Tuesday, June 9, 2009
Monday, June 8, 2009
People look back on the societies of the past with a type of amused superiority. They wonder how we could have ever been so silly. Without even a consideration of what it means to live in a present as a product of its past, it’s as if they have no doubt of their perfection. Despite this commonality it remains difficult to affect change in this flesh bound paradigm. To have opinions different that the norm is to be branded as having some form of deficiency. People who currently look at the human condition with even minimal awareness can see it as shortsighted. Yet we do, or are capable of nothing to facilitate any change. Why? Is it that we hide our alternate views from others for fear of persecution? Is it that the change that is required is too great to be formulated, packaged and distributed, except perhaps through the acceptance of a religion or other collective movement?
Of course, you can’t start an alternate religion or political party either. Politicians who stir the pot don’t get voted in and if they do, they’ll shortly be killed by professionals just doing their job. Start a religion and you’re immediately reduced to a loony tune, likely to be killed by anyone and perhaps rightly so. You are, regardless, no less dead either way. So the most common way to affect change is to find how to change yourself and then share the knowledge with others, leading by example. The widespread individual shift becomes the social shift. (Enter the Author, Preacher, Teacher, Artist. Here, of course, we must be careful of the message being presented. However, in our case, we are presenting no message beyond “be aware of the message.”)
If ideas and concepts are understood in networks of relations, can an ideal series of correlations be achieved? Attempts to do so by outside influence are the domain of social engineering, whether or not those influences are clandestine. New paradigms in our understanding of the evolution of everything have led to the development of new concepts and the redefining of old ones. Continuously and with an increasing rate of intention there have been large scale shifts in “what people know.” In, for example: psychology, technology, politic, economy, ecology, bio, chem, geo, socio, this list includes nearly every subject. Unfortunately, the surge of “society as an organism” thinking lends itself to find controls, whether or not it seeks them. We can then use these controls for our own detriment or gain. These are more likely political ideological shifts that bleed into the culture of “what people think they know.” (Which we now know to be nearly meaningless.)
Interesting that by also studying other societal systems, like that of insects, we can see that there are illogical steps taken to cause systems of a counterproductive nature to fail, or force change. In other words, if an ant colony is getting too big it will sacrifice a part of itself for the good of the whole. That is not the nature of our conundrum for we, lest we forget, are the species that doesn’t always work in its better interests. We can, at the least, gain an ability to recognize when we’re being handed our hat. (Anti-Social Engineering...)
In this chapter we will further diverge from the new-age or psychological efforts of those who lay claim to the pathway of Authentic Self. None of them removing their own blinders to look at sociology and history with a reasonable philosophical eye. We will begin to understand the influence of Social Norms as well as their difference from eXperiential Norms. (The S and the X are underlined to remind you that these are the terms under Paradigm in the philosophy generator.) I'm sure you remember, in the generator, P can be divided by X, S or X and S. This means that paradigms can be sourced from associations that are strict social norms, (cannot be experienced,) or they may be both, or they were built on your own, with no influence. These are the only possible options. In symbolic logic the word “or” may be expressed as a lower case “v” and the word “and” can be a dot, so we now can symbolize:
P > (X v S) v (X . S)
If it's Paradigm, it's either experiential or social, or it's experiential and social.
Whatever shift is required will only occur when it becomes a necessity. In a natural system the preceding (repeated) statement is true. This means we can deduce that change is a necessity. If there is human interference then change can be created, destroyed, controlled, etc. It was this realization that caused the “first” Enlightenment which began at the last half of the seventeenth century. French philosophers, unhappy under what they considered the tyranny of their own leaders, “woke up” and started asking questions. “Why does the church have to be linked to the state?” “Why do our young men have to join the campaign or be labeled traitors?” “Why does one who has worked hard to gain stature fail and those who are merely born into it succeed?” “How did we get to this point?” To put it bluntly, the Enlightenment came from the realization of philosophers that “common” people didn’t have to be the way they were because anyone said so, yet they were. It wasn’t just the French, there was a vast uncorking of new ideas all over Europe, into Russia and carried over into the “New Land.” Stemming from the growing ease of travel, the printing press, the chemical, medical and mechanical advances in industry and other conveniences, a new society of powerful people was created, the individual, the “person.” (The Middle class.) Modern philosophy was born from realizing the quick, rampant influence of unavoidable change and shortly thereafter, secret philosophy came along too. For if the masses decide they are going to be aware, if they are going to literally revolt in the streets to get what they want, then control seekers must find a subversive way to tell the people what they want. If they are skilled enough that no one notices the programming, it doesn't exist. We are, to this day, still trying to rid ourselves of this veil. We put our hands on some bible or other to swear honestly, we use our congregations to elect politicians, we turn away from big business displacing populations when it's called “war” and seek it out when it's called “progress.”We are constantly lied to. We even lie to ourselves, amazingly enough, we do so anonymously! This is key to our own examinations, the programming instilled, if kept secret from the bearer is as much a mystery as his or her own subconscious, but not to the programmers! This means that modernity has created a second subconscious: the Manipulated Self. This is the programmed Human.
