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Obama, BP’s oil spill, and the illusion of Industrial Man’s control of Mother Nature

9:49 am in Uncategorized by knowbuddhau

"President Obama ran, and he carried the hopes and dreams of young Americans with him. I would tell him, should I meet with him face to face, is to be a man, take control of this situation, ‘cuz this is totally out of control," Louisiana Shrimp Assoc. Pres. Clint Gidry said on this morning’s broadcast of Democracy Now!.

Dear brother, who says it was in control to begin with? And who controls the controllers? Do we dominate, or dance with, Mother Nature? Alan Watts provides an illuminating perspective in his 1970s talk, Seeing Through The Net.

(For some reason, I’m unable to bring up the audio downloads site at this time. Seeing Through The Net is also available as part of a set of CDs titled The Tao of Philosopy. In the meantime, free weekly podcasts are available of Alan Watts on iTunes. For more information on Alan Watts, visit allanwatts.net.)

The transcription of the complete talk (below the video) is my own. Note that this video is part one of four.

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Alan Watts: Seeing Through the Net

Well now, what I want to do is have a mutual brain-picking session, and uh I’m going to start the ball rolling by saying why I, as a philosopher, am interested in many things you are all probably interested in professionally. Basically, what we’re going to talk about, I suppose, is the problem of control, as exemplified in the ancient Latin question, Quis custodiet custodies ipsos? Who guards the guards?

[VIDEO BEGINS HERE] Now, we know that we’re living in an age when uh there’s been an enormous proliferation of techniques for subjecting every kind of natural process outside the human skin and now increasingly inside the human skin to some form of rational control. And, as we succeed in doing this, it also becomes apparent that we’ve—we’re failing, that the process becomes of such a high degree of complexity that we begin to feel that we are standing in our own way; that uh everybody complains that the state of affairs in the modern world, in the technological world, is so complicated that nobody can understand it, and nobody really knows what to do.

That, for example, you want to run a small business, and you find you run into such enormous legal hassles that you need so-many secretaries to do the work that you can hardly do the business. That you’re trying to run a hospital, but you have to spend so much time making records and writing things down on paper that you don’t have much time to practice medicine. That you’re trying to run a university, and the requirements, the recording, and the endless red tape of the registrar’s office and the administration building that the actual work, of research and teaching, is seriously hampered.

So the individual increasingly feels himself obstructed by his own cautiousness. This is basically what it is.

Now, to explain myself, because most of you are strangers to me, I am a philosopher who has been interested for many years in the mutual fructification of Eastern cultures and Western cultures, studying Oriental ideas not in the spirit of saying, to the West, ‘You ought to be converted to Oriental ideas,’ but in the spirit of saying, ‘You don’t understand the basic assumptions of your own culture if your own culture is the only culture you know.

Everybody operates on certain basic assumptions, but very few people know what they are. You can, say, very often encounter the kind of character who is an American business man, and he says, ‘Well, I’m a practical business man, I believe in getting results and things done and all this thinking and high-falutin’ logic and nonsense is of no concern to me. Now, I know that the practical basic assumptions—the metaphysics of that man, can be defined as pragmatism, as a school of philosophy, but it’s bad pragmatism ‘cuz he’s never thought it through.

And so it’s very difficult, you see, to get down to what are your basic assumptions—what do you mean by The Good Life, what do you mean by consistency, what do mean by rationality? The only way to find out what you mean by these things is by contrasting the way you look at something by the way it’s looked at in another culture, and therefore we have to find cultures which are in some ways as sophisticated as our own, but as different from our own as possible, and of course, for this purpose, I always thought that the Chinese were optimal, and the Indians, the East Indians, and that, by studying the ideas of these people, by studying their life goals, we can become more aware of our own. It’s the old principle of triangulation.

You don’t establish the situation of a particular object unless you observe it from two different points of view, and thereby calculate its actual distance from you. So by looking at what we are pleased to call reality, the physical world, from the basic standpoints of different cultures, I think we’re in a better position to know where we are, than if we have one single line of sight. And therefore this has been my interest and my background.

And arising out of this there is a further question, which I would call the problems of human ecology: how is man to be best related to his environment? Especially in circumstances where we are in possession of an extremely powerful technology and have, therefore, the capacity to change our environment far more than anyone else has ever been able to do so. Are we going to end up not by civilizing the world, but by Los-Angelizing it? In other words, are we going to foul our own nest as a result of technology?

But all this gets down to—the basic question is, really, what are you going to do if you’re god?

If, in other words, you find yourself in charge of the world, through technological powers, and instead of leaving evolution to what we used to call, in the 19th century, the blind processes of nature—that was begging the question, to call them blind—but at any rate, we say, we’re not going to leave evolution to the blind forces of nature but now we’re going to direct it ourselves.

Because we are increasingly developing, say, control over genetic systems, control over the nervous system, control over all kinds of systems; uh then, simply, what do you want to do with it?

But most people don’t know what they want. And have never even seriously confronted the question of what they want. You ask a group of students to sit down and write a solid paper of 20 pages on, What is your idea of heaven? What would you really like to have happen, if you could make it happen? And that’s the first thing that really starts people thinking because you soon realize that a lot of the things you think you would want are not things you want at all.

Supposing, just for the sake of illustration, that you had the power to dream every night any dream you wanted to dream. And you could, of course, arrange for one night of dreams to be seventy-five years of objective time, or any number of years of subjective time, what would you do? Well, of course, you’d start out by fulfilling every wish. You would have routs and orgies and uh uh all the most magnificent food and uh sexual partners and everything you could possibly imagine in that direction. When you got tired of that, after several nights, you’d switch a bit, and find yourself involved in adventures, and uh contemplating great works of art, fantastic mathematical conceptions; you would soon be rescuing princesses from dragons, and all sorts of things like that. And then one night you’d say, now look, Tonight what we’re gonna do is, we’re going to forget this dream is a dream. And we’re going to be really uh shocked, and when you woke up from that one you’d say, ‘Oooh, wasn’t that an adventure!’

