Thursday, November 7, 2013

Of Two Minds, Both Not All That Perceptive

Charles Hugh Smith posits: "Could a non-state issued digital currency like Bitcoin become a global reserve currency?"

Seriously?  Really?

The answer is no.  Next.

First, Bitcoin is no more a digital "currency" than a share of Apple stock.  Like any (in)security, Bitcoin is a bet that people swap for value.  Nothing more.  Nothing less.

Second, the powers that be will never allow anybody to control the Money Power that is theirs by right. This dictate is thousands of years old and won't be defied by Austrian Cargo Cultists like CHS.  I wish you luck.

But useful idiots are useful.  Unfortunately, CHS is most useful to the windmills he believes he tilts against.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Sacrificing Clarity for Precision and Achieving Neither.

A lesson I learned early on in my career as a lawyer is to sacrifice precision for clarity.  This was, of course, contrary to what I learned as an electrical engineer, when precision was everything.

In my various endeavors-- whether the Project or IP reform-- I have encountered time and again a level of erudition and over-complexity that arrests my progress, if only because I wonder at what passes for wisdom for these obviously smart people who seem compelled to speak in tongues.

A part of me assumes they use ridiculous language to make it impossible for the layman to decipher what they're saying.  Kind of like parents spelling out "D-I-V-O-R-C-E" around their kids.  But I'm a grown ass man, and all I see is a little kid trying to pull one over on the real grown-ups.

Another part of me wants to argue that these people are enamored with language and use it because they can.  In any event, as illustrated by Heidegger, the language they use prevents them from being understood or understandable to anyone, including themselves.  They're simply lost in the wonder of their words.

I'm sure there's a third part of me that has another opinion, but I'm tired of trying to understand why intellectuals immobilize themselves with language that banishes their precious ideas to nowhere other than obscurity.

The only way your ideas will have the power you think they have is to "vulgarize" them.  Aristotle and Plato understood this.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Three Degrees of Equality. Three Degrees of Liberty.

Many so-called conservatives insist on distinguishing between equality and liberty.  They say that what makes them conservative is their belief that liberty trumps equality (which does not exist in nature, anyway).  Conservatives also assert that what makes so-called liberals liberal is their alleged belief that equality trumps liberty.

While there is a certain truth in how conservatives characterize the differences between them and liberals, the distinction is, in fact, false.  Liberty has no meaning if it is not an absolute.  You either have liberty, or you do not.  If it is possible for one citizen to have more liberty than another, than nobody truly enjoys liberty.

My take on the "conservative" Roberts Supreme Court is it sees three degrees (or axes) of equality, and it makes decisions regarding equality so as to curtail individual liberty.  Specifically, the Roberts Court appears to recognize political equality, economic equality and social equality and seeks to eliminate the political and economic equality of ordinary citizens so as to eliminate their political and economic liberty.  Social equality and social liberty are the only things left open for debate, and liberals and citizens alike take the bait and so fail to see that they are being robbed of any semblance of political or economic equality and liberty.

The equality and liberty that neoliberalism offers the masses is the equal opportunity to choose between the choices offered them.  Free to choose indeed.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Leading a Significant Life v. Leading a Meaningful One

I had lunch with a friend today.  He told me a story of how Bill Haslam, the current governor of Tennessee, decided to "commit" himself to "public service."  Paraphrasing: Haslam decided he was a success but wanted to be significant.

Now, my friend related this story to me because I informed him of my desire to exit corporate life (and stay gone) and focus on making a difference.

My response was that there is a difference between being "significant" and being "meaningful."

Leading a significant life requires that others think you are important.  It's all about ego.

Leading a meaningful life is not about ego.  You can be meaningful to others without them even realizing it.  Indeed, helping others to find their own way is the most significant thing you can do, and letting them take the credit for their own success is the only right thing to do.  Their success is their own.  You only helped them find their way.

