Tuesday, November 25, 2008

PEERING INTO THE FUTURE

from Murph

Mankind has always tried to figure out what was going to happen next. We have an abundance of folk tales that talk about the success or failure of individuals making the claim they could accurately predict the future. We also have the non folk tales concerning this; Nostradamus, and a whole variety of channelers and those with some variation of the crystal ball. We have the very modern technological future prediction people also, in the form of statistical analysis and data collection like the time monks. My observations are that while some of the predictions appear to be true, most are not, and a very high percentage of the ones that turn out accurate are put into terminology that could fit a lot of events. Then we have the very few predictions that are specific and become a reality. There is always the question in my mind whether these predictions are the result of lucky guesses, or, from some form of knowledge most of us don’t seem to have, or, maybe they are just a whole lot smarter than the average bear, connecting the dots and coming to a conclusion that has only one outcome.

I have often commented that mankind throughout history has a very poor record of predicting the future; we seem to be thwarted in this endeavor by the caprice of the universe. There are far more surprises in store than accurately predicted outcomes.

John Michael Greer recently made an interesting comment on his site that has bearing on this. “Planning for the future becomes risky when, rather than starting from present realities and trying to figure out what can be done, it starts from a vision of a desirable future and tries to figure out how to get there”. Neither of these approaches has much to do with the actual predicting of a future event and then planning a response to it. However, upon examination of much of the written work around the future, I think that his statement has a lot of bearing on how we conduct ourselves in the present. Most of the doom and gloom stuff available to scare the pants off of us is an attempt to peer into the future. I talk to very few people that are enthusiastic about the current events shaping up around us, and view the future with some trepidation. Greer’s statement has more application than just attempting to side step the appearance of future events that are considered to be highly negative in nature.

My observations concerning most human activities seem to want to “start from a vision –and then figure out how to get there”. I think that all business models are of this kind. The problem with this model is unforeseen consequences. Despite all the planning and anticipation of variations of consequences of actions, there are always surprises. Then you are reduced to fighting fires of an immediate nature and are unable to proceed to the planned future goal. This I see is what has happened in our present situation, from the auto industries to the financial woes consuming the world. I suspect this is the result of not peering far enough into the future, but rather a very short sighted viewing, focused on the quarterly report rather than years into the future.

If we attempt to plan for the future by “starting from present realities and –figuring out what can be done”, we run into the problem of perceptions of just what the present realities really are. If your perceptions are not an accurate reflection of reality, you are going to make bad decision of what can be done. And boy, do the perceptions of the current ‘realities’ vary all over the place. The problem here is that only in hindsight can we with any reasonable accuracy say that we had the dots connected. An example is the resource depletion, particularly oil. If your perception is that we have another 100 yrs of plentiful oil, you are not likely to support any austerity and life style changes in its use advocated by those that perceive that we have reached Hubbert’s peak. Even those that advocate Hubbert’s peak admit that we can only see it in hind site because we do not have truly accurate information about the subject, that is, there is great question concerning the accuracy of the data on reserves and quantities of the stuff in the ground, and we also have the Russians declaring that there is a never ending supply because oil is not dependent on geological time.

I am currently going through Greer’s book, “The Long Descent” in which he has a substantial section he calls, ”The Stories We Tell Ourselves”. While the main thrust of this section is concerning modern civilizations penchant for looking at growth as good, it has much broader implications. We are constantly telling ourselves stories about who we are which of course influences what we decide to do. When we start examining these stories, we find that there is a large variance between different group’s stories. The stories about who we are from the Christian fundamentalists differs from the humanists stories, which differ from the scientific communities which differ from the political stories, right down to the individual perceptions and the stories that come out of that. If we ever had consensus about the stories, we sure seem to not have a consensus anymore, except perhaps on a very broad and generalized perception. As a culture, we simply cannot agree on a story. It then appears to me that we are not going to be able to agree on what to do as a culture. Thus we are experiencing a wide variety of solutions to problems and disagreeing on those solutions, often violently. We can’t even agree or obtain a consensus on the nature or significance of the problems. We do seem to have a fairly high amount of the population that agrees that we have an economic problem, but, we disagree on the nature of the problem, what caused it, and the solutions. Thus, “starting from present realities and trying to figure out what can be done” is nearly impossible.

No matter how honest, benign and dedicated to dealing with “the present realities” the political leadership is committed to, can a consensus ever be formed on the plan of action? Is there any action that does not contain the elements of oppression of dissent? What would it take to have a unanimous decision for action or even a 90% or even a 70% agreement? This is why fear is such a useful tool for politicians. Enough fear and you can get a super majority to go along with whatever you want. Will this new administration find it necessary to do what Bush and crew have done; use fear to get a direction for an agenda? Will the new administration have anywhere near an accurate appraisal of “the present realities” on which to base proposals for actions? And, if they have an accurate appraisal of present realities, will they be able to convince a vast majority of its accuracy and the subsequent action? No matter what is decided, someone is going to get hurt by it, and if enough get hurt, there will be violent opposition. I suspect it is an impossible situation with no real and satisfactory solution.

