Flint

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http://www.bostonreview.net/us/anna-clark-flint-water-public-records is some good coverage of Flint. The rest of the BR is worth browsing. One article is a supplement to evolution...symbiosis rather than gradual evolution.

.bostonreview.net/wonders/anne-fausto-sterling-evolution-symbiogenesis

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douglaslee
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Symbiogenisis, seen in the link above is here:

Imagine a single-celled organism such as an amoeba. It has its own DNA and normally lives by eating bacteria. It might occasionally engulf an alga, a green cell that nourishes itself via photosynthesis. The amoeba ends up with two genomes, its own and that of the alga. The amoeba can now nurture itself in two ways—by engulfing bacteria or via photosynthesis. At first, the amoeba and the alga merely enjoy one another’s company, but over time each of these cells loses the ability to live independently. A new organism, with DNA from very different sources, results. Theorists call such an evolutionary jump in form symbiogenesis.

The examples are fascinating. Consider the green slug, Elysia viridis. Welcome these to your garden because instead of eating plants they capture carbon from the air using chloroplasts, which they permanently acquired from the algae their ancestors used to eat. Likewise admire any of the twenty-five thousand species of lichen, each of which represents the permanent interlinking of a fungus with a green alga or photosynthetic bacterium. This association was demonstrated by Beatrix Potter, revered for her children’s books but neglected as a scientist.

Granted, lichens and green slugs are strange creatures. What about something closer to home, say a large vertebrate such as a cow? With the help of dozens of microbial symbionts in their multi-chambered stomachs, cows and other ruminants, including giraffes, antelopes, and some kangaroos, turn plant cellulose into energy. Mice need bacteria to complete intestinal development. And humans have a permanent partnership with more than 150 species of gut bacteria and maintain a looser relationship with a good 800 additional bacterial groups. The reciprocity can be intricate: a common human gut symbiont, Bacteroides thetaiotaomicron, makes a molecule that promotes new blood vessel development while also killing Listeria, a major competitor bacterium that can also be lethal to humans.

Mutations are symbiogenesis too. The 2nd and 3rd chromosome fusing was a mutation. [neanderthal had 23 pairs, too]

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douglaslee
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I'm trying to make some sense of your intent here, doug.

Are you trying to make a case that the political system in Michigan is creating ripe conditions for an emergence of symbiogenesis? That the focus of those potentially burgeoning conditions are in the area we are calling Flint?

This seems to be a topic that interests Thom as well, but he seems more interested in the political system: Flint isn't the only city Snyder screwed up! By Thom Hartmann, Feb. 2, 2016. Which I find a kind of questionable proposition... that is, to blame the long term effects of a generally transitiononing macro economic system on the poor management decisions of one person with a peculiarly evolved mindset. But then Snyder could potentially be an example of one of those symbiogenesis mutations emerging in an ever changing political scenario, which brings it back to your posts, if so.

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.ren
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Ren, my tangential thought processes caused me to be lazy in pointing out the symbiogenesis found in the same source as the Flint piece. However, you got me thinking that it could be tied in, as language evolves, politics evolve, and parties evolve.

Symbiogenesis might also be a perfect storm or a Black Swan, or a FL 2000. Improbability-Principle-Coincidences-Miracles-Events shows rare or unusual is actually common. Would anyone ever believe that the SCOTUS would deny an entire state their constitutional right to vote?* In a corrupt system normal does not exist. Learning 3rd world practices and standards is what an American now needs to master in order to accomplish what the rest of the world has achieved decades ago.

Sorry for the mislead

*I didn't know that voting is not a right in the constitution. I think an amendment ought to rectify it. If it got signed, the GOP's voter suppression and purging would be violation of a constitutional right and could be prosecuted.

ps, Bernie and Hillary want the feds in Flint, and Bernie wants Snyder to resign. I think some class action tort activity ala asbestos ought to be coming too. A clock ought to be counting the days that the pipes have not been replaced even though Snyder is sitting on millions that could pay for the new ones. Poisoning poor black folks and their children because they won't vote for you is an American thing I guess.

Maybe Doctors Without Borders could go to Flint. I hope the Mayor asks them.

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douglaslee
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https://petitions.whitehouse.gov//petition/ask-doctors-without-borders-go-flint-and-assist-children-have-been-poisoned-governor-snyder

I know Doctors Without Borders usually go to 3rd world countries, thus Flint is in their wheelhouse.

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michigans-great-stink.

In the 1850s, London, the world’s largest city, still didn’t have a sewer system. Waste simply flowed into the Thames, which was as disgusting as you might imagine. But conservatives, including the magazine The Economist and the prime minister, opposed any effort to remedy the situation. After all, such an effort would involve increased government spending and, they insisted, infringe on personal liberty and local control.

It took the Great Stink of 1858, when the stench made the Houses of Parliament unusable, to produce action.

But that’s all ancient history. Modern politicians, no matter how conservative, understand that public health is an essential government role. Right? No, wrong — as illustrated by the disaster in Flint, Mich.

I can hear the t-partiers in London "The government wants to control our shit, well not until my cold dead sphincter is out of rigor will they get my shit"

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Republicans do not get that a strong infrastructure makes a strong country.

Legend
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Douglaslee must have had some pretty harsh and punative toilet training being stuck in the anal stage like that.

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stwo
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Quote douglasslee:

Ren, my tangential thought processes caused me to be lazy in pointing out the symbiogenesis found in the same source as the Flint piece. However, you got me thinking that it could be tied in, as language evolves, politics evolve, and parties evolve.

I think it's an interesting tangent, but proving any relationship between human genetics and our ability to adapt to the cultures we create would be a methodological nightmare. So I would be careful to point out this would remain in the entirely speculative range for now.

One of my own, long developing hypothesis that I feel worthy of some sort of science fiction writing is that in developing the institutions that make up civilization we have selected for people who tend to be less humane. If that's so, therefore we have set up cultures that bring out survival and expansion of the sociopathic range of our genetic variation. As a population it's possible we would therefore become more sociopathic in our genetic make up.

Hypothetically, smaller and more cohesive human cultures, starting with the base culture we shared even with the Neanderthals (who, by the way, had larger cranial capacities on average than modern homo sapiens, sapiens), cultures that we nowadays call gathering and hunting bands, interacted in such a way as to root out the sociopaths (who were deemed threatening to group survival) and send them packing. The literature I've reviewed in studying anthropology supports that by pointing out many examples of how that was done. People didn't need a complicated legal system to determine if someone was a threat to their group's survival. They used their "common" sense, a sense which today is more or less disparaged as something less than the ideal of pure Cartesian reason, which more or less rules us now.

That all changes when we start to institutionalize ourselves and give the rules that organize those institutions precedence. Institutions become the ruling norm of culture. If you look at modern cultures that are skewing towards the neoliberal economic spectrum of the organizational scale, you see just the opposite selection process taking place from our ancestral roots in gathering/hunting. The most selfish and self centered of us will rise to the top of institutional hierarchies, and those with a tendency towards humanistic orientations are forced to suppress their humanism or be left out of the sharing of the goodies these institutions produce.

If you are reading John Ralston Saul's Voltaire's Bastards, pay attention to his underlying argument about the rise of the technocrats and the Hero (with a capital 'H') through the Age or Reason. Even today, we still have hopes that the Hero is going to save us from the technocrats. Much of the long and very public act of getting a new president into office relates in the public's mind to a deeply embedded belief in the powers of the Hero to fix things. This is mythological in scope through out the rise of civilization. But Heroes and technocrats tend to work together in the long run, because we all swim in the technocrat's deeply entrenched culture.

Napoleon Bonaparte, for instance, is an example that Saul uses of this Hero concept where, as a Hero figure, Napoleon was also a master technocrat in the way he modernized France. The Hero often embraces the powers of dictatorship. And many people will support that if they are persuaded it's "right" (as they did with Hitler, another Hero figure, though a fallen one at this time). Then you get all these contradictions between the "rule of law" and the power to do "justice" as determined by the mind of an individual acting with certitude and populace-backed power. Quite often war is a result of that formula.

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.ren
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Thanks for the thoughtful reply and I do have Voltaire's Bastards on my coffee table to read after I finish Hedges' Empire of Illusion.

I came across another evolution note .philosophersmag.com/i-essays/101-the-mythology-of-selfishness

this is the sort of picture that constantly emerges from contemporary evolution-talk, a picture that mixes up two quite different kinds of purpose. The butterfly’s own subjective purpose concerns what it wants to do. But the possible effect on the survival of its species is anevolutionary function, of which the butterfly knows nothing.

It is not surprising that these two ideas get mixed today. Official scientific thought doesn’t now try to distinguish between different forms of purpose; indeed it hardly recognises the concept of purpose at all. Subjective purposes – motives – were outlawed from science-speak by the behaviourists, along with the rest of our inner life. Though their effects are obviously real, they were blotted out so successfully from the perception of the learned that many conscientious thinkers still don’t dare to look at them. Instead, in a way that would have delighted B. F. Skinner, they still try to account for physical actions directly in physical terms. They pick out distinct behaviour-patterns and try to link each to an evolutionary function of its own, without reference to its meaning or its social context.

The neocon sociopaths might be sociopathic for survival within the set of sociopaths and psychopaths. Maybe they really do not think of what they are doing or why, they are programmed. The butterfly referenced is a Purple Emperor and the most beautiful but it feeds on carrion and certain types of feces, I don't know why I thought neocons and shiteaters were similar.

btw, the essay came from .philosophersmag.com/ and another essay is on self knowledge but I couldn't pull it up.

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That;s a thought-provoking essay, doug. It touches on some of the issues we covered in some depth in Anti's long-lived thread: Republican Neoliberalism is Touching Us All. I'm not sure there's any difference between Republican and Democratic neoliberalism, but that's possibly a moot argument, all things considered. Paragraphs like the following illustrate what I would call thoughts that Age of Reason acolytes will find disturbing:

Quote Mary Midgley:

Of course it is never easy to accept the role that the thoughts and feelings of our own parents – and indeed of everybody else’s – on similar occasions have played in making things be as they are now. Yet we know that these thoughts and feelings, not only then but throughout their lives, have indeed had this sort of importance. Our own thoughts and feelings – the constant flow of inner activity by which we respond to the life around us – also affect the world as well as our outward actions. This thought is so frightening that scholars will often go to any lengths to avoid it, which is why that ludicrous doctrine epiphenomenalism still has supporters, and why people spend so much more of their time on sociological statistics, neurological details and speculation about evolutionary function than on studying motive.

Is she exposing mistakes in our thinking about evolution, function, and self as the lead into the article suggests? It's worth some thought. Thinking in this way may very well challenge the many tautologies that reason empolys to lead our thought processes down well worn and comfortable trails.

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.ren
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Quote douglaslee:... I don't know why I thought neocons and shiteaters were similar.. .
Because you have an anal fixation.

