Thursday, September 22, 2022

A Cipher In the Fullness of Immature Time

There is, of course, no fullness of time, unless you wish to count eternity somehow, and then you can't be in time. Time as we live it is perpetually immature. As, I hope, am I. I do so wish to improve. I know so little yet. 

There is a oneness to me, if not a fullness, in the sense that there is a constancy hardened over time which is easily proven by friends and acquaintances. I do insist that even in the fullness of time, my future life is not quite set. But apparently, and evidently, neither is my past. Forward facing, I am diminishing and shall be diminished in the fullness of time. At least I never did mistake my youthful certainties for knowledge.

The other day at a Labor Day picnic, moved cause of rain from my daughter's outside backyard to my ex's more accommodating inside, I also learned something about the relation of time's indeterminacy to anger and to love, and especially in relation to the narratives we compose to establish and define ourselves. 

Increasingly, these days, my ex tells stories which diverge from reality in the direction of my miscredit. Fine! I'm sure I deserve the abuse on some level, but lately they've started to cut to the quick. For instance, after I'd left her, her house, which had been our house, was broken into. I rushed over from Canada where I was then living and expeditiously installed bars across the vulnerable French doors which were the point of entry. She wanted me to stay. I wouldn't. She later thanked me for that.

How could I forget what was such an emotionally charged event, and especially those tough decisions that I faced? Sure, I have often been caught out and have caught myself out with false memories. Often, even when I'm certain of them. I do modify in the face of evidence. The mind plays tricks. 

My ex has now replaced me as protagonist in my little tale with an older fellow to whom she credits my work. We both loved the man. He might have done it but didn't in fact. But she is apparently as certain that I didn't install those bars as I am that I did. 

Narratives are formed for all sorts of reasons, certainly to include a kind of preservation of personal integrity. Sometimes there are conflicts. We might wish to be perceived as someone that we're not. Quite.

I don't think that the conflicts between my ex and myself will ever turn deadly. We enjoy our continuing good relations far too much. Though I may absent myself the next instant she starts a story, since whether true or false by my lights, I don't think that there's any excuse to rehearse such stories in front of me, especially when I'm in front of my kids. I can't control what she does behind my back, and while I know that my daughters feel often compelled to believe the worst of me according to her telling, they don't seem to stop loving me for that. So, no harm. I am humbled. So what?

Now to expand to the cosmic dimension, dear reader. As you know, I am fond of declaring the cosmic eternity for narrative. Nothing makes sense ever without narrative. At its elemental basics, narrative is the ordering, in time, of otherwise disconnected discreet points. DNA composes a narrative. I maintain that there is both an emotional and a physical/perceptual component to all that has ever existed and that can ever exist. There is most certainly an emotional element to narrative. Always.

This forces me to apply the same uncertainty principles which we have applied to empirical objective measurable reality to the proper fourth dimension of time. Indeed, I would go so far as to claim that time has no meaning without narrative, and that the narrative is composed in mind. Mind therefore, is always present in existence. Time is a conspiracy of the whole, as it were, and has no forward or back without life, which is to say without emotion, an elemental component of life, coeval with all those innumerable particles which lack individual identity. Life also was there at any possible beginning; at the very least as a want.

Life is always wanting.

We commonly imagine that time past is time set and unchangeable. But it's not, any more than the future is set, although we believe that more comfortably. We even go so far as to consider the future to be conditioned on us, even down to the level of the individual. I believe that is the widely accepted meaning of free will and agency.

But individual me is mostly not me, certainly in the terms of DNA, but also in social and linguistic terms. My personal degrees of freedom are quite limited in fact, even if, in practice, I may exercise outsized agency. If I am white and reasonably attractive in speech, manner and appearance. If I am not identifiable as one of the colonized victims of empire.

Still, since most of what composes me is formed by luck, I do believe that my personal agency is far more conditioned than most of us now seem to believe. That means, I suppose, that I am less a capitalist than you are. (As far as I can tell, I'm less capitalist than almost anyone, expect for that woman while I was gassing who had 'fuck the patriarchy' painted on her car, and I wanted to hug her but I knew that I didn't look my part.)

I see the likes of Jeff Bezos as rather more trapped than I am too. He is in thrall to his own master narrative of him as master, which makes him rather deadly, I think. I, on the other hand, am a harmless, which is, I'm afraid, my preferred condition. I wouldn't be competent for anything different. I lack the honor, sure, but mostly I lack the desire.

Time is indeterminate in ways analogous to the indeterminacy of physical reality when taken to its fundamental level. Meaning that this uncovering of yet another dimension for indeterminacy makes no nevermind for our everyday life. 

But just as it has unsettled many of us to know that there is no way even in principle to understand everything, qua quantum physical reality, it may unsettle us even more to know that the past is in no way fixed. There is no ultimate truth to be found. We create our past to the same extent that we create our collective future. After a margin, both become quite fuzzy indeed.

For the me, the fundamental meaning of quantum physics is that we are fully implicated in reality. There is no point of absolute objectivity. We are also implicated in history in almost precisely the way that we know ourselves to be implicated in the future.

In just the way that IQ cannot measure the totality of intelligence, most of which is qualified by a moral dimension, science as we practice it cannot tell our future. What is happening now - although much more easily defined by and as the predations of unregulated capitalism - is really better defined by the coming together, in however haphazard a fashion, of all humanity on earth. Big O Notation. Darkest before the dawn and all.

