Maxims, rules of thumb and other observations on human cognition and sociocultural affectations

This will be added to on an irregular basis...
  • What is said to humans directly is received with skepticism and considered with dubiousness while that which is heard in passing, especially that which most conforms to their mentality or prejudices, is readily believed.
  • Humans have a certain cognitive latency between exposure to new information or experiences and the ability to think dispassionately and intellectually about it.
  • Humans have a certain cognitive spectrum starting with the moment of exposure to new information or experiences and ending with some point at which the thing is effectively "in the past" for them.
  • This cognitive spectrum is linked to the emotional process often referred to as shock, anger, denial and acceptance.
  • The more and faster information or experiences are presented to people and the closer the quarters and the lesser the distance between people, the more their early reactions in the passionate emotional stage are reflected back to them in the manner of responses to those reactions from others in light of those responses.
  • The more outrages which are suffered without sufficient time to allow emotional bleed-off, the farther the bar for subsequent reaction and outrage are pushed, and the more further events must progress before reaction and outrage.
  • It is possible for serious detriments to eventually sit below this threshold for long enough for their damaging effects to build and multiply until their entire society undergoes some reactive convulsion.
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Monday, April 21, 2008

About the masthead update

Quite simply, if we want to maintain our way of life, our comfort and security, our plenty and convenience, our rights and privileges, then we must fight to save our nation and our form of government from the political class that has prostituted the hard work of our collective predecessors, and the self-aggrandizing who seek to exploit it to their advantage and the general detriment of the people and their legacy.

To borrow from William Wallace as portrayed by Mel Gibson, the job of the people is not to provide the government with privilege and power. It is the job of the government to ensure the privilege and power of their people.

Nature knows no such thing as brotherhood, goodness, altruism, or justice or peace. Such things are artificial constructs of an intelligent mind capable of intellectual abstraction from the concrete to the abstract and back to the concrete again. We do quite well in abstracting how to move a concrete rock. We do less well in making that abstraction into concrete action. While moving a rock is rarely a live or die proposition, the continuing stability and integrity of our nation, government, body politic, society and collective culture are.

I believe we are currently failing in this and in grave danger of self-destruction.

Nature knows the "law of the jungle". Nature knows kill or be killed. The survival of the weak, the vulnerable, and the just plain unable is not natural. It requires the strong to decide that such things are good and noble and decent, and then to make sacrifices by marshaling their forces, their strengths, their hearts to the task of making it happen. Peace, brotherhood, and justice are things bought by sweat and blood, heartache and anxiety, concentration and deliberation, and carried on the shoulders of more than we know and above all that on all that ride our hopes and dreams for the future.

We are failing now. We are not as strong as we once were. We once had a bright if somewhat at times tarnished image in spots. It was nothing we could not clean up, and we knew this not only with trusting faithful optimism, but our experience led us to this belief and we believed it not only avidly but coldly. Not only did we want to believe we were capable ever more of better, but we believed it even if we did not want to.

Our hearts are weakening, our shoulders straining, our backs breaking under the load of all our collective self-deceptions, our lies to each other and ourselves, and to the future who shall supplant and inherit our legacy.

However, all is not lost. We are still a strong people we men of Earth. We can do great things. We have done great things. We may yet do more. What is lacking is belief.

Right now I look across my land and see a people selling their futures to avoid dealing with the harsh realities, yet believing themselves brave for dealing with false but harsh unrealities. We console ourselves in the night when our doubts come a creeping upon us. We tell ourselves we could not have done better, and when the lie of it stinks enough to offend us, we pull the covers tighter and we beg for someone, G-d perhaps, to make it all go away.

Therefore since we all have abandoned our optimism, our faithful belief in ourselves and our future, it is to ourselves we must look to do one simple thing. Turn around my friends. Turn around and walk another way.

My wife told me something last night. She had a dream. She was in an office moving furniture and papers to make room and the room kept getting smaller. She moved furniture this way and that, paper here and there, and instead of making room, the expected space never materialized. Instead it got less. She began to wonder how anyone got anything in there in the first place. Then she realized she needed to get out. She tried to run down the hall but it got smaller and smaller as she went. Hall after hall, turn after turn, only smaller. Finally a door opened to her side, barely in her peripheral view and she realized the way out was not ahead or behind, but to her side.

I see this as similar to my growing realization that we've allowed ourself to be culturally fixated on a binary view of the world. Either forward or back. If you win, I lose. We get our way every time, or we get our way never. Everything always goes right or it always goes wrong. We will not compromise.

A question has passed through my mind. The question is: "What is the third choice?"

There is a third choice. Not forward continuing with more of the same malaise in our nation. Not backward tearing our nation and liberties to pieces. We must move laterally, step out of the way of the unstoppable force and the immovable object. We must change the definitions and the expectations of our own selves. We must do it together. We must maintain it. We must stick to it. We must dedicate ourselves to better, not worse.

