Posts Tagged ‘Disinformation’

Anarchism and Capitalism

June 18, 2017

Something approaching anarchist communism is the way most human societies have functioned during our evolution and prehistory. Humans co-operate and compete, live in relationship to other humans and nature, talk, produce art, engage with God and ‘science’, and try to prevent the accumulation of inequalities. So for them property is exchanged rather than accumulated. They resolve disputes by long discussions and listening, trying to reach as real a consensus as possible. If that fails then the society splits, or there some minor violence occurs. Those people who like bossing others around or displaying their wealth or who cannot relate to other people can move out and join the capitalists or Statists, where their personality traits are considered normal or even praiseworthy.

The weakness of anarcho-communist societies is obvious – State and business based societies usually slaughter them, unless they can hide in otherwise inhospitable mountains or deserts. So there is no ‘paradise’ once State and business gets going.

A fundamental difference between anarchism and capitalism is that in capitalism the fundamental relationships between people are not communitarian and consultative, they are Boss and Employee, or Servant and Master. Pro-capitalists hope to avoid the servitude they cultivate or force on others.

As well, capitalism requires a State and violence to allow the accumulation of property, and the severance of human relations that allows that accumulation. There is, and has been, no capitalism without accumulation and a State, or without forming a state. Accumulation of wealth also allows the financing of specialists in violence like a military or a police force which helps State formation. Capitalism nearly always leads to plutocracy. Indeed one can see that “anar caps” are usually keen to have proto-State apparatuses such as police, courts, prisons and lawyers when those forces are mercenary and available to the highest bidder because that means that the wealthy own both the law and the enforcers of the law, and thus make the law, and the State apparatuses, serve them. There is little anyone outside the circle of wealth can do to go against this ‘law’. Wealthier and more violent enforcers will tend to take over smaller mercenary enforcers, or severely damage them. Enforcers will routinely protect those who contribute most to their prosperity, and the law, and so ‘judicial’ decisions and laws will respect those powerful ‘customers’. The observed aim of capitalists is not to abolish the State but to abolish any part of the State that does not serve the sole interests of successful, wealthy and dominant capitalists.

Once the wealthy own the means of violence and law, then they will probably team up in their mutual interest to make them all safer in their suppression of everyone else. This is what elites do, and this give further coherence to the burgeoning State they are creating.

This process is given legitimacy as, in capitalism, wealth is the only acceptable marker of value, whereas in anarchism people may be renown for many different things.

As we said earlier, sociopaths, greedheads and exploiters will tend to migrate to capitalism where they think their personality traits may be rewarded. The wealthy may well tend to have a higher concentration of such individuals than the rest of the population. In capitalism, people without wealth, or not interested in making wealth, are naturally considered inferior and nobody worries if they get trodden on.

Consolidation of plutocracy is even more likely, because in a system of inequality and resultant shortage, wealth is a portable and transferable basis for power, and can be applied to all other sources of power. Wealth can and will buy violence. It will buy the law. It will control the information flow and propaganda, so that ‘free market’ ideologies and ideologues will be supported and counter examples and ideas repressed. Wealth can control cosmologies and religions. Wealth can command specialists, administrators and managers to further reinforce its power and boss people around. Plutocracy is the only possible result of capitalism.

Capitalism not only tends to produce a State it tends to produce an imperial State to gain new markets, new resources, new workers and new places to dump waste and pollution from its methods of production. If the capitalists verge onto the anarchists then the capitalists will generally not recognize the property of the anarchists – after all anarchists have no contract and their property is not registered as belonging to anyone in capitalist law. If property does not exist in capitalist bought law then it is terra nullius and ripe for the taking. Historically this is what capitalists do.