Sure, it's messy right now. We have a long way to go to reclaim livable communities. Here in Buffalo now, we can almost imagine bringing the Olmsted greenway layouts back to reality. Back to the future. Soon, we'll move beyond electric cars to trolleys. Cities will re-envision themselves as havens for walking and biking and getting together on trolley cars. People like me will get back together with people I don't yet know again, once the competition for attention is eased. I am so very through with job and school competition, aren't you?

Most of us don't really want so much. Nice parks. Maybe a sailboat. Maybe a bike. Nice neighborhoods and nice neighbors. Meaningful work that makes a difference.

Like most of us, I declare that I have not and will not harm another soul. I'm guessing that's the most of us. Sure, they make shit up about me. That doesn't make me want to make shit up about you. I'm decent in my heart, and I'm willing to guess so are you. Now let's act like it. Plain decency is likely the most underrated quality in the whole wide world just now.

Sad to say, in a way, while I was out walking yesterday the maybe two and half miles to Riverworks where the Music is Art Festival was being held across maybe two dozen stages, I was accosted by a young fellow manning a little display about how all religions are one. He asked me if he could ask me a question. I said sure, if it won't take long. Of course, the question he asked me was 'do you believe in God.' My answer was something like 'probably not the way you do.' 'Why?' he might have said. 'Because you believe in a man-made God.' I said as I walked away. 

It wasn't very nice of me. But at that particular moment I had been put in mind of how much harm what I'm calling man-made religion has always caused. People - mostly men - want to channel what they think God would tell you to do or not do, and I just don't buy that kind of God. That just feels like patriarchy plain and simple. 

Does it do any good for the world for me to convince you to believe in God the way that I do? I'm saying it probably causes more harm than good. I didn't really want to argue about it. But yes, now that I think about it, it would make the world a better place if you were to believe in God the way I do. For one thing you'd know why it's always best to be decent. And for another, you wouldn't judge people who aren't decent. God knows, it takes all kinds.

Well, I don't really have enough math to convince you of what I know in my bones to be true. Except that among those things that I know is that understanding reality doesn't require much math, and you don't need a higher degree of education to be able to do it. But if only I could convince one among those one-percenters who do have enough education, that would be something. But I don't seem to be able to do that either. 

I'll keep trying. For your sake, gentle reader, for your sake. 

And yes, while there is no absolute truth or even truthiness, the truth, still, will out. All these individualistic attention seekers with brains barren of fellow-feeling and beings which lust only after money become as meaningless as sandflies in the fullness of narrative time. There is not a Republic left on earth, it would seem, who actually believes in an actual god. Maybe Liz Cheney, no matter how evil her Dad is. Believers in actual god don't tell lies to get elected. That narrative erases you from life. You become a cipher of finance capitalism, which is, by definition, nothing at all.

Wednesday, September 7, 2022

An Email to Virginia Heffernan

Dear Virginia (I'm old school that way)

I can't find your contact information no way no how, which is, I presume, the way you want it, and so being both old school and considerate I'll call you out in public, which is where I hide out, the way my friends and I did as kids; not wanting to ring the bell and disturb some missus inside some domicile or other. 

I've read a fair amount of your stuff, and tend hard in the direction of the extravagant praise I've seen for your writing. The flamers aren't so surprising, especially as good writing almost always makes a good target for illiterates. I am still somewhat surprised at how vitriolic some of it is, but that's the nature of our Now.

I especially enjoyed your recent piece in Wired, which effectively exposes and decouples a false connection between work and luck; replacing it with the truer revelation that to equate luck with work debases all of us. As in virtually everything about who and what we are has been determined by luck, and yet our economic arrangements almost compel us to take credit for who we happen to be, as though, if we're lucky, we created ourselves each and every one ex nihilo.

I don't think you did this very much in your piece, but I would say that what you wrote exposes the moral dimension as being far more important than what we commonly think of as our personal agency. Sure we have choices to make, but we almost always fail to notice how conditional those choices are.

When you choose to be on the capitalist pig side of the capital and labor equation, you are making a moral choice. As you point out, we are conditioned to see it as a properly productive choice, even beyond its selfish aspects. Selfishness is, after all, what powers a capitalist economy. And selfishness is what has to be supervised for labor to be marketable. Delayed consumption, metered and conditioned so that satisfaction is always on the way and never already there.

We, each of us now, are the final commodities, alive for just a moment before we too are bought and resold as scrap.

Growing up, my nickname was Hardluck. As in I always drew the short straw, and never won any lotteries. I knew it was silly and wrong, since I knew that I was competent to do whatever it was that nobody seemed to want to do or to know how to do, and so yes I considered myself lucky. I was sound of mind and body, reasonably good-looking and healthy. I grew to like the short straw, kind of wishing it upon myself, and not as penance.

Just now, because I am in transition (I am always in transition), the first thing that acquaintances ask me is 'where are you living?' As it happens, I have no less than four highly viable choices, with two more on the way. Now this doesn't quite make me feel lucky, since I can hardly afford any of them. But in just the same way that I was lucky to escape Covid with a mild case (an example you use), I am lucky that my tiny pension plus social security almost precisely equals my monthly outflow; living in a very affordable apartment in very affordable Buffalo.

