Extremely Enlightened Capitalism

I’ve been seeing a theme lately, cropping up: it’s easy to find evidence for what you want to believe, and much harder to find evidence for what you don’t. In other words, it takes very little to convince you of what you like, or what is comfortable, while it takes a good deal more to convince you of something more difficult. In Science, that’s probably a good thing. In a climate of secrecy, such thinking is a major handicap. In the society of capitalistic positivism, this thinking is equally problematic.

A few of you are crinkling your eyebrows right now, while your eyes go wide, poo-poo’ing this phrase capitalistic positivism I just threw out there. Nevertheless, I’m going to tell a story about it. Also, I’m only going to reference back to the academic canon a couple times, which some of you will find outrageous and irresponsible, while others will be thankful, while most, well, will have stopped reading by now anyway.

First, I’m sure we can all agree that Capitalism and Democracy are different things. Capitalism is an economic system. A Democracy is a form of government. It can be argued that Capitalism is necessary if a Democracy is to exist. However, it can just as easily be argued that a Democracy can exist just fine without Capitalism. Lately, there are also notions of Extreme Capitalism entering into the public dialogue, where Capitalism has grown in influence great enough to overshadow any pretext of Democracy, thus becoming, in practice if not word, a form of government with distinct differences from a Democracy.

Positivism normally refers to the philosophical school of thought grounded in empiricism where, it is believed, people can reach a point of understanding to become self-governing without the dominance of hierarchical structures. In this, people become self-regulating as a result of clear, rational thinking about the lives we inhabit together. These ideas influenced many people, particularly scientists in the last couple centuries, who become very idealistic during the rise of realism and measurable viabilities. These ideas had a strong influence on our modern sense of Socialism.

Proponents of Capitalism never liked many of the ideas in Socialism and Positivism. Socialism and Positivism, in their basic sense, tend to spread out and equalize economic factors toward maximum benefit for the most people. You can find many philosophical and economic works that rail against Positivism as a terrible hindrance. Capitalism does not really want people to be socially self-regulating. Capitalism wants money and businesses to be self-regulating, however. So in a sense, they pull down Positivism as it applies to people, while at the same time extolling the virtues of Positivism for businesses.

This is what I am talking about when I say Capitalistic Positivism and I am also saying a little more. I’m also talking about the more psychological and marketing-oriented meanings of positivity which come into play within an business organization and within their interactions with the things external from themselves. This positivism, like marketing, akin to propaganda, works to promote itself, and its utility, in the economic sense.

But Capitalistic Positivism is not based in the empirical. Certainly, it wields many of the tools of empiricism, such as mathematics in accounting and some economic theory. It also utilizes science in research, production, distribution and studies, both financial/economic and social/environmental. But with Capitalism, or Extreme Capitalism in place within the society producing the empirical endeavors and disseminating their results, these endeavors and results are prone to forces outside Positivism and empiricism. It is here that we enter the realm of marketing, propaganda and other factors that comprise the “sell”.

Businesses tend to focus on the Positive. This Positive does not have to be a positive truth or an actuality. Focusing on the Positive can include other factors, such as spin, the selective recollection or outright distortion of history, choosing the most favorable financial reporting to meet a given circumstance, the marginalization or denial of negative acts or outcomes combined with diversionary tactics toward places the organization would rather have people look, and the manufacture of empirical data interpretation that supports a desirable Positive outcome regardless of data and interpretive integrity or any preponderance of evidence to the contrary.

Within an organization, employees are encouraged, in a variety of ways, to focus on the Positive regardless of any perceived negative factors. This encouragement can be in the form of monetary or positional gains for the employee, appealing to a sense of personal or organizational loyalty, and if necessary, can enter into punitive measures of varying degrees. It is a strength of Capitalism, particularly Extreme Capitalism, which also permeates the social strata, that employees often arrive at the Positive outlook without any effort set forth from the organization. This behavior by employees who might be considered “good people” is most likely explained by the widespread of adoption of enlightened self-interest, which is, for the most part, a by-product of Capitalism, arising very near the same time as Comte’s notions of Positivism.