May you lead a meaningful life and not a significant one.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

If We Don't Know How the Story Ends, How Do We Live On?

CHS has a hard-on for "narratives."  We needs us some narratives, or we're lost:
If the causal chains of history and narrative are disrupted, then how can anyone fashion a meaningful context for actions and narratives, and effectively frame problems and solutions? If everything is equally valid in a non-linear flood of data, then what roles can authenticity, experience and knowledge play in making sense of our world?
The reality is that narratives are the beginning of the end, the cause of all conflicts that prove the theory of entropy.  Our demand to force reality to fit our narrative is precisely what creates all the strife and suffering in the world.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013


Bend Over.  Here It Comes Again.

I have a huge problem with the "Fourth Turning" argument.  I think it is nonsense, primarily because it is rife with cognitive biases and unrecognized anachronisms that neutralize any real insight into the patterns of history, which patterns I cannot, and therefore do not, deny.  The problem is that Fourth Turners appear to have no real understanding of history so the patterns they see don't mean what they think they mean, if they are even there (or meaningful, if they are there).

On the bright side, Fourth Turning fatalists/nihilists have found a reason to live, i.e, to preserve themselves and their loved ones.  That's better than just sitting there and whining.  It is also better than standing on a street corner preaching to strangers that the end of the world is near.  Not much better, but better.  To his credit, Eric A. admits that such preaching is useless and, thus, he and other Fourth Turning nihilists save us all from that kind of embarrassment.

Monday, May 6, 2013

What Should Be Obvious Is There Is No Market

Free thinker Charles Hugh Smith asks "What Is Obvious About This Market?"

He then goes on to say everything an Austrian-inspired person can be expected to say.  Indeed, several other members of the Austrian "cargo cult" said much the same thing on the same day, on the same sites.  Central banks are blowing bubbles that have caused a "disconnect between the real economy and the stock market [that] is widening [and] obvious."

The problem with laying everything at the feet of central banks is that doing so ignores how private actions have completely destroyed any semblance of a "market" in the so-called stock market.  Between dark pools and HFT, there is no possibility of price discovery and, hence, no market.  The relatively small positions of retail investors that are traded out in the open of "light pools" such as the NYSE are used as a proxy to set the prices of secret trades in dark pools, and if the retail investor gets weak-kneed, HFT can be counted on to supply the illusion of demand to prop up the proxy pricing.

Private parties are using dark pools and HFT to create and enforce the decoupling between the "market" and the "real economy," and there is little chance of a true collapse of the stock market unless and until there is a true solvency crisis of a major player.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Knowing Trumps Thinking

Once you know, there is no need to think.   But once you stop thinking, you are trapped in another's truth.  The only way to escape is to start thinking, but where will that lead you?  Safer to know.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Correct Response

The correct response to the bombing of the Boston Marathon is for more Americans, including me, to get off their fat asses and start running marathons.

I have grown tired of both the calls for less "bomb control" (among other things) and more "security measures" (that don't make us safer but make us less free).

Run towards the danger and demonstrate you are not afraid.  Inspire the cognitive dissonance of terrorists who will be left with nothing to do as a result of inspiring the opposite of their intended result.

Seriously.  After a decade of this kind of "debate," shouldn't we "get it" by now?

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Rent = Usury

There is a species of Christianist out there in the world who seeks to differentiate between Christianity and Judaism by focusing on the fact that Judaism does not have a blanket prohibition against usury.  To be fair, these days, neither does Christianity.  But once Christianity had what I call a "soft ban" against usury in that it allowed the lending of money at interest, just not by Christians.  Of course, that is utter hypocrisy, and the fact that anybody today seeks to damn the Jews of today for a practice countenanced by Christian leaders of yesteryear is beyond my comprehension.

However, I am not in a position to contravene creed-on-creed crime.  There is just too much hate there for anybody to reason with.

