Wednesday, April 15, 2020

U.S.A., Inc.

Remember when it was Japan, Inc.? I do.

I was delivering keg beer in the most kegged up region of the country, South of Buffalo. I started each day in Lackawanna. I was between jobs (yeah, right - I was just plain otherwise unemployed, in a long gap between university and my first teaching job) and my first stops were in bars already crowded by 7AM. Those folks were used to drinking after their shifts, and now they were holding a daily and interminable Irish wake. They were mourning lost jobs, after Bethlehem Steel closed their massive plant along the shores of Lake Erie. The drinkers then were my age now. They didn't seem unhappy. A nice retirement.

Some wag, well known to all the bar denizens, had climbed aloft the tallest blast furnace at Bethlehem Steel, and painted the Japanese flag there. He was a local hero. China wasn't on the map yet.

Back in university later on, I learned that Japan had an unfair advantage, with their government so intimately involved with business. In our country, it was only legitimate for the government to be involved in the military-industrial complex. We academics were about to mourn the loss of basic research funding which that complex had been so generously providing during the lucrative "cold" war.

Lately, we learn that China has adopted Shimomuran-Wernerian macroeconomics from their blood enemy, Japan. We had gotten started down the dangerous road of Reaganomics.

Today - mid-April 2020 - I watched the full Trump presser from yesterday, and to my (somewhat pleasant) surprise, it wasn't nearly so bad as the press had made it out to be. There was a near coherence to it; I mean apart from Trump's predictable and detestable and oughta-be-treasonous self-obsession. He was declaring the re-ascent of the version of capitalism which had been thriving before the plague.

The interminable part of his speech was taken up with a list of all his "buddies," so called by him, in so many words. All of the stock-market listed Big and Global corporations which have been the backbone of America's economic (and military, of course) might.

I confess that I am reluctant to pull my truly paltry funds from the minuscule 403-b retirement account that I've barely managed to scrape together. I'm talking less than three years of my highest salary, which was well short of $75K. I confess that I feel it my patriotic duty to help avoid a catastrophic run on the stock market, so I'm staying put.

Mostly, I don't even really believe that our current system of finance capitalism will survive this virus, and so I assume that we'll all be in the same boat together. I'm not about to rush the lifeboats together with those still dressed in their tuxedos.


So let's say that the MSM - the press - really does have it in for Trump. Let's say they still try, and somewhat shrilly, to awaken the country to the danger he represents. I'm OK with that, though I can see why the true believers on the other side might not be.

Trump acts as though there is no trouble other from the virus, and he would have us believe that it's the captains of capitalism who are saving us. That part is sheerest fantasy, as anyone who pays as much attention as the media does would be aware.

But, for the sake of the country, I am really hoping that Trump is right, and that Big Global Capital will save the day. And then I hope that the bums will get thrown out, and we can restart the job of fixing the social contract.

I am NOT OK with leaving aside the dispossessed. I know too many wealthy people to have any sense that they are public spirited. They consider their winnings to be deserved rather than granted by lady luck, as far as I can tell. Where does that leave all the "essential workers" that we cheer for now. Do they deserve their places too?

I know that I am among the supremely lucky. I also know that I've worked hard all my life. Where does that place me on the accountability roster? Hardly trying? Disengaged? Longing for certain direction?

Trump had the raw audacity to list the labor unions among his writ-large heros. There's hope in that. It would be nice if gig workers and grocery workers and postal workers could all be re-unionized to bring back the sorts of jobs which made Lackawanna strong, once upon a time. Strong and corrupt, I'm sure. There's plenty of fixing to do, all around. I once knew this union capo who disappeared into witness protection . . .

So, how do we find our middle ground again? I know the truth of Christianity with just as much certainty as I know that the religious doctrine has been distorted and corrupted by venal men. I know the power of capitalism with as much certainty as I know the value of responsible regulation.

If we fail to come together as a planet as a result of the trauma of this coronavirus - economic and political as well as healthwise - then our future here feels doomed.

U.S.A., Inc. runs with the structure of our feudal past. We have nobility now without the humanistic noblesse oblige the nobility once did have. We have serfs again, without even the means for subsistence.

Most painfully to me, our global research priorities seem all to have shifted away from basic research and into the realm of business. This is just when we require an alignment of minds capable of true leadership and of scientifically-based clear thinking, more than ever. Politics no longer renders up the best of us, and that is the fault of we the people, after all.

