Archive for the ‘#theresistance’ Tag

Do You See the Matrix?   Leave a comment

I don’t generally watch TED Talks. They just seem slick and superficial to me. I prefer to read and the only visual media I really interact with is long-form discussions similar to what Jordan Peterson, Dave Ruben and Joe Rogan do. But Brad enjoys visual media, so sometimes I’m in the room when he’s consuming them.

Thus, I watched this TED Talk by Jonathan Haidt, a social psychologist at the University of Virginia who has researched morality and culture for 30-odd years. He’s spent a large pat of his career trying to understand and explain the foundations of human morality. Not too surprisingly, he’s noticed that humans often struggle to agree on what morality is. It’s to his credit that he hasn’t thrown up his hands in disgust and walked away from the topic.

During a TED Talk that I think is a few years old, Haidt shared his discovery that human beings don’t begin as a blank slate. I know … that’s contrary to common mythology, which Haidt calls “the worst idea in all psychology.” According to Haidt, humans are born with a “first draft” of moral knowledge, possessed of innate but malleable sets of values “organized in advance of experience.”

If the slate isn’t blank, then something is on it. What?

These are not new concepts to Christians. The Bible has asserted for time immemorial that mankind is created in the image of God. Since God is a Spirit and doesn’t have a body, this is not a physical image, but a spiritual or moral one. So, this Ted Talk didn’t surprise me in the least, though it may have come as news to Haidt and his team.

To find out what is on our moral template, Haidt and a colleague read the most current literature on anthropology, cultural variations, and evolutionary psychology to identify cross-cultural matches. They found five primary categories that serve as our moral foundation:

1) Care/harm: This foundation is related to our long evolution as mammals with attachment systems and an ability to feel (and dislike) the pain of others. It underlies virtues of kindness, gentleness, and community. (As a Christian, I suspect it’s part of the innate code God gave us before the Fall).
2) Fairness/reciprocity: This foundation is related to the evolutionary process of reciprocal altruism. It generates ideas of justice, rights, and autonomy. Fairness included concerns about equality, which are more strongly endorsed by political liberals. However, when Haidt reformulated the theory in 2011 based on new data, his team emphasized proportionality, which is endorsed by everyone, but is more strongly endorsed by conservatives.
3) Loyalty/betrayal: This foundation is related to our long history as tribal creatures able to form shifting coalitions. It underlies virtues of patriotism and self-sacrifice for the group. It is active anytime people feel that it’s “one for all, and all for one.”
4) Authority/subversion: According to Haidt, this foundation was shaped by our long primate history of hierarchical social interactions and it underlies virtues of leadership and followership, including deference to legitimate authority and respect for traditions. (I attribute it to our original relationship with God, now damaged by the Fall.)
5) Sanctity/degradation: This foundation was shaped by the psychology of disgust and contamination. It underlies religious notions of striving to live in an elevated, less carnal, more noble way. It underlies the widespread idea that the body is a temple which can be desecrated by immoral activities and contaminants (an idea not unique to religious traditions…just ask vegetarians and athletes).

Haidt found that both conservatives and liberals recognize the Harm/Care and Fairness/Reciprocity values. Liberal-minded people, however, tend to reject the three remaining foundational values—Loyalty/betrayal, Authority/subversion, and Sanctity/degradation—while conservatives accept them.

I was so stunned by overhearing that as I wrote in the living room while Brad listened to the video, that I watched it again — twice. That’s a striking difference, which helps explain why many liberals and conservatives in America think “the other side” is delusional.

Now, a lot of liberals will contend that the three extra values are not proper morals at all but base human traits responsible for xenophobia and religious oppression. Haidt rejects this thesis. Through a series of historical illustrations, psychological studies, and cross-cultural references, he explains that many liberals often fail to appreciate a timeless truth that conservatives usually accept: order tends to decay. (If that sounds familiar, google the Second Law of Thermodynamics.)

Haidt isn’t suggesting conservatives are superior to liberals. He’s actually pointing out that conservatives tend to value order even at the cost of those at the bottom of society, which can result in morally dubious social implications (or, as Brad pointed out, more robust church charity programs). In contrast, liberals often desire change even at the risk of chaos and the associated damage that accrues from it. A friend I shared the chart with pointed out that it makes conservatives look like the more open-minded ones, which is an interesting take on the usual condemnation.

