Defending A Life Of The Mind

Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. -Mathew 10:16

My last post, “Against A Life Of The Mind,” warned that pursuing a life of the mind is not very useful, practical, rational, or comforting. It concluded with a warning about mere dabbling in certain mental disciplines: that adding a little bit of consciousness can be destabilizing, much like how your natural gate becomes awkward the moment you start really being aware of how you walk. However, let me make the argument for a life of the mind and explain the utility of pursuing certain mental disciplines far beyond this kind of dilettantism.

I could wax eloquent here about intellectual pleasures, the joy of epiphany, and so forth, but that won’t be very compelling to most people on a purely hedonistic level in this age of synthetic drugs and video games. Aside from just quoting Mathew 10:16, the simplest argument I can offer here is that thought is a form of violence. The disciplines of philosophy and psychology are martial arts. They are most commonly applied as offensive weapons, as a form of social judo, so one would be well advised to learn enough of them oneself to avoid being thrown off balance, manipulated, or hurt. When learned intuitively or informally, these disciplines are nearly always pursued for dominance and power, which goes by many names: influencesocial proof, status, respect, recognition, and self-esteem. People generally learn just enough of these martial arts to overpower others, but not enough to overpower themselves, as this would threaten the very security they aim to derive from such competencies. My last post facetiously advised that one forget about wisdom, virtue, etc and simply become cunning and manipulative, but the truth is that an intuitive study of philosophy and psychology is precisely how people become so. We are kinda stuck with this situation and must often fight fire with fire. That is the depressing side of my argument anyway.

The Upside

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The beauty about these martial arts, whether the physical, emotional, or intellectual variety, is that the more rational thought & concentration you apply to them and the more powerful you become, the more peaceful you will be, as violence springs from powerlessness and insecurity. People are violent during their desperate pursuit of power, but are peaceful once it is within view.

Even if someone studies philosophy to overpower others with rhetoric, psychology to manipulate them emotionally, and martial arts to hurt them physically, he will eventually have to turn that will-to-power inwards, towards his own self, if he is to grow more powerful still. Thus, the truth of Blake’s dictum: “if the fool would persist in his folly he would become wise.” With persistence, one will discover that the carrot is always more powerful than the stick, that people are influenced far more by a leader than a cynic, and that a positive solution is always stronger than a smug criticism.

Professor Anton is correct that we cannot eradicate violence with violence, but he is referring to scapegoating and directing violence outwards, not directing it inwards to its true source. One must become one’s own best critic, an opponent to one’s self, in order to reach the highest levels of power and thankfully this has the side effect of fostering gentleness. Peace can be discovered through conflict. There are times when we need to criticize, correct, scold, and restrain, but it takes practice to learn how to do this with care. It is through proper contest that a man learns how to keep his ego in check, keep his thoughts on ice, and spare someone shame instead of always trying to win regard through disregard.

Gentlemen

We need very strong ears to hear ourselves judged frankly, and because there are few who can endure frank criticism without being stung by it, those who venture to criticize us perform a remarkable act of friendship, for to undertake to wound or offend a man for his own good is to have a healthy love for him. -Montaigne

A gentleman is not someone who wears “kid gloves” into every situation he encounters, for many situations require a measure of violence, whether verbal or physical. Martial arts training, in the broader sense of the term I am introducing here, produces gentleman precisely because it demands the application of measured violence. Through this training people learn the exact amount of care and gentleness that can still be preserved in various unfortunate situations. They become existentially secure, having already proven themselves in supervised and honorable contests with others. The process of producing gentlemen can only be assured, however, when both the physical and verbal/social martial arts are studied together, as man has physical, emotional, and metaphysical insecurities that incline him towards violence. The three disciplines here discussed must not only be studied persistently, but also studied together, in order that they balance each other out.

While I contend that self-awareness is a good thing, the more of it the better, it must be this well-rounded self-awareness that I describe above, otherwise it is simply neuroticism. One must be aware of the total self. Aristotle reminds us that “an education of the head without one of the heart is no education at all,” but also recall that Aristotle’s Lyceum was a gymnasium! That is, the human being is the amalgam of head, heart (really the right frontal insular cortex), and bodyPlato was a wrestler; Socrates a warrior!

Ernest Becker reminds us that madmen are the best reasoners we know and this is their undoing. The “reality head” would do well to shift his awareness from abstract matters to matters of the body and of the proverbial heart. Those obsessed with psychology often lose the objectivity and rigor of logic while nonetheless spending too much time in their heads and too little in their bodies. Those who spend all of their time concentrating on kinaesthetic matters and physical combat can lose touch with the true purpose of their training, when to apply it, as well as lose objectivity as they become consumed with ritual practice that often borders on religious compulsion. Truly living a “life of the mind” (for men, I might qualify) requires the balanced and persistent study of all three disciplines, lest some part of one’s self be overlooked, misunderstood, or sometimes over-trained. Together they provide a preventative medicine for the mind.

So there you have an argument for a life of the mind. Read on if you care to understand this ambiguous situation a little better and how it came to be.

The Birthing Pains of Consciousness

Fools and wise folk are alike harmless. It is the half-wise, and the half-foolish, who are the most dangerous. -Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

There was a time before philosophy; a time when the human mind was not conscious of itself in the way it now is. “People” were not capable of long-term deception, rhetoric, or overt emotional terrorism. They could be cruel and nasty, just as primates are much of the time, but they were not yet capable of evil. We tend to think of such primitive times as being the most evil, but this is a mistake based on a lack of written records before the dawning of consciousness (though many early writings refer to a lost “Golden Age”). People in prehistory actually suffered far less than we do, not only because true deception and manipulation were impossible, but also because they couldn’t consciously recall past suffering or imagine future horrors. They were non-conscious: largely confined to the specious present and the memory cues available in their immediate environment. This is what grounds the idea of a “noble savage,” by the way, though he was not so much noble and virtuous as simply incapable of true evil.

Julian Jaynes describes the breakdown of this bicameral mind, but it’s a mistake to think of this as a single precipitous break. In fact, Jaynes describes four stages, and it is the first stage that is actually the most terrible. In our ancient, hunter-gatherer existence, it is true that wars were fought, but tribal leaders hardly endeavored to “conquer the world.” Furthermore, these tribal leaders didn’t rule with an iron fist, as this post explained. They didn’t need to because the tribe was held together by myth and mutual reliance. The breakdown came from the mixing of huge tribes and the conflict of their many incommensurate myths, customs, and languages–the same situation we are presently in, if you will notice. Thus consciousness was born as an offensive weapon for destroying the gods of your enemy, or defensively, for hiding ones true beliefs and feelings while being ruled by foreign overlords. It hasn’t really lost its edge in the last few thousand years either, has it. This is why cocktail party discussions about religion, politics, or metaphysics get so heated. Our body codes a moral threat (a threat to our myth/worldview) as a physical assault, because it was blind adherence to that very myth that ensured inclusion in the tribe and thus physical security.

It is highly instructive to notice that the nastiest times in human history occur in the first stage of the emergence of consciousness, when there is just enough to deploy deception, emotional terrorism, and religion as political control, but not enough for the populace to use these weapons against their overlords or to give these overlords a crisis of conscience. Similarly, in modern times, which are infused with consciousness to begin with, this little bit of consciousness initially acts to weaponize the disciplines under discussion and bring out the worst in them. Thankfully some people discover true power in the process and can stop acting out of pure insecurity. Over historical time, conscious awareness eventually gave us rule by law, philosophy, history, science, etc. However, in modern psychosexual development people usually get stuck in the first one or two stages, using consciousness as a blunt instrument to gain social power. Furthermore, once they reach a plateau of such power, any further researches and study seem to undermine their intuitive and aggressive application of these disciplines. Even the seasoned street fighter largely stays away from formal martial arts training lest it mess up his intuitive fighting style and thoughtless aggression. If consciousness is such an effective weapon, why do social predators usually avoid becoming terribly self-aware regarding their art? Why don’t they use more rational thought and study their discipline formally?

Martial Prowess After The Birth Of Consciousness

The monks who developed Shaolin Kung Fu thought that humans didn’t have natural fighting instincts and therefore proceeded to observe and imitate those of animals. The truth is that conscious humans don’t have fighting instincts, or rather, these are obfuscated by man’s very consciousness. In bicameral times, the martial arts did not exist. In fact, courage didn’t exist, because homo sapiens didn’t have free choice or knowledge of what death really meant. This allowed these humans to push their ligaments and muscles incredibly hard, just as animals do. They could fly into battle with such reckless abandon that they were likely able to perform physical feats beyond what a conscious human could possibly demand of himself. As “humans” evolved, primitive culture allowed for the propagation of spear-throwing and club wielding techniques, which co-evolved with “human” morphology, such that throwing a spear just kinda feels natural for the human form. Thus, non-conscious humans learned hunting and fighting intuitively through serious play. When consciousness was added to the equation quite recently, however, real trickery entered human warfare, of the Sun Tzu variety. Suddenly men could use courage to face down the intimidating charge of an enemy, baiting him into over-committing, and so forth. The conscious human mind was suddenly becoming far more important in determining success in combat than the physical attributes of an individual’s body. However, in this process “people” lost that natural berserker aggression, that “animal courage” of the mythical Achilles. From the emergence of self-awareness on, this natural, intuitive grace and confidence has had an uneasy relationship with the rational mind, which can blunt the former with indecision and prudence, but also hone it to finer edge. This uneasy relationship is what gave birth to the martial arts.

Consciousness not only exposed humans to their own mortality, disrupting their natural confidence, but similarly disrupted their intuitive theory of mind and worldview. Thus the verbal/social martial arts were born in order to preserve, recover, or replace a lost certainty and deal with a new and increasingly ambiguous world.

WMDs (Weaponized Mental Disciplines)

Jaynes implicitly describes consciousness as a mental weapon developed under the pressure to cope with, and defend oneself against, alien peoples of unintelligible languages and unpredictable behaviour competing for the same habitat, i.e. space, or means of subsistence. -Walter Ratjen (2013 Jaynes Conference)

Consciousness first emerged as a mental weapon. For the most part, humans still wield this weapon much as any primate would: to seduce and manipulate each other, to climb the social hierarchy, and generally to stress each other the hell out. We tend to think of consciousness as some kind of immense power that we wield, some great advantage we enjoy over the animals, as it is largely responsible for our domination of the natural world. However, while it is true that we are the most successful predator on the planet, this has also rendered us the most likely prey. Consciousness is a rather mixed blessing when it comes down to it. Though it has added true love to the lust of pair-bonding, it also added anxiety to fear, hatred to anger, guilt to shame, and so forth. Hold on, aren’t I supposed to be defending a “life of the mind”? Let me explain something about “minds.”

Animals have minds–they just aren’t conscious ones. Primates, for instance, have theory of mind–it just hasn’t been weaponized yet. Some animals even have primitive, non-conscious cultures, perpetuated by imitation, but “a life of the mind” is not possible for them. While man was still a pre-conscious animal he yet developed incredibly sophisticated cultures that began to allow him to experience himself, albeit through projected deities, hallucinatory fugues, and so forth. The imagination had man, instead of man having an imagination (largely the state that small children live in, if you will notice). This was the mythical “golden age,” when non-conscious religion organized human societies via a non-conscious “operating system.” However, when this operating system broke down, various mental disciplines were weaponized, a word that we use to describe the forging of something potentially dangerous into something stupendously harmful. A blade, for example, is not inherently a weapon; it can be used as a surgical scalpel or a shank. Similarly, consciousness is not inherently good or evil, but radically empowers either possibility. However, I highly doubt that the first blade was used for medical purposes, so true is Heraclitus’ dictum that “war is the father of all things,” and the same is true of consciousness. For instance, religion used to be a shared mythos that held a tribe together and preserved forms of non-conscious wisdom that helped them survive and get along together, but add consciousness and you see religion produce The Crusades! Similarly, in modern society, kids who haven’t reached the so-called “age of reason” can be cruel, but they are hardly capable of real evil. Add a little bit of reflective self-awareness and you see kids get really nasty. Though these diabolical little creatures have “minds,” these minds are entirely dedicated to monkey politics and they hardly enjoy a “life of the mind,” which is positively discouraged for the most part, as schools generally pursue an agenda of domestication, not empowerment.

My favorite disciplines to study are psychology, philosophy, and physical combat, which you will notice are not included in the curriculum of most schools. Nevertheless, everyone pursues a shallow study of each, half-consciously, but with just enough consciousness to weaponize them. Though the higher primates can be extremely cruel and fight bitter duels over mating rights, gang up on individuals and kill them, etc, it takes conscious humans to be evil enough to bully an individual physically, emotionally, and intellectually to the point that he mutilates or kills himself

When learned intuitively or informally, these disciplines are nearly always pursued for dominance and power, as I mentioned. This will-to-power manifests initially as physical combat in the form of play-fighting, rough-housing and sports, progresses to psychological play-fighting in the form of teasing and ball-busting, and then finally culminates in rhetorical sparring and every form of priggish snobbery imaginable (most commonly political or religious). While we generally think of physical violence as the worst kind of such aggression, the sad fact is that self-awareness itself opens the human mind to enormous amounts of anxiety–some call this existential guilt–and this insecurity is taken out on others in ways that are hardly preferable to a little schoolyard shoving match.

The martial discipline of philosophy is deployed in the forms of biting rhetoric, harsh criticism, needless contrarianism, scientism, and religious fundamentalism, to name a few. Plato remarked that “rhetoric is the art of ruling the minds of men” and I don’t need to remind everyone that teenagers generally act more like tyrants than philosopher kings. In schools today, the emotional insult of “dumb ass” slowly begins to grow more barbed and articulate as kids figure out the cognitive errors of their compatriots and start to reveal them with immense glee. Schopenhauer astutely pointed out that social intercourse is often governed by the following maxim: “to disregard is to win regard.” This might as well be the clarion call of the modern age, where science is paraded about in the form of scientism more often than not, allowing people to cut down each other’s beliefs at will with a glib “that’s a myth” or “prove it!” without ever having to state any positive beliefs of their own. The delight that people derive from criticizing each other’s political and religious positions is just incredible, when you think about it. Humans are much more interested in proving their superiority and mocking their fellows than in finding god or enjoying good governance, it seems. This basic sentiment was expressed well by Oscar Wilde when he stated that “morality is simply the attitude we adopt towards people that we personally dislike.”

