Beyond Good and Evil

Dr. Ronnie J. Hastings

Archive for the category “Philosophy”

God –The Ultimate Meme, or The Problem of God

In Perception Theory and Memes — Full Circle, [March 2019], the epistemological concept of memes was used to “tie together” the basic concepts of Perception Theory, “circling back” to the beginnings of the theory. This tying-together of memes into Perception Theory, if you will, was done within the group of related posts having to do with Perception Theory.

Similarly, this is the tying together of two groups of posts, one again being the Perception Theory group (Group II.) and the other being the origin of Christianity group (Group I.)  Both groups of posts share constituent subjects of God, religion, or, to use my phrase, god and god stories.

Group I. consists of Sorting Out the Apostle Paul, [April, 2012], Sorting Out Constantine I the Great and His Momma, [Feb., 2015], Sorting Out Jesus, [July, 2015], At Last, a Probable Jesus, [August, 2015], and Jesus — A Keeper, [Sept., 2015].  It is a personal journey of religious belief utilizing history as a forensic science and my own “spiritual” experiences as a guide toward understanding how Christianity (and, by extrapolation, all religious systems of belief) came about.  It utilizes modern biblical criticism and the application of philosophy’s Occam’s Razor.  Conclusions gleaned in this group of posts rest upon the separation of theology and ethics, the former seen as mostly epistemologically and intellectually toxic, and the latter seen as epistemologically, intellectually, and socially essential and vital.  As the title Jesus — A Keeper, [Sept., 2015] implies, Christianity’s value (and by implication the value of all religions) lies in the time-proven ethics of the Golden Rule or Principle of Reciprocity, not in theology.

Group II. is much larger numerically, which correctly implies its greater subject breadth and depth.  It consists of Perception Is Everything, [Jan., 2016], Perception Theory (Perception is Everything) — Three Applications, [Feb., 2016], Perception Theory:  Adventures in Ontology — Rock, Dog, Freedom, & God, [March, 2016], I Believe!, [Oct., 2016], Hope and Faith, [Jan., 2017], Prayer, [Feb., 2017], Egalite: A Qualified Virtue, [Feb., 2018], Going Global, [March, 2018], AVAPS!, [May, 2018], Toward an Imagined Order of Everything, Using AVAPS, [June, 2018], The “Problem ” of Free Will, [June, 2018], and, as indicated above, Perception Theory and Memes — Full Circle, [March, 2019].   This group develops a universal ontology and epistemology under the heading “Perception Theory.”  Perception Theory is a combination of rationalism and existentialism which enjoys a wide range of applications, as demonstrated in Perception Theory (Perception is Everything) — Three Applications, [Feb., 2016] and The “Problem ” of Free Will, [June, 2018].  In addition to illuminating directions of modern political and economic theory, Perception Theory particularly sheds light on topics from Group I., as shown by Perception Theory:  Adventures in Ontology — Rock, Dog, Freedom, & God, [March, 2016], I Believe!, [Oct., 2016], Hope and Faith, [Jan., 2017],  and Prayer, [Feb., 2017].   Hence, from the perspective of sorting out “god and god stories,” much of Group II. seems like a continuation and elaboration of Group I. (as the posting dates of publishing on www.ronniejhastings.com (site name Beyond Good and Evil) above might indicate).

Memes blending “full circle” with Perception Theory (Perception Theory and Memes — Full Circle, [March, 2019]) indicates that a common theme woven throughout both groups, the “what” and “why” of gods and god stories, will also have a “full circle” of its own.  Philosophy of religion often posits the “problem” of God.  As in the “problem” of free will (The “Problem ” of Free Will, [June, 2018]), a question is begged:  is there need of a “problem” at all?  The epistemological questions surrounding the formation of Christianity (and all religious sects, for that matter), coupled with the suggestion that ontological differences among theists, atheists, and agnostics are silly and absurd (Perception Theory:  Adventures in Ontology — Rock, Dog, Freedom, & God, [March, 2016]), imply, in my opinion, a resolution concerning any such “problem” is highly plausible.

{Here it is necessary to interject that the more familiar the reader is with the content of all the posts referenced above, greater and swifter will be the understanding of that which is to follow.  Bear in mind that, as always, “understanding” is not necessarily the same as “agreeing.”  Listing all the posts above emphasizes that the “full circle” attempted hereafter is not some momentary epiphany, revelation, emotional experience, recent whim, or musing, but, rather, is the result of years of methodical, careful thought leading to satisfying  personal conclusions.  That they would be satisfying to anyone else is unwarranted speculation on my part.  Achieving understanding (not necessarily agreeing) with others may be a forlorn hope (See Hope and Faith, [Jan., 2017]), but achieving any understanding from others at least would provide relief from any lingering angst over my personal “subjective trap” (See Perception Is Everything, [Jan., 2016]) — adding to the personal relief memes give (See Perception Theory and Memes — Full Circle, [March 2019]).}

In dealing with gods and god stories in terms of memes, we do not start “from scratch;” all terminology has been defined in the above posts in both Groups I. and II.  The context of our start is 1. We are star-stuff in self-contemplation.  2.  Math is the language of the universe.  To this context is added 3.  God is a looped non-veridically based concept in our heads, or meme having no resonance with the “real” veridical world or universe outside our epiphenomenal minds contained in our veridical physiological brains. (Perception Theory:  Adventures in Ontology — Rock, Dog, Freedom, & God, [March, 2016])  Therefore, God exists as does a unicorn, as does Santa Claus, as does the tooth fairy, as does Satan.  The same existence applies to the generic term “gods” as well as to stories about God, or god stories.