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stwo
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Back to the topic. This one just out from Chris Hedges, echoing our own concerns while summarizing the decay and decline of American society that he feels Flint's water crisis represents:

Flint’s Crisis Is About More Than Water

Quote Chris Hedges:

The crisis in Flint is far more ominous than lead-contaminated water. It is symptomatic of the collapse of our democracy. Corporate power is not held accountable for its crimes. Everything is up for sale, including children. Our regulatory agencies—including the federal Environmental Protection Agency, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality—have been defunded, emasculated and handed over to corporate-friendly stooges. Our corrupt courts are part of a mirage of justice. The role of these government agencies and courts, and of the legislatures, is to sanction abuse rather than halt it.

The primacy of profit throughout the society takes precedence over life itself, including the life of the most vulnerable. This corporate system of power knows no limits. It has no internal restraints. It will sacrifice all of us, including our children, on the altar of corporate greed. In a functioning judicial system, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and Flint’s former emergency manager, Darnell Earley, along with all the regulatory officials who lied as a city was being sickened, would be in jail facing trial.

Hannah Arendt in “The Origins of Totalitarianism,” Gitta Sereny in “Into That Darkness,” Omer Bartov in “Murder in Our Midst,” Alexander Solzhenitsyn in “The Gulag Archipelago,” Primo Levi in “The Drowned and the Saved” and Ella Lingens-Reiner in “Prisoners of Fear” argue that the modern instrument of evil is the technocrat, the man or woman whose sole concern is technological and financial efficiency, whose primary measurement of success is self-advancement, even if it means piling up corpses or destroying the lives of children.

As I suggested earlier, in post #9, doug, if you are reading Saul's Voltaire's Bastards, pay attention to his underlying thematic argument about the rise of the technocrat and the Hero in the Age of Reason, which Saul now talks of as the Dictatorship of Reason. These two paradigmatic figures are, for him, Voltaire's modern day bastards. Flint would be an example of that dictatorship of reason working itself out through these two paradigms. There are many to be found. In his article, Hedges once again brings it to us through a language of human morality, filled with his own subjective outrage. Note that typical of the age of objective reason, the technocrat does not recognize outrage as a valid human response, while the Hero often uses it to gather support and put him or herself above the law. Both are prevalent in the Flint scenario, as well as our current round of presidential politics.

Chris Continues:

Quote Chris Hedges:

“Monsters exist,” Levi noted, “but they are too few in number to be truly dangerous. More dangerous are the common men.” These technocrats have no real ideology, other than the ideology that is in vogue. They want to get ahead, to rise in the structures of power. They know how to make the collective, or the bureaucracy, work on behalf of power. Nothing else is of importance. “The new state did not require holy apostles, fanatic, inspired builders, faithful devout disciples,” Vasily Grossman, in his book “Forever Flowing, wrote of Stalin’s Soviet Union. “The new state did not even require servants—just clerks.”

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.ren
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Thanks for both #11 and #13, ren. I see the 'Hero' being sought and revered even before his or its (tech is hero in this case) results have been tried, or evaluated. America seems particualy averse to solutions or paths proven to work if they are not their own. [See Norway thread]

On the degrowth thread, carbon footprint measurement is part of Rees's presentation, personal footprint, or in his case Montreal's. Sweden's footprint is less than half of America's because of the carbon taxes they initiated decades ago to create the environment that accepted more alternatives [within a capitalist market] to autos like bikes, trams, trains, buses, recycling, deposits on plastic and aluminum, increased utilities with tax rebates for insulation and triple glazing (windows), increased price of water (no body waters grass, and most use clothes lines rather than electric dryers).

"At the heart of the problem lies the belief in the idea of single, all purpose elites using a single all purpose methodology."

"But a society which teaches the philosophy of administration ...as if it were the summit of learning, and concentrates on the creation of elites---whose primary talent is administration(*)----has lost not only its common sense and its sense of moral value but also its understanding of technology. Management cannot solve problems nor can it stir any creativity of any sort" -

Voltaire's Bastards

*primary talent is maintaining control, winning elections, preserving power --NOT from the book, just my own opinion.

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douglaslee
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Jul. 31, 2007 3:01 pm

Snyder has a budget surplus and could fix the Flint water before summer is over. If it costs more, a surtax* on OH income taxpayers, including corporations, could be levied that falls equally on all of Flint's neighbors and presented as an equivalent of a condo assessment, a one year, possibly two, until normalcy restored.

*surtaxes are taxes are calulated on the final tax burden pre-surtax. If the taxpayer doesn't make enough to pay OH income tax, a 2% surtax on 0 is 0. 2% on coprporate taxes or wealthy is 2% on their total tax burden pre-tax credits. It requires no tax revisions, no marginal rate changes, no lobbiest influence.

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douglaslee
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Jul. 31, 2007 3:01 pm

Why in hell would Ohio taxpayers fund a Michigan City's problem?

Oh, and Douglaslee- here's an angle right up your alley!!

https://www.rawstory.com/2016/02/this-michigan-legislator-is-attempting-to-ban-sodomy-while-the-flint-water-crisis-rages-on/

Of course its a complete misrepresentation of the situation, but like I wrote- it's right up your alley.

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stwo
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Quote douglaslee:

*primary talent is maintaining control, winning elections, preserving power --NOT from the book, just my own opinion.

I'm confident both Saul and Hedges would agree with your opinion. It's similar to mine. I would call that "common sense" if enough of us could see that's truly what these politicians and corporate managers were about.... that technocratic management is just a form of conservatism, coupled with a bit of entertainment engineered by the corporate-owned media to keep the masses pacified. But that view doesn't seem to be common at all. As Hedges argues in Empire of Illusion, as we watch once again a nation in the grips of illusion as yet another prolonged presidential election spectacle rolls on, spectacle triumphs in America.

However, perhaps there is some hope, if it's not just another statistically manufactured illusion. In an audio interview with Jill Stein (AUDIO: Robert Scheer Speaks With Jill Stein About the Green Party and the 2016 Election), Jill points out after Robert asks "if it’s a Hillary-versus-whoever race, ah, and you’re going to be on the ballot in 85 percent?":

Quote Jill Stein:

We hope 100 percent. So, yeah, we’ve raised the bar. And I’d encourage anybody who’s interested in more voice and more choices, and not being stuck with two corporate candidates, go to Jill2016.com and join the team. This is a grassroots effort. Because voters not only have a right to vote; we also have a right, you know, to choices and to know who those choices are. So hold on to your hat; there will be some exciting action coming up to try to open up these debates and get real choices on the ballot. You know, the latest Wall Street Journal poll, and this goes back to the summer, showed that 21 percent of American adults now identify as republicans. Twenty-one percent; that’s a minority party. Twenty-nine percent identify as democrats, and 50 percent have rejected them both. So you know, while there’s interesting struggles going on within each of the parties, there are a lot of people out there who basically don’t buy it anymore; who don’t care about the rhetoric and really see what the results are, and they’re looking for something different, including those 43 million young people and not-so-young people who are indentured servants with student debt, with no way out, even under a Sanders policy.

(My bold, .ren)

Fifty percent of us have now rejected both parties. If we don't show up and vote for who we really want to represent us, the spectacle goes on. But this spectacle is only playing to half the nation.

Quote Jill Stein:

So it’s really important that we stand up, that we not silence ourselves as a favor to the status quo, and that we take our future back into our own hands and stand up with the power that we actually have, and the numbers that we have—if those 43 million young people come out, that’s a plurality of the vote right there. We can take back our future and create a world that works for all of us. We can put people, planet and peace over profit. In the words of Alice Walker, the biggest way people give up power is by not knowing we have it to start with. Well, the numbers suggest we have it. This is about rejecting the propaganda that tells us we’re powerless, and standing up and defining our future. This is the Hail Mary moment; it’s time to stop doing what has gotten us here.

(My emphasis, .ren)

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.ren
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Rick Snyder and his accomplices do not qualify as reasonable people, as rational, balanced individuals. Sociopathology —and everything about the MI State emergency management policies responsible for the situation qualifies as evidence of sociopathology— has no foundation in sanity, in anything we can fairly judge as a reflection of sound reason, or common sense, or any other words we might use to express the presence of integrity of mind, which to my mind is the essence of reason.

However, if we define reason as a process of moving from premises to conclusions, logically and devoid of emotion, lacking empathy or fellow feeling, then we might decide to blame reason for the problems in Flint. The sociopathology we see there could then be understood as false premises leading to false conclusions, that is, reason as the culpable factor. But that in itself would be a mistaken conclusion, IMHO.

If, instead, we recognize that reason rarely works without the influence of emotion, hardly exists in the human brain entirely devoid of emotional or moral bias; if we see that to be reasonable is to think and make choices exercising all our faculties, that is, including empathy, common sense, fellow-feeling, responsibility, care, respect for self and others, then we can see that reason does not war against fairness and justice at all, but works alongside it.

Rick Snyder and his accomplices, as sociopaths, live by negative emotion devoid of knowledge— ignorance, racism, greed, power-lust. Those are not the qualities of reasonable people. Rather, those irrational attitudes boil down to one thing: stupidity, not reason.

Zenzoe
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I would argue that objective reasoning alone is amoral. Objective reasoning, to the extent it can even be accomplished, is only one part of our full human potential. It often tends toward tautology, and as such must be tempered with other aspects of our awareness, because tautologies alone tend to go in circles. And I'd further argue that our full potential includes more than emotion added to reason.

I don't pretend to know our full humane potential, but I feel the following words can point those of us interested in pursuing an examined life in a direction of exploration and discovery: empathy, common sense, creativity, ethics, intuition, memory, emotions, and yes, add reason as described and put in a perspective in Wittgenstein's Logico-Philosophical Treatise is just an aspect of all of that.

I don't believe looking to place blame on any one feature of my human potential will help me in a self-actuated process of making moral and ethical choices. I do believe that seeing limitations in some feature of my cognitive processes and then seeing how that limited something is used in a way to coax me into believing it should supersede my other capacities, and dominate those others, can, for me anyway, offer a moment of settling back and a breathing space to open up to the other important features of my humanity. Doing so seems to be helpful in maintaining my balance. With balance perhaps I can maintain a kind of equilibrium with the ever present difficulties of figuring out a world in an ongoing process of change.

To some extent I agree with the conclusion that these managers who have been entrusted with governing the complexities of cities and states are behaving in a manner characteristic of what psychologists nowadays call sociopathology. I use that term myself to describe their behavior in some of my own narratives in conversation with others about these issues. It seems to make sense to them, so I guess we have a common understanding of the term. The management's reasoning was pretty simple. It was costing a lot of money to have water pumped from Detroit and they thought they could save money. These are logical, reasonable choices to begin with. Institutions are all about making logical, reasonable choices in order to achieve a purpose in the most efficient manner.