Then you would think more and more far out ways to get involved, and let go of control, knowing that you’d always come back to center in the end. But while you were involved in the dream you wouldn’t know you were going to come back to center and be in control. And so, eventually, you’d be dreaming a dream in which you found yourselves all sitting around in this room listening to me talking, all involved with the particular life problems which you have. And maybe that’s what you’re doing. [Laughs.]

The difficulty of control: are you wise enough, to play at being god? And to understand what that question means, we’ve got to go back to metaphysical assumptions underlying Western common sense. And whether you are a Jew, or a Christian, or an agnostic, or an atheist, you are not uninfluenced by the whole tradition of Western culture: the models of the universe which it has employed, which influence our very language, the structure of our thought, the very constitution of logic, which are going into, say, computers.

The Western model of the universe is political. And engineering or architectural. It’s natural for a child to ask its mother, How was I made? It would be inconceivable for a Chinese child to ask, How was I made; it might ask, How was I grown? Or how did I grow, but not how was I made, as if I were an artifact. Something put together, something which is a construct. All Western thought is based on the thought that the universe is a construct. And even when we got rid of the idea of the constructor, the personal god, uh we continued to think of the world in terms of a machine, in terms say of Newtonian mechanics, and later in terms of what we call quantum mechanics, although I find it rather difficult to understand how quantum theory is, in any sense, mechanics. It’s much more like organics, which is, to me, a different concept. However that may be, it has percolated, you see, into the roots of our common sense: that the world is a construct, is an artifact.

And therefore, as one understands the operations of a machine, by analysis of its parts, by separating them into their original bits, we have bitted the cosmos and see everything going on in terms of bits of information, and have found that this is extremely fruitful in enabling us to control what’s happening. After all, the whole of Western technology is the result of bitting.

Let’s suppose, you know, you want to eat a chicken: you can’t eat the whole chicken at once, you have to bite it, you have to reduce it to bits. But you don’t get a cut-up fryer out of an egg. It doesn’t come that way. So what has happened is this.

That, we don’t know the origins of this, it maybe goes back thousands of years, the way we develop the art of thinking, which is essentially calculus, is this: the universe, as it comes, in nature, the physical universe, is something like a Rorschach blot: it’s all wiggles. Uh, we, who live in cities, are not really used to this, because we build everything in straight lines and rectangles and so on. Where ever you see this sort of thing, you know human beings have been around, because they’re always trying to straighten things out.

But nature itself is clouds, it’s water, it’s the outline of continents, it’s mountains, it’s uh biological existences, and all of them wiggle, and wiggly things are, to human consciousness, a little bit of a nuisance. Because we want to figure it out. And it is as if, therefore, some ancient fisherman one day held up his net, and looked at the world through the net. And he said, My, just think of that: there, I can see the view; and that is one—that peak of that mountain is one two three four five six holes across; and the base is one two three four five holes down. Now I’ve got its number! See?

And so, the lines of latitude and longitude, the lines of celestial and terrestrial latitude and longitude, the whole idea of a matrix, of a uh looking at things through graph paper painted or printed on cellophane, is the basic idea of measurement. This is the way we calculate. We break down the wiggly-ness of the world comprehensible, countable, geometrical units, and thereby figure it and construct it in those terms.

And this is so successful—up to a point—that we can, of course, come to imagine that this is the way the physical world really is. Discrete, discontinuous, full of points, in fact a mechanism. But I want to just put into your mind the notion that this may be the prejudice of a certain personality type.

You see, in the history of philosophy and poetry and art, we always find the interchange of two personality types which I call “prickles” and “goo.” The prickly people are uh advocates of intellectual porcupinism, uh they want rigor, they want p-r-r-ecise sta-tis-tics, and they have a certain clipped attitude in their voices, and you know this very well in academic circles, where there are people who are always edgy like that. And they accuse other people of being disgustingly vague, and miasmic, and mystical. But the vague, miasmic and mystical people accuse the prickly people of being mere skeletons with no flesh on their bones. And they say to you, ‘You just rattle! You’re not really a human being. You know the words, but you don’t know the music.’

And so, therefore, if you belong to the prickly type, you hope that the ultimate constituent of matter is particles; if you belong to the gooey type, you hope it’s waves; if you are prickly, you’re a classicist; and if you’re gooey, you’re a romanticist; and, going back into Medieval philosophy: if you’re prickly, you’re a nominalist; if you’re gooey, you’re a realist. And uh so it goes.

But we know very well this universe is neither prickles nor goo exclusively: it’s gooey prickles and prickly goo. And uh [laughs] you see, it all depends on your level of magnification. If you’ve got your magnification on something so that the focus is clear, you’ve got a prickly point of view; you’ve got structure, shape, clearly outlined, sharply defined. You go a little out of focus and it goes blaa, and you’ve got goo. But we’re always playing with the two. Because, it’s like the question is um: is the world basically stuff, like matter; or is it basically structure? Well, we find out of course today in that, in science, we don’t consider the idea of matter, of there being just some sort of stuff, because supposing you wanted to describe ‘stuff:’ in what terms would you describe it? You always have to describe it in terms of structure, something countable, something that can be designated in a pattern. So we never get to any basic stuff.

It seems to me that this way of thinking is based on a form of consciousness which we could best call ‘scanning:’ the capacity to divide experiences into bits is somehow related to a physical facility which corresponds to sweeping a radar beam, or a spotlight, over the environment.

The value of the spotlight, is it gives you intensely concentrated light on restricted areas. A floodlight, by comparison, has less intensity but if you examine, say this room were in total darkness, and you used a spotlight, very thin beam, and you scanned the room with it, you would have to retain in memory all the areas over which it passed, and then, by an additive process, you would make out the contours of the room.

And it seems to me this is something in which civilized man, both in the East and in the West, has specialized, in a method of paying attention which we call ‘noticing.’ And therefore it’s highly selective, it picks out, it’s punctive. It picks out features in the environment which we say are ‘noteworthy,’ and which we therefore register with a notation, be it the notation of words, the notation of numbers, or such a notation as say algebra or music. So that we notice those things—only those things—for which we have notation.

When a child very often a child will point at something, say to its parents, ‘What’s that?’ And they’re not clear what the child is pointing to. The child has pointed to something which we consider is not a thing. The child has pointed to an area of say of funny pattern on a dirty wall, and has noticed a figure on it. But the child doesn’t have a word for it, and says, ‘What’s that?’ And the adult says, ‘Oh, that’s just a mess.’ Because that doesn’t count for us a thing.