If your head is exploding, you might want to reach for the duct tape. You can certainly refuse to accept Haidt’s explanation of moral reality. The human inclination is to believe in one’s own understanding of morality, and many people will live their entire lives without seriously attempting to understand their ideological counterparts, but of course Haidt (and I) don’t recommend living in reality bubbles.

“If you think that half of America votes Republican because they’re blinded… then my message to you is you’re trapped in a moral matrix,” Haidt said. “You can either take the blue pill and stick to your comforting delusions. Or you can take the red pill, learn some moral psychology, and step outside your moral matrix.”

So what to make of all this? I found Haidt’s explanations pretty insightful, but I already knew it. He was just catching up to writings from Francis Schaefer I read 30+ years ago or with the Bible itself which was written millennia ago. But for those who like their cultural and philosophical analysis to be more timely, it certainly helps explain America’s  current contentious culture. Intelligent and reasonable people will have a difficult time agreeing on anything if they view the moral underpinnings of society through vastly divergent lenses and it is no stretch to contend that American liberals have largely abandoned the latter three values (exceptions exist, of course), or that conservatives are highly influenced by them.

If you really hate this theory, it may just be evidence that you’re living in a moral matrix of either stripe and you might need to take the red pill to wake up and see your neighbor as he truly is rather than in the role your worldview has cast him into. And, maybe, having done that, we can sit down to coffee and have a pleasant conversation in which we discover that we can find common ground if we’ll just stop totally rejecting what the other person sees and believes about reality.

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Candace Owens: Voice of a Generation   Leave a comment

I apologize for the boring white dude at the beginning, but if you get through that, it’s well worth listening to Candace’s speech. Lela rolled her eyes at the Trump endorsement at the end, but the rest of it is an extremely important message that anyone who wants to understand the world as it is today ought to at least listen to before they reject the message out of hand. Brad

Is it Time for the Great Dissolution?   Leave a comment

Image result for image of national secession as a divorceHello. This is Brad. Lela is editing a book preparatory to launching in November. After spending the last few weeks watching Americans scream at each other, I received this funny in my email, sent to me by a friend with an odd sense of human. We don’t know where it comes from, but it’s funny and it makes a point that maybe needs making in these days of hate and rage.

Dear American liberals, leftists, statists, social progressives, socialists, Marxists and Obama supporters, etc:

We have stuck together since the late 1950’s for the sake of the kids, but this latest election has made me realize that we should get a divorce. I know we tolerated each other for many years for the sake of future generations, but sadly, this relationship has clearly run its course.

Our two ideological sides of America cannot and will not ever agree on what is right for us all, so let’s just end it on friendly terms. We can smile and chalk it up to irreconcilable differences and go our own way.

Here is a model separation agreement:

–Our two groups can equitably divide up the country by landmass each taking an appropriate portion. We’re happy to give you New England and the West Coast. The good people of New Hampshire obviously will need some time to pack up and move to flyover country, and we’ll give the tenured professors in university towns ample time to relocate in your share of the country.

–We don’t like redistributive taxes and the IRS, so you can keep them.

–You are welcome to the left-wing judges and the ACLU.

–Since you hate guns and war, we’ll take our firearms, the cops, the NRA and the military.

–We’ll take the nasty, smelly oil industry and you can go with wind, solar and biodiesel.

–You can keep Oprah, Michael Moore and Rosie O’Donnell. You are, however,  responsible for finding a bio-diesel vehicle big enough to move all three of them.

–We’ll keep capitalism, greedy corporations, pharmaceutical companies, Wal-Mart and Wall Street.

–You can have your beloved welfare grubbers, food stamp recipients, homeless, hippies, druggies, and illegal aliens.

–We’ll keep the hot Alaskan hockey moms, greedy CEO’s, and rednecks.

–We’ll keep the Bibles and give you the networks and Hollywood.

–You can make nice with Iran and Palestine and we’ll retain the right to invade and hammer places that threaten us.

–You can have the peaceniks and war protesters. When our allies or our way of life are under assault, we’ll help provide them security.

–We’ll keep our Judeo-Christian values.