This leaves the anarchists with a problem, they could pay tribute to the capitalists to be left alone, but that implies subservience and depends on some wealthy person not taking them to capitalist bought court and challenging their lack of ownership. Anarchists may not even have currency to pay with, which of course shows they have no rights or value as people, as they have no wealth. The capitalists may decide to rule them for their own good, and use their ‘defensive’ military or police for that purpose. This then throws the anarchists off the land they don’t own (in the capitalists eyes) and forces them into wage labor and subservience to a boss – so the bosses may become still more prosperous. The conquered anarchists will no longer be seduced by ideas of communitarianism, liberty and disregard for profit, they will have to work for hire in subservience. They won’t effectively challenge capitalist power by existing free of it.

There is an inherent difference between anarchy and capitalism. Anarchists aim to maximize the amount of time that all people can use for non-economic, purely human purposes, while capitalists aim to maximize the amount of time that the vast majority have to labor to survive.

This is why pro-capitalists only ever talk of the ‘market’, or try to make the ‘market’ and economic reward the central, and deciding, part of human life. This arrangement tires people out and keeps them submissive to their bosses. Pro-capitalists may come to believe that there is nothing else in human life than economic labor, and profit, which reinforces the ideological system of power. This is also why they are always so destructive of the environment that others live in, and even their own. Anything can be destroyed if it makes profit and it does not inconvenience another person with ownership of the law.

There is a magic here; pro-capitalists appear to believe that by supporting the dominant power, and forcing others to do so, they will gain power and prosperity for themselves.

Anarchists always have to be wary of capitalists, and see them as supporting plutocracy. It is certainly arguable that largely unfettered capitalism will, with enough power allocated to business, produce a State and a society very like the one we have to day – which after 40 years of endless praise of free markets, should not be a surprise to any one.

Group identity and ideas

May 27, 2017

The roles served by communication, information and reasoning are primarily social. That is, these acts/events are primarily about getting on in groups and orienting the person in the world in relation to others, with whom they ally, and against others who are perceived as threats. Accuracy is secondary.

1) Ideas don’t have to be accurate to be accepted

For example, people believe in ‘free market’ economics despite the fact that it has never delivered the general prosperity, liberty or virtue, it has been used to promise. It may deliver wealth and power to the corporate elites but that is another matter. Lots of ideas/actions do not deliver, or even produce the opposite result to what is promised for them, but people fiercely defend them anyway.

Acceptance has nothing to do with the ‘accuracy’ of the idea, or their ability to deliver promised results.

2) Sharing ideas is about group bonding

What a set of ideas needs for it to gain influence, is to produce (or be associated with), social bonding and a sense of identity.

Any group bonding process is boosted by working together, or by specifying some other groups, or set of groups, as an enemy outgroup from which the group needs to be distinguished or defended – socialists, liberals, Muslims, Christians, capitalists etc…

It is not necessary that the favoured outgroup actually does attack the ingroup; all that is necessary is for the group’s ideas to frame the outgroup as an attacking force. This will help the sense of ‘working together’ in the ingroup and, eventually, one sided hostility will promoted the desired reprisals.

For example, Scientology provides a close bonding organization which claims to represent an elite (you in potentia), with a strong sense of being persecuted by evil outgroups, as well as a set of ideas which may or may not deliver, but which a person’s adherence to, defines them as members of the group.

Sometimes inaccurate ideas can give more of a sense of identity than accurate ones, particularly if the groups are driven by a sense of resistance to groups which profess more accurate ideas – for example climate change denial.

3) The group is marked by the ideas it promotes

The group, as marked by the ideas, provides support and social bonding, so that people have loyalties to fellow ingroup members, beyond loyalties to outgroup members (although this can be complicated). They also have loyalties to group ideas which symbolise the group’s loyalties. The ideas are more like flags of allegiance than tools to help understand the world.

Attacking and defending these ‘flagging’ ideas is often seen as the same as attacking or defending both the group that promotes them and the sense of identity and bonding it provides. Attacking ideas can appear to be an attack on the self, its social position, its associates, and its right to exist.