When it was discovered acidic levels in the water was causing problems with the delivery infrastructure, releasing lead and so forth, what decision-making follows from that is as yet hidden form our view. Privatization is one of the features that drives a movement toward secrecy, and management tends to prefer to have it's process of working things out kept secret. So I'd say we can expect an ever present urge within bureaucracy towards secrecy. The released emails do not yet include the years in which those discoveries of the effects of this technocratic move to save money were being made, at least as I read this situation so far. Eventually we can hope to have enough information to determine whether their decisions rate an actual legal indictment with the potential for prosecuting an intentional wrong doing.

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.ren
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Quote stwo:

Why in hell would Ohio taxpayers fund a Michigan City's problem?

Oh, and Douglaslee- here's an angle right up your alley!!

https://www.rawstory.com/2016/02/this-michigan-legislator-is-attempting-to-ban-sodomy-while-the-flint-water-crisis-rages-on/

Of course its a complete misrepresentation of the situation, but like I wrote- it's right up your alley.

I'm from OH, neighbor to Michigan and have felt Flint was in my backyard the whole time. I meant Mich taxpayers of course but let feelings of disgust cloud my mind but not my empathy. I used to drive to Mich to but beer since their drinking age was 18.

I really felt I was in Flint or Flint was down in OH when I was writing. MI surtaxes work even better than OH surtaxes, for MI.

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douglaslee
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Quote .ren:

I would argue that objective reasoning alone is amoral. Objective reasoning, to the extent it can even be accomplished, is only one part of our full human potential. It often tends toward tautology, and as such must be tempered with other aspects of our awareness, because tautologies alone tend to go in circles. And I'd further argue that our full potential includes more than emotion added to reason.

I don't pretend to know our full humane potential, but I feel the following words can point those of us interested in pursuing an examined life in a direction of exploration and discovery: empathy, common sense, creativity, ethics, intuition, memory, emotions, and yes, add reason as described and put in a perspective in Wittgenstein's Logico-Philosophical Treatise is just an aspect of all of that.

Seems reasonable to me, ren...and I would have included your words —creativity, ethics, intuition, memory— and even other aspects of human existence as contributing to what you call “humane potential” and I call being reasonable, when I wrote, "... if we see that to be reasonable is to think and make choices exercising all our faculties, that is, including empathy, common sense, fellow-feeling, responsibility, care, respect for self and others, then we can see that reason does not war against fairness and justice at all, but works alongside it,” if only I hadn’t been too rushed and aiming for brevity. One can only cover so much with these comments, yes?

In any case, few of us reach anything close to our full human potential, and most of us slip up in one way or another, don’t you think? Among my consolations, though, after my own failures of heart or care, is to be happy for my hierarchy of values, which at least does not place self, money and power above all other values. At least I recognize when I have fallen short of my own positive potential, according to my values, and try to make amends.

Contrast that with the likes of Rick Snyder, and you have a different story. As I’m guessing you know, to place money, power, and what the Objectivists call, mistakenly, “rational self-interest” at the top of one’s hierarchy of values renders a person devoid of conscience for the sake of others, which in turn creates poor outcomes for the whole of society.

And that brings me to what feels irrational about such false values, in contradiction to the claims of right-wing libertarian’s ownership of “reason.” I refuse to give it to them. To equate reason with “objectivity” or detached, logical (based on flawed premises), anal fixations, denies practical reality —how empathetic cooperation produces a humane, fulfilled potential both for the self and society, while “objective,” crimped self-interest produces harm to both the self and society— and it would be irrational to choose the latter, when the former works best for all.

I do tend to include reason among the characteristics of sanity, but it is the kind of reason that is reasonable!

Quote .ren:...

To some extent I agree with the conclusion that these managers who have been entrusted with governing the complexities of cities and states are behaving in a manner characteristic of what psychologists nowadays call sociopathology. I use that term myself to describe their behavior in some of my own narratives in conversation with others about these issues. It seems to make sense to them, so I guess we have a common understanding of the term.

And the more common terminology for designating such “managers” would probably be “heartless pricks.” That’s a term of common understanding, if there ever was one...

Quote .ren:
The management's reasoning was pretty simple. It was costing a lot of money to have water pumped from Detroit and they thought they could save money. These are logical, reasonable choices to begin with. Institutions are all about making logical, reasonable choices in order to achieve a purpose in the most efficient manner.

See, I don’t see those choices as “reasonable.” To be reasonable, they would have to have considered the short and long-term consequences, beyond their quest for efficiencies. To my mind, reasonableness implies fairness, and fairness demands broad investigation into the rights and interests of all the people affected by those choices, as well as a concerted effort to discover whatever problems may be encountered given all the options. IMHO, their “logic,” while technically “logical,” where profit, or “saving money,” became the all-consuming factor, may have qualified as “logical,” but because their premises were false, their conclusions were false as well.

So, for a simple example, if one’s premise is that government should be run like a business, then one’s conclusion must be to put cost efficiencies at the top of the agenda. Problem is, it’s a false premise. It’s crap. And we can all see the results. The proof is in the puddin,’ right?

Quote .ren:

When it was discovered acidic levels in the water was causing problems with the delivery infrastructure, releasing lead and so forth, what decision-making follows from that is as yet hidden form our view. Privatization is one of the features that drives a movement toward secrecy, and management tends to prefer to have it's process of working things out kept secret. So I'd say we can expect an ever present urge within bureaucracy towards secrecy. The released emails do not yet include the years in which those discoveries of the effects of this technocratic move to save money were being made, at least as I read this situation so far. Eventually we can hope to have enough information to determine whether their decisions rate an actual legal indictment with the potential for prosecuting an intentional wrong doing.

Yep. And I suppose it would be logical for the bastards to keep things secret for as long as possible, given that the logical result of revealing their culpability would be prosecutions. Even they, stupid and immoral as they are, can figure that out.

But see how the emotion of fear drives their thought processes. Fear is the driving characteristic, therefore, not reason. Reasonable, sane reason would have protected them from putting themselves in a fearful position in the first place. But no...they just had to be bastards!

Zenzoe
Joined:
Jul. 31, 2007 3:01 pm
Quote Zenzoe:

In any case, few of us reach anything close to our full human potential, and most of us slip up in one way or another, don’t you think?

What I consider my own practice of humanism involves an effort to reach of state of equilibrium with all my human potential. I don't really imagine, let alone expect I'll ever achieve that state. It's a voyage, a life's journey if you will, without the expectation of ever arriving. As it is, I'm constantly trying to adjust one thing or another to get things back in balance. If I was cursed with an urge to achieve perfection I would be a very frustrated human.

I also see that my standards of humane balance, or I could call it ecological equilibrium, are not necessarily the same as anyone else's. Same as my standards of reasonableness. If the rest of the human made world was reasonable in the way I am inclined to be, everyone would put sustainability practice and concern for the environment and what our activities do to diminish it above their own selfish acquisitional needs. If that were the case, I imagine, in all my feeble potential to imagine a world that works perfectly, that a Flint crisis of this sort would never come to be.

Quote Zenzoe:

And that brings me to what feels irrational about such false values, in contradiction to the claims of right-wing libertarian’s ownership of “reason.” I refuse to give it to them. To equate reason with “objectivity” or detached, logical (based on flawed premises), anal fixations, denies practical reality —how empathetic cooperation produces a humane, fulfilled potential both for the self and society, while “objective,” crimped self-interest produces harm to both the self and society— and it would be irrational to choose the latter, when the former works best for all.

Like I just said, my standards of reasonableness appear to be of a very different order than many if not most other people's in our culture. People like Derrick Jensen seem to have a sense of reasonableness similar to mine. That's nice. As far as giving others their right to claim an abbreviated, short term and often myopic version of reason I tend to find dangerous to us all, as these decisions in the Flint water delivery system have turned out to be, I am not a dictator. Unlike G.W. Bush, I wouldn't even jokingly propose that things would be a lot easier if I were. I don't believe that because I also hold a strong notion that no single one of us is qualified for that all knowing position. Thus, I am well aware that I am in no position to tell other people how to think nor am I in a position to enforce my beliefs on them.

So I can only claim my reasoning for myself and work my life as best I can with it, and stand my ground when someone tells me my reasoning is silly and insufficient. Which happens often enough. I can vote if I don't like the managers that get into these positions, and I can hope there is someone with reasoning that approaches mine to vote for. Whoopee. I cannot do much at all to prevent those who differ from me in so many ways from doing what they want through the rule-by-law logical, reasonable legal structure that permits private institutions to do what they do within that logical, rational structure.

Of course I am still permitted to do things like call them sociopaths, psychopaths, heartless pricks, and other names until some of them get laws in place that are designed to shut me up.

Quote Zenzoe:

But see how the emotion of fear drives their thought processes. Fear is the driving characteristic, therefore, not reason. Reasonable, sane reason would have protected them from putting themselves in a fearful position in the first place. But no...they just had to be bastards!

That brings up a question I've never been able to answer. Can reason even be a driving force? Or is it only a tool? That is, one of our human capacities. I suspect -- and strongly so -- that reason is a response to something else. I am hesitant to identify what that might be, because it may be beyond logical, reasonable description. If it's a response to a vaguely characterizable loving and caring about the entire planet we live on, it would likely be different than a response to subjective, self-based fear of some sort, like fear of punishment for making a mistake. But I can't prove any of that. I can at best make some reasonable arguments, as plenty of others have, most far better arguments than any of mine.

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.ren
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Apr. 1, 2010 6:50 am

Paul Verhaeghe wrote a piece, which I've shared before, that more or less echoes some of what Ren has posted. "An economic system that rewards psychopathic personality traits has changed our ethics and our personalities."

The antidote, I think, is bringing about a cultural shift. A shift that can only occur from the ground up. Planting seeds in the collective consciousness/conscience. I think there's resistance to this notion because it requires a great deal of time--generations upon generations. And because the result is unpredictable. There's no quick fix, which is hard to accept for people who want to witness broad systemic change within their lifetime. Or for people who wish to blame an evil cabal, the only thing standing in the way of some imagined utopia. Thus we get grand conspiracy theories.

It stands to reason, if you will, that problems many generations in the making may only be undone via a generations-long struggle.

As for what is meant by "culture," a Texas A&M faculty website offers numerous definitions worth considering.

As David Duhalde concluded this article, "...we must also do the “long distance” work of building a society that one day abolishes exploitation and poverty."

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Garrett78
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Sep. 3, 2010 8:20 am

Neoliberalism has brought out the worst in us

That's the title to that first linked article. Thought provoking article, imho. One well worth reading and even discussing. For some it may be newish ideas, hopefully lifeline ideas for those feeling left out, for others, perhaps a worthwhile extension of a life long narrative, but a narrative regarding vestigiation of our humanity by virtue of a cultural system that's designed for machines, like those terminator machines in Cameron's series that decide they don't need humanity.

For lack of community invision, if one feels the vacuum in one's soul, how do we rebuild a commonly understood and shared human society if we leave it up to those "heroes" like Clinton, Ted Cruz, or Donald Trump, or the long-lived technocrats like Eddie Bernays if we don't dig in and re-envision it ourselves? Seems to me we are living on and in their narratives splashed over the verbal and visual headlines we no longer create for ourselves. But these people who take part in this spectacle that engulfs our lives are functionally and willfully illiterate. And this is coming from years of personal experience watching this all evolve.