–You are welcome to Islam, Scientology, Humanism, political correctness and Shirley McClaine. You can also have the U.N. but we will no longer be paying the bill.

–We’ll keep the SUV’s, pickup trucks, and full-sized luxury cars. You can take every Subaru, Volvo, and Prius you can find.

–You can give everyone healthcare if you can find any practicing doctors.

–We’ll continue to believe healthcare is a product of the marketplace and not a right.

–We’ll keep “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” and “The National Anthem.”

–I’m sure you’ll be happy to substitute “Imagine”, “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing”, “Kum Ba Ya” or “We Are the World”.

–We’ll practice trickle down economics and you can continue to give trickle up poverty your best shot.

–Since it often so offends you, we’ll keep our history, our name and our flag.

I’m from New Hampshire. I grew up there. So I’m going to argue for it to remain with the red states. And, I think Alaskans will demand visitation rights with the Subarus. But otherwise — yeah, it’s about right.

When a marriage devolves to this much vitriol, it really is time to consider dissolution before and as an alternative to a murder-suicide.

On Revolution   Leave a comment

I haven’t been blogging much lately because I’m in rewrite mode for Book 4 of Transformation Project – Day’s End – and it’s summer in Alaska, but some interactions on Facebook have caused me to start thinking. I posted an 1818 letter by John Adams explaining that the American Revolution had not been the war that was fought against England, but the change in the “religious” affection of the Americans toward Britain that had occurred in the 15-years of spiritual revival that had occurred prior to the war. History records that as the First Great Awakening, but it was really more than just a rediscovery of Scripture and the Holy Spirit. The American colonists were seized by a fervor for learning that included reading far more than the Bible.

Image result for image of revolutionThe war was coda to the actual revolution that occurred in the hearts and minds of the people prior to the first shot being fired. Adams believed this was what set the American Revolution apart from the French Revolution. After the shooting was done, Americans settled down to peaceful commerce once more. Meanwhile, in France, when the revolutionaries seized power, they commenced to kill a bunch of people of varying degrees of guilt and innocence. They found no peace, but only a growing hunger for blood. Why? Adams wrote it was because France pursued revolution as a war while in America, the revolution had been in the hearts and minds of the people prior to the war. They were already free in their minds. Had Britain simply accepted that, there would have been no war.

So, today we’re at such a cusp — on the verge of a civil war that will split not along clear regional lines as it did in the 1860s, but along ideological lines that are expressed in a mixed geography – rural versus urban, blue region versus red. We’ve got a whole chorus of voices screaming for “revolution”, people in the streets demanding “justice”, setting things on fire, beating their opponents into the pavement and insisting on fundamental changes to the political system that will affect our future in enormous and damaging ways.

If you’ve been a reader of my blog, you know I didn’t support Donald Trump for president in 2016 (though I also didn’t support Hillary Clinton … remember, crooks on the left, clowns on the right, I’m still not voting for you). So this post is really not about who occupies the White House. It’s about the shattering of America that we are so not ready for.

An impeachment is a darned hard thing on the constitution of a country. It has been hard on Americans in the past — pretty much every time — though sometimes it has been necessary. There have been presidents who violated their oaths of office and deserved impeachment … and some were impeached while others were not. And let us not forget there was enough evidence to impeach Bill Clinton, articles of impeachment were upheld, and Congress still didn’t remove him from office. And that was surprisingly less harmful to the fabric of society than Richard Nixon’s resignation.

I don’t really care if Trump gets impeached … though I do care if there’s actual evidence of a crime because impeachment should not be undertaken just because some people don’t like an election result that was determined under the existing constitutional system. If they want to change it, there’s a procedure for amending the Constitution. Meanwhile, the Constitution allows us to replace Trump with Mike Pence if there’s enough evidence that Trump — not his associates — did something worthy of impeachment. And, frankly, if it weren’t for the negatives, I could easily replace Trump with Pence and go on with my life because I didn’t vote for him, ao I’ve no real dog in the fight. But ….

The 47% of American voters who gave Donald Trump the presidency did not vote for Mike Pence. And that’s a problem because they will be disenfranchised upon Trump’s removal from office. What happens to them, to the hopes they voted for when they elected him? Do they not matter? I know most progressive Democrats will insist they don’t, but they are just about half of the population, so … do we just ignore them once Trump has been removed from office? How do you think that’s going to work out for the country?

