and delivered. There is nothing about “ordinary” lives that is of the slightest interest to the elite other than their actions in the economy: units of work, units of consumption and, increasingly, units of environmental degradation. Truly, the lives of the Great Many warrant no more interest than the lives of chickens or pigs on factory farms; they are to be sustained, and numbered, to create effective levels of production and consumption, period, full stop.
So, what would be the response to an insurrection of the chickens or the pigs? Impossible! They are all in cages slightly larger than their bodies, they have no capacity or means for creating a plan or organizing an action; the individual animal that is too much trouble (or non-productive) is killed. But, if the pigs could think it through?
For the Great Many to be fully and properly brought to “their role” in supporting the final stages of social development (the absolute impunity) of the economic elite, a number of problems need to be resolved:
• primarily, humans cannot be kept in any useful way in the conditions, and with the controls, of factory farms;
• they are both the productive and the consuming components of the economy from which wealth can be extracted, the engines of wealth and sycophants to superiority ;
• they are capable of independent action and therefore can act in opposition to the wishes of the elite;
• historically humans kept in economically depressed conditions periodically overthrow the political and economic forces limiting the expectations they have for how life is to be lived;
• even in depressed conditions, forceful people develop who grasp the realities of their situation, people who can communicate and organize a response to suppression and oppression;
• and the present massive human presence and action on the earth’s productive and protective systems endanger, not only all life on the earth, but the future of elite lifestyles.
You can count on it; the intellectuals among the elite have already made this list. The conclusions are obvious: the Great Many will, by the simple individual action of trying to stay alive or with the organized action of revolution, challenge the authority of the economic elites to control the earth’s wealth and to control their lives. Given the possibility that various regions might undergo rapid destabilizing climate change or that economic systems might fail to deliver goods and services to people who are unable to supply even the minimal requirements for survival, the nature and scope of the mass response is unknown.
There are broadly, only two responses: one is to use the vast resources accumulated by the economic elite to study and address the issues of human population, consumption and pollution with the intention of ameliorating dangers to the human and ecological future. This would be based in the generally held view that the earth is a community of common need and purpose.
The second response would be to develop the power to defeat, by any means necessary, both the disorganized and the organized challenges to elite control of resources, wealth and domination, by the common human animal. This would be based on the view that the earth can only support so much consumption and that the power to take resources is sufficient justification for doing so.
It is quite clear which of these directions is coming to predominate. Even as hundreds of thousands of people are engaged in humanitarian efforts of various efficacy, millions and millions are being trained and equipped for martial action against “terrorists,” “insurgents,” “environmentalists,” “activists,” “dissidents,” “militants,” “socialists,” “Maoists,” “jihadis,” “investigative journalists.” and “communists.”
Surveillance is reaching incomprehensible levels; the possibility of collecting, storing and being able to evaluate data on almost every human movement and recorded thought is tantalizing the elite into the expenditure of many billions of dollars (representing billions of hours of labor stolen and directed away from sustaining and ecologically suitable purposes). Add to that the massive expenditures on the US military and the increasing integration with police and prison systems that cannot even name a worthy enemy – the only enemy, even on the far horizon, for which such power is suited is general insurrection.
The model is long established. The rich family in town “owns” the local sheriff; the political bosses are paid off by the wealthy who use police authority to quash union organizing. It is only being scaled up to the world level. There is simply no longer any question but that a cabal of those who control the greatest concentrations of the world’s wealth are preparing for a potential apocalyptic future by purchasing the governments of various nations and, thereby, buying the military power to defend themselves and their interests against the people.