During the Enlightenment questions were posed of the implications of mixing church and state in ways that go beyond allegiances in courtrooms and politic in sermons. There was the realization that it was morality legislated and categorization by belief. I like to imagine it this way, for thousands of years, peoples all over our lovely little planet have been experimenting with types of societies. After all that time, a system began to be duplicated, by desire or by force, that was able to have control of it’s people while giving them the opportunity to live happy, healthy, productive lives. The system was, in a word, “Modernity.” ‘You use your skills to earn your living’ rather than, ‘you live off the flora and fauna.’ This system had been used for quite a while before the enlightenment turned it into the physical manifestation of the middle class. Controls move from the church to state. Money is worshiped. The lines blur.
The difference between the old Enlightenment and the new is that we now are waking up from our subconscious servitude (social engineering) whereas during the Industrial Revolution we were waking up from our conscious servitude (serfdom.) We have now “caught up” to Philosophers of our past. Therefore, back then we learned that we were real individuals, that if any human had rights then we all them. Now we wake up to learn that we're being controlled with ideas, our rights aren't really ours and we are only allowed to exercise them within a fairly rigid framework , society.
The powers that governed over this transformation sought out controls that could be accepted by the masses. They hid them in the morals of church, law, and the accoutre that complicates the logic of trying to correlate them. They set into church and state rules that made it seem we wanted to follow them, because it seemed right, even though we’re not sure why. For eg: In most countries it is against the law and it is considered morally wrong to kill a person. (Of course I mean a person who doesn’t “deserve” it, both religion and governments have people who kill in their names.) Just generally, Murder is Illegal and Wrong. I think a lot of you will agree with that, but why? Because it ends the life of someone who could have done good, been loved and will be missed? No! Stop it, don’t think that way, you’re categorizing him. By doing so you induce that there could be a circumstance where murder could be right if he couldn’t have done Good, been Loved and no one M2issed him. You’re completely missing the point as well as being illogical. (The M has the 2 after it because we have two terms symbolized by M.)
[ M > ( W . I ) ] > [ P > ( L . M2 . G ) ]
[ M > ~( W . I ) ] > [ P > ~(L . M2 . G ) ]
M > P
This rather complicated looking syllogism is nothing to be frightened of. The brackets group ideas together. You remember, the > creates the conditional statement “if... then.” The dot . simply means “and.” The squiggly minus sign, called a “tilde”, as you would guess, attaches negation. The first statement says, ‘Murder is wrong and illegal if the person is loved, missed and good.’ The second statement says ‘Murder is not wrong and not illegal if the person is not loved, not missed and not good.’ Common sense tells us that this isn’t true, so does the equation. The positives in the first statement, (W and I) as well as ( L, M and G) get cancelled out, like they would in any math solution, by the negation of themselves in the second statement. (~) All that’s left is ‘If it’s murder then it’s a person.’ Which, while being true, (with apologies to all other species and those who love them,) it in no way expresses our point that murder is wrong because the person killed could have done good, been loved and would be missed. Therefore, it is an invalid syllogistic argument. It doesn’t mean we’ve proven ‘murder’ right or wrong. It means that our ‘murder’ paradigm, built on the argument above, is invalid. If indeed this is what we believe, we have no explainable reason for thinking the way we do about murder. So it seems, for us, the “murder” paradigm is illogical, a paradox that we don't even know we are wrestling with.
It isn’t about deservedness. “Rights” have been created. You’re judging things by standards that are going on three hundred years old, and they were based on standards that came from two thousand years ago. To say "Yeah, but it’s working so well," is to deserve a smack upside the head! So I ask you, if the man who was killed was a wife beating child molester would he then deserve to die? Of course not. He could be treated and go on to make amends with all those he hurt, even help others, so inclined, turn their lives around. Who are you, judge, jury and executioner? Yes actually, you are but you’re off the hook because you’ve been made that way. The decisions made in the establishment of the Establishment have decided who you are and what you believe. (Sanctioned killing is okay, murder is abhorrent.) Nature tells us that Humans can and will kill whatever we want. We know this is true. Consider believing what you’re shown, not necessarily what you’re told. These passages are neither an endorsement of murder nor an admonishment of religion. The statements are made in keeping with the overall theme of my theory that missing or misdiagnosing influence is dangerous and living uncontemplatively is living dumb.
Is it natural or instinctual to know to allow certain impulses or emotions and suppress others because of a set of predetermined guidelines? If you answer yes, you’re buying into what they’re telling you. If you answer no, you’re denying all the evidence around you and within you. People today are now practised in allowing and suppressing because of their paradigms. In order to rid us of these binding perceptions we must consider all paradigms, even and especially disturbing ones. The reasons are twofold: Firstly, a healthy, open mind can only gain strength from that which makes it uncomfortable. (More on that later.) But we must also question every paradigm because the foundation of our personal natural instinct could be a fabrication. How are we, as individuals, supposed to know after thirty years, or a lifetime, or after three hundred years, or two thousand years if a particular set of guidelines have steered us well? Despite our ever quickening pace of advancement we are still idiots. (Grab your dictionary, look up the word “idiot.”) What I know compared to what I don’t know could be expressed in the same ratio as my lifetime compared to the eternity before and after it.