The discipline of psychology usually takes the form of gaslighting, emotional terrorism, overzealous teasing, as well as essentially being a jerk and denying a fundamentally social animal the solace of inclusion and brotherhood. There are just too many forms to even scratch the surface of this martial art, but one will recognize the violence often hidden in the backhanded compliment, the loaded question, the humble-brag, and many other psycho-martial techniques that are all, as Ernest Becker might call them, “petitions for self-worth” at the expense of another’s. Physical play-fighting often becomes too violence simply because kids don’t know the rules (ie whether a knuckle in the ribs is a fair move in playful wrestling). Similarly, there is nobody establishing the rules for a fair contest of ball-busting, leaving every little cadre of kids to work out among themselves where to draw the line between public character assassination and simple kidding.

The physical martial arts hardly progress past physical coercion and bullying except when combined with these verbal/social forms. It should go without saying that these disciplines are most often combined in some manner, such as when an emotionally hurtful ad hominem is added to one’s rhetoric while aggressively leaning towards the interlocutor. The more consciousness is added to these pursuits, the more insidious they become initially.

It is not ferocity but cunning that strikes fear into the heart and forebodes danger; so true it is that the human brain is a more terrible weapon than the lion’s paw. -Schopenhauer

Peace Through Conflict

Again, I am not suggesting that even these “weaponized” mental disciplines are evil, for they each have their own utility. Competition makes life interesting. I’d far prefer to discuss politics than how the Yankees are doing, even if my partner in the discussion is a snob. Intellectual sparring, even if it gets nasty, at least motivates thinking and spares us from the boredom of small talk. Similarly, teasing has many uses, especially when it doesn’t go too far. There were plenty of awkward, weird things that I did, said, or thought that I am thankful to my friends for disabusing me of. Teasing can be its own form of care and a gesture of solidarity. Gossip has been a check on the powerful for a very long time. Regarding physical violence, this helps develop physical strength, knowledge of where you stand in the pecking order, and if done right, a sort of “unit cohesion” and trust. But this all worked better in tribal or “village” life and easily goes awry in the modern metropolis where we hardly rely on those we went to school with even if we did bond with them, trust them, and develop a “team” mentality. We are on our own in modern society and cannot rely on the “tribe,” our buds, the team, or whatever. This is why the personal practice of the “martial arts,” as I’ve been using the term, is so necessary. In modern society, the violence that we see is not the result of too much martial arts training, but too little, as the martial arts afford an incredible opportunity for a real moral education. One can gain many life lessons from a street fight.

Ernest Becker argued that human beings are fundamentally conflicted, having two opposed drives: Eros and Agape. Agape is like people’s naive vision of peace or heaven: an eternal melting into the mother’s breast, acceptance, safety, etc. Eros is the desire for expansion, challenge, individuation. The warrior has nearly always sought acceptance by the tribe (Agape) by means of proving himself in competition with his fellows (Eros) towards the ultimate purpose of joining his brothers in the hunt or in battle (Eros again)–this is how he aligned the two antagonistic motives. The desire for expansion is an expansion of self, beyond one’s current self, such that an agon within the soul is sought; a competition with ones self, often by means of internalized hero figures (Plato’s Socrates for Plato, etc). We expand and grow by competition and conflict, not by tolerance, acceptance, Agape, or peace (in the naive sense). The male spirit (“thumos”) must be sated, it must grow powerful, otherwise it will not be at peace, but will feel vulnerable, unproven, unworthy and it is out of this insecurity that it becomes pathologically violent. The martial arts both humble the ego and encourage the spirit, and this is done through conflict, not chanting “love, love, love.” Furthermore, men need to learn to withstand and dispense measured violence, as the earlier Montaigne quote aptly gets across. Internal peace is not the absence of conflict–this would just be a dull mental emptiness–but instead, a system of tensions and compromises resulting from many iterations of contest and turmoil simmering into a semi-stable, but also flexible equilibrium. It is this form of peace that still allows for a passionate life.

Just as the martial arts were born of an uneasy relationship between the conscious, rational mind and ones intuitive “animal courage,” so too are the verbal martial arts born of such existential insecurity. The more you learn the more you discover your own ignorance. The more psychology you read, the more unsettled you are likely to become as you realize how mad we all are. It is out of this deep insecurity that people lash out at others, using what little they have learned as a blunt weapon to externalize their own pain. This is why a well-rounded martial arts curriculum can both render people far more peaceful and act as preventative medicine for the mind. The equilibrium of peace is forged from countless painful contests which are best performed under some kind of guidance and supervision. Instead, we leave kids to figure this all out on their own.

The physical martial arts really shouldn’t be taught without some kind of “verbal judo.” I’ve talked my way out of every street fight that has ever come looking for me. Usually this can be done with humor, irony, and other verbal tools that are actually the greatest countermeasure to the emotional warfare described above. When it comes down to actually saving your life and limb, martial arts schools should really dedicate at least half of their class time to discussing human (and primate!) psychology, “social jiu jitsu,” and so forth. They should be places that teach shame-inoculation in addition to stress-inoculation; places where the human-all-too-human can be laughed at and accepted in the same class. There is no better place to teach kids how to manage their own egos than a place where there egos are not the only parts of them that could get bruised. Receiving carefully controlled blows toughens one’s hide against sticks and stones, while taking carefully controlled criticisms and taunts thickens one’s skin against words. The dojo should be a school that teaches the brotherly art of un-love. This is how guys prefer to bond anyway, you might have noticed. Humans require physical touch and need to accept their bodies, but dudes prefer a punch on the shoulder to a lingering embrace in this regard.

Alfred Adler wrote that “neurosis and psychosis are modes of expression for human beings who have lost courage,” while Ernest Becker adds that this is the same as “a failure of heroism.” The martial arts were developed precisely to instill courage in an animal who had suddenly become conscious of the certainty of its own death and was thus exposed to anxiety, indecision, doubt and the threat of meaninglessness. Bullies strike at a rather compromised animal, so what better means of protection than a discipline that teaches courage and gives its practitioners a firm rooting in their own bodies? Why would we leave this to a PE teacher or Football coach? It also baffles me really that most McDojo’s still teach nothing but kata, punches and kicks. Why not discuss the psychology of violence? Why not also hold debates on fiery topics to stress-test a kids ability to control himself? The Dojo shouldn’t necessarily be where we teach our kids to think, but it seems a rather ideal place to teach them to feel. To the modern mind, making loud screams and breaking boards seems to be a rather foolish, even laughable act of a childish mind, but inside every man is child who just wants to play, Nietzsche reminds us. Our modern world requires far too much instrumental reason from us already.

Madmen are the greatest reasoners we know, and that trait is one of the accompaniments of their undoing. All their vital processes are shrunken into the mind. What is the one thing they lack that sane men possess? The ability to be careless, to disregard appearances, to relax and laugh at the world…

…the only secure truth men have is that which they themselves create and dramatize; to live is to play at the meaning of life. The upshot of this whole tradition of thought is that it teaches us once and for all that childlike foolishness is the calling of mature men. Just this way Rank prescribed the cure for neurosis: as the ‘need for legitimate foolishness.’ The problem of the union of religion, psychiatry, and social science is contained in this one formula. -Ernest becker

There simply is no better, more natural source of such “legitimate foolishness” than the martial arts. Male children especially are quite fascinated with violence and all of its many tools. This natural curiosity can be used to teach them about their own will and instruct them as to the proper objects of their desires to compete, to overcome, to protect, etc. Furthermore, it can be used to promote discussion about philosophical topics like justice, virtue, and evil. The verbal sparring involved in debate is a perfect proving ground for moral and emotional maturity. One must be able to keep his thoughts on ice in debate, which is excellent training for keeping your cool generally. Personally, I don’t really fully trust any man until I’ve argued with him or sparred with him, as you must interact with someone’s ego under harsh conditions to really gauge its stability and security. In George A. Miller’s history of psychology he describes Henry Jame’s method of raising his children.

He (H. James) organized his family into one of the most high-spirited and exclusive debating clubs in all history…

…It would be difficult to devise a better way to learn to think for oneself, or to learn that intellectual combat need not interfere with personal affection.

In fact, neither physical nor intellectual combat need interfere with personal affection, and can often form an incredibly solid foundation for it. Though Plato is right that rhetoric is the art of governing the minds of men, so too can it be turned inwards in order to govern a man’s own mind. The will-to-power need not lead to megalomania. Man’s natural yearnings simply need to be educated and turned inwards. Aristotle tells us that “wit is educated insolence” and that “anger is a gift”! Instead, for decades we have chosen to tell boys that their natural insolence and aggression are either culturally conditioned evil or the natural evil of their primitive nature. We have tried to educate them as we would girls, hoping to make them more peaceful and cooperative. Instead, a man’s natural fighting spirit is either directed at the market and the scene at the bar, or it is drowned in alcohol and mindless television as the life slowly fades from his eyes like a caged gorilla. Educators should have been trying to stimulate these natural curiosities and direct them beyond the intuitive goals of self-serving competence, but as stated earlier, education is more about indoctrination and domestication than promoting a life of the mind.

The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom. -William Blake

The workhorse of philosophy is the reductio ad absurdum. Sometimes one just needs to take things to their absolute limit in order to see the flawed logic or the wisdom in the contrary view. For instance, if you think that causality invalidates the idea of free will, you would do well to take this to its logical conclusion and ask yourself if anything at all is free. The determinist is inclined to answer in the negative, but if nothing whatsoever is free, then how does one explain energy, matter, motion, evolution, or anything for that matter? Is the world not freely existing or “worlding?” You see, this debate is so intractable because diametrically opposed motives drive the whole thing: Eros for free will; Agape for determinism. The above method of purging a certain view of its own flaws must be applied to the topic of violence. When this is done, one will find that the natural male fascination with violence and power (Eros), is equally just a plea for security, acceptance, and love (Agape).

People simply can’t fathom a certain paradox of human nature: that to find the light one might need to endure a dark night of the soul; that to combat cynicism one might need to become increasingly more cynical, pushing through cynicism to the “post-cynical;” that to find non-delusional optimism one might need to pursue pessimism to its very limits; that to promote peace people might need to study warfare; that to prevent violence we might need to empower people. The writer of Mathew understood this, advising us to be wise and innocent; cunning and gentle. While ‘wisdom’ and ‘innocence’ are antonyms, there is no contradiction in this council. Hopefully this essay has allowed you to see how one can eventually lead to the other and that someone could hold them both in a healthy tension.

Posted in Consciousness, Education, Free Will and Responsibility, General Observations, Human Movitation, Martial Arts, Morality & Ethics, Relationships | 1 Comment

Against A Life Of The Mind

“Wisdom is knowing what to overlook.” -William James

I recently published a post criticizing an article titled “Philosophy: A Diseased Discipline,” which offered as “wisdom” the suggestion that we would do well to overlook most of philosophy, as it is a hopelessly muddled and obscure practice that isn’t very “useful.” I wish to offer a counter-position to my own post, which criticized this view, for there is in deed a sense in which the practice of philosophy is quite “irrational.”

For in much wisdom is much vexation, and he who increases knowledge increases sorrow. -Ecclesiastes 1:18

The author in question is right that philosophy isn’t very “useful” if he means that it is unlikely to get you a job, a date, or relieve your anxieties about the world. In fact, the practice positively compounds most of the ills of modern life. The more you learn about the world, the more of its suffering you are exposed to. The greater your consciousness, the more pain you are capable of feeling. The more possibilities you see, the more anxiety you face. The more you learn the more you will discover how truly ignorant you are, which is rather discouraging. Philosophy is liable to make you humble and virtuous, which are terrible traits to possess in the modern world. To the extent that you cultivate some intellectual superiority through the practice of philosophy (which is impossible to hide for long), you will alienate those around you, especially those who have more financial and social power than you. No boss wants to be out-shined intellectually. Women are interested in being seduced, not enlightened by your words. Do recall what Oscar Wilde said about romance. Virtually no modern career requires general knowledge or wisdom, but only specialization. In fact, there is pretty much nothing except intimate friendship, which is nearly impossible to sustain amid the modern rat race anyway, that will reward your investment in your mind, in growing a soul worth having. So perhaps the author of the above Less Wrong post gives us wisdom in James’s sense and we really can overlook philosophy. He would remind us of something Oscar Wilde learned:

It is better to have a permanent income than to be fascinating.

If I were to really give a young boy “wise” council on life and success, I’d tell him to forget about truth, honor, justice, virtue, and wisdom, but instead, become fierce and cunning, treacherous and deceptive, while hiding all such things under the confident and amiable visage of a sociopath in suit and tie. There is a path to success that society will actually reward. Preserve a piece of your true self and your knowledge of the true narrative just so that you can keep the various stories straight in your head and avoiding tripping over your own lies. There are pills that will help you sleep at night; pills to help you go all day. Their are pills that will dull the existential despair; pills that will enliven an empty and meaningless life. Boredom will hover over your secure little life like a bird of prey, but massive industries exist to distract you and they only appear to be growing larger and more sensational. Now go get-em slugger!

As you may have guessed, I write all of this with a sense of irony and duplicity, but I’m not being insincere. The real message, if you caught the irony, is not that philosophy truly is a diseased discipline, but that we are a truly diseased culture if the practice of philosophy can only hinder your flourishing in it. There is a lot of crap philosophy out there, true; but there is also a lot of crap science out there, crap law, and crap food, but we should hardly dispense with science, law, and food now should we. Besides, William James reminds us that all that is required to be a philosopher is to hate someone else’s way of thinking; that anger and indignation can be a great spur to intellectual activity. However, be warned that the benefits of a life of the mind often don’t cover the costs, depending on what kind of benefits you seek and how much suffering you can endure, of course.

