Threads weave in, out and around other threads. They weave themselves together, through each other, to create something larger. Sometimes individual threads are hard to see. Sometimes we don’t want to see them. But threads comprise the fabric that encircle all of us, regardless of our distinctions.
Lately, we have been forced to examine our distinctions in fundamental ways. War tends to do that, just as disagreement does. Often I have expressed my dislike for the “let’s just agree to disagree” scenario. Nothing is accomplished. Nothing is learned. Nothing changes. “Let’s just agree to disagree” simply maintains status quo. Then again, status quo is the better choice when the alternative requires that you bloody each other until someone dies. Obviously, this happens, even still. And it only can happen when someone is unwilling to reexamine themselves. When people become entrenched in their thinking, status quo is the best possible outcome, while destruction and death loom very close over the horizon.
Right now, Iran is doing some bad things. So are we. Both claim righteousness and both manufacture justifications. That’s on the large scale. It’s where Einstein’s General Relativity works; on large clumps of stuff like planets and bombs. But what about the tiny scale that runs as threads through we individual humans? What about that crazy, largely unpredictable quantum scale, which seems to defy gravitational constraints and is, in many ways, oblivious to distance?
Nearly all of us, at one point, have experienced a strong urge to inflict physical violence upon another person, even when our differences are simply ideological. It is a passionate feeling that runs very deep. It is a nearly overwhelming emotion. Most of us manage to keep that passion in check. Our rational mind overcomes the more primal instinct. In terms of our complex brains, it is the larger front bit overriding the more primitive lower back bit. This is an internal war that we have with ourselves. It’s a secret war. It is founded in passion. And sometimes this war spills over the borders we erect. When this happens, sensibility is lost. The act of locking the reasoning mind into war with the passionate, in such a tightly contained space, can eventually transform an initially straight-forward conflict into an unrecognizable conflagration of perfectly-reasoned insanity.
It is a mistake assuming that our rational mind is separate from the passionate, and that one must dominate the other. If either dominates, the result is insanity. We cannot agree to disagree with ourselves. We must achieve a basic and true understanding, then reconcile that understanding into something more. But what makes us feel the violence? Our emotions cannot tell us. Our emotions can only feel. It is our reasoning mind that must tell us. However, our reasoning mind is colored by emotions. It can leave us confused and conflicted. It is an unreliable instrument for understanding itself, particularly in relation to others. If this is so, how can we look at ourselves so that we might understand from where these passions originate, that threaten to undermine our sanity, causing us to act in ways that can be terribly detrimental to ourselves or to others?
I have no idea. Is there an objective third party you might turn to, when objectivity is an unreliable concept, particularly where our psyche is concerned? A family member? A friend? A priest? All will bring a traveling circus of individual and collective biases. A shrink? Well, I suppose you could say there are no biases there, but anyone who has spent time in academia knows, even the staunchest disciplines are fluid and incomplete – and rife with biases. So when something happens which stirs us to unreasoning passions, what can be done? Physician, priest or scholar, heal thyself.
I believe it is safe to say that when we beat someone or kill them, something is amiss. Something is not lining up how it ought to. There are, however, people who lack any sense of “ought” — people who are perfectly comfortable calculating and enacting ends that fly in the face of what most would consider basic humanity. These can be criminals and these can be leaders, amongst other things. I am not speaking toward them right now. They do not have the internal war between passion and reason. For them, passion fuels reason, and reason works to achieve their desires. They are not burdened, as most of us are, with the messy and burdensome “ought”. It is the “ought” that causes our reasoning to question our passions, and more subtly and dangerously, it is the “ought” which causes our passions to become aroused from our reasoning.
We little monkeys have grown complicated mental structures and abilities. Our minds abstract the world we perceive into neatly grouped categories that we happily shuffle about. This has given rise to language, civilizations, religion and our various societies. We have abstracted ourselves so much so, that thinking of ourselves as animals seems alien. Our lives become secondary to our ideals, and the lives of others even more so. Yet, at the same time, we retain much of our more base nature. As such, we are primed for conflict and confusion. We are smack dab in the middle between being crazy monkeys and being creatures of higher thought. We are primitives, and we are advanced.
What we think or believe will not always line up with our wishes, nor with how we feel. We all know this. Putting emotion aside for a moment, what we think or believe will not always line up with facts, or what is true. And in our chitterings of muddy monkey words, a little more should be said. I do not know how to say it directly, though. Words are not meaning. Words can only evoke a symbolic sense of meaning, and the symbolics vary between people. I will try, and then return to the point.