To contemplate the ancient concept of self with a being that is truly “not-self” without even the ability to conceptualize having rules put upon you is to perpetuate ignorance and demonstrate the absurdity of modern human existence. To even achieve the question requires a paradigm shift that instantly opens an endless stream of possibilities. Furthermore, paradigms once found, put the mind into the flow of enlightenment. It is this new modern enlightenment that will spread the understanding to the point of beginning to answer difficult questions, and undoubtedly pose new ones. This point is all but completely accepted by contemporary authors, be they ripe with opinion or strictly empirical. Because I have picked on Dr. Phil and Eckhart Tolle for being right for the wrong reasons, let’s pick on some others for being wrong for the right reasons. Dan Dennett is a popular contemporary philosopher and author. So is Andrew Cohen. But they are at opposite ends of a spectrum. Dan’s position is summed up nicely by his opening comments at Beyond Belief 2 (an annual conference of scientists concerned with enlightenment, held by The Science Network.) He called it, “The difference between diplomacy and dishonesty.” He said, “Excuse me Sir, but do you realize that your entire life has been constructed around you through a fantasy based belief structure and by passing it on to your children you are exacerbating a dangerous continuation of nonsense.” Andrew Cohen, someone who specifically uses the term, “Authentic Self,” claims to have insight to the ultimate causation. That is, where Dan will not give an inch on his Atheism and his distaste for the idea of faith; Andrew will neither yield his Theism nor his interpretations of God as the “act of creation, itself.” To be fair, Dan Dennett would probably argue that he was referring to religion and not God specifically. To be equally fair to Andrew Cohen, he could be right. As I’m sure you are growing accustomed to, you and I can’t answer either men. The fact that we recognize our limitation is our reward. There can be no blinders on the open mind. Apparently it’s not enough for the new modern Philosophes to acquaint you with yourself, they want to push into the unknowable and declare the fantastic, most doing so vehemently. Despite the lack of comfort provided by the truly reality-based point of view, the empowerment of understanding validity outweighs the need for faith. Faith, however biased, is still welcome with your Assignee’s Prerogative, as it is your own. Have all the faith you want, just know that it’s faith. Be mindful of influence and determine it worthy or dismiss it as irrelevant. Herein also lies the beginning of appreciating the difference between eXperiential Norms and Social Norms.
We’ve examined only one aspect of morality, murder, or more rightfully, killing. There are many more ill defined morals in our modern society from ancient times. Ideas like the sanctity or purity of places, people or objects. Automatic respect or reverence for authority figures is still expected from most human citizenry. Ideas of class, race or kin being of some worth or relevance to anything are all still prevalent. In fact, we use this standard of Fairness, Harm, Ingroup, Authority, Purity as the measuring stick of our sociological or moral makeup. It’s important that we understand the categories of this moral scale. This scale has been in development for hundreds of years and those who wish to follow it’s history should also look up David Hume, Lawrence Kohlberg and Elliot Turiel. The scale itself fits nicely into my philosophy generator thusly:Harm/Care - Fairness/Justice - Ingroup/Loyalty - Authority/Respect - Purity/Sanctity
The five categories are “the Definition of the Domain of Morality” by Elliot Turiel. They are referred to as the “Foundations of Morality.” To be most concerned with a particular single branch or group of branches points to your morality. The stronger the assignation of importance to the beginning of the list, the more left leaning, liberal, democratic, etc. you are. You are a two foundation person. The more importance you assign to the latter three the more right leaning, conservative, authoritative, etc. you are. I’m sure we can agree that the utilization of judgement where Fairness and Harm are the standards is much more logical and productive than using the considerations of Ingroup, Authority or Purity. In fact, the latter three paradigms should be almost entirely dismissed, most are antiquated and spent. Ingroup leads to nepotism, racism, classism. How many of us have helped a friend do something illogical? Authority is weighed well by many still, despite murderous cops, self-serving politicians, and abusive priests. Purity doesn’t refer to the wholeness or correctness of something, but it’s deemed worth. Questions of Sanctity are of value.
The Dome of the Rock is one of the most traveled to places on the planet. It is a manmade structure where people of certain faith come to pay homage to a meteorite. Were they able to, the pilgrims could pick up any rock build a temple around it and assign the same purity to it. They can’t because they’ve been instructed that this rock is special and deservedly so. In fairness, this last point is why I say we should all but dismiss Ingroup, Authority and in this case, Purity considerations, for what if I am wrong and someday an irrefutable force proves to me that the rock is ‘special.’ Furthermore, Ingroup facilitates family responsibility and cultural comfort which are not unhealthy. There is also Authority in the Universe as there is Purity, I just haven’t found either yet. I know they exist because their opposites are so prevalent. (I wish to point out, just for clarity, that my singling out of any one religion, God, artifact or geographic location are for illustrative purposes only.)
It seems, therefore, that nature is left leaning. If considering Ingroup, Authority and Purity is far less important that considering Fairness and Harm, society is in a state of illogical, counterproductive denial. We now begin to just see the tip of the iceberg now, breaking above the water. The monster begins to take shape: Individuals are more to blame than society is more to blame than we. Except that, for the most part, we’re doing what we’re told. If we can accept that nature’s default is that of an open, flexible, dynamic system, then we should be able to accept that we are working against it if we are not doing the same. (It’s not a coincidence that as we move from the moral/political left to right under the philosophy generator we get away from paradigms that are eXperiential and into those that are Social. However, this fact is just a convenient, arbitrarily defined order, it is not scientific.)
