Monday, June 8, 2009

2. The Black Sheep says, "No!"

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This is chapter two of Anti-Social Engineering the Hyper-Manipulated Self


The Black Sheep says, “No!”

Human ability to interfere with our own ideas gives us the unique power to work against ourselves or defy what nature would likely do. It doesn’t seem logical when stated as such, nevertheless, to date, we are the only species we know of to act in this way. Through my interests, hobbies and eventually my studies since 2001 I have come to understand at least a part of why this has happened, how it works and what can be done to help facilitate the necessary corrections. I am not alone in claiming this feat, there are many books, films and classes that can help you find peace, understanding, knowledge, strength, God, authenticity, whatever it might be that you find yourself lacking. In modern times, there are many self-help type books and seminars, but for thousands of years humans have attempted to gain such knowledge through their myths and rituals. The philosophy I'm presenting should prove to be more of a habit of consideration than a recipe for success. Success is a matter of opinion and we are primarily concerned with fact. This is of a different sort of “self-help” type information, it doesn’t promise to give any warmth, hope or even strength. It is quite probable that some readers may even become upset with the understanding that can be achieved by the following chapters, for it is within you that it must be found.
...and we, you and I, my friend, are a mess!
Einstein has famously said, “Imagination is more powerful than knowledge.” While I believe this to be true, neither is going to work without the other. However, if you flip the statement inside out it becomes more relevant to our discussions. “Denying imagination is more damaging than denying knowledge.” The former is a failure to look to the future while the latter is a failure to learn from the past. Balance is required and while I'm sure that Einstein knew this as well, it is a lack of this balance that haunts our progress now. An “imagination failure” is, at the least, counterproductive to growth and its most extreme, life threatening. A failure to recognize knowledge can pose the same threats but it is how we look differently at these two traits that reveals the heightened dangers of denying imagination. When one denies the past one, is destined to repeat it by failing to analyze and understand past mistakes. When one denies the future one denies any chance to help shape it, by failing to recognize the possibilities. With this in mind, let's examine the four attitudes one can adopt toward change.
There are those of us who don't even want to hear it, whatever it is. For these people there is no hope. If you have decided, without yet knowing the new idea, that you aren't going to even entertain the possibility, for any reason, you are destined to fail. Those of us who can't see the opportunity, cannot take advantage of it. This may seem natural in life, after all, everything ends, dies or otherwise ceases to be. This much is true, evolutionarily speaking, systemically speaking, Universally speaking, there is only one rule, “If evolution is required for survival, you must change or die.” Ideas and imaginations are not exempt from this rule. The difference is, with an idea we have the option for an instant shift. Whereas, biological evolution requires force from the environment and time. Our mental evolution of ideas can be adapted, with or without our efforts. Knowledge is knowledge because we know it, imagination is what takes us to new knowledge. If you are opposed to this growth or exploration you are opposed to life, it is curious why you even continue to take part in it at all. This is not to say that there are not ideas that are terrible and we should immediately dismiss, but to deny knowledge without even hearing it is rather unfathomably stupid.
Some of us may listen to an idea with no pronounced notions about the soundness of any correct feeling about the idea. Yet, for these people, it is the source of the idea alone that creates the resistance. While it is important to consider the source when contemplating new information, one mustn't automatically dismiss it solely on the basis of source. Adopting this attitude toward change would make one no less ignorant than the previous person who wouldn't entertain the idea at all. Or it could be that you are not denying the idea, but blindly adopting it on the basis of source. This behaviour is no less dangerous but is more common, for instance, in young people searching for identity. Often, with teenagers, ideas and ideals change as often as hairstyles or musical tastes. As we age, settling into our decisions, getting wiser, collecting knowledge and turning away from imagination, we develop an attitude toward new ideas that identify with the bulk of the population.