The running joke among philosophy TA’s at UCLA while I was there was that “a Ba will teach you just enough philosophy to fuck you up.” They weren’t kidding. Be warned: my three fields of interest (philosophy, psychology, and physical combat) are not to be “dabbled” in, as a little knowledge will probably do more harm than good, absent further dedication. Each man forms an intuitive worldview that will most likely be entirely shattered by a little reading. Each man has an intuitive theory of mind, which again will probably be violently upset by a little study, unleashing torrents of anxiety into a feeble consciousness hardly built to fathom its own existence. Each man develops an intuitive fighting style that is always hobbled when he first tries to apply rational thought to it (though he will nonetheless probably still be lulled into a false sense of security). Therefore, if you already live with some sense of peace, whether by means of ignorance, beer & football, or a hipster Buddhist lobotomy, you should absolutely stick with that method. Dabbling in the above arts not only threatens to disrupt one’s natural grace and sense of security, but worse, renders one more dangerous to other people when this awkward phase is surpassed, as these disciplines are usually pursued (at first) for power. However, if you are already in this awkward phase or beyond it, I’m afraid the only way out of the hole you dug yourself into is to keep digging until you reach the other side.

Posted in Consciousness, Education, Free Will and Responsibility, General Observations, Human Movitation, Morality & Ethics, Relationships | 1 Comment

Materialism Is Magical

It recently struck me that the philosophical materialism that I most commonly run into is secretly an extremely anthropomorphic view. To assume that matter is “inert” or “unfree” assumes that it has intentions that are being thwarted; that it “wants” to go somewhere and is being impeded by something. This “something” is usually other materials or the “laws” that supposedly “govern” them all. As it happens though, water, rocks, and light are perfectly content to go wherever they happen to go; to just “be,” or to be jostled and moved by any other objects or forces. They don’t care. They have no intentions. If anything, one would think that they would prefer to bounce off other materials or forces, as this would allow them to do things that they otherwise couldn’t do under “their own steam,” so to speak. I’ll remind the reader that it is ironically the resistance of the water around you that allows you to move around while swimming. But, after all, non-living things in nature don’t care one way or the other.

I really don’t know how people can countenance this sort of materialism given modern physical theory, quantum mechanics, etc. Physics tells us that stable as something like a rock appears to be, it is nonetheless in constant motion at the atomic and smaller levels. The rock just “appears” to be inert, to be “in-animate,” while it is, in fact, constantly and freely “rock-ing.”

The view I’m attacking here commits another blunder in addition to anthromophizing materials and forces: it reifies physical “laws” as if they were physical objects, like rocks, that could limit or stop the motion of another object. This reification makes people assume that “Gravity” governs the Earth’s orbit, instead of realizing that the Earth, the Sun, etc actively and freely gravitate. That is, their mass is what accounts for the attraction, while this attraction hardly issues from some metaphysical plane outside the universe like a puppeteers hands. There is simply no reason to view the Earth as being “controlled” or “governed” by gravity; no reason to assume the Earth is “controlled” by the Sun rather than “liberated” into a regular and orderly orbit. That is, no reason unless you assume the Earth “wants” freedom from this orderly orbit!

You see, scientific laws do not ultimately “explain” reality, they describe reality. In fact, they usually only describe the limits of the freedom of a given phenomenon. Thus, the speed of light ‘c’ is only the limit on how fast light can travel, while it is perfectly free to be slowed down to all manner of speeds. If we create some grand unified theory and all the known forces of nature are described by a single, one-line equation, their still remain the questions of 1) why does that exact equation happen to describe everything (ie why is everything like this)?, 2) why is there so much of this “everything” for such an equation to describe?, and 3) what is this grand unified thing or force that this equation describes so precisely and efficiently (ie what is matter/energy)? The equation might describe how things move, but it cannot explain why they move, or why they do so at this rate, or why they always have, etc. Another remaining question would be, “why all the diversity; why does the universe, as explained by this unified theory, bifurcate and diverge into all manner of phenomena as it manifestly does?” The force or forces of nature remain, as Schopenhauer argued, qualitas occulta even after science has ultimately run its course. To quote a prior post of mine:

Nature is not governed by law. Nature is lawful, meaning full of law-like phenomenon. Forces are not distinct from matter-in-motion. Forces are matter-in-motion

Nature is full of law-like or orderly phenomenon, but there is nothing outside nature ordering it. This order is simply the limit of the free powers of nature. So if rocks, water, light and the Earth are free in this sense, where does this leave the Free Will debate? Could we be the most complex known combination of all of these active and free forces and thus deserve the moniker, as this prior post argues? Living things can be said to have purposes which can be hindered by objects and forces. But again, it is the resistance of water that allows movement while swimming, coupled with the energy and force inherent to the human body itself, of course. So if gravity has you down, remember you wouldn’t be free to run along the Earths surface without this being so.

Posted in Free Will and Responsibility, General Observations | Leave a comment

‘Less Wrong’ Than You Might Think Pt4 – Philosophical Intuitions

“A man is well equipped for all the real necessities of life if he trusts his senses, and so cultivates them that they remain worthy of being trusted.” -Goethe

“The only real valuable thing is intuition.” -Albert Einstein

“It is through science that we prove, but through intuition that we discover.” -Henry Poincaré

The first post in this series argued that people might lack good introspective access to their own will not because introspection is inherently weak, but to the contrary, because they introspect too rarely and are out of practice. The Less Wrongians argument is rather vapid, as you certainly wouldn’t criticize Calculus just because most people are terrible at it. Instead, you would demand they practice their Calculus, not read a bunch of heuristics and biases literature to find out why they don’t care to practice their Calculus! They seem to think that humans have “instincts” instead of sensitive imprinting periods for certain cognitive skills, and proceed to criticize these instincts in order to convince us how relevant Less Wrong is and how much we need its deep wisdom to overcome our animal nature. If Pinker’s “language instinct” is right, should we criticize this instinct when people speak poorly, or should we tell them to buy a dictionary and simply try to express themselves more eloquently? Sadly, the Less Wrongians prefer the former in every case I’ve reviewed, attacking introspection, intuitions, and even, in this case, the whole of philosophy, as it often involves arguments based on intuition. The latter post attacks the greater part of both Analytic and Continental philosophy as being useless, but what they really mean is that it won’t help you build an AI or become more “rational.” Would they similarly criticize romantic poetry as well? Totally useless because it won’t make you more rational or help you code the next iPad app? This is laughable.

We do not have instinctual intuitions; our intuition can be informed and educated. What better tool for this than philosophy? Even reading through bad arguments helps update your intuition: this is why they still teach you outmoded physical theories when you study Physics at university. By this author’s logic we should also scrap “Science” and start over, given the pessimistic meta-induction.

Do they have no respect for Einstein, who read Schopenhauer, Nietzsche and many others; a man who claimed that he thought with his muscles? Do they have no respect for cognitive scientists like Pinker, whose books are replete with references and ideas from mainstream philosophy? They claim to have respect for Dan Dennett, but don’t seem to have read any of his books, which are also replete with references to mainstream philosophy quoted with great admiration. The book “Inside Jokes,” which Michael Vassar lent to me, admits that it doesn’t really make much progress on Arthur Schopenhauer’s incongruity-resolution model, despite having the advantage of all of this lofty “cognitive science.”

Here is a fun line to think about:

As Michael Vassar observes, philosophers are “spectacularly bad” at understanding that their intuitions are generated by cognitive algorithms.

What is wrong with “cognitive algorithms” and why is this so important for philosophers to understand? Birds that need to migrate South have such cognitive algorithms in their little noggins and they appear to be highly reliable. Humans have far more highly evolved algorithms and can even update them. Not all algorithms are of equal utility or quality, so shouldn’t the philosopher simply be more interested in distinguishing good from bad intuitions, or better still, which intuitions to use when? As it happens, this is precisely what they do all day. Its like the author of this post doesn’t think that philosophers can be skeptical about their own minds and knowledge! This is preposterous! Ever heard of a philosophical school called Skepticism or a branch of philosophy called Epistemology? Ever consider that these gave birth to your precious Science? Ever consider that epistemology and skepticism were first intuitions? Apparently not.

The post reveals its own biggest bias in its claim that “humans are loaded with biases.” “Loaded” with biases? My god, its a wonder we all don’t just accidentally choose to bite into our own flesh or put our babies in the microwave! “Loaded” with biases? Not even cognitive scientists talk like this: they respectfully point out where we naturally make bad inferences and so forth, while acknowledging how truly magnificent the human brain is most of the time. Scientists similarly point out where our senses tend to prove unreliable, but they hardly claim that our senses are “loaded” with error, my god!

Less Wrong is clearly its own dogmatic religion, something it ironically attacks with immense glee. Oddly, it doesn’t seem to have a very nuanced understanding of neuroscience. Certain posts mention the “baloney generator” in the left hemisphere, referring to Gazzaniga’s “interpreter module,” but then glorify left hemisphere capabilities to the complete exclusion of the right hemisphere, somehow failing to see that it is the former that produces the tendencies of religious dogmatism. They need to read some McGilchrist.

The post claims that “a few naturalistic philosophers are doing some useful work.” “Some useful work”!?! Naturalistic philosophers built Science, humanism, the enlightenment, and Less Wrong writes the enterprise off as largely useless? This is preposterous. Have some respect. This post is just impossibly arrogant:

Philosophy has grown into an abnormally backward-looking discipline. Scientists like to put their work in the context of what old dead guys said, too, but philosophers have a real fetish for it. Even naturalists spend a fair amount of time re-interpreting Hume and Dewey yet again.

So looking back is some kind of vice? History contains no lessons? This author could use a “fair amount of time re-interpreting Hume and Dewey yet again” himself, not to mention quite a few other “old dead guys.” Oh but he has, claiming to have based some of his hypotheses (such as the above) on his “thousands of hours in the literature.” He doesn’t seem to have learned much in those thousands of hours if his central hypothesis is that these thousands of hours were a waste of his time. Does he not see that he undermines his own authority here? He doesn’t even recommend reading Quine, one of the few philosophers he seems to have some respect for:

Update: To be clear, though, I don’t recommend reading Quine. Most people should not spend their time reading even Quinean philosophy; learning statistics and AI and cognitive science will be far more useful.

“Useful” for what? That is the meat of the issue. He means, “useful for building AI or building a new iPad app.” Go figure, studying AI will be more “useful” for building AI! As for building a soul worth having, I’d recommend reading some old dead guys. As for trying to understand your deepest self, I’d recommend looking to authors who wouldn’t write this self off as just “cognitive algorithms,” as if that was very useful or enlightening.

Bob: “What is your deepest longing in this world, your brightest dream, Dave?” Dave: “Who cares, longings and dreams are just cognitive algorithms.”

Bob: “What is ‘love,’ Dave?” Dave: “Just pair bonding instincts, Bob.”

Is this what passes for knowledge, wisdom and enlightenment these days? Is this what passes for “useful” and “cutting-edge” philosophy? The author of this post thinks that instead of studying the dry words of dead men we should make progress by “scrapping the whole mess and starting from scratch with a correct understanding of language, physics, and cognitive science.” Does he not realize that this “correct understanding of language, physics, and cognitive science” was born of “the whole mess” and would be nothing without it? The author continues:

Eliezer made most of his philosophical progress on his own, in order to solve problems in AI, and only later looked around in philosophy to see which standard position his own theory was most similar to.

Aha. “In order to solve problems in AI.” Again we meet the heart of the issue. Go figure that Eliezer would have to blaze new trails in contributing to a brand new field. But was he really blazing trails, given that he found “standard position[s]” that “his own theory was…similar to”?

AI is useful because it keeps you honest: you can’t write confused concepts or non-natural hypotheses in a programming language.

Really? You can’t write confused concepts in a programming language? Ever used Microsoft Vista?

Of course, there is mainstream philosophy that is both good and cutting-edge: the work of Nick Bostrom and Daniel Dennett stands out.

Does this guy not realize that Dennett has enormous respect for much of philosophy and defends a compatiablist notion of Free Will?

But if you’re looking to solve cutting-edge problems, mainstream philosophy is one of the last places you should look. Try to find the answer in the cognitive science or AI literature first

Did this guy never think to himself before leveling broad attacks at “mainstream philosophy” that it might be responsible for solving all of those used-to-be-cutting-edge problems that now make way for the new ones he endeavors to work on? Baffling.

Swimming the murky waters of mainstream philosophy is perhaps a job best left for those who already spent several years studying it – that is, people like me. I already know what things are called and where to look, and I have an efficient filter for skipping past the 95% of philosophy that isn’t useful to me. And hopefully my rationalist training will protect me from picking up bad habits of thought.

Ah, I see…so I should avoid reading most of philosophy and instead simply rely on you, oh great swami!?! What makes him think that “what is useful to [him]” is useful to the rest of us? Many people might be seeking truth, wisdom, insight, moral growth, and the expansion of their consciousness and mental freedom instead of confining the “useful” to building a superintelligence that might make up for his dearth of intelligence, given the pathetic meat-computer he is working with, “loaded with biases” and all.

After finally admitting that philosophy is unavoidable, as we all wake up in the morning as homo sapiens, with the problems endemic to our species, he goes and says the following:

you’re probably better off trying to solve the problem by thinking like a cognitive scientist or an AI programmer than by ingesting mainstream philosophy.

So the really tough problems in ones life, like “what is a meaningful use of my time here?” or “should I stay with this girl?” or “why should I not pursue my narrow self-interest alone?”…these problems are better solved by thinking like an AI programmer? This encapsulates all of my aversion to the Less Wrong blog: it preaches to the choir, advocating that computer programmers and math geeks study more programming and math in order to better their lives, instead of studying their own human nature and grappling with the fact that they are a homo sapien. No, better to study statistics and long for a transhumanist future free of the problems of being human than to simply master your own humanity, order your will, and build a soul worth having.