If we know that we have been socially engineered to be the way we are, then the forces that made us that way, want us that way. So why do they want us to work against nature? Does that mean we have been programmed to fail? Why? What else have they programmed us to do? Who are these people? These are also the questions of the new enlightenment, but they are not being asked by the spiritualists and the social psychologists. They are being asked by the two philosophers present..
In the following chapters we are going to dive deeper into these concepts and others. In order to create an appreciation of what is happening in our minds we must understand how they work but the same can be said, looking outwardly, at the world. Like ourselves, the world has problems too. (Here we are not speaking of “Earth” problems, such as environmental concerns address, but rather the problems of the caretaker inhabitants of the planet.) We must begin to separate the “me” problems from the “we” problems, not because they are going to be treated any differently, but because they have different causation. These problems, these causes are a product of one simple idea, as old as civilization itself. The following brief historical precis can be considered yet another reason to dismiss the pitfalls of conservatism. There are people out there with an attitude of “if it ain't broke don't fix it,” however, these people are often incapable of recognizing when “it is broke.” It has been broken from the beginning because it is not dynamic, flexible or even willing to change. These are the realities of our investigations.
In order to fathom the relatively simple ideas that lead to our immensely complicated world we must define three concepts: Modernity, Complexity and Exponential Growth.
Modernity is a word generally used to describe what we, in this age, would consider “Modern Times.” There is some debate about how far back “these times” should go, or conversely that we are already into “Post Modernity,” mostly because of high technology. Others contend that Modernity stretches back only to our ability to be cross cultural, moving trade, organizing society into specialized segments, basically “creating the system” with which we now live. (This takes us back to about the seventeenth century, just before the industrial revolution.) I'm somewhere in the middle on the “when” of modernity but I think the important deliberations centre around the inherent dangers of programming dynamic social systems.
Since the advent of telecommunications, radio, television, computer, internet, satellite and the peripherals they bring with them, we are constantly inundated with information. So it is that we too, despite appearing free of any bureaucracy insisted upon us, find our own, I call this age of auto-bureaucracy, “Information Age Modernity.” So without even blinking, we have ourselves, like our ancestors, broken free into the Universe of choice only to reassemble in our own governments and religions, etc. For our purposes today, consider that Modernity simply puts the average human into the flow of “production.” You are a cog in a wheel of a nation's economy. You work to pay for the rights and means to live. It used to be that you would just take care of yourself and your family, perhaps playing a role in your tribe. The Earth used to provide for you, now that power has been taken by those for whom you toil.
The idea of complexity plays a twofold role in our considerations. Modern Societies, that is to say, technological societies, (which, if your society isn't already, it strives to be,) all succumb to the type of complexity mentioned in the opening quotation of this book. When Carl Jung speaks of “the amalgamation of collusive factors,” he is referring to complexity and it's hold on the mechanics of society. I don't think I need to go into the details of exactly how complexity bleeds into our lives, just consider where it is that your money goes, week by week, year by year. Think about the steps of actions you take to bring in and send out that money. (You could even just think about the steps you had to take to have the right to make that money.) Complexity is borne of bureaucracy and once you have a system in place, over a period of time, it is going to need revision. If you direct this revision, you are engineering. However, it is important that we realize there are also changes that just “happen.” These changes could be bad or good, we don't care to decide at this point. I only wish to point out that, in addition to being able to make changes to our complex modernity there is also systemic complexity. Systemic complexity is an expected byproduct of our inherently complex system. If you start with a complex foundation I see no reason to expect the systems you build upon that base to be any different.
The idea of systemic complexity has most recently been expressed in terms of “systemic failure,” which I have determined was actually a product of complexity.
Consider the alleged “terrorist attack” in Detroit, Michigan USA, Christmas day, 2009. Nigerian, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, 23, apparently with an explosive ball between his legs meant to explode by utilizing a syringe, failed to accomplish his “mission,” upon landing. Three months of training in Yemen, how he got on the plane in Amsterdam, who his “well dressed Indian chaperone” was, were all topics that were learned of quite quickly, having caught the young man. Yet all of these issues came second to CNN (and every other news agency,) speculating on who, what, where, when and why. Within the first hour of the event the focus became, “Even after 'all we have done' to improve “Homeland Security” how is it that this could have happened?” (They are getting ready to play the blame game.) All that could be heard by December 27 was, “How could the CIA let this happen?” This question arose because it became known that young Mr. Abdulmutallab was on someone's list A: Form A and B for this side of the Atlantic while on the other he was recorded as being on list A: Form A only. The words “Systemic Failure” began being bandied about. By January 7, 2010 it was announced by U.S. President Obama that in terms of responsibility, “the buck stops here,” and, of course, that the US will take action to improve communication between organizations, to deter “alQaeda” in Yemen, or elsewhere, while tightening security or restrictions to ensure safety. Ultimately, regardless of how dizzy you are from spinning as you point your finger, you will come to rest only on our old friend, systemic complexity, due to what I call “the rampant ineptitude of modernity.”