I should sell, but haven't done so yet, the trailer that I've lived in for most of the past 5 years or so. It remains available to me still, and I long for it still. So is the apartment I fixed up in Oregon, which gave me pause for a couple of winters and then again for Covid lockdown. Talk about luck! Mom still owns that summer place in Canada to which I decamped upon separation from my ex many years ago. Too bad the borders have hardened, and I can't just go live there anymore during my current transition.

I have yet another sailboat on the way in response to my daughters' longing, and it's about the same layout as the one I did live aboard some forty years ago. I acquired it for a similar song (and dance).

While I would dearly love to remain in this apartment that I love, my well-off Microsoft alumnus brother-in-law has long wanted to invest in Buffalo real-estate, on the condition that I live in and maintain it. I do suffer so!

I do know that once I've moved, which means once I've made my decision, which my mind refuses to do until then, I'll feel relief about whatever were the annoyances of those places I will have left behind. Some will remain useful, some will be abandoned, and I my bodily unchoosing self may yet persist or not as luck will have it.

I'm old, and it hurts even to think about it, but I'm sure I'll be moving into my bro-in-law's house, basically just because it would leave me with just about enough spending money to maintain and sail my new old boat. And maybe keep the trailer.

Now I know that you don't care about any of this, and you should be wondering why I even ask you to read it. Just another guy trying to figure out if he got lucky or not, or might. It's never clear to me what getting lucky really means or might mean.

What I really want you to know, basically because I think you might actually get it, is that at about the time that I was living aboard my old wooden sailboat (albeit younger, relative to my acquisition of it, than the sadly fiberglass one I'm getting now), I discovered, by happenstance, a way to incorporate luck into meaning. I mean that in the way that the scientific method explicitly removes luck from meaning by its usage of "random." We stake almost all of our claims about life, which we might consider to be goodness out of chaos, as though that monkey did finally type Romeo and Juliet by random pecking orders.

Now what I then discovered has no practical application. There's nothing you can do with it that you can't do without it. Scientific knowledge is mostly useful, while what I propose is not. Way back then, I was more worried about fate and coincidence and finding my place in the equation out of a kind of desperation which descends from a seemingly inborn need for meaning. Meaning means understanding for me, and I had no way to understand what felt like a series of meaningful coincidences. Like, life, the universe and everything.

My discovery, as I call it, was not of something new. I discovered a new way of construing what was already known. Starting here from where I ended up then, I rejigger the usage of random as applied to evolution, say, and stake my claim that it would be more informative to define all the accidents that entail life in the cosmos not as random mutations, but as mutations which have tended in the direction of love. Love as a direction for evolution was my discovery. Like gravity, love might be construed as a force of sorts.

Now I'm not saying that love precedes evolution as a kind of force to guide it. I'm just saying that love is a better description than random for how, and mostly why it happens. Like gravity. It's part of the program of mass and force. Force is equivalent to mass, in a measure relative to how forces are applied and perceived according to relative position for observation.

This realization about evolution came after a more general realization that emotion more generally is not a function of the inner state of some highly evolved life-form such as humanity, but that emotion, like force-mediated motion, is an elemental aspect of any construing of reality that we might come up with. The difference from force, whose elemental aspects are percepts, as in proliferating particles at every scale, is that emotions are a function of conceptual reality, whose elemental aspects are concepts.

Words, particles, whatever. On some level particles are composed of words plus some math which add up to predictability. By the displacement of metaphor, which is for exceeding our grasp, stupid. And unnecessary unless you think that the mind is disposed ultimately to understand and to know everything, which is only a tad less likely than the production of that monkey at a typewriter.

As far as I can tell, my reconstruing of life, the universe and anything doesn't predict a freaking thing, except that it might facilitate collective us taking more responsibility for our choices. Responsibility for choices is rather better highlighted once we put ourselves, whatever we have been or shall become, back into our equations where we belong.

While simultaneity cannot be defined in perceptual reality except in relation to some conceptually stationary subject, simultaneity is a direct function of conception and emotion. Conceptual relations are held in mind and don't exist except for simultaneous reciprocity. By definition, is what I'm saying. 

Time was, we thought that particles could exist in isolation. We gradually inferred that there is no escaping relative motion, and that motion involved force and that force involved the exchange of yet smaller particles, and that there is ultimately a so-called entanglement between sufficiently tiny particles such that it makes no sense to calculate distance between them since transformation in one is simultaneously mirrored by the entangled twin, which pretty much nullifies the time/force relation of mass transitioning to energy at the limit of lightspeed.

My redefinitions don't change a thing about what it is that we can perceive and measure. And yet they are somehow terrifying in prospect, and so I don't expect another soul to concur. It would be nice if some soul did, but I don't expect it because the resistance is so great among thinking people. I become a kind of out-of-touch religious castaway for believing such an extravagant redefinition of basic terms.

I also see that you've read and appreciated the grand work of the two Davids, The Dawn of Everything. As I sit watching streaming film and hoping for enlightenment while waiting for the end, which feels inevitable globally, and which certainly is inevitable in my very local life, that book is really what leaves me hope for my children.

Yes, it does seem as though we are so dependent on a global market for our sustenance that its breakdown will consist of conflagration, warfare and starvation on a scale we can hardly imagine, the Davids' book reminds us all that we are adaptable and haven't lost all the social capacity that we've had throughout our bloody history to find a way to adapt again.