As a personal experiment, sit down and catalogue the stories you are exposed to and the ones you hold dear and believe in. Then do a critique of them, a devils advocate sort of thing. Anything change? Have a few doubts about those you hold close? How do the stories you don’t believe contradict the ones you believe in? What holds a grain of truth as you see it and what appears as total fabrication? Are your perceptions skewed by the stories? I find most people latch onto a story and defend it come hell or high water, regardless of the other stories circulating in their heads. I think it is a good idea to periodically sit down and examine our most cherished beliefs and try to objectively examine if they appear to be consistent with reality. Changing a stance on anything is not a sin. What is questionable is a lack of integrity, honesty and a good hard reality check.

How many people have you come across that will voluntarily give up much of what they have to better the situation of a larger group? On a population level, it is a very small minority, very idealistic and committed. I do see this happening in very small groups, like religious orders, but the general attitude of the general population have harsh restrictions on what they are willing to give up for the perceived common good. I have yet to hear about a billionaire impoverishing themselves for the general good. Even in the upper middle class, charitable donations have fallen off drastically in order to preserve a life style. And this is done at the recognition that the U.S. has one of the higher impoverishment populations of the industrial world. This is a readily observable problem, and yet there is no solid agreement on the causation or solution.

I think that the problems that we are experiencing presently have no viable solutions. We have allowed the present situation to develop over a long period of time and it sure appears to me that a whole different way of organizing how groups of people are going to live together has to be changed, that is, the crash of western civilization. But, then again, that is my perception of “the present realities”. I often agonize over whether my perceptions are of reality or just another story I am operating under.

I do think it is important for individuals to be aware of the stories they are buying into and realize that they may have absolutely no bearing or relationship to reality. This is a real problem for people living in complex societies. We simply cannot in a lifetime absorb and integrate all or even enough information to accurately assess reality. We may very well understand small pieces, but the big picture is always going to be cloudy. I think it is helpful and instructive to listen to those that claim an understanding of some piece, but still realizing it is a story that may or may not be true. I rather suspect that the future of the human race may very well rest on how well we determine the relationship of the stories to reality.

45 comments:

Dave said...

The fact that we cannot seem to arrive at a consensus about either the causes of our problems or their solutions suggests to me that there is no universal, centrally managed solution.

We are literally going to have to find our own solutions, individually and in small groups. After all, every person's and every community's needs are different. Only decentralized, specific solutions can satisfactorily answer those needs.

That's compatible with my long-term vision of a future comprised of semi-autarkic small communities, loosely interconnected by means of communications, roads and a small amount of trade. I don't know how far away such a vision lies, but it seems like the only one that will endure.

No centralized form of government has ever endured forever. I don't think such a form of government ever could.

Dave
http://daveeriqat.wordpress.com/

freeacre said...

I agree with you. It's almost impossible to know what is going on, far less what will be going on. Look at Obama, for instance. Depending on where you go on the internet, he's a Christian, a Muslim, a progressive, a corporate tool, the Hope of the World, the Anti-Christ, straight, gay, a citizen, a non-citizen...you name it. And, then, once you have him defined, does that determine what he will do in the future? No.
Even scientific information is contradictory. CERN project? Global warming? Peak Oil? Evolution? Electronic universe? Mechanical universe? Nature? Nurture? Carbon dating? String theory? You'd think we could just do the math and it would all become clear. But, it doesn't work that way.
I think we need to be able to come to terms with ambiguity and mystery. At least know that we don't know it all. Leave some part of our mind open for surprises.
That's why I like to turn to our campfire and listen to the conversation. We can puzzle things out together.

murph said...

Dave,

By definition, what you are talking about is small groups living in an organizational structure called anarchy. Been advocating that for a large part of my adult life. If indeed our access to cheap abundant forms of energy is going away, it is the only viable solution left, at least that is how it appears to me.

Dave said...

Anarchy? Exactly! I've long desired it and advocated it as well.

Dave
http://daveeriqat.wordpress.com/

RAS said...

Murph, I think one of the reasons we can't come up with solutions is that there aren't any. A solution, almost by definition, would enable us to either live our current way of life forever or enable us to make a painfree transition to a sustainable future. Ain't going to happen.

I think another Greer concept is useful to describe this. He says there is a difference between a problem and a predicament. A problem has a solution; a predicament just has a response. I think he is right that our current conundrum is a predicament.

As for the multitude of viewpoints and stories, I like it. I think diversity makes things interesting. My own personal motto is 'there is no one right way'.

murph said...

ras,

I agree with the distinction of predicament and problem. Our challenge is to be able to distinguish between the two. I don't think that is as easy as it sounds. You also have to talk about the criterion or standard used to determine the fix of a problem. A fix of the financial problem may indeed be mass starvation, but while that is a fix, is unacceptable to most people. Another example. A fix for a blown fuse in a car may be the use of tinfoil, but is not acceptable in the long run, your car very well may burn up.

Again, I think it is a matter of perceptions of the risk, and chance of allowable solution, that is, it's consistency with reality.

This is my criticism of Greer. Often he seems to use reductionism to the point of absurdity and pretend it is an absolute answer.

You bring up an interesting dichotomy. Indeed, different stories and viewpoints make life interesting, but when carried to extreme it appears we sacrifice culture, efficient decision making and sustainability. That said, I have no idea how you determine where to cut off the stories. It's sort of like the old cartoon and joke about OSHA determining how a western cowboy should outfit his horse and work gear by committee. Every person on the committee has a different story on how it should be done and the result was ridiculous. Or, in the FDA testing labs, hiring a person full time to test how long it takes ketchup to run out of the bottle. It appears to me that often times too many stories get in the way of getting anything meaningful done.

murph said...