Once we foresaw a shining future of flying cars, space colonies, lunar bases, and starflight. Now we are looking upon the developing nations such as China and India, and hypocritically shaking our finger at them and condescending to telling them they cannot have the development we had. They cannot burn coal and oil the way we did to achieve our plenty. They have to settle for less we tell them.

What arrogance we have to tell those who see our prosperity that they may not share in it. Are we next to declaim, decry, and apologize for our prosperity? Are we to rend our clothes, throw away our plenty, and cry for shame, we should not have aspired to such heights?

Do we also apologize for all those lives saved who otherwise would not have been? Do we apologize for the lives of those who would never have been born?

This all is folly. This all is arrogance. This all is false piousness, and fake concern, for we do not believe any such thing. We tell India and China they can not do these things because they are using the oil and coal we should have long long ago weaned ourselves from through technological innovation and the application of market forces to make them affordable and widespread, and by today we could help those developing nations with such technologies, and aid those nations to develop faster and without reinventing the wheel as it were. We built ourselves on the fast and cheap with then plentiful resources and now we do not want to share.

It's been said liberals are people who will give the shirt off of someone else's back. This global drive, mostly on the left, to laughably "live simply that others may simply live" will not even allow those in need to have a shirt. They speak of carrying capacity as if they had a shred of knowledge or wisdom to conceive of the complex interplay of life and the biosphere, passive and intelligently active, much less the G-d-like right to tell others how to live. They speak of lowered expectations, they portray a cannot-do attitude, and preach a despair so easy to foresee the end of, one might as well end one's life now, if one believes the doom spreading ninnies.

Worse, we are all falling for it. I've said before and will say again that anyone who sells you a solution to a problem automatically has therefore a vested interest in that problem never being solved. If it was, there would no longer be any need of them. Those who sell you milk are merely fulfilling an ongoing need that exists independent of them. Rest assured they'd never sell you a magic pill to permanently supply you will all the vitamins and minerals you would get from the milk. Not that they are themselves nefarious by this, but it is a good example.

Consider our own nation where we have recently been breaking our arms patting ourselves on the back over progress since the days of desegregation yet wailing and gnashing our teeth over the lack of progress and exhorting our population to accept more social programs in the name of eliminating white racism. If those who succeeded Doctor King truly cared about his work, we'd no longer need them as it would have been done by now. Instead, we have seen decades of ineptitude in so-called race relations as hamfistedly laid out as anything that things done by government could be done as. We have seen a client system set up where African-Americans are making great strides in some places, little in others, and all of it supports the continued empowerment of a few people at the top of the society be they local pastors, alleged community leaders, politicians mostly white and Democrat, or personalities such as Al Sharpton.

Treadmill to nowhere it seems, doesn't it. So too does everything else. We had an oil shortage that wasn't in the 70s and we are having an oil shortage that isn't in the 00's. We had exhortations to insulation, energy saving, conservation, and we had some technological advances but did anything truly change? No. The self-same people who preached these things at us preached an anti-freedom, anti-democracy, anti-progress, anti-technology, pro-socialist solution to empower themselves and of course the people would not so empower them. However, they had to have their way, and so they were empowered. They got into politics and lobbying and in groups were influential where the individual rarely is. As a result, we pay punitive taxes on gas, oil, electricity, and other energy services which we were told would go to cleaning up the world and advancing us to new technologies to supplant fossil fuels which of course they did no such thing.

If money was a solution to anything, it would actually have to be applied to the problem. Do you not think the educational system malaise of today would be what it is if the lottery income was actually going to education? Don't be silly. Of course it would, because even the educational system is corrupt and the money would never go to the payments for things to solve the problem with. They would be diverted because the system exists to empower and enrich those within it, not solve problems. The system survives by maintaining problems. It survives by continuing problems. It survives by keeping problems much like a farmer keeps livestock.

The system was supposed to be ours, and work for us. I still believe it can again. However, this cannot be until we are honest to each other and recognize that the system only works as long as it is for everyone, that all are equal and not some more equal than others, that it is not about the rich versus the middle class versus the poor, that is about all of us. If we do not, and we continue to allow ourselves to be turned upon each other by the system, we will become nothing more than livestock on a farm, vegetables in a field, commodities to be traded.

We are people. We are intelligent. We are capable of self-sacrifice, altruism, and effort on behalf of others. Every day we make use of those capabilities to create a clearing in the jungle of Earth called society and civilization. We carry each other on our shoulders. We hoist our futures high. We make the effort. We must not give up now. We must stop letting ourselves be sold on problems that don't exist, or problems which do but which are conveniently and profitably for others redefined to our detriment. We must stop having solutions to problems sold to us before we know what it is we are fixing.

We have to move to the side and look for the third choice.