But who needs the experienced in a culture without references to its own history? Forever young... Literacy once in my lifetime meant more than sharing a few sound bites on twitter. And this is coming from someone who grew up in an overwhelmingly illiterate working class family. Now I find there seems to be no escape that includes any community.

Quote John Ralston Saul:

Literacy is only defined as the ability to read because the assumption of Western civilization is that man wishes to read in order to participate fully in that civilization.

(Voltaire's Bastards: The Dictatorship of Reason in the West, John Ralston Saul, 1992, p.110)

Worthy thoughts and good links, Garrett.

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.ren
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Apr. 1, 2010 6:50 am

I have harped on my 6 degrees of Reagan for over the 10 years I've been posting here. Thanks to all for not shutting me out. One fan of my theory: conversations with great minds instigated by a great mind

Reagan didn't like the idea of a middle class so he sought to destroy it, and did.

35 years of utter destruction producing a pre-FDR culture and country.

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douglaslee
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Jul. 31, 2007 3:01 pm

Looking behind the Hero facade that Reagan was in his time, I see the technocrats who created the system he's given all the credit for putting in place. That's how the technocrats work, behind the scenes manipulating the structure to gain real power.

Besides Eddie Bernays who I mentioned above, we also owe this system to JFK's appointment of one of the most brilliant technocrats to make over many things in his lifetime, including a failing Ford Motor Company which he had just revived when plucked from the corporate world and placed into the trans corporate fascist world of politics-driven fascism. I'm speaking of Robert McNamara, of course. I "benefitted" personally from his Vietnam War.

Then there's the guy who supports Hillary, much to her obvious delight, the grand war criminal who never went to jail, Henry Kissenger.

And what about Zbigniew Brzezinsky, the master chessboard technocrat who Carter idolized for his international relations expertise, who tried to out Kissenger Kissinger, and who later was an advisor to the Obama iconic "give em hope" run for the presidency? Much of what Reagan is given credit for was engineered and in place already, thanks to guys like Brzezinski.

And let's not leave out the blue print designer of the corporate take over who Nixon nominated to the Supreme Court, where he actually went, thanks to a dutiful rubber stamping Congress, so he could do some corporate's legal dirty work before there even was a Unitary Executive Theory, yes, I'm speaking of the author of the infamous Powell Manifesto.

There be a hoard of these manipulating technocratic scions of the infamous Cardinal Richelieu DNA behind the scenes making the movie set actually functional while the Hero star gathers the population's emotive agreement.

I suspect these are the real networks behind those six degrees of center of the universe parlor game spin offs that gives those connections any meaning there might be.

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.ren
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Apr. 1, 2010 6:50 am

ren, Thom interviewed Jane Mayer and she covers some of the power brokers and what they are buying now. 2012 was just money flushed down a toilet so now the tactics are different. Kochs are seeking to rewrite the laws that they keep breaking so prosecution of corporate criminals is no more.

http://www.corporatecrimereporter.com/top100.html this is not Jane Mayer's work but is related. Thom's interview was on conversations with great minds. She is a staff reporter for NewYorker magazine. I know you read that, or used to, so we've probably read her stories a few times. At Thom's site one of her stories is the GOP Taliban.

Ralph Nader is talking of corporate fascism, it's there but PR budgets paint rosy pictures.

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douglaslee
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Jul. 31, 2007 3:01 pm

If any of those who bother to communicate with us nobodies can and will tell us about the intricacies of the networks of power that shapes the culture we live in, that would be Jane.

As far as PR departments and their paint is concerned, I think they long ago discovered the secret formula for invisible paint. Most people believe that they are actually pursuing a life of their own when they dedicate their lives to a career in the corporate world. Feudal fascism is the furthest of possibilities from their minds. It's invisible.

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.ren
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Quote .ren:For lack of community invision, if one feels the vacuum in one's soul, how do we rebuild a commonly understood and shared human society if we leave it up to those "heroes" like Clinton, Ted Cruz, or Donald Trump, or the long-lived technocrats like Eddie Bernays if we don't dig in and re-envision it ourselves? Seems to me we are living on and in their narratives splashed over the verbal and visual headlines we no longer create for ourselves. But these people who take part in this spectacle that engulfs our lives are functionally and willfully illiterate. And this is coming from years of personal experience watching this all evolve.

What you brought to mind for me is the difficulty with engaging in conversations based on premises devoid of critical analysis. As I attempted to make clear in post #18 of another thread, there are foundational aspects of our society that go unquestioned by the vast majority. Those aspects serve as a narrative framework or narrative boundaries, if you will.

So, ultimately, for his or her sanity's sake, one must accept that systemic change of the magnitude desired (by some) will take (if it's to ever come about at all) a very long time (more than a lifetime) and begins with baby steps. Building community in one way or another, as opposed to futilely counting on the masses waking up one day to recognize the absurdity of, say, GDP as a metric of well-being.

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Garrett78
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Sep. 3, 2010 8:20 am

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/22/opinion/cranks-on-top.html? Cranks don't use facts and their fan base still believes in myths disproven multiple times. Civics was taught in my high school but now fox and 'crank radio' are new Cronkites. Cranks are in Krugman's column so their base loves cranks and their radio/tv shows. Rubio has multibillionaires backing him so a tax cut twice the size of W's is his plan and military expansion to add to the 900 bases worldwide taxpayers pay for.

GDP vs degrowth is a topic that will never get discussed.

The thing is, one of the two men who may still have a good chance of becoming the Republican nominee is a scary character. His notions on foreign policy seem to boil down to the belief that America can bully everyone into doing its bidding, and that engaging in diplomacy is a sign of weakness. His ideas on domestic policy are deeply ignorant and irresponsible, and would be disastrous if put into effect.

The other man, of course, has very peculiar hair.

Paul KrugmanMacroeconomics, trade, health care, social policy and politics.

See More »

Marco Rubio has yet to win anything, but by losing less badly than other non-Trump candidates he has become the overwhelming choice of the Republican establishment. Does this give him a real chance of overtaking the man who probably just won all of South Carolina’s delegates? I have no idea.

But what I do know is that one shouldn’t treat establishment support as an indication that Mr. Rubio is moderate and sensible. On the contrary, not long ago someone holding his policy views would have been considered a fringe crank.

Let me leave aside Mr. Rubio’s terrifying statements on foreign policy and his evident willingness to make a bonfire of civil liberties, and focus on what I know best, economics.

You probably know that Mr. Rubio is proposing big tax cuts, and may know that among other things he proposes completely eliminating taxes oninvestment income — which would mean, for example, that Mitt Romney would end up owing precisely zero in federal taxes.

What you may not know is that Mr. Rubio’s tax cuts would be almost twice as big as George W. Bush’s as a percentage of gross domestic product — despite the fact that federal debt is much higher than it was 15 years ago, and Republicans have spent the Obama years warning incessantly that budget deficits will destroy America, any day now.

But not to worry: Mr. Rubio insists that his tax cuts would pay for themselves, by unleashing incredible economic growth. Never mind the complete absence of any evidence for this claim — in fact, the last two Democratic presidents, both of whom raised taxes on the rich, both presided over better private-sector job growth than Mr. Bush did (and that’s even if you leave out the catastrophe of Mr. Bush’s last year in office).

Then there’s Mr. Rubio’s call for a balanced-budget amendment, which, aside from making no sense at the same time he is calling for budget-busting tax cuts, would have been catastrophic during the Great Recession

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douglaslee
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Those narrative boundaries or premises, of course, are subscribed to by the *vast* majority of folks regardless of political affiliation. At least the vast majority of those with the luxury of being able to discuss sociopolitical matters, while millions simply struggle to get from one day to the next (or the millions who just don't know how to think critically--partly a product of our abysmal educational institutions and partly a product of uber-corporatization of the media). Discussions such as the one we're having in this thread are not just the exception that proves the rule, but virtually unheard of.

Instead of a debate regarding the validity of GDP (or a debate about what constitutes "wealth" or "productivity"), we witness a neverending (and fruitless) back-and-forth about who is responsible for a rise or fall in GDP. Or a fruitless debate about the role of the government ("the" being a keyword, as it reminds us that government is not a body of people but an amorphous boogeyman--something apart from "us," something to be feared and despised). And questioning the validity of arbitrary borders (forming so-called nation states) or this thing known as "money" is even further off the radar.

In my last post, I posted an example of where I've brought up the matter of unquestioned premises (such as the utter subservience of real/living wealth to phantom wealth), and each time I do that, the conversation continues as a matter of course. The unquestioned premises go on being unquestioned. Surprise, surprise. It's much easier to remain within the comfy confines than it is to venture outside the box, to think critically about certain foundational aspects of society.

Again, I think it will take a concerted effort lasting many, many years to break free of these paradigmatic shackles (accepting that fact, accepting that all I can hope to do in my lifetime is plant a few seeds, has been difficult for me and is at least partially responsible for a state of depression). And the breaking free won't ever happen without taking steps in that direction. What those steps might entail is up for discussion (such as establishing more co-operatives or fair trade businesses, or raising awareness about various forms of injustice via a local organization), but individuals resisting what Verhaeghe considers the psychopathy wrought by neoliberalism (intentional living, you might say) most certainly plays a role.

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Garrett78
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Sep. 3, 2010 8:20 am

http://skepdic.comcriticalthinking. is a site and icon I keep in my tool bar for reference and exercises offered at various links.

I posted RFK's speech about GDP on a thread somewhere, it's beautiful if you haven't heard it.

btw, I am intentional living but didn't know that's what I'm doing. I don't drive, just bike, bus and train, laundry hung on lines, recycle, and carbon footprint reduction was easy, but Swedes had been doing so for decades already. Life is good Garret, and if depression rears it's head for you, take a trip with your passport. It's not running, just clearing your head and seeing civilization. Canadians, Aussies, and Kiwis all have their cultural values like the US was 35 years ago. They don't shoot each other and have functioning democracies, like Sweden. I was in FL last month and ready to come home before my tickets were scheduled. My kids came home a week before me for school and work so I missed them more than I enjoyed FL for an extra week.

Korton is worth keeping up with too, thanks for that link. I have his Yes mag link too.

Erin Brokovich was on Bill Maher's show with her stats on toxic waste. There are many, many Flints. She said there is a water crisis in the states and shared the violations of the clean water act that are almost commonplace. Cheney got an exemption for his secret energy task force-aka halliburton.

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douglaslee
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Jul. 31, 2007 3:01 pm

Actually more of a response than a reply, and a response including thoughts from posts #30, #31 and #32.

First I just want to note from my own personal experience that thinking outside the framework of the given narratives is a very lonely endeavor for the most part. The normal human aspects of community, where we give each other support from our capacities for empathy, are bound to be absent. So it's not for the suicidal types. But then, for me, opening up to the death trap for my humanity that I find our society to be isn't for the suicidal types either. Since I am internally, infernally driven to look, I'm screwed if I don't deal with my morose, dark, introverted tendencies.