So here we have Positivism with its inherent characteristics of self-regulating people, being attacked by proponents of Capitalism who do not like the wealth-sharing tendencies of such things, but who, in turn, promote many of the aspects of Positivism for business organizations, but not for people. Many of these proponents have been very good at linking Capitalism to Democracy and have succeeded to such an extent that Capitalism is now equated to individual Freedom — and any discussions or arguments otherwise are pointless, since their same-ness is apodictic.

In this intellectually stifled climate, it is not surprising to find that corporations have more liberties and freedoms than individuals, are more readily able to escape prosecution under the law, and have far greater influence in our government than people do. And, since Capitalism is Freedom, we, as people, have no choice but to support this truth, if we value Freedom, while adopting, to a lesser degree, what pale ethics happen to fall out to us from the ongoing process of this “enlightened self-interest”.

Perhaps this is why we can free the Iraqis from tyranny, while occupying their country. Perhaps this is why we can take another country’s oil, for the benefit of more people in the world. Perhaps this is why we can know this, and so many other things, yet continue participating fully, without raising questions, in our enlightened and self-interested lives.

Anyone who has worked in an organization whose leaders have committed acts of wrong know how it goes down. First, the leaders show how no wrong was committed, going to great lengths to push credibility and truth to its limits, and draw focus back to the daily tasks that need doing. This usually works to contain the evil act, and nothing more is heard. But if this doesn’t work, the next step is to lie and, if possible, discredit and marginalize any person or force that continues to bring the act of wrong to light. At this point, most employees concerns are quelled, by fear and/or enlightened self-interest. If this also does not work, denials, alternative explanations, diversions with overwhelming information, and the revelation of crisis that needs immediate attention is used, which will hopefully, when all is said and done, leave everyone concerned numb enough to forget or not want to bother with anything more. Past this, depending upon the scrupulousness of the persons and their ability to circumnavigate legal constraints, other tactics may come into play. Only if this fails, will anything happen that migh undo an act of evil. And even then, an admission of any wrongdoing will be only the remotest possibility. Sadly, even if wrongdoing is proven or admitted, it is extremely unlikely that anything will be done to rectify the evil. Business as usual will simply start again, from that point.

Organizations, or rather the people directing them are experts at putting the past behind them and carrying on. Histories will be re-written, stories will be told, everything will pass, and everyone can now focus on the future instead of the past. In these scenarios, lessons are not likely to be learned. This is a process, and it is an old one. It is a product of, and it is perpetuated by the dubious ethics of enlightened self-interest. It is Capitalism.

I do not believe that Capitalism is inherently bad. I think it would be a difficult task to argue that enlightened self-interest is unethical. Unfortunately, Capitalism has moved forward, relatively unhindered, into Extreme Capitalism. It now spans any one nation’s borders. It is driven to profit at any cost, unrestrained by ethics. It cannot be influenced locally, except through acts which are large enough to draw the entire world’s attention for a protracted length of time — and those kinds of acts are likely to be deemed illegal by a given nation. Smaller acts will not draw the eye of multinational media organizations. And, if Net Neutrality is eliminated, as these multinationals are trying to do, it will most likely be very difficult to find even if you’re looking for it.

We are at a crossroads. Most all of us subscribe to this notion of enlightened self-interest. I think it would be a very good thing for us to stop and think, to ask ourselves, what is it about us that is enlightened? What is it that truly is, in our self-interest?

I’m certain if we do, we will discover that our enlightenment has something much more to do with caring for and helping of our fellow human beings. I’m certain we will see that our own self-interest is more truly in the interest of others. We are enlightened because we can see beyond ourselves. And just as certainly, we need to act in the interests of others, so that they, in turn, might have our interests at heart. There are many who would say, this is naivety. But you must believe. All significant change, is naive.

NOTE: I received a good deal of feedback that this piece was unclear. Another post exists which attempts to clarify.

Wooden Nickle

It’s sometimes hard to remember, or tell, how we arrived at something, where we are. And often when we arrive, we know we will not be staying long. But we know we will bring with us, a part, that remains ourselves, as we arrive, remain, pass through, and on.