But why must I rely on Less Wrong, given that “nearly all these terms and ideas have standard names outside of Less Wrong”? What have they contributed to philosophy outside of their ideas about AI? If this is what “cutting edge philosophy” looks like, you can count me out. The job of philosophy is not to promote science nor to build a computer superintelligence. The job of philosophy is to build better men, free their minds, and contribute meaning, passion, and clarity to their lives. This is what is “useful” about it. Furthermore, as Russell would say, “there is much pleasure to be gained from useless knowledge,” so perhaps “useful” should not be the goal governing all of your learning. To the Less Wrongian wondering what use philosophy might have for him, I would again turn to Russell for advice:

To teach how to live without certainty, and yet without being paralyzed by hesitation, is perhaps the chief thing that philosophy, in our age, can still do for those who study it.

Posted in Education, Free Will and Responsibility, General Observations | 1 Comment

Emotional Terrorism–Towards A Workable Definition

Preamble

‘Emotional Terrorism’ is a great term, but it is in danger of losing all meaning and utility precisely because of the grand scope of its potential applicability or aptness. This post is an attempt to pin down a good working definition. This article’s use of the term, for instance, is virtually worthless. This article gets closer, sometimes supplementing the appropriate term ‘emotional blackmail.’ Why the difficulty and ambiguity? First of all, ‘terrorism’ itself is extremely difficult to define. However, the core of the difficulty for our present discussion is the following:

  • Human beings want to be liked, accepted, and long to feel safe knowing they are part of a tribe. To be ostracized meant certain death during most of the history of our species and we therefore interpret bullying, rejection, and isolation as threats to our very existence, while the fact that today we physically survive hardly ablates the feeling of being symbolically dead.

However, I want to restrict the term in question to something far more specific, lest I go on ranting about “negging” at bars, cyber bullying, and every form of snobbery & rudeness. This is no easy task, for technically, the negative takeaway, threatening to leave at the drop of a hat, could be a form of ET if the person has fallen sufficiently in love with the purported terrorist, but this maneuver is easily spotted and is too broad or vague to help us with our definition. This definition will not do, for emotional abuse is more properly just “emotional warfare,” not “emotional terrorism.” While a show of blunt military power can be meant to “terrorize” or cow a nation into submission, the threat is actually directed at the other nation’s own military power, not its civilians, per se. We invented the word terrorism for a reason. In a romantic relationship, arguments and the threat of arguments are a necessity and could be considered a “just war,” in the analogy, with mistakes and misunderstandings being “proper targets.” Emotional abuse would be an “unjust war,” while ET is a specific form of this.

What I have in mind is the sort of double bind that people in romantic relationships often employ to gain more power and control over their partner by attacking “improper targets” with such unscrupulous “weapons.” It must involve a hostage of some kind; a fear, an anxiety, or a psychological (or social!!) weak-spot that is being ruthlessly exploited. Though we will get into many examples later, let me attempt to hone your imagination in on the concept I’m attempting to articulate here: the common form of ET that I have seen in both romantic and other relationships is the use of one’s influence with a person to undermine their sense of their own competence, their trust in their own intuitions & thoughts, and their self-confidence, rendering them ever more needful of one’s guidance and influence, thus establishing a self-reinforcing cycle of unhealthy reliance. This is not ETs universal form, however; it just always has some element of gaslighting, of this kind of psychological crippling and undermining of someone’s sanity.

ET is more pernicious than political terrorism in a sense, because with the latter one can actually employ a policy of never negotiating with terrorists. A relationship, especially a romantic one, however, is just one long negotiation, so this is not a possible strategy. In fact, the only strategy is flight, especially for men, as the fight (argue) option is basically not available without encumbering enormous social and legal hazards. So this article is meant to explore some common tactics of emotional terrorists in the hopes of making them more easy to spot and escape, while hopefully also offering some tools for de-escalation that one could employ before a full-scale tactical retreat is in order.

There is one last aspect to my preamble here, one that will be difficult to digest: though both genders certainly can be emotional terrorists, it is generally women who employ the tactics that I am here discussing. Sadly, emotional terrorism, dissimulation, manipulation, and such tools have been women’s only means of power for a large part of human history, but things have changed and we need to demand an end to ET, not least of all because crafty men are getting the hang of it also. However, when a narcissistic man uses threats of violence, that is actual terrorism being employed–he is “terrorizing” his family, for instance. If such a man uses threats of physical violence, implied or overt, to his romantic partner, again this is “unjust emotional warfare.” It is “emotional terrorism” if this man knows that his partner had an abusive father, is unconsciously attracted to such behavior, loves him, and has been trained to comply in order to get security and love. This is the improper target that he is exploiting or taking “hostage,” creating something of a double bind. By and large, men are not clever enough to use real ET. Sorry, but these are the facts and I’m trying to be honest about this murky area of human intercourse. Men are more prone to use emotional “warfare;” women “terrorism.” A man is more likely to yell “bitch!” when raging; a woman “you have a small penis and are secretly terrified of your mother!”

To attempt some parity and alleviate any concerns about potential misogyny, let me give an example of male ET tactics:

  • knowing that his girlfriend has crippling self-esteem issues and a bit of the “learned helplessness” of the depressive, he criticizes her savagely so as to further undermine her self-esteem in order that she leans on him more for help, given how obviously powerful he must be, while he unconscionably confirms a view of herself that she has grown comfortable with and that garnered her care and support in the past. If he’s a real son of a bitch, he can use the “your too needy” card at will, then the “you know you need me” card whenever she attempts to stand up for herself.

Emotional Terrorism

Intentional Vagueness

If I were to write a book on this topic, I think the first nine chapters would involve planned ambiguity or intentional vagueness. Here is a specific example to get us started:

  • Jane: “You just aren’t hearing me David!” (insensitivity is a common knock on males in modern society; the blundering oaf the most common caricature)
  • David: “I’m trying Jane, please be more specific. Do you mean this?” (he takes a guess and in so doing has taken the bait)
  • Jane: “How dare you put words in my mouth! You don’t know me better than I know myself!” (continues to refuse to explain herself)
  • David: “I’m so sorry, I’m just trying to understand. I didn’t mean to imply I know you better than you know yourself. Please explain you feelings.”
  • Jane: “I can’t explain! They are feelings! How dare you force me to press my complex inner experience into words, definitions and reasons!” (she claims she doesn’t really know herself and therefore can remain purposefully mysterious while blaming the confusion on the man’s lack of emotional intelligence)

You could call this tactic, in many instances, the “Solipsism Card.” Defensively withholding the truth of one’s inner being and then accusing the other of failing to understand is pretty fucked up and destabilizing. Another’s solipsism is always ET in that it makes you question your grip on reality and makes intimacy impossible. It is a tactic that can also be used offensively due to the fact that a romantic partner is a witness to your life and should provide necessary perspective. I once revealed to my girlfriend the deepest existential wound in my soul only to be met with the retort “Well, I don’t see it that way.” This is when one should smile and walk away, or depending on the level of crazy you are dealing with, run away.

Here is another example, one that I’ve run into with a couple different women, but which really shouldn’t fly at all: “He’s not my ex-boyfriend. You have no right to feel jealous when I’m with that guy, because he’s only my ex-boyfriend to you. He’s just my friend.” There is a distinction in there that she has a right to draw, but the way it is being deployed actually denies the man’s feelings and reality (ie his justified jealousy) and messes with his sanity. She needs to say “I know that his (actually!!!) being my ex makes you uncomfortable, but please feel at least a little comforted by knowing that I only see him as a friend and couldn’t even imagine ever hooking up with him again.” But even here, she cannot claim that his feelings are irrational. Guy’s, you can always pull the legitimate, Clive Owen, “because I’m a fucking Cave Man!” card.

Women know that they have a right to their feelings, but they can tweak this truth to protect their preferred interpretation of their feelings, an interpretation that they feel to be true and thus protect it too from any scrutiny or analysis. Thus they can hide in the various levels of abstraction, claiming that their man is denying their reality, denying their feelings, or otherwise commandeering their person when he probes for some clarity. Sometimes the preferred interpretation itself can be withheld and the other party has no recourse to address it but by guessing (ie “putting words in her mouth”). For the record, your feelings are always real, but they may not be justified or it may not be justified to direct them at the people you currently choose to.

Here is another oldie but goody employed by either gender: claim to have some grievance with the other person, but never articulate the magnitude of the problem relative to other things in one’s life that one is suffering from. This is a good way of extracting maximal leverage, as one can hide one’s entire existential burden neatly behind the grievance, essentially asserting that the other person is responsible for it. Here is how this can unfold:

  • Dave: “Ok, Jane, I’m sorry I didn’t get the laundry done, but you seem to be falling apart as a result. How much of your suffering would you say this is causing you, versus your work and family stresses this month?”
  • Jane: “A lot.” (intentional vagueness)
  • Dave: “Yeah, but how much. Can you give me like a ballpark figure? A tenth? Half?”
  • Jane: “How dare you try to extract numbers and statistics from my feelings. These are my emotions we are talking about!” (evasion and vagueness in combination with the male insensitivity cliche)
  • Dave: “I understand that, sweetie, but I’m just trying to get you to think about how you might be taking out some your stress on me unjustly.”
  • Jane: “So you already assume its a negligible part of my suffering, huh? So you know me better than I do? Is that it?”
  • Dave: “So it’s not negligible? Its a big part?”
  • Jane: “Yes!”
  • Dave: “But that must mean more than a quarter, or something, of your suffering is about laundry, right?” (points out the absurdity)
  • Jane: “I don’t know! How does someone put their feelings into lifeless numbers? Are you saying my feelings are silly?” (claims solipsism–only she knows the truth–but then claims not to know with any degree of certainty, giving her carte blanche to extract as much leverage as she wants, which is best applied by doubling down on the emotional insensitivity angle)

ET must involve some form of vagueness or deception. Let’s explore the example of using sex as a weapon.

Sex As A Weapon:

Guys, if you have done something legitimately hurtful, stupid, or insensitive, your woman is not going to be in the mood, so her withholding sex is not ET, its karma. As it happens, you are being given an opportunity to show contrition and care that might very well put her in the mood. Handle yourself well, gentleman! However, quite commonly, women will withhold sex so as to dissuade their lover from arguing or to otherwise get what she wants. This is still not ET, if it is in the open. If she goes with the migraine excuse, we are getting into ET territory. Let’s say a woman knows that her man is upset with her about something, but she doesn’t want to give in to his needs/demands, and can sense his frustration mounting. He ignores his frustration and tries to have an intimate evening with her, which he is hoping will blow off some of his steam and get them closer and more ready for discussion & compromise. When she gets the drift that he is turned on, she tells him that he is so angry and frustrated all the time and this kills the mood for her. As the testicles swell along with his frustration and mounting blood pressure, a certain inarticulate rage builds up that she can then use as further justification for withholding sex. He now will have a very hard time keeping his cool when he approaches the issue he needs her to address, while worrying about having sex withheld from him if he loses his cool. His balls are now an emotional hostage.

I don’t mean to harp on women here, but I think we all know that they use sex as a weapon directly far more frequently. Here is an example of men using it a little more indirectly:

  • Jane: (with real pain and concern in her eyes, not the wieldy and venerable ‘crazy-face’) “You don’t spend enough time with me and it makes me really uncomfortable when you get so many calls and texts from Jennifer and Ashley. Don’t you get to talk to them in person quite enough? You know they are into you, right?”
  • David: “Ughh! You are so needy and paranoid! You make me feel so claustrophobic and upset. I’m going out to blow off some steam.” (they both know the people he hangs out with habitually are attractive, into him, etc. This reinforces the message that David is a marketable item whose company is highly sought after while getting across the subtext “better not control my freedom or piss me off like this or I’ll cheat or leave.”)

This is the ET equivalent of yelling “Allahu Akbar” before hitting the button. Narcissists of all forms love to use sexual jealousy as a weapon. However one tries to justify it, stocking the “on deck circle” is always a form of ET, even if it doesn’t meet all the requirements of my definition. You see, the actual terrorist is really not saying “god is great” when he yells “Allahu Akbar,” but “I am great, for I’m the very hand of the Almighty.” Similarly, the emotional terrorist is saying “I’m great. I’m in high demand. You don’t deserve me. You should have to chase me.” I guess actually cheating would be hitting the button in the analogy.

Defensive versus Offensive ET

Just as with actual terrorism, the emotional variety can be used defensively or offensively. A terrorist can defensively set up shop in an orphanage or offensively take over a passenger aircraft, just as an emotional terrorist can defensively play dumb, for instance, or offensively start a spat on certain ambiguous premises. We generally only think of the offensive variety of ET, but it is actually far more pernicious in a defensive mode. Look at this exchange, for instance:

  • David: (calmly and with great care and sensitivity) “Jane I am really angry with you. Why would you do such-n-such?”
  • Jane: (with look of feigned terror) “I don’t feel safe talking about this.”
  • David: (steps back) “What do you mean hun?” (this doesn’t make sense given his peaceful body language and nature)
  • Jane: (fidgets) “Please stop pressing me to explain myself, I don’t feel safe doing so.”
  • David: (who now categorically CANNOT express ANY anger) “Jane, do you mean you think that I am too angry to really hear you correctly…that I’d misunderstand?” (both of them know the true meaning but he is being threatened with a different connotation)
  • Jane: (gets more uncomfortable, as her gambit is getting exposed) “I’m going to go talk to Jennifer about this and get my head straight.” (avoids being pinned down to an obvious meaning/subtext, avoids having to explain herself, avoids being called to task for hurting him, neutralizes his anger, all with the implicit threat of claiming physical abuse, which is driven home ruthlessly by bringing a female friend into the equation, who can’t see the peaceful body language and might assume the worst about David)

We have seen some offensive forms of ET already, so I need not harp on the obvious, except to note that the next example is such an offensive strategy.