The virus may help us to mend fences person to person. It will do so to the extent that we come together in our local communities. It will do so to the extent that we come together in our cities and in our states. It will do so to the extent that we see through this current administration and vote for sanity. It will do so to the extent that we repopulate our public agencies with career-grade dedicated public servants, and shut all the revolving doors to riches therefrom.

None of this need be radical. But I think the Republicans need to grow a soul. They can't keep fighting for power. They have to start doing something with that power for the good of the people.

Where there is love between us, there I will be, said Jesus. I am informed by a fellow atheist, Slavoj Žižek. Atheist here means simply rejection of any human spin on God. Rejection therefore of holy text interpreted by priests and unholy ministers. Rejection of pure fantasy.

I reject also that science can ever find and then pave the Way to Truth. That's not its mission. Science can deal only with objective reality, which means with reality that can be measured. Love is subjective and beyond the realm of science. To deny that is to make a religion of science, as many of our best philosophers have pointed out.

We still lack any valid definition for the subject in science. We still wonder what consciousness is. We pretty much assume that emotions are a fairly unimportant and unimpressive sort of bonus to consciousness, located in what we so lovingly call our 'reptile brain.'

And yet our emotions determine which pre-conscious decisions to take credit for and make conscious. Our emotions guide our voting and investment decisions. Our emotions can get in the way of trusting one another. Our emotions can bring us together.

Of course, I would like to avoid contracting the novel coronavirus. but not for my own sake. I have lived a full life, if not such a rich one. I care for my two daughters, as they do for me, along with whole hosts of others. As a man of limited intelligence and leadership ability, there are limits to what I can do. So, I mostly sit tight and write. Badly, but earnestly.

I often remember when I learned of the moment of Einstein, which happened just a century ago, give or take a few years. He effected a shift in perspective - called relativity, and later to include quantum mechanics - which had global impact within a few short decades.

We made the mistake to preserve his brain, as though there were something different about it. He was the first public genius, and we made the mistake to nearly worship him, the way we would later nearly worship Elvis, say, or the Beatles. Those with outlandish hair, which now includes so many of our demented world leaders, just as it included Einstein.

I have been waiting patiently for someone else to make clear what was made clear to me so many years ago, just before I started delivering beer. I have preserved the transcript of what happened to me here on this very blog. I can't seem to find any way to say more clearly what I discovered then, in the very course of the writing. The chapters are arranged now in reverse order, last to first. The writing embarrasses me still, and it did provoke some anger in others.

In patience and in confidence, I have been reading as much as I can during the nearly forty years from the time I felt my little eureka. One would think that I could have grown better informed and more intelligent. I wish I had a scholar's mind, which could catalog and remember each reference, but I don't. I never could join any academic discipline which would have me as a member, though I did try.

At least I am now a better reader of modern Chinese, even while my classical and handwritten Chinese has slipped. I am better informed politically. But I haven't changed my mind so much, and now, of course, my mind is in decline. I repeat myself. I find, when I bother to look, that I'm repeating all my stories. I seem to have nothing more to say.

In brief, I made an important shift in my own perspective during the course of writing back in 1983, holed up in a tiny sailboat during the winter. Heated by peacoal. Chilblains on my feet. Likely out of my mind in some sense, though my actual writing kept those who would have had me committed - who were worried about me - from taking that action. I was acting erratic. I had lost all sense of time of day. I must have been figuratively waving my hands about.

Mine is a truly simple shift, and yet one that it has proven very difficult for anyone else to adopt, so far as I can see. I've been trying pretty hard. I've been looking pretty hard. I've been talking with as many as were willing, though they can only listen to the point where I start losing them. Sure, sure, you might be right, but I can't and I won't believe it. I must wait for the conventional wisdom to shift.

I wrack my brains for experimental results that could be delivered by this completion of physical relativity and quantum theory. The trouble is that the experimental results can come only in and from belief, which just turns the scientific method on its head.

The "theory" is simple. I did remove, in my thinking and in my writing, the bounds of consciousness. I've since found plenty of evidence for this as a fact, in the research of Daniel Dennet, Mark Solms, as well as in Chinese poetics. We simply can't be conscious as individuals without partaking of shared consciousness as humans. That part is hardly controversial. Language - and especially the tool of written  language - has empowered our ascent as apex predator on the planet.