Dave,

Hah!! Another anarchist in our midst. Welcome. lol

Jacques de Beaufort said...

well said Murph

reality is somewhat a problematic word.

I usually think of Melville in times like these:

All visible objects, man, are but as pasteboard masks. But in each event — in the living act, the undoubted deed — there, some unknown but still reasoning thing puts forth the mouldings of its features from behind the unreasoning mask. If man will strike, strike through the mask! How can the prisoner reach outside except by thrusting through the wall? To me, the white whale is that wall, shoved near to me. Sometimes I think there's naught beyond. But 'tis enough. He tasks me; he heaps me; I see in him outrageous strength, with an inscrutable malice sinewing it. That inscrutable thing is chiefly what I hate; and be the white whale agent, or be the white whale principal, I will wreak that hate upon him. Talk not to me of blasphemy, man; I'd strike the sun if it insulted me. For could the sun do that, then could I do the other; since there is ever a sort of fair play herein, jealousy presiding over all creations. But not my master, man, is even that fair play. Who's over me? Truth hath no confines.


At least we lived to get a peek behind the mask. That's quite a gift.

murph said...

jacques,

Interesting quote from Melville. Been so long since I have read Moby Dick (around 12 years now)and I don't recognize the passage. His other writings never seemed worth the effort.

So many authors have expressed similar thought, Shakespeare comes to mind although I would have to brush up to quote him.

Yup, we got a peek behind the mask. Do we tremble with delight?

Jacques de Beaufort said...

We shudder with terrible ecstasy....

Watching the richly plotted cadences of this symphony of destruction I'm recently reminded of animism as a good lens to view events...
Remember that the collective will of a species can be made manifest in various cultural and social organisms.... In nascent free market theory Adam Smith called this unseen but positive force the "Invisible Hand", but I think that there are a number of discrete entelechies that lurk quiescent within the human genome. If we examine the current slew of crises animistically, one could make the observation that right now a yet to be concretized collective sentience is attempting to wrest power from the entity that has heretofore existed the most materially for the last half century: the human Ego. The Ego is solar and a dominating force, it is not self-limiting and does not act organismically, but atomistically with linear intent. I see the human ecology as a fascinating arena of organic causality whereby energy is transformed and transmitted from one system to another much like an alchemical transubstantiation. The confidence game begins in the magic runes (currency) and rituals (trade), but also exists in a parallel matrix as quantitative data(market statistics). Both systems nominally emerge out of physical and actual material reality (resources) that ultimately feed into cultural and social belief systems(nations, states, industries). The spent matter of the reaction is excreted as waste(human and industrial) flushed into the sewers or shipped abroad to be recycled. It's remarkable to hear the talking heads on CNBC describe the "market" with the same language one would describe a sentient being-in this case an intelligence that processes current events and acts according to the logic of an internal calculus that remains unknowable to the observer. This astonishing admission, that an element of human civilization acts beyond Reason and is prone to tempestuous and violent fits, should generally remind us that many of the basic assumptions of Modern Industrial Civilization as imagined within the Neo-Liberal ideologies that emerged out of certain lines of Enlightenment thought remain provisional and almost certainly will fail. Specifically, the outside context problem supplied by the very basic reality of resource scarcity should quite soon slaughter the absurd mathematics of infinite exponential growth. It is astonishing and frightening that the general pubic either 1) does not possess the intelligence to grasp this 2)understands but exists in massive denial or 3)has been lulled into a consensus trance by the cultural agents of the Ego (advertising, media). The end result of this bizarre mummery will be the emergence of a new collective will that will inevitably crush the profligate excesses of the Ego. The only question now is how violent or orderly the emergence of this new paradigm will be. There will be far less pain if people are able to understand the causes of this transition rather than just suffer the symptoms. I'm hoping that our codons have programmed within them a plan for properly mitigating and aiding this birth/death process, but I guess there's only one way to find out.

Anonymous said...

An interesting post by Hal Turner which kind of fits with this topic in a way...

http://halturnershow.blogspot.com/2008/11/real-story-behind-thankgiving-pilgrims.html


Ely

murph said...

Ely,

That link was concerning the Pilgrims wasn't it? I hadn't seen Hal's site before. That article impressed me as another example of partial facts and reductionism to absurdity. But what I did find even more interesting was other posts there and the comments. Some facts, a lot of extraction and reductionism. A whole bunch of racial slurs too. Another example of the extreme divisions in our society.

Anonymous said...

You got it Murph...

It is not so much what the article says really it is that which it leaves me with a big question mark.

For me it would be a most wonderful thing to be a part of a community that truly supports each individual's efforts to belong in that community, yet there is such varying degrees at which people in general feel they need to belong.

A quick example...
For me I think to a team of horses, they work together to pull a load and yet if a member of the team is not sharing equally the load ie the work the eventual outcome is that the load tires out the remainder of the team.

It gets down to the point where any real collective is and will only be as strong as the weakest, or in some cases the laziest part of the collective unless measures are put into place to prevent this from happening...hence rules.