And, well, I've done that in my own ways, which for me have to do with being in nature. Even here, where nature has been so decimated and traumatized by the lumber industry that's such an integral part of industrial civilization, I can find an antidote for my tendency towards dark thoughts that has nothing to do with ingesting drugs, including the pain killing drug of alcoholic beverages of choice for so many. I do have to learn to embrace a kind of deep sadness as I watch the nature around me struggle to recover from the mono-manic monoculturally-oriented decimation, only to be raped once again. Like long term community building on a very different foundation, the total aspect of its ongoing premises working itself out is out of my hands.

But still I must search to see how it works. In seeing that I inform my own life, my own intentional living -- and as doug says, I am intentional without having first thought out the idea of being intentional from a logical framework introduced by a proponent of intentional living -- not that the concept is a bad thing to go by, just that my own intentionality was derived from epiphanies that began while I was captured by the system, subverted from my own self imagined destiny, and put to work as a spear carrier for empire -- as Chalmers Johnson so neatly put it. In the process I recognized structural and foundational similarities of my own captivity to the horrors of human slavery of various sorts, not the least of which was the one that played a role in one of the most horrific, psychologically scarring internal conflicts this still very young nation ever had. As a self conceived entity, sometimes called a nation -- though if we pay attention to history, nation is a rather new concept in our species' panoply of cultural creations -- we remain today deeply damaged by the foundational destruction of that conflict. I feel strongly that iconic figures like Donald Trump arise as just another example of that damage emerging from our collective unconscious with our unresolved dilemmas to threaten our long term and very shaky convalescence from a broad scale societal version of PTSD.

I talk about building community quite a lot. And yet, very little of what I'd like to see come about has in any very real sense materialized. But still, in the backs of people's minds, while they buy their electric cars to keep up the pace of moving about, which is a huge imperative in a culture not tuned to local sustainability practices, a building of something amorphous, unarticulated seems to be taking place, and conversations I could not have with some people around here are now possible because, on their own, they are thinking out those foundational issues that drive them to make the choices they make. So conversations about these issues is a bit like how that character, the theater owner Philip Henslow, in Shakespeare in Love, describes how a play comes about.

Philip Henslowe: Mr. Fennyman, allow me to explain about the theatre business. The natural condition is one of insurmountable obstacles on the road to imminent disaster.
Hugh Fennyman: So what do we do?
Philip Henslowe: Nothing. Strangely enough, it all turns out well.
Hugh Fennyman: How?
Philip Henslowe: I don't know. It's a mystery.

Oddly enough, for me anyway, that's both inspiring and comforting.

I'm going to have more thoughts about this, but I've decided that putting them all in one post is too much. These boxes are very cramped.

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.ren
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Apr. 1, 2010 6:50 am

Thanks for that movie quote data base link. From The 39 Steps

Sheriff: And this bullet stuck among the hymns, eh? Well, I'm not surprised, Mr. Hannay. Some of those Calvinist prayers are terrible hard to get through.
Hannay: [after asking for a coat and hat] Are you married?
Milkman: Yes, but don't rub it in. What's the idea now?
Hannay: Well, I'm not. I'm a bachelor...A married woman lives on the first floor.
Milkman: Does she?
Hannay: Yes, and I've just been paying her a call and now I want to go home.
Milkman: Well, what's preventing you?
Hannay: One of those men...is her husband. Now do you see?
Milkman: Why didn't you tell me before, old fellow? I was just wanting to be told. Trying to keep me with a lot of tales about murderers and foreigners. [The milkman happily and freely offers his coat and hat]...You're welcome to it. You'd do the same for me one day.
The second quote is more apropos to the last few posts. The first is funny. John Buchan wrote the book.

Open Culture has the book (1915) and /free_hitchcock_movies_online of the book.

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douglaslee
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Jul. 31, 2007 3:01 pm

Another link for purposes of reference, http://www.openculture.com/free-philosophy-ebooks has all the greats and more. Some are kindle and read online now so can be quoted w/copy/paste.

I've read many but that was in college so now I kind of further Philosphy 101 to stuff I've been studying that was not in that course. Bertrand Russell (Why I'm not a Christian looks good and I just found out about it) and Alexis deToqueville- That link and icon are also on my toolbar. I'm listening to Lenny Bruce now. (He's not under philosphy)

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douglaslee
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Jul. 31, 2007 3:01 pm

I've come across a few degrowth youtube shows. Naomi Klein is in a couple of them, but here she is with Raj Patel and Amy Goodman

This is very good, though dated. ren, you were a spear carrier for extortionists.

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douglaslee
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Jul. 31, 2007 3:01 pm

The neoliberal thread and the Democracy now link re:IMF/World Bank, CIA, american led genocide-

- the abuse of South Americans including slaughter and genocide, on top of extortion

and empire, were all neoliberal/american-

15 best cities for expats you don't have to be a part of it or associated with it. I was in 3 of those cities listed in the last year, 2 this year alone. Maybe the freedom I feel is like leaving a spousal abuser, I don't know.

Bolivia kicked the american fascists out and spurrred a continent wide recognition of their own spousal abuse suffering and have dumped the Washington Consensus.

France and Britain are still lieutenants for the main criminal abuser-

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douglaslee
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Quote Garrett78:

Those narrative boundaries or premises, of course, are subscribed to by the *vast* majority of folks regardless of political affiliation. At least the vast majority of those with the luxury of being able to discuss sociopolitical matters, while millions simply struggle to get from one day to the next (or the millions who just don't know how to think critically--partly a product of our abysmal educational institutions and partly a product of uber-corporatization of the media). Discussions such as the one we're having in this thread are not just the exception that proves the rule, but virtually unheard of.

Instead of a debate regarding the validity of GDP (or a debate about what constitutes "wealth" or "productivity"), we witness a neverending (and fruitless) back-and-forth about who is responsible for a rise or fall in GDP. Or a fruitless debate about the role of the government ("the" being a keyword, as it reminds us that government is not a body of people but an amorphous boogeyman--something apart from "us," something to be feared and despised). And questioning the validity of arbitrary borders (forming so-called nation states) or this thing known as "money" is even further off the radar.

In my last post, I posted an example of where I've brought up the matter of unquestioned premises (such as the utter subservience of real/living wealth to phantom wealth), and each time I do that, the conversation continues as a matter of course. The unquestioned premises go on being unquestioned. Surprise, surprise. It's much easier to remain within the comfy confines than it is to venture outside the box, to think critically about certain foundational aspects of society.

Again, I think it will take a concerted effort lasting many, many years to break free of these paradigmatic shackles (accepting that fact, accepting that all I can hope to do in my lifetime is plant a few seeds, has been difficult for me and is at least partially responsible for a state of depression). And the breaking free won't ever happen without taking steps in that direction. What those steps might entail is up for discussion (such as establishing more co-operatives or fair trade businesses, or raising awareness about various forms of injustice via a local organization), but individuals resisting what Verhaeghe considers the psychopathy wrought by neoliberalism (intentional living, you might say) most certainly plays a role.

When it comes to examining this issue of narrative boundaries structurally formed by idea building blocks from foundational issues, it strikes me that we face some very basic human contrasts in thinking styles as well.

I, for instance, like to work with one idea at a time. I like to make an effort to trace the logical links to other ideas so that I can examine what I imagine to be the actual "construction" of the edifaces we call ideas. That process is also a bit like the demolition aspect of a remodel job if you've ever actually done any real building construction.

I discovered when I decided to focus my studies on anthropology instead of literature that that same intellectual process was already being pursued by a faction of anthropologists who are sometimes associated with Levi Straussian structuralism. In fact, in my first couple of papers I got tagged as a Levi Straussian, and that was before I knew anything about his verion of structural analysis. I thought the professor was talking about my ragged blue jeans.

One of the ingenious insights Claude Levi Strauss brought to the study of cultural foundational structures was his associations of various culture's myths, especially foundation myths, to the composition of their cultural make up, which must include the idea of boundaries or premises in discourse among those in a given culture that you've raised and discussed here, and elsewhere.

The thing about myths is they are so clearly structural. That is, clear if, and I repeat, if one notices that metaphor, symbol and structure are correlated concepts. A mythological metaphor can, therefore, be a foundational cultural concept. And that was the basis of the revolution that Levi Strauss wrought in the previous versions of structural anthropology, which was almost completely, and myopically focused on the materialist aspect of culture -- the technology, the housing, the tools, that sort of thing. It was like opening up to the spirit of humanity that these material things implied, but could never actually expose because the anthropologists had no agreed upon way of talking about such things in their Age of Reason scientific dialect. And being as I was, actually still am, a lover of literature and the way that literature speaks to me about the world through metaphor, I found this an exciting way to begin my journey exploring cultures and the different ways people make up the world so that it can make sense for them and each other in their daily, mundane activities.

Now back to what I was saying at first. I want to talk about a contrast in thinking styles that Isaiah Berlin brought to my contemplative attention with his still pertinent 1951 essay, The Hedgehog and the Fox: An Essay on Tolstoy's View of History, which I read after my first reading of Tolstoy's War and Peace.

This is the first paragraph in Michael Ignatieff's Foreward:

IT IS WORTH TRYING to understand why this extraordinary essay, first delivered as a lecture in Oxford, then reprinted in an obscure Slavic studies journal in 1951, then re-titled and re-published in 1953, has been enjoying such a robust and enduring afterlife. Along with ‘Two Concepts of Liberty’, 1 the distinction between the hedgehog and the fox has proved to be enduringly fertile, and has been put to uses Berlin could never have imagined or intended. What began life as a common-room parlour game in the late 1930s – an Oxford undergraduate introduced him to the shimmering and mysterious sentence in the Greek original and Isaiah took it up to divide his friends into hedgehogs and foxes2 – Berlin then turned into the structuring insight for a great essay on Tolstoy. It has now passed into the culture as a way to classify those around us and to think about two basic orientations towards reality itself.

Berlin, Isaiah (2013-06-02). The Hedgehog and the Fox: An Essay on Tolstoy's View of History (p. ix). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.

This is that "shimmering and mysterious sentence":

THERE IS A LINE among the fragments of the Greek poet Archilochus which says: ‘The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.’

Berlin, Isaiah (2013-06-02). The Hedgehog and the Fox: An Essay on Tolstoy's View of History (p. 1). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.

Followed by

Scholars have differed about the correct interpretation of these dark words, which may mean no more than that the fox, for all his cunning, is defeated by the hedgehog’s one defence. But, taken figuratively, the words can be made to yield a sense in which they mark one of the deepest differences which divide writers and thinkers, and, it may be, human beings in general.

Berlin, Isaiah (2013-06-02). The Hedgehog and the Fox: An Essay on Tolstoy's View of History (pp. 1-2). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.