So often we convince ourselves the gripping, tangible parts of the world ought not affect us. The sexual influences we hide or ignore, how someone or something made us feel in general, what we suspect might be crazy within us, and even what we hope for, or fear. Where we find ourselves.

The young among us, before they solidify into something, often wonder if everything might be a dream. Those who dare wandering out into the philosophical, theological, or the metaphysical discover their imaginings are not peculiar to themselves. For those no longer young, it doesn’t matter if you’re a scientist, an athlete, an academic, an artist, a laborer, or any combination of solidifications.

Dreams remain, even we choose to, or cannot remember. Dreams are the magic that lives beneath our thoughts as we move through all things in our days, and our nights. They whisper strange and wonderful things to us. They nudge us. They tell us the secrets that we need to know. Dreams wash the heart and then roll it in the mud. They bridge the chapters of our lives together, from the past into the future. And they connect us to everyone else in the universe of the arcane. Dreams must be heeded, even for those who move seamlessly between dream and waking. If they are not, they become a nightmare. We live as surely in sleep.

I woke today with something for myself, that has subsequently led to many places. The clouds outside have been returning. The air is cool, and fresh. I am listening to music very much like dreams from someone in Lithuania, as I write this. It is part of what has happened.

In a game show, I watched from a camera angle high in the air, some people below in structures and flashing lights arranged much like a pinball game. I saw myself walk out into it, a winner, through no competition or other contestants. My prize was two people who I walked toward through the obstacles of the pinball machine. I admired them both greatly, and they were happy to see me, but there were two of them. There was no way I could speak with both of them at the same time because each was a world unto themselves. So the name of one of them I cannot remember. The other was surprisingly Neil Young.

I haven’t been listening to Neil Young’s music lately. But I have. Neil Young is a person who, if you really listen and allow yourself to hear, will work some of his dream magic upon you. He’s like a cathedral of trees and strong earth, with a foundation of an almost impossibly human heart. I watched us meeting from the distance of my camera angle, above the pinball machine. We shook hands, enthusiastically nodded a few times speaking unknown pleasantries, then stood apart from one another, as the show ended.

Then I was back behind my own eyes again, instead of this floating camera, where I found myself in a flourescently lit room backstage, all alone. I saw in the corner of the room, on the floor, a pile of his dirty clothes and a bag containing more. I began rummaging through it trying to find some treasure that he might have forgotten to share already, but found nothing. Then I saw my own pile I had left. Among my belongings, he had stolen the Alaskan knife that Mark Prescott had given me shortly after I’d been knifed in the back. He had replaced it with another knife whose pommel and sheath were intricately carved with color, almost ceremonial-looking. Next to it, in similar colors, was a small bag tied together with a string which I thought must be a medicine pouch. I suddenly thought of Nils and remembered how much I love him, from the first moment I saw him in the tree. I thought of Stephen, remembering lessons in familiarity and savagery.

And then I was back here, near my home, up the street, near the single grocery store that used to be the only one around. I was being handed thick metal springs by a man who wanted me to bury them in the ground after he left. They would kill people, and protect us. When he left, I and a couple other people, were looking at the ground where we were to dig, planting these heavy metal springs. We knew that if we dug a hole in the wrong place, we’d kill ourselves and everyone around us, since things were already planted beneath the ground. But something was coming, we knew it. Seeing the school buses convinced us.

Then I was back somewhere else, with the medicine pouch, which I opened. The first thing I saw was a round piece of wood with the word “xfingus” on it. It woke me up, and I kept repeating the word so that it would not fade away into the places dreams go. And now, it leads me to places, like these.

A Little Fact, A Little Fiction


I woke a few mornings ago, as the half-dream automatic pilot took over. My hands were blindly searching the table top near the bed for my glasses. Not found, the search spread in wide, sweeping arcs to either side of me, on the smooth sheets. It was impossible not finding them. In my whole life of bad vision only twice have I truly misplaced the technology that lets me see clearly. Doing so meant a long, methodical and arduous search process with only the tactile senses available to me. I would be able to see light, but all images of things in the world would be blurred softly together, indistinguishable from each other. Then, suddenly I realized I could see clearly already, and the hint of panic subsided. Something new was in play: the overnight lenses that actually breathe better than the surface of the human eye.