Instead, I'd rather posit that the concept of "usury" reaches far beyond the charging of interest for loans of money but includes the charging of interest for the loan of any of Polanyi's false commodities: money, property and labor.  Rent is usury.  As are the wages that most employers are willing to pay their workers.

Anything that works to make the debt-money vortex siphon value from the bottom upwards is usury.  This includes things as innocuous as the corporate form, which privatizes profits while socializing the actual cost of those profits.

Monday, March 11, 2013

The Illusion of "Work Life Balance"

The former CFO of Lehman Brothers recently bared her soul.  The reward for her good deed?  Punishment.

A male journalist over at Business Insider decided to psychoanalyze Erin Callan:
Callan hardly needs advice from me but I'll offer it anyway. She may want to consider that her lack of satisfaction with her life's direction is not a product of the choices she made. Instead, her choices may have been a product of her lack of satisfaction. In my experience, the kind of people who can rise to the level she did at a relatively early age tend to be filling a hole in their psyche, an indistinguishable yearning for something more that is experienced as a kind of pain. 
It couldn't possibly be that the meaningless existence that Capitalism leaves us inevitably leads to nihilism for anybody with an ounce of idealism.  No.  The system is not defective, only the failed executive who cannot be happy at the top of that system is defective:
Look at Callan's life. She is obviously very ambitious and capable. Yet she describes her life as almost beyond her control. There are no words of happiness about the success she achieved. Instead, she says she wouldn't wish her life on anyone. And now that she is in a new phase of life, she is still filled with regret, worry and unsatisfied ambition. "We are still hoping," she writes. But she means striving, pushing, trying to escape the limits of the ordinary.
Fuck you, John Carney.  Okay, that was harsh.  Let me try it this way: what happens when you fight your way to the land of milk and honey only to find it a vast desert, a wasteland devoid of any real meaning or purpose?

The bad news for Erin Callan is that she is getting it from all sides.  Emily Pecker, er, Peck, over at HuffPo managed to find a feminist angle for attacking Ms. Callan, snidely declaring:
You can add Callan's editorial to the "guilt pantheon" -- the legions of women who ascend to the top of their field only to tell you how badly they feel about it.
Fuck you, Emily Peck.   Oops, too harsh again.  Let me try it this way: the fact that Erin Callan happens to have a vagina does not mean that her sentiments about the work-life balance are hormonal or gender-specific.  Peck, in trying to paint Callan as an anti-feminist attacking her own gender, actually demonstrates her own sexism, and she tries to play that off by demeaning Callan's femininity (or alleged lack thereof):
I'm miles away from the C-suite and also space exploration, but I have two very young kids at home and not that much guilt about spending most of my work day at my desk.
Ms. Peck changes the topic without realizing it.  Callan's point was that she did not have a "work day" that was separate and distinct from her "life day."  This is one of the things that frustrate me about many women who proclaim themselves to be feminists: they view work as a choice and have no conception of work as men understand it: life.  But she can't help her ignorant snark:
I'm not defending anyone's decision to avoid spending time with their children. Personal decisions are just that: personal. However, in the wake of all the hubbub over Sandberg's book, the controversy of Yahoo's decision to ban working from home and the general excitement about how women (typically mothers) should feel about working, the time seems right to look a little closer at who is doing the hand-wringing about work-life balance.
Is it too obvious of me to point out that it is almost never men?
First, as Callan makes clear, she has no children, but wants them.  So, who are you talking to, Emily?

As to the observation that "successful" men don't complain about work-life balance, maybe that's because most men who make it to the C-suite don't have the self-awareness and/or balls to realize and admit they are not happy, usually because work is all a man is officially good for in this culture.  Instead, such men tend to punish those around them for their unrecognized lack of . . . something . . .usually by using their position power to force their "lessers" pay homage to their magnificence.  Such egotistical behavior is rampant in C-suites for a reason.

And those of us men who feel exactly like Callan have the good sense to realize that what we feel is better left unsaid because we will only be attacked as losers or self-loathers by haters that could never bring themselves to play what turns out to be a false, empty game, all the while revering that game because they never had the courage or skill to play it.