The second role complexity plays in modernity is a more mathematical definition of the word that we will examine deeper in preceding chapters. While complexity universally is defined as having parts and involving these parts together in some possibly convoluted fashion, mathematical complexity is created when one of the calculated parts is imaginary. We, of course, in our modern systems have many imaginary forces to contend with. If we again look at money, for instance, to buy food with, here we have an imaginary system providing real world sustenance. The point to appreciate here is that even in the very real world, some complexities that we should be controlling, are controlling us instead.
If modernity is the cause of complexity and systemic complexity is the cause of the rampant ineptitude that keeps rearing it's ugly head, and we, in our infinite confusion, attempt only to counter this problem by adding further complexity, are we not just denying there is even a problem? If “they” are the purveyors of the message and “I” no longer exist, I am only my ingroup, am I not a puppet to their whims? Ask yourself, what culture promotes modernity more than any other? Answer at your own peril, for it is at this point it I begin to take the accusations personally and I feel ashamed of my heritage, nationality, race, sex and species. I am however, not here to judge. Hopefully I am not being judged. I wish to only point out some symptoms that I think should be addressed.
All species are biologically competitive. I think we can consider it natural for the phenomenon to bleed into our conscious planning as well. Such is it that religions encourage you to breed and may even frown upon attempting to control said breeding. (Yes, we have babies because we are instinctively drawn to reproduce but when outside sources have an agenda for our breeding it is almost always “Let's have more babies than those “other people” who are having babies.”) Indeed, for many of us, raising children is the one thing that gives our lives purpose. We cannot get too far into the philosophy of reproduction. (This is a fascinating question by the way. “Why does sex feel good?” I realize the evolutionary, mechanical reasons for sex to feel good and I can appreciate the biological necessity for the success of the species, but the fundamental question remains, “Why do we have the desire for our species to continue in the first place?” The only answer we have so far is, “Because we must!”) Nevertheless, putting our curiosities aside, it is by looking at things like the global population that we are able to better understand exponential growth.
Something is said to grow exponentially when the number of members increases by a measure that multiplies itself each time. So the more you have to multiply, the more multiplication takes place. You might be familiar with the graphic representation of exponential growth for one of many subjects but they always start lower and then increase rapidly.
Perhaps you are familiar with the above graph as represented by the International Panel on Climate Change in Al Gore's “An Inconvenient Truth.” In this case the chart would be estimating global temperatures determined by measuring the amount of CO2 in ice core samples. You could also have seen the chart as representation of global population for the last 100,000 years. For this estimation the steepest incline would begin at the industrial revolution. In fact, this population boom would precisely coincide with the inception of the lifestyle we currently call modernity. You could also imagine this graph measuring many, many other phenomenon: the use of oil, the value of gold, the value of any resource, the growth of a successful company, or crop, the advancement of computing power for the last 30 years, the quantity of bullshit espoused by Politicians, the list goes on.
As well you might find more personal associations, such as in evolution; You are here because cells exponentially multiplied, because the biological entities that are your parents multiplied, such as their parents did, such as all your ancestors did and exponentially on from there, (to wherever you see fit.) You may even be able to recognize a sort of “life pattern” to the chart. We, like most living things, are born, mature, live, age and die. This is a truth of the Universe, across the board. It seems to this rule no one and nothing is exempt. So how is it acceptable for the systems we design for ourselves to fly in the face of the apparent laws of Nature? Everything that we, as humans, can possibly know so far points to a finite growth limit in natural systems, yet we, often for reasons not beyond profit, insist upon perpetual, infinite growth from our designs. This shortsightedness is an embarrassing fault that someday we will look back upon with shame.
It seems pretty obvious that there are rules that we should, at least, consider as true and the finite growth structure of Natural systems should be one of these. This is because of the Second Law of Thermodynamics, which states that, without energy being spent, all systems in nature break down. The process is called entropy. Still there are countless systems out there bucking this trend. (Can you imagine some corporation wanting anything other than “growing the business?”) We do have internal drives and ambitions that we can consider natural, such as to succeed and provide for ourselves and our loved ones. But it is a rare thing for an individual to instinctively desire more than what he or she needs. That is to say, unless you come to believe something other than your own desires. Entropy, however, is not up for debate. You can watch it happen in your mirror.
Modernity, Complexity, complicated systemic problems in the system, all of it, breaking down because that is what happens. You can deny it if you want, as I stated earlier. I'm not here to change your mind on Universal Truths. You can also deny that you move forward in time, that energy can neither be created or destroyed, that gravity exists, it's your AP. Before you do, think about this: Energy used is energy moved.
Where is your energy going?
A paradigm is defined as a model or pattern. For our purposes consider it a way of thinking about any given subject. A paradigm is a way to understand something through associative groups of ideas. So to change your mind is to change your paradigm. It’s not that simple of course, but it will be after your “Paradigm paradigm” is in place.
