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Anti-capitalist meetup: How did we get here? A look at human social evolution. And a book preview by Don Mikulecky

2:51 pm in Uncategorized by Anti-Capitalist Meetup

Our new book: Global Insanity: How Homo sapiens Lost Touch with Reality while Transforming the World Is about to come out. This diary is a brief introduction to the book with additional comments about why it is in the Anti-Capitalist Meetup tonight. I will start by saying that the frames “capitalist” and “anti-Capitalist” are really not of much use anymore. We have created an entire new epistemology. The old categories neither work nor do the free us from what has caused us the problem. Any attempt to work within the old paradigm feeds the system that enslaves us. We need a revolution that is total. Capitalism, as it has evolved to this day is very much like an economic and social cancer. As one who has developed computer models of cancer and then therapy to fight it I can speak with some authority.Cancer is not an infectious disease. It is a way the system develops that eventually does that very system in. So my analogy is appropriate here. Capitalism has grown as a system that will do in the system it arises from. In that context, who could be for cancer? Once the present state of capitalism is understood, who could be for it? Clearly we have large numbers of people who are so there is more to the story than my simple analogy. That is really the simple part even though large parts of the human population still do not understand. Let’s carry the cancer analogy a bit further. How do we “cure” cancer? It can not be reversed. It must be stopped. All ways of stopping are harmful to the host. That is because it is such an integral part of the host. Chemically killing or surgically removing or radiating cancer cells does damage beyond just the cancer itself. Stopping capitalism before it destroys us is a similar problem. You and I are part of capitalism and we contribute to the damage it is doing by the way we live. You can not even have a remote hope that we can survive its destructive march to the cliff without dealing with our contribution to the disease. Every treatment for cancer involves pain and suffering. We claim to be concerned about future generations but will we willingly put that claim into action? Before you jump to the conclusion that I am trying to lay a guilt trip on you, realize that our book deals with how we got here and why no one is “to blame”. On the other hand knowledge transforms people and once they see the problem further inaction is certainly no longer excusable. I have spent my life trying to understand. Fortunately, when I thought I was close I published my initial thoughts and my friend and colleague Jim Coffman read that paper. Now we have this book. In it we speak about our continuing contribution to the cancerous blight of capitalism as an addiction. They pushed the “drug” and we are hooked! So if you are able to handle a quick diagnosis that is not at all pleasant then please continue reading

Our book is not a recapitulation of anything you have seen before. It is a radical new analysis that uses a lot of our cultural evolution to put that evolution into an entirely new perspective. First from the preface:

To work against your own short-term interests requires that you acknowledge that those interests are harmful or unhealthy. So it is reasonable to ask why more people do not acknowledge and act on the increasingly serious health problems that confront us all as a result of anthropogenic environmental degradation. The answer to this is, in a word, complex.
The efforts of science to speak to the condition of the planet are often met with hostility, to say the least. One working scientist who has been subjected to a living hell merely for doing his job is climatologist Michael Mann. A quote from his recent book gives a flavor of what is at stake:
We look back now with revulsion at the corporate CEOs, representatives, lobbyists, and scientists-for-hire who knowingly ensured the suffering and mortality of millions by hiding their knowledge of tobacco smoking’s ill effects for the sake of short term corporate profits. Will we hold those who have funded or otherwise participated in the fraudulent denial of climate change similarly accountable—those individuals and groups who both made and took corporate payoffs for knowingly lying about the threat climate change posed to humanity, those who willfully have led the public and policy makers astray, and those politicians and media figures who have sought to intimidate climate scientists using McCarthyite tactics?

Two things need to be pointed out in preparation for what we are offering here. First, the issues described by Mann are not isolated. The entire spectrum and character of political and civic life is subject to powerful economic forces, and while those forces may on the surface reduce to simple greed, below the surface are undercurrents that are not at all that simple, emanating from among other things our animal nature, human psychology and the historical origins of our culture. The second point concerns why political arguments cannot be won with empirically demonstrable facts and logic. We will attempt to address these issues in what follows.