OK lost my train of thought, hate when that happens... but will put this out there for critique...

Ely

murph said...

Ely,

Remember the old TV series (which I loved) Northern Exposure? I was having a discussion with a friend some time ago and the series came up. He said that the reason I liked the series so much is because it showed what it would be like to live in a community where everyone had over 120 IQ. Even then the community had slackers and those that tried to cheat the system. But overall, the community was portrayed as getting down the road with minimum conflict.

I suspect that the secrete is size of community. Smaller is much easier to encourage participation by all. Just too much diversity of thinking and willingness in larger groups. Advantages and disadvantages to both. Which trade offs one is willing to put up with.

There are collectives that do seem to work just fine. Their characteristics: all involved in common beliefs and purposes.

A lot of the old hippy communes worked until the 2nd generation. There is still a few around. Not sure what to attribute their long term success to.

I further suspect that we are going to figure out how to do it within the next generation.

RAS said...

Murph, I think that is in some part do to living in an overly complex society. Things are so fractured in today's world that you can almost make your own reality. In less complex societies the different stories exist, but they do not go nearly as far as in our own; they all rest on one or very few bases of reality. I think our current society is merely a blip on the radar screen of history and things will soon even out.
Then again, I also think our current society is damn near psychotic. So who knows?

freeacre said...

Just for fun, I want to share a great sweet potato pie receipe I found in Country Magazine. I re-named it in honor of Obama, who said sweet potato is his favorite. This recipe is exceptional:

Oh, Momma, Obama
Eggnog Sweet Potato Pie

1/4 cup caramel ice cream topping
1 unbaked pastry shell
2 cups mashed sweet potatoes
3/4 cup eggnog
1 egg, slightly beaten
2 Tbs. butter, melted
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon

TOPPING:
1/2 cup flaked coconut
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup cold butter
1/4 cup chopped pecans

1) Carefully spread caramel topping over bottom of pastry shell; set aside
In a small bowl, combine the sweet potatoes, eggnog, egg, butter, and vanilla. Stir in the sugars and cinnamon. Carefully spoon over caramel layer. (It's easier if you just pour it from a 4 cup measuring cup.)
2) Bake at 400 for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350; bake 30 minutes longer. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the coconut, flour and brown sugar. Cut in butter until crumbly; stir in pecans. Sprinkle over pie.
3) Bake for 10-15 minutes or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean and topping is golden brown (cover with foil if necessary to prevent over browning). Cool in a wire rack. Store in the refrigerator.

enjoy!!

Anonymous said...

Northern Exposure....I really enjoyed that show it had a lot to offer compared to the crap I see on the tube these days that passes itself off as entertainment, but I guess maybe what I see on the tube these days is a reflection of what the society is and aspires to be???

I agree that the size of a collective is a possible key to the success. This is where I found the article I posted of interest. I have always wondered whether or not a group of individuals could work as a group to achieve a common goal. In this case it was to settle in a new land and keep from starving.
I suppose we could look at present day society and find examples a little closer to home, than the story written by Turner. I know that once upon a time I worked for a large corporation who to maintain and increase profit margins proceeded to cut employees.

It was not that there was a decrease in work, the group I belonged to was maintenance based, data gathering for billing, and system health monitoring we were always running, if not doing maintenance we were putting out little fires so to speak.

The management did not really know what we did, all they could see was numbers on a spreadsheet so when it came time to chop bodies we looked like we were over staffed. We as the group knew that was not the case so one in the group floated the idea that maybe a proposal to the manager to reduce hours of work between us we could save the jobs. I suspected management would not go for it but what surprised me was that there was members of the group who were dead against it. Even though it meant saving jobs, it meant a comfortable work level and environment, they were against it. The reason being was that it would eventually affect their retirement benefits. What made this tragically worse was that those who were against this were both so well off that the money they would get in retirement would be fun money. The rest of us with young families and debt responsibility were basically on our own.

This only served to show me that even in a collective of like minded people, as we were all techies in that group, there will always be those who will want more even at the expense of the others. They want more even when having more would only be viewed as excess. They wanted more even if it meant the quality of their own existence could be jeopardized by trying to attain more.

My sadness was that I really believed that I worked within a tight like minded and thinking group of people that would always work to a solution. I was wrong cause when money is your motivator, you care not about that which is destroyed around you.

For the record one who was concerned about retirement was let go first so he is to fend for his own retirement, the other who was against it well he is still there, nearing retirement stressed to the limit, aging rapidly, and looking for ways to get out. Because the cuts to our tech group was so deep there is no way they will let him have early retirement his greed painted him into a corner such that he will be there til 65 or he decides to quit, of which he can easily afford to do that but his greed will not let him.

OK so that was a bit of a long story and I am not sure it helps with what I am dancing all around.

I am intrigued with the idea of a small collective just do not really know how to make it work.

Ely

RAS said...

Hmm, Ely I think part of the problem is that we all come from and are immersed in a culture that values greed over sharing, the invidual over the collective, and self-advancement over the common good. What would happen in a society that has the opposite values?
One thing I have noticed is that, as generations pass among those committed to such things, they literally become a different group -a different people. The second and third generations of the nearby hippie commune are much different from the average person in this society, as are the third and fourth generations of some of the pagan families I know. What will happen to these groups as more generations pass? It's something I am very interested in. I would like to live a hundred years just to watch the evolution.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! I hope you all have a good day.