Truth is something that is, undeniably and inescapably. Truth is not different for different people or cultures. Truth is not lying or misleading. Some very persuasive people claim there is no such thing as truth. Truth can be hidden through manipulation. Truth endures and exists despite individual perceptions. Hiding or manipulating truth is a dangerous thing because it is too large for our monkey fingers to contain forever, and doing so results in a huge expenditure of effort and resources that can be blown apart at any moment from the smallest of things.
Facts we must observe, measure and test. Facts depend upon our ability to see, touch, taste or smell. Truth has no such dependency. Facts can change over time based upon the instruments of their discovery or changes within our understanding of some related truth. Facts can build upon other facts with dependent relationships, while the entire structure remains vulnerable to any given fact modification with the chain. Facts can be manufactured, but they can always be verified. Truths cannot be manufactured – only assumptions about truths can.
Belief lives in murky waters. Belief is an assumption. Belief does not require truth, though it often claims truth. Belief does not require facts, and rarely claims to. Belief often acts like caulking between the cracks left by gaps within our understanding of truth or our possession of facts. Belief sometimes turns out to be true or factual, however truth or facts are not required for belief to survive. Beliefs are durable and pliable, often changing their shape to conform to the requirements of facts or truth. This is sometimes a volatile process, since we often embed our beliefs very deeply within emotion instead of reason. In other words, oftentimes the gaps within our understanding are more precious than truth, or facts. Beautiful and inspirational things can originate from belief, as can the horrific.
Muddier still is what we call our thinking. We like to believe we can separate our rational mind from our emotional, but that is a belief. They are not separate. Thanks to Freud, we can talk about our ego, or say that something came from our subconscious, as if they are separate things. They are not. Our thinking causes us to strive for truth and to recognize it. But we may hate it. Our desires can lead us one way, while our thinking pulls us another – as if thinking and desire were somehow separate. They are not.
And this is where we get into wishes. When we feel that internal war happening, we can almost always, if we choose to look, find its root cause in wishes. We wish something were a certain way, but find that it is not. We wish that we were a certain thing, but we are not. We wish we had this certain thing, but we do not. When we find that our desired image of something is not actually that way, whether it comes from belief or fact, or as a result of newly discovered facts or truth — we find that our desire for it to be can easily wreak disaster within our reasoning. I believe this is the fundamental challenge to our monkey brains along their path, as we currently face it.
Now, back on track. The abstractions we create, like societies, laws, religions, or even our images of others or ourselves, are formed by a collective understanding and agreement that we communicate between each other. This agreement does, to varying degrees, rely upon uniformity and conformity. The agreement is not necessarily founded upon truth, nor facts. The agreement is more akin to belief; a belief that finds its origin within the nominal parameters communicated and tacitly agreed to. And as a belief, these abstractions share the volatility inherent in belief. That is, our wishes for it to be true, and our destructive tendencies brought to bear when it appears not to be.
Most of us lack the courage or foolishness to maintain our “universal view” independent of these abstract agreements with everyone else. But all bend the rules from time to time, here or there. We’ll call those times, “our little secret”. We’ll take this down to the quantum level first. Mike and John, two close friends with a long history, go camping. Being guys and horny, they end up having sex. Mike is gay, John is straight. Afterward, Mike is surprised but happy. Wishes, kept in check by reason, have turned into a pleasant fact: he and John had sex. As such, his reasoning becomes modified, while the wishes, depending upon how pleasant it actually was, remains the same. John, however, faces some problems. He believes he is not gay, yet he wished to have sex – his reasoning failed to sustain the belief and overcome the wish. However, the belief that he is straight is not modified, regardless of the fact that he had sex with another man. He now wishes to maintain the belief, while simultaneously wishing for more sex, which is in conflict, even more so than it was before he had sex. Yet he also believes somewhat that he might actually be at least a little gay now, too. He’s become a mess. Abstract ideals war with other abstract ideals, and instead of being able to enjoy being who he is, these conflicts make him angry.
At this point, rationality has no hope. But instead of violence, in this case he forces Mike into a new abstracted agreement (a subset of the implied societal one, which we’ll call, “our little secret”): the belief must prevail since it’s failure means a larger failure of the tacit societal and self-image arrangements, which is not something he wishes. John causes Mike to believe that Mike’s fact is really just Mike’s belief – and John’s fact is still a fact, but subordinate to some wishes and belief more than others. However, John’s state has become logically impossible. The wish that he shared with Mike, that they acted upon, becomes Mike’s fault, and not John’s. John becomes a victim, which helps him repair his belief somewhat. Yet down in Freud’s world, the logical impossibility remains. And even though we have funny monkey brains, that’s not something we can live with comfortably. So John runs away screaming, which resolves nothing, but does mean he’ll eventually get tired and go to sleep in his own bed, day after day, until the impossibility disappears, which cannot happen. His secret war continues, and will forever influence all reason coming out of him. Mike, on the other hand, after being told that the fact is a belief, and that his wishes were somehow damagingly inflicted upon John, observes a truth that restores the fact and alters the wish to being one of wanting to truthfully reconcile things with John. This will never happen, though, because John belief is valued more highly than fact or truth. This is his wish. And it results from the tacit abstract agreement he has entered into with society, valid, justified or not. The abstract agreement, or treaty, he entered into with Mike about the “real truth” of their situation must be honored by Mike, or war results. Poor horny monkeys and their little brains.
