government by the least suitable or competent citizens of a state.

"the danger is that this will reduce us to kakistocracy" ·

•a state or society governed by its least suitable or competent citizens.

"the modern regime is at once a plutocracy and a kakistocracy" ·

"the man on the street must share part of the blame for allowing such a kakistocracy to entrench itself"


Time Again for a New New Beginning

Well, another birthday and another year closer to death. Now on the 11th year of this erratic blog. I suppose there are still other blogs out there but you just don’t hear that much about them anymore. So much easier just to tweet I guess.

Here is my 11th year status check...

So I’ve been reading Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari after listening to him interviewed on Russell Brand’s podcast. Between the podcast and what I have read so far I gather one of his main points is that the thing that makes us homo sapiens so successful is that humanity can take collective actions because all the things that motivate such cooperation is the use for “fictions”. Like a legal fiction, as in corporations are people, to the very notion of nations and states and corporations, and a bunch more. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/20873740-sapiens

I don’t want to go into what may be wrong or right about his thoughts, but just provisionally accept it as true. Interestingly it echos the stuff Nathan Gill was saying with his “non duality” stuff. Like the bit where there is no history or future, only “NOW” only “being” (https://youtu.be/9Wo99sa8C4Q). Even though we spend so much time thinking about what we did wrong, or good, in the past, or so much worrying about what we will do and what we might do, those are all just stories we tell ourselves as we live..NOW. We carry all of that with us at each present moment. But really we are already living in the NOW! We are already enlightened and it would be clear if we could just drop the stories that drown out our true vision. Really it is these stories that are the internal Virtual Reality goggles that we wear in our brain.

So both past and future are fictions of a sort. Yes stuff happened and will happen and there are consequences to actions and karma is a bitch, what goes around comes around, all that kind of thing. BUT...LIFE LIVED happens now! And it is only because we carry these stories along with us to each present moment that these fictions (stories) have such power. If we could let go of these stories, assholes could stop being assholes at once, but those stories overpower us.

So the thing that makes us modern humans are the stories we tell ourselves. The good and the bad of it is that we live by and cannot escape this story telling, it is what makes us human (and that is not an all good thing).

Some of the stories are horrible and enduring, as exemplified by Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America by Ibram X. Kendi https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2059048703

Or how we as a people can’t deal with Climate Change… explained in Don't Even Think About It: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Ignore Climate Change by George Marshall https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1350742534 where basically climate deniers have more effective stories that take advantage of humans natural short shortsightedness.

How financial wizardry rules and ruins the world as told in I.O.U.: Why Everyone Owes Everyone and No One Can Pay by John Lanchester https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1721638422 it only works because of the stories bankers tell themselves.

And of course our our brains are wired to react to stories and not actual evidence…

But against all this negativity is the idea that there is also a strain of compassion and empathy buried in our DNA. Part of which I get from The Age of Empathy: Nature's Lessons for a Kinder Society by Frans de Waal. https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1481801657 Like there are situations that draw out empathy in the great apes and we humans can also be drawn into compassion IF we work to encourage those situation in our society. IF we did that of course.

AND there is science behind it like in studies of Vagus nerve where compassion starts BEFORE the brain so we feel compassion first and the impulse is then sent to the brain after that. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/forget-survival-of-the-fittest/ .

Sooooo...humans have both an impulse to disorder but also a tendency toward cooperation and compassion and it is up to ourselves to construct a society that encourages the good over bad...IF we wanted to, but mostly we don’t.

But the galling thing is that all the suffering is simply driven by dumb stories.

End part 1.


Thoughts on Work and These Modern Times

Happened upon this today and wanted to make a note to myself...https://strikemag.org/bullshit-jobs/

This is the quote I want to remember...

It's even clearer in the US, where Republicans have had remarkable success mobilizing resentment against school teachers, or auto workers (and not, significantly, against the school administrators or auto industry managers who actually cause the problems) for their supposedly bloated wages and benefits. It's as if they are being told ‘but you get to teach children! Or make cars! You get to have real jobs! And on top of that you have the nerve to also expect middle-class pensions and health care?’