And will those rioting in the streets be satisfied with the replacement of a populist progressive president with a very conservative one? Pence is a social and fiscal conservative. He’s everything progressives hate. He’s about as far from Barack Obama’s policies as Calvin Coolidge was from Woodrow Wilson. Can the progressives currently rioting in our streets accept Pence as the constitutionally-selected president of America or will they continue to demand that their wishes be assuaged?

And if they hold out for their demands to be fulfilled, what then? The Democrats LOST the constitutional election of 2016. The Russians may have provided information people had a right to know, but they didn’t hack the voting system. There are literally thousands of election systems in the United States and that makes our voting system more or less unhackable. So there is no way, constitutionally, that a Democrat should be in the White House before 2020, but mark my words — there will be Democrats demanding it and it is that tension – between the Democrats on one side who will not accept the outcome of a constitutional election and the Republicans who are about to be disenfranchised that will tear this country apart.

I want revolution more than most people do. It’s revolutionary and counter-cultural in this era to say we need to drastically cut government (by 50 to 75%), to close all our foreign bases and bring soldiers home, to get government out of the economy and let people make their own decisions without our nanny hanging over our shoulders. But here’s the rub … I don’t think this country is ready for revolution. We’re France in the 1780s. We want change, but the vast majority of the population has not been educated to think for themselves, so naturally the vast majority of them will scream for more government rather than less … and that way lays totalitarianism … the silencing of philosophical minorities, of anyone who can think for themselves, the wholesale enslavement of the economy to the government, and the loss of individual liberty and the concept of natural rights that are inherent in being a human being instead of something given to you by the government when it deigns that you will benefit from them. None of this is a good idea by any stretch of the imagination. Yeah … it may be that we’re actually Russia in the early 20th century. We’re certainly headed that way.

If that concerns you, I hope you’ll take some time – take a pause — and educate yourselves. You can certain read back in my blog. You can check out Mises.org, the Ron Paul Institute and the Foundation for Economic Freedom.  Go to You-Tube and check out Dave Rubin or Jordan Peterson or the pod casts of Joe Rogan. In the case of Rubin and Rogan, it’s really their guests who are brilliant, but the point is to start listening to people who have actually thought out what it means to be an individual without being in conflict with society. We might potentially dodge a bullet for the next year or two, but unless we change our affections for the bloated totalitarian-lite government we currently have and start looking at the world we live in a different way, we’re head the way of so many countries that grabbed for needed change and ended up killing millions.

State Unchanged   Leave a comment

From “The State” by Randolph Bourne

 

Image result for image of randolph bourneAn analysis of the State would take us back to the beginnings of society, to the complex of religious and personal and herd-impulses which has found expression in so many forms. What we are interested in is the American State as it behaves and as Americans behave towards it in this twentieth century, and to understand that we have to go no further back than the early English monarchy of which our American republic is the direct descendant. How straight and true is that line of descent almost nobody realizes. Those persons who believe in the sharpest distinction between democracy and monarchy can scarcely appreciate how a political institution may go through so many transformations and yet remain the same. Yet a swift glance must show us that in all the evolution of the English monarchy, with all its broadenings and its revolutions, and even with its jump across the sea into a colony which became an independent nation and then a powerful State, the same State functions and attitudes have been preserved essentially unchanged. The changes have been changes of form and not of inner spirit, and the boasted extension of democracy has been not a process by which the State was essentially altered to meet the shifting of classes, the extension of knowledge, the needs of social organization, but a mere elastic expansion by which the old spirit of the State easily absorbed the new and adjusted itself successfully to its exigencies. Never once has it been seriously shaken. Only once or twice has it been seriously challenged, and each time it has speedily recovered its equilibrium and proceeded with all its attitudes and faiths reinforced by the disturbance.