As a man who achieved the C-suite, I can say that Callan's analysis is spot-on and not gender-specific.  I'd love to compare notes.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Of Two Minds, Both Empty

Today, CHS channels Austrian Cargo Cult dogma and calls for a flat tax regime, blinded by the fact that tax policy is not really about collecting taxes but about allocating how savings and surplus are allocate between gambling (i.e., "investing" in secondary financial markets) and entrepreneurship (i.e., directly investing in U.S. businesses).

That's the reason, Chuck, that income taxes collected don't change much as a percentage of GDP: taxes are more a means than an ends.

If you think you were the first to discover that obvious fact, you're wrong.

And, believe it or not, tax policy can actually improve GDP growth if it rewards domestic entrepreneurship and discourages the gambling known as "investing" in the secondary stock and bond markets.  If, instead of encouraging domestic corporations to offshore profits through tax policy, you encourage them to invest profits domestically, you can get a great result.  If you make it such that shifting operations overseas will cost corporations money, they won't do it.

Really sad.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Dave Grohl's Sound City Project

I don't admire anybody.  But sometimes I stare in wonder at what a person does, and I find more often than not that Dave Grohl's body of work leaves me with a sense of wonder.

The man LOVES music, and his definition of music is extremely broad.

Better yet, he makes music FUN, as it should be.

His latest music project is involves a bunch of new tracks with artists he worked with as part of his movie about Sound City, a now defunct recording studio.  The movie is currently available for purchase pretty much everywhere, and a new album comes out this Tuesday.  I already have the track with Paul McCartney, and I've heard the tracks with Corey Taylor (of Slipknot and Stone Sour) and Stevie Nicks, both of which are phenomenal.

Music is one of the few things that makes us human, that differentiates us from all the other automata out there.  Music is our soul and our spirit and our joy.  There is nothing we can do as human beings that is more rewarding or more profound than making music.

Even the most banal pop music can be a wonder, if you look at it properly.  For example, imagine the Beatles' "I feel fine," which is a great pop song in its own right, told from her perspective, but as a blues song.    I personally look forward to Sheryl Crow's "The Difficult Kind" recast as a hard rock power ballad told from his perspective.  Take a song, speed it up or slow it down, arrange it differently with different instruments as an ode to a different genre of music, and you can discover a whole new world.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

What Nino Scalia Really Meant

My first reaction to Antonin Scalia's claim that the Voting Rights Act is a "racial entitlement" was pretty much the same as the author of this New Yorker article.

While I continue to believe that Nino (as Scalia's friends call him) is a racist (for lack of a better word), that does not fully explain what he said.

How does requiring federal scrutiny of changes to voting laws in states that historically used their voting laws to prevent blacks from voting result in a "racial entitlement"?

Well, the only way you can solve this riddle is by recognizing that race is not the only variable at play in its equation.  The other variable is class.

So what Unka Nino actually meant was that there is no impediment to screwing poor white people out of their vote in states that don't have a history discriminating against racial minorities.  Screwing poor people out of their vote is the real goal, and the Voting Rights Act makes that harder to do in states that have a history of screwing poor racial minorities out of their vote.  But for the fact that the po' folk tend to be black in such states, they would-- and should-- be fair game.

So says Unka Nino.

The Politics of Disimagination

This piece from Henry A.Giroux is the kind of thing I instinctively find appealing.  Thoughtful, insightful, aware.

But there is something very wrong with it.  What?