Baiting

This offensive strategy is really nasty and is usually used only by females, to my knowledge. Quite simply, it involves treating a guy like crap (ie being a bitch) for as long as it takes for him to mutter the word ‘cunt,’ at which point the woman can claim victory and retrospectively justify her being a bitch (ie b/c she was with a man who was capable of uttering the unmentionable ‘c-word’). Bill Burr discusses this strategy in many of his comedy specials (see the end of this clip). He explains that if a woman is right in an argument she sticks to the point and keeps you to the point until you are on your knees apologizing. Touché! But if she is wrong, she may think up nasty things to say to distract the man, bait him, and grind him into such a rage that he might utter an insult, at which point the argument is now about that insult and she wins. Burr offers great advice: guys, just know that if a woman gets angry and hurls insults, you have won, so long as you don’t take the bait and play it cool. “Honey, I think we should discuss this later when you calm down,” etc. Total victory! Another nasty thing about the bating strategy is that it can be played as a “long game,” for years, gradually chipping away at a guys will-power and restraint to avoid telling the woman what she is acting like. He can hold out for half a decade, but if he eventually takes the bait, even post-breakup, all bets are off and he is open to a ruthless character smearing campaign with no recourse whatsoever. For some reason its ok for women to sling insults, key cars, destroy property, generally go berserk, but that ‘c-word’… its the ultimate trump card. (note: I’ve never called a woman the ‘c-word,’ btw)

This form of ET utilizes a prevalent feature of most forms: enlisting outside help. (The terrorist equivalent is subverting the populace of the target country or allied countries with propaganda.) We already saw an example with the whole “I don’t feel safe” routine. However, there are far subtler versions. For instance, if a woman (or a man, for that matter) feigns ignorance and misunderstanding, then implies that she/he wants to discuss this with friends or family, or that the couple needs to see a counselor, this is also an implicit threat of spreading the misunderstanding and potentially slandering the other person. It shifts the risks of the misunderstanding onto the other party even though they are responsible for it (the other party can’t understand it for them, after all). The relationship counselor should have 10 books on his shelf addressing this and preparing him to be vigilant, especially against the female in the relationship, who any of us are predisposed to feel like helping/protecting on an instinctual level. Now we are getting into the really murky territory of this black art.

More Subtle Forms

Here is one of the single most tricky forms of ET to deal with, again, usually employed by women, who generally appeal to emotion more than logic in arguments, if you will forgive a generalization that offends but that you likely share with me.

  • David: (delivers eloquent and well-reasoned argument for his case)
  • Jane: (stymied) “We both know you are better at using logic than me, so stop muscling me into submission!” (plays on social stereotype of the domineering male)
  • or….Jane: “Stop using logic, this is about our relationships…it is about emotions!” (plays on social stereotype of clumsy man with no intuition or emotional intelligence to avoid reasoning about emotions at all)

The really tricky part about this is that men often do just blatantly out-muscle women with rational argument during an emotional exchange that doesn’t require so much logic, but calls for a soft touch (literally and figuratively). Perhaps this is the male equivalent of this form of ET: to play on the female stereotype of the irrational women during a time when she is quite emotional (and SHOULD BE!), while his using logic, being inappropriate, offends and thus frazzles her even further. This is especially tricky when there is a disparity in debating skills and abstract, analytic intelligence. Thus, the rule should be that any advantage should be put out in the open and OPENLY compensated for on both sides. The professional logician should have to double-up on his comforting body language, soft tone, etc, etc. A sensitive, intuitive woman, on the other hand, should be responsible for covering for her logic-addled man’s lack of sensitivity, for instance giving his pronouncements a generous reading or volunteering one, like “I think what you meant to say was something more like this, right?”

Here is another subtle form of ET that both genders do, in their way: treat sex with a blasé, cavalier, or counter-intimate attitude. If a guy treats sex as “just fucking” and withholds total commitment and intimacy, this protects him, while potentially exposing his woman, all without offering emotional parity. He will usually defend this with some bullshit evolutionary psychology and what have you, which undermines his woman’s right to demand his intimacy and vulnerability, while treating these emotional needs with contempt, as if they were silly anachronisms (this plays on the irrational female prejudice). To be honest, I see this a lot in dating, but not very often in committed relationships. The female version I see in both situations. This involves a woman doling out sex as if it were a gift that a woman gives to a man, essentially denying the reality of her own sexual needs so as to 1) protect herself from intimacy, or 2) undermine his sexual self-esteem, as if he couldn’t get her in the mood or is somehow unworthy sexually. This gives her ultimate control and plays on the social norm of the mindless, horny male who will just hump anything he can get his hands on. This makes the man feel inadequate, but vaguely sated; cared for, but not himself supportive; like he needs her, but she doesn’t need him. Furthermore, he can’t really ask for more sexual intimacy, because “oh, you horny guys, always just wanting more,” when the guy actually might want more intimacy. Lastly, both parties know she has sexual needs, so there is an extremely vague, but real, threat of someone else matching her unspoken fantasy.

Closing Remarks

As mentioned earlier, if you are facing an emotional terrorist, the only real counter-measure is to run. However, you will likely need to be throwing blocks and strikes as you retreat, so I’ll leave you with one sure fact that I have uncovered that may help you: the narcissistic solipsist really only knows their own internal world, meaning that whatever insults or accusations they send your way, these are pure and untainted projection, so know with certainty that these are a road-map to their soul. I hope you can make use of that knowledge better than I was able to.

Probably a whole book should be written on appropriate versus “cheap” targets, but in closing, I’ll mention that quite often men are stuck in social double standards that make it quite impossible to argue with women as doing so exposes far too many “cheap targets.” If he is too emotionally supportive and tries that Mark Wahlberg tone, he is open to being called a ‘pussy’ or, alternatively, accused of being patronizing, as if the woman couldn’t handle a real debate and needs kid gloves to be put on. If the guy fails to put the kid gloves on, he is open to being called an insensitive prick. If he stumbles through some compromise between these, he can be accused of not being clear, of equivocating, and generally not speaking in a conversive, natural manner. Basically he’s screwed if the woman really wants to nail him to the wall. He is the hapless fool with no emotional intelligence or domineering patriarch if he uses logic and reason, but a fag or amateur if he appeals to emotion. Generally men can keep their cool during a debate, keep their thoughts on ice, better than women because they have more experience with verbal combat and the bar for what is offensive is already established far above what women are generally comfortable with. (Again, generally) women have a harder time focusing on the topic instead of the subtext; the argument instead of the underlying relationship. To make matters even worse for successfully negotiating a romantic relationship, men and women have different “ramp up” times and “cool down” times vis a vis adrenalization. All of this makes argument and negotiation between the genders truly rather treacherous. I sincerely hope that we can at least expose and eliminate as many forms of ET as possible, as this is just needless baggage heaped upon an animal whose knees are already close to buckling.

Definition

Emotional Terrorism is a distinct and specific form of emotional abuse in a relationship that utilizes an improper weapon in the form of a double-bind or self-reinforcing dynamic employed to generally undermine sanity, takes a hostage–a target that is “cheap,” such as someone’s sexual jealousy– and thwarts honest communication with intentional vagueness and deception in order to gain leverage, control, revenge, or other unworthy goals.

Posted in Human Movitation, Morality & Ethics, Relationships | 1 Comment

Hypoactive Sexual Disorder

I recently read this article on ‘sex’ and ‘normality.’ It was very interesting and I agree with quite a lot of it, as well as the general tone and perspective. Therefore, all that is left for me to do is articulate where I differ from this author. So don’t confuse this for a hatchet-job when I must put too fine a point on such differences. I really want to discuss Hypoactive Sexual Disorder, but will begin by meandering about in adjacent terrain.

First criticism: the author, Stanley Siegel, says that “Definitions of ‘normality’ should have no authority in psychological assessments,” which I disagree with on the face of it, but must also bring up that he simply changes the word to “natural” and does the same thing himself: “monogamous relationships act like ‘cultural cages’ that confine natural sexual desire.” Well, its also “natural” for me to want to tear out the throats of my sexual rivals, so is my “natural” desire in some “cultural cage” that confines it presumably “unnaturally” and “pathologically?” Good thing we have the “cultural cage” of rule-by-law then, isn’t it. People are just entirely incapable of realizing that rules and boundaries often enhance freedom; that free license is often anathema to true liberty; that adhering to rules and fulfilling a culturally prescribed duty is an additional freedom one can exercise, complementing the “natural” desires they often constrain or channel.

The metaphor of the cage is entirely unnecessary. Let me replace it with the metaphor of food. In the US we celebrate many different kinds of cuisine, so is this “cultural cage” “confining” my “natural” desires, or is it channeling them, enhancing them, and allowing me to squeeze every possible amount of fun and pleasure out of my biology? See my point? Let me approach from a different angle, as this one seems to advocate wanton and polymorphous perversity in this context. Mexican food is really just the same few ingredients prepared differently, therefore rendering these ingredients far more interesting and pleasurable through the neat trick of “culture,” but personally, I could eat a good steak burrito every day of my life. What’s wrong with that? When living in Thailand for three years I ate Pahd Si Eu Gai every single day at lunch. I still dream about it. Scrumptious! I avoid the shellfish because it has given me the shits on more than one occasion! Similarly, monogamy is just one damn fine dish and I see no real good reason to try polyamory, BDSM, etc, while seeing plenty of reasons for avoiding them, many of which involving my “natural sexual desires,” like those to feel betrayed, hurt rivals, etc. Besides, those into kinky bondage stuff should have no problem with cages, right? Lol!

This author, perhaps unwittingly, is pathologizing monogamy in an article about the dangers of pathologizing human sexual experience. If we return to my culinary metaphor, let me ask you this: “why not just mash all of those ingredients together in a heap of undifferentiated pulp?” Come on, you must admit that the burrito is simply a phenomenal design; a good trick, even it if does take more effort to prepare than the mash-up.

Second criticism: though pathologizing “deviant” sexual behavior has its dangers, what is the alternative? Telling a patient that his desire to shit on people’s faces is totally normal, ok, and just a symptom of his unique life history and personal specialness? I think not. These adaptations are often “pathological,” meaning that there are far more healthy and less complicated ways of working through various sexual and other abuse than fetishizing things and so forth. After all, presumably the “client” is seeing a “therapist” for some REASON!?! “Ah, I see, Tom…you feel guilty for shitting on the faces of small children…well, let’s work through that guilt so you can proceed with less trepidation.” Is this what he’s advocating? This seems like a case of PC-induced Frontal Lobotomy Syndrome, a disorder that should be added to the DSM!

Furthermore, while Conversion Therapy for gay people is an abomination, this article overlooks the fact that there are plenty of people genuinely confused about their own sexuality and many who believe themselves to be homosexual not for reasons of genetic predisposition, but precisely because of their unique family history and conditioning. That is, they can be converted, which should be preferable to them given 1) the prejudice they will face, 2) the fact that their confusion may be based on abuse and twisted conditioning, 3) their potential desire to have their own biological children, for instance, and 4) the fact that they might actually find heterosexual sex more fulfilling once they work through their issues. People are just so repulsed by the idea of Conversion Therapy that they throw the baby out with the bathwater. But if a rape victim gets off on re-enacting dramatized rape scenarios, suddenly people go “oh, well we might not want to encourage that..there are better ways to work through the trauma.” Perhaps they wouldn’t say this. Perhaps this author would simply say “ok, I’m sensing that you feel shame when you ask your partners to pretend-rape you…lets work through that shame.”

Third criticism: Noting that something is based on social norms and subjective judgments is not some kind of knock-down argument. This is retarded. I have plenty of criticisms to level at the DSM, but to say the following is just tautologous:

It is based largely on social norms, with ‘symptoms’ that all rely on subjective judgements… not value-free, but rather reflect[ing] current normative social expectations.

SO F*$#ING WHAT? What’s wrong with this? Aren’t some social norms better for people than others? Aren’t certain values better for people than others? Aren’t certain “normative social expectations” better than others? Should we just chalk female genital mutilation up to a social norm and call it a day with a glib “different strokes for different folks”? This author is attempting to be the paragon of tolerance and acceptance while absolving himself of needing to ever use his judgement. He is confusing the acceptance one must have in the therapeutic relationship for acceptance that the rest of us should have towards the same people. I accept that I must exercise tolerance towards people, but I do not have to accept them or their behaviors, especially on their terms. You wanna make-out with someone’s ear canal, go for it. Just don’t do it in a public park where I have to watch that shit, and don’t ask me to accept it as perfectly normal and healthy in a conversation. I am allowed to disagree with you; this is something you must both accept and tolerate!

Last criticism: this author is clearly pathologizing monogamy, as when he claims that “solid findings have shown that flagging sexual interests are more likely the result of long term monogamous relationship.” I notice he didn’t link to these “solid findings.” I wonder why?

Hypoactive Sexual Disorder is not the same thing as a loss of sexual passion. So what accounts for the prevalent loss of sexual passion in monogamous relationships then, if not the unnaturalness of monogamy itself? This should be almost painfully freakin obvious, people. Flagging sexual passion results from:

  1. people failing to continue dating each other, investing, romancing, etc
  2. not taking care of their bodies (and this includes smoking too much weed ladies! Cotton-Mouth sucks, but Cotton-Vagina is worse! Habitual toking lowers testosterone and thus sex-drive, so put down the pipe and try a different oral fixation, *wink)
  3. failing to be very creative, take trips together, activate the dopamine system with novelty, etc. You don’t have to try different lovers to discover novelty!
  4. not having time to make such investments in romance, novelty, physical health, etc. The only sample population we have to really analyze scientifically comes from a particularly rather stressed, over-worked demographic in a certain recent historical period. (Prior historical periods are confounded by Catholic guilt/prudishness, lack of birth-control, etc.)