Ingroup members support each other in attack those who attack the ideas of the group. This states the virtue of the group, and further cements the bonds of loyalty and working together, thus reinforcing the ideas, irrespective of whether the ideas are shown to be accurate or not.

4) Identity is about loyalty and opposition between categories.

As implied, the identity provided by the group is often partly provided by its distinction from other groups.

Men are not supposed to be like women or vice versa, Muslims are not supposed to be like Christians and so on. Being-not-the-relevant-other is important to many (but not all) human groups or identity categories.

Furthermore a person can see the differences between fellow ingroup members with greater ease than they see differences between outgroup members. The type of attention applied is different. It is easier to believe all Republicans are the same, if you are not a Republican. Outgroups tend to be perceived as uniform and less human.

Some groups claim that eventually, all good hearted people, will be like them. Therefore people who resist them are clearly not good hearted. Such groups always seek outgroups, and will manufacture them if everyone becomes the same.

In complicated societies there are overlapping spheres of identity in social life. Disjointed spheres may mean that it is harder to distinguish yourself from others, so you become more complacent about difference. However, the more your identity is defined by categories which smoothly overlap or concatenate, then the more you might perceive the difference between your group and out groups, and the more that outgroups can become sites for projection of fantasies. So groups can drive each other apart. But sometimes you get a dynamic whereby one group wants to be more like the other, and the other repels them – so the groups move further towards a similar extreme. In the US Democrats become more Republican, and Republicans move further to the ‘right’ to distinguish themselves.

5) The more the ideas expressed by a person praise the shared information and biases of the group, the more persuasive they are, and the higher status they gain. The more the ideas expressed by a person appear to resemble the ideas expressed by the outgroup, the less persuasive they are and the more marginal and threatened their status – they may even risk expulsion.

6) Ideas become relevant in different circumstances and different conflicts with the out groups…

Hence group members do not have to worry, or even notice, if those ideas are compatible with each other or not. There is no necessity for ideas to be coherent because they primarily serve as markers of self-identity, loyalty and differentiation from the outgroups in different circumstances.

Power and incompetence

May 19, 2017

People in power are often structurally incompetent. Not only because they get promoted above their ability to handle the situations they are supposedly in charge of (as explained in the Peter Principle), but because they suffer from the power/ignorance nexus (David Graeber). That is, because all the information they receive tends to be tailored towards what those beneath them, think that they want to hear or see. The more the people in power have access to violence, or can threaten those beneath them, the more this is the case. ‘Superiors’ don’t have to understand people or events that they can hit, or order to be hit. Managers can also be cut off from reality by their immediate underlings who try to control them by feeding them ‘useful’ information – this is the evil advisor motif. Similarly, those in power rarely explain truthfully what is going on to those beneath them, as this would render them more vulnerable to criticism and challenge. Thus those beneath them have to guess what is meant to happen, or what is happening, and this opens the organization to complete fantasy where people know that everything they are told is untrue, but don’t know what the lies are covering. This further confuses the information that the ‘superiors’ receive.

The less competent the people in power become, the less they are likely to realise that they do not understand what is going on or recognize competence (Kruger Dunning effect) – they see everything as all someone else’s fault, or the result of a vast conspiracy against them. Given that power is always exercised in a complex process with active ‘counter power’, were events are non-predictable, then incompetent people are not only likely to generate unintended results all the time, but they are likely to blame those beneath them for that incompetence, punish them, or not learn from mistakes, and thus reinforce the power/ignorance nexus.

Problems with incompetents in power tend to get worse, because they like to appoint other incompetents, or people who engage in flattery to positions of power beneath them, or of giving advice to them. Knowledgeable people scare them. Knowledgeable people, who don’t lie to please them, will tend to get sacked as incompetents will not take advice from people who might be less incompetent; they will not recognise the possibility of accuracy which goes against their biases, and so on.

Given this, incompetent people tend to set up (or reinforce) organisational structures based upon, and generative of, incompetence and ignorance. If they can, then they will destroy ‘checks and balances’ which have evolved to give social stability and responsiveness, as these seem to be part of the conspiracy which supposedly opposes them; these checks and balances are merely obstacles.