But I am talking (writing!) cosmic consciousness. Conceptually, mind pervades the cosmos, and certainly predates humanity. We partake in cosmic consciousness by random processes. We may access these by means of such tools as the I Ching, if we like. We may pray, if we do that properly. Mostly, we participate in evolution, and its fundamentally random processes.

A move that should have been against scientific law was made among Western scientists when they assigned the absence of any possible meaning to random. Random can be made meaningful only by statistical methods, which form the core now for causality down to the tiniest inferentially measurable phenomena. There is ultimately no distinction between such measures and literary metaphor. It is as though we see through our statistically generated constructs the way that we see through a microscope.

What if we are blinded by our certainty instead?

If mind is cosmic, then so is emotion. Way back when, in 1983 - practically the dark ages when the only portable keyboard that could be had used heat-sensitive paper from a fax machine, and laptop computers were barely real - I realized that emotion was also cosmic, and everything changed for me. Well, not enough to prevent a mostly normal life, during much of which I pushed my personal craziness to the very back of my mind. I was too busy.

Along with everyone else, I'm not too busy now. I'm not an essential worker in any way shape or form.

Even while the communication which makes emotion possible obeys physical limits at the speed of light, emotion is always simultaneously felt. It requires an object, just like science does. And the object must reciprocate, according to laws so very similar to those obsolete laws of Newton. Newton was a religious mystic, who was so certain that only humans could feel that he would vivisect dogs. And we blame the Chinese for eating them?

Objects in the cosmos can move, I surmised, without physical forces acting between them. I called that e-motion. A kind of inertia, where objects could be moving toward or away without any force between them. I think that e-thingies were already abroad in the language by then, descended from electrons and electricity. I-thingies not so much, yet.

I was positing definitional changes. Gravitational forces exist at the limits of scientific detection. Of course gravity is detectable, and we should all know that we've just recently detected gravitational waves.

It's the gravitational messenger particle - the boson called the graviton - which has proven so elusive (my vocabulary may be just off, and I may be speaking metaphorically without even knowing it). By this point "particle" can only be metaphor. It is a statistical construct, whose any form requires detection. The subject is implicated, unless you, as a scientist or as a proponent of the scientific method, are still holding out for absolute objectivity.

I have to confess that I too am holding out for graviton detection. I once drove to Colorado and back with a Ph.D. physics candidate (since acquired) to attend a Quantum Electrodynamics conference in Boulder (where I encountered the wonders of chaos theory for the first meaningful time) and we couldn't make any meaningful connection, my friend and I, on what might be elusive about the graviton.

I was talking space-time curvature, and the impossibility to detect when the detector was implicated. He was talking very large annihilations of mass very far away which could render gravitons detectable. He was religious. I wasn't. No contact. I was so frustrated I drove the entire way back since it was my car dammit. I went into a sleep coma some few miles from home. I don't think the two of us communicated after that.

We don't yet have any real understanding about what life is, in its essence. We certainly don't know how it might have arisen out of nothing by random forces alone. We do seem to know that viruses are not quite alive, though they depend on living things to reproduce. They ride on human life the same way that capitalism does, according to my leftie friends.

We do know a fair amount about evolution as the mechanism for life's advances, even while we resist any notion that there is purpose or even direction to the results of that mechanism. Teleological explanations do not make science. We suppose that they make religion. Well, actually, man makes both and any and all, and we are radically limited in and by our language.

So if mind is cosmic and emotion is cosmic and if these are not so much forces as conceptual apprehensions, then all life from all time might be present in what and who we are at every moment and for all time. If evolution has a direction, it is composed of love. Consider the alternative.

The nearest body which might support life is as far from us at the physical limits of communion as our personal emotions can reach through our personal histories. If there are others in our cosmos we won't know them in time. We might feel them, and we might feel their love. Or we might be blinded by our very human hubris. This is the thing that always causes the gods to repudiate us.

The nice thing about my shift in perspective is that it doesn't harm the laws of science, any more than Einstein's shift harmed the known workings of the Newtonian laws of physics. Einstein's shift only limited the scope for the applicability of those laws. I would do the same for the scientific method overall. I can see no harm in that. I can see a lot of potential good.

But, so far, that's just me. I think it's an opening of my eyes rather than some kind of willful blindness as might be engendered by some unexamined belief. I wish that I could find some company. But this is the basis of my unbounded hope, and that's really all that it is.

I know that I am not alone.

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