Monday, March 16, 2020

Money is Not a Novel Virus

Most of us, and some of the most intelligent among us, share the flaw of mistaking the individual for the collective; the local cause for the environmental factor. We think in terms of what I should do to protect myself. It's hard to think about how we should behave for the whole.

This is true with cancer where the trouble with identifying cigarettes as a cause is that the environmental factors which affect everyone equally are downplayed. China smokes and has lousy air both. Shame on China, or shame on us? Or is it native America's revenge?

So we all know that the density and mobility of humanity on the planet provide the perfect medium for the thriving of COVID 19, and we are reasonably trying to put a pause on the speed and direction of global development; our historical vector.

But these fears and the reality of this current infestation are not exactly novel. Popular history in literature and cinema is full of examples, as is actual history. When I was much younger and in proximity to AIDS researchers on the forefront, there was doubt that there was any specific virus-like agent. It was suddenly reassuring when we found one.

Last night, I was flipping back and forth between the Bernie/Joe debate and the rerun of the President's now daily presser. It was a very frustrating exercise.

While Trump is interjecting how great the companies are that he has been strong-arming into joining his cause - the bigger they were, the more likely he would be to put in a good word - Bernie is talking about the evil fossil fuel industry. Joe, meanwhile, is trying to stay on the side of the powers that be; the system that once did seem to work.

I felt bad for Joe getting beaten up for his votes back when compromise was actually a way forward. I felt worse for how strident Bernie was made to seem for continuing to harp on the need for systemic change. But Bernie is right, and thank God he's succeeded to push Biden to the Left.

I'm not sure that Bernie is doing enough explaining, however. Perhaps he thinks we all might agree about which corporations are evil. What about the workers in those industries? What about the consumers of their products? The cost of solutions is being deployed like weaponry. Toting them up is meaningless if the system actually does change.

The externalities of doing nothing have to be brought into the equation, fer chrissakes! Toting costs for the system as it now is becomes meaningless in a transformed economy.

The one thing we should certainly agree on instantly is the need for an actual national healthcare system. We can't let money continue to talk on that one.

If we, who are addicted to automobiles - still, in this late age - demonize the fossil fuel industry as though they were somehow evil, we too are mistaking the individual (company, CEO, politician) for the collective. The automobile is baked into our economy. It is baked in to our economy that each will fight to be on top. Do we expect the CEO's of our largest corporations to be interested in the collective good? That would be insanity.

Bill de Blasio now calls for nationalizing certain industries, as we are in a state of war. Trump seems pretty sure that unleashing Daddy Warbucks will do the trick.

Nobody would suggest - not even or especially not China - that the market doesn't work. Up to a certain scale. Beyond that scale, we need a working government. Even though Rumsfeld and Cheney tried it, does anyone really think we should replace our military with a private army? We should long since have moved our military preparedness in the direction of preparedness for pandemic.

It does seem clear that the human species as a collective has yet to become fully conscious. We now know, globally, that something approaching half of humanity will become docile - comforted - when hearing the voice of authority sounding certain of itself. For that half of humanity, it would seem that the most important qualification for leadership is pathological narcissism; a Trumpean certainty that one belongs on top and that nobody need fret about changing anything. Go backward, even, to a past that never existed.

It has taken Trump this long to surround himself with simpering sycophants, but now that he has he can finally depart the stage and allow them to speak for him, all credit fawning his way.

Some short time ago, Julian Jaynes thought that he had discovered an historical basis for understanding how human consciousness arose. He detailed that discovery in a briefly popular book called The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind.

The idea was that in pre-conscious society - perhaps tribal society while it remained geographically stable - the collective will was heard by individuals in the form of voices. Jaynes located these voices in the right hemisphere of our brains. They might be related to what Freud called the superego, and the sensation might have been like the hallucinated voices of a schizophrenic.

The tribal chief was the chief imitator or channeller of that voice. Democracy was unthinkable, quite literally.

Certain science fiction writers, most notably, perhaps, Neil Stephenson, have retained an understanding of how radio and then television may re-cameralize our minds. Marshall McLuhan was also onto something. But apart from Richard Dawkins, in The God Delusion there is almost no mainstream scientific voice which gives Jayne's theory much credence. And Richard Dawkins was only giving a nod to the obscure possibility that Jaynes has not been proven entirely wrong. Yet.