If someone had designed a work regime perfectly suited to maintaining the power of finance capital, it's hard to see how they could have done a better job. Real, productive workers are relentlessly squeezed and exploited. The remainder are divided between a terrorized stratum of the, universally reviled, unemployed and a larger stratum who are basically paid to do nothing, in positions designed to make them identify with the perspectives and sensibilities of the ruling class (managers, administrators, etc.)—and particularly its financial avatars—but, at the same time, foster a simmering resentment against anyone whose work has clear and undeniable social value. Clearly, the system was never consciously designed. It emerged from almost a century of trial and error. But it is the only explanation for why, despite our technological capacities, we are not all working 3–4 hour days.

Remember how is The Hitchhikers' Guide to Galaxy with "Ship B" (from some fan site)

The Golgafrinchan Ark Fleet Ship B was a way of removing the basically useless citizens from the planet of Golgafrincham. A variety of stories were formed about the doom of the planet, such as blowing up, crashing into the sun or being eaten by a mutant star goat. The ship was filled with all the middlemen of Golgafrincham, such as the telephone sanitisers, account executives, hairdressers, tired TV producers, insurance salesmen, personnel officers, security guards, public relations executives and management consultants.

And with modern age of financial management tools, nothing is actually made. This style of business men, CEOs and such, don't start businesses to produce stuff, the think of themselves as masters of the Universe and worth their millions. But the irony is the pizza dilivery guys bring more "value added" substance to his (or her) work than any of these jag offs.

Of course this implicates the broader question of work. Why is one job "worth" more than another? Why does Mitt Romney get to make millions from buying, stripping down a company, loading it up with debt, reselling it for more money(somehow..) and HE is the guy who gets paid millions while the home depot employee who loads lumber into a pickup and actually helps somebody get $10 an hour? And with deference to Douglass Adams, why dump on hairdressers and telephone sanitiser when they actually provide something. People with financial derivatives and other crazy money making schemes made of vapor live in luxury?

So who is "worth" more than another? What is worth? What is value? How is work and person-hood connected?

It also leads to the unstated premise that humankind is nothing more than a commodification of our souls. Why do we allow this to happen to us? It is crazy!


Are You Just a Calculator Attached to Appetites?
(..and is that a Clockwork Orange?)

I found this quote on the twitter-sphere and think it hints at my core suspicion that “the world” doesn’t make sense. I read the full post and he goes off in his own direction and I can’t agree with his conclusions, but he does have two insightful quotes. I am sure a “conservative” would take issued with the “Brutish” and “without souls, hearts, or minds” parts, but capitalism as the invisible hand that works through individual interests to produce an efficient marketplace is bedrock thinking of the modern conservative movement for the past 40 years. And it hinges on the assumption that people by their choices will cause whatever market is most efficient to spring up to fill those needs. You know…Bullshit.

However the part about brutish is in sync if not espoused directly by today’s business world. In that it is the aggressive, hyper-competitive worker offered as the ideal for conservative thinking and business philosophy in general. But that too is bullshit. Hey, I’m the first to admit that people are jerks, but my supposition is that while cruel and aggressive self-interest is part of human nature, there is also a fundamental part that thrives on cooperation and kindness and it is the civilization we build around us that determine which force (among many others) will dominate our lives.

Later I’ll post the books to backup my conclusion of bullshit

The second quote
The richest man in a society proclaims he has nothing left to buy — and so he’s going to shoot billionaires into space — while a third of its people can’t afford food, shelter and healthcare, life expectancy’s falling, the young, who have little future, are shooting themselves with guns or opioids, and retirement, a stable jobs, savings, an income, and a family are unaffordable luxuries.

This too explain displays how each billionaire is just a one or two decisions away from being a Bond villain. And that is because our cultural goal is to be rich, and therefore there is no reason to design a world where there is any limit on individual wealth, or to have any other goal beyond the no-liberal zeal of individual independence (which caries with it independence from working about anybody else). And once in place that wealth is theirs to do with as they wish. The goal is acquisition. I was going to say it is a goal not of what we as a people want but a goal of see who get the richest. BUT really it IS what we as a people want. We want billionaires to literally burn away millions of dollars on a vanity project involving blasting giant phallus symbols in the air. We want it because if we were rich too, we could also ignore the rest of the world and piss money down the drain, just because we wanted to.

SO…I will now cut and paste his quotes for my own mashup of my and this guy's thoughts...

Society has failed because it teaches us that we are something we have never been at all. Competitive, acquisitive beings who at the core are calculators attached to appetites, optimizing our own gain.

