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, July 16, 2014
The RFM (Reality Free Media)
If you are trying to think about the world around you as a system that can be rationalized – if only you could figure out the rules, if only you could find the right reporters/commentators to explain events – then you have missed the point. The reports and essays that appear everyday at Common Dreams, Mother Jones, Counter Punch and their kin – or The Drudge Report, World Net Daily, Breitbart, etc. (New York Times, Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, Daily Mail, etc. are the same only different!)  – are like descriptions of a sporting event (thus the easy metaphor of politics as sports); and sports are intentionally made-up systems of rules for orderly functioning within a defined context separate from a larger reality.
A pawn is not allowed ‘to take’ a piece directly in front of it – there is no natural reason for that! Killing the most effective player on the other team is ‘not allowed’ in American football – though it is understood that attempts at incapacitating him are acceptable within certain limits! In almost all places in the world human lives are pressed into equally arbitrary systems that vary in their force of application from social discomfort to murder.
What we face today are sports-like rules dominating the public space and argued over as if they are really to be followed. Violations of these rules are regularly committed and denied (or attributed to the ‘other team’). The actual Reality of biophysical processes are increasingly being damaged by direct, knowing human action and unknowingly by the summed activity of our consuming billions. Our “game” is being rained out and we are denying that we are even getting wet. We throw up our “explanations” and “understandings” of events as though they were umbrellas sufficient to reject the reality of the gathering waters.
But they are no more than arguments over the rules: “You tried to move your knight one up and one over!” “Your guy jumped off side.” “You don’t get another pitch; the third strike has been called.” “Your credit score is too low to be acceptable for the job.” “You are the wrong religion.” And the rain comes down; the water is getting waist deep. What will the rules matter when you are swimming for your life?
Of course, there have to be rules. Knowing what to do and how to respond are essential requirements of the living condition. But, the source of the rules, increasingly for the human species, must be given the greatest scrutiny; taking a set of rules as given only makes sense – and survivability – when the context is clearly recognized as the game being played. Unfortunately, human cognitive process has no natural device or structure for such distinctions: the greatest numbers of us accept the rules of the game that we grow up with as natural and necessary reality.
But clearly, life is not arbitrary: life does not perform equally well in any arbitrary system. Remove any organism from the primary conditions of the Living Order and its organized substance rapidly loses the ordered configurations of life. Remove most organisms from the conditions to which they are evolved and their behaviors will fail to keep them alive. Deny a species veridical sources of information from the primary environment to which it must adapt and it will decline and disappear. These statements are beyond argument for every organism on the earth other than the human species; I contend that they are also completely true for humans as well:
Only with a caveat: the human Conscious System of Order has produced arbitrary behavioral constructions that consign the destructive consequences of our actions to other species, economically weaker humans or to future generations of all life. It is these arbitrary behavioral constructions (games) that most of us call unquestioned reality.
The other species, organized into ecosystems, have buffered our human profligacies by adapting in their own ways to stay alive, thus continuing to supply ecological “free” services; economically weak humans perform similarly, often finding ways to serve the arbitrary realities of those more economically and technologically dominant. In this way some concessions to biophysical reality are wrung from our actions. This, however, can only go on for a short time (in evolutionary terms). Any rational consideration of the present world makes clear that we are in the end game.
The major reporting of world events seen in newspapers, on the internet and on other forms of media are only sideshows: in the center rings are human profligacy, environmental disruption and imminent necessity of major and rapid changes to how humans live in the world.
It is only the presentation of these ideas in as many forms and forums as possible that will first allow and then drive the essentially arbitrary process of human rule-making toward greater contact with biophysical necessity.
 I am not suggesting an exact equivalency between the “progressive” media and the reactionary media, in general “progressive” media is making an effort to rationalize events while reactionary media is functioning on the agenda (most often hidden) of the oligarchic and plutocratic elites, but both are largely devoid of meaningful contact with the larger reality. (The elite agenda is one of the major elements in skewing the public narrative, but the “progressive” media generates its own reality-free system anyway.)