Memes or concepts of the veridical world outside us, like the idea of “rock” or “dog,” are non-veridical, like the memes of gods, but with a very important difference: they are resonant memes, resonating with the empirical data bombarding our senses when we experience a rock or a dog.  We use our epiphenomenal  imaginations to create memes of both looped concepts (non-veridically self-contained in the imagination) and resonant concepts (non-veridically related with the veridical “outside” world indicated by our continual “pouring in” of empirical sense data).  Imagined worlds in science fiction are looped memes and scientific theories are resonant memes.  “Scientific” objectivity is making memes as resonant as possible, or as veridical as possible (AVAPS!, [May, 2018] and Toward an Imagined Order of Everything, Using AVAPS, [June, 2018]).

Certain looped non-veridical memes, like Santa Claus and Satan, are made to appear resonant by saying Santa Claus is the “personification” of Christmas giving or Satan is the “personification” of human evil.  Personifications are like avatars, or manifestations of something else.  If the “something else” has a veridical existence, again, like a rock or a dog, then it would not be looped.  The behavior of giving at Christmas and acts of human evil are real enough, just as human values like “love” and “freedom,” but equating the spirit of giving with a human form or evil acts in general with a human form is as absurd as equating all the facets of human love to a single form (like a pagan goddess) or all the facets of freedom to a single form (like Miss Liberty).  Therefore, just like a goddess such as  Venus or Aphrodite does not exist like a rock or dog, or a historical woman named Miss Liberty does not exist like a rock or dog, Santa Claus does not exist, nor does Satan.  As extant beings, Santa Claus, Satan, Venus, and Miss Liberty are looped memes; the phenomena of which these four are personifications, giving at Christmas, human evil, love, and freedom, respectively, do exist as scientifically observable distinct acts in the veridical real world, and, therefore, are resonating, non-veridical memes (Perception Theory:  Adventures in Ontology — Rock, Dog, Freedom, & God, [March, 2016]).  Personifying (or making gods of) real human activity is a primitive habit of human imagination that probably began with the earliest forms of animism, and is linked with the origins of religion and its ritualization; personification was and still is a method of making sophisticated memes understandable for children; as adults it is strange today that in Christian civilizations we shed the notion that Santa “really” (that is, veridically) exists, but many of us still believe Satan “really” (i.e., veridically) exists.

What about the looped meme God, a.k.a. Yahweh, Elohim, or Jehovah in Judaism, God in Christianity, or Allah in Islam?  To what would God resonate to make God a resonate meme, like love, evil, or freedom?  To the whole world, being that God is the creator god?  Would that not be pantheism, meaning we worship the universe? (How odd would that be, in that we are part of the universe?  To worship the universe is to make the matter and energy of our bodies also objects of adoration, along with mountains, stars, animals, etc.)  To worship any part of the universe is, again, returning back to primitive religion, to idolatry.  It seems clear to me that we have made up God as the personification of everything, as the answer to any question we may pose.  As I said in Perception Theory:  Adventures in Ontology — Rock, Dog, Freedom, & God, [March, 2016], God is the Grand Answerer, Super-friend, and Creator.   God, once believed in within the individual heads of worshipers, can be used to any end by the clergy, from yesterday’s shamans to today’s popes, ministers, priests, mullahs, etc.  It seems easy for us to forget that just because we can imagine X, that does not mean that X exists like a rock or a dog (Remember, a rock or a dog exists in our head like any other non-veridical meme — in the form of a concept stored as memory built by perception.)

God, therefore, is the ultimate meme, the meme beyond which nothing can be imagined.  The meme of God is seemingly a tribute to the power of our imagination, but the history of humanly imagined religion shows this tribute to be simultaneously a problem — a flexible meme easily twisted into a “pass” to do evil to each other; this is the toxicity of most, if not all, of theology; this is why Richard Dawkins describes religious, theological memes as agents of a chronic mental disease; this is why I separated ethics from theology in Jesus — A Keeper, [Sept., 2015].

But have I not described God as the atheists do?  No, not quite.  Perception Theory allows existence in the real, veridical universe outside our minds (which includes our bodies, including our brains), but also allows the epiphenomenal, non-veridical existence of imagined memes inside our minds, which are, in turn, inside our brains.  In other words, an imagined entity, like a unicorn, if defined in any mind, can have an ephemeral existence as stored data in the memory of the brain of that mind; in this sense looped non-veridical memes exist.  A very weak existence compared with the strong veridical existence of a rock’s meme or the quickened and strong veridical existence of a dog’s meme (Perception Theory:  Adventures in Ontology — Rock, Dog, Freedom, & God, [March, 2016]), for sure, but an existence made possible by our imaginative, epiphenomenal mind.  According to Perception Theory, then, an atheist recognizes only strong veridical existence, whereas a theist thinks that a weak existence is as strong as a strong existence.  An agnostic does not take either position, but Perception Theory would say all three positions are in denial of the ability of the mind to be both objective and subjective.  Theists, atheists, and agnostics can all agree that some form of God exists in the heads of both believers and non-believers (Atheists have a meme of a god that does not exist in the real veridical world like a meme of a rock or dog that does exist in the real veridical world.), and that existence of god has no basis outside the human mind; all can agree to the statement, “God exists!” in the dual veridical/non-veridical definition allowed in Perception Theory.  All the conflict, blood, and death perpetuated over disagreement as to what kind of God is “real” throughout the terrible annals of historical warfare, pillage, incarceration, and personal violence were never necessary, and in the long run silly; what still goes on today is folly, absurd, and unjustified.  How less amazing are the billions of concepts (memes) of God in the imaginations of humans worldwide compared to the consensus, imagined Creator God of, say, Genesis, Chapter 1?