It is, therefore, not unreasonable to assume that incompetent politicians and corporate commanders will generate a dysfunctional educational system, which then reinforces the power of those politicians, by corrupting knowledge and thinking and giving people a truly false sense of reality. Having an education system which taught people to recognise the problems that the politicians and the corporate bosses generate, would appear counterproductive to their power and simply seem untrue.

Incompetence and ignorance can be further magnified when, as with capitalism, the economic system only recognises the virtue of profit and wealth – all other competence, benefits and virtue are to be dismissed. Organizations based on profit and incompetence, may tend to select for certain types of psychopathology, which further distorts the processes and feedback perception, rendering the superiors even more incompetent, and focused on profit alone. If you want to get ahead in this system you have to be able to lie, misdirect and deceive others. You have to be able to dismiss others without regret. You have to be able to assume that money is the only thing in life, and that it should be distributed only to the few, of which you are one.

In such an environment, everyone becomes nervous of everyone else, and most people end up communicating strategically rather than truthfully. Hence not only the collapse of education and collapse of virtue, but the collapse of our ecology and the likely collapse of society..

The Energy Crisis

March 19, 2017

This article developed from a comment on an article by Jessica Irvine in the Sydney Morning Herald “Energy crisis: The 9 questions you were too embarrassed to ask”.

Point 1: There may be no energy crisis but there is an ecological crisis – which is growing. It is vital to keep the ecological crisis in focus as other crises flow on from that.

Point 2: The worse the ecological crisis gets, the more the energy crisis mounts, and the more people will suffer or die as a result. The economy and food supply will be hurt as well.

Point 3: There is currently a problem with gas supply in Australia, but that results from gas companies deciding not to supply gas to local consumers, and from gas power stations failing in the heat (from the ecological crisis). We need to get out of the control of the gas companies.

Point 4: A point of agreement with the author. Coal is stupid, expensive and poisonous to people and the environment.

Point 5: One significant problem is that the Coalition parties (both in government and opposition) have become obsessed with defending fossil fuel companies, and have actively worked to prevent alternate energy supplies from increasing. Labor was not much better, but it was better.

Point 6: Prices will continue to increase in the market as it exists, as companies continue to manipulate that market to increase profit. That is what companies do. That is why the prices have increased after the Carbon tax was repealed. We have a situation in which various companies are profiteering from the destruction of both our environment and Australia’s energy systems. This, is the main story, so let’s not forget it.

Point 7: South Australia is going it alone because the Federal government has done little but attack them (mostly using false information) in order to defend fossil fuel companies, and has provided no help, or even moral support. Essentially more states will have to go it alone if we want a solution under this Federal Government.

Point 8: Battery storage is still in development and will get better. They are still cheaper than the alternatives. We might think about a contract in which batteries get replaced with newer models as time passes. But that would not be supporting fossil fuel companies, so there is little chance of that.

Point 9: The Coalition government is in the business of picking losers that won’t challenge fossil fuel companies. The new Snowy scheme will be overpriced, depend on water and snow we may not have, and be powered by coal if possible. It is a massive waste of money, as you might expect.

Why is talk of ‘free markets’ beneficial for Corporate domination?

March 8, 2017

We have had about 40 years of politicians and media continually spruiking the benefits of free markets. During that time, we have seen a steady transfer of wealth to the exceedingly wealthy, a consolidation of ownership and control of the corporate sector, a decline in social mobility and a boost in state attempts to control ordinary people and reduce control over the corporate sector.

This result is not a coincidence. Indeed corporations sponsor free market think tanks. Corporate and think-tank self-interest justifies the idea that free market talk primarily supports their power and wealth.

Free market talk boosts corporate power as follows:

1) It makes business the only important part of society. Economics and “the market” matters, nothing else does. Therefore the desires of the business sector are vital and must be attended to, and protected, before anything else.