Clearly I can not develop what we put forth in this short diary. There are those who will see this as a “book promotion” and it is that too, but it is also, and more importantly, an attempt to get get your attention for we have something very important to say. Here is the beginning of the introduction:

Introduction: Our Thesis, and What We Hope to Achieve
The thesis of this essay is that Western science has misconceived life. As a consequence, civilized humanity, by way of its scientifically informed industrial economy cum existential nihilism cum retreat into fantasy, is destroying the biosphere—and hence itself.
The misconception is that life is engendered and fully explained by mechanisms.
This is absurd. In biology anything that can be construed as a mechanism can also be logically construed as having a purpose. Means imply ends, and are thus meaningful. Life is neither created by mechanisms, nor an emergent property thereof: to the contrary, mechanisms, to the extent that they perform useful work, are created by living systems in the service of life. Wherever they exist, they do so in order to realize some subjective goal.
And at some level, all biologists know this to be true.

Let me try to remind you that George Lakoff and others have been saying these same things to us in a political context and our book bravely marches into that forbidden territory. Forbidden to “objective” science which is one of the myths that makes change so hard. Going further into the introduction:

We contend that Western civilization, in developing a global consumer economy based on industrial mechanization requiring rapid dissipation of non-renewable, high-grade energy, lost touch with reality and embarked on a path of self-destruction. Accessing a new path conducive to long-term human survival and quality of life will require that we fundamentally change our relationship with nature, which will in turn require that we significantly improve our comprehension of nature—including human nature. It will require that we develop a more realistic way of life, and healthier ways of imbuing our existence with meaning.
We are not alone in calling attention to the urgency of our situation. We do however have a unique explanation for how we got here, and the role of human intellect in that process. Contrary to what is now almost universally accepted as given, our technological creativity and scientific inquisitiveness have not served us well. The reason for this is that the development of our cognitive abilities produced an unhealthy mental imbalance. The technological aspect of the human mind has come to repressively dominate other aspects, and this is intimately linked to the unconstrained development of the consumer economy. Science and technology feed that system by supplying a continuous stream of ‘disposable’ commodities, as well as techniques for ensuring that people keep buying them, in order to drive economic growth, which then feeds back to drive science and technology. What many (perhaps most) people fail to appreciate is that this is a vicious cycle whose continuance assures the collapse of civilization, and quite possibly the extinction of humanity.
As will become clear in what follows, meaning is constructed by way of interpretation, and interpretation is a subjective matter. Depending on your perspective, the world can appear either simple or complex—and either very big or very small.

That should challenge you to read the book. I’ll be here when the diary is published to discuss what I have said. Thank you for the opportunity.

A footnote,/strong>: We develop a thesis based on the acknowledgement That “Cartesian Reductionism” is one of the fundamental epistemological bases for modern “enlightened” thought. What Descartes left us with is the mind/body dualism and the idea that all things can be seen as machines and therefore reduced to their parts. Then the study of the parts would lead to total understanding of the whole. We refute this and base our argument on the idea that reducing systems to parts removes their essence and makes them impossible to understand..