For the most part we all face each and every decision based on our appraisal of what we would consider, “the entire situation.” (That is to say, “Our appraisal of the entire situation, as far as we can tell.”) This behaviour makes perfect sense as it ensures that we do the best we can, deciding what is best for ourselves. The choices we make between accepting or denying new ideas define what we are today and what we can become tomorrow. Any bias we have creates resistance, which in turn, impedes performance. The open mind can approve of resistance if it is deemed necessary only if it hasn't already denied the option and is aware of the option in the first place. We will see in the pages that follow, we must either know things, believe things or not believe things. If we know things, then they are, even if they are only thoughts there is no question or choice. If we are asked to imagine, or believe something, we must decide what we are going to do with this information, despite it not being different in any substantive way from that which we claim to know. If we are going to decide, it just makes sense to have all the facts possible.
Consider this book a primer that, in plain and efficient language, with a tireless commitment to reason, can provide you with nothing less than an original point of view. Imagine it as a way to find a place to come from that will, if you need it to, change the way you experience everything. The philosophy represents a new standard by which you can measure truth or worth and thereby decide smartly, or not at all. After we’ve established the standard, we will use it to re-examine our realities. Other “procedural manuals” are composed by authors often specializing in one discipline. Many of these fine lessons illumine my chapters. The difference being that we will be examining these lessons from both sides of the story and ultimately from within ourselves.
~ ~ ~
The term “Authentic Self” is valid and there is certainly a very real opportunity to make money by selling pathways to it, but the definition being touted by its proponents is inaccurate. So you have Dr. Phil talking about Authentic Self as “who you were created to be instead of who you were taught to be...” You may have seen Eckhart Tolle, spiritualist and author on the Oprah Winfrey show teaching that our ego’s are products of our experiences and possibly should not be trusted, certainly at the least scrutinized. Both basically the same argument, ‘you are a product of your paradigms and they require evaluation.’ It turns out that we agree with each other on this point. The problem with many of these other works is that there is still a leap of faith insisted upon us. Not that my issue is that Dr. Phil uses the word “created,” (he could after all mean ‘biologically created,’) or that Mr. Tolle goes on to re-interpret the New Testament Bible, attempting to apply validity to his theories. I’d be guilty of wearing the same blinders as they if I were to argue with them and I’m not here to take anything from anyone. (None of us can prove or disprove the existence of God.) Is a classical psychotherapist’s opinion any more valuable than a spiritualist if the topic is the human worth of globalization with centralized governance? What if we ask these two to help determine the value of truth versus the value of selling books?
The individualistic approach of this “21st century” new age self-help movement, also denies much of the source of our self-defeating behaviour, namely the influence of society. It’s important to stress that I am not claiming that the tenets of any particular faith are invalid, I’m arguing that the requirement of faith in order to explain fact is. (Besides, you’re going to find that even the facts are fantastic enough...) Further to this question of psychological vs. philosophical authenticity, even from the academic crowd, it seems that the determination of the self from the self continues to dominate the field. In a 2008 paper called The Authentic Personality: A theoretical and Empirical Conceptualization and the Development of the Authenticity Scale, published in the Journal of Counselling Psychology Vol. 55, No. 3, the authors attempt to quantify and qualify “Authenticity.” While it is the most recent and scientific paper available on this subject it continues to completely miss the philosophical questions of self and determines that only we can decide if we are being authentic to ourselves. While this paper does address what it calls, “accepting external influence” and is agreeably concerned with authenticity as integral to well-being, it does not, at any moment, in any way, address the value of addressing social engineering. The paper essentially concludes that if influence is internalized, to deny this influence is to alienate the self in an internal conflict that leads to psychopathology (mental problems.) While I essentially agree with this determination, this psychological point of view fails to look outwardly at any general causation. I have to ask, “What if external influences are lying to you?” “What if you don't know what it is you believe?” “What if you are lying to yourself because of submitting to external forces?” These are the types of questions that psychology cannot address except through trusting you know what is best for you.