The modern democratic state, in this light, is therefore no bright and rational creation of a new day, the political form under which great peoples are to live healthfully and freely in a modern world, but the last decrepit scion of an ancient and hoary stock, which has become so exhausted that it scarcely recognizes its own ancestor, does, in fact, repudiate him while it clings tenaciously to the archaic and irrelevant spirit that made that ancestor powerful, and resists the new bottles for the new wine that its health as a modern society so desperately needs. So sweeping a conclusion might have been doubted concerning the American State had it not been for the war, which has provided a long and beautiful series of examples of the tenacity of the State ideal and its hold on the significant classes of the American nation. War is the health of the State and it is during war that one best understands the nature of that institution. If the American democracy during wartime has acted with an almost incredible trueness to form, if it has resurrected with an almost joyful fury the somnolent State, we can only conclude that the tradition from the past has been unbroken, and that the American republic is the direct descendant of the English State.

And what was the nature of this early English State? It was first of all a medieval absolute monarchy, arising out of the feudal chaos, which had represented the first effort at order after the turbulent assimilation of the invading barbarians by the Christianizing Roman civilization. The feudal lord evolved out of the invading warrior who had seized or been granted land and held it, souls and usufruct thereof, as a fief to some higher lord whom he aided in war. His own serfs and vassals were exchanging faithful service for the protection which the warrior with his organized band could give them. Where an invading chieftain retained his power over his lesser lieutenants a petty kingdom would arise, as in England, and a restless and ambitious king might extend his power over his neighbors and consolidate the petty kingdoms only to fall before the armed power of an invader like William the Conqueror, who would bring the whole realm under his heel. The modern State begins when a prince secures almost undisputed sway over fairly homogeneous territory and people and strives to fortify his power and maintain the order that will conduce to the safety and influence of his heirs. The State in its inception is pure and undiluted monarchy; it is armed power, culminating in a single head, bent on one primary object, the reducing to subjection, to unconditional and unqualified loyalty of all the people of a certain territory. This is the primary striving of the State, and it is a striving that the State never loses, through all its myriad transformations.

When the subjugation was once acquired, the modern State had begun. In the King, the subjects found their protection and their sense of unity. From his side, he was a redoubtable, ambitious, and stiff-necked warrior, getting the supreme mastery which he craved. But from theirs, he was a symbol of the herd, the visible emblem of that security which they needed and for which they drew gregariously together. Serfs and villains, whose safety under their petty lords had been rudely shattered in the constant conflicts for supremacy, now drew a new breath under the supremacy that wiped out this local anarchy. King and people agreed in the thirst for order, and order became the first healing function of the State. But in the maintenance of order, the King needed officers of justice; the old crude group-rules for dispensing justice had to be codified, a system of formal law worked out. The King needed ministers, who would carry out his will, extensions of his own power, as a machine extends the power of a man’s hand. So the State grew as a gradual differentiation of the King’s absolute power, founded on the devotion of his subjects and his control of a military band, swift and sure to smite. Gratitude for protection and fear of the strong arm sufficed to produce the loyalty of the country to the State.


Bourne was clearly no fan of the modern State as created by Edward the Confessor. He saw the monarchy as pure force that people were grateful to be subjugated by because it meant a modicum of safety compared to the feudal era. It’s tough to rule a large area by yourself, so the King establised an administration under devoted subjects and his military might. The people were loyal mainly for the protection.  Lela

The Herd Obeys the Rulers   Leave a comment

From “The State” by Randolph Bourne

 

Image result for image of randolph bourneNothing is more obvious, however, than that every one of us comes into society as into something in whose creation we had not the slightest hand. We have not even the advantage of consciousness before we take up our careers on earth. By the time we find ourselves here we are caught in a network of customs and attitudes, the major directions of our desires and interests have been stamped on our minds, and by the time we have emerged from tutelage and reached the years of discretion when we might conceivably throw our influence to the reshaping of social institutions, most of us have been so molded into the society and class we live in that we are scarcely aware of any distinction between ourselves as judging, desiring individuals and our social environment. We have been kneaded so successfully that we approve of what our society approves, desire what our society desires, and add to the group our own passionate inertia against change, against the effort of reason, and the adventure of beauty.