2) If people would like or need something, or it is socially important, but does not make a profit or interferes with corporate profit, then it is clearly not needed, or not of value. It can be also dismissed as impractical, because the market is the only mark of value and practicality.

3) Regulations which curtail or add work to business to favour the ordinary person are automatically bad. Regulations which control the ordinary person and protect big business are automatically good as they support standard business practice, which is the ultimate good. Unions are bad, business associations (and their ties with politicians) are wonderful.

4) The market can never be free, as regulation is required to protect ‘private property’ and contract, so there is always further to go in favour of reducing restrictions on the corporate sector and tightening its control.

5) Free market liberty allows people to compete on “equal terms” with corporations. Josephine Bloggs and BHP are equal in law and equal in their freedom to spend any amount of money to buy lawyers, politicians and that law. Who is surprised that most people don’t bother to challenge power?

6) Free market talk destroys commons, because commons are not private property owned by anyone, and nobody is responsible for theme. Therefore they must be transferred to the private sector as cheaply as possible to regularise everything. Consequently, the people lose property and power.

7) Government services can be contracted out to the private sector and the costs and benefits can be kept secret through commercial in confidence arrangements, as not having these would interfere with business and the free market.

8) Government services which cannot be privatised become punitive, as people should be using the market, and must be evil if they are not. Services to ordinary people are removed.

9) As profit is the only value, truth becomes that which makes a profit or supports established power, and thus the media has no obligations to anything but the propaganda interests of its corporate owners or their corporate friends.

10) Free market talk suggests Governments should do nothing and everything should be left to the elites with wealth. So we move into plutocracy, which reinforces the process by which everything is governed in favour of corporate elites.

11) Corporations will compete politically and legally if it gives them a competitive edge or subsidy. The more other sources of influence remove themselves from politics, the less likely will it be that corporations will face opposition from anything other than corporate sources. So pro-corporate laws get passed continually.

12) People are told, by almost all public sources, that governments are inefficient and useless and that there is no point them getting involved and trying to take over the State in their own interests rather than the interests of the wealthy.

13) The more people withdraw from participation in politics and the State, the more the governors become isolated from ‘the people’ and the more they depend on corporate money for their campaigning, so the more easily they are bought by the plutocrats.

14) Wealth becomes the primary source, and mark, of power and virtue. Everything else is inferior and to be dismissed, and the free market continues to be promoted above all else.

[It is true that free market people sometimes talk a lot about ‘liberty’, but they only mean the liberty of business to do as it likes. Everyone else has the ‘liberty’ to adapt to government by business.]

Diminishing difference

February 25, 2017

There is a rather weird form of argument I often find used by Americans.

It goes like this: ” ‘A’ is bad and ‘B’ is hugely bad. This means that you should not have a preference between the two as they are both bad.”

This is like saying if I have a choice between a cold and meningitis, I should not chose the cold. If I have a choice between Stalin and Pence, I should not protest about the possibility of Stalin.

So it goes: Clinton was probably going to continue the Bush wars in the ‘Middle East’ – ok that’s bad.
Trump has threatened to use nukes in the Middle East, supports Russian tactics in the area, and wants to exterminate members of ISIS and their families, and of course continue the wars with massive increases in military spending. Trump also threatens US allies, to make it more likely the US will have to do this by itself. Hugely bad.
The argument is that you can’t possibly object to Trump as they are both equally bad.

Clinton supports Wall Street. bad
Trump supports Wall street and wants total deregulation to allow companies to rip people off without the remotest fear of being held responsible. Hugely bad.
But there is really no difference.

Clinton is said to be sympathetic to fossil fuel companies (despite Republicans previously arguing that she wasn’t) – ok bad.
Trump will support fossil fuel companies, force constructions of pipelines, allow fossil fuel companies to write his policies (not just on energy but apparently on foreign affairs), remove controls over pollution and environmental damage and so on. Hugely bad.
No difference, so can’t object to Trump.