I have a kind of hope and even faith that others will discover what I have discovered, at least just in time for the Greater Transformation when it inevitably occurs. This one goes back to the future, as it were. Humans in community. Or whatever it is that evolves from humans. Whatever it is will evolve in the direction of love; that much is certain. The other direction is, after all, death. I leave that to those who misplace their hope in quantum computing. Who misconstrue intelligence in ways artificial and overly mathematical. 

As far as I can tell, intelligence has yet to show its hand here on earth, but look out when it does. The losers become the winners, right? And then what becomes of us?

Saturday, September 3, 2022

Anger Management

Lots of times, in my mind alone, I do a kind of devil's advocate thing. Like I don't always like our demonizing our historical behavior out of its context. Sure, genocide and wanton slaughter should be universally detested, but I'm still not so sure we have any right to take these behaviors out of their proper context and judge people as though they lived in our time. 

Yes, I'm including those in the American Civil War on the side of the Confederacy, and those wanton murderers of native Americans who overran and populated the American West. Slave holders even, and especially when the original captors were black fellows of who would be the slaves.

This all feels dangerous, of course, and so I keep such thoughts to myself, as thought experiments of a sort. If I ever do dare to voice them, my daughters will immediately set me straight, and mostly I think they'll be right. 

My basic trouble is that I don't really buy any notions that history is progressive, as in ameliorative, as in we are getting better and better. Like, especially when Stephen Pinker, who's often associated himself with such notions, shows up with Jeffrey Epstein.

If I watch streaming services which serve up ads, like Hulu for instance, it's hard not to remark to myself that the ads target young self-branders. Sure, I suppose ads have always featured young beauties who exemplify what we're supposed to want for ourselves from the spoils of the marketplace, but I sense a kind of desperation now.

I'm certain that it's all projection on my part, but still, it all opens up fields for irony. We aspire to be people who look and behave the way they do because of luck, and the riches it brings of lifestyle and beauty. We somehow don't accept that those projections will never become us.

There is a neo-Marxist concept called accelerationism, and I'm glad to note that very few neo-Marxists take it up. It's a writ-large version of how we thought maybe Dubya would put the lie to the Republican brand so that we could move more quickly in a progressive direction. Nope!

Anyhow, accelerationism is fundamentally tied to a teleological meaning for history, of the sort that Marx professed. Now, accelerationism has been co-opted by the radical right, who deploy violence to accelerate the revolution they want. They seem to have some bizarre belief in the manifest destiny of the white man, meaning that they want to bring back a certain context from our past. 

While I might, in my mind, forgive the white supremacists of those days, since they had a whole Church behind them along with a pride in the European origins of what Karl Polanyi calls The Great Transformation; I certainly can't forgive the white supremacists of our times now. Any more than I can forgive the Republican Party for what it's become.

(I still can't understand why Polanyi's thesis hasn't supplanted Marx, among we progressives. Which is to say we liberals. By which I mean those who have deracinated mankind according to Polanyi. So I do have my answer, in a way.)

But on the other hand, the Republican Party may well be awaking more and more of us to the ugliness of rampant unregulated capitalism. Of literal readings of Bible or Constitution which are so blatantly mis-readings that more and more of us worry about the future prospects for our Union. This business of buying in wholesale to arguments that you might make with your beer buddies out of hearing from normal society, has gone over some edge hasn't it? Those readings of the Bible just don't feel like love. Those readings of the Constitution don't feel like democracy and freedom. 

It all feels like hate and anger.

But now, maybe, along with global warming, species death, and the evident psychosis in the notion that we are ever going to populate the universe off-earth, this kind of non-thinking might push us beyond the pale of a quasi-religious - which means quasi-fascist - belief in capitalism as any kind of end-game other than the sort which ends everything all at once.

Sure, capitalism unleashes creativity, but without effective governmental regulation, that creativity runs by itself amok, and cares not at all for the carrying capacity of our planet. Joe Biden may not be the best thing since sliced bread, and I certainly disagree with him powerfully about China, but at least he's not morally bankrupt in the totalizing way that, say, JD Vance went. Anyhow, China tries too hard to engineer their future and it looks like they're heading into really difficult times. Blame it on corruption, just as we do here, but I'm pretty sure I'll take our bumbling way forward over their more deliberate ways over there. 

Our quandary now - the Earth's quandary - is not economic, not technological, surely not religious, and only partly political. Our quandary is a moral quandary. We have to figure out - and quickly - how to be good human beings.

We might excuse ourselves by claiming that we can never find, and indeed should never try for, a universal definition of the good. I'll be generous here and suppose that Peter Thiel thinks he's a good person, and believes with some integrity that winners like him should rule the world. That's even while I can't think of a more morally bankrupt person, unless maybe it's Rudy Giuliani or his capo Donald Trump. We all know that Rudy did once believe he fought on the side of the angels. Now I suppose he fights on the side of the angles; validating every lawyer joke you've ever heard. 

The law can't touch morality, nor can science. All law can do is to collectivize our basic sense of right and wrong. It can help to provide us some measure of order in an otherwise messy world. Now we have a supreme court who is so wedded to a particular religious order that they are willing to accelerate the debasement of any kind of collective faith in the rule of law. Ditto science, when it subserves the military industrial complex, which it always has. That's where the money comes from, stupid.