So you come, through this, to the understanding: what do you mean by ‘a thing.’ It’s very fascinating, to ask children, ‘What do you mean by a thing?’ And they don’t know. Because it’s one of the unexamined suppositions of the culture.

What do you mean by ‘an event?’ Well, everybody knows what an event is but nobody can say. Because a thing is a think: it’s a unit of thought, like an inch is a unit of measurement. And so we thing the world, that is to say, in order to measure a curve, you have to reduce it to point-instants, and apply the calculus; and so, in exactly the same way, in order to discuss or talk about the universe, you have to reduce it to things, but each thing or think, is as it were one grasp of that spotlight, going jeh-jeh-jeh-jeh like this, you see?

So we reduce the infinite wiggliness of the world, to grasps, or bits. We’re getting back to biting, you see, the idea of teeth, to grasps of thought, and so we thereby describe the world in terms of things, just as that fisherman could describe his view by the number of net hole over—through which the view was showing. And this has been the immensely, and apparently, successful enterprise of all technological culture, as superbly emphasized by ourselves.

But the problem that arises is this. First of all, very obviously, everybody knows, I hardly need to mention it, uh go to the science of medicine. You get a specialist, who really understands the function of the gall bladder. And he studies gall bladders gall bladders gall bladders ad infinitum, and he really thinks he knows all about it. But whenever he looks at a human being he sees him in terms of gall bladders. And so, if he operates on the gall bladder, he may do so very knowledgeably about that particular area of the organism, but he does not foresee the unpredictable effects of this operation, in other connected areas, because a human being’s gall bladder is not a thing, in the same way as um a spark plug in a car can be extracted, and a new one replaced. ‘Cuz the system isn’t the same.

There is a fundamental difference, between a mechanism and an organism, which can be described operationally: mechanism is assembled; you add this bit to that bit to that bit to that bit; but an organism grows. That is to say, when you watch, in a microscope, a solution in which crystals are forming, you don’t see this thing of little bits coming and coming and coming and joining each other and finally making up a shape. You see a solution where—well it’s like watching a photographic plate develop. Suddenly all the whole area which you’re watching seems to organize itself; to develop; to make sense, moving from the relatively simple and gooey to the relatively structured and prickly. But not by addition.

So then, if we are trying to understand and control the world through conscious attention, which is a scanning system, which takes in everything bit bit bit bit bit bit bit bit bit bit bit, what we’re going to run into is that if that’s the only method we rely on, everything is going to appear increasingly too complicated to manage. So that you get, for example, uh let’s take um the problem of the electronic industry.

The catalogs of products, that are being produced over the world by the electronic industry: who has read all the catalogs? How do you know, where you’ve got something you’re working on, whether it’s patented or not? Who else has taken out a patent? Has anybody had time to read all the catalogs? Nobody has, they’re just voluminous! It’s exactly the same in almost any other field: there’s an information explosion like a population explosion. How on earth are you going to scan all that information? Yes, of course, you can get computers to help you with this direction, but by Parkinson’s law, the sooner you become more efficient in doing this, the more the thing is going to develop so that you will have to have more efficient computers still to assimilate all the information. You’ll be ahead, but only for a short time. [Laughs.]

So you see there’s this problem of the uh sort of competition of consciousness, of it’s—how fast can you go doo-te-doo doo-te-doo de doo-te-doo de doo-te-doo de doo-te-doo and keep track of it, you see? You say, ‘I’ve got a good memory, I can keep track of that.’ And you say to you, ‘I’ll bet you you can’t, I’ll go more complicated than you.’ Musicians do this, drummers you know? And they get things going, and they start—so long as they can count, and lots of musicians do count, it’s crazy, but they do—and they count count count and they out-complicate each other to the point where, you can’t retain it any longer in memory. So you say, ‘OK, if I can’t retain it we’ve got this gadget here that can,’ and we’ve got these um marvelous mechanical memories and they’ll retain it. They’ll go much more fancy, they’ll go de doo-te-doo at a colossal speed zwwiiip like that, you see?

But it’s the same old problem. Because you’ll get something that can outdo that. So we end up asking uh—yeah, but supposing there were some other way of understanding it. Let’s go back, from the spotlight, to the floodlight, to the extraordinary capacity of the human nervous system to comprehend situations instantaneously, without analysis, that is to say, without verbal or numerical symbolism of the situation in order to understand it. I hope you understand what I mean.

We—we do do that. We have this curious ability of pattern recognition, which uh the mechanical systems have only in a primitive way. Xerox have put out a machine which recognizes figures written in almost anyone’s handwriting, provided their handwriting is fairly grade-school normal. But a computer has a terrible time trying to recognize the letter ‘a’ when it’s printed in, say, sans serif, Gothic, uh longhand, or whatever kind of ‘a’ you may write, the human recognizes instantly this pattern, but the computer is still at a disadvantage here. It seems to lack a kind of capacity I would call field organization, because it’s all punctive, it’s digital, it’s uh dut-dut-dut-dut-dut-dut-dut-dut- like a newspaper photograph, you know which, when you look at it under a microscope is all dots.

Now—so the problem is this. In developing technology, are we leaving out of consideration our strongest suit, which is the brain itself? See, we are at a situation where the brain is still not really worked out even by the most competent neurologists—this puzzles me. They can’t uh give a model of the brain, numeric or verbal language. Now you are that, you see, you are this thing: you yourself are this thing that you yourself can’t figure out. In the same way that I cannot touch the tip of this finger with the tip of this finger, I can’t bite my own teeth. But I, who is attempting to touch the tip of this finger with this finger, by the sheer complexity of my system, far more evolved than any system which I can imagine.

This is, in a way, slightly akin to the girdle theorem. That um you can’t have a system of uh, say of logic, which defines its own axioms. The axioms of any given system must always be defined in terms of a higher system. All right. So you are the most complex thing that has yet been encountered in the cosmos. And you can’t figure you out. Now you—suppose we’re going to try to do that, and become, as it were, completely transparent to ourselves, so that we could entirely understand the organization or the mechanics of our own brains. What happens when we do that?