Later, Berlin was to say this about his short but proving to be timeless book:

I am very sorry to have called my own book The Hedgehog and the Fox. I wish I hadn’t now. Isaiah Berlin1

Berlin, Isaiah (2013-06-02). The Hedgehog and the Fox: An Essay on Tolstoy's View of History (p. xiii). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.

I still don't know if I'd be a hedgehog or a fox, but I do know that I not only like to work with one idea at a time, but I must or my mind turns to mush. Yet I have these friends who, the moment I start to develop an idea, their minds go off like fireworks and off they go racing through the heavens to touch all the sparks before they fall to earth. I'm not even sure if we have conversations, or if I just sit there thinking my one bland and colorless thing, anchored here on the planet.

I don't think this culture, this spectacle of ideas spread chaotically through modern media channels, is for me. But I have found my own way to survive it, so far, anyway.

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.ren
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On the writers and thinkers, Chomsky is a thinker, that has written more than a 100 books

I use him to think. 'Picasso and Einstein met in Paris' is a Steve Martin story. People look at Picasso's stuff and try to define it for their own understanding. Einstein met him as he was in the middle of his Theory of Relativity (They didn't meet but a point comes from the myth) They disagree on the way each views the world so a challenge arises "We both have pens lets put something on paper to compare" "Done, et me see yours" said Picsso "It's jus a bunch of letters" Einstein "And yours is just a bunch of lines"

little boy in the cafe sees both and says "The letters are made with lines" "and from across the cafe I thought your lines were just big letters"The last line was mine, there was no boy.I was in Copenagen last month maybe I had Hans Christian Anderson on the brain.

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douglaslee
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Quote Isaiah Berlin:

History does not reveal causes; it presents only a blank succession of unexplained events. ‘Everything is forced into a standard mould invented by the historian. Tsar Ivan the Terrible, on whom Professor Ivanov is lecturing at the moment, after 1560 suddenly becomes transformed from a wise and virtuous man into a mad and cruel tyrant. How? Why? – You mustn’t even ask …’. 2 And half a century later, in 1908, he declares to Gusev: ‘History would be an excellent thing if only it were true.’ 3 The proposition that history could (and should) be made scientific is a commonplace in the nineteenth century; but the number of those who interpreted the term ‘science’ as meaning natural science, and then asked themselves whether history could be transformed into a science in this specific sense, is not great. The most uncompromising policy was that of Auguste Comte, who, following his master Saint-Simon, tried to turn history into sociology, with what fantastic consequences we need not here relate. Karl Marx was perhaps, of all thinkers, the man who took this programme most seriously; and made the bravest, if one of the least successful, attempts to discover general laws which govern historical evolution, conceived on the then alluring analogy of biology and anatomy, so triumphantly transformed by Darwin’s new evolutionary theories. Like Marx (of whom at the time of writing War and Peace he apparently knew nothing), Tolstoy saw clearly that if history was a science, it must be possible to discover and formulate a set of true laws of history which, in conjunction with the data of empirical observation, would make prediction of the future (and ‘retrodiction’ of the past) as feasible as it had become in, say, geology or astronomy. But he saw more clearly than Marx and his followers that this had, in fact, not been achieved, and said so with his usual dogmatic candour, and reinforced his thesis with arguments designed to show that the prospect of achieving this goal was non-existent; and clinched the matter by observing that the fulfilment of this scientific hope would end human life as we knew it: ‘If we allow that human life can be ruled by reason, the possibility of life [i.e. as a spontaneous activity involving consciousness of free will] is destroyed.’

Berlin, Isaiah (2013-06-02). The Hedgehog and the Fox: An Essay on Tolstoy's View of History (pp. 14-16). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.

Yes, that's all one paragraph. It doesn't look so long in another environment.

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.ren
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Quote douglaslee:

On the writers and thinkers, Chomsky is a thinker, that has written more than a 100 books

I use him to think. 'Picasso and Einstein met in Paris' is a Steve Martin story. People look at Picasso's stuff and try to define it for their own understanding. Einstein met him as he was in the middle of his Theory of Relativity (They didn't meet but a point comes from the myth) They disagree on the way each views the world so a challenge arises "We both have pens lets put something on paper to compare" "Done, et me see yours" said Picsso "It's jus a bunch of letters" Einstein "And yours is just a bunch of lines"

little boy in the cafe sees both and says "The letters are made with lines" "and from across the cafe I thought your lines were just big letters"The last line was mine, there was no boy.I was in Copenagen last month maybe I had Hans Christian Anderson on the brain.

But then there are thinkers and there are thinkers.

Quote Isaiah Berlin:

For there exists a great chasm between those, on one side, who relate everything to a single central vision, one system, less or more coherent or articulate, in terms of which they understand, think and feel – a single, universal, organising principle in terms of which alone all that they are and say has significance – and, on the other side, those who pursue many ends, often unrelated and even contradictory, connected, if at all, only in some de facto way, for some psychological or physiological cause, related to no moral or aesthetic principle. These last lead lives, perform acts and entertain ideas that are centrifugal rather than centripetal; their thought is scattered or diffused, moving on many levels, seizing upon the essence of a vast variety of experiences and objects for what they are in themselves, without, consciously or unconsciously, seeking to fit them into, or exclude them from, any one unchanging, all-embracing, sometimes self-contradictory and incomplete, at times fanatical, unitary inner vision. The first kind of intellectual and artistic personality belongs to the hedgehogs, the second to the foxes; and without insisting on a rigid classification, we may, without too much fear of contradiction, say that, in this sense, Dante belongs to the first category, Shakespeare to the second; Plato, Lucretius, Pascal, Hegel, Dostoevsky, Nietzsche, Ibsen, Proust are, in varying degrees, hedgehogs; Herodotus, Aristotle, Montaigne, Erasmus, Molière, Goethe, Pushkin, Balzac, Joyce are foxes.

Berlin, Isaiah (2013-06-02). The Hedgehog and the Fox: An Essay on Tolstoy's View of History (p. 2). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.

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.ren
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That was great, and very clear, thanks. I have a kindle copy of I Never Metaphor I Didn't Like and have been sampling.

  1. One recognizes one’s course by discovering the paths that stray from it.97 Highlighters
  2. A man is like a fraction whose numerator is what he is and whose denominator is what he thinks of himself. The larger the denominator, the smaller the fraction.87 Highlighters
  3. An analogy says that A is to B as C is to D. A metaphor says that A is B, or substitutes B for A. A simile says that A is like B.85 Highlighters
  4. All metaphors are violations of logic in the sense that they assert that two different things are the same.83 Highlighters
  5. Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.

Trying to run a business without advertising is like winking at a girl in the dark.

You know what you're doing, but nobody else does.

We both shared our familiarity with Plato's shadows on the cave wall in The Republic. I think you've used it in some of our current events discussions for illustration of the problem at hand.

Remember the chess match metaphor? I think it was on the old boards. I was using something I was familar with and trying to show the analogy with one of W's adventures I think. The benefit of that one was the cynicism it allowed by comparing the playing pieces with the W team. One were just toys, one was playing with toys, one was a toy soldier, one was killing real soldiers as easily as sacrificing a pawn or toy soldier. Cheney was King I think, at least he thought he was.

Chomsky shared a story from Jaque Chirac's book that he had heard earlier but wouldn't publish because it couldn't be true. W needed a coalition so he met Chirac in person and shared with him a bible reference from Ecclesiasties about go and goda coming to slay Israel and only the righteous were saved and whisked to heaven. Reagan believed this too, only Go/Goda were USSR. W thought Go/Goda were Iraq. He said publicly that God told him to attack Iraq, so he did.

Back to the chess board, was W a bishop? They rule by edict W ruled by Dick (cheney). Maybe a horse only because a horse's ass and W/Cheney are interchangable. Nuclear codes in the hands of a bible freak literalist is scary as hell, to me. How many others think Go/Goda are Iran and we have to nuke 'em to save Israel? Chirac wasn't the only one that didn't know what the hell he was talking about. Freedom Fries came soon after. Chirac wasn't going to war over a bible thing

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douglaslee
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If you are going to imagine the various politicians in the Presidency as chess pieces, who would be the grand master behind the scenes, moving them around on the (Brzezinski's) Grand Chess Board?

A question that I think may bring us back to the Flint and other U.S. infrastructure conundrums as the nation's wealth is increasingly poured into imperialist/militarist adventures. After all, you brought up the chess metaphor, let's see how far it goes.

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.ren
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And Garrett, still working with your thoughts in your post #31.

Quote Garrett78:

Those narrative boundaries or premises, of course, are subscribed to by the *vast* majority of folks regardless of political affiliation. At least the vast majority of those with the luxury of being able to discuss sociopolitical matters, while millions simply struggle to get from one day to the next (or the millions who just don't know how to think critically--partly a product of our abysmal educational institutions and partly a product of uber-corporatization of the media). Discussions such as the one we're having in this thread are not just the exception that proves the rule, but virtually unheard of.

Instead of a debate regarding the validity of GDP (or a debate about what constitutes "wealth" or "productivity"), we witness a neverending (and fruitless) back-and-forth about who is responsible for a rise or fall in GDP. Or a fruitless debate about the role of the government ("the" being a keyword, as it reminds us that government is not a body of people but an amorphous boogeyman--something apart from "us," something to be feared and despised). And questioning the validity of arbitrary borders (forming so-called nation states) or this thing known as "money" is even further off the radar.

This may seem like the long way around to talk about your point, but that's the way the introvert's mind works, round about through the acetylcholine pathways of the mind, rather than the direct, adrenaline-related dopamine pathways where all the reactionary fear resides waiting to jump out with a loud BOO! So settle back and wait for me to stop droning, or ignore, if one prefers.

What I want to call upon is some related, foundational history presented eloquently by John Ralston Saul in his 1992, Voltaire's Bastard: The Dictatorship of Reason in the West. What he's doing in the sections I'm going to quote below is tracing the founding moments where our modern day version of rhetorical argument took root. He finds his narrative source for this with Loyola in the 16th Century who founded a version of reason-based Jesuit training that he sees correlating with our modern day methods of education. Let me just share some of this.

At first glance Jesuit training seems to resemble our contemporary brainwashing or reeducation methods. Modern interrogations and indoctrinations do not use violence or even the threat of violence. They concentrate on dismantling and disinfecting the mind of the victim before reassembling it in a different pattern. As for the Jesuit accountings and reportings, they appear to be the originals of the twentieth century’s systems of social control through anonymous informants — systems we tend to identify with repressive societies, secret services and ministries of the interior.

If this unprecedented training and shaping of individuals produced the dominant intellectual force in Europe, it was in part because the Jesuits provided the most complete education. Loyola and the other founders had at once begun to analyze the best existing universities — Catholic and Protestant. That done, they set up their own colleges based on the latest methods and knowledge. And then they observed and experimented for forty years until, in 1599, they finalized their official Ratio Studiorum, or “study plan.” If the system and the message were removed, what remained was a remarkable education. Francis Bacon himself couldn’t help admiring their work, once he had set aside the message. In no time at all they were educating not only future Jesuits but the elites of Europe. This infuriated other orders and the political authorities. Jesuit control over the intellect and emotions of future civil leadership was an integral part of the Society’s complex politicking — a natural extension of their influence over governments.