Law and science both are things of beauty, so long as they don't totalize. Just as we can never populate Mars until we become good humans, we can never describe everything about existence by means of the scientific method until we recognize the morality uncertainty principle. Morality is relative, just like mass and energy are. Morality engages emotion, which is always context-dependent. If you are able, even in your mind, to shoot people that you don't understand, then you are certainly immoral. Today, if not yesterday.

Our context now is the Whole Earth, and it has been for a while. Science and technology got us this far, but they won't do a thing to get us beyond. The law worked for so long as we all believed that it could work. Believing in the law is a moral agreement with our fellow humans. It's nothing greater than fair-play on a field as grand as the earth. That's the limit for law.

Sure, it's fair that a competent and clever industrialist should enjoy the outsized fruits of our labor. But he crosses a line when his workers can't afford his products, just as surely as wealthy footballers cross a line when ordinary working fans can't afford to attend the games in person. We have gone all out of proportion, and we've done it very recently.

By now I'm old and it hurts so much to follow them that I've lost most of my enthusiasms. I certainly no longer think that I'm going to convince anyone that emotion is part of any valid definition for bedrock reality. I won't convince you that evolution moves in the direction of what - and under the direction of what - many people still call God's Love. 

It does so in ways not so difficult to imagine, thanks to atheist Richard Dawkins and others of his ilk. But those atheists aren't prepared at all to leave go of the scientific definition for random, which is that random is meaningless, which is just plain wrong. Just because something isn't directed either by God or by man doesn't mean it's meaningless. It can only mean that its meaning exceeds, and will fundamentally always exceed, our comprehension. Unlimited intelligence has no context ever at all. Even God requires context to exist, stupid.

So, while I don't believe in progress, I do believe in growth. Humans qua humanity remain immature and we therefore destroy our any context. Our elders have forsaken us. Maybe it has to be this way, because maybe we have to make way for a consciousness which is not amoral. Or in other words, our consciousness is at least as artificial as what we dream of creating by way of logic circuits. What comes next will be as a god to what and who we are now. It just won't be our God. 

When the planet is bereft of humans, that won't be God's doing. It will be ours. But hey, no species is forever. Life is, by definition, what persists in realization of God's love. Life is the realization of God's love. We are fallen and bereft, and about to enter eternity as a species. We have forsaken God. Not He us. Peace be with you. Not you, Alito, I'm talking to the good guys.

Saturday, August 27, 2022

The Parable of the Forgetting

This is what happens all the time now. First I stopped being able to read, and I don’t know if that’s because of what I was reading – Karl Polanyi, The Great Transformation, or just because it was bound to happen. Any desire to read novels went right along with the forgetting. I watch movies now without being able to follow the plot, and it takes until halfway in to realize that I’ve seen this one before. 

For no good reason that I can tell, I’ve constrained myself for a few days now within my tiny mobile space. Its batteries grow weak and there has been no sun to recharge them. For the first time in a long while, I’m twenty miles in any direction from a cell tower, so I’m out of touch. The rain yesterday might have washed my tiny house right down the slope. I have such thoughts. There is a new leak, after dealing effectively with all the rogue leaks. There is no success that isn’t mitigated.

This morning, making my coffee, I choose the green cup because the rest have been washed poorly with hand soap, and likely have an indigestive film. I’d used the blue one yesterday. Now as I sit drinking my coffee, and it’s good coffee with no soapy flavor, I’m looking around for the blue cup. In dim light I check to be sure that the one I have is green. 

There is a lock to the door and it seems unlikely that someone came in just to swipe that one cup, but who knows? Maybe they really needed a cup and I was peeing in the outhouse across the way. One thinks these things. Now I try to keep reading toward the conclusion of The Great Transformation, as though there is one, with the dwindling battery of my Kindle and I can’t stop scanning all possible spaces inside the trailer. 

Did I bring the cup into the car? Did I sequester it somewhere to prevent soapy coffee? Did it drop? Well, I’ll just have to forget about it. The coffee is fine and I’m reading in the morning, waiting for some sun to rise. I start the heater to dry out the condensated inners. To allow the corner where my mattress got wet from the new leak dry. I go out and pull the corner of the awning down. Maybe the flow overwhelmed it.

Now I take note that my cup is blue. And somehow, I remember that when I found that replacement plate and bowl to match what I had in red and blue with green, when the sporting goods store was selling off its stock for good, there never was a green cup, was there? Even though I remember a green cup, there never was one.

I peed into the bottle I once used for drinking just to avoid more walking through more rain. I shall never mistake that one. It is imprinted permanently now. 

Well, back to the book. For the very first time ever I feel like I have a handle on what is happening now because it’s happened so many times before. I shall not try to tell my children, for it would upset them. Let’s just keep the cup story between you and me, OK? I must now poop.

Don’t worry, I locked the door. There was no lock on the stall door, though I chatted with a neighbor, hooking up his grandkids’ rainy-day laptops to the only plug in the park. We traded car stories, all the water in the sky now descended. What else was there to talk about? Dieselgate errors and omissions.

“The time was ripe for the fascist solution.”

Thursday, July 28, 2022

Space Cowboy

Reading about spatial statism, which was supposed to disappear with globalism, and then about populism and what that's about, I suddenly realize my life's work. Or I realize what it would have been did I have a life or could I have had any kind of life's work. Fortune favors the accommodators, and I'm not one. 