Well you’re in the—you’re back in the situation of god. When you’re god, what are you going to do? When you’re god, you know what you’re going to do? You’re going to say, ‘Man, get lost!’ Because what you’ll want is a surprise, and when you’ve figured everything out, there won’t be any surprises, you’ll be completely bored.

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The success of Fully Mechanized, Industrial-Strength, Oil-Fueled, Nuclear-Powered Control Man is the death of Mother Nature, and us along with Her. Bolivian President Evo Morales said, Mother Earth has suffered a death wound, and that was two long years ago, long before BP’s well began bleeding crude oil and gases into the Gulf of Mexico at the rate of 12,000-19,000 bbl/day.

The more the full-spectrum dominance fanatics succeed, the worse it will get.

Deconstructing Myths of America: Noam Chomsky pt1 Going beyond “polite discourse”

12:02 pm in Culture by knowbuddhau

Noam Chomsky, way back in 1959, busted B. F. Skinner’s myth of radical behaviorism as the one true path to predicting and controlling human behavior. In an interview published today by Guernica (h/t Alternet), Chomsky makes reference to that achievement, and again busts a myth at the heart of what ails us today: that of the sacrosanct use of violence by the US to shape the world according to our self-worshiping will.

And high time. His landmark critique of B.F. Skinner that crippled behaviorism’s predominance in psychology and linguistics turns fifty this year.

[...]

In “The Remaking of History,” from Toward a New Cold War: Essays on the Current Crisis and How We Got There, he writes, “They may concede the stupidity of American policy, and even its savagery, but not the illegitimacy inherent in the entire enterprise.” He continues a page later, “One may criticize the intellectual failure of planners, their moral failures, and even the generalized and abstract ‘will to exercise domination’ to which they have regrettably but understandably succumbed. But the principle that the United States may exercise force to guarantee a certain global order that will be ‘open’ to transnational corporations—that is beyond the bounds of polite discourse.”

That’s the power of myth, baby!

Chomsky may have dispelled Skinner’s thrall over American social scientists, for a while, but it’s evident that radical behaviorism informs our foreign policy to this day.

Rereading this review after eight years, I [Chomsky] find little of substance that I would change if I were to write it today. I am not aware of any theoretical or experimental work that challenges its conclusions; nor, so far as I know, has there been any attempt to meet the criticisms that are raised in the review or to show that they are erroneous or ill-founded.

[...]

The problem to which this book is addressed is that of giving a "functional analysis" of verbal behavior. By functional analysis, Skinner means identification of the variables that control this behavior and specification of how they interact to determine a particular verbal response. Furthermore, the controlling variables are to be described completely in terms of such notions as stimulus, reinforcement, deprivation, which have been given a reasonably clear meaning in animal experimentation. In other words, the goal of the book is to provide a way to predict and control verbal behavior by observing and manipulating the physical environment of the speaker.

[...]

Careful study of this book (and of the research on which it draws) reveals, however, that these astonishing claims are far from justified. It indicates, furthermore, that the insights that have been achieved in the laboratories of the reinforcement theorist, though quite genuine, can be applied to complex human behavior only in the most gross and superficial way, and that speculative attempts to discuss linguistic behavior in these terms alone omit from consideration factors of fundamental importance that are, no doubt, amenable to scientific study, although their specific character cannot at present be precisely formulated. Since Skinner’s work is the most extensive attempt to accommodate human behavior involving higher mental faculties within a strict behaviorist schema of the type that has attracted many linguists and philosophers, as well as psychologists, a detailed documentation is of independent interest. The magnitude of the failure of this attempt to account for verbal behavior serves as a kind of measure of the importance of the factors omitted from consideration, and an indication of how little is really known about this remarkably complex phenomenon. [Source: A Review of B. F. Skinner's Verbal Behavior, by Noam Chomsky. In Leon A. Jakobovits and Murray S. Miron (eds.), Readings in the Psychology of Language, Prentice-Hall, 1967, pp. 142-143.]

What was that view, as expressed in foreign policy? Realpolitik taken to absurd extremes.

During Cold War I, the task was to contain two awesome forces. The lesser and more moderate force was “an implacable enemy whose avowed objective is world domination by whatever means and at whatever cost.” Hence “if the United States is to survive,” it will have to adopt a “repugnant philosophy” and reject “acceptable norms of human conduct” and the “long-standing American concepts of `fair play’” that had been exhibited with such searing clarity in the conquest of the national territory, the Philippines, Haiti and other beneficiaries of “the idealistic new world bent on ending inhumanity,” as the newspaper of record describes our noble mission. [2] The judgments about the nature of the super-Hitler and the necessary response are those of General Jimmy Doolittle, in a critical assessment of the CIA commissioned by President Eisenhower in 1954. They are quite consistent with those of the Truman administration liberals, the “wise men” who were “present at the creation,” notoriously in NSC 68 but in fact quite consistently.

In the face of the Kremlin’s unbridled aggression in every corner of the world, it is perhaps understandable that the US resisted in defense of human values with a savage display of torture, terror, subversion and violence while doing “everything in its power to alter or abolish any regime not openly allied with America,” as Tim Weiner summarizes the doctrine of the Eisenhower administration in his recent history of the CIA. [3] And just as the Truman liberals easily matched their successors in fevered rhetoric about the implacable enemy and its campaign to rule the world, so did John F. Kennedy, who bitterly condemned the “monolithic and ruthless conspiracy,” and dismissed the proposal of its leader (Khrushchev) for sharp mutual cuts in offensive weaponry, then reacted to his unilateral implementation of these proposals with a huge military build-up. The Kennedy brothers also quickly surpassed Eisenhower in violence and terror, as they “unleashed covert action with an unprecedented intensity” (Wiener), doubling Eisenhower’s annual record of major CIA covert operations, with horrendous consequences worldwide, even a close brush with terminal nuclear war. [4]

But at least it was possible to deal with Russia, unlike the fiercer enemy, China. The more thoughtful scholars recognized that Russia was poised uneasily between civilization and barbarism. As Henry Kissinger later explained in his academic essays, only the West has undergone the Newtonian revolution and is therefore “deeply committed to the notion that the real world is external to the observer,” while the rest still believe “that the real world is almost completely internal to the observer,” the “basic division” that is “the deepest problem of the contemporary international order.” But Russia, unlike third word peasants who think that rain and sun are inside their heads, was perhaps coming to the realization that the world is not just a dream, Kissinger felt.

