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

Saturday, January 25, 2014


There are two great social/political asymmetries that must be realized to understand present political, economic and social life: they are 1) the asymmetry of constructive action vs. destructive action and 2) the asymmetry of organized, monetized corporate action vs. actions arising from public concerns.

In the first case, constructive action must be comprehensible and orderly; foundations must be constructed before walls, first floors constructed before second floors; ideational systems must be in place, lines of responsibility drawn.  Destructive action can be ad hoc, even intentionally confusing; holes can be knocked in walls by hammers, explosives or heavy equipment; random damage can be as effective as discoverable orderly process if the goal is to take advantage of the destruction with no regard for the form it finally takes.

The second asymmetry is the perfect compliment to the first.  Monetized action can direct money to the organization and equipment for destructive action.  People can be paid to devote their full efforts to performing what are essentially random acts of destruction.  Of course, a well-planned corporate action isn’t random, but if the goal is to take advantage of the consequences of destruction, the planning is about maintaining lines of influence rather than the orderly nature of action.

The forming of coherent action from public concern confronts hugely different problems, and thus the asymmetry.  Returning to the first asymmetry, constructive action requires an orderly, informed and planned (as well as funded) process; exactly the conditions missing from generalized nascent public concern.  Creating effective action from and in the public interest is a constructive process and is easily challenged by random acts. Laying foundations, building the first floor walls can be thwarted by a hundred actions; watering the concrete, knocking down the walls, damaging the machinery, removing the workers, damaging or sabotaging the plans, stealing funds, buying off subcontractors; only the limits of imagination limit the possibilities.

To put this in the present political, economic and social context: the general public concern for issues, such as, economic inequities, social justice, constitutional protections, education, public health, international entanglements and more all require organized coherent action for the majority view to, first, clearly form and then to gain the momentum of many small actions to get the attention of government.  Since all the polling – when these issues are separated from political content – shows national consensus in favor of supporting the public good: more equity, more justice, strong service of protections, more public health, better and more educational possibilities, more transparent international relations and so forth, the failure of positive government response in that consensus must have a substantial cause.

This is where it gets interesting. One might think, by looking for patterns in the actions of forces opposed to these consensus concerns, that the intentions of those opposed could be discovered – a lot of ink and mental energy has been spent in the attempt.  But, such an effort misses the point: random acts of destruction work as well as, or better than, a defined discoverable program. 

Look at the issues presented regularly by the corporate press: creationism vs. evolution, guns, abortion, sexual issues and identities, racial dog-whistle stories, demonizing the poor and a hundred more distractions.  There is no pattern, just the meta-pattern of destruction of consensus formation on issues that would challenge power elite dominance of governmental action.  PETA, Benghazi, concussions in football, godless babykillers, your neighbor has a government pension, eco-terrorists, drugs and thugs, war on Christmas, hating Muslims, Mexicans (fill in the blank): there is no pattern; the intentions of the people driving this train are not to be found in the summary evaluation of these events.  These are random acts of destruction intended to slow and stop the formation of organized constructive public interest action.

Christian or Muslim; black, white or brown; English, Spanish or Chinese; middle income, poor or poorer; sports fan or opera fan; man, woman or other, young or old; these are all differences without a difference.  Common concerns belie all of these differences when the people recognize them. It is the type or class of people who are willing to condemn millions and billions to slavery (of many kinds), penury, sickness and death that are truly different, who need to be clearly identified, and whose behaviors must be either returned to supporting the natural interests of the living planet or eliminated.

But what to do when the economic elite has accumulated so much of the world’s wealth, and when most of humanity has completely lost both the skills and the opportunity to meet their most basic material needs without an economic system that we are told is the property of the elites?

One small beginning – after at least a day away from media of any kind – is to make a list of those issues that most concern you, and then largely ignore so-called liberal or so-called conservative media when they present “hammer and dynamite” stories to distract you from those concerns.  If many of us did this, and, with growing courage, shared our concerns with even those who seemed far removed from us – by those many differences without a difference – we would almost certainly find that we are in general agreement more often than not.

In my travels around this country, mostly in the “foreign lands” of the deep south, I have talked with truck drivers, prison guards, oil field workers and managers, old retired biker riders like myself, small town folks, big city folks, military types, weekend gangstas, lots of waitresses, college students, work ravaged old men and women, skilled and unskilled park attendants, professional biologists and geologists, black and white, brown and “red”, farmers, counter people in a variety of stores and the random assortment of ‘country’ folk who were drawn to talk to a funny-looking old man on a motorcycle.  My overwhelming impression is that the human glue of communion is powerful; left to our own devices, like children, we would be drawn together in, occasionally contentious, common understanding around the big issues of the great masses of humanity.

Such a world would have no place for economic and power elites.  It would not be a utopia – there would still be many opportunities for disagreement and contention – but as long as the values of egalitarianism (the central principle of the US constitution!) and social justice prevailed, understandable, acceptable and lawful solutions would be within our grasp.  The elites, of course, know this, which accounts for the present class-war and the random acts of social, political and economic destruction intended to keep the Great Many in internal conflict.

(to those who come here regularly looking for new content and haven’t found it: I have been working on a book of collected essays; it is finished and will soon be made up as a eBook.  It is called, With Nature’s Consent: the biology of economics, wealth and property.  I will post a notice when it is available.)