Sour grapes!

Anyhow, as I read about how populism works, or doesn't, I realize that the mythical and vaguely enchanted nation which our domestic brand of populists yearn for is itself a commodified capitalist concoction, which realization only stacks irony on top of irony for me. 

In other words the Trumpers hate the very people who gave them their image of what America really is. Because they buy it, hook, line and sinker. And here I thought that I was the one who hated Reagan and Nixon and even Clinton, but certainly Dubya and all those shills for capitalism's glories who've ever graced the White House. You can't hate the elites and still love this fictitious nation and that fictitious Jesus. Especially not when you mix it all up in a Trumpian blender.

My reading also lends clarity to what's up with China. Pompous West Point Pompeo gave a speech the other day (pick a speech, any speech, they're all the same), wherein he conflated China and Russia as what threatens not really our way of life, but our supremacy. Must idiots be always in charge?!? Even Biden using China as his foil feels the way I feel when chalk is squeaked along a blackboard. Or is it fingernails. Or do you even know what a blackboard is?

Guns and exceptionalism and Steve Bannon bizarrely seeing himself as some cowboy in the films he loves, and it all makes sense. 

Thing is that China actually does have a genuine nation to crow and write home about, in the culturally/racially defined people sense of the term. Everyone who is anyone claims to be of the Han ethnicity there, and they have an absolutely fabulous continuity in written lore and myth and wonder to claim as their own, no Hollywood invention required. Too bad they treat the Uighurs about the way we treat blacks, only maybe they're just a tad nicer about it. 

So, China never did need no stinkin' populism. Well, you know, after Mao, sort-of. Now I wonder how that's related to their eschewing, at least by lip service, capitalism. And how is this related to Russia, culturally defined always in opposition to what Europe has tried to build for itself. 

Well, you know, China also concocted its nation. First it had to unify the language, and that forcibly. They shoehorned the written Chinese character into automated typography, which then took off once the computer keyboard and predictive typing became ubiquitous. Believe it or no, Ripley, it's actually easier and faster now to type Chinese than English. It took a long time from when China already had it to when we figured out how to deploy predictive typing. Weirdly, ours constricts what we write to what anybody would write, since we predict more than Chinese prediction of set character combinations. 

Of course, the trouble is that motor-memory for calligraphy is destroyed, which might mean that the Chinese character (I think that I mean the national character, not the written character) has also been destroyed. But at least they're not destroying the ability to write the way that we are.

When I pick up my Microsoft Surface now, I realize that converges in most ways to the usage of my iPhone. Is this intellectual property appropriation? Is money changing hands? Or is it just simply the inevitable fact that people like things that they pick up and use all the time to feel familiar? Or at least familiar enough. 

So as China struggles to maintain state control over lending and thus over the usage of money, it must also grant the look and feel of what American-style capitalism looks and feels like. You know, that vibrancy which beat the pants off the old Soviet Union. Creativity, inventiveness and all the stuff which we accomplished to global recognition just a brief century after our founding. And across a civil war. China's on the same fast track, without the requirement to look like something entirely new.

The drama of this whole affair now is whether the global economy will just melt down in such a way that merest anarchy is more decisively loosed upon the world.

For me, our constitution has been so debased and twisted and abused that anarchistic rebuilding from bottom up seems preferable indeed to submitting our state the way that it is conducted in my name now. The good news is that upon the instant that we became the actual evil empire, we began our descent. The bad news is that our tentacles extend across the globe.

Cultures are familiar everywhere. Populist cheering jeering and occult angry masses invent themselves all over the globe at the same time. Each of our three counterbalanced branches of government has almost utterly lost the public trust. Or we should say that they've systematically squandered our trust.

Our constitution has been abused in almost precisely the same manner as the Bible has. No, it is utterly precise, since it's the very same process.

This is all the kind of thing which makes a swabbie glad not to have ever had an actual life.

And here's the kicker: I'm a doer, not a thinker. I like to tinker and fix things, which is also evident in my writing. Nothing's ever quite finished, though I know when enough is enough. But I remain ready for just a while longer. I'm ready to join the crowds of us when we've had enough of privatized public property. When we've endured as much as we can of the criminal enterprise of Finance, Insurance, and Real-Estate. We're on FIRE in every dimension, and our climate-change-ignoring government is more addicted to SUVs and monster trucks than even we are; as a dodge from what they know they should be doing.

So in my conclusion, I'd say that private property has already been moved in the direction of public ownership. Taxes are rent as they should be, and you too shall be expropriated of your air and mineral rights. You shall not be allowed to despoil my air and water. All you fucking rent-seekers shall be displaced by we the people; pitchforks against your blackhawks. Because the earth demands that of us, and Earth is on our side. 

But wait, there's more! The Supreme Court has already started to dispossess us of our very bodies. Privacy, what?? Due process. Equal protection. No, the state, which now stands in for God, must have our unborn children, though it cares nothing for those already here. It must have our poor to fight its wars, there being no other employment on offer. And it nearly privatized our very genes. How selfish would it be to keep our assets to ourselves. 

This serpent is eating its tail. Built on private property rights and individualism, and recently transmuted from industrial capitalism to an unholy finance capitalism, our oligarchs intend to make slaves of all of us, in the name of their rentier growth. And all we know how to do is to cry "free speech," which makes us the ready pawns of the pawns of the oligarchs who we elect to office.