Freeacre shared a sweet potato pie recipe, so I thought I'd share my secret to pumpkin pie. I love pumpkin pie; it is my favorite dessert. There are a couple of tricks. The first is to use canned pumpkin (Libby's is best). You can make it from an acutal pumpkin and have it turn out well, but you need to start several days in advance to get the fiber out. The main trick is the spices. Everyone likes their's different, but I like mine spicy. I use the real spices: ginger, nutmeg, cloves, and so forth, and I at least double the amounts called for, then usually throw in some pumpkin pie spice for good measure. Season it to taste before cooking, and remember to moisten the edges of the crust so the don't burn. (I use water with pumpkin pie but butter can also be used.)

Anonymous said...

Hey RAS

I wonder what those generations will be like as well. I do not know what happens to us as humans, I mean where does the seed of greed and always wanting more get planted? I see little children all the time as my wife teaches them piano, I would say that of the pre school age children 85 to 90% have no real notion of greed. They do not hoard(sp) for the sake of having more and in most cases they are all too willing to share. Yet I see a small percent that have the ability to hold on to what they have and want that which the other children have as well.... Where does that notion begin? Is this a primal nature to us a humans? I am one that wishes that humans could get past that bad weed called greed, stomp it into the ground but I am afraid it is too ingrained for that to happen...

Oh and thanks for the pie tip, I usually use tin foil to protect the edges of the pie but I am going to try the wetting technique... gracias!

Ely

freeacre said...

It seems right to be discussing the concepts of greed and sharing on this Thanksgiving Day. I want to add two more elements: gratitude and the concept of "enough." It seems to me that corporate capitalism always must turn in a profit for investors to continue to invest. So, growth is imperative, whether it is good for the company, the world, the consumers, etc,. or not. Ruthless, insane growth and profiteering at all costs.
So, if that is the basis of the culture, growth, expansion, more and more and more of everything is the criterion that is used to determine status. I'm better, the more that I have.
The idea of "enough" is kicked to the curb. I contend that contemplating enough is a healing activity, in this environment of excess. Having a sense of enough both from the perspective of the individual and the collective. Also, enough in terms of the earth and sustainability and balance. Also, time. Enough time. When have we had enough time? Do we struggle for every possible breath, or do we move on before our resources are completely exhausted and the medical industry has picked us clean?
And gratitude... am I more grateful the more I have? It seems not. My impression is that the rich are not that much more grateful than those who have less. Gratitude feels really good. It lends itself to other things like satisfaction, happiness, joy, love and appreciation. It is a cornerstone of being able to recognize a good thing when you see it.
I would counter the slogan, "Greed is Good" with "Gratitude is Good." I want to spend as much time as I can for the rest of my life feeling grateful, that "my cup runneth over." That kind of thinking is what is necessary for people to share and be generous. It will be invaluable to turning the world around and reaching out to each other.
Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I am grateful for so much - not the least of which is every one of you. I hope you all have a wonderful day today.
And, thanks, ras, for the pumpkin pie tip. I'm going to be much more liberal in my spices next time I make a pumpkin pie. I think I will even put cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves in my coffee just for fun.
aho

Anonymous said...

Freeacre, thank you for the offer to crash in your tent while checking out the landscape next Spring. I am touched by your kindness, generosity, and trusting nature.

This is an excellent discussion that leaves much to ponder. Is there any such thing as common reality? What are the stories we tell and why? What is the meaning and purpose of community? Why do intelligent people hold nonsensical beliefs? And if these questions weren’t complicated enough, it seems a lot of the most popular stories do not occur spontaneously, they are fed to people by entities that have a vested interest in confusing or misinforming them, and managing their perceptions.

I can think of several examples of this, and it might explain why some popular beliefs appear two-dimensional and tend to fall apart with a little probing. The hunting buddy’s belief system revolving around second amendment rights is one example. The ‘sharing is bad’ belief system is another. Maybe a ‘two-dimensional’ test could be used to identify imposed beliefs vs. independent trains of thought, because theoretically an independent mind would not draw such illogical conclusions if they had reasoned the problem through on their own.

Why have so many experimental cooperative communities failed in the past? I think part of the reason is that many humans have a tendency to want to follow a leader; they want to be told what to believe because it is so hard to make sense of things independently. I suspect this is primarily an instinct, but also partly the result of conditioning (public education, organized religion, etc.). This tendency is not necessarily a bad thing, it can give cohesion to a community, but when an unethical leader is involved it can lead to disaster.

I can share some insights into this phenomenon through my personal experience of growing up in small alternative communities in SF. A lot of these groups may have started out with great ideas and aspirations, but time and again they were doomed to fail because they gave their power to egotistical/maniacal leaders and let someone else do their thinking for them.

I still want to believe it is possible to form a successful small cooperative with some basic rules and personal boundaries. Perhaps the psychological need for guidance would be better served by a mythological figure (Gaia?) a timeless code of ethics (Aesop’s fables?), and a common purpose (sustainable living/survival) rather than a dear leader.

Happy TG

anazuzo

RAS said...