In order for theists, atheists, and agnostics to agree on the existence of God or of the gods, atheists have to compromise but very little, while theists will have to move their position a great deal.  To agree that God exists in the imaginations of individual heads into which no other but that individual can “see,” due to the subjective trap, is not that far away from the “classic” atheistic claim that there is no supernatural deity or deities in the “real,” veridical universe.  The theist “classic” claim is just the opposite that of the atheist — there IS WITHOUT DOUBT a God that exists outside human imagination, just like some part of the universe or the universe itself actually exists.  If one listens carefully to the worshipful words of praise of theists (at least, this has been my experience), the existence of God is affirmed “within the heart” of the believer — affirmed by an epiphenomenal feeling of emotion fueled by faith (See Hope and Faith, [Jan., 2017]).  That is about as far from objective evidence as one can get.  This, instead of affirming God’s existence, affirms what Perception Theory identifies as a looped non-veridically based case for existence.  That is, the theist’s affirmation of God’s existence is no stronger than that of affirming the existence of unicorns or tooth fairies, and is much weaker than affirming the existence, of, say, freedom.  And, of course, the theist’s affirmation of God’s existence is minuscule compared to the strong veridically based cases for existence of, say, a rock or a dog (Perception Theory:  Adventures in Ontology — Rock, Dog, Freedom, & God, [March, 2016]).  As for agnostics, I would speculate that some would welcome the compromise about God’s or the gods’ existence with the “little-to-lose shoulder shrug” of the atheists, or some might remain skeptical and non-committed, not willing to come close to agreeing with theists, who they see as gullible and naive.  All in all, I would speculate that at the “table” of agreement of all three groups over Perception Theory’s compromise possibility of the existence of God, it would be disproportionately made up of atheists, with a smaller group of agnostics, followed by an even smaller group of theists who have bravely changed their ontological thinking a great deal.   The future success of Perception Theory might be measured by seeing if the population at the compromise table might approach equal proportions from all three groups.  (No matter what the proportions at the table might be, Perception Theory might take credit for the absence of evangelism among the three groups, as, by definition, the table is one of agreement.)

Stated directly and succinctly, God or gods exist(s) only in our imaginations; we made up all deities, past, present, and future.  Most theology is not only useless, it can often be dangerous and even lethal.  Not all of religion is useless; part of religion is vital — the ethical part based upon the Golden Rule or Principle of Reciprocity (Jesus — A Keeper, [Sept., 2015]).  In Western culture this means a deliberate separation of ethics from theology in religions like the three Abrahamic ones, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam; this separation is already done in some religions of Eastern culture, like Buddhism, Jainism, Confucianism, and Taoism.  We have met the Creator God, and it is us; there is no problem of God or of the gods — just like all memes in our heads, the ultimate meme of God or the gods is at our disposal; we can do with theology what we will; we can make it impotent and irrelevant, just as we have made memes like pseudoscience, superstitions, and unwanted or uninteresting fantasies.  Just as was done by so many Americans in their revolution for independence, religion must be relegated and confined to individual minds, not made into social and sacred creeds demanding conflicting evangelism (The United States of America — A Christian Nation? [June, 2012]).

 

With the gods relegated to fantasy within our heads, we can now deal with god stories and the lessons they teach with historical utilitarianism.  Like so much of “ancient wisdom” from our distant past, such as the humanistic Principle of Reciprocity, we can both individually and collectively judge the god stories and their lessons without fear of supernatural reprisals.  For example, in Christian culture, from which I come, I can now see that the Old Testament of the Bible is a collection of literature blended together by Hebrew scholars and priests to teleologically justify the invasion and conquest by newly independent nomads of what we call the Holy Land, all under the theological guise of the Hebrews being God’s “Chosen People.”  I can now see that the New Testament of the Bible is a collection of literature blended together by the scholars of a new sect to teleologically justify the execution of their leader as a common criminal (See all of Group I. for details).  The New Testament is to Christians what the Icelandic Sagas were to many Scandinavians of the Viking persuasion.

Erich Fromm, a Jewish humanist philosopher, who describes himself as a “non-theist,” has done something very similar way before Perception Theory.  In Ye Shall Be As Gods (Fawcett Premier Books, New York, 1966 — ISBN 0-449-30763-8), Fromm “radically” interprets the Old Testament as the evolution of the relationship between the meme (concept) of God and the entirety of mankind, not just the “Chosen People.”  He offers understanding into the “God is dead” meme and gives insight into the New Testament’s Passion of Christ, using Psalm 22.  The rabbinic teachings of the Old Testament during the centuries of the Diaspora are also employed.  By critically looking at the Old Testament, Fromm has, in my opinion, created paths toward its greater appreciation. (Why Some White Evangelical Christians Voted for and/or Still Support Donald Trump, [Dec., 2018])

With the gods relegated to fantasy within our heads, we can now investigate why religion sprang within the heads of our species in the first place.  The reasons why belief in some form of supernatural entities or spirits in the real world became, apparently, necessary for human survival in our cognitive revolution during our species “hunter-gatherer” stage can now be studied and be made into a consensus of anthropology.  Elements dealing with the origins of religion from Groups I. and II. have already pointed the way (See At Last, a Probable Jesus, [August, 2015],  Jesus — A Keeper, [Sept., 2015], Perception Is Everything, [Jan., 2016], I Believe!, [Oct., 2016],  and Toward an Imagined Order of Everything, Using AVAPS, [June, 2018]).  The physical and cognitive attributes that were passed on from generation to generation over thousands of years contributing to our species-wide universal “religiosity” will have to break down the elements of our survival, such as cooperation, altruism, and the necessity of suspending doubt and questioning in times of emergency, such as discussed in I Believe!, [Oct., 2016], wherein our ancestors having to deal with a “leopard problem” is offered as a “thought scenario.”  How did religion evolve from simple appeasement of a local “leopard god” to the continual sacrifice of thousands atop Aztec temples in Tenochtitlan?  How did we get from admonishing our children to be quiet when the shaman is speaking to the eruption of the Thirty Years War?  What a difference between believing a god or gods causes thunder/lightning and calling the faithful to the Crusades!