As Faust said: “When concepts fail, words arise.” by Don Mikulecky

3:55 pm in Uncategorized by Anti-Capitalist Meetup

The remainder of the title would not fit: “The destruction of language in politics”.  The series this is a part of has the labels:Anti-capitalist meet-up and anti-capitalism.  No better a way to introduce my topic.  Those are “buzz words” and have been around for a very long time.  What do they mean?  I would guess that the vast majority of the people who use these words along with “communism”, “socialism”, “democracy” , “freedom”, liberty”and many others have no real idea what they are talking about.  Political exchanges are the “good guys” and the “bad guys” just like in our Western movies.  But many of us are more sophisticated or at least we think we are.  Read the diaries here and you will be able to see what I am getting at.  Language is a very interesting thing.  We have dictionaries and now the Google and Wikipedia sources for word meanings.  The technology is racing ahead faster than we can comprehend.  Umberto Eco calls it the modern magic.  We use it like magic not really knowing how it works or where it originates.  This diary is meant to blow your mind.  It comes from the strange creature I am, a hybrid between scientist (but very unconventional), political activist (but very radical and unconventional) and citizen of the world rather than of a Nation.  Oh yes I am an American citizen because that’s the way things have to be at this point in time.  It will change, but I will be dead.  When I die I cease to exist. I am 76 now.  If I haven’t turned you off yet read on below.  I hope to shock you.

First of all, how anyone can be anything but “anti-capitalist” at this point in time is beyond my comprehension.  Clearly the plutocrats that run the show have no love for capitalism.  If they did they would practice it.  Here  we are into words and their meaning.  Give me a definition of capitalism that fits where we are today.  You can’t.  We have a system that has evolved to a point that words do not exist to describe it.  Show me a place where the words “socialist” or “communist” have meaning.

What is worse about these names is that they imply something that can be defined out of context.  If there is one “capitalism” there are many.Each depends on context.  Context dependence is my field of study in a way.  I study complex systems.  They are not something that the reductionist science that has produced modern technology are even remotely like.  We live in a world of machines and mechanisms even though our economic myths try to convince us otherwise.  The real world, on the other hand, is not a world of machines and mechanisms.  Thus we are out of touch with the real world.  Very much out of touch.  If you understand this you understand why our words have so little meaning.  They describer a mythical, fairy tale world.

But we deal in facts and figures you say!  Facts and figure only have meaning in a context.  If the context is unreal they tell us nothing.  One of my sources is George Lakoff.  His wisdom has clearly failed to register among us.  I won’t even try to repeat it here.  It falls on deaf ears among political “experts”.  Unfortunately these very same experts continue to wonder why “people vote against their best interests” and why the likes of Romney and his ilk can give Obama a challenge.  It is humorous to me that this theater goes on unchallenged and that no one has caught on that they are playing a game that stabilizes a system that they claim to want to change.

Let’s get back to the words thing.  We live in a world that is run by corporations that have no National loyalty.  Is this Capitalism?  Certainly not as Marx saw it.  We live in a “Nation”?  We vote to “elect” our leaders?  How many of these myths can one swallow?  Apparently they are very palatable.

I have asked here what difference the outcome of the 2012 election in this country will have on the global system we are a part of.  I had no real response.  Slowly, very slowly, the  realization that as we we gave away our industrial capacity to feed the “capitalists” we lost our clout as well.  The global plutocrats (another inadequate word in this modern context) have castrated us and we are really no longer a “Nation” in the old sense of the world.  They have as little loyalty to Nations as they do to any other entity that lacks the power to stop them.  Yet we live with myths and myths are fed by words.  words need not have meaning if they can trigger the wanted responses (Lakoff).

Social evolution is now driven mainly by technology.  Communication is instant.  The rate of change is beyond comprehension.  Meanwhile we plod along believing words we used in the past can  help us in this context.  We have lost touch with the concepts and we have used words to pretend we know what we are doing.  Faust was clear when he made this observation.  I wonder what he would say if he could see us now?

An interesting coincidence as a foot note:  This diary appeared as I came on to finish this one and it is very much relevant. Slang dissected The contrast between slang, which evolves very rapidly, and political jargon which is basically static, is very interesting.  Political language is not alive in the sense that slang is.  Some new terms come in fleetingly (etch-a- sketch, for example or mission accomplished)  but they have not the same way of becoming viral. I suspect that this helps make my point.  Our political language is locked to obsolete concepts but it is locked.  The self referential side of this is that it therefore makes new concepts hard to find their way into the discussion.  For one reason there is no common language to use to bring them into our consciousness.  The old words are buzz words and they evoke the old concepts.