Saul, John Ralston (2012-12-25). Voltaire's Bastards (pp. 114-115). Free Press. Kindle Edition.

I'll skip to this point though the narrative context that leads us to it is worth the read:

The practical manifestation of the Jesuits’ failure to keep up with social evolution was that new rational schools began to appear in the eighteenth century — schools more clearly tied to national interests and to separate, concrete definitions of professionalism. They dropped the Society’s message and a good part of its humanist education. They kept the astonishing methodology and applied it to such institutions as military staff colleges and engineering schools. By the middle of the nineteenth century, these were proliferating into administrative schools — first aimed at public service, then at business. As the obsession with professionalism grew, so the focus narrowed and the actual educational content shrank still further. The jesuitical concept of obedience also disappeared, but the new professionalism manifested itself by concentrating on such things as structure, accounting, reporting, manoeuvring and mastery of detail, all of which could be summarized as an unconscious and undirected version of Loyola’s “abnegation of will and judgement.”

To those on the outside, the most visible sign that someone had received Jesuit training was his ability to outargue anyone. This weapon of “argument” has also been adopted by our elites. The Jesuits called it “rhetoric.” To outsiders it appeared to be a pompous style of formal address. Given our informal era, it seems to have been buried with the past. Its formality, however, was merely its public disguise. Rhetoric was more than modern. It was revolutionary. And it is still very much with us.

Saul, John Ralston (2012-12-25). Voltaire's Bastards (p. 115). Free Press. Kindle Edition.

And then, here are a few examples of how he shows how "it" -- this Jesuitical form of educated rhetoric" is still very much with us, though certainly transformed in appearance (now that's talking to foundational structures and how they can appear in different forms if not attended to and, if necessary, excised:

We have difficulty linking the Jesuits’ intellectual approach with that of the technocrats because we believe that formal eloquence was central to rhetoric. Modern argument doesn’t rely upon the modulated qualities of the voice. Nor does it attempt to seduce by pleasing. There is no artifice. We are not enhanced by its appearance. In fact, modern argument is usually ugly and boring. The awkward bones of facts and figures are there as signs of honesty and freedom. The charts and graphs lay out lines of inevitability, which always begin in the past and advance as a simple matter of historical fact calmly into the future. There is no appearance of guile.

But this awkward, boring surface is the new form of elegant phrasing. The facts, the figures, the historic events used to set the direction of lines on graphs are all arbitrarily chosen in order to produce a given solution. To this is added an insistence that the constant questioning involved in modern argument is proof of its Socratic origins. Again and again the schools which form the twentieth century’s elites throughout the West refer to their Socratic heritage. The implication is that doubt is constantly raised in their search for truth. In reality the way they teach is the opposite of a Socratic dialogue. In the Athenian’s case every answer raised a question. With the contemporary elites every question produces an answer. Socrates would have thrown the modern elites out of his academy.

Saul, John Ralston (2012-12-25). Voltaire's Bastards (p. 116). Free Press. Kindle Edition.

When he says "every question produces an answer" what he's talking about is, in modern day Eddie Bernays PR parlance, called "framing". Thom himself goes into that in his Cracking the Code. What Saul argues is that this tautological framing set-up that produces these knee jerk answer responses we see all over rather than discussions on root condepts like questioning what exactly the answer (GDP) is has resulted as an artifact of the age of reason, and thus it becomes a part of his larger argument regarding how reason can rise to a level of dictatorship in any give society that doesn't put reason in perspective with all our other human characteristics.

And just one more:

Along with the false questioning, the boring awkwardness and the endless facts, the claimed Athenian inheritance is also there to distract us from the predetermined mechanics of technocratic arguments. Rhetoric still dominates our lives. Unchanged from the seventeenth century, it has merely reversed its style from elegance to ugliness.

This becomes more intriguing if you observe the way in which a technocrat deals with a discussion when he arrives on the scene after it has begun. By his standards this is an argument out of control, so he does not join in. What he does is find a way to abrogate the discussion so that it can begin again on his terms. The classic method is to make a violent, irrational entry, which often involves personal invective. The very rudeness of the attack will stop the discussion. The technocrat then picks one or two small points — the weakest — out of the argument and concentrates all his sarcasm upon them. Such a reductio ad absurdum catches everyone unawares and before they can recover he reintroduces the entire discussion in his own manner. This form of public debate made its entry into the twentieth century via the Heroes — Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin. After 1945 it was adopted by the new elites.

Saul, John Ralston (2012-12-25). Voltaire's Bastards (p. 117). Free Press. Kindle Edition.

"...if you observe the way a technocrat deals with a discussion when he arrives on the scene after it's begun." Oh, my. I haven't seen a much better description of what I call trolling by PR agents on the internet, especially here at Thom's, than what follows that line. I think we even saw examples of it earlier in this thread.

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.ren
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“In general, democracy and individualism have advanced in spite of and often against specific economic interest. Both democracy and individualism have been based upon financial sacrifice, not gain. Even in Athens, a large part of the 7,000 citizens who participated regularly in assemblies were farmers who had to give up several days' work to go into town to talk and listen.”
John Ralston Saul, The Unconscious Civilization
With early successes the costs of participating are no longer born even by the winners. Politics requires lobbying the same as mansions require lawn care. Actors are even deployed with scripted tales to be circulated as anecdotes accepted as truth. Blacks are welfare cheats on Snap benefits eating lobster, is common amongst the Trump fans, or as he describes them "the uneducated". We were on food stamps when Dad had a heart attack and no sick pay. Mom had low paying work, but not enough for 4 boys and 1 already in college. We did get 1000 dollar NDSL loans for 2%, and tuition was 260 dollars a quarter and 650 dollar room and board with a 20 meal plan. So I guess my brothers and I are dead beats. I took 20 years to pay those off. 2% interest with 17% inflation worked out to a better deal to pay interest only. My SATs in math were 670, so simple interest calculations were something we used all the time.

The lobbying and think tanks passing as research were born about the same time*.

*see P0well memeo

Saul also cites John Stewart Mill in the same book the above quote is from. Re: Truths "The nothion that truths external to the human mind may be known by intuition or consciousness...is, I am persuaded, in these times, the great intellectual support of false doctrines and bad institutions....There never was such an instrument devised for consecrating all deep-seated prejudices."

His theme is the virtue of uncertainty, uncomfortable yes, but "acceptance of psychic discomfort is the acceptance of conciousness". That's actually the last line of the book . Truths may not be found, but falsehoods denied are examples of true intellectual laziness and ignorance.

ren, grandmasters are IMF and MIC.

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douglaslee
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Jul. 31, 2007 3:01 pm

Can I take it that you are reading or have finished that book? It was the first of his trilogy I picked up, though the last written; or, you might say, its concluding argument. So typically I read the conclusion before working out the entire argument. But the argument, it turns out in this case, was well worth working through. Nearly ten years later he came out with a long thought out post script, On Equilibrium. I mean, what does one do once one has dissected modern civilization and revealed the most craven aspects of our human potential it has unleashed? Taming that abject materialization with mere ideas is a pretty weak recipe at this point.

Quote douglaslee:

ren, grandmasters are IMF and MIC.

That's a provocative thought. And in some ways I can see it. The force of culture itself becomes our grandmaster (which brings us back to Garrett's query about the restrictive clamp of narrative boundaries on our abilities to explore ideas). We are but puppets with the appearance of dancing, but dangling mindlessly from the strings of our cultural grandmaster who speak from behind the curtains.

With such rulings as Citizens United, SCOTUS has seemed to agree that institutions can be held in the blind eyes of the law to participate in governing by the same self-actuating characteristics as the human individuals who inhabit them and make them the functional machinery they are.

But I'm still stumbling around in the darkness here, wondering who exactly decides the chess moves... is it some kind of amorphous human computing machinery? Deus ex machina? A godlike imaginary abstraction invented by participants in the so-called science of economics, like "the free market", that's "in charge" now that they've rationally painted themselves into a corner of no-human-with-volition-should-be-allowed to-be-in-charge, thus no one need bother to think any moral or ethical thoughts with regards to their behavior, because the free market acts above and beyond the selfish individual to ultimately keep everything from going too far? Therefore, with this all-knowing abstraction floating somewhere in the ether of infinity, we can trust our unimportant little subjective selves to be as selfish, acquisitive, even brutal as we please, without the need for analysis of the consequences of our actions.

Kind of like Philip Henslowe's description of the theater business, because it will all work out for the best. Who are we, after all, to bother with such petty details? It's a mystery.

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.ren
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Quote Chris Hedges:

A nation that destroys its systems of education, degrades its public information, guts its public libraries and turns its airwaves into vehicles for cheap, mindless amusement becomes deaf, dumb and blind. It prizes test scores above critical thinking and literacy. It celebrates rote vocational training and the singular, amoral skill of making money. It churns out stunted human products, lacking the capacity and vocabulary to challenge the assumptions and structures of the corporate state. It funnels them into a caste system of drones and systems managers. It transforms a democratic state into a feudal system of corporate masters and serfs...

...Corporatism is about the cult of the self. It is about personal enrichment and profit as the sole aim of human existence. And those who do not conform are pushed aside...

...The truly educated become conscious. They become self-aware. They do not lie to themselves. They do not pretend that fraud is moral or that corporate greed is good. They do not claim that the demands of the marketplace can morally justify the hunger of children or denial of medical care to the sick. They do not throw 6 million families from their homes as the cost of doing business. Thought is a dialogue with one’s inner self. Those who think ask questions, questions those in authority do not want asked. They remember who we are, where we come from and where we should go. They remain eternally skeptical and distrustful of power. And they know that this moral independence is the only protection from the radical evil that results from collective unconsciousness. The capacity to think is the only bulwark against any centralized authority that seeks to impose mindless obedience. There is a huge difference, as Socrates understood, between teaching people what to think and teaching them how to think. Those who are endowed with a moral conscience refuse to commit crimes, even those sanctioned by the corporate state, because they do not in the end want to live with criminals—themselves.

“It is better to be at odds with the whole world than, being one, to be at odds with myself,” Socrates said.

Those who can ask the right questions are armed with the capacity to make a moral choice, to defend the good in the face of outside pressure. And this is why the philosopher Immanuel Kant puts the duties we have to ourselves before the duties we have to others. The standard for Kant is not the biblical idea of self-love—love thy neighbor as thyself, do unto others as you would have them do unto you—but self-respect. What brings us meaning and worth as human beings is our ability to stand up and pit ourselves against injustice and the vast, moral indifference of the universe. Once justice perishes, as Kant knew, life loses all meaning. Those who meekly obey laws and rules imposed from the outside—including religious laws—are not moral human beings. The fulfillment of an imposed law is morally neutral. The truly educated make their own wills serve the higher call of justice, empathy and reason. Socrates made the same argument when he said it is better to suffer wrong than to do wrong.