The question of where does greed come from has long haunted me. Social Darwinists claim that it ingrained and natural, even good. Others claim the opposite. While it is true that competition appears among animals, so does cooperation. In fact, the most resilent ecosystems seem to have an unusually high level of cooperation among the member species.

And none of that really applies to humans, because while we are undoubtedly animals, we are also something more. We have the capacity to CHOOSE how we interact with the world and whether we are good or evil. Animals are innocent in a way we can never be, beyond childhood, because we have the knowledge of good and evil and the responsibiliy of choosing between the two.
Claiming that greed is ingrained is a cop-out in my view, that ignores our intelligence and free will.

freeacre said...

Just talked with my brother today, and he related a story that was discussed at their dinner table yesterday. His daughter was working as a barista in a coffee shop in the NW. A Christian group came into the restaurant with several other customers in there. They stood up, formed a circle and began loudly praying. My niece thought this was obnoxious, refused to serve them, and walked out and took a cigarette break instead.
Then she was joined by an employee and she told the co-worker that if these people want to pray, they should do it at home or in church, but not in the restaurant. The co-worker suggested that maybe it was her that should go home. So, Heather (who has a flash temper) said, "Yeah, I think I will. And while I'm at it, I quit, and fuck you!" So she left.
But, now she's back at work because her boss and other co-workers called and apologized and begged her to come back!! Anyway, maybe the tide is turning on the aggressive fundamentalist front...lol.

mrs p said...

Wow freeacre good story!
I canj't tolerate pushy people who wear it all out on their sleve! If your good ju ju light is so damn bright & wonderful fine but then if so wouldn't people just flock to it on their own instead of having to have it crammed down their throat or forced on them while their trying to relax or perhaps be in their own spiritual thought at the moment. Damn! Speaking of pushy how about those Mumbai murderers. Be it whomever state or otherwise...grizzley, cruel and damn heartless. It bothered me so I wrote a poem about it at momsreallymad.

I had this preminition that "something big was about to break loose" I could not get any explanation for those words though. Hubby was sarcastic..."Like what King Kong?" I knew I should not have mentioned it at all. I was scared it could be the San Andreas or something financial & political but I felt that it was going to be huge. I hope that was it but I don't feel it was entirely. I still feel something. I guess any of us could feel these things in these days and times but it's happened so many times before...these feelings. I cannot difine "something big breaking loose." It just came to me that way. I hope I'm wrong. Peace and Love to you all. I give thanks for this place. mrsp

Jacques de Beaufort said...

consumer stampede kills walmart worker:
http://jacquesdebeaufort.blogspot.com/2008/11/consumer-stampede.html

angels, devils

and everything in between

that's what we are...

right now we are more good than evil, the minute it turns the other way we all die.

This is the proving ground. The final exam. Sharpen those pencils !!!

I'm thankful I've been given the gift of existence..

what a trip !!

Anonymous said...

From Belgium,

I think it is important to examine some of the stories we tell ourselves and to see how many stand up, or not and how many are just unanswerable. It seems to me that most of the important modern stories fall into this latter category which makes us question the purpose of the stories in the first place.

Whether the stories of old come from the Norse lands; the East; the Greek Empire or the indigenous Americas, they have been handed down from generation to generation and define what that community is. Most importantly they form a glue; a bond of cohesiveness amongst the people.

It can be argued that as society becomes more sophisticated the need for such stories becomes increasingly irrelevant. With thousands of radio and TV stations expressing slightly or totally differing points of view, today’s diversity of information serves to confuse rather than clarify and is the antithesis of cohesiveness. It is more like an attempt to divide and rule.

Some groups have recognised this and in their several ways have made attempts to resist this modern trend. The main ones which spring to mind are the Hippies; the Amish and the Kibbutzim. Of these the Amish seem to be the most stable. They have a hierarchical system of authoritarian elders with a fundamentalist (in its original sense) religious backbone. As has been already noted, the Hippies more casual approach to social groupings seems to have fallen apart in the second to third generation although the descendants have a more skewed perspective than the mainstream viewpoint. The Kibbutzim, which is run by the more protestant element of the Jewish religion, has also largely fallen apart after the third generation although it seems to me this has more to do with unnatural social rules like separating mothers from their babies at birth than with any fundamental flaws in the commune system.

Irrespective of these experiments, something happened in the world which altered societies stories and that was the use of money as a tally for measuring the for profit motive. The Spanish Conquistadores are one of the earliest examples of those who regarded the importance of stuff over life and a way of life. This was followed over the years by the demise of many other of the worlds’ indigenous peoples. For example, after diamonds were discovered in South Africa, the land was occupied by force. The indigenous peoples were either killed off or forced into the diamond mines. These people who had never before had a use for money suddenly found they were subject to poll taxes, hut taxes, animal taxes etc. and their only way to pay these taxes was to work in the mines. Wages were low and death rates amongst the workers ran between 8% - 10% per year but this was of little consequence to the mine owners. The result was a radical change in the organisation of society to such an extent that the old stories no longer applied.