You are now, and will remain eternally, entitled to believe whatever nonsense you like. You’re going to do it anyway. You can’t help it. It comes at you from all angles, twenty-four hours a day. Don’t bother trying to blame T.V. or other modern distractions for the consistent barrage of often questionable information. It’s been this way for all of recorded history. This is right, this is wrong, this was bad, this will be good, you are this, I can’t be that... Only the delivery vehicles have changed. It is now systemic. It is automatically ingrained, as you are, after your birth, by practice and by influence, dragged unhappily away from purity and into hyper-reality. As are your children, as are your grandchildren, until someone, perhaps the black sheep, says, “No!” Being the black sheep may not make you popular, but it is helpful, even to those who judge you, if they are wrong thinking. The black sheep of the world may be counter-culture but they are also our pioneers. We may mock them, we might avoid them or disassociate ourselves from them, yet without them we wouldn't be challenged to change or pushed into new paradigms. I'd like to propose that there is a twenty-first century movement afoot made up entirely of black sheep, or perhaps sheep of many colours. At this point in our history these sheep all have the same message for the flock, “Beware! Beware! The end is near.” This is not a message I particularly subscribe to but I do agree with many of their observations. These observations will become self evident as we begin to understand how it is these problems are the reality facing us. Modernity, complexity, accountability, influence, greed, prejudice, these are the same old conspiracies of the real world.
~ ~ ~
Have you ever thought about why it is that “reality” must be taught? Furthermore, why is it that what we learn is so very often different from what we use? Who decided that the lessons we receive are better than the pure existence we are borne into? Have you ever wondered about the origin of the rules: how or why a particular, seemingly unconscious moral finds it’s way to be expressed through your personality? Do you have the courage to take a long look at ideas that go directly against what you’ve come to understand as truth? Can you summon the foresight to imagine that you are not, in fact, fully in charge of your thoughts, then contemplate what that means? These are not light questions and shouldn’t be thought of as such. They are extremely and equally powerful personal affronts. They are akin to the great questions of all time, “Why are we here?” “Is there a God?” “What is my purpose?” There are tangible answers to be found within this new awareness. Not that anyone but you could decide upon them but everyone deserves the opportunity to understand themselves and their environments. If the veil of other people’s thoughts and opinions can be seen, they can be made transparent. Then you can, perhaps for the first time in your life, make up your own mind.
The idea of “authenticity” seems to counter the idea of “influence.” Philosophical authenticity has its roots in self awareness and one would be well served to develop an appreciation for this viewpoint. Although our modern version of authenticity has been defined by the existentialism of the last few centuries it is an idea as old as Philosophy itself. Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” While you could argue this statement in many different ways the theme of Socrates' words rings true. One cannot be one's self if one does not know one's self. The value of authenticity becomes determinable when we separate our original ideas from the ones we have “borrowed.” The best means to accomplishing this goal is via the practise of philosophy.
The word ‘philosophy,’ like a lot of words, has more than one definition. We are concerned with mainly three: 1.) A person “does” philosophy by logically examining ideas with fair but critical eye. (Using logic and reasoning.) 2.) A person “has” a philosophy, an outlook, a position, an opinion on any particular subject. (Paradigm.) 3.) Calmness in temper and judgement. (To be philosophic is to be coolly contemplative.) The goals of philosophy are the goals of this book. If ever there was a methodology of mental existence worth exploring or an attitude that made sense to adopt, it would be a product of philosophy.
In a way, the film The Matrix, as depicted in the Wachowski brothers’ trilogy of films, is true. Not that humans are full grown embryonic batteries fulfilling some necessary mechanistic energy need, rather that humans go through the motions of life, barely contemplating the steps we take, nor why we take them. That is not to say we don’t plan things. We do, despite our plans not necessarily being in our best interest. Yet even our plans are not our own, in most instances. Within this “Matrix,” there are forces that, by being aware, we are able to have some form of control, or more precisely, a usable understanding of the true nature of reality. Unfortunately, I’ve not yet figured out how to warp time or space like Neo and Agent Smith, (see next book.) I can tell you that most modern humans are in a near constant state of trance and you can use nifty “Jedi mind tricks” in your daily lives, in much the same way as these tricks are used upon you.
