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09/21/2012

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Ken Barrows

Why do people think the Presidential election is so important? For many of us (yes, me), a large portion of our organization's budget is from government. No government largesse, no job. So, Obama's victory is really crucial.

So you say Obama won't change the trajectory of humankind's journey. Sure enough. But for folks where I work it's a lousy future (put out of mind) with a job versus a lousy future without a job.

With that said, I am voting for Jill Stein. If it means I lose my job after a Romney victory, then so be it.

Screech

Mr. Cohen:

If you find that you enjoy Gray's book Straw Dogs, you may want to read Jesse Bering's book titled The Belief Instinct as well as Sam Harris's titled The Moral Lanscape.

And if you would like to put the knife in and turn it, E. O. Wilson's latest titled The Social Conquest of Earth should do the job quite nicely.

Natural selection: No better ego deflater has ever existed. Have fun.

Dave Cohen

@Ken

Re: Why do people think the Presidential election is so important?

If you take a psychological view of this question, the answer becomes obvious. Consider everything I said in this post about necessary illusions, and you should be able to see that--

The more fucked up things are, the harder it is to pretend that things are not fucked up.

Politics, which always represents the status quo, is the standard way to pretend that everything is OK. If only we elect this guy, all will be well.

In so far as things are very, very fucked up in the United States -- FUBAR, really-- the more bullshit must be thrown around to pretend otherwise. And that's exactly what we're seeing. An election of little consequence is thus regarded as the most important event of our lifetimes. All this to preserve the illusion that America is not fucked up.

Consequently, in 2012, we are drowning in bullshit.

-- Dave

Mitch

One of my favorite articles you've written. The quote I always remember is "what one believes either is true, or eventually becomes true". Political debate just ends up being one groups illusion vs. another groups illusions, some more delusional than others.

Sometimes I think that only people that have been severely depressed can imagine beyond the illusions, and stare at reality and the illusions we ourselves have used to attempt to hold onto some peace of mind. People like George Carlin whom you often quote or link to, someone who was able to be unhappy enough to strip away some of the mental filters and view some of the bullshit for what it really is.

I used to vote for 3rd party candidates, knowing they wouldn't win, but none of the above/no vote seems the best--plus I can't afford to miss work for Jury duty :) The media typically presents people who don't vote as apathetic or somehow uniformed. But perhaps not voting is just the most rational thing to do, better to save that time for watching Sponge bob or Looney toons reruns.

Bill_M

http://howtosavetheworld.ca/2012/09/18/why-we-cannot-save-the-world/

Worth reading

Dave Cohen

@Bill_M

Yes, that is worth reading. In fact, I will post about it.

I found this amusing--

The human mind is astonishingly malleable; that is one of the reasons we have adapted so quickly and effectively to changes that most creatures could never manage. But a consequence of that malleability is that we can be persuaded that things are good, or at least OK (and improving), when they are not. We can even be convinced that the history of human civilization, allegedly from brutish to enslaved to democratic and affluent, is one of “progress”, when there is overwhelming evidence that it is not.

Yes, the human mind is astonishingly malleable, for there is no delusion large or small humans will not embrace if that delusion is somehow in their own best interest, or allows them not to acknowledge who they are and what they are doing in the sense of my post or in Gray's sense, and that continuing blindness is "seen" (albeit unconsciously) as the sine qua non of human existence.

Even when science tells the humans they are fucking up the oceans, the climate, terrestrial ecosystems, etc., they absolutely refuse to acknowledge or properly deal with the problem.

-- Dave

Wheelerlucas


I will be voting because where I live -- Honolulu -- we actually have a choice for Mayor that appears to matter. The developers {including Sierra Club no real surprise there} are all for a "big rail" project that will enable us -- so we are told-- to "smart grow", the most isolated major metropolitan center on the planet, by up to another 300,000 residents. {and who knows by how many more, as we like to refer to them here in "paradise", visitors. But this proposed rail project is so f-ugly many are worried if it is actually completed, at this point a big if, that no one will want to come here anymore. Not that Honolulu, now, is what you would call an oil painting given all the ugly development that has already taken place.} This project will cost billions for what by Mainland standards, is a piss-ass amount of rail. But we are told that is no-never-mind because da federal government will pay for most of it. Any-who our former Gov Ben Cayetano is running against this rail scam so I will vote for good old {72} Ben.

I started reading John Gray a while back because Gail at Wit's End thinks highly of him. You do know Gail comments regularly here? Always in relation to her concern with tropospheric ozone and dying trees. She is a great source if you ever want to look-in to that generally overlooked environmental problem.

I hope your reading Gray will lead you to want to take a look at Schopenhauer -- if you have not already. His "Essays and Aphorisms" is simply great!