And the winners in this digital monopoly game, the richest men in a society show they truly have it all and there is nothing left to buy — for they shoot their money into space — while a third of the world struggles for food, shelter, healthcare, retirement, a stable savings, an income that pays for it all...all of which are rapidly becoming un-affordable luxuries.

That is the goal; that is what we are taught. Perhaps not taught explicitly but by consumer culture we are indoctrinated, and consumerism and conservatism crowd out charity, sharing and kindness since it goes against brand to not sell and buy.


Books on why humans are not logical consumer creatures

The Undoing Project: A Friendship That Changed Our Minds by Michael Lewis

The Tale of the Dueling Neurosurgeons: The History of the Human Brain as Revealed by True Stories of Trauma, Madness, and Recovery by Sam Kean

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg

Why we are NOT by nature competitive, aggressive assholes, but also why we sometimes are.

The Age of Empathy: Nature's Lessons for a Kinder Society by Frans de Waal


I’m of Two Minds on this Non-Duality Thing

OK, there is thing called Nondualism, which is the notion that we are all connected and the separation we feel in each of us is the deception and if we could see our “true nature” this would be obvious. That probably imprecise definition has some similarities to traditions in Vedic religions and Buddhism, and now there is a whole industry in the western world of generalized nondualism teachers. Some of these teachers are humble, some grandiose, some grumpy and others cheerful.

For me I see some of same stuff I found when I was looking at Zen Buddhism, even though I bet a true Zen Buddhist might bristle at being lumped in together with these new upstarts. Anyway, somehow I stumbled across some books of Nathan Gill who was a British nondulism teacher, who passed away a few years ago, and his two books are mostly collections from group sessions he gave. He comes across as amazingly down to earth guy and somehow that just grabs me. Especially since most of the current big names in the western nonduality scene come across as opportunistic hucksters.

This is from my Goodreads review of Being: The Bottom Line by Nathan Gill...
I think he is saying there is no “I”. There is no “WE”. There is only “Being” and being is all of existence happening right now. Somehow there is no history, not yesterday, no tomorrow. All of those are just thoughts that are happening right now. So history only appears now (“presently” as he likes to say) with awareness, which is also awaken-ness, which is also being.

In fact there is a video (with just audio) on YouTube where he seems to be arguing with somebody about whether a photograph proves something happened in the past. Or rather I “think” he is trying to explain that the nature of existence is WAY simpler than usually explained. All in all it is either super brilliant or just outrageously daft. ( https://youtu.be/9Wo99sa8C4Q 

He might not like it but if I were to apply my own logic to it maybe it is that for each person there is really only this actual moment that you are breathing, reading, thinking…you never think in the past or the future (only think of the past and the future). So, given that we creatures living in time there always only ever this present moment. We are reborn in each second, in each millisecond, or something like that.  

Now what about there being no I, me, we, you? When you think of yourself or others what do you think of? Hang on this upcoming part as it may be a little shaky but I think it might be appropriate….MAYBE his interpretation of I or YOU is those are thoughts with people’s actions and attributes OVER TIME. So who am I? I am a person born at a date, did some stuff, and then some other stuff and that is me. Sort of like speed being miles per hour over time. There is no speed without time.  

BUT for Nathan even though we are living IN time, in reality with clear eyes you realize awareness is only now. Being for the universe is happening NOW. Don’t look back, don’t look ahead, because you can’t since existence is only NOW. And it can be no other way, and in fact most of the worry and fret in the world comes from people trying to do the impossible. It is impossible to truly live in the past just like it is impossible to live in the future. Ideas and thoughts of past and future are always only happening now. 

And I think he implies that in the present awareness there cannot be anything else so I, you and me don’t really exist. There is existence, “being”, but that sense of I only comes from the thought filled baggage. If we recognize this baggage is just that, baggage, then there can be relief since we see if for what it is…just baggage. 

I am reminded of  the idea of “instantaneous velocity” where there was a feeling in Physics that you could never find the speed of something for an instant frozen in time, because there would be nothing to calculate the average speed of time. Without time how could there be an average? Of course somebody comes along and invents Calculus and blammo you have a tool to determine just that thing. BUT since in modern times Physics and Metaphysics are different things, I don’t think Nathan Gill has to worry about some mathematician coming along with a proof or formula to explain away his presently awareness worldview.