“The greatest evil perpetrated,” Hannah Arendt wrote, “is the evil committed by nobodies, that is, by human beings who refuse to be persons.”

As Arendt pointed out, we must trust only those who have this self-awareness. This self-awareness comes only through consciousness. It comes with the ability to look at a crime being committed and say “I can’t.” We must fear, Arendt warned, those whose moral system is built around the flimsy structure of blind obedience. We must fear those who cannot think. Unconscious civilizations become totalitarian wastelands.

“The greatest evildoers are those who don’t remember because they have never given thought to the matter, and, without remembrance, nothing can hold them back,” Arendt writes. “For human beings, thinking of past matters means moving in the dimension of depth, striking roots and thus stabilizing themselves, so as not to be swept away by whatever may occur—the Zeitgeist or History or simple temptation. The greatest evil is not radical, it has no roots, and because it has no roots it has no limitations, it can go to unthinkable extremes and sweep over the whole world.”

http://www.truthdig.com/report/page2/why_the_united_states_is_destroying...

Corporatism, or the mind-set that places “business morality” —oxymoron?— above an empathetic and compassionate concern for the lives of others, actually reveals, as Chris Hedges implies, a deficit of self-respect and self-regard. This is an irony, for we tend to think of the Randian “moral compass” with regard to capitalists —the cult of self as the essence of goodness— with those capitalists as the best examples of so-called positive self-interest. That deficit, however, is their reality.

I can state such an opinion only because in my experience self-respect has been inconsistent with damage done to others by my own choices, when thinking only of myself and ignoring long-term consequences. It’s all very thrilling to “own” one’s power to do as one pleases, and “to hell with ‘em,” but only in the moment. When time passes, and the results of one’s behavior arrive, revealing the damage, only a person entirely devoid of self-regard —respect and admiration for oneself— could rest comfortably. Having a conscience, a humble sense of one’s fallibility, is an aspect of self-respect.

But government officials who treat government as a business do rest comfortably, or so it would seem. They lack self-respect, apparently— I have yet to see Rick Snyder’s grief over the damage done to Flint residents by his government. Lip service, sure— but nothing real.

That cult of self, manifesting as selfish, self-centeredness, displacing as it does what good government officials must have in their hearts and minds to govern the rest of us without dire effects on whole communities or even on individuals, must soon evaporate, otherwise Flint becomes the norm, everywhere.

Donald Trump, with his attitude of “I'd bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding,” represents the epitome of the cult of the self. And that brainless attitude attracts a whole lot of equally brainless, swaggering people who will vote for him, sometimes out of sheer spite. Flinty America, here we come...

Zenzoe
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You may appreciate this interview, if you haven't already listened. Some time back Chris Hedges quoted Saul in an article, and that's how I was led to explore Saul's writing:

Chris Hedges Interviews John Ralston Saul: The Cult of Neoliberalism

(originally I'd found it here at Truthdig: Chris Hedges and John Ralston Saul Discuss Neoliberalism, False Populism and Donald Trump)

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.ren
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Quote .ren:

You may appreciate this interview, if you haven't already listened. Some time back Chris Hedges quoted Saul in an article, and that's how I was led to explore Saul's writing:

Chris Hedges Interviews John Ralston Saul: The Cult of Neoliberalism

(originally I'd found it here at Truthdig: Chris Hedges and John Ralston Saul Discuss Neoliberalism, False Populism and Donald Trump)

Ren, you could not possibly have found a more congruent item to follow my last comment, though, obviously, their discussion is a far more sophisticated one than mine. Thanks for that, because, as you know, I have been resisting the exploration of Saul’s writings —in part for the initial stumbling block with regard to his use of the word “reason,” as if reason is a bad thing, or could ever be equated with dictatorship— and I am happy to find his conversation so very reasonable.

Btw, I have resisted him as well in part because I noticed a glowing blurb by Camille Paglia, whom I detest, on the cover of Voltaire’s Bastards. That’s not exactly a heartening recommendation.

But don’t think I cannot come to look past such a scary encounter, or that I have not tried, though I didn’t find my look at Voltaire’s Bastards this afternoon exactly encouraging either. I mean, he starts out coherently enough, but then I trip over this: “…And yet the exercise of power, without the moderating influence of any ethical structure, rapidly became the religion of these new elites. And their reforms included an unparalleled and permanent institutionalization of state violence. This was accompanied by a growing struggle between democratic and rational methods, with the rational increasingly at an advantage.” I don’t know how you read that paragraph, but I read it as pockmarked with unreasonable assumptions. For instance, how he writes that the “exercise of power” without “the moderating influence of any ethical structure” is, for him, the equivalent of reason as a state ideology, even though it can easily be argued that any ideology without morality and ethics moderating it would not qualify as a child of reason. Reason, to my mind, includes the moderating influences of heart, feeling and compassion from the get-go. The era he concerns himself with must not have been an age of reason, if it included state violence. A person being tortured by an agent of the State would not consider the behavior of that agent as rational. Nope. That crap’s crazy as hell.

Then he makes the unreasonable distinction between democratic and “rational” methods. Democracy, as the most rational of all forms of government, IMHO, cannot be fairly contrasted against reason; it is for that reason that I insist, again, he needed to use some other word, but not the word reason.

I prefer the language Vandana Shiva uses for the same thing, that is, “the mechanical, reductionist worldview.” I don’t know if those three words can be expressed by one perfect word, but I do know that word would not be reason. https://www.nextnature.net/2013/05/from-eco-apartheid-to-earth-democracy/

Quote Vandana Shiva:

The discipline of scientific knowledge and the mechanical inventions it leads to do not ‘merely exert a gentle guidance over nature’s course; they have the power to conquer and subdue her, to shake her to her foundations’. In Tempores Partus Masculus (The Masculine Birth of Time,1605) Bacon promised to create a blessed race of heroes and supermen who would dominate both nature and society…

[and furthermore…]

...The advance of modern science was also a consciously gendered, patriarchal activity. As nature came to be seen more like a woman to be raped, gender too was recreated. Science as a male venture, based on the subjugation of female sex, provided support for the polarization of gender. Patriarchy as the new scientific and technological power was a political need of emerging industrial capitalism. The exclusion of non-reductionist, non-mechanist systems of knowledge has narrowed the knowledge base of our actions, it has shrunk our intellectual capacities to adapt. Humanity is poorer in excluding the wealth of knowledge of indigenous communities and women on how to live lightly on a fragile continent.

[Zenzoe bolds]

Speaking of language, I have to pick at the video, just a little nit. Hedges mentions that “specialists” invent systems of language that are “unintelligible.” But aren’t philosophers specialists, and do they not often write in a language that is unintelligible to many of us? And do they not come to us, waving “truths” at us, their own versions of the truth, which may or may not actually represent the truth? In any case, they're forever arguing with each other, in a never-ending, back-and-forth, forward and back, leaving the average person vulnerable to the language of propagandists, shysters, doublespeakers, loud mouths and con-artists, who at least know how to speak in plain, understandable language, even if they, themselves, may be completely nuts.

Philosophers should learn the value of plain language. Yes? Erich Fromm did. That's one.

I did love Saul’s “neo-something,” if I’m remembering it correctly, not to give the video short shrift. Most of it resonated. No doubt.

I learn more and more, every day. One step at a time, eh?

Zenzoe
Joined:
Jul. 31, 2007 3:01 pm

Hi Zenzoe, glad you're still here. I like Saul and am in the middle of Unconscious Civilization. I stated a couple of years ago that the gop was not in an ideological fight, just a power fight. After Mitch vetoed his own damn bill it became clear ideology is whatever the empire says it is (to paraphrase turdblossom). They create their own reality - also rovian.

Reason became absolute and killed challenge. Democracy cannot exist withut challenge and to accept any absolute is to become complacent. The US has never been a democracy and in 2000 not even a representative government.

Saul's other book, a dictionary, has this entry

Dictionary - opinion expressed as truth in alphabetical order. John Ralston Saul
Read more at: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/j/johnralsto404219.html

h/Doubters-Companion-Dictionary-Aggressive-Common

btw, just because someone you dislike likes something does not mean you have to dislike it. I like Michael Shermer, however he is a Libertarian, which I despise. I have learned much from his work and his Skeptics magazine. He's wrong on that philosophy, but I have been wrong before. Unintended Consequences is a concept discussed in engineering and other lesser sciences (sociology, political science, economics..)

I've shared https://www.brainpickings.org/?s=universal+traveler with you. To use that formula, Reason was accepted as a solution. Unintended Consequences are called for consideration in the evaluation step. Was the problem Reason sought to solve properly defined? Was Reason properly implemented? Was Reason ever evaluated? What is being passed off as reason in order to get a ticket to the ball?

Why-Things-Bite-Back=revenge+of+unintended+consequences

I'm also reading Chris Hedges' Empire of Illusion. In it he references Amusing-Ourselves-Death-Discourse-

douglaslee's picture
douglaslee
Joined:
Jul. 31, 2007 3:01 pm

As far as the failures Saul mentioned. The neo-fill-in-the-blank failed. On the right conservatism is the only solution, look at reagan. Reagan that tripled the national debt in his pursuit of stimulus, a Keynesian tactic, as had all republicans before him, but denied to Obama in favor of austerity, a Hoover tactic already a proven failure.

Reagan sought one thing, and one thing only, tax cuts, revenue be damned, deficit be damned, debt be damned. Tax cuts became gop's doctrine of reason. They pay for themselves, already debunked. They increase revenue, debunked, unless they also caused the sn to come up after they were implemented. Whatever reagan's crap was, it wasn't conservatism.

My own position is http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/utilitarianism-history/ or simplified, The Greatest Good for the Greatest Number (of people, and society). Will there be losers? Yes, but they can be addressed without reducing the good achieved for the greatest number. Will there be 100% good for 100%? Of course not. One price paid is a reduction in the GINI scale, so the losers are the super ultra rich are only the ultra rich, Koch's 60 billion each are now only 30 billion each and they will have to suffer that loss for society as a whole.

The middle class came about only because FDR taxed the hoarders to bring their hoarded capital into the capitalist system, making govt the consumer of last resort. The hoarders call that punishment.

Marriner_Stoddard_Eccles was the precurser to Keynes.

One other thing about utilitarianism, it is hedonistic. Pleasure is approved, and if it feels good, it is allowed. It gives the middle finger to Christian 'suffer now and always for your reward after you die', for if it feels good, it is sinful. Why god has to be in the doctrine is beyond me. 'Only god gives pleasure' is in the precursors to utilitarians, and it's BS.

douglaslee's picture
douglaslee
Joined:
Jul. 31, 2007 3:01 pm

America: Meet Your Overlord Rupert Murdoch...

Thom plus logo The main lesson that we've learned so far from the impeachment hearings is that if Richard Nixon had had a billionaire like Rupert Murdoch with a television network like Fox News behind him, he never would've resigned and America would have continued to be presided over by a criminal.
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