I had actually wanted to respond to your brilliant "The Crooked Timber" post. A Lisa suggested to you that Danniel Quinn's distinction between "taker" and leaver" cultures explains a great deal -- in particular how agriculture was an experiment we "takers" tried.

Well, I certainly do not agree with that view and I believe neither do you. I believe a better explanation is found in Craig Dilworth's "Too Smart For Our Own Good: The Ecological Predicament of Humankind". Dilworth is, unlike your humble self, one of those top-down thinkers. He is a philosopher, Like Gray, but unlike Gray he really knows his science. I would say that Dilworth has even made a important contribution to science with his "the vicious circle principle". I am going to let the good professor from Uppsla Sweden speak for himself:

"According to the vicious circle principle (VCP) the evolution of humans generally, and the development of Homo sapiens in particular, differ from what is the case for other species in that we are the only species to develop technology. Paradagmatically this development occurs in a situation of scarcity, and turns that situation into one of surplus. This surplus allows the human population to grow until it runs into the problem of scarcity again. And then, in certain cases, a new form of technology is invented/discovered, and the scarcity is once again transformed into a surplus, with subsequent population growth. And so on. This explains, among other things, why the human population has constantly grown, while the populations of all other species vacillate about a mean."

So we are stuck doing the same thing over and over but each time doing it bigger and more destructively. Dave I am going to go out on a limb and say for me you are Alfred Russel Wallace to Dilworth's Charles Darwin. Or maybe it is the other way around? All I do know is you do your bottom-up stuff and Dilworth has his big theory and you two are like a match made in heaven. I am going to end with some links to Dilworth on the web:

http://www.scienceforums.net/topic/53100-the-vicious-circle-principle-of-the-development-of-humankind/

and

http://montreal.degrowth.org/downloads/papers/K074_Dilworth.pdf.

Plus a review:

http://www.compassionatespirit.com/wpblog/2012/04/20/too-smart-for-our-own-good/

As we say here in Hawai'i nei: A hui hou ...

Nick

"Outside of the relatively few people with Bad Attitudes like me and most of you..." made me laugh out loud. Kudos. Thank you for your writing.

NoHype

I'm glad you keep writing, even when current events appear to be "calm" and the news is eerily thin. It makes me feel sane to be able to check in and recognize the gossamer facade of "normalcy" for the holodeck projection it really is.

People will always flock to sites like yours when fear runs high, desperately looking for easy answers only to reject them in the end. I prefer to keep an eye on the gathering chimneys of dark clouds on the horizon, so when they do hit, I'm not busy trying to cram several years' of necessary research and grasping of subtle nuances into a few hours, while the wind is picking up speed outside.

Amy

Dave,

Another line of inquiry that might also be of interest is works, esp. later ones, by Peter Wollinsky. Your comment about humans living in a world of self-constructed illusion is what the Hindu concept of Advita Vedanta (sp?) is all about. The nervous system, by definition, as an insturment that INTERPRETS stimulus, can only create stories (illusions). Because we interface with the world through our nervous systems, we will/must create stories/illusions - our nerous systems just like to think that the stories have Meaning or Truth or are based Reality.

Mitch,
Your comment about depressed people reminds me of the 80's movie Crazy People, in which these great (and successful) advertising campaigns were designed by crazy (mostly really depressed and profoundly disillusioned people) in an insane asylum. The campaigns were great because they spoke "truths" no-one else had the guts to say; sort of Emperor's New Clothes take. Hollywood, but moments of funny and grains of insight.

All,
I love the posts and generally the conversation after adds to the enjoyment. Compliments to you all, and best wishes (illusions? Ha!)

Amy

Alexander Ač

Hello Dave, I have two link for you, first is the food book on complex food prices analysis from Lagi et al. 2012:

http://necsi.edu/publications/food/food_book.pdf

and the other is 1000 years history of human casualties in war conflicts, I have seen it today for the first time:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kTdEQwE6hF8&feature=player_embedded

Alex

Shane O'Shea

"If it weren't for the increasingly clear scientific results pointing to an untenable future, I would completely agree with Gray's dismissal of Francis Fukuyama's ridiculous "End of History"—history simply goes on and on, the future looks like the past, same as it ever was.

Unfortunately, the science says otherwise. And now our problems are global, not local as they were in the past."

re: Gray's dismissal of Fukuyama... Wasn't the 'End of History' based entirely on the notion that humans have the ability to will their ideal world into being; that the obvious benefits of good (western-style) governance and the free-market would inevitably bring about a paradise on Earth - and thus provide a conclusion to the grand human narrative of 'Progress'?

Surely the fact that humans ignore or cannot deal with looming environmental disaster on a global scale only serves to reinforce Gray's theories regarding our need for such redemptive narratives?

Thanks for the piece and especially for the Fora TV link.

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