The popularity of the ideas expressed in the Matrix films, the paranoia epitomized at the Y2K non-phenomena and the events that unfolded on Manhattan Island on September 11th, 2001 are social manifestations of forced paradigm shift. The term paradigm shift was coined by Thomas Kuhn in the Structure of Scientific Revolutions. It is used to describe a broad stroke “changing of minds” on any given idea. For instance; Before air travel was common the idea of getting from Europe to America in one day was unthinkable. These paradigm shifts can also be different ways of exposing the lack of control we have over our own existence. In the Matrix films, every human, thinking he or she is alive, is actually the product of a dream, controlled by a computer program with all the events of a life predetermined. At midnight January 1st, 2000, no planes fell out of the sky, no bank machines started spewing money due to the roll-over of “old” computer clocks. Almost nothing out of the ordinary happened. Yet, it was all we could talk about, millions of dollars were spent preparing for it and millions of dollars were made selling the fear of it. In Manhattan, on September 11th, 2001 a lot of minds were changed all over the world on a good number of ideas. Since that day, minds continue to change and be changed to such a marked degree that it may someday be hailed as the largest contributor to the new Enlightenment. Yes, we are in a new Enlightenment. Exciting, isn’t it?
The word “enlightenment” indicates that, where once there was some knowledge lacking, it has now been developed. This does not always mean that you have learned, or otherwise sussed out some previously unknown answers. It means that where once there was nothing, there now is something. For instance, believing that the events of September 11th, 2001 were the result of Al Qaeda hatred for America is one thing, but understanding that America built and funded Al Qaeda is something else. Those of us watching the World Trade Center towers collapse live on television were of a very different mindset than those of us who understood later how, architecturally speaking, these collapses were, in not impossible, extremely unlikely. This says nothing of what it means that these collapses, did in fact, occur. Enlightenment is a product of time and reason, as such it seems inevitable, however strange it seems during the shift. Often, we don't know it's happening until it's over.
The place where many of your decisions are made is built from concepts that have been exposed to you. Some things you will have decided upon but for a large part, you know things because somebody wanted you to. Accepting this as fact is a good and necessary start. However, it is as liberating as it is frightening to take the next step and ask, “Is it right?” This is where the argument currently begins and ends. For you will fight forever with the demon and angel on your respective shoulders, trying to separate ideas from ideals, with the confusion that clouds your mind from years of indoctrination. Herein lies an unfortunate Human truth: Until there is a drastic change not only in what we think, the way we think, as well as the way we learn to think, the deciding over ideas/ideals will remain left to opinion, be it falsely developed, socially engineered or naturally exposed. It was this belief, through my discovery of self, what self entails and by my own curiosity that I began to uncover what I might come to believe if left to my own devices. Is that not our ultimate goal, to make up our own minds and be correct?
~ ~ ~
In the nineties, in my hometown, we experienced an explosion of information. It might have occurred earlier for you, but for my family, 1995 was the year we got the internet and doubled our cable TV channels. There seemed to be a myriad of distractions on television, a channel for everything and a simple name for each: The Food Channel, The History Channel, The Speed Channel, etc. In 1995, online, there didn’t seem to be much more than websites catering to the novelty of the internet itself. The internet was another new idea to absorb, and I, along with everyone else, was making it up as I went. Through this new, steady stream of information I began to unconsciously expose myself to alternative concepts. Then I began, out of interest, to seek them out. I didn’t have to look very hard or long to find a plethora of viewpoints evolving from without and within, which is in and of itself an important lesson. This broadening of the mind is typical of young people, particularly when they move out of the home to go to college, only in this instance, “the college” comes to us.
The hardest mind to change is your own, not because you’re right or wrong, but because you’re proud, vain and lazy. This leads to the conclusion that the most logically open minded approach to that which must be left to opinion for lack of empirical fact, is one where no decision need be made. This philosophy dares to leave the question open ended until any or all evidence has been presented. It states, in the absence of assurance, that “It’s okay to not know,” and unlike the humanist movement, it refuses no claims - be they spiritual leanings or supernatural curiosities. (Humanism is a rationalistic outlook that denies that which can't be proven. For instance, it denies the existence of God.)
The ultimate viewpoint is that where assignment in unnecessary. When this viewpoint is assimilated to the point of replacing the varied, yet somehow narrow, viewpoints of modern societies, anything will be possible. I call it Assignee’s Prerogative. It means you’re aware that you give your paradigms their amount of power. Awareness of Assignee’s Prerogative has been dubbed “Authentic Self” and I’m happy with this term as well, I just defer to the causation . Assignee’s Prerogative reminds the Authentic Self of how and why it became established.