And now, naturally enough, perhaps given the example of Elon Musk, though they never say so, these strangely non-individualistic brothers want to open a new market on individual futures. Of course they grew up in Russia. As in China, when thought is repressed you learn to think some crazy thoughts and call it freedom. The headline suggests that they want to give those without social capital a chance. Instead of indebting them, which seems to burden futures, one could earn investment on and toward ones future. Is it me, or does that just sound like a new high-tech reversion to slavery? Sort of in the way that Airbnb has helped to push up the cost of real-estate, by realizing the unused value of surplus housing. 

Right, and I've got a deed in space to sell you. Here's how it works. You have no value here on earth, but if you accept Elon as your one and only master, the market will give you value in outer space. On Mars, say. Sure, if you earn your investors' money back, you may return upon maturity. If you're still alive. 

As if poor black folk can demonstrate the value on the futures market that white techno-kiddies can. Black folk already have imprinted what it feels like to be put up on the auction block and reduced to the animal value which all that humans truly have in common. All expenses paid to good employment on Mars. All you have to do is what you're told.

We must enclose that commons too! Space, the final frontier! Right. 

Thursday, June 23, 2022

Haphazard Review of The Currency of Politics, by Stefan Eich

The Currency of Politics: The Political Theory of Money from Aristotle to KeynesThe Currency of Politics: The Political Theory of Money from Aristotle to Keynes by Stefan Eich
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

After reading both of Adam Tooze's most recent books, and now this book which was recommended by Tooze by way of his periodic "Chartbook" posts, I am fully convinced of the importance of exposing the fraud that money and finance are apolitical. Money is not a neutral medium of exchange, and the fiction that it is makes up a big chunk of what is killing us.

Indeed, it may well be that our fumbling understanding of the nature of money comes closer to explaining the rise of neo-fascist so-called "populism" than all the myriad other explanations, convincing though those explanations may remain.

It's the right [Republican, in America] which mostly seems to need the enlightenment provided by this book. And yet some among them were the only ones who cautioned us not to refund the crooked banks. They caution us about social media, while the Dems seem to think all tech is good tech.

The persistent hoi polloi for Trump must feel justified in their anger, despite the inexcusable nature of their behaviors. They have been dispossessed of something, as have we all. Their vague sense that the thief is contained somehow within the cloud of the privileged elite, which most certainly includes the perennial political players, feels justified. But this book shows that historically, this is the process that has always allowed autocrats to insert themselves into more legitimate politics.

And for sure, the mainstream media represents the interests of that same elite. Many of us even suppose that it is the elites who keep the system going. And many of us aren't wrong. The question is who they keep it going for. We should all demand clarity about that; it won't be coming from the mainstream media. It sure won't be coming from Fox News. You have to do the work of finding out. You have to read something more than socially mediated posts and the infotainment which still defines broadcast news.

For instance, read this book! Let's all stop hitting the anger buttons all the time, left and right. Let's turn our anger into positive action.

There are still tiers, if not classes, within this elite. At the top are the hyperwealthy, which include "vectorialist" (McKenzie Wark) media owners. Below that are the stars, the anchors; the well-coifed talking heads and CGI-corrected beauties. And then there are the academics, channeled by media reporters, who all still appreciate the finer things of life.

Never mind that those who occupy the coarser side of life might be as rich, have even better cleavage, and most certainly include plenty among the hyperwealthy. The elites on the right are simply better at pandering to motorized outdoorspeople with guns. Trouble for me is that I still like those people most of the time. I'm sick of stupid generalizations.

There are true believers in meritocracy on either side. Merit wants a neutral measure. One thing which binds all sides together is a strange notion that wealth is an indicator of merit. That notion is only newly strange, and its identification as such owes a massive debt to Eich and his mentor Tooze.

We, the hoi polloi are now almost precisely divided between urban and rural [mentalities] when it comes to political taking sides. And that in turn sometimes seems increasingly about race. To categorize people based on race is, of course, precisely as misguided as is the supposition that money is neutral. This idiocy is now measurable precisely by wealth gaps.

The political neutrality of money reminds me of other false measures which are thought to be neutral, like IQ or I don't know, let's say beauty again. These things are all related to cultural and social norms, and reflect collective preferences. By reading these books, one learns that money is as normative as is language or law. Part nature and mostly culture.

One learns that credit markings come before money, just as they come before writing. One learns that coinage was meant to help with justice. That currency is basic to politics. One makes a lot of puns to oneself while reading. (Thank the author for not making them for you)

Anyhow, it's the economic contortions and distortions combined with political failure to understand how money works that have historically led up to various political crises, especially during the twentieth century with its two great global world-war convulsions.

And here we are now, once again politically paralyzed in the face of unprecedented stressors and global convulsing. As the arguments have it in these books, part of our paralysis descends from our failure to agree about what money really is. We remain, for the moment, in a nuclear stalemate, on an angry planet. Myriad sorts of media tell us all about it without helping us to know what to do.

Like a lot of people, I'm sure, I tend to identify the idiocies of bitcoin and the injustices of startup culture with a kind of naive libertarian ideology, which would include libertarian economics. I think it would be correct to put the mistaken notion of neutral money squarely on the backs of these libertarians. Their artificial gold lacks only the incorruptible beauty of the real stuff. We need the state involved now more than ever.