With the gods relegated to fantasy within our heads, we can now see how important the separation of theology from ethics is.  Moreover, such a separation is conveniently seen as a sorting of memes.  When the origin of religion, with its subsets of theology and ethics, is couched in terms of memes, I would suggest that the vital “good” memes, those of ethics coming from the human mind and necessarily developing in the longest childhood of all primates, if not of all mammals.  That is, the memes of ethics for human beings necessarily formed on the “template” of the development of the nuclear family — mother, child, father, and extended family, including friends.  The rules of behavior taught to a child are extrapolated to apply not only to the mother-child relationship, but to all other possible relationships within the hunter-gather group, and these rules collectively are treated as social norms applied throughout childhood and adulthood.  In turn, these norms were justified upon the authority of the group.  This collective authority became more than “what our mothers and older siblings told us;” it became the authority of the political leaders and the authority of the “spiritual” leaders, the shamen, the beginning of politics and the beginning of religion.  But now, without the necessity of religious memes, only those of politics and ethics are still needed.  (Recalling a point germane to the “need” for religion shown by Yuval Noah Harari in his book Sapiens, A Brief History of Humankind – that religion is a meme that can motivate many more than a leader within shouting distance, once that meme is transmitted to other minds — I would hasten to add that today’s almost instant electronic communications over the world wide internet has taken over religion’s communicative skill and can spread memes much, much better; spreading theological memes using the internet only accelerates the spread of the “poison.”)  Religion and theology memes are not needed any more; only ethics memes are needed.

Gods as fantasy has at least one ancient precedent.  In India, in the 3rd to 6th centuries, BCE (or BC), the original form of Buddhism, called Hinayana or Theravada Buddhism, basically ignored the question of the existence of the gods (curiously non-theological) and concentrated on the human, inner, existentialist self (Jainism, contemporary with the founding centuries of Buddhism, could be spoken of in a similar vein, and could even be seen as outward looking, not for the gods, but for practicing an extreme reverence for life).  Hinayana Buddhism dealt with attaining Nirvana, or enlightenment as demonstrated by Siddhartha, the founder of Buddhism; dealing with gods took a back seat to struggling with inner human desire; the gods were not germane to Siddhartha’s original teaching.  In time Mahayana Buddhism (along with other forms, like Zen) became the dominant form of Siddhartha’s teaching, in which Siddhartha himself, or Buddha, became deified as a god — much as Jesus himself became deified as a god in Christianity (Sorting Out Constantine I the Great and His Momma, [Feb., 2015]).  Imagery featuring the statues of Buddha are found at Mahayana sites, but sites featuring simple imagery such as Buddha’s footprint are Hinayana or Theravada sites.

Note the “direction” of Hinayana Buddhism, though admirably unhindered by the gods, is inward, toward the non-veridical, not outward, toward the veridical, as are science, technology, math, and engineering (the STEM subjects in US schools), which are equally and admirably unhindered by the gods.  The success of studying “outward” toward the veridical is another way of repeating the message of AVAPS!, [May, 2018] — As Veridical As Possible, Stupid!  Hinayana Buddhism took its lack of theology and went the “wrong” direction!  Hinayana Buddhism should have done “a 180,” (180 degrees) and gone the opposite direction.

Without the threats of punishment after death or fantasies of paradise after death germane to much of theology, religion becomes transparent as many, many forms of the sociological phenomenon of a cult.  At every religion’s beginning — more finely, at the beginning of every denomination’s sect — it is a cult.  If I in another time had acted upon my “visitation” from my deceased great uncle in the form of a vivid dream, as described in At Last, a Probable Jesus, [August, 2015], and had convinced others around me I had communicated with the dead, I would have formed a cult.  Great religions of the world throughout history are successful cults, their “truth” erroneously measured by their success, and large subsets of great religions are smaller successful cults.  Cults venerate a “great” being (usually a god or person of “special” powers) through the leadership of a cult founder, who also can be the venerated.  Thus, Judaism can be seen as Moses founding the veneration of Yahweh, Elohim, or Jehovah, and Christianity can be seen as Peter, Paul, and Mary Magdalene venerating Jesus (See At Last, a Probable Jesus, [August, 2015]).  Smaller successful cults in the Christian vein include cult leaders such as many Popes, many Orthodox archbishops, many saints, Martin Luther (Lutherans) , John Calvin (Presbyterians), Henry VIII and Thomas Cranmer (Anglicans in U.K., Episcopalians in U.S.), George Fox (Quakers), Jane Wardley, Ann Lee, and Lucy Wright (Shakers), John Smyth, Thomas Helwys, and Roger Williams (Baptists), Charles Wesley, John Wesley, and George Whitefield (Methodists), Joseph Smith (Mormons), Christian Rosenkreuz (Rosicrucians), Mary Baker Eddy (Christian Scientists), William Miller and Ellen G. White (Seventh-day Adventists), Barton W. Stone (Christian Church, Disciples of Christ), Alexander Campbell (Church of Christ), Charles Fox Parham and William Seymour (Pentecostals), 1914 General Council at Hot Springs (Assembly of God), and Sun Myung Moon (Unification Church) — just to name a few with which I am familiar.  Two non-Christian examples of small successful cults are 3 Roman Emperors (veneration of Apollonius) (See Sorting Out Jesus, [July, 2015])  and Scientology (veneration of L. Ron Hubbard).  Two unsuccessful cult leaders and their cults here in the United States are Jim Jones (Peoples Temple) and David Koresh (Branch Davidians).  The toxicity of theology throughout history has been carried out through cults such as these.  The ethical kindness, love, and care of one group of humans to another group has also been carried out through cults such as these, but what has been overlooked is that ethical behavior needs no theology or organized religion to spread from one human to others.  When Jesus taught his version of the Golden Rule, he talked not of loving your neighbor as yourself through the social vehicle of the synagogue; the foundation of ethics, our caring for each other, has no origin in any religion or any theology; the Principle of Reciprocity began within each little hunter-gatherer group that successfully struggled for survival.  If theology exists as a meme in an individual, there it must stay — it should not be passed on to others; mental health services can help individuals for whom resisting that passing on is a struggle.  On the other hand, if ethics such as the ethical teachings of Jesus exists as a meme in an individual, by all means it should be passed on, as ethical memes were passed on in the little hunter-gatherer groups.  To be ethical in the manner spoken here is to be human, not religious or theological.  We are not human to each other through the imagined groups to which we belong, but, rather through the fact we are homo sapiens.