The piece itself seems to be part of the "Disimagination Machine" Giroux bemoans.  Giroux describes "that the politics of disimagination refers to images, and I would argue institutions, discourses, and other modes of representation, that undermine the capacity of individuals to bear witness to a different and critical sense of remembering, agency, ethics and collective resistance."  And what is Giroux's solution to this problem?
Against the politics of disimagination, progressives, workers, educators, young people and others need to develop a a new language of radical reform and create new public spheres that provide the pedagogical conditions for critical thought, dialogue and thoughtful deliberation. At stake here is a notion of pedagogy that both informs the mind and creates the conditions for modes of agency that are critical, informed, engaged and socially responsible. The radical imagination can be nurtured around the merging of critique and hope, the capacity to connect private troubles with broader social considerations, and the production of alternative formative cultures that provide the precondition for political engagement and for energizing democratic movements for social change - movements willing to think beyond isolated struggles and the limits of a savage global capitalism.
Giroux sees the many problems of the current system, but he places the blame at the rulers of that system instead of the system itself.  And he assumes that if we just educate people and teach them how to think critically, we will somehow overcome the inherent nature of the system and find Nirvana.  Talk about a lack of imagination!

You can lead a person to knowledge, but you can't make him think.  Giroux simultaneously demonstrates and ignores this sad fact.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Three Blogs, Three Takes on "Being"

Contrary to the assumptions of Western Thought, "Being" is a process, not a state.  We can only change what it means "to be" if we change the inputs to that process.

Toby gets this.  By changing how we think about value in society, we can change the magnitude and direction of the output of the process that is Being.  Note: "Being" can only be measured by a vector, not by a scalar.

Russ gets this, too. By taking responsibility for our own power, we can take it back and, thereby, change the magnitude and direction of the output of the process that is Being.

CHS does not get this.  CHS concentrates on the "right size of units" of Capitalism. i.e., its state as quantified by a scalar, while ignoring that the process of Capitalism, which he champions, is inherently violent to competition and actually demands "one firm (ring) to rule them all."  In other words, the magnitude and direction of Capitalism is inherently the centralized power that CHS claims to abhor.  CHS clearly blinds himself to the process of Being, just as we are all encouraged to do by Western Thought.  As a result, CHS champions Capitalism while he demands something that is not Capitalism.    The term "useful idiot" comes to mind, and for that I apologize to CHS, who seems to be a genuine "good guy" (like so many other commentators I like and respect but disagree with, e.g., Krugman, Yves, Bill Black, etc.).

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Survival of the Fittest Conspiracy

Social Darwinism is a lie.  No individual, regardless of his or her worth, can hope to compete against a conspiracy.  Indeed, the concept of Social Darwinism is a conspiracy that has enticed many an individual who is/was otherwise not self-aware.

The social power of any individual is determined not by his or her personal evolved state but by the deference of others.  The power you wield is entirely a function of the power others yield to you.  Without the collective, the individual is nothing.

Chew on that.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Capitalism without Consumption = Collapse

Marx got the description mostly right and the prescription mostly wrong.  The proletariat's power was never physical and ever economic.  If the proletariat stops consuming what the bourgeoisie peddles, the bourgeoisie will cease to exist (at least as presently constituted).

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Jim Quinn Demonstrates My Point

The more words you use to make a point, the more likely you are to prove you are a fool.

In a recent and typically long-winded post, Jim uses a lot of data and graphs to make many otherwise valid points.  Unfortunately, he does not understand what those data and graphs actually mean-- and that they don't actually support his arguments-- thus undermining (destroying) his credibility (at least with me).

For example, Jim uses the same exact data and graph that prompted my post here to argue:
A country that allows bankers to syphon off 35% of all the profits in the country without producing any benefits to society is destined to fail, with the dire consequences that follow.
But so-callled "Domestic Corporate Profits" are actually NOT generated "in the country."  In fact, there is no way to correlate these so-called "Domestic Corporate Profits" with the U.S. economy.  My best guess is that  substantially ALL of the profits indicated by data and graph were generated and continue to be held outside of the U.S.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

I Don't Want to Be Convinced of Anything Other Than the Fact You Know What You Are Talking About and Have a Valid Reason to Believe What You Say

For whatever it's worth--which is probably nothing-- I prefer inquiry over advocacy.  For this reason, I have a high bar when it comes to accepting advocacy.