Let’s explore number four, the big culprit. We live in a fucked up society and economy that demands long hours of soul-crushing boredom that is hardly conducive to maintaining passion of any kind. Thus, it is far easier to just get hammered on Friday night and get any pleasure or novelty you can than to make responsible choices and investments of time. This article is just pandering to people forced into this lifestyle. It implicitly condones this “social norm” while decrying far healthier ones like monogamy. This baffles me. Exercise your judgement sir! Again, having sound judgement is not the same thing as being judgmentalWomen, it will always be easier to just go have a fling with some guy whom you really don’t know and whom you can project all manner of fantasies onto than to invest in yourself, your relationship, and your monogamous partner. But don’t confuse the easy road for the “natural” one or the one worth traveling. The only thing in life that is reliably fulfilling without much effort is a good burrito!

If you will forgive a seeming digression, one that will seem rather inflammatory, let me make some remarks on the effects of feminism. This necessary social movement was supposed to give women the CHOICE to have a career or not, but has resulted in the NECESSITY of their having a career. The purchasing power of the individual just isn’t there anymore, so sorry ladies, you gotta pick up another shift! The feminist with braided pit-hair is now glaring at me saying “but women have a right to pursue their desire to contribute to society and help people just like men!” So you are telling me that helping your husband, your children, and your extended family is just not enough meaning for you? You have to help complete strangers to feel happy and fulfilled? I remain dubious about this. Does nobody see that feminists are essentially promoting a message something like “ladies, if you are not becoming a lawyer or biochemist (or women’s rights activist!), you don’t deserve much respect”? Fuck that. I respect women who put their energy into family and community and don’t have to prove to themselves that they can get a Nobel Prize or hit a home run just like the boys. What’s wrong with that? The truth is that they HAVE TO pursue such a career; they don’t have a choice anymore. Hubby’s teaching salary can barely pay for their lifestyle BEFORE having children!

The author in question reminds us that “Even hormonal decreases during menopause can be overridden when a woman takes a new lover.” True, but why not remind us also that these hormonal decreases can be overridden by a romantic getaway with a woman’s current lover? I clearly smell an agenda here.

If we can return to the food metaphor, why mash up all the ingredients and try every random combination instead of first trying a little sour cream, some pico de gallo, a different kind of tortilla? Why abandon the venerable burrito so hastily? One thing I love about Thai food is that each little street vendor prepares Pahd Si Eu Gai a little differently. Appreciating food doesn’t always have to be about knowing every Thai dish in existence or having some vast range of peculiar predilections. This is often just snobbishness and lack of imagination! So too with sexuality. People tell me “oh, but you haven’t tried this or haven’t tried that…you haven’t lived man!” I call bullshit. Is vaginal intercourse really that boring guys, really? I think not. I love vaginas, so stop pathologizing that as if it were “unnatural”! And when I find one that I like more than others, one that happens to be attached to a person I deeply respect and whose company I enjoy, stop telling me that I’m imposing a “cultural cage” on her by asking for her fidelity in exchange for mine. The truth is that intimacy scares the crap out of us, society doesn’t give us time for much of it, and its a lot easier to mistake wanton promiscuity for courage, while calling everyone else a cowardly prude. Women, if you are sexually dissatisfied with your partner, choose a better partner instead of blaming the evil and unnatural cultural imposition of monogamy. Better still, blame the economy, politicians, and bankers.

Posted in General Observations, Human Movitation, Morality & Ethics, Relationships | Leave a comment

Healing On The Cheap – My Experience As A Medical Tourist

I’ve generally had great experiences with hospitals in Thailand, notably those at BNH and Bumrungrad. However, if you shop around you can find extremely good deals, especially because the specialists at Bangkok Hospital, Bumrungrad, etc, usually do some work at public hospitals as well, where the same procedure will be considerably cheaper. A friend of mine got his meniscus worked on for a fourth the cost of the procedure at Bumrungrad and with the same caliber of doctor, only it was at a public hospital and there were students observing in the operating room. For those looking for imaging, MRI’s, etc, I have to highly recommend Prachachuen Imaging Center, which is about a 100 baht taxi ride from the Mochit BTS station (fyi get off on the opposite side of the street as Chatuchuk Park). Some of the staff spoke pretty good English and the cost was 8,000 baht (255$) for an MRI without contrast (11,000 with), whereas its more like 14-15,000 (446$-478$) at Bumrungrad (and anywhere from 450-1,500+ USD in the States).

Obviously the biggest obstacle in this whole gambit is finding staff that speak good English, as most will list English under “Languages Spoken,” but four times out of five this means they can sputter out all of 20 butchered Ingrish “words” and who knows how much they comprehend. Yesterday it took me five minutes to figure out that “Whosskaaaluuh” means “vascular.” It really baffles me why this is still such a problem at a hospital like Bumrungrad given how much of their business comes from medical tourists fleeing the criminally inflated prices of health care in the US and elsewhere. Most of the doctors have gone to school or done fellowships and so forth in the US or UK, which begs the question of how much they could have possibly learned from these experiences without good English skills. Anyway, that point aside, I have one major complaint, and perhaps this is a knock on medical practices everywhere.

I understand that Western Medicine generally suffers from overspecialization and fails to see the body as a system–one that includes those pesky, but objectively real subjective experiences–but this has gotten so bad that many of them don’t even see “the leg” or “the arm” as a system. I have multiple injuries in my right leg, which makes getting an accurate diagnosis utterly frustrating. I saw an orthopedic foot/ankle specialist and brought an MRI of my knee to get his opinion on how much the calf and knee injury is impacting the ankle injury. He said, “oh, I don’t know much about the knee and don’t know how to read this MRI.” (Blink, blink.) “Huh?” Shit, by this time I can read the damned thing pretty well myself! He was obsessed with the X-ray he ordered of my right foot, but it strikes me as very strange that he didn’t feel it necessary to take one of the left foot and compare them. Instead, he compared only the right foot against his textbook of what angles various bones should be aligned at. He suggested I go show my MRI to the orthopedic knee specialist, which I did.

This guy’s Ingrish was particularly horrible. I showed him the 3-year-old MRI, which the radiology team at Prachachuen said looked fine. He took a quick look and said (if you will allow me to interpret) that he was worried about my meniscus and that I should get a new MRI. I did so and took it to him. He then told me something to effect of “I’m not a specialist in reading MRI’s, so you should take this to such a specialist.” (Blink…blink…blink.) You are an orthopedic knee specialist! And you can’t read a damned MRI!?! What the hell did I just pay you for in these two consultations? And if he can’t read the MRI with any degree of certainty why have me get a new one and bring it to him for that second consultation? Perhaps I should not be so harsh, as much could have been lost in translation. Anyway, I can’t really complain. It was only about 1,200 baht to see this guy (38$). Despite his proviso of ignorance regarding MRIs, he still claimed to see a medium sized tear in my meniscus that warrants another opinion and this claim is commensurate with my internal experience and levels of pain.

Lastly, I saw a Physiotherapist who was extremely good! Doctor Pantasak Tansakul and his physio team (especially Khun Umanoot) are top knotch: fantastic English, humorous, knowledgeable, and extremely nice. Doctor Tansakul taught me a few things in five minutes that are already helping significantly. If memory serves I only spent 3,000 baht (95$) for an hour of his time and an hour of Khun Umanoot’s time down in the physiotherapy center.

I’m going to try a month or two of rather intense PT/rehab–about two hours per day–before looking into surgical options. I have a badly torn posterior tibialis, a right foot that points an extra 15 degrees or so outwards relative to the left, a gastrocnemius torn at the medial head, a weak and slightly atrophied right hamstring, “joint effusion”/Baker’s cyst, and a possible meniscus tear. Hopefully I can get strong enough to avoid surgery, but if it comes to that, I’m in the right country.

In closing I’ll share a little experiment:

I built this rehab and workout station in about 30 minutes for about 30$ worth of 2” PVC pipe. I have already figured out how to do about 9 exercises on it and suggestions are more than welcome.

Posted in General Observations | Leave a comment

Why I’ll Probably Leave The US To Its Own Divisiveness

In the wake of the recent media circus surrounding the Zimmerman case, as well as the discussions I’ve tried to have about it with friends, I am finding my bafflement and misanthropy slowly turn into clarity and resolve. I want to leave the US for good. The land is beautiful, but the culture is toxic and beyond repair. The economic, political, and legal issues that concern me should go without saying to any thinking person at this point. I’ll ignore the surveillance issue in this post, except to leave you with a quote from Jean Baudrillard: “terrorism is still a lesser evil than a police state capable of ending it.” Instead, I want to focus on an issue that will immediately strike you all as irrelevant, so cue the eye roll now. There is an enormous prejudice in this country against the two most visible features of my being: being white and being male. What is more, plenty of my liberal, white, male friends are unknowingly complicit in this state of affairs.

Socialism works like a ratchet mechanism and it will be impossible, having spun that cog as far as we have, to take even a single turn backwards. But this is really not the deeper reason why I want to leave, for I could handle such a state of affairs if a deep and noble culture stood beneath it. As it happens, the economico-political changes that worry me are being driven by the real cause of my concern: a culture of victim-worship, ressentiment, tribalism-in-the-name-of-equality-and-inclusion, and blatant, unabashed, yet entirely unmentionable double-standards. You have all disproportionately heard from the minorities, so let me give you a dose of perspective from the new minority: the white male of the once privileged but now reviled class that, I hasten to warn you, now has zero incentive to invest in “America,” as it is still called. 

Good, now that you have all stopped reading the prima facie-irrelevant protestations of a white male, I can go on to speak some truth without worrying about being lynched by the very people decrying the historical practice. Just to be clear, I am not addressing the rhetoric of the liberal intelligentsia, but the culture in California, as represented by my friends, my acquaintances, and the upstanding, justice-seeking citizens looting WallMarts on Crenshaw. To this culture, I say Wake Up! Rhetoric and political discourse are not meant to be vapid cocktail-party conversation whose purpose ultimately is to impress those in the room with your compassionate egalitarianism in the service of getting laid or winning the drunken crowd. Every once in a while you might need to countenance a tough compromise or voice an unpopular opinion, even if it is an inconvenient cock-block or leads to you get your ass beaten by some deeply offended minority whose physical violence we tolerate under the auspices of its somehow defending free speech, tolerance, and equality.

Yeah, your right, I should eeeease into this rant a bit…no sense losing my head before my readers demand it on a spike. We’ll get there eventually. Let me start with the issue of misandry then, given that women are less likely to physically assault me for my rhetoric.

Misandry

Many claim that misandry is a myth and that women sometimes hate “men” as a privileged class, but not “men” as individuals. This is nonsense. Misandry takes many forms, but its most annoying feature is a blatant double-speak of Orwellian proportions that enforces an unrecognized double standard. This goes unnoticed because it influences the way men talk to other men and so everyone assumes its only bros talking about nailing bitches and so forth. Wrong. If you are dating someone for more than a week without trying to sleep with them, plenty of women will tell you to “make a move you pussy!” These same women will decry the dearth of good, sweet guys out there who respect women and so forth. This reinforces the natural male tendency to bust balls and set sexual conquest as the bar for manhood. So, let me list some of the double standards that I run into most frequently, either personally or vicariously:

  • When I’m respectful of women and try to get to know them before trying to get in their pants, I’m a pussy; I just don’t have the balls to get what I want. Yet, when I do, I’m just another asshole out to fuck women and carve notches into my bedpost.
  • When I’m monogamous, I’m just being hopelessly naive and failing to take into account our evolutionary heritage. “What kind of vile patriarchal monster would demand fidelity from a woman? Does he own her or something? OPPRESSION!” These same women will cry bloody murder when their hapless, confused lover cheats on them. “Men are dogs!”
  • When I argue a point I believe in with women, regardless of how I comport myself, hear them, adjust my position, equivocate, etc, I’m just muscling them into line like a patriarch. Never mind that they too are arguing, usually with far more aggressive and emotional rhetoric. If I disagree, I’m denying their reality. Never mind that they too are disagreeing and are more likely to simply reject a man’s reality, for, they have a divine right to their feelings AND whatever interpretation of those feelings they FEEL they are entitled to, which again cannot be questioned because its a feeling. A guy has no right to such privileged feelings and is usually called a bitch in some form or another if he voices anything resembling them. The man must keep his ideas on ice during debate, if he is allowed a voice at all, while the woman can run hot as magma and she is just adorably “passionate.”
  • When I’m down on my luck and not further along in a career, I’m a failed man, but when a woman is in the same situation, she is just struggling to find her voice and passion, despite the fact that our entire economic, academic, and legal infrastructure openly caters to her.
  • When I’m unaware of or insensitive to a woman’s feelings I’m Kevin James or Raymond; the clumsy oaf or foolish male of modern sitcoms who women begrudgingly tolerate though he is really irrelevant–a domesticated dinosaur clumsily trying to use a fork and knife with his little T-rex arms. When, as it frequently happens, I am more aware of the feelings and relationship dynamics than the women, I’m a beta-male, weakling, or fag.

I find this stereotyping of men more common from women than from men, especially because when it comes from men it is usually just playful ball-busting and is controlled by a certain thin red line that men are careful not to cross or risk a fight. Women have carte blanche in this department and take full advantage, failing to realize that they are creating the very men they will later hate on. But perhaps that’s the point. If a man is damned if he does, damned if he doesn’t, that’s all the more power for women. And oh, how they deserve unlimited power, for, its not like men have worked, died, and sacrificed to protect women at their own personal peril for all of human history…they were always only oppressing them, right?

Women, wake up, you don’t need to prove yourself like men do with harsh rhetoric; we’ll listen to you and respect your opinion just to enjoy your charming company! You are the gatekeepers of sex and therefore your choices largely determine the values guys will display in the sexual marketplace. I want to see a women’s movement that just teaches young girls to spot narcissists and choose decent guys. Within three generations we’d likely change the course of human history with a  “soft” eugenics. I’m calling your bluff ladies: if its really only guys who are all about looks and sex appeal, then you should have no problem whatsoever choosing nice dudes BEFORE age 25 instead of after. Get it done.