This is how a Senator can solicit sex in a bathroom, and not be gay, or even bisexual. This is how men in Arab countries can have sex with other men sometimes, yet not be gay. They are only gay if they say (believe) they are gay. This is how a straight guy can focus so violently on hating a gay gay. And this, by no means, is limited to the gay aspect. It also works for religious people hating atheists or other religious people, atheists hating religious people, anyone hating science in general, or scientists fighting against theology. Almost any issue revolving around religion, morality, ethics or social norms can fit within this model. And since this is on the quantum scale, Mike and John will continue effecting one other no matter the distance, and no matter the time.
However, there is one other dimension, and that is fear. Fear of the unknown or differences, fear of consequence, fear of one’s “standing” being altered in relation to others. Fear sits alongside wishes. It is a motive force with its roots buried deeply. It influences belief, just as wishes do. It rails against facts or truth, just as wishes can. It is a little strange how wishes and fear go hand in hand. They both imply that something does not seem quite right as it is. Both are dissatisfied. The main difference between fear and wishes are that wishes try moving you toward something, while fear keeps you away. It is fear playing into belief that is the cause of racism, xenophobia, or any number of persecutions. Fear is far more effective when established in a group’s abstracted ideals. When shared, it is amplified and self-reinforcing, quickly overshadowing facts and easily hiding truths. Fear is the key when exploiting or manipulating the constituency of any abstract collective.
And this brings us to the larger, General Relativity scale, where states and nations move and seethe as a single psychological organism, comprised of multitudes. Every nation has central control rods, rooted deep within the abstract collective agreement. Some of these rods are religion. Some are economic, and some are simply ideological. Some are even just fables, that every child grows up hearing. The concept of “us and them” is the prime mover. It is a belief that somehow, our abstract collective consistently has our best interests at heart, and that no other collective does – even though there is no fact to show that an abstract collective even has a heart. Most people subscribe to the abstract collective of nations and will even experience pride about this amorphous entity. Again, the sense of nation fills in the gaps between fact and truth, falling into the category of collective belief, and is therefore mutable by wishes and fear.
A jihad against the infidels, and the control rod slams into place. That’s the easy one. Being a semi-pluralistic grouping, we Americans require a little savvy. Or maybe a little less. In place of religion, we’ll use marketing. Terror, whatever that is. I suppose you know it when you’ve got it. But we’re fighting it, as a nation. Terror. We’re going to wipe it out by bursting into people’s homes in the middle of the night and carting family members of for interrogations. We’ll get that terror in the end. By dropping 4,000 tons of explosives in a neighborhood. We’ll wipe out that terror in no time. By making people disappear for years and torturing them.
Hmm. Maybe I’ve got some facts wrong. Maybe I have some conflicting wishes, like John had. Maybe some kind of truth is hidden in oil fields, or oil profits, or big, expensive machinery. Maybe that’s why I’m so angry and confused. Hmm. Let me alter some beliefs – be right back. Maybe create a fact or two, even while truth is hidden. Maybe I’m a little paranoid, and having some growing fear. Of course the abstract collective can eavesdrop on me, and analyze everything I write or say, to see if I’m predisposed to be dangerous. After all, my neighbor’s been looking a little suspicious. Oh wait, he’s disappeared and I can’t tell anyone about it for five years or I’ll go to jail? That’s probably for the best. We do need a new missile platform across Europe, anyway. I don’t know, it’s just so jumbled up…
I’m not really sure why I do this, but I was talking with this guy a few days ago God. He was an atheist. And as such, of course I was having to listen to that biologist Dawkins yet again, with all his nifty inescapable trinkets. The thing is, reason fails when it tries to determine what we’re in. It is a boundary condition error. We must use the terms of what we have for senses, which is a subset of all that is, and use these limited perceptual abilities from within our existence in an attempt to discover a truth that lies beyond our existence. That’s not easy. It may be impossible.
Boundary conditions also exist for the framework of our abstract collective agreements. The difference is, mere agreements can be broken and exploited. In collective agreements, when some elements violate that agreement while others remain within it, we become faced with all the conflicting drama between truth, fact, belief, wishes and fear – particularly when those rogue elements claim to be still within the agreement.