My last post was inspired, in part, by the propensity of many bloggers to rely on sources they clearly have not vetted in order to add weight to their arguments.  The problem is, when you spend any time exploring the validity and reliability of those sources, you find little or nothing.  (Of course, most people don't dig into cited sources, so there's little danger in being exposed as a fraud.)

When I see that kind of behavior, I assume the blogger is either a fool or a liar.  In either event, that blogger's thoughts are not worth taking seriously.

A major reason I respect bloggers like Russ and Toby is that they are independent thinkers who are capable of creating opportunities for inquiry through well thought-out advocacy.  Whatever you think of their positions, the debates they advocate are well worth embracing.

Continuous learning is what makes us human.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

A Surfeit of Words, a Paucity of Meaning

The blogosphere is awash with those who believe the more words, the better.  A perfect example is Jim Quinn and his Burning Platform.  Another is RE over at  the Diner, of which (and whom) I remain a fan.

The problem with using a lot of words is that those who wish to ignore or undermine you can latch onto the words that matter to them and ignore the rest.

The better you are able to deliver meaning with few words, the more of what you mean to say will make it through the filters of others unhindered.

The irony here is that even this short post is capable of igniting an irrelevant and distracting controversy (over who v. whom).

The Truth Is Not a Fixed Thing But a Flowing Event

"A living body is not a fixed thing but a flowing event, like a flame or a whirlpool: the shape alone is stable, for the substance is a stream of energy going in at one end and out at the other."

   --Alan Watts, Does It Matter

A friend told me about Alan Watts about a year ago, but it's taken me awhile to get around to reading much of what he wrote.  I found his observation in the above sentence to be somewhat profound, perhaps more profound than Watts realized, as it can be used to bridge the gap between Western philosophy and Eastern philosophy by simply replacing the phrase"a living body" with "the Truth."

Be Wary of Government Statistics

Jesse has a post up today that, on balance, is great.  I like his simple, straightforward and tenacious moralizing a lot because, well, he's right.

The one glaring problem is his reliance on the BEA's "Domestic Corporate Profits" metric to make his point. Like Jesse, most people (including Simon Johnson!) believe that domestic corporate profits were earned domestically, i.e., in the United States.  That simply isn't the case: the BEA's NIPA Domestic Corporate Profits measures profits earned worldwide by companies headquartered in the U.S.  Thus, for example, the FIRE sector's share of "domestic corporate profits" says nothing about the FIRE sector's share of "gross domestic product," i.e., nothing about the U.S. economy, real or otherwise.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Karl Gets Punk'd. Hoists Self On Own Petard

Whenever a "cultural" issue pops up, Karl Denninger throws reason to the wind and embraces his inner nut-job.  This time, he seems to take what an anonymous poster on the internet says as indicative of their personal views and the views of the anti-gun lobby.  Take a look at the poster's history on that particular forum, and it is pretty clear he, like Karl, is a "conservative" pro-gun nut-job, although a full time one (instead of an occasional one, like Karl.).  Seems clear to me that "gizmo1942" is an agent provocateur specifically trying to drum up angst about gun control among his nut-job brethren.  Mission accomplished!

I think I'm done with Karl.

Full disclosure: I don't support further gun control.

Sunday, January 13, 2013


I happened to run across a copy of the weekend Wall Street Journal today, which contained an article entitled "When the State Owns the Truth," which appeared to be book review.  What struck me-- which is what compelled me to jot this down-- was a floating quote/commentary stating something along the lines of "communism and fascism, history's two bloodiest political faiths."

But Abrahamic "religions" were the first states to "own the truth," and Christianity was far bloodier than its secular Western offspring. which are but the perfect reflection of the authoritarian religious faith that begat them.

The Double Lie of "Rationality" (or Rationality and the Mismeasure of Man)

Some of the most loaded words in the Western world are "rationality" and its derivatives.