Paradigms are built out of networks of associations. You might think you’ve decided that your favourite colour is blue, but it’s been decided for you by the mess of associations you have for the concept of “blue.” An example of an association could be a memory, or just a simple thought. Imagine that inside your brain there is a complicated three dimensional web of tiny neural highways that connect to each other at millions upon millions of junctions. A junction could have many highways coming in and out of it, or it might be dangling by itself, a cul de sac, the end of the line. In our metaphor, inside each of the junctions is a single purpose, it could be an idea, concept, thought, or memory and its sole purpose is to fire or not fire. The complexity of the web develops as associations physically link junctions together. So, in a simple scenario, the child understands that cookies taste yummy because some sensory junctions have connected the concepts of “cookie” to the concepts of “yummy.” (Bypassing the obvious associations of “cookie” to “food”, “eat”, “grab” etc.) Or rather, Cookie > Yummy. The horseshoe symbol creates an “if... then” statement. So C > Y means “if it’s a cookie, then it’s yummy.” A complete statement with subject and predicate, following the rules of symbolic logic, very similarly to grade school grammar. (You can use => on your keyboard to type an acceptable, “arrow” substitute.) You can also say “if and only if” with = or > or on your keyboard = There are other logic symbols that express other ideas, they will be examined as we need them.8 To change the child’s “Cookie Paradigm,” bake cookies out of something less delicious, say sourdough/asparagus flavour. Now the child has difficulty accepting that this new “thing” is even a cookie at all. Perhaps, this new “thing” > Not Cookie, or Cookie > (?) The child’s cookie paradigm has shifted.
Thomas Kuhn opened minds to both ideas of ‘paradigm’ and ‘paradigm shift.’ I'm more interested in how he also commented on how paradigm could get in the way of communication. If two scientists had different ways of looking at a problem, different paradigms about the same subject, they might have trouble communicating. He called it scientific paradigm incommensurability. Kuhn, in my opinion, limited the idea of Paradigm by limiting his definitions. It was as if he wanted to keep Paradigm for the exclusive use of scientists. I can’t speak to his motives or otherwise, but by not realizing the social benefit a utilitarian appreciation of ‘paradigm’ provides, Kuhn lost any chance to define its boundaries. Also fascinating to assume is Kuhn’s apparent ignorance of the real power his little idea contained. He would later acknowledge its takeover, by further narrowing his view, to coin “exemplars:” paradigms generally accepted as rule. Kuhn's idea of paradigm is more outward looking, and while the constituents of paradigm were, at least in part, as was the typification, a concern to him he certainly never dissected it as we do now.
The differences of ‘paradigm’ are the differences of language, of lesson, of opinion, of desire, etc. They are the very stuff that makes us individual. My rules for paradigm have been borne of the failure of Kuhn to extrapolate the social potential of his idea. I’m not alone in having done this but I seem to be in my definition. The Anti-Social movement is strong. After the idea of paradigm was modernized by Kuhn, even it’s limited infancy, how could scientists, authors, corporations, et al not “borrow” its universal nature and hone it as they required?
Science goes through stages, much like all things do. A natural lengthy phase where the norm is established then a more exciting, revolutionary phase where Things Change. Then the change becomes the norm, thus the birth of the “shift.” Sometimes it happens without the overall acceptance of its power? We come to a shift, we accept the shift, we change our paradigm. If we are lucky we realize we just made the shift. If we are brave enough we examine what it means to have made ANY shift and how it might empower us to make pre-emptive shifts where necessary. (Thomas Kuhn rolls over in grave.)
Let’s look at another common paradigm, the idea of “Bed.” Be it an extravagant, luxurious set up at a five star hotel or a dirty horse blanket in the desert, bed is a concept that you began to understand before you can even remember. At first it was probably associated with sleep, comfort, warmth, perhaps even love as your parents may have read you stories, kissed you and tucked you in. Your associative group, your “bed” paradigm is made up of a “few” junctions. Within a few years, it is likely that ‘bed’ might run a fresh line to a new junction, ‘punishment.’ Maybe you are sent to bed without dinner, or you feel that your “bedtime” is unfair. Later still in life the idea of “bed” will most likely become linked to many other junctions; Romance, sex, power, misery, laundry, whatever... You can see how the list can be as lengthy as the newly forming associations in your mind. (Incidentally, my metaphor isn’t too far from the physical truth of your brain, this is the way it actually works!)
By the time you are in your mid twenties your mind is essentially “made up.” (A little bit earlier than that for females.) That is not to say that you can’t make new junctions, in fact, very recent studies have shown that neuro-plasticity, or your brains’ ability to physically change remains healthy throughout most of your life. However, you are not going to make as many new associative connections in the remaining seventy or so years of your life as you did in the first twenty because the ‘forming’ brain is the most pliable. Fret not, for you can take comfort in the fact that you are much more likely (in your wisdom) to recognize epiphaniacle experiences as new junctions are created or connected to create “A-ha!” moments. These moments of strong realization, something almost all humans can relate to, are associative networks of ideas that are connecting into super highways of thought, built of blood flow and tiny discharges of electricity.