Right now, we are confusing which agreements are the motive agreements. It is not our abstract collective of nation – it is our abstract collective of capitalism playing the main role. And honestly, it’s doing a great job. When you look at it though that agreement “lens” instead, everything makes sense and falls perfectly into place. We are experiencing capitalism, unburdened by the collective abstract of nation, in all its spectacular, overwhelming, self-serving, and terrible beauty. All of our nation’s money and resources are being poured into the private sector corporations – we’re even going into terrible debt for them. We’ve even created private corporate armies now. We get to see and live right now, the beautiful wonderland that is the wet dream of companies finally left alone to do their will, unhindered by the shackles of government. Military industries, energy industries, mortgage and financial industries, pharmaceutical industries, mass media – all of them just dancing around freer than they ever have been before. Isn’t it beautiful?
All the confusion about our current situation disappears when you drop the notion of us being the abstract collective of the United States of America, and instead adopt the abstract collective of us being an advanced, or extreme, capitalistic society. Our facts are the bank ledgers of well-positioned companies. Our beliefs are maximizing profits, and how great is it when the government picks up the expenses? Our wishes are more control over profits and even less regulation, while being able to siphon even more money and “dirty work” from the government. And our fears are the American people cutting us off from that. That makes us crazy. They must be made to fear any change. We need to make certain that anyone getting positions in government are deeply dependent upon our money.
And this leads me to wonder; when these candidates talk of change, what exactly are they talking about? Payments to health insurance companies from every American? Is that change? Investing in alternative energy sources that require a centralized company to control it? Does change mean that we will be allowed to tell someone if the government takes a family member or neighbor? Maybe change means we’ll be able to hear facts that lead to truth in our media sources?
Speaking of which, does anyone even care about Brittney Spears, who seems to be on every magazine and news channel? She’s been plastered everywhere for months on end. I was curious about that, and have made it a point to ask around. I continue to ask almost everyone I know, and even strangers. I have yet to find anyone who is actually interested, even in the slightest. What is that? Why can’t the media sources follow Dick Cheney around like that? Oh baby, I’d eat that trash up!
It is time for us to do some very serious self-reevaluations. We need to do them always on our own quantum scale, but we are in desperate need of reevaluating our larger Relativity scale. But the first step in that is realizing that it is money interests and not our government that is calling the shots. We’ve been warned about this since Lincoln, and now it’s pretty well complete. We need to stop thinking there is, in even the most remote way, any sense of nation here. Multinational corporations do not have a sense of nation, except how they must maneuver within any given one. Our operative abstract collective is just simply capitalism. Once we do that, things start making sense again, and we can take it from there. Believe what you want, I suppose, with all your wishes and fears. Just please, look at the facts and stay open-minded.
The part that I like best is that truth always keeps an aloof distance from all this. The truth is, we are alive, as little horny monkey creatures, here on this planet all together. And our little brains are just really beginning to sprout. I wish to believe that we are moving beyond the mine, mine, territory, dominate phase where we’re knocking each other over the head with sticks, and all the big monkey get to steal food from the little ones. I believe we can do better than that. I fear we might not. But I’m not going to beat anyone up about it. Probably. Unless I’m in a particularly animalistic mood. It would be easy enough to justify it to myself, since I’d only be beating up people who subscribed to the animalistic to begin with, and since they promote and perpetuate it, they have it coming. But I probably won’t. I’m more like Mike than John. I’ll just try reasoning with you til you shoot me dead instead.
Oh, and if you feel like it, take the time to sign a petition that’s trying to save the lives of a couple guys in Iran that are gay. Thanks for telling me about this Shelli — hadn’t seen it yet. They’re probably going to be sentenced to death for it. Below is a picture of a couple guys who were executed in 2005 in Iran for being gay. That’s the good bit for them, though — they were tortured and imprisoned for a long time too. Yep, and raped by straight guards. But don’t go thinking Iran is so extra bad for this. Our ally Saudi Arabia has the death penalty for being gay, too. In all honesty, if I go by racial factors, I have never had another race hit on me more than Arabic men. They were all perfectly fine about having sex with a man, but they were in no way gay, they say. It’s the saying your gay part — that you love another man — that gets you executed, not the having sex with other men bit. Strange. Men can passionately love other men when there is no sex. And men can have sex with other men as long as there is no love. But men having sex with and loving another man means death. And yet we wonder why wars can still happen. Below that picture is a picture of some of our army guys who took over an Iraqi house to hang out in for a while. They have their ears covered because bombs are loud. Below that is what’s left of a shoe. I have no idea what’s left of the body that was in it at the time.