The general “shedding” of religion and its toxic theology, then, is seen as a veridically-based “enlightenment” which follows AVAPS toward more anthropological memes.  Imaginations young and old, fueled by the ethics of reciprocity (The Golden Rule), cannot but generate memes fired in the scrutiny of scientific consensus that will solve problems and heal wounds both for our species and for our planet and the universe beyond.  We are tweaking our inner-star-stuff to resonate more with the star-stuff that makes up the rest of the universe.

I would suggest that any reader who thinks this is but another announcement of another religion, of another cult, is victimized by her seemingly genetic tendency to think in terms of gods and god stories.  He needs to go back and read or re-read Groups I. and II.  God as the ultimate, unnecessary meme is NOT a new religion, NOT a new cult.  Rather, it is a veridically-directed philosophy transcendent of theism, atheism, or agnosticism.  Using the combination of rationalism and existentialism provided by Perception Theory, it suggests an expansion of anthropology to deal with the “who, what, why, and how” of human existence; the “who, what, why, and how” of human existence used to be handled by religion and its attendant theology, and I am suggesting that they have failed miserably.  The “should” statements used above are not evangelical pontificates, but, rather, are calls to consider looking at existence veridically, to look at existence in the opposite way Hinayana Buddhism did.  When I followed my own “shoulds” of Perception Theory tied to religion, I found the intellectual and emotional personal satisfaction I had been seeking for years. (“Personal satisfaction” does not mean I’ve not continued to question “everything,” especially this meme like Perception Theory that my imagination conjures.)  Perhaps my own intellectual adventure might be of help toward others finding their own version of personal satisfaction.  Or, perhaps not.  I’ve written it down compelled by an ethical Principle of Reciprocity tens of thousands of years old and taught by Jesus and so many others.

RJH

 

 

Perception Theory and Memes — Full Circle

It seems straightforward to integrate Perception Theory with Meme Theory.  Perception Theory has been introduced and experimentally tested on various issues and topics within this website Beyond Good and Evil or www.ronniejhastings. com (Perception Is Everything, [Jan., 2016], Perception Theory (Perception is Everything) — Three Applications, [Feb., 2016], and Perception Theory: Adventures in Ontology — Rock, Dog, Freedom, & God, [March, 2016]).  The theory of memes was developed by Richard Dawkins in The Selfish Gene (1989, Oxford University Press, New York, ISBN 0-19-286092-5 (pbk.) ) and expanded by Dawkins in A Devil’s Chaplain, Reflections on Hope, Lies, Science, and Love (2003, Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston, ISBN 0-618-33540-4).  Daniel C. Dennett  in Darwin’s Dangerous Idea, Evolution and the Meanings of Life (1995, Simon & Schuster, New York, ISBN 0-684-80290-2) dealt with the philosophical implications of memes in evolutionary theory.

Generally, memes are synonymous with the non-veridical (subjective) ideas, concepts, memories, meanings, algorithms, symbols, theories, and language all illustrated in Figure 1 of Perception Is Everything, [Jan., 2016], as well as the interactions of the non-veridical interactions among memory loops, ideas, self-perception, and concepts represented in the same figure.  In other words, memes are the constituents of the non-veridical “world display screen” presented to our “mind’s eye” illustrated in Figure 2 of Perception Is Everything, [Jan., 2016].  ( For example, quoting from The Selfish Gene, “If the meme is a scientific idea……a rough measure of its survival value would be obtained by counting the number of times it is referred to in successive years in scientific journals.” )  Figure 2 is a collage of both veridically and non-veridically produced  results “projected” on the “screen” that makes up what we experience as perception.  So, why were memes not used from the very beginning of Perception Theory (2016)?  Mainly because memes by 2016 were associated with Dawkins’ theory that “religious” memes were like infectious, toxic “viruses,” meaning that in his view religion functioned like a mental disease.  In the minds of many of the religious, therefore, the word “memes” meant some sort of atheism, especially as Dawkins became demonized among some believers as a professed atheist.  So, at the beginning (2016) of the development of Perception Theory, the use of generic and more “benign” terms like “ideas” and “concepts” rather than a “toxic” term like “memes” seemed “fairer” and more “open minded” to both believers and non-believers alike.  Only when Perception Theory led to a possible “common ground” of agreement among theists, atheists, and agnostics in Perception Theory: Adventures in Ontology — Rock, Dog, Freedom, & God, [March, 2016] and after Perception Theory was applied to philosophical and religious cultural concepts such as belief, hope, faith, prayer, and free will (I Believe!, [Oct., 2016], Hope and Faith, [Jan., 2017], Prayer, [Feb., 2017], and The “Problem” of Free Will, [June, 2018]), keeping memes out of the language of Perception Theory would make the theory appear incomplete; the “cat was out of the bag;” there was no longer any need to be concerned about open-mindedness, as the religious basis of such concerns had been exposed in the understanding of religion itself through the memes of Perception Theory .  Succinctly, since all theories are concepts, all theories are memes.  All religions are memes.  Memes are the common specie of human culture, and Perception Theory is an ontological approach to all culture.  Therefore, Perception Theory is another meme dealing with the production of memes, or, actually, a “meme of memes.”