I have my own secret and private world. Actually, a few of them. It’s the same world everyone else occupies. One is very easy and absolute to experience. Sometimes, rarely, I walk out into the world wearing no corrective lenses. I see everything as God, or nature, intended for me to see it. I will walk down crowded streets passing large fuzzy blobs of people with their indistinguishable details of clothing choice, hair styles, and only hints of bodily shapes. It is thrilling, and probably dangerous. I am incognito. I will walk right by people I would otherwise know without realizing it, or acknowledging them. I will hear disembodied hello’s to me, not recognizing the speaker. I can make people angry with me this way.

But how else am I to truly see the light and colors of night-time? The spectral blobs of bright store signs flashing for attention. Or the ghostly smooth drift of cars. Or a voice coming at me from a flesh-toned sphere, while all I have to believe or disbelieve is their words? Listening to words, and seeing no eyes — no human face. It is a cold and isolating thing. It is unbelievable.

After a while, you begin to hear things in voices, the subtleties in the formation of sound by the lips and throat. The pause between words speaks. The tone tells of purpose, and feeling. I become aware of having something pushed into me, or lulled out. I can hear circles, lines and blocks. Sometimes I will say, I cannot see your face, and there is always a pause of skepticism, contemplation, and then a test. In their silence I will see hints of movement in their spherical head and know they are up to something. And I will ask – what are you doing? And they will laugh about their unusual situation. I enjoy that.

Eventually I will return myself to clarity through our technologies and begin again the more efficient navigations. So many tiny details come into focus — the details of so many objects all around. And in many ways, it makes me question this efficiency, or this purpose, that warrants so much attention. The television screen that moments ago was a dimly flashing square of light. The traffic sign that was a big red ball in the middle of emptiness. The phone that was indistinguishable from what must have been the floor. And the sense of not knowing.

But then I look up to the stars, seeing each one as a crisp speck of white, where before there was nothing but blackness. I think of Mike and I looking through other lenses, seeing two galaxies in collision. And Johnny, amidst the network of listening. I think of history, and animals. The war of the worlds.

And Larry in his big magazine shop, smoking on the corner. And Keith, bless him, still singing to everyone about love. Coleen, and the lizards walking at her upright on hind legs. And little Bennett, still with the whole world a blur to him, but with his forceful “Tah tah tah!”

Restless Pete, exploring beyond the bounds, questioning and saying so. Sean, trying to fit every possible thing into neat little squares, and actually making progress! And the other Mike, creating so much beauty that few would ever suspect. Amy and the other Pete, separately, digging so hard, risking so much, to liberate truths.

Jake, whose picture you see above, is biting my feet as I write this. He wants me to throw the ball for him. He’ll turn me bloody if I don’t, or, I could choose to curb his enthusiasm. For a while, while we play fetch, as he runs to get the ball then bring it back, I was thinking of a discussion amongst some physics-y people we were having. Basically, why is there something, rather than nothing? You might be surprised how crazy scientists can get over such a thing, when they bother to consider it. It’s also very telling how far each is willing to lean over into the philosophical, or how much of the empiricist bent they’re willing to sacrifice, or cling to. And how far some philosophers are willing to tread into hubris, believing all things are eventually describable and knowable by humanity.

But as the “arrow of time” seems to point in one direction, and we are predisposed to conceive temporal origins in nothingness, you might imagine just how murky the waters can become. In this, people create no conscious deception and there is no concealment of truth. It’s a fuzzy thing, not entirely discernible. Deception would be inefficient and counter-productive. Yet people definitely have their opinions and beliefs, and are unafraid to bring them to the light for everyone to see, consider, discuss, shoot down, validate, etc.

Why is there something, rather than nothing? And with all the lenses we have to look at something, nothing cannot be seen. Maybe it’s a trick of language, or an aesthetic affront from reason. Maybe nothing never was, or time plays tricks, or isn’t really…

So, at least we know, we have this something, that we have. It’s all around. It’s further than we can imagine. But we have this something. Rather than nothing.