Racial Profiling

I’m now entirely fed up with this so-called debate (*scoff). Could it be that profiling sometimes has less to do with race and more to do with a provocative manner of dress, an attitude, an extended middle-finger?

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I asked on FB whether people thought Zimmerman would be just as likely to profile or “stalk” this fellow Hispanic and nobody answered, though they were quick to tell me that they didn’t find this guy threatening or ostentatious in the least. Really? I call your bluff. Walk through a neighborhood of these fine gentlemen wearing your skinny jeans and talking on your iPhone, I dare you! Seriously, does someone have to go to the following lengths before we are willing to admit his hostile intent? Is this just a benign cultural expression?

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Why do I even have to use such hyperbole to make this point? I don’t care if you are pink, yellow, brown or turquoise, this is a threat display and has nothing to do with race, except insofar as he is advertising hostility to any race but his own by default, and many within his own race on a more selective basis.

If a tattoo-covered white guy drives a Harley, revving the engine and waking up the whole neighborhood, he is sorta asking to be pulled over and frisked. If a dude of any color wears a shirt that says “Fuck The Police,” or “Thug Life Forever,” he’s choosing to present a certain profile. If you dress all gangsta in order to play the bad-ass and get girls with daddy issues, then stop hiding behind your skin color and live with the fuckin consequences you pedantic coward! You are asking to be profiled in a certain manner, admit it; that’s the whole point of dressing that way. The greasers were originally called “hoods” and were profiled and harassed by the cops…but that’s what they intended. I’m sick of hearing “oh, but its his culture…you wouldn’t deny a Sikh his turban, would you?” No, I wouldn’t, but that’s a culture with more than 20 years of history behind its style of dress, which, I might add is hardly offensive to anyone; its a culture that stands for something that ennobles those in its community. Dressing like Tupac is MEANT to be offensive and slightly threatening, just like the Harley driver is sending a message of “don’t fuck with me” by obnoxiously revving his engine. If you are going to claim some kind of racial or cultural solidarity and identity then take some responsibility for that culture and/or race instead of alternating between the individualism card and the race/culture card as needed.

Obama reminds us that “There are very few African-American men who haven’t had the experience of walking across the street and hearing the locks click on the doors of cars.” Yeah, but few white people haven’t had the experience of being racially profiled THEN ROBBED! Deal with it. Stop valorizing criminal culture, dressing the part, and then complaining when you unnerve people.

Nobody seems to be aware of the prisoners dilemma of racial profiling for white people. When I walk down the street in SF or Oakland I feel the hate-filled eyes of nearly every minority on me, profiling me, casing me, and yet, if I cross the street preemptively, I’m a racist profiler instead of someone caught in a prisoners dilemma? Sometimes I profile by race, but this is hardly racist on my part, it is simply acknowledging that these guys more than likely hate me because of MY race or class. Furthermore, I seriously don’t give a shit what race you are–if you mad-dog me or give me the evil eye, I’m gonna be reluctant to greet you with “cheerio my good fellow! Good day to you sir!” I might even perform the heinously offensive action of locking my car door. For heavens sake its not about race: I avoid Hells Angels members too! Ah, you object, friends; do you? I call your bluff: go walk down Crenshaw at night or San Palbo in Oakland wearing your skinny jeans and talking on your next-gen iPhone. I dare you! Backup your rhetoric, if you have the guts, but backup your address book and ensure your phone first.

Freedom Of Dress

“But kids in the ghetto have to dress gansta just to survive,” my antagonist replies. Nonsense. Those kids have to literally fight for their turf and will win respect on that basis alone, not their cultural uniform–the sagging jeans just hinder their ability to fight or flee. “But you can’t judge a book by its cover.” Sure I can. That’s why authors pay good money to design an attractive and non-offensive cover. To my fine African American brothers out there filing lawsuits based on racism, I ask you this: would you hire an attorney dressed in Fubu? No? Why not? Ah. So your manner of dress actually means something, communicates something then, doesn’t it. Oh, you wouldn’t see a dentist or doctor either if he were wearing a wife-beater and jean-shorts that sag so low they might as well be ass-less pants? How odd. Do you not see that your attempted racial solidarity is anathema to your plea for inclusion and equality? You want me to treat you as an equal but I’m not allowed to you call you “brother”?

“Oh, but you can’t deny me my culture!” you protest. No I can’t. We live in a multi-cultural society where tolerance reigns supreme, but tolerance is not the same thing as acceptance and I have a right not to accept your style or manner on your terms. I can lock my car door. I can call the cops if your shady ass is skulking around my neighborhood at 1AM. If you are there for a good reason it should be pretty simple to explain it, right? “Just heading to my girls place on 5th, apt 2. Didn’t mean to startle. Have a good night.” Is that so hard? And yes, I can defend myself if you assault me for inquiring whether you live in the neighborhood or not–this is not an offense worthy of assault and you know you would do the same thing if I was walking through your hood, some unknown dude. Deal with it.

Minority Racism and So-called Racial/Cultural Solidarity

The ethnic minorities are the most deeply racist people in America (and towards each other too, not just whites), so I call projection and reaction formation on your loud accusations of white racism! The lady doth protest too much! In case you forgot, the existence of white racists in the past doesn’t justify your hating their great, great grand kids. Otherwise you don’t believe in individual freedoms and support treating people as races and classes–ie you have become your enemy.

Have you watched the news after any ambiguous legal incident involving race? It just baffles me: where is all this racial solidarity when it comes to criticizing absent fathers or cousins that steal cars? If you don’t chastise cousin Jorge, Jamal, or white-assed Billy-Joe, for that matter, about stealing cars, then you don’t have a right to be all offended when someone locks their car door as you pass by, sporting your hoody that says in effect “I celebrate a culture of poverty, crime, and violence, so back up and step off mother f***er!” Why is there only racial solidarity when there are cars to turn over and burn and none when it comes to protecting the image of the race, class, or sub-culture you belong to? Do you have no pride? Why not invent your own slurs or offensive terms for those in your own community that are dragging everyone down with them?

Oh, you are stomping on cars on Crenshaw in support of your race and culture? Bullshit. You want to act like a community? Great! But where is all that racial solidarity, where are all of those protests and marches when it comes to stopping rape, absentee fathers, and crime within your communities? Why only protest when there are Wallmarts to loot and cars to smash? Why celebrate only victims and never heroes; why produce only victims and rarely heroes; why listen to victims and never the heroes you do manage to produce? MLK longed for a society in which people were judged by the contents of their character and not the color of their skin, so take a long fucking look in the mirror and ask yourself what he’d think of YOUR character! A white guy who judges everyone by the contents of their character has to have the race card thrown in his face at every turn, and if he calls that move one of low character, he’s even more of a racist.

Why do I see outrage over the Zimmerman trial but passive acceptance of the 532 murders in Chicago in 2012 or the fact that nationwide, gang membership has increased by roughly 40%? Obama actually said something rather eloquent on this point recently:

That anger may not get expressed in public, in front of white co-workers or white friends. But it does find voice in the barbershop or around the kitchen table. At times, that anger is exploited by politicians, to gin up votes along racial lines, or to make up for a politician’s own failings. … That anger is not always productive; indeed, all too often it distracts attention from solving real problems; it keeps us from squarely facing our own complicity in our condition.

However, he is wrong that this anger is not expressed in public or in front of white co-workers. More likely, the white co-workers suddenly have a deadline to meet when you start talking about “justice for Trayvon” at the water-cooler. They don’t have a voice in that discussion because, express it or not, there is a ton of anger seething under there.

Double Standards

I am deeply suspicious of the open and naked production of double standards that women and minorities of all forms have managed to sow into our culture, and as a (soon-to-be-but-not-yet-minority) white guy, I feel this leverage acuity, while receiving none of the benefits of the old world order to which these double standards were directed as compensation. I’m asked to be 1) chivalrous in a misandrous, post-feminism world, 2) monogamous and loyal in the age of polyamory, 3) accepting of minorities into my culture and community while they do everything they can to flout its norms and express disdain for it in their manner, speech, dress, and opinions, and 4) all-the-while accept that I’m a privileged white racist when in fact the minority races are the most blatantly racist groups of people in the US and my “privileged” middle class disappeared? I think not. People need to realize that we live in a globalized world and our “culture” might be alienating a group of nice dudes in society who have the power to move elsewhere. I’m in Asia right now and though I realize that all Asians are racist, the wonderful thing is that its all out in the open, and furthermore, they actually have racial preferences in addition to racial prejudices. Sensitive, courteous white males are preferred in some parts of the world, you know!?

White Hypocrisy & The Dangers Of Pandering

So many liberals I speak with don’t understand that their purported alignment with minority culture perpetuates a culture of poverty. They don’t understand that their support of (Uncle) Toms Shoes is more about absolving their own white guilt and less about saving the world. I implore you to read Oscar Wilde’s “The Soul Of Man Under Socialism” or watch this video from Zizek. Then, take a deep hard look at whether you are supporting minorities only in argument, or if you are actually taking some action. Are you volunteering to teach in the inner cities? Then sit down and shut the fuck up. I will only listen to such rhetoric from people taking action, like my female friend J, who actually is teaching in the inner city. She is allowed to chastise me.

If you are a priveleged white person chastising me, then you are double-dipping in the cultural pie with your avowal of support for minorities and offers of charity. Whatever help you perform also helps support the very same society that created the need for this charity. But you like it this way, don’t you. You remain the wealthier class while always having the downtrodden to help, doubling your claims to dignity while keeping the status quo firmly in place. Plus, you never have to speak out against outrageous behaviors or nihilistic sub-cultures and can wax eloquent all evening about your noble values and egalitarianism.

As vile as all of this rhetoric seems to you, and I’m sure it does, don’t you realize that I’m attacking views that are keeping this culture of poverty spinning in a rut? Fine, just laugh. As Lao Tzu said, if it were not laughed at it would not be the Tao.

Zimmerman

How dare you call this guy a racist. Do some reading. Did you not notice that he is a minority himself? The more I look at this case the more I see tragedy, not outrage. The fact that we simply accept criminality and criminal culture, venerate it in fact, while going for the jugular of anyone standing up against it, however clumsily or over-zealously–that should be an outrage! It seems like we are so desperate for a just battle to fight that we will take whatever simulacrum we can get. Its almost like we want racism to be rampant so that we can feel good about our righteous outrage and feel like we are fighting a good fight. The truth is that its all far too ambiguous these days for such blind gallantry. Perhaps I simply haven’t read into this as much as I need to, but from where I’m standing, to find this verdict an outrage one has to assume the very worst about Zimmerman and assume the very best about Martin, almost to the extent of assuming that Zimmerman pistol whipped himself in the front and back of his own head to cover his tracks. I see no reason for such assumptions and a few good reasons to assume that Martin might not deserve the infinite benefit of the doubt he’s getting. No wonder nobody wants to stand up for anything in the community: slip up and be our favorite scapegoat; succeed and be dismissed and forgotten. That way we can justify to ourselves why we aren’t part of the neighborhood watch ourselves, but instead, leave this job to the police, who we will blast at the first hint of any ambiguity in their performance. You know their job aint easy, right? They have to tell the difference between a nice Hispanic fellow dressed like a ganster and an actual Mexican gangster in a split second–so make their job a little easier, will you?

Parting Notes

The only people we allow to launch the kind of critique that I have foolishly posted here are comedians. We leave it to people like Bill Burr and Joe Rogan to put the “cock” back in ‘Caucasion,’ because we need to hear the truth but can always just take that last swig of beer and write off the critique as all in good fun. They aren’t joking though, its just they are the only people in society who are allowed to get away with telling the truth. Everyone else gets sued, beaten up, or at the very least ridiculed and intimidated.

For the above reasons I am very much inclined to wash my hands of the whole mess and move overseas to a place where sensitive, cultured, white males are relevant, respected, and valued instead of vilified, mocked and entrapped by double/triple-standards which they are required to swallow without protest, lest they be called racist misogynist what-have-you’s. There are even places on this planet where black people treat me as an equal, you know? In my present mood I’m very tempted to just stand back from afar and watch America sink under the burden of its own ressentiment, indignation and self-sabotage. I’m sorry America, but you hardly have many economic incentives to offer me as a trade-off anymore.

Posted in Free Will and Responsibility, General Observations, Human Movitation, Morality & Ethics, Relationships | Leave a comment

The First Hipster: Rejected ‘Cool’ Before That Was Even ‘Hip’

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The wiki article on hipsters claims that they didn’t exist before the 1990′s, but I beg to differ. The first hipster was Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860) and perhaps, being first, we might avoid an oxymoron when calling him an “authentic hipster.” He certainly associated with “independent music,” a “varied non-mainstream fashion sensibility,” “progressive or independent political views,” “alternative spirituality or atheism/agnosticism,” and “alternative lifestyles,” as per the hipster wiki. But here are some further characteristics that prove the ultimate transcendental primacy of his coolness:

  • Schopenhauer famously stated that “to disregard is to win regard;” a hipster motto if I’ve ever heard one.
  • He was a German who thought he was way too cool for Germany.
  • He purposefully and conspicuously dressed in a “vintage,” “retro” style of clothing.
  • He was the first German philosopher to draw inspiration from Eastern religions, way before they were cool, I might add.
  • He refused to get a real job and lived off a trust fund. In terms of career he couldn’t have been more against the “mainstream,” opposing the ever-popular Hegel, whom he thought was a “stupid and clumsy charlatan” whose philosophy was a “colossal piece of mystification.”
  • This cool bastard was so fresh he was talking about evolutionary psychology before Darwin; the “Will” before Nietzsche; repression and the unconscious before Freud; diametrically opposed ontological motives before Becker; Relativity before Einstein; and mental duality grounded in cerebral asymmetry before Wigan, Hughlings Jackson, James, or later Sperry, Bogen and others. Heck, even UC Berkeley superstars Lakoff and Johnson don’t realize he beat them to the punch on quite a lot, not to mention the fact that he proves an exception to some of their claims about philosophy’s inability to questions its own governing metaphors without the help of cognitive science. (*scoff)
  • He was a San Franciscan before San Francisco properly existed, as proven by the fact that in action he seemed to care more about his small dog and constant companion, Atman, than he did about the people–mostly philistines–that surrounded him. (The only reason that he didn’t sport a beer belly and dreadlocks was that Pabst Blue Ribbon–the nectar of life–had not yet been invented and he didn’t have enough hair.)