The inciting incident that set me on the path to this conclusion came in the form of documentaries I watched in 1995. The Learning Channel and The Discovery Channel seemed to me to be at a loss for programming, and would often repeat the same shows, or at least the same subjects. Through these programmes with titles like, “The Message of the Sphinx and “The Quest for the Lost Civilization.” I came to learn of Graham Hancock, Robert Bauval, Dr. Robert Schoch and John Anthony West. (These specials were based on books of the same names.) These men, some being Scientists, some investigative authors, were studying subjects that had interested me for years, but they were looking at things with “new eyes” and came to conclusions that I found fascinating. Briefly, these men, each in their speciality, had found some seemingly unrelated observations that came to a consistent conclusion when compared with each other. What this comparison claimed was that our ideas about ancient time-lines are most likely vastly out of kilter, at least in terms of the amazing ancient monuments of our planet.
John Anthony West noticed one day, while looking at photographs of the stone enclosure that surrounds all but the front face of the Sphinx, that the wall had an undulating profile of wear indicative of weathering by water. As the story goes, he took his photograph, covered the head of the Sphinx with a post-it note and showed it to some Geologists asking, “What type of weathering is seen here?” Without fail the Geologists would claim, “This is perfect example of rock wear due to heavy rains.” Mr. West would then peel off the post-it note covering the head of the Sphinx and the Geologists would say, “Oh,” and that was about all. No one wanted to play ball with his theory until he found an open minded Geologists named Robert Schoch. The two men went to the Giza Plateau and did extensive studies of the Sphinx and its enclosure. They found what they considered irrefutable evidence, and to this day, the only rebuttal has come in the form of disbelief, a seeking for more physical evidence beyond that of geology, rather than a denial of the science Dr. Schoch was presenting. Geologists, for the most part would defer, no matter how intrigued, to the Archeologists who would only accept something tangible, like a piece of pottery from the proposed time frame, as proof. The inner workings of the how, when and why of the Sphinx weather wearing pattern came through the teamwork of imagination, astronomy and climatology by Robert Bauval and Graham Hancock. They started to poke around with the obvious question, “So when were there torrential rains (or any form of consistent rain) on the Giza Plateau?” The answer found in climatology models was that of around ten thousand BC to twelve thousand BC. The argument of these for men then became that if the Sphinx enclosure suffered such noticeable weathering it must have been constructed well before the rainy period. Therefore, the Egyptologists who claim the Sphinx was built around four thousand B.C. must be incorrect and in all likely-hood that would be the time that the stone creature was remodelled or repaired. Furthermore, it turned out that during this proposed, much older, time frame, the Sphinx would face the star constellation Leo (the Lion.) Robert Bauval believed this to be further proof of the true age of the Sphinx.
Now, I freely admit, that at this time, and for no short period afterwards, I was downright gullible. To be honest, I, like my son admitted to me recently, like knowing secrets, even if they’re not true. I have come to be a much better scrutineer since those days, but only very recently. I was of the opinion that if these Scientists, even if being persecuted by fellow Scientists, were underdogs and should be rooted for, believed and trusted. So I did. I became excited at the knowledge I could absorb. I began watching the excellent program NOVA on PBS. I began studying physics, cosmology, psychology, philosophy. I made myself familiar with ancient cultures, ancient practices. I began to wonder about the stranger things in life, God, Aliens, Atlantis, existence itself.... I began to seek out knowledge of these subjects through empirical science wherever possible. For instance, Physicist Stephen Hawking proved in a very brief paper that some things can escape the gravitational pull of black holes. This discovery, like the weathering of the Sphinx enclosure are two examples of ideas we used to have and are unable to have anymore. We were wrong. If we were wrong about the age of the Sphinx and about the inescapability of black holes, what else are we wrong about? I didn’t know it at the time, but the decision not to decide was staring me in the face. Is it not better to just let information in and not bother to judge whether it is true? Truth of the easily proven is most often self-apparent and each of us will decide what leaps of faith we are prepared to take. (Assignee’s Prerogative.) More and more as Science progresses the list of things we take on faith is getting shorter and the list of empirical fact grows.