Let’s argue that in whatever world I live, the concepts of “bed” and “sex” are connected but the idea of prostitution is a complete unknown. In such a paradigm there is no link between “bed” and “income.” Then, one day through no fault of my own, I become aware of prostitution. Suddenly, I am able to link “bed” to “sex” to “income.” Perhaps I’ll become involved in prostitution in such a way that I become unable to think of “bed” in my old paradigm. It’s possible that, after the paradigm shift, and suffering the lifestyle of a typical prostitute, I will forever look at “bed” with negative feelings, and not at all remember the comfort or warmth of my earlier associations. I say, “This life stinks and I’m trapped in it.” Such is the nature and the power of paradigm shift. (This was a long term case example, a very similar effect could be achieved in one horrible evening of abuse.)
Now let’s imagine I latch onto prostitution with a lively vigor that will eventually lead me to become the Madame of the largest whorehouse in the world. I’ve had my scrapes and “paid my dues” much as the first prostitute did, but I never let anyone change my spirit and now I look at beds and see them as puffy white clouds taking my clients to Heaven. I am successful, healthy and happy. I happen to love sex, I’m good at it, I’m good at running my business, therefore ‘Bed’ > ‘Success.’ The outlook of the first prostitute was exactly the same as the second ones’ at the beginning. They both just “became aware” that prostitution existed. They both decided it was for them. The first one had experiences that lead her to associate ‘bed’ with ‘pain.’ The second one had similar experiences that lead her to associate ‘bed’ with ‘success.’ The difference being that the second one had an understanding of paradigms. Sure, she didn’t call it that, she just never let anyone ‘change her mind.’ She was going to be successful and she was. It could have gone the other way despite her attitude, but it didn’t. The first prostitute has no idea of paradigms. She lives in a reality where things happen to her. She has no control over her life. She had (unconsciously) decided that things were going to be bad in this life, and (surprise!) they are.
I use prostitutes in my explanation because they are an ancient idea that is still commonplace today and they bring morals into the equation. Let’s call the first one, the unsuccessful, unhappy one, “Britney.” And let’s name the second, successful hooker, “Christina.” So far Britney has demonstrated Paradigm Ignorance, (or unconscious paradigms,) by not accepting responsibility for her positions, (she’s a person that things happen to.) She’s had small but relevant paradigm shifts and used Assignee’s Prerogative to her disadvantage by attaching negativity. (She considers her experiences to be sufferances.)
Christina has illustrated Paradigm Cognition by her decision to not allow her paradigm to be displaced and by not assigning negativity to unpleasant associations she used ‘Assignee’s Prerogative’ to her advantage. If you had to decide between them both, surely all would agree that by any standard Christina was a happier, more successful and more productive hooker.
Yeah, but, she’s still a whore!
Exactly! So what? What do you think of that? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why are you deciding on that? Do you have to? Is your life going to be altered in some way if you just let the idea of prostitution be and assign nothing to it’s paradigm? Do you know any hookers, is your sister a whore? No, then what bloody difference does it make? Let it go! This is not possible for the vast majority of humans because we must decide. How can we help but form an opinion? How can we truly know anything if we can’t have an opinion of it? Some of us might even go so far as to believe ourselves when we say we have no opinion of prostitutes, (we’re not judgemental.) Then we cross the street to avoid the “busy corner.”
In the preceding example of ‘bed,’ we were able to successfully join the concept to ‘income’ through ‘prostitution.’ This paradigm shift (the realization of the concept of prostitution,) is a side effect of maturing, or rather becoming knowledgeable, that I call Paradigm Tarnishing. It’s taken your positive connotations of “bed” and attached them to something you find uncomfortable. The effect is probably more recognizable in the common lessons of disappointing ilk, “Your parents lie. Your teacher is an idiot. Your cat ate its kittens.” The experiences happen without you knowing the how or why, once you are aware of these you’ll be able to do something to control your self, presuming you can’t already.
The connections of the junctions linking the simple concepts, (bed + sex + income) > prostitution are only the core of the association. On top of that are many other pathways to junctions varied by each individual and formed uniquely to build your own ‘prostitution’ paradigm. I can only guess at what weird or wonderful things are rattling around in your head when you think of “bed.” (Incidentally, there is no Paradigm “Polishing”, the opposite of “Tarnishing” because Paradigm Cognition polishes approaches by default and attaching positive associations to negative concepts is stupidly dangerous. It does, however, try to get presented to us constantly; “Friendly Fire....” “Near Miss...” “Acceptable Losses...”) And we do it to ourselves by, for example, enjoying a delicious cigarette.
One thing certainly experienced by modern humans is the urgent desire to form an opinion of any given subject, immediately and often in spite of not having any foreknowledge or understanding of it. If you wish to test the hypothesis just ask anyone what they think of anything, especially if they have no way of knowing it. (Here the language gives away the nature of the question. There is a marked difference between questions that start either: “Tell me what you think about...” and “Tell me what you know about...”) This enormous egocentric fault is demonstrated by our ability to work against our own best interests. It is also at the core of my argument.