I am not sure why this guy's books have grabbed me, but there is something there that seems true. Of course know most modern science-y people will discount him out of hand. But think if one is open minded about it anybody could at least see something to wonder about. One thing about his is that he never takes it beyond looking at the world in the present moment. In fact if somebody tries to make broader conclusions he shuts them down. 


But the brain example serves to reveal how easily overlooked is the obvious fact that thought‌—‌and everything else—‌is simply appearing presently in awareness. - LOCATION: 196

Person 1: But the past did happen.    Nathan: Nothing happened, though a thought may arise that says things happened. - LOCATION: 132

NOTE: Instantaneous velocity is the velocity of an object in motion at a specific point in time. This is determined similarly to average velocity, but we narrow the period of time so that it approaches zero. If an object has a standard velocity over a period of time, its average and instantaneous velocities may be the same.

- - - - -

Well then, where does that leave us (well just me really)?

The thing is, even if a rationalist view is that the nondulism is an impossibility prima facie since we are separate entities as can be seen by counting beyond one...Obvious right? And in there is an aspect that cannot be denied. BUT, bundled with that view is the mind body split from which most modern worldviews spring. Be it capitalism, Marxism, liberalism, neo-liberalism, communism...whatever. And it is premised on the “I” . But I guess I am also saying the "conventional wisdom" sometimes carries a lot of conventions that reinforce views that are so integral that people don't even recognize them as views. Almost like when you forget that you have glasses on and don't recognize your view has a "corrected" lens in place.

So setting aside the bureaucratic demand of modern society for the individual, what if the actual LIVED life of each one of us is more at home in a non fractured worldview? What if we all actually live just like Nathan Gill says? What if for actual life there is no past or future just what is happening NOW!

Of course he doesn’t build a philosophy around this to deal with the implications. He kind of says there are no real implications and anybody who recognizes the clarity of all beings living the same now.

So I kind of get what he is saying. But I wonder what it means in a practical sense? He sometimes sounds fatalistic like nobody is in control so does he mean we shouldn’t work for a better world? But what if by seeing that all life is happening NOW means we are free to drop past baggage and breath free?

Hmmm. Enough for now. I’ll try to work on some more later to get it out of my system


Art and Artist, by Otto Rank

I found a book by Otto Rank that I bought maybe 25 or 30 years ago and never read. I Googled the book to see what people had to say and found this quote...

“For the artist too is a totalist type that, unlike the average, cannot live in perpetual ‘partialization,’ but is forced to totalize every act of life. And on the artistic plane of illusion, in the act of creating – which is at once appearance and reality, a part and a whole – he finds it possible to conquer creatively this fundamental human dualism and to derive pleasure therefrom. For when he creates, the artist uses the whole of himself without being in danger of losing that self therein..."

“A deep study of neurosis has shown me that a characteristic quality of both the productive and the thwarted… is an Over-strong tendency towards totality of experience. The so-called adaptability of the average man consists in a capacity for an extensive partial experience such as is demanded by our everyday life, with its many and varied problems. The non-conforming type tends to concentrate its whole personality, its whole self, on each detail of experience, however trivial or insignificant; but as this is not only practically impossible but psychically painful (because its effect is to bring out fear), this type protects itself from a complete self-exhaustion by powerful inner restraints. Now, the neurotic stops at this point in the process, thus cutting himself of from both the world and experience, and, thus faced with the proposition ‘All or nothing,’ chooses the nothing. The artist, however, here also, in spite of many difficulties and struggles, finds a constructive, a middle way: he avoids the complete loss of himself in life, not by remaining in the negative attitude, but by living himself out entirely in creative work. This fact is so obvious that, when we intuitively admire some great work of art, we say the whole artist is in it and expresses himself in it”
(Pg. 373).

I watched the Gary Shandling documentary on HBO the other day and this really speaks to his experience. His search for ways to be pure Gary was creative and neurotic and the message of the show seemed to say he maybe broke free of the neurotic part of it toward the end.

But his life and this quote is a dangerous question for the rest of us. Are we working to be our true selves or are we merely living in a "perpetual ‘partialization"? And with that if we can't "totalize every act of life" can we step up? Or merely try and eliminate that urge?