A more recent and interesting story is that of the Sami’s, Lapland’s semi nomadic reindeer breeders. When winter snows reach depths of six feet, fronds from old growth coniferous forests are the only source of food for the reindeer. But the government of Finland has an arrangement with half a dozen or so logging companies and the Sami’s, to put it bluntly are just in the way. In a court case lasting three years and with the UN on the Sami’s side, it was eventually decided that the Sami’s had no rights at all to over-winter their reindeer in Lapland’s northern forests. This leaves one asking the question, in a representative democracy, whose interests is it that the representatives actually represent? The answer seems to be linked in a common thread from the government of Finland to the peoples’ representatives in the greatest democracy on earth. This in turn brings into question the system of representative democracy itself and why it is so important to impose it on those parts of the world that don’t already have it.

It doesn’t always work out like this though. When Rumsfeld’s company Bechtel taxed the lake water; river water and even collected rainwater in Bolivia the people had enough. They rose up and in a popular movement, threw out both Bechtel and their government. The people of America are collectively not yet at this same level of desperation and now they have something new and shiny to believe in.

Aesop’s fables have been mentioned as a moral code or moral carrot and are as good as many of the worlds’ major religions in this. The difference is that religion has control over its followers; a stick to go with the carrot; a hell to go with heaven.

Do we still have stories today? Yes we do but our modern stories are more sinister in nature and designed to wrong foot or even frighten us. I am going to mention a few examples without going into detail. Do the illuminate exist? Is China the antithesis of this or is Beijing just their eastern regional office? What is the true relationship between China and the USA? Does China believe in a multi polar world as the SCO would have us believe and what is the true relationship between China and Russia? Certainly China needs Russia and the SCO is in its interests for the moment but what if the US was eventually to gain ascendency over Russia? Did Albert Pike set out a plan for WW1; WW11 and WW111? If so, did Israel get wind of this and effectively take control of the US administration so that it is now poacher turned gamekeeper? What is the true story of resource depletion and how much reserves are in the ANWAR region? Where are Tesla and alternative energy sources at and is it a good thing or not to have them? Does the so called Lake Bykal exist; a ring of people controlling a pool of money so vast that it can increase the NIKI index by 25% whilst simultaneously dropping the Hang Sang by a similar amount and in this world of instant communication the whole deal is done and dusted before you even know about it so it impossible to grab onto the tail?

Are there any good stories? Latin America seems to be largely on the peoples side as to an extent does Iran and in their different ways they are in the process of defining what they are. The ANC caused South Africa so many problems that Nelson Mandela was released from long term imprisonment to organise the country along fairer lines.

Learning from history though, we have to ask the question of how much need there is for defence in a truly anarchistic society.

Overall though it would seem that divide and rule has largely won the day and for now at least the more stories we learn the less we actually know.

RAS said...

Belgium, I can think of a few criteria to determine whether or not a story is good. It is good if
a) it hold the community together
b) it allows the community to exist sustainably
c) it allows the community to exist in peace with its neighbors.
By this definition I think every modern story, save that of the Amish, fails miserably.
This world has gone completely crazy. *sigh* Anyone know when the next ship to Alpha Centauri departs?

Anonymous said...

RAS,

In the lower eschelons, I have always thought that greed was an emotion on the fear spectrum. For example, hoarding shoes makes a lot of American women feel their unknown future is more secure. At least if everything else goes to hell, they will still have shoes to wear (Imelda was very rational in this behavior).

What I don't get is why persons who have billions of dollars still need more, even as they see poor people suffering. Are they also afraid, or are they motivated by something else?

anazuzo

Anonymous said...

Belgium, thank you. Your post ties a lot of loose ends together. It is especially comforting these days to realize that the old ways had real value and function and may provide answers for a ‘new’ way of life. There is a growing awareness of this, and some peoples are now reorganizing and working to reclaim lost traditions.

The list of ‘conspiracy theory’ stories that you cited are great examples of unknowables which might also be designed to confuse and conquer. These stories fall into the category of paranoid delusions that one can dismiss, and yet simultaneously wonder if they really are true!

Could their intended function be to cause a person to doubt everything they know, leaving them paranoid, secretive, and isolated? Could it be they are intended to render true believers candidates for psychiatric treatment? Are they intended to provide canned answers to people who would question our current system, so they can be summarily dismissed as wackos by the general population?

What do you think, Belgium? Was the current global crisis we are witnessing planned to take debt servitude to the next level, or did the greedy bankers just lose control of the global monetary system? I sincerely hope they lost control, and that the corporations and their profits vaporize, hopefully in 2012 for full ironic effect.

anazuzo

Anonymous said...

From Belgium,

Ras,
I can’t fault any of that logic. We need those who need each other and are prepared to throw their lot into creating a simpler but sustainable future.

Anazuzo,
With the exception of a few pioneering local newspapers which still exist, (the Anderson Valley Advertiser for one), most of the main stream media are in the hands of a very small number of media moguls who attempt to channel our thoughts onto their same page. Conspiracy theories have mushroomed with the rise of the internet. This is acknowledged as the last bastion of investigative journalism and I believe it is honest people who are breathing life into it, but what a wonderful forum it also is for those who have an interest in making mischief.

How much is enough and why do people carry on after they have crossed the threshold is an intriguing question. I have a feeling it is the thrill of the chase mentality. It is like gamers who want to get from one end to the other of a Laura Croft adventure without getting killed off and without reloading any saves whilst collecting all the goodies along the way.