It is possible Perception Theory is the most “self-contemplative” meme yet, a meme exploring the ontology of memes.  I suppose I could have entitled Perception Is Everything “Memes Are Everything” instead.

Therefore, the word “meme” could have been substituted for many of the different terms sprinkled all over Figure 1 of Perception Is Everything, [Jan., 2016] and substituted for all the drawn symbols ( both solid and dashed ) and written equations sprinkled all over Figure 2 of Perception Is Everything, [Jan., 2016].  But that would have been a too ridiculous application of Occam’s Razor, losing all categorical distinction of one meme from another (not to mention making two figures covered with the same word obviously unnecessary).  But using the word “meme” now, in coming full circle back to the beginning of Perception Theory as represented by Perception Is Everything, [Jan., 2016], may be useful in furthering understanding of the “subjective trap” introduced in Perception Is Everything, [Jan., 2016].  Could “meme” get us out of the trap?  Could “meme” help us “prove” that other minds like our own exist?  Could “meme” help us actually perceive the perception of another person?  “No, not really” is an appropriate answer to all three of these questions.  But because of the broader concept of the non-veridical products of our epiphenomenal mind that the term “meme” brings — namely, that memes “spread” from mind to mind —  the assumption of other minds around us becomes more intellectually palatable, more “comfortable” than just the stretching of “our limits of credulity into absurdity” presented in Perception Is Everything, [Jan., 2016].  ( Again quoting from the same sentences as above from The Selfish Gene, “..[the scientific theory meme’s] spread will depend on how acceptable it is to the population of individual scientists…” (brackets mine).)  Because our minds are filled (or “infected” to use Dawkins’ term) with memes that have “traveled” or been “transported” from meme sources other than our own mind (“Thank you!  I never thought of that!”), our tendency is never to doubt that “new” memes are from sources like we have within our own skulls — our brains.  Looking at the “behavior” of memes, the subjective trap seems not as isolating and bound to solipsism as it first appears.

The specie of human culture, the meme, allows Perception Theory to be thought of collectively, not confined to our own personal experience.  Perception Theory is a meme that provides a possible explanation of the production and evolution of memes in the epiphenomenal non-veridical mind of the veridical brain.  And cultural evolution can be understood as the flow of memes, the flow of humanly “made up” information, some of which we revere (because it is AVAPS,” as veridical as possible, stupid) — revere as “knowledge.”

 

RJH

 

 

American Conservatism Belies History

[Waxing philosophically right now, so……CONSERVATIVE DISCRETION ADVISED!]
Seen as a parade of good and bad (and in-between) ideas instead of a parade of good and bad (and in-between) people’s lives, history reveals definite directions of advancement over, say, the centuries since the “discovery” of the American continents. These directions are easy to detect following the rise and fall of ideas along time’s arrow using a broad time scale (The Big Picture, [Sept., 2011]). Also easily detected are peoples’ ideas discarded along the way, ideas that didn’t “make it,” that didn’t “stand the test of time,” that history “left behind in its wake.”

For instance, the two world wars of the 20th century left in their wake discarded ideas such as monarchism and fascism (and certain forms of government they imply, like theocracy and oligarchy). Another resulting discarded idea was that of empires like the Roman, the Mogul, the Mongol, the Ottoman, the Spanish, and the British. The final “victory” of WWII was the end of the Cold War in 1989 when the idea of Soviet communism collapsed. These wars sent history toward liberal democracies (or democratic liberalism) in the form of republics (Reference former Republican Steve Schmidt for this terminology.). The economy of the victors was capitalism (witness how China today is employing a form of capitalism). But non-liberals (especially American conservatives) strive against the liberal capitalism that emerged victorious by practicing a perverted capitalism (They should read their Adam Smith.), wherein not enough profits are plowed back into business as capital and too much of the profit is selfishly stagnated as personal wealth — all of which opens the doors for oligarchy (striven for by Donald Trump) and its ancillary kleptocracy (striven for and practiced by Vladimir Putin). Autocracies of many forms, including “banana republics,” however, have yet to disappear.

(If you think democratic republics are “safe,” having been given the “nod” of 20th-century history, think again. Who was the only democratically elected President of Russia after the Soviet Union? Boris Yeltsin and Russian democracy are now gone. And just in the second decade of the 21st century, Turkey has collapsed into a form of fascism Mussolini, Hitler, and Hirohito would easily recognize.)

Also left behind by history are the ideas of the Luddites and those of American Tories at the end of the American Revolution (also called loyalists). Yet these are the same ideas animating the Republican Party led by Trump. (21st Century Luddites?, [March, 2017], and 21st Century Tories?, [March, 2017]) Despite history’s harsh lessons, “Trumpies” today fail to grasp workers adapting to new ongoing technology and even to what it means to be a citizen (“citizen” being well-defined by the blood spilled in the American and French Revolutions (Egalite: A Qualified Virtue, [Feb., 2018])).