Well, what if collective humanity is also reforming itself into a bicameral mass? We won't even need to confuse the terms right and left in that case. The Right apparently cleaves to God and country, and the capitalist economy. The Left to cognition.

But it would be a mistake to allow - or especially to provoke - warfare between the sides. Consciousness arose historically, if Jaynes is even partly right (sinister refers to handedness, the opposite to brain hemispherical designations), by the connecting of the two sides.

When environmental changes forced stable tribes to move and to encounter other tribes, the voices became less useful. The cortex had to be united, to reason-out survival tactics. The voices had become undependable. Individual consciousness was the successful resolution.

I am reasonably literate in Chinese. Some long time ago, I wrote an essay for inclusion in materials shared for a conference on teaching of Chinese in high schools. Such programs were innovative at the time.

I hadn't read Jaynes yet, but I wrote my essay using the metaphor of stereoscopic vision, which provides depth to our vision. At least one of the conference organizers took note. I myself had taken note of how little crossover there has been historically between the grand literary traditions of the greater sphere (hemisphere?) of Chinese writing and the West. What crossover there had been was largely caricatured and mistaken.

There is some truth to how the Chinese literary tradition created a different mind-set from ours. The larger truth is that the advent of agriculture and then writing began the geometric acceleration of humanity's seeming domination of the planet. The seeming part is that - at least sub-consciously - we seem to have hit the explosive part of the asymptotic rise.

Perhaps, as a species now, we resist full consciousness. We still think that it might be our place to turn the evolutionary processes into a triumph of cognition. If so, we will have to cure ourselves of the money virus. At the level of government now, money has destroyed all hope for democracy all over again.

But isn't democracy obsolete anyhow? Only if you are a believer in the necessity for the willful evolution of humanity on the planet. Only if you are a believer that it is rational cognition which is destined to be the capstone of billions (is it trillions?) of years of evolution.

As Mark Solms, among others, has made clear, rational cognition - the province of computing technologies - is not the seat for consciousness. Consciousness is destroyed when the affective centers of the brain are destroyed. These are toward the brain stem, the brain's most primitive structure, whose roots in DNA are shared most broadly and most primitively. These reticular structures are not bicameral.

Human consciousness partakes of and extends to all consciousness on the planet, of course, which is demonstrably not limited to humanity alone. Our skin is not likely the boundary for our mind. Consider language.

Jesus Christ lived at or near a crossroads in Jaynes' timeline. Ditto the living Buddha, Lao Tzu, Confucius and never forget Homer. By Jaynes reading, Homer's tales were still being dictated by the voice of God within. He provides the literary evidence.

We are now at a different crossroads. Believers in God know His presence. Believers in Gaia know their presence. Followers of the Dao know that random is not meaningless.

Our collective cognition has been hijacked by money. We can no longer reason. Language fails us. The earth shrugs.

Humanity is not destined to dominate. Such domination will clearly spell our end. The forces of evolution are "guided" by happenstance. If God is a delusion, Richard Dawkins, I would like to know what kind of a delusion mankind as a whole suffers to think that the powers that be will somehow engineer us out of this or the next crisis. The frog in the heating water is all too accurate an analogy for how we deal with existential threats.

Neither global warming nor COVID 19 are a hoax, people. The president is. Fox news is. Our healthcare industrial complex is. Now, for the moment, the entire Republican party seems to be.

There is no winning if we take sides. It is not humanity versus COVID 19. Nature, ultimately, prevails. We are simply not equal to billions of years of evolution.

Let us pray for a soul. Let us pray for soul. Let us pray for something like the tears from that tobacco company executive on the stand back in the day, when the attorney redirected the trouble to the executive's own family. Let us dissolve our differences, Left and Right. It is not our nation at stake. It is planetary survival. And I don't mean human survival. As far as I can tell, humanity - in the good sense of that term - has yet to appear on the planet in the form of a proper social contract.

For lack of a better metaphor, humanity is not channeling God's love. I know this. I consulted the I Ching. The hoax is to think that we actually know very much at all. But we do know enough to do better, and to tell the difference between huckster religion and something better; between huckster science for profit and something better.

Anger gets us nowhere.

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