Not so the still more savage and bloodthirsty enemy, China, which for liberal Democrat intellectuals at various times rampaged as a “a Slavic Manchukuo,” a blind puppet of its Kremlin master, or a monster utterly unconstrained as it pursued its crazed campaign to crush the world in its tentacles, or whatever else circumstances demanded. [Source: Cold War II, by Noam Chomsky ZNet, August 27, 2007.]

"Or whatever else circumstances demanded." Better known to us as, the intelligence (and publicly-announced cover stories) will be fixed around the policy of machining the world into submission.

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In closing this argument: that a deliberate, and alarmingly successful effort has been made, to manufacture consent by weaponizing this very medium right here: the shard narrative we’re creating right now (IOW, we’re not dumb, crazy, or inherently evil, we’re getting jacked), I’ll turn to my northern neighbor, a veritable Promethean sister, Naomi Klein:

[NAOMI KLEIN:] Now, I say this because this was one of those worlds that wasn’t chosen, one of those paths that wasn’t chosen. And I spent the past four years pulling these stolen and betrayed alternatives out of the dustbin of our recent history, because I think it matters. I think it matters that we had ideas all along, that there were always alternatives to the free market. And we need to retell our own history and understand that history, and we have to have all the shocks and all the losses, the loss of lives, in that story, because history didn’t end. There were alternatives. They were chosen, and then they were stolen. They were stolen by military coups. They were stolen by massacres. They stolen by trickery, by deception. They were stolen by terror.

We who say we believe in this other world need to know that we are not losers. We did not lose the battle of ideas. We were not outsmarted, and we were not out-argued. We lost because we were crushed. Sometimes we were crushed by army tanks, and sometimes we were crushed by think tanks. And by think tanks, I mean the people who are paid to think by the makers of tanks. Now, most effective we have seen is when the army tanks and the think tanks team up. The quest to impose a single world market has casualties now in the millions, from Chile then to Iraq today. These blueprints for another world were crushed and disappeared because they are popular and because, when tried, they work. They’re popular because they have the power to give millions of people lives with dignity, with the basics guaranteed. They are dangerous because they put real limits on the rich, who respond accordingly. Understanding this history, understanding that we never lost the battle of ideas, that we only lost a series of dirty wars, is key to building the confidence that we lack, to igniting the passionate intensity that we need.

AMY GOODMAN: Naomi Klein, author of the forthcoming book, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. [Source: Democracy Now! Naomi Klein: From think tanks to battle tanks August 15, 2007.]

(Note: updated to add entirety of Klein’s speech.)

Deconstructing Myths of America: Pepe Escobar pt4 Reaping what our Predators are sowing

9:17 am in Uncategorized by knowbuddhau

Pepe Escobar’s latest article for Asia Times Online, The American Taliban are coming, deconstructs the "official" myth-making regarding the failed Times Square bombing, looks into the worldview of neo-jihadis like Faisal Shahzad, Dhiren Barot, and Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, and sees blowback on America’s horizon.

Shahzad fits the profile: young, globalized and addicted to a fantasy – the virtual ummah (Muslim community). He apparently did make the conceptual leap from idealizing the ummah on the Internet to actually feeling the irresistible urge to act on the ground.

What are the traits of a neo-jihadi in Escobar’s profile?

A) "Young, globalized and addicted to fantasy."
B) "Deterritorialization:" living away from real or adopted homelands
C) "Individualistic… no orchestration would be needed by a terrorist network."
D) Narcissistic personality

As scholar Oliver Roy has put it, talking about al-Qaeda-influenced neo-jihadis, Shahzad in his own way has also become a lonely avenger, some sort of self-styled hero "who can redeem a life he is not happy with by achieving fame while escaping a world where he finds no room".

In the wake of the (failed) Times Square bombing, none of this was taken into account. It didn’t even matter that US Central Command chief General David Petraeus – always positioning himself to 2012 – allowed that Shahzad had acted as a "lone wolf". Hysteria ruled ….

And in that hysteria, shock doctrinaires such as Sen. Joe Lieberman (Party of Joe-CT), were quick to exploit even a failed attack as an occasion for further reduction of the citizenry into a target-rich environment.

Chillingly, Escobar concludes that "the new policy [of keeping assassination lists that include citizens] may well be a first step towards assassinating US citizens at home as well."

Will we soon be reaping what our drones are sowing?

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In this April 3, 2008 video from The Real News Network, Paul Jay and Pepe Escobar discuss McCain’s failed attempt, to rebrand the war on terror in his own terms. The echoes of parallels with the myth-making regarding Shahzad’s own failure come through loud and clear.

Deconstructing Myths of America: Pepe Escobar pt3 Time “for a real nuclear samba”

11:05 am in Uncategorized by knowbuddhau

Pep Escobar, in a May 7, 2010 article in Asia Times Online titled Time for a Nuclear Samba, points out recent political myth-making intended to obscure the real driving force behind the threat of nuclear war in the Middle East. Such transparent efforts, to deceive the world while using the subject of that deceit (nuclear terrorism in the name of full-spectrum dominance as official policy; see the previous diary in this series, DCM: Pepe Escobar pt2) make a mockery of every word spoken on nuclear weapons by the US.

Ahmadinejad’s position on the swap – which is the position of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as well as the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps – developed just as the Iranian president, in New York, publicly refused the US/European Union tactic of always bundling together nuclear weapons and use of nuclear energy in the same discussion. In a call that rang across the developing world, Ahmadinejad pulled no punches. He denounced the Security Council and the IAEA as being manipulated against non-nuclear states and expressly demanded the world to cease development of nuclear weapons and to ban production, storage, proliferation, maintenance and use of nuclear weapons.