Generally speaking, American conservatism has clung to antiquated, outdated, and anachronistic ideas history has “shaken off” like water off a dog’s back, such as isolationism, racism, xenophobia, homophobia, misogyny, nationalism, sacred political states, tariffs, elitism, class hierarchy, nepotism, non-universal health coverage, and non-universal suffrage. (Citizens (I) Call For the Destruction of the Political Professional Class, [Nov., 2012], Citizens (II) The Redistribution of Wealth, [Jan., 2013], Citizens (III) Call for Election Reform, [Jan., 2013], An Expose of American Conservatism — Part 1, [Dec., 2012], An Expose of American Conservatism — Part 2, [Dec., 2012], An Expose of American Conservatism — Part 3, [Dec., 2012], Some Thoughts on Trump’s Election, [Nov., 2016], and Dealing with Donald, or, A Citizen’s Survival Guide for Trump’s Apparent Presidency, [Dec., 2016])

The xenophobic “circling-the-wagons” mentality of so many American conservatives is based upon the human tendency to take on the “us-versus-them syndrome,” which served us well when we were all hunter-gatherers (about 70,000 to 12,000 years ago). That is, “They over there don’t look like us, so there must be something wrong and possibly dangerous about them.” The “sacred” “us-versus-them syndrome” serves all religions, ancient and modern, including Christianity, well: “They don’t believe the same things we do, so we must convince them to believe as we do or rid ourselves of them.” Here in the 21st century, I think there is no longer any need of the “us-versus-them syndrome,” nor of its attendant bad ideas of nationalism and evangelism; history has passed them by. (Going Global, [March, 2018], At Last, a Probable Jesus, [August, 2015], and Towards an Imagined Order of Everything, Using AVAPS, [June, 2018])

Speaking more specifically, it even seems Trump’s administration, in the name of historically despicable and bigoted immigration laws, is now using our tax money for systematic child abuse. (I have visions of him going down to the detention centers and throwing scraps of food and rolls of paper napkins over the edge of the cages and into the flaps of the tents — similar to his condescending actions in Puerto Rico.) The June 30, 2018 protests across the nation speak loud and clear: the crying two-year old trumps Trump and all his zero tolerance.

Some of the Trump supporters who have not repudiated him and would vote for him still, despite his despicable words, actions, and inaction, such as “evangelical ‘single issue’ Christians” who turn a blind eye to his plethora of “sins” so they can have their conservative SCOTUS in the name of anti-abortion or pro-life (or immigration, or campaign finance, or some such). Pro-life is such a historically unsustainable position, much like creationism and intelligent design. These positions place their proponents at loggerheads with nature, and just like “history bats last,” “nature bats last.” As opposition to evolution is without evidence and completely useless, so is risking future babies to the horrors of genetic defects, when such risk is so unnecessary. I’m angry that sex education courses in schools and sex education at home and in places of worship do not inform future parents that already we have the medical skills in place to assure every pregnant mother she has the right to have a genetically healthy baby. Yet the pro-lifers, by denying mothers the basic right to control their reproductive cycles, force the possibility of tragedy upon families — tragedy that can with certainty be avoided. (It is like inequality of wealth forcing poverty upon countless people of minimal means, which also can be avoided.) The modern technology of human birth and “natural abortions” — miscarriages — compel history to give pro-choice the “nod.” If expectant mothers want to go ahead and take to term a baby with genetic defects, detected early in gestation, that is their choice; there is a chance in future such defects can be rectified either in womb or just after birth. But such a choice is risky, especially based upon a religious belief. (The “A” Word — Don’t Get Angry, Calm Down, and Let Us Talk, [April, 2013], and The “A” Word Revisited (Because of Gov. Rick Perry of Texas), or A Word on Bad Eggs, [July, 2013]) To cling to pro-life is like clinging to slide rules and horse collars; it is out-of-date.

And moreover, such Christians as described above risk, by clinging to pro-life, walking into the theological quicksand of redefining Christianity (“You can’t be a Christian and be pro-choice.”), just as the creationists and intelligent designers have done (“You can’t be a Christian and ‘believe’ in evolution.”). (Creationism and Intelligent Design — On the Road to Extinction, [July, 2012]) You do not have to be anachronistic to be a Christian (Jesus — A Keeper, [Sept., 2015]) Nor do you have to be historically clueless to be a Christian. (The United States of America — A Christian Nation?, [June, 2012])

Historically, American conservatives has lost their way. History is not on their side. And it is their own fault. They let their own credulity get the best of them, and then somehow become too lazy and/or too busy to vet any and all political statements. And today with the sources we have at our fingertips, thanks to the social network, it often takes only seconds to vet almost anything. Liars like Trump thrive because not enough people, regardless of political leanings, vet what he says. What do you think history will do with the “birthers?” Like the flat-earthers, history, I think, will fling them into the dustbin of bad ideas, worth only a laugh or chuckle if ever remembered.

American conservatives, unless they start reading some history instead listening to Fox News exclusively, risk, in the long run, going the path of the Luddites, the American Tories, the flat-earthers, the creationists, the intelligent designers, the pro-lifers, and the birthers. Unless they start reading some history they risk becoming pawns of revivalist fascism, organized crime, communism, nationalism, isolationism, imperialism, and/or colonialism; they risk “warping” in their heads back into 1950’s America.

RJH

The “Problem” of Free Will

Perception Theory (Perception is Everything, [Jan., 2016]) describes human existence as a perpetual juxtaposition of empirical sense data from the outside, veridical, “real,” objective world outside our brains with imagined data of concepts, ideas, and orders from the “inside,” non-veridical, epiphenomenal subjectivity inside our brains — all projected upon our world view “screen” (perceived by the mind’s “eye”), upon which we simultaneously perceive what we “see” from the real world and what we “see” with our imagination. (Again, see Perception is Everything, [Jan., 2016])  Clearly, the areas of philosophy emphasized by Perception Theory are ontology and epistemology.

Almost any extended discussion of human ontology and epistemology sooner or later gets around to the topic of “free will,” the  problem of whether we have discretionary powers over what we think and do, or, are we slaves to the laws of physics, chemistry, and biochemistry, such that any such discretionary powers are delusional.  Do we have free will or not?