As much time as I spent studying Hawking, Sagan or any of the classic scientific papers, I also read Castaneda, Von Daniken and the more fringe theorists, because who am I to argue that these are ridiculous fantasies? Let’s not forget that fiction can also teach you a lot about reality; Huxley, Orwell, Camus, Sagan, Asimov. More recently, since the moment my curiosities began to develop a directionality, I have had to further hone my studies. I found that I could notice and comprehend these more alternate concepts, even appreciate their validity, but I couldn’t prove or even express any real understanding. Thus the study of Philosophy and the use of symbolic logic came into my life. It is hoped that by the end of this book you will have learned enough about doing philosophy to have developed at least an appreciation of its utility. For me, studying philosophy was a necessity, but for you I hope it is a pleasure. Please don’t let the algebraic look of logic frighten you. The letters and symbols used in logic are representative of ideas, not the words that represent the ideas and we will be merely scratching the surface. These formulations (called syllogisms,) will be used sparingly and explained well in plain language. I find one of the more fun aspects of this book is that once you wrap your mind around these ideas you do feel somewhat empowered and as I hinted at earlier, I’m sure you’ll find reality to be as entertaining as any imagination.
~ ~ ~
I happen to believe that a God in my Universe makes sense. I don’t know if any interpretation of who or what God is that has yet or will ever be expounded is correct. I only have the argument that there can be no effect without cause. What caused God is not a concern for me, as where my God resides is also where I allow logic to break down. As I am aware of the duality of the Universe, (something that is empirically provable IE: matter/antimatter,) there must be a degree of opposition. If there is opposition then it should be possible for my God to reside outside the “rules of existence.” We will get into this philosophical theism with more detail later, but for now, understand that whether or not I believe in God shouldn’t be part of your decision to accept or deny my philosophy. (If it is then you really need to keep reading.) Besides, I haven’t always believed in God. As a teenager, perhaps because I was a teenager, like so many others filled with angst and disillusionment, I spent many years as an existentialist atheist of sorts. Perhaps someday some new information or theory will change my mind again, or even confirm my current indulgence.
To reiterate, and hopefully encapsulate, time is going to change you as it does all things. It does so by changing your opinion about what you thought you knew and as change is the only thing that remains constant, to be narrow-minded in your approach is counter-productive, perhaps even to be “working against life.” The ultimate open mind is achievable and this is not an unreasonable thing to strive for. Prove what can be and only decide on the unprovable when you must. Strive to always consider things from your own, original viewpoint. At first it sounds so simple, but as you will learn, it takes remarkable effort to sweep out the cobwebs created by outdated modes of thinking. We must purge any old misconceptions and formulations. We must first gain an understanding of what many will find to be a variety of seemingly unrelated subjects from psychology to advertising, philosophy to physics, politics to personality. We need to have a shared vocabulary of concepts that are already in our toolkit or we won’t be able to get any work done. I humbly submit my interpretations as an “instruction manual” for individual social responsibility. This is a pathway to virtue. I realize the awesome arrogance of this goal but please remember that few of these ideas are original. I’ve just assembled a workable collection of concepts to a conclusion that, while productive and logical, is clearly not yet the norm of society. I believe it should be.
It's not only ideas and reactions that are not your own, it's everything, including language. Often, you’re surprised to find what a word actually means when you ignore what you’ve always thought it meant. For instance the word, “Conspiracy” (taken from the French, it literally means “to breath together”) was in no way attached to its modern negative connotation when born in the fourteenth century until it became married to the concept of “Assassination” in the twentieth. Originally conspiracy was understood as just “to plan or plot, together.” You could conspire to have your family survive the winter after a failed crop. As you can see, it fits well, but the assignation of the negative concept overwrites our past understanding and produces a new opinion of the way the word should be used. Soon thereafter, we will have taught our children about conspiracy, they won’t even be aware that it was once clear of any negative OR positive attachments. ‘Conspiracy’ had a much longer peaceful connotation that it’s latter punished one. Such is the difference between Assignee’s Prerogative and our current insisted upon reality. It is no longer required that we be slaves to the unknown constituents of our paradigms.
We have a choice, let's learn to use it.

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