Looks like the UN apparently was paying attention. Apparently. On Wednesday, the five permanent Security Council members, in a joint statement, supported the idea of making the Middle East a nuclear-weapons-free zone. That would let the (nuclear) cat out of the bag – forcing Israel to declare itself a nuclear power and join the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). The chances of this happening under a Benjamin Netanyahu government are slim.

In fact, Washington paid only lip service to this nuclear-free wishful thinking because it is avidly courting the Arab vote to back up a Security Council fourth round of sanctions against Iran. It remains to be seen whether Arab states, mostly US clients, will be duped by this. They do want a nuclear-weapons-free Middle East for real, Israel included.

Regarding Iran, there’s another factor involved in our antagonism: pipelines. Democracy Now! interviewed Escobar October 19, 2010. He points out reasons the US would be interested in destabilizing SW Asia in general (pursuant to Brzezinski’s "helpful" Balkanization model), and Iran in particular.

AMY GOODMAN: Finally, why the stakes in Sistan-Baluchistan are so high?

PEPE ESCOBAR: Because there’s the pipeline angle, which is never mentioned in most analysis, especially in the US mainstream press. Iran and Pakistan—you probably remember the famous IPI pipeline, which is a direct challenger of the trans-African pipeline, which is one of the main reasons of US presence in Afghanistan. Iran and Pakistan last year, they finally reached an agreement to build the Iranian-Pakistani pipeline, which is also called the “peace pipeline,” and now it’s being known as the IP pipeline, Iran-Pakistan. This pipeline goes through Iranian Baluchistan directly to Pakistani Baluchistan. And Baluchi separatist movements are against the pipeline, because they say that Islamabad will get all the money, it won’t be redistributed to Pakistani Baluchistan. And Jundallah doesn’t want a pipeline because they don’t want a collaboration between Tehran and Islamabad using Baluchistan only as a corridor and not profiting Baluchistan in any way. This is the way they see it.

So, obviously, if they have constant destabilization of the Iranian Baluchistan area, investors—and investors not only from Iran and Pakistan, but probably international investors, as well—won’t invest in this pipeline, and the winner would be what? The trans-African pipeline, as well. So there is a vested US interest in all this matter, as well, because the Bush administration, an Iranian-Pakistani pipeline was anathema. I wouldn’t say the Obama administration is as hardcore on this matter, but obviously they would rather go for a trans-African pipeline, as well.

Deconstructing Myths of America: Pepe Escobar pt2 Why we fight bogus holy wars

9:13 am in Uncategorized by knowbuddhau

Pepe Escobar, in a May 8, 2010 AntiWar Radio interview with (the other) Scott Horton, answers, again, the trillion dollar question: why are we fighting bogus holy wars in Eurasia? It’s the dominance, dammit!

Last time I commented on an AntiWar radio interview, I expressed dismay that their Scott Horton (not the law professor who writes for Harpers.org) had asked, Why are we even in Afghanistan? I asked, hadn’t he been reading his Pepe Escobar? Another commenter pointed out that SH had previously interviewed Sr. Escobar. That only compounded my dismay.

What’s it all about? The dominance!

@11:59
ANTIWAR RADIO’S SCOTT HORTON: What’s it all about? It’s not about nukes, Pepe, what is it about?
ASIA TIMES ONLINE’S ROVING EYE PEPE ESCOBAR: You’re totally right, the whole thing is not about nukes. The whole thing is about full. spectrum. dominance. And having a beach head in Iraq, and controlling an extremely important regional power. The relationship, ever since Khomeini took power, has been mega-antagonistic. They had a puppet, they lost their puppet, the Shah, they need that oil and gas….

It’s still about who’s going to rule over Eurasia.
@12:59

Sr. Escobar goes on to identify the perp behind the plan: Dr. Zbig Brzezinski, who misconceived the insanely hubristic doctrine of full-spectrum dominance.

Why are we fighting bogus holy wars in Europe and Asia (wars of occupation count: we have nukes all over Europe, right up to Iran’s own borders)? It’s the dominance, dammit! The publicly-announced cover stories will be fixed around ZB’s plan. That’s why they’re essentially myths. But that doesn’t make them lies.

"The sky is made of luminous blue jello." That’s a lie, a distortion of factual and verifiable circumstances.

"The US must dominate Eurasia, to protect our position of sole superpower." That’s a myth. See how it offers unspoken insights into a way of being in the world, namely, as gods among mere mortals? ZB’s plan involves terrorizing the planet into submission. Why should they bother with winning hearts and minds, when they can just blow them up and out of the way?

The fact that that strategy has always failed miserably doesn’t faze them one bit. War is the way they believe the world to have been made to work. Kinetic activity is the very hand of god, they believe.

In East Asia, a perfect example can be found in the plans of the USMC for a new base (as reported April 26, 2010 by the New York Times here; h/t to Edward Teller). There aren’t enough islands in the archipelago of Japan for us, we actually plan to build an island just to occupy it. And we plan on spending decades doing it.

That’s a perfect metaphor for Pax Americana under full-spectrum dominance. "DoD is GoD. You will submit! You have the freedom to do and think and say exactly what we tell you to. Only "evil-doers" ask questions. What are you, some kind of evil-doer, too? Show me your papers, please."

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“Mutual arising is the key idea to the whole thing.” Alan Watts podcast: The Taoist Way #2

10:05 am in Uncategorized by knowbuddhau

Alan Watts’s philosophy inspires most of my writing. This weeks podcast, The Taoist Way #2 compares the Taoist way of being in the world (as an organism) with our modern American Western way (as a mechanism).

In this short excerpt (c.7:00-9:22), the philosopher lays bare what I believe to be the heart of what ails us today, whether that be the BP oil spill, the GS money grab, or our "secret" drone wars.

AlanWatts.com podcast May 9, 2010
The Taoist Way #2

7:00

Mutual arising is the key idea to the whole thing. And, it is, if you want to understand Chinese and Oriental thought in general, it is the most important thing to grasp.

Because, you see, we think so much in terms of cause and effect. We think of the universe, uh, today, in Aristotelian and Newtonian ways. And in that philosophy, the world is all separated. It’s like a huge amalgamation of billiard balls.