Why?  Because, on the one hand, we insist on "rationality" as the proper measure of human behavior, even when we know that what we define as "rational" cannot be achieved by any human being.  On the other hand, those who rule understand this fact and because of it insist on continuing to use "rationality" as the basis upon which to measure humanity and, therefore, find it wanting and unfit to rule themselves.

This is the Double Lie (aka the Double Truth) of "rationality."

This piece from Jared Diamond claims "It's irrational to be religious" can be used to illustrate my point.

 For example, Diamond claims:
Virtually all religions hold some supernatural beliefs specific to that religion. That is, a religion’s adherents firmly hold beliefs that conflict with and cannot be confirmed by our experience of the natural world, and that appear implausible to people other than the adherents of that particular religion.
By that definition, secular Western philosophy is a religion as it depends upon a definition of human "rationality" that does conflicts with our experience.  This is easiest to see in Western orthodox political economy, an applied form of Western philosophy, which is utilitarian in nature and assumes that a rational actor seeks to maximize his economic advantage.  This is based on the assumption that "happiness" = "economic advantage."  And yet we see people acting against their economic interests all the time, which demonstrates that happiness is something other than economic advantage.

Rather than questioning our model of "rationality" and adjusting it to reflect reality, we blame the poor misguided schmoes for not meeting our unrealistic expectations.  It's only one obvious argument from there to  deny the masses' ability to rule themselves because they are "incompetent," i.e., irrational.

By his own rules, Diamond is irrational.  But the rules are not Diamond's, they belong to Western philosophy, which has been the tool of the rulers for over two thousand years.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Reality Is What Reality Is (Slight Return)

Toby posted a comment to my prior post, which I responded to there.

I've given some more thought to things and felt it worth it to provide what I hope is clarification.

As a reminder, this is the language that I found so frustrating:

I believe we are transitioning from primarily ego-based interpretations of ‘reality’ – in which fear, control, ‘selfishness’ and ‘competition’ rule – to a paradigm in which we are far more consciously aware of the ego’s role in our perceptions and can therefore operate/react with greater consciousness and wisdom. A paradigm is emerging in which the sense that “our lives are not our own” is not reflexively dismissed as ‘socialism’, and money (whatever that is) is not a commodity to be hoarded, but a non-valuable record of economic transactions fostering cooperation and inventiveness in the interest of a growing commons which serves each ‘individual’. We are leaving behind one sense of what freedom is all about, and developing a different, perhaps more mature definition of freedom. Also up for redefinition are wealth, value and success; dessert, reward and punishment; obligation and responsibility; health and much else besides.
Toby's full post here.

This language springs from Western thinking.  The bedrock of Western thinking is Western philosophy, which assumes there exists an immutable, ascertainable Truth as a starting point for understanding reality through logic.  In the passage above, the applied Western philosophies of political economy and psychology are layered on top of that bedrock to form the foundation of Toby's analysis.  When I say that social "sciences" such as political economy and psychology are "applied philosophy," I mean that they are specialized applications of philosophy intended to reveal a specific aspect of "the Truth."  An important aspect of political economy and psychology (especially Freud's brand of it) is that both depend on the further assumptions that (1) society is merely the sum of the individuals which comprise it, so that we can fully understand society by understanding the individual, and (2) each individual in society seeks to maximize his utility, i.e., mainstream orthodox political economy and psychology apply some form of Utility Theory in their search for "the Truth."

Western thinking suffers from two major flaws.  First, its conclusions are only as good as its underlying assumptions, and the underlying assumptions described above have been proven empirically to be fundamentally unsound.  Second, it applies an iterative process of dividing a finite reality into an infinite number of either-or decisions that necessarily increase the perceived complexity of reality while simultaneously adding nothing towards understanding that reality.  This is the illusion of complexity.