The dude claimed to be a Buddhist before that was cool! Need I say more? Well, I’ll go on anyway.

Independent music: While “Indy” wasn’t around back then, Schopenhauer played his flute everyday, studied composition, and attended musical performances whenever he could. One could fairly say he was obsessed with music, which he thought one could use to directly apprehend the essence of the world. To his credit, his philosophy inspired Wagner’s sublime “Tristan and Isolde” (and he let the man keep all the royalties). Honestly, would it not be the most epic hipster move to start a discussion about the best art forms after a Shin’s concert and say something like this?

This art is music. It stands quite apart from all the others. In it we do not recognize the copy, the repetition, of any Idea of the inner nature of the world. Yet it is such a great and exceedingly fine art, its effect on man’s innermost nature is so powerful, and it is so completely and profoundly understood by him in his innermost being as an entirely universal language, whose distinctness surpasses even that of the world of perception itself, that in it we certainly have to look for more than that exercitium arithmeticae occultum nescientis se numerare animi [exercise in arithmetic in which the mind does not know it is counting] which Leibniz took it to be.

Leibniz–that poser. He just doesn’t get it! Here is Schopenhauer’s correction, which probably got him laid more than once: “Music is an unconscious exercise in metaphysics in which the mind does not know it is philosophizing.”

schop2Varied non-mainstream fashion sensibility: To spite his philosophical rival–and poser extraordinaire–Hegel, Schopenhauer scheduled his lectures at the same time as Hegel’s, only to fail in his machinations and leave University a year later. As any true hipster who has dropped out of school must do, he had to commemorate his rebellion in a bold fashion statement. In this case he decided to dress in the exact style that was in fashion in his youth… for the rest of his life–a sort of conspicuous nose-thumbing at the vagaries of fashion and contemporary opinion. He was “sticking it to the man,” but though he pretended not to give a shit, he must have gone to rather heroic lengths to be clad in such vintage/retro garb! Hipster through and through. Although, if thrift stores and vintage shops had existed in his time, he likely would still have had his clothes tailor-made, as those stores probably wouldn’t have known precisely what he was looking for anyway. Plus, what is a trust fund from daddy good for if not keeping you looking dapper, at any cost?

Progressive or independent political views: “Every nation mocks at other nations, and all are right,” Schopenhauer informs us. Too cool for Germany, he was an ardent critic of a country that he thought was anemic and had lost its true spirit. He wanted a minimal state that would “leave each man to work out his own salvation.” Down with the man! Leave me to my bongos and ganja! He spoke as if highly informed about politics, but when it came down to it he admitted that he didn’t pay much attention: he was “minding not the times but the eternities.” Despite his views on superior races, he was an ardent supported of equal treatment, fervently opposed slavery, and supported the US abolitionist movement. He describes the treatment of “[our] innocent black brothers whom force and injustice have delivered into [the slave-master's] devilish clutches” as “belonging to the blackest pages of mankind’s criminal record.” He probably even had at least one black friend…or acquaintance?

Alternative spirituality or atheism/agnosticism: Schopenhauer is so difficult to classify vis a vis religious affiliation that one might initially suspect him of adhering to the Perennial Philosophy. He even called Christianity, Buddhism, and Hinduism the “sublime religions.” At bottom he is a sort of atheist/agnostic, but at times claimed to be a Buddhist, and always asserted his indebtedness to the genius of the Hindu Upanishads. But ultimately, authentic hipster that he was, Schopenhauer claimed that not even the Buddhists knew the deepest truth: that the sound of the universe is not “OM,” but “OUCH!”

Alternative Lifestyles: The Great Pessimist didn’t marry and lived his whole life as a bachelor, stating that “Marrying means to halve one’s rights and double one’s duties.” He chased tail despite his avowed dedication to Eastern religions and the denial of the Will. Aside from one year lecturing he never worked a job, choosing instead to pursue intellectual pleasures and play with his poodle, Atman. He frequented the same restaurant every day, even though he had to occasionally speak to the Cretans who also frequented the establishment. The urban dictionary informs me that hipsters draw on the “cultural stores of every unmelted ethnicity,” but Arthur would be quick to point out their failure to look back far enough–to really be in the know–and correctly identify these as being the Indians and Greeks. Indeed, his legendary intellectual priggishness and curmudgeonly contrarianism would put the modern hipster to shame. In summary, does it get any more “alternative” regarding lifestyle than to be an unemployed, trust-fund-endowed, Buddhist hippie who goes to shows and chases girls in 19th century Christian Germany?

Carlyle thought that the true mark of a hero was sincerity and Schopenhauer certainly hits the mark there. However, he would no doubt also boast of his bold iconoclasm and originality, though admitting his debt to the Upanishads, Plato and Kant. He set the pace for the approaching marathon of individualism in western culture, providing a model for future rebels and free spirits; inspiring countless philosophers, psychologists, musicians, writers, and artists. He even influenced the life and physics of Albert Einstein, to say nothing of his hair style. Writer Jorge Luis Borges was asked once why he didn’t write a treatise on metaphysics, to which he answered that Schopenhauer had saved him the trouble. Though Borges famously wrote that “life itself is a quotation,” I’m quite sure Schopenhauer would retort, “yes, but it was quoting me!” If only he knew how much his ideas would subtly influence a panoply of great thinkers, while only Nietzsche really gave him due credit, he might have somehow, heroically managed to think even more highly of his genius. All joking aside, though, this man was a true iconoclast, original thinker, and remains in my opinion THE authentic bad-ass of philosophy; the undisputed champ.

I don’t really know enough about hipsters to be writing a serious cultural critique, but it seems that they are attempting to be sincere about their insincerity; honest about their unavoidable in-authenticity. In this sense Schopenhauer is the exact opposite, for he was really insincere about the fact that he was actually being entirely sincere, hiding his deep feeling, compassion, and personal pain behind a stoic face, lucid writing, and erudite vitriol. Naw, I’ll stick with “authentic hipster.”

Do know that the irony is not lost on me that a post of this nature, with its smug declaration of having some privileged cultural knowledge that puts me one level higher than being “in the know,” is entirely infused with mainstream-eschewing hipster bravado. I guess really I’m just a hipster, because I think this guy is the apotheosis of cool…WAY before anybody else has realized this! Seriously though, where do you think these copycats lifted their style from?

(Dionysian Hipster)                                           (Apollonian Hipster)

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Schopenhauer taught that man is “concrete sexual desire,” that the genitals were the focus of the will…but I came up with my theory all by myself…just me and the cocaine. Besides, I went much further than the old pessimist: I studied that mysterious creature we call woman!

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Arthur was fuckin Wolverine before Hugh Jackman was cool!

schoperine(…a reference to Myrmecia, in case you aren’t in the know. This is the most threatening, clever, and obscure way possible to say “I’m gonna shove your head up your ass.”)

What, you don’t think the worlds greatest pessimist carried knives on him? You think the fact that he had the most penetrating intellect of his generation was why he had intimacy issues? The dude invented the Hedgehog’s Dilemma! This was a parable and metaphor that Freud lifted regarding the individual and society: that they were like porcupines huddling for warmth, getting too close, dispersing, but being driven back together by the cold and eventually settling in to a compromise between the pain of quills and the pain of exposure. Ok, so maybe he didn’t have adamantine claws, but he pulled off that hairstyle in a day without hair gel bitches!

So, what would the original, the authentic hipster have to say about the sad excuse for rebellious flouters of the mainstream that exist today? What would he say to their claims to be “in the know,” more cool than “cool,” and ironically expressing the crushing exigencies of their cultural enslavement? What would he say to their claims to be authentic hipsters?

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Posted in General Observations, Human Movitation | Leave a comment

Some Reflections On The 2013 Julian Jaynes Conference

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I just returned from West Virginia where I was privileged to attend the 2013 Julian Jaynes Conference, which I am hoping will put Bicameral Studies on the map as a potential source for a new synthesis in psychology/psychiatry. What an eclectic group of people both in the audience and presenting. But how could it be any other way? The reason that the big problems, like “consciousness,” haven’t been solved is that they span a huge number of domains, yet our society only supports and promotes further specialization. Jaynes was a maverick, an iconoclast, and an unlikely prophet in this regard. He cared more about truth than career advancement or celebrity–a rare kind of man in modern America. So why has there been so much resistance? To be sure, he stepped on a lot of specialists toes, but there is much more to it. He suggested that “schizophrenia” isn’t entirely an organic disease as modern psychiatry has painted it, and certainly not simply the brain going “on the fritz.” He scared the bajeezus out of the religious and agnostic alike. The former had to grapple with the connection between modern mental illness, lapses of full agency, and religious experience. The latter had to grapple with the fact that you can neither write off religion nor mental illness as “the brain going on the fritz.” The honest non-believer furthermore had to ask what it meant that man went through a stage in the evolution of culture and ideas where huge and complex visions were related by men incapable of true, self-conscious deception. There is sincerity in religion, if not in the religious organizations that followed. These are all unsettling things to think about.

Ignoring modern man’s penchant for drugs and alcohol, ignoring his dependence on pharmacology, doesn’t it ever weird you out that he spends so much time in front of the television projecting himself into all manner of fantastic stories? Are these not condoned hallucinatory experiences? If not, why do you jump when the protagonist gets ambushed by a zombie? In the 40′s and 50′s some 60% of people reported dreaming in black & white, which changed with the introduction of color television. What do we dream about but the most emotionally salient scenes we experience in the day? Instead of visitations from Aphrodite we dream of Angelina Jolie. Is this not a shocking vestige of bicamerality, this desperate longing to live in an enchanted world full of gods and goddesses? Can you look at the Stanford Prisoner Experiment and really tell yourself that the malleability of human motivation and the susceptibility to authority and context is not a similar vestige? Can you really watch zombie films without recognizing in them our natural fear of the mentally ill, the “consciousness-impaired,” or our own routine non-consciousness and failures of true agency? Anyway, interesting as this all is, there is quite another place I want to take this post.

During the two hour “orientation session” at the start of the conference one of the audience members asked organizer rabbi James Cohn, author of the fantastic book “Minds of the Bible,” what he thought about Jaynes’ atheism and then expressed how Jaynes had influenced his own atheism. Cohn fielded the question expertly, but it struck me that Jaynes had precisely the opposite effect on me. I used to be a rather militant atheist who chalked all religious experience up to mental illness, so how is it that Jaynes brought me closer to theism? Well, half way through college I realized that myth and religion are facts about this world–facts that required their own explanation. So too with mental illness! In the process of trying to understand and explain religion I found some value in it and am seeking to continue discovering its value, something that Jaynes has helped me with immensely. Here is my current view of man and religion:

As a summary, I’d say that Anselm’s Ontological Proof did in fact prove the existence of a god–namely the god Anselm! Anyone smart enough to concoct that piece of rhetoric doesn’t contain a divine spark so much as a divine thunderbolt. He produced what Oscar Wilde would call a “good lie:” one that provides its own evidence and is self-fulfilling. What else do we mean by ‘god’ if not “someone who has an unlimited amount of what Anselm has”?

Its not so much that an anthropomorphic god exists, but that people exist and are theomorphic. Accordingly, we are all demi-gods and some of us even gods. “God” was not a mistake that man perpetrated, but was the bridge from non-consciousness to his own self-awareness. Authentic religion has always been about hero-worship; worship not of the human-all-too-human, but of the human-that-could-be. The mistake is to think that god existed before the universe and created it, when in fact he didn’t really come into existence until around 2000BC or later– a magnificent artifact of culture. Humanity gave birth to god in his ideas of free will, logical deduction, algebra, and every other cool idea that has updated our operating system. The pressing question we face now is not “does god exist?” but how do we interpret the gods and demigods that have graced the pages of history? From what lofty heights do they hail from, calling us to join them? What does it mean that they exist at all? The question is no longer “do we have a soul,” but how do we build one worth having? I have discovered the divinity in man and wish to find ways to promote it and enhance it.

Perhaps man is the only part of nature that could give meaning to the whole and thereby give birth to the truly godlike. To be perfectly honest though, I also entertain another possibility.  Perhaps each human mind is like a neuron in the “brain” of god, each producing “good lies” that build on each other. Maybe we are the only part of nature that can answer the question that God is posing in dreaming this ambiguous universe into existence? -Jeff Tkachuk

LeavesAndAncestors

If we use Tielhard de Chardin’s division of the geosphere, the biosphere, and the noosphere there is something curious that I noticed. In each “sphere,” if we imagine them as trees (ala the tree of biological evolution), the upper most “branches” aren’t necessarily the “best” or “optimal.” We might put humans at the top of the “tree of life” and reflective self-awareness at the top of the “tree of the noosphere,” but this is only half right. There is something special about both and we don’t want to lose the progress they embody, but I am interested in improving them, helping them grow even taller, for instance by “grafting” lower branches onto the tallest branches. Just as scientists are looking back into biological evolution and attempting to literally graft novel adaptations from other creatures onto man using bio-tech, I want to mine great ideas, metaphors, and rituals from ancient religions and find ways of incorporating them into our present worldview of scientific objectivity, hopefully enhancing both old and new cultural software alike.

I am hoping that we will see the day when bibliotherapy and Plato replace benzodiazepines and Prozac; when we teach our children how to hear their own voice–really to build their own voice–but avoid the fate of “hearing voices.” I implore you all to help this day come about; to help give birth to a post-cynical world where religion is seen for what it is and modern consciousness seen for what it is not.

Posted in Consciousness, Education, Free Will and Responsibility, General Observations, Human Movitation, Religion | 3 Comments