Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Return of "The Project"

Over the Thanksgiving weekend I had something of an epiphany, which is that "The Project," the initial impetus for embarking on what is now a three year journey into understanding the depth and breadth of human nature, remains a valid idea and something upon which I must focus my non-working hours.

The basic idea of the Project was inspired by one of the worst books ever written: The Da Vinci Code.  Actually, the Project was inspired by the fact that such a horrible book could cause people to question their religion (and the leaders of their religion to undertake massive efforts to debunk a bad work of fiction).  My takeaway is that the willing suspension of disbelief that takes place whenever we sit down to read a work of fiction allows even unshakeable beliefs to be questioned when otherwise doing so would create a defensive reaction.

For the Project, I planned to create a rich fictional universe within which it was safe to question all sorts of widely held and "unshakeable" beliefs.  So I set out to develop a multi-cultural understanding of human nature and the themes that run through every culture and civilization throughout time.

My only problem was that this journey crumbled my own unshakeable beliefs down to their very foundations, and I was left feeling that I had nothing left to say within the scope I envisioned for the Project.

So I abandoned the Project and focused on engaging in the political directly.  And that was disillusioning in its own regard.  I found many fellow travelers, or thought I did, but most of them stopped their journey when they found a new comfort level, which I view as unwarranted as the last comfort level.  Yves Smith is a perfect example of this phenomenon, as is (to a much smaller extent) Barry Ritholtz before her.    Both seek to work completely within the system to effect change, to reform the system to make it fair.  This is impossible, and as Russ said today, nothing short of abolition is required.  Incrementalism has been and always will be doomed to failure.  Unfortunately, people like Yves and Barry fail to see how the "now-opia" of "progressive" rationalism bogs them down, forcing them to make the same arguments over and over again, all the while legitimizing the counter-arguments against them.  After all, you wouldn't be arguing if there wasn't a legitimate difference in opinion, right?

But I'm restarting the Project now, and I think it will actually be better and more successful than I had previously imagined.  The turning point for me was realizing that what I have discovered about the truth of humanity and human systems offers the makings of a far richer, much more far-reaching tapestry than I realized.  While I still owe people like paper mac responses on my "fractal theory of human cognition," the bottom line for me is that human beings do not experience reality.  Instead, they constantly interpret it, comparing what they observe to what they accept and reacting accordingly.  This comparison is subject to positive feedback-- i.e., reinforcement or cognitive biases-- that creates hysteresis and make it harder for people to leave a state of belief once they have reached it.  The study of propaganda, aka marketing or public relations, relies on this simplistic view of human cognition to great effect, successfully manipulating public opinion and "consumer" sentiment.  And the power structure has long known that the values espoused by social institutions are critical in shaping opinion and sentiment, although they did not have empirical evidence of this fact until cognitive science and behavioral economists came along.

The thesis of the myth that will drive the Project is that all major changes to society have been driven by the relative pathological few who seek to employ usury to control the masses.  From monotheism, to feudalism, to  classical liberalism (and the corporatism it spawned), to the current neoliberalism that dominates, all can be traced back to the drive to establish and maintain usury as the primary social control mechanism.  Indeed, given Islam's outright ban on usury, the "Clash of Civilizations" that has resulted in the West targeting Islamic nations takes on a whole different light.

Of course, the Project is set within a fictional universe, and I will have to take certain liberties to fill in gaps that will make the myth complete and flow.  Nothing will be sacred but the human spirit itself.

As an aside, DownSouth is somebody I have not heard from since he was cast out from the Garden of Yves, but one thing he was harping on prior to his expulsion was "ponerology."  I have the book that he was citing, and it is quite dense and ponderous to wade through, but this related site is more accessible and, I think, consistent with the "mythesis" at the heart of the Project.