While there is something like an "immutable" Truth (in that there is an objective reality whose future state is a function of its current state) it is not ascertainable by Western thinking because it fails to embrace the simple facts that the Western thinker, no matter how detached, is part of that objective reality, which obscures his ability to ascertain what "it" is because his interpretation of objective reality is subject to his personal biases and because his actions alter that objective reality, often without him understanding that to be the case (aka George Soros' "reflexivity").

I think Toby gets the rough outlines of my criticism of Western thinking, but he has been seduced by the lexicon of political economy and psychology, which themselves compound and perpetuate the fundamental flaws of Western philosophy.  For example, there is no such thing as an "ego."  The concepts of ego, superego, etc. were coined to create distinctions in theory where none exist physically in order to better understand how the human mind works.  This model of the human mind works to some extent, but it ultimately fails because how we interpret objective reality is not a function of ego but the basic cognitive function of human beings: all we are equipped to do is interpret reality by comparing what we perceive to what we expect.  You cannot change this basic function-- this paradigm, it is immutable.  You can, however, affect its outcome by altering its inputs (preferably both expectations and perceptions).  

Toby seems to get the rough outlines of this argument, as well, in that he understands that one of the major problems we have today is the extreme sense of "individualism" that seems to shout down any plea to consider anybody other than one's self as "collectivism."  Where he goes astray from my perspective is in confusing the societal values of selfishness and altruism as competing paradigms as opposed to them being mere inputs to the cognitive function that determines how we decide.

The sad fact is that the world has witnessed societies that exhibited far more altruistic societal values than we have today, and those societies were just as corrupt as the one we live in today because the values that social institutions espouse make no practical difference to those in control.  They merely change the language they use to collect and assert power.

Humanity will never find freedom so long as it is slave to a false certainty inspired by the belief that it lives outside objective reality and has any say in what it is.  I think that Toby basically agrees with the first part but not the last. In his comment, Toby says that he does not believe that we are separate individuals but "changing and repeating patterns/living systems embedded in complex networks and mysteriously capable of self-awareness."  Why can't we be both?  And how did he come across this particular either-or decision?  I think Toby has divided finite reality far beyond the limit of where doing so yields any real insights.  Reality is what reality is, and at some point you have to deal with it, especially the fact that you can never truly understand it.  I think this sentiment, which motivated my initial post, may be what came across to Toby as accusing him of solipsism.  I do get frustrated that intellectuals who are otherwise becoming aware of the limits of their ability to understand reality so often seem to retreat into the type of Western thinking that hid those limits from view for most of their lives.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Reality Is What Reality Is. If You Think Otherwise, You Are Not Being Realistic.

Toby has a new post up, which is unfortunate.  I prefer to think of Toby as insightful, but he is so caught up in the lexicon of philosophy and psychology that he blinds himself:
I believe we are transitioning from primarily ego-based interpretations of ‘reality’ – in which fear, control, ‘selfishness’ and ‘competition’ rule – to a paradigm in which we are far more consciously aware of the ego’s role in our perceptions and can therefore operate/react with greater consciousness and wisdom. A paradigm is emerging in which the sense that “our lives are not our own” is not reflexively dismissed as ‘socialism’, and money (whatever that is) is not a commodity to be hoarded, but a non-valuable record of economic transactions fostering cooperation and inventiveness in the interest of a growing commons which serves each ‘individual’. We are leaving behind one sense of what freedom is all about, and developing a different, perhaps more mature definition of freedom. Also up for redefinition are wealth, value and success; dessert, reward and punishment; obligation and responsibility; health and much else besides.

Actually, reality is not subject to a manmade paradigm, a model to be tinkered with.  Reality is what reality is.   The belief that mankind determines what reality is embraces the very "egoism" that Toby claims to abhor.  If the "paradigm" actually shifts, it will be akin to a mere change of clothing: those who control will remain the same, only the language of control will change.

Until you accept reality for what it is-- something that your ego cannot determine-- you will always be subject to control.