And they don’t move, until struck by another, or by a cue. And so, everything is going tock-tock tock-tock, tock-tock tock-tock, all over the place: one thing starting off another in a mechanical way. But of course, from the standpoint of 20th century science, we know perfectly well, that’s not the way it works.

We know enough, about relationships, to know that that mechanical model, which Newton devised, was all right, for certain purposes. But it breaks down now.

Because we understand relativity. And we see how things kind of go together in a connected net, rather than as a chain of billiard balls, banging each other around.

So, in the philosophy of the Tao, it is said—it’s always being said. This is um, you read this in every art book about Chinese art, that in Chinese painting, man is always seen as in nature, rather than dominating it.

9:22

The entire series (as part of a set of CDs) is available here.

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This video is of a different talk on the Tao, titled "Tao: The Watercourse Way," and is based on Watts’s last book of the same name.

Jon Stewart does Harold Pinter for the American people

8:58 am in Uncategorized by knowbuddhau

Harold Pinter’s 2005 Nobel lecture (in Literature) strips bare the body of lies, put forth explicitly in the name of "the American people," that masquerades as our shared narrative (and was featured in my diary of May 6: Reading the label on the cushion that is suffocating our intellects). Jon Stewart, in the Wednesday, May 5, 2010 segment "American Apparently", suggests we do away with that myth-making phrase.

Art, Truth, and Politics by Harold Pinter December 7, 2005

But before I come back to the present I would like to look at the recent past, by which I mean United States foreign policy since the end of the Second World War. I believe it is obligatory upon us to subject this period to at least some kind of even limited scrutiny, which is all that time will allow here.

Everyone knows what happened in the Soviet Union and throughout Eastern Europe during the post-war period: the systematic brutality, the widespread atrocities, the ruthless suppression of independent thought. All this has been fully documented and verified.

But my contention here is that the US crimes in the same period have only been superficially recorded, let alone documented, let alone acknowledged, let alone recognised as crimes at all. I believe this must be addressed and that the truth has considerable bearing on where the world stands now. Although constrained, to a certain extent, by the existence of the Soviet Union, the United States’ actions throughout the world made it clear that it had concluded it had carte blanche to do what it liked.

[...]

The United States supported and in many cases engendered every right wing military dictatorship in the world after the end of the Second World War. I refer to Indonesia, Greece, Uruguay, Brazil, Paraguay, Haiti, Turkey, the Philippines, Guatemala, El Salvador, and, of course, Chile. The horror the United States inflicted upon Chile in 1973 can never be purged and can never be forgiven.

Hundreds of thousands of deaths took place throughout these countries. Did they take place? And are they in all cases attributable to US foreign policy? The answer is yes they did take place and they are attributable to American foreign policy. But you wouldn’t know it.

It never happened. Nothing ever happened. Even while it was happening it wasn’t happening. It didn’t matter. It was of no interest. The crimes of the United States have been systematic, constant, vicious, remorseless, but very few people have actually talked about them. You have to hand it to America. It has exercised a quite clinical manipulation of power worldwide while masquerading as a force for universal good. It’s a brilliant, even witty, highly successful act of hypnosis.

I put to you that the United States is without doubt the greatest show on the road. Brutal, indifferent, scornful and ruthless it may be but it is also very clever. As a salesman it is out on its own and its most saleable commodity is self love. It’s a winner. Listen to all American presidents on television say the words, ‘the American people’, as in the sentence, ‘I say to the American people it is time to pray and to defend the rights of the American people and I ask the American people to trust their president in the action he is about to take on behalf of the American people.’

It’s a scintillating stratagem. Language is actually employed to keep thought at bay. The words ‘the American people’ provide a truly voluptuous cushion of reassurance. You don’t need to think. Just lie back on the cushion. The cushion may be suffocating your intelligence and your critical faculties but it’s very comfortable. This does not apply of course to the 40 million people living below the poverty line and the 2 million men and women imprisoned in the vast gulag of prisons, which extends across the US. [Emphasis added.]

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The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
American Apparently
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor Tea Party

Hey, Wilfredo, we’re already allowing perps suspected of war crimes to escape justice

8:51 am in Uncategorized by knowbuddhau

Democracy Now! reports this morning on efforts to apprehend a suspected war criminal. "U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer said: "The massacre at Dos Erres was a dark moment for the Guatemalan people, and we will not allow suspected perpetrators to escape justice by taking refuge in our cities and towns." That’s a malicious myth in the making.

Fmr. Guatemalan Soldier Involved in 1982 Massacre Arrested in Florida

A former Guatemalan soldier involved in a 1982 massacre of more than 250 villagers in the mountain hamlet of Dos Erres has been arrested in Florida. Gilberto Jordan was taken into custody Wednesday for concealing his role in the massacre when applying for U.S. citizenship. Govermnent officials say Jordan has admitted to killing a number of villagers and throwing a baby down a well. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents are also seeking the arrest of two former Guatemalan soldiers based in California. U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer said: "The massacre at Dos Erres was a dark moment for the Guatemalan people, and we will not allow suspected perpetrators to escape justice by taking refuge in our cities and towns."

Right above that headline is a story that confirms what AP CEO Tom Curley said, last February, about the Pentagon getting more aggressive at hindering journalists.

Pentagon Bans 4 Reporters from Gitmo Trials

The Pentagon meanwhile has banned four journalists from covering military commissions at Guantanamo Bay for reporting the military interrogator’s name. The ban applies to Carol Rosenberg of the Miami Herald and three other reporters with Toronto-based newspapers. The interrogator’s name has already been widely published in previous news reports. ACLU Deputy Legal Director Jameel Jaffer said: “That reporters are being punished for disclosing information that has been publicly available for years is nothing short of absurd… If allowed to stand, this decision will discourage legitimate reporting and add yet another entry to the long list of reasons why the military commissions ought to be shut down for good.”

Glenn Greenwald has abundantly documented the way myth-making in support of American Exceptionalism makes perfect hypocrites of people speaking on our behalf. Pretty soon, no one at DOJ will be able to say a freakin’ word, without contradicting themselves.

Hey DOJ, I hope you liked how Geithner got laughed at in China. Set the record straight, or be laughing stocks for all time.