Every one of us, without exception, is born into a society that is given, just as the fauna and flora of our environment are given. Society and its institutions are, to the individual who enters it, as much naturalistic phenomena as is the weather itself. There is, therefore, no natural sanctity in the State any more than there is in the weather. We may bow down before it, just as our ancestors bowed before the sun and moon, but it is only because something in us unregenerate finds satisfaction in such an attitude, not because there is anything inherently reverential in the institution worshiped. Once the State has begun to function, and a large class finds its interest and its expression of power in maintaining the State, this ruling class may compel obedience from any uninterested minority. The State thus becomes an instrument by which the power of the whole herd is wielded for the benefit of a class. The rulers soon learn to capitalize the reverence which the State produces in the majority, and turn it into a general resistance toward a lessening of their privileges. The sanctity of the State becomes identified with the sanctity of the ruling class, and the latter are permitted to remain in power under the impression that in obeying and serving them, we are obeying and serving society, the nation, the great collectivity of all of us.

Modern State is Irrational   Leave a comment

From “The State” by Randolph Bourne

Image result for image of randolph bourneThe distinction between Government and State, however, has not been so carefully observed. In time of war it is natural that Government as the seat of authority should be confused with the State or the mystic source of authority. You cannot very well injure a mystical idea which is the State, but you can very well interfere with the processes of Government. So that the two become identified in the public mind, and any contempt for or opposition to the workings of the machinery of Government is considered equivalent to contempt for the sacred State. The State, it is felt, is being injured in its faithful surrogate, and public emotion rallies passionately to defend it. It even makes any criticism of the form of Government a crime.

The inextricable union of militarism and the State is beautifully shown by those laws which emphasize interference with the Army and Navy as the most culpable of seditious crimes. Pragmatically, a case of capitalistic sabotage, or a strike in war industry would seem to be far more dangerous to the successful prosecution of the war than the isolated and ineffectual efforts of an individual to prevent recruiting. But in the tradition of the State ideal, such industrial interference with national policy is not identified as a crime against the State. It may be grumbled against; it may be seen quite rationally as an impediment of the utmost gravity. But it is not felt in those obscure seats of the herd mind which dictate the identity of crime and fix their proportional punishments. Army and Navy, however, are the very arms of the State; in them flows its most precious lifeblood. To paralyze them is to touch the very State itself. And the majesty of the State is so sacred that even to attempt such a paralysis is a crime equal to a successful strike. The will is deemed sufficient. Even though the individual in his effort to impede recruiting should utterly and lamentably fail, he shall be in no wise spared. Let the wrath of the State descend upon him for his impiety! Even if he does not try any overt action, but merely utters sentiments that may incidentally in the most indirect way cause someone to refrain from enlisting, he is guilty. The guardians of the State do not ask whether any pragmatic effect flowed out of this evil will or desire. It is enough that the will is present. Fifteen or twenty years in prison is not deemed too much for such sacrilege.

Such attitudes and such laws, which affront every principle of human reason, are no accident, nor are they the result of hysteria caused by the war. They are considered just, proper, beautiful by all the classes which have the State ideal, and they express only an extreme of health and vigor in the reaction of the State to its non-friends.

Such attitudes are inevitable as arising from the devotees of the State. For the State is a personal as well as a mystical symbol, and it can only be understood by tracing its historical origin. The modern State is not the rational and intelligent product of modern men desiring to live harmoniously together with security of life, property, and opinion. It is not an organization which has been devised as pragmatic means to a desired social end. All the idealism with which we have been instructed to endow the State is the fruit of our retrospective imaginations. What it does for us in the way of security and benefit of life, it does incidentally as a by-product and development of its original functions, and not because at any time men or classes in the full possession of their insight and intelligence have desired that it be so. It is very important that we should occasionally lift the incorrigible veil of that ex post facto idealism by which we throw a glamour of rationalization over what is, and pretend in the ecstasies of social conceit that we have personally invented and set up for the glory of God and man the hoary institutions which we see around us. Things are what they are, and come down to us with all their thick encrustations of error and malevolence. Political philosophy can delight us with fantasy and convince us who need illusion to live that the actual is a fair and approximate copy—full of failings, of course, but approximately sound and sincere—of that ideal society which we can imagine ourselves as creating. From this it is a step to the tacit assumption that we have somehow had a hand in its creation and are responsible for its maintenance and sanctity.


Bourne is gradually introducing the idea that the State is a religion that, especially in times of war, people adhere to as if it were a god. The United States is an approximate, if flawed copy of the ideal society … even when we know it isn’t.  Lela

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