Clinton supports a State.
Trump supports the State and massive police action, removal of important data from websites, large scale, deportations and threatens any independent comment and the judiciary. Appoints more people with vested interests to his Cabinet than anyone in living memory.
This is obviously the same thing.

Even if my facts are wrong, and I hope they are not, these strange argument patterns are what I experience almost daily.

Neoliberal Rorts

February 5, 2017
In Australia, politicians from all sides do things like rort expenses. However those on the right seem particularly prone to do this and in a big way. Why?

We could argue that they are stupid. After all, after one important politician loses her position because she chartered a helicopter to make a 20 minute car drive (or whatever) to a party fund raising event, it could seem problematic to charter an aircraft to fly a normal commercial route? Apparently not.

While it is tempting to dismiss the right as inherently stupid, I don’t think this can be done. They do not seem stupid.

What is probably the problem is that the right is composed almost entirely of ‘neoliberals’; that is people who think that the free market is good/god, and that wealthy people should be rewarded and poorer people punished. Wealth is the only value, and it should reward virtue.

As they are virtuous people (because they believe in , defend, and act on neoliberal principles) it follows that they should be entitled to wealth like corporate executives are.

So by claiming transport costs, holidays in resorts, or charter flights on the taxpayers, they are not being criminal, or stupid, they are simply carrying out the principles of neoliberalism.

In the same way, Centrelink fishing for overpayment and threatening people on social security is also part of neoliberalism. According to the theories and hopes of the right, virtuous people, living in the market, should always have a full time job, and if they don’t they are rorting the system and should be punished.

Of course they are primarily punishing those people who have managed to get some work but, in neoliberalism, punishment of relative poverty is always appropriate.

Politicians on the right are also more prone to lying, because of their commitment to neoliberalism, as the only evaluation is profit. Whatever makes a profit is true.

The reality is that giving corporations more power through free market talk and tax cuts has not delivered liberty or prosperity for most people, as was promised. It has delivered stagnant wages, a punitive state, ecological destruction and cultural warfare (as a distraction).

If the right accepted this truth, then they would have to recognize that the last 35 years of right wing policy has failed, and they would have to change. It is easier to continue to lie and rort the system, while hoping they will survive, even if their electorate does not.

So the argument is that they rort because they are dedicated in hope to a failed system and its values. For them, there is still no alternative which would maintain the power and wealth of the establishment. They rort to make neoliberalism true.

Paranoia Time?

February 5, 2017

Will Republicans, as a political movement, object to Trump behaving unethically, or riding roughshod over the traditions they value?

NO.

Mr Trump, is doing exactly what the Republicans have said they wanted to do for years. This is not a threat to them. His first moves seem aimed at making it safe for corporations to pollute, poison and take over people’s land and property without any constraint if they think it is profitable.

The Share Market is booming, the insurance market for investment is slumping (or so I read) which means investment houses think he is doing well for them. Warren Buffett has bought US$12 billion in stocks since the election. He clearly does not expect surprises. The financial elites seem relatively happy, and now we hear that the rules put in place to help stabilise the financial markets are to be removed, so we can look forward to another bubble and crash, but plenty of profit for finance, and probably taxpayers money to help them out when the crash comes.

Religious people love the end of abortion and the conservative legal and judge appointments.

Fossil fuel companies are cheering the rebirth of oil and potentially coal, and the removal of regulation that might hinder them poisoning people, wrecking the environment or risking profit.

He is pleasing the important people in his electorate. and he is removing those who might hinder him.

The Elites will probably get a war in a few months to a year, which means it that it will become unpatriotic to criticize him.

Its all going to plan.

For about the last 20 years the Republican elites seem to have been gearing up for a total war against ‘liberals’ who they see as oppressing them.

Online comments make this easy to see. it takes not time at all to find someone declaring that they will cheer when Trump destroys all you liberal scum.