As to the present banking crisis, I think there are two levels of players here. There are the organisers and the functionaries. The organisers are smart and know exactly what is going on; in fact they are the ones making the rules. The functionaries are given money to play with and do what they always do like hamsters on a wheel. Probably we are at the stage where the drinks carton is nearly empty and those on the end of the straw are sucking air up with the last dregs of the drink but for them, even this is worth having. Here again there is a problem because as debt servitude bites deeper the multinationals are starting to run out of customers. For instance GM has made a statement that it doubts if it can meet the payroll until the next president is sworn in. This is just competition decreasing as demand dries up and you can pay your money and make your choice as to whether you think that less multinationals is better than less competition. But as Freeacre would probably say, “It is time to stop feeding the beast”.

murph said...

There is an excellent video called "Century of Self" that explains a lot of what has happened since the 1920's wherein the government and corporations began utilizing Freud through Berne to make mass societies pliable and open to immense propaganda to shape thinking. I have not seen it all, but it is worth watching if you can find it.

Jacques de Beaufort said...

I posted all 3 parts on my blog about a month ago:
http://jacquesdebeaufort.blogspot.com/2008/10/century-of-self.html

Jacques de Beaufort said...

and although he's a Positivist, Materialist, and Atheist, Steven Pinker has some interesting thoughts on human nature:

http://video.google.com/videosearch?q=steven+pinker&hl=en&emb=0&aq=f#q=steven%20pinker%20history%20of%20violence&hl=en&emb=0

Jacques de Beaufort said...

not that I agree with him...

murph said...

jacques,

Yup, I remember you posted it. Freeacre's son downloaded it and brought a copy. Netflix doesn't have it yet. Our DSL is not real fast and it takes hours to download stuff like this. So, we try and find a compilation of series already done up. Oh, and Google has it in 4 parts and yourtube in 5 parts.

RAS said...

Anazuzo, I would say that greed is partly fear and partly something else again. Hoarding is not necessarily motivated by greed, either; hoaring is rational impulse motivated by the threat of scarcity that human beings, like many creatures, possess. It only becomes greed when you hoard the wrong things or more than you could ever use (or use before it spoils at any rate).

I tend to think true greed is at least partly a mental disorder. Especially when you see a billionaire trying to get more while people around him are starving and suffering. I think part of that is fear, mostly its greed, and a part of it is the 'i'm better than you' mentality.

RAS said...

Here's another story on the agriculture problems:
http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2008/11/27/11143/168/114/667032

Anonymous said...

Belgium,

I think what you are saying is that the corporates are merely facades inhabited by functionary employees, and that the collapse of corporations would not destroy the organizers, as they are shielded from liability.

The organizers are probably already safely positioned in their cozy offshore ark. When the storm has passed, they will come out with their dry powder and start the game anew.

anazuzo

Jacques de Beaufort said...

20,000 uniformed troops inside US by 2011:
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/27989275/

Anonymous said...

Yo! Check out the stock market! It be down, baby! Woo-hoo!!

Dude

Anonymous said...

From Belgium,

Anazuzo

What I am saying is that a class of international bankers exists with unprecedented personal wealth. For example, it is claimed that they financed both sides during WW1 with the proviso that the winner paid the losers tab, and that was 90 years ago. It is further claimed that this war was deliberately extended by 18 months or so, so that the golden goose would not be one of the causalities. Today, they run the IMF and the World Bank and control the resources of nearly all countries. But this is not enough for them; they also want what you have in your pockets. These are the people who own the offshore banks. They do not care if multinational corporations go to the wall if there is a chance to asset strip and make another buck.

To explain how this came about and what you can do to protect yourself, I would point you to a documentary called The Money Masters which we talked about on the Real Deal about 18 months or so ago.

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-515319560256183936

Perhaps ‘functionaries’ was an unfortunate word to use. What I meant by this was that say as part of a bale out plan a large bank receives several billion dollars to secure their depositors’ interests and the future of the bank, then what will the bank do with this money? I would strongly suspect that they will bet on the derivatives market; that they will bet on one share or currency rising or falling against another share or currency. This is not even investing in the real economy where it might help some smaller business to stay afloat, but it is what they know how to do so they carry on turning the wheel.

Who was that guy, all those years ago who said “The love of money is the root of all evil”?

RAS said...

Does anyone know if MF is allright? He hasn't posted in a long time.

Anonymous said...

From Belgium,

Ras, he sent me an e mail over the weekend with a picture of him growing a bunch of medicinal herbs. He said he had been super busy so maybe he will get round to a brief comment shortly. That reminds me, I must reply to his e mail.

Anonymous said...

Belgium,

Thank you very very much for answering my questions. I have actually seen the money masters, as well as zeitgeist 1 and 2. I also read the creature from jekyll island, but it still just does not compute. Where is the money? What is the point of choking the sustenance from every mouth on the planet?

Forgive me, I have asked enough questions.... I will go back and finish reading the earlier posts and the very excellent discussions on this blog.

anazuzo

Anonymous said...

From Belgium,

Anazuzo,

I don’t know if I have answered your questions, what I have done is to give you my opinion.

Again we return to the question of how much is enough and the answer seems to be that when making money is so easy for those who are able to do so, there is never enough. But when you have far in excess of your needs and more tends to loose its allure the emphasis changes to power and control. They create starving masses because they enter a mind set which allows them to do it just like the former diamond miners of Africa.