But now I read a different libertarian tract by a different Stephan with a different spelling -Stephan Kinsella - Against Intellectual Property which calls intellectual property theft just like Abbie Hoffman once did. And I realize that these new age libertarian startup code kiddies can't be libertarians, since they all think they're so smart and deserve their wealth on the basis of intellectual property law. Once they hire a grown-up to run their companies, once they go "public". But this Kinsella dude insists that you can't own your own labor, and we already agree that you can't patent or copyright an idea; only its material manifestation. Open the source, baby, open source.

We have the wrong idea about money. Money is a creation of politics, and it's therefore about power. Duh. Nobody argues that it's not a measure of power. But the power of money is not justified. It has to be justified politically, and that would mean that the state as owned by we the people has to do more than just to regulate the banks to which we delegate the power to create money by means of credit. We have to do more than to regulate the market.

Nobody argues against a market economy anymore. But we need to argue against capitalism all the time, and especially against the vectorialism which has supplanted it, which means that we have to tax and limit private wealth so that it remains in proportion to public need. In part, this seems to mean that we have to once again limit bank lending to the use of money that they, the banks, already have and hold. Savings and loan and collateral and so-forth. And give the citizenry accounts in the Fed, to be administered by the post office.

For instance. I'm summing up a conjecture made toward the end of the book.

We almost sort-of did that during the pandemic and the crash which came before it. We created money from nothing to rescue the profligate banks and to resupply the global denomination in dollars during the crash. And we did it all over again during the pandemic, having greased the wheels the first time.

What we failed to do is to change the rules so that the wealthy didn't profit from disaster, as they typically or even always seem to do. Will it take another world war? Some people seem to think that WWIII has already started.

Shouldn't we have an economic revolution instead? Eat the rich! They're always on their own side, no matter the politics or how they vote. We the people should stop yelling at each other and making each other miserable by way of unaccountable social media. We should just plain rise up. The Chinese can't do that anymore, even though it's in their national anthem. But we still can.

We need to channel all that Trumper energy in a more positive direction, right? This book suggests a way to start.

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Friday, June 17, 2022

An Epistemology of Emotion

  1. the theory of knowledge, especially with regard to its methods, validity, and scope. Epistemology is the investigation of what distinguishes justified belief from opinion.
So, of course there is no such thing as an "epistemology of emotion." One piece of settled understanding - justified belief - is that emotion is the hallmark of subjectivity and therefore the root of opinion. Feelings are directly felt by the mind, and the mind is that which is most subjective about us. 

But I'd say that any theory of mind is fluid, and that it's conjectural at best that mind can exist in a subjective state. I suppose that we know what we know because it can be affirmed by others. Scientific knowledge is of the sort that must be agreed to by any non-perverse interlocutor. That's what science means. I suppose that "epistemology of science" is redundant. 

Objective proof means shared and repeatable procedural validation. Objective proof is justified belief, but it started as belief. Belief motivates a seeking for truth, which justifies the belief. 

I am obviously no academic, nor even an amateur philosopher. I would only like to state the obvious. In this case, I'd say it's obvious that one way to define emotion is that it is the felt knowledge of a match between subjective and objective understanding. Which is to say that conscious mind - all the way "down" to ants - is about matching the generalized abstractions made from prior observation with the current conjectural observations about what is going on in front of you. The match is felt emotionally. Emotion is the match.

Emotion is how we survive as living creatures. We justify our beliefs when they enable us to survive. Emotion is quicker than cognition. We re-cognize a lion or a friend based on prior experience. The more cognitive experience you have, the more quickly you might re-cognize. Cloned ants crossing (their own) paths feel which way to go. An ant hive is a mind of sorts. Is there an inside to it?

Nearly all of us fall prey to the fiction that there is something "in" the mind. We think of memories and narratives and words and sometimes we think that our mind "holds" a replica of the world all about us. It's funny that we don't think that about computers. They only hold numbers composed of zeros and ones and they programmatically deploy them according to some set of ordered operations to create simulacra and words that humans might re-cognize. They cannot be minds.

I agree with Ricardo Manzotti that what we call our mind is composed of perceptions and delayed perceptions (perhaps endlessly looping present perceptions) and that there is nothing inside the mind which is a replica of those perceptions, which always exist in a spread condition without the mind. 

In just the way that I remember many specifics about JFK's assassination, some perceptions are singular and some are combined to form idealizations or generalizations about some collection of perceptions. The particulars are largely fogettable, once the ideal is formed. But our mind is never separable from the "objective" (shared) reality in which it is embedded. Of which it is a part. 

Emotion energizes life. It predicts what will happen if and when we do or don't act. There is no will without emotion, including the will to know. Knowledge of any sort can't exist without emotion, and of course I would go so far as to say that there is no reality without emotion. Meaning that there is no life. There is no knower. 

But there is always a knower, since not everything moves by force. Actual objective things move toward or away without the exchange of force-mediating particles on the basis of inertia, which also composes cosmic mind. The difference between force-mediated motion and non-force mediated emotion is (also) relative.

Emotion is simultaneous. What is felt is a desire to move. God is love. Godless reality is entropic and disappears quickly. A particle at light speed is inertial, or stationary, to the particle having mass. Emotion is always precognition. 

So there you have it; an epistemology of emotion. Who knew??