In total war there is no ideal of fair play or proper procedure, hence they have no objection to the arbitrary way Trump behaves. [Do you really believe they would not object if Clinton had behaved remotely similarly?] You ally with your enemies enemy (in this case Putin), and if you win that proves you were right to do so. You can lie without scruple, disinformation is part of warfare, and you use any method at all to win. Life is at stake.

They will not be satisfied until the last liberal is whimpering or dead.

America does not have a democracy, it has an elected king. Previous presidents don’t seem to have realized this.

‘Human Greed’ and the Anthropocene

December 16, 2016

We often see human greed, blamed for ecological destruction, and even the Anthropocene itself. However this is not the case. “Human greed” is not the problem. Most humans, even today, are not generating emissions, pollution and ecological problems at a suicidal rate and they are not craving the ‘untapped resources’ of the Amazon, the Indonesia rain forests, the Liverpool plains in Australia, or the poles. Most humans do not like it when their ecologies change, and frequently protest against it, as they are not the direct cause of that change. Do any of the local residents near me, for example, relish the idea of having unfiltered pollution stacks, near their homes, for the tunnels to take a highway which is to push 75,000 extra cars per day over an already blocked bridge? No, it is not their greed that is responsible. It is not the billions of Indian villager’s greed, or even the greed of the average inhabitant of Delhi, which makes the air unbreathable. The inhabitants of Tuvalu or Kiribati have not contributed to the climate change which will destroy their homes. Most people  on the planet generate small amounts of emissions.

It is a relatively few humans, acting within particular social arrangements, that cause the problem.

Gareth Bryant argues that 71% of contemporary greenhouse gas emitters in Europe are responsible for only 4% of European emissions, while 9% of emitters are responsible for 83% of those emissions. According to Richard Heede, just 90 organisations have been responsible for two thirds of greenhouse gas emissions between 1854 and 2010.

Half of these emissions have occurred since 1986 after the triumph of neoliberal corporate dominance, when people became aware of climate change, and when particular corporations began sponsoring climate change denialism for what seemed like their own political and economic advantage. They had to engineer the state we are in. It was not natural.

Realising that the cause  of our climate problems is not just ‘human greed’, but the greed and activity of particular humans, in particular social organisations, changes the possibilities for ending the problem. If the problem is human greed then there is no chance, or we must get rid of humans. If it is particular people in particular social organisations, then yes it is possible. It  is just politics, persuasion, risk and effort. It is standing up to power. It is not easy, but it is doable.

 

 

We think with metaphor, myth and analogy

December 2, 2016

This post is largely an elaboration of a response to an important post by John Woodcock on metaphors and thinking or being – John’s post is probably better.

John reminds us that we think and feel with analogy, myth, metaphor and feeling.

Some of that feeling will arise because of our patterns of thinking, and of interpreting what happens in the world, but some will arise because of unconscious processes. Indeed we could suggest that the processes of thinking themselves are largely unconscious, because the forms or patterns that guide that thought, or that the thought and feeling takes in manifesting, are not conscious. Thoughts and feelings are likewise not separable – thoughts generate feelings, and the feeling reinforces the thought, or the type of thought likely to come next. (For example, if you are angry, you are thinking thoughts that make you angry, and that anger then limits the range of thoughts likely to arise for you).

As a result, we often let our symbols (and their patterns and dynamics) do our thinking for us, and that is a problem for both political and personal life. Once the metaphor is announced a particular result becomes probable – and the more it is used, the more that result is reinforced, or becomes a settled pathway. I suspect that the experts on propaganda know this well, and that this cultivation of metaphors (this art of metaphors) has been part of the activity around Trump.

Trump’s talk appears to have been powerful and resonated with, or raised anger present in, his audiences, but it could mean whatever you wanted it to mean. If you did not trust Clinton because of the 30 year smear campaign and the feeling/sense that something must be wrong about her (even if you could not point to anything real), then you could select what you wanted to hear from Trump’s metaphors, or take what could have been literal as ‘only metaphor’. And his metaphors tended to be repeated to reinforce them.