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Reading the lable on the cushion that is suffocating our intellects

9:14 am in Uncategorized by knowbuddhau

Scarecrow’s post, Why BP’s Oil Disaster Scenario Wasn’t Considered During Environmental Review, examines in-depth how the legal mechanisms for ensuring such entirely foreseeable disasters don’t occur in the first place, were rigged by our MOTU. How? I’d say, by a very well known trick that’s older even than books.

What a great read, Scarecrow, much obliged.

So when pro-industry, anti-environmental politicians tell us that the BP oil disaster met all the environmental reviews, and what happened was just an "act of God," just remember that industry laywers (sic) have been working for decades to make sure government agencies think that way and have even less information before them to see it any other way.

Depends on what your definition of "god" is, eh? By playing both roles: the Creators of the Known Universe, movers, shakers, and makers of laws oh my!; and then, in turn, the mere creature of that god (just like the rest of us mere mortals, won’t you have pity on our poor MOTU?), they’ve defined themselves into unaccountability. In Max Keiser’s apt phrase, "Innocence by institutionalized solipsism."

Classic myth-jacking. It’s a very well known trick (among comparative mythologists, at least) even older than books. It’s Rove’s MO ("he calls himself Grendel, Moby Dick, and Lord Voldemort"). It’s the MO of our Perkinsian economic hit men. It’s been the US modus operandi since DoD knows when. Or maybe our NSA-types took Campbell’s decades of lectures and weaponized them.

However it happened, the similarities across applications are too perfect to ignore. Remember, we’ve been subjected to deliberate domestic disinformation campaigns for going on 60 years. Last year, the Pentagon had 27,000 "influence operators" and a $4.7 billion budget to manufacture our sovereign will against itself.

Colossal efforts have been made, to manufacture our consent, and they’ve proved alarmingly effective. It’s bloody effing obvious to this poet: The power of myth is powering our strategy.

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Political language, as used by politicians, does not venture into any of this territory since the majority of politicians, on the evidence available to us, are interested not in truth but in power and in the maintenance of that power. To maintain that power it is essential that people remain in ignorance, that they live in ignorance of the truth, even the truth of their own lives. What surrounds us therefore is a vast tapestry of lies, upon which we feed.

As every single person here knows, the justification for the invasion of Iraq was that Saddam Hussein possessed a highly dangerous body of weapons of mass destruction, some of which could be fired in 45 minutes, bringing about appalling devastation. We were assured that was true. It was not true. We were told that Iraq had a relationship with Al Quaeda and shared responsibility for the atrocity in New York of September 11th 2001. We were assured that this was true. It was not true. We were told that Iraq threatened the security of the world. We were assured it was true. It was not true.

The truth is something entirely different. The truth is to do with how the United States understands its role in the world and how it chooses to embody it. [Emphasis added. Source: Harold Pinter Nobel Lecture: Literature December 7, 2005.]

The parallels, from war to finance to industry, are unmistakable. This is a perfect case study in US policy since WWII. Pinter is talking about Central America, of course, but who doesn’t hear echoes of today in his words?

Hundreds of thousands of deaths took place throughout these countries. Did they take place? And are they in all cases attributable to US foreign policy? The answer is yes they did take place and they are attributable to American foreign policy. But you wouldn’t know it.

It never happened. Nothing ever happened. Even while it was happening it wasn’t happening. It didn’t matter. It was of no interest. The crimes of the United States have been systematic, constant, vicious, remorseless, but very few people have actually talked about them. You have to hand it to America. It has exercised a quite clinical manipulation of power worldwide while masquerading as a force for universal good. It’s a brilliant, even witty, highly successful act of hypnosis.

I put to you that the United States is without doubt the greatest show on the road. Brutal, indifferent, scornful and ruthless it may be but it is also very clever. As a salesman it is out on its own and its most saleable commodity is self love. It’s a winner. Listen to all American presidents on television say the words, ‘the American people’, as in the sentence, ‘I say to the American people it is time to pray and to defend the rights of the American people and I ask the American people to trust their president in the action he is about to take on behalf of the American people.’

It’s a scintillating stratagem. Language is actually employed to keep thought at bay. The words ‘the American people’ provide a truly voluptuous cushion of reassurance. You don’t need to think. Just lie back on the cushion. The cushion may be suffocating your intelligence and your critical faculties but it’s very comfortable. This does not apply of course to the 40 million people living below the poverty line and the 2 million men and women imprisoned in the vast gulag of prisons, which extends across the US. [Emphasis added. Source: Harold Pinter Nobel Lecture: Literature December 7, 2005.]

The kinds of questions I’m interested in have to do with understanding the whence and whither of that "scintillating stratagem." If there’s a label on that intellect-suffocating pillow, whose name is on it, where was it made, of what materials, and for what purposes, etc.? Just like the SERE program, isn’t it almost certain that the same thing, reverse-engineering, was done with propaganda/brain-washing/psy-ops, too?

We keep repeating the same stories, with different words, players, and costumes, to the very same effect: jacking electorates great and small to hell and back, sticking us with the bill in every way.

Want to change the system, save the planet? I have a suggestion: let’s examine and rectify the myths with which we’re creating this "human, all too human" world.

Thanks again Scarecrow, you really got me going. IBIYVD.

Deconstructing Myths of America: Gareth Porter Special Edition pt1

4:13 pm in Uncategorized by knowbuddhau

CTuttle, commenting on the previous DCM diary, Deconstructing Myths of America: Pepe Escobar Special Edition pt1, makes two points most difficult to challenge: A) "Pepe [Escobar] is the man;" and B) Gareth Porter ain’t too shabby, either. As evidence, watch at least these two (from July 12 and 14, 2009) of Porter’s many videos for The Real News Network.

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The Real News Network: July 12, 2009 McNamara Deceived LBJ on Vietnam: Gareth Porter reveals R.McNamara, who died Monday, misled LBJ on Gulf of Tonkin attacks

The Real News Network: July 14, 2009 McNamara’s mindset pt2 Porter: McNamara’s Vietnam War mindset – seeking dominance – continues today, in both parties

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And here are the corresponding videos on YouTube:

TRNN on YouTube: McNamara deceived LBJ on Vietnam

TRNN on YouTube: McNamara’s mindset Pt2