So, I ask you now, think about your bed. Think back to all the beds you’ve had. Remember all the associations you have made with ‘bed.’ What do you think about when I suggest you think about ‘bed’ I bet it’s quite a bit different from what you would if I asked you to think about prostitution. If you were to jot it all down in two columns and then beside, make two more columns cataloguing everything you knew about ‘bed’ and ‘prostitution,’ the latter list would be much shorter. The difference between the two is opinion formed, and strongly held. Think of it this way, your paradigms are built up of what you have absorbed through either experience or lesson. They are not your opinions, they are what form your opinions, networks of associations. Those associations group together to create a Paradigm, which can be an opinion. Sometimes the opinion is deserving, sometimes not. You probably have a healthy, “normal” paradigm where you think very banal thoughts about ‘bed.’ It’s almost nothing, barely registers on the emotional radar. ‘Prostitution’ gets a stronger response because there are morals attached and therefore more junctions involved. The cascading avalanche of connectivity leads to a stronger mental reaction.
If the person contemplating “bed” holds powerful associations within their paradigm, they may be physically manifest in discolouration, outbursts, violence, etc. This again, is their Assignee's Prerogative. It’s as complicated as they need to make it. However for these people and for all the rest of us, once we have developed an appreciation for “what we are” and “how we got that way” we, feeling like we've been given the key to “the secret,” may indeed go nuts with power. I can remember when I came to understand what I’ve explained to you thus far. It was a moment of empowerment. Once I understood Paradigm, opinion, the physical work occurring in the brain much as I’ve described, I thought I was so much wiser than my friends. It turned out that wisdom runs faster than I can and my friends were happier than I was. We are going to find that it is impossible to know every paradigm fully. To this end we must still strive. It’s important that we understand the significance of the concept of Paradigms for five reasons: 1.) We can understand our thoughts are formed by associations. 2.) We can examine the constructive associations of our paradigms and evaluate their validity. 3.) We can assign or re-assign importance or value to our paradigms using Assignee’s Prerogative. 4.) We can reclaim identity through the formulation of our own, original opinions. (Authentic Self.) 5.) If the examination exposes previously unconscious paradigms, you have by definition, discovered at least some of your Authentic Self.
Or: ‘If exposing Paradigm creates Authentic Self and Evaluation is the key to exposing paradigm, then Evaluation is the key to Authentic Self.
E > P
P > AS <- line means “therefore.”
E > AS (If you’re with me so far, congratulations, you’re a philosopher.)
We must also consider the responsibility one accepts as a practitioner of the contemplative life. As Spalding Gray says in “Monster in a Box” “To name it is to claim it and to claim it is to take away it’s power.” One has taken a sort of “oath to reason” once reason has been established. To go back to being unreasonable would be unthinkable, yet this happens.
Let’s return to our original metaphor and discuss this final point to conclude. If, shortly after my discovery of prostitution, I am asked “What do you think of it?” The best answer, rarely heard, is “Well I just found out about it, didn’t I? Why don’t I get back to you after I’ve formed an opinion.” More likely I am to form an instantaneous decision based on other peoples’ ideas, what I’ve learned, what I’ve heard, what your facial expression tells me I should think, or whatever else I’ve got to work with inside my experience. So I shout out, “No! That’s disgusting and demeaning.” Yet, obviously we have prostitution. Some humans have looked at their bed/income association and found it appealing. It’s been around forever, so how can it be that I am so eager to denounce it? The point is, understanding something and forming an opinion of it are two separate functions of mind that aren’t always copacetic. As I have never known a prostitute, nor had any dealings with, nor even known anyone who’s had dealings with one, how can I possibly understand? I can’t, yet I form an opinion. It’s completely illogical and probably unjust. I have used other people’s opinions to set a paradigm for myself. (Granted, this paradigm will likely remain harmless, but can you see the danger?) Now I’m stuck with a paradigm I don’t even know I agree with, don’t know I can change and won’t know how it’s going to change me. Currently, almost everybody falls prey to this phenomenon, which is terrifying.
A paradigm should be a flexible entity, able to shift, grow, shrink, even disappear. If I was exercising my Assignee’s Prerogative I would say my “Prostitution Paradigm” is that they exist, I don’t have to bother with them, so I don’t. If I ever do, then I guess I will. This, in our current reality, is unacceptable. Our paradigms must be known. How are we to know who you are if we can’t know what you think? Furthermore, due to the long rampant influx of generated opinion, our paradigms are the facts. Our opinions become the object. We have become unable to separate our associations from our subjects. Our beds are this, our beds are that. Prostitution is this, prostitution is that. We must communicate every experience, if even to ourselves, because we have been indoctrinated to categorize everything. It is just how we relate sociologically. Language is partly to blame too, but let us get into the philosophical habit now of remembering that words are just symbols for the ideas they represent. Therefore, we don’t support the war but we support the troops. We abhor murder as executed by group A and tout group B heroes for doing the same thing. We drive home drunk and smash up our bumper sticker that reads “Support the war on drugs.” We are unable to even recognize the ‘double-think’9 of our everyday life.
Humans don’t bother to think. They just regurgitate what they’ve already decided and they're more than happy to bark out fabricated ideas without even contemplating the “why.” It doesn’t have to continue this way. That little word “why” is the key. Asking why leads to the places opinion is born. Asking why an opinion exists leads to measuring it’s value. Knowing the value will help you decide if it’s time to change your mind or attempt to change someone else's. Logic and reasoning can help us along the way to bypass the traps of language and work only with concepts.
8David Kelly, “The Art of Reason.”
9George Orwell, 1984
This is chapter two of Anti-Social Engineering the Hyper-Manipulated Self