His phrase ‘drain the swamp’ (exampled by John) sounds good because it says he is going to remove the icky, sticky stuff that you can get lost and die in. Its a visceral image involving bringing light into darkness and solidity from squelch. It implies a simple set of dichotomies: swamp/non swamp; bad/good; action/stuckness. Who can resist this? Who will say this is bad?

Some kind of awareness of analogy helps, us to navigate our way here.

Extracting ourselves from auto-thinking and feeling takes effort and rebellion against the norm. It takes awareness of the analogies we are using, their connotations and our automatic responses to begin with, as well as the knowledge that our thinking is not always voluntary or right, and that our feelings are not always accurate or real. We are potentially partially conscious creatures, not automatically fully conscious – we can be misled and wrong (even in our sense of being misled). Becoming conscious, might be tedious.

This is a place in which depth psychology and science can possibly help, by setting up exploration, experiment and reality testing.

Trump’s usage is definitely not depth psychological (there is no sense the darkness and stickiness is something to be faced, possibly explored and projections removed) and it is not ecological (swamps can host whole families of creatures, and store and purify water, they can protect. They are places of bounty as well as danger). Outside of these psychological or scientific frameworks, the metaphor does its thinking for you, and that is the natural way. It is a metaphor encouraging avoidance, which sums up fear, and puts virtue with the cleansing group.

Given the election is over, it will be interesting to see how the so called “alt.right” defend the president elect’s apparent attempts to fill the swamp with far worse, but openly visible, creatures who are completely beholden to the corporate elite, and who do not mind poisoning workers in the name of profit. I presume the swamp will now become portrayed as a field of light, clarity and genius (perhaps even ‘spirit’) – because light dazzles the critical faculties. Perhaps they will simply continue to attack everything else, because the good/evil dichotomy seems so real, that if the others are bad, then they must be the light.

Perhaps, disillusionment will settle in, but I doubt it for one prime reason. People on the right in general, tend to cultivate a perception of themselves as living in a world in which they have no say, and are oppressed. They think the media is leftist, they think Marxists rule academia and education, they think gay people and Jews run the entertainment industry as propaganda, they think all scientists are communist conspirators, they think unions control and hobble business. Judging by some of the remarks I’ve heard recently, some think that Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, George H and W, Bush etc. were raving socialists, who actively suppressed free enterprise and right wing dissent. In this view, any information which can be branded as official is probably a lie, unless it agrees with this fundamental truth that they are the victims of the evil left. So we can assume that the loving alliance of Trump with parts of the corporate sector will not be recognised, for who will report it but the evil left?

Trump’s apparent lack of control in his expression also promised that he would allow the expression people thought was being suppressed.

While non of this may seem real to those of us who identify as being on the Left, it is the starting point for much of the Right. They see themselves being oppressed, hence the anger. In their own minds they are heroic, fighting the triumphant forces of darkness against amazing odds. This of course may be the position that others wish to assume, by assuming *all* people who vote for this right are deliberate racists or nazis or whatever. It is a monotheistic position that blames the world for evil, and feels right. All of us may feel the forces of darkness are triumphing and that we fight against them. We seek scapegoats to blame and expel for whatever we perceive is going wrong, and as long as this benefits those in power (by identifying some group that is relatively powerless), then this will probably be encouraged.

If we do understand this position and its appeal to all of us, then maybe we can start trying to free ourselves. First of all by observing our own metaphors and patterns and their consequences and testing them out, finding pain, and perhaps eliminating our own binaries, or bringing them into open confrontation within. And then attempting to communicate, not by appealing to reality or attempting to refute the other’s delusion, but by entering into the fantasy and undermining its binary nature. We all feel repressed.

But again, this suggests going out into the field (which may seem a swamp) and doing some exploratory work ourselves.