It seems reasonable that Perception Theory has the ability to answer the question of free will and “solve” the problem of free will.

In Perception is Everything, [Jan., 2016] the “subjective trap” is defined as the impossibility of an individual to see both the perception of something like “red” on our world screen inside our heads and the biochemistry within the neurons of our brain we know responsible for causing the perception “red” on our screen.  This impossibility leads to our assuming without proof that our perception of anything is just like someone else’s perception of the same thing.  Were we to look inside the head of that someone else perceiving red, we would see only his/her biochemistry of red, not his/her perception of red.  Hence, because of the subjective trap, we ASSUME others’ perceptions are as our perceptions, but there is no way of justifying that assumption in a scientific, objective way; we justify the assumption only in a practical, utilitarian way — communication among all of us seems to be compatibly possible making this assumption.

Is free will assumed similarly as are the perceptions of others?  If so, it would have to be assumptions within and about the individual mind, not assumptions about the perceptions of others.  Let’s say I am on a pleasant walk among a park’s many walkways and I come to a two-pronged fork in the path of equally appealing potential pathways, and, to all appearances, including my own, I CHOOSE one of the two paths and continue my walk.  Did I choose of my own free will?  A proponent of objective deterministic free will might argue that all my previous experience, if known, would predict with certainty which path I would choose, and only because I cannot command from my memory ALL my experiences (If I could, my brain would be flooded to insanity with stored empirical data.), I delude myself into thinking I flippantly, “for-no-reason,” “just-because-I-feel-like-it,” or randomly chose which path to take; in other words, I do not have free will, but have not the capacity of realizing I do not; my choosing is illusory.  A proponent of subjective free will might just as well argue that I have complete discretion in the two possible states of walking one path or another.  Even if my past experiences tend me toward my left or right, with each new decision I am free to choose either way in disregard of my tendencies, without having to justify that decision to anyone, including myself.  “Choosing without thinking about it” is a hallmark of my exercising what everyone is assumed to have, a free will.  But, just like the objective argument admits the futility of realizing all the assumed factors that “determine” the illusion of free will, the subjective argument irresponsibly assumes a “freedom” of choice ignoring all the physical laws to which the complexity of the brain and its epiphenomenal mind are subject.  Note how both arguments employ non-demonstrable assumptions, implying free will is not demonstrable without such assumptions.

Perception Theory, an admitted blend of the objective and the subjective (Perception is Everything, [Jan., 2016]), suggests both arguments are useful in solving the problem of free will.  The patterns of empirical data that demand strong veridical resonance of the mind with the “outside” world compel science and medicine to conclude all causes and effects, including our apparent free will, to be understandable in terms of particles, fields, and energy.  Yet these particles, fields, and energy are creations, or concepts, or imagined orders of the subjective mind.  (The epistemological “bottom line” of particles, fields, and energy existing outside our brains (mind) is that when we observe external to ourselves as objectively as possible [scientifically], we have to say the universe outside us behaves AS IF all the universe is made of particles, fields, and energy.)  We know how these particles, fields, and energy can demonstrate and explain physical phenomenon throughout the universe, but we do not know how they can be used (yet) to demonstrate how empirical data and previously store ideas can produce veridical and non-veridical projections upon our world screen of perception in our heads.  Similarly, particles, fields, and energy cannot demonstrate (yet) the explanation of free will not being “free” at all.  On the other hand, the “freedom” of the subjective argument cannot be truly free, as our perceptions ultimately are products of “star-stuff” just as much as our brain and body are, and star-stuff is bound by the universe’s demonstrable laws of physical science and life science.

What is suggested by Perception Theory, then, is that just like it is logically impossible for a person to simultaneously experience both her biochemical (objective) perception of red and her non-veridical (subjective) perception of red, it is logically impossible for free will to be both completely deterministic and completely without empirical cause.  In other words, when I appear to exercise free will at the fork of paths I cannot assume my choice is determined NOR can I assume I’ve exercised any kind of free will.

So what is free will, given the logically impossibilities and forced assumptions of both free will’s detractors and proponents?  What is suggested in my mind as a trained physicist is that free will is just like light.  When you ask a physicist what is the nature of light, waves or particles, the answer is “both; it depends upon how light is measured or observed.”  Similarly, free will is neither determined or undetermined.  “Free will” has to be a non-veridical concept, but not a scientific one trying to explain the veridical world outside our brain.  Rather, free will is a concept trying to explain human choice or volition, a behavior of possibilities, just like human love is a behavior of possibilities.  Gravity is a concept that can take on objectivity; free will, like any other human psychological concept, cannot, as DEFINITIVE SELF-STUDY CANNOT BE AS OBJECTIVE AS DEFINITIVE STUDY OF OUTSIDE THE SELF.  When we study the star-stuff that is us, we cannot escape ourselves, so that we cannot ever see ourselves as if we were outside ourselves; we cannot see ourselves objectively like the subjects of physical science.  This is why physics is considered a “hard” science, while psychology is considered a “soft” science.  It is as if the study of our minds has built-in an unavoidable uncertainty principle, like Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle of quantum mechanics.  Just like light can behave differently in different cases, the exercise of our free will can appear deterministic in some cases and wildly free in others.  Two different observers of my choice at the fork of paths could describe my exercise of “free will” differently.  One might say he predicted my choice and the other might say my choice looked completely random to her.  Neither could measure the “amount” of free will I exercised, and, neither could I.  I could recall my choice later as one of conscious or unconscious deliberation, or as one of complete obliviousness to either path, or as one somewhere in between.

All this uncertainty and lack of objective definition suggests that free will is a rationalization of convenience arrived at in the minds of humans over thousands of years to obtain the mental comfort of explanation of particular human behavior in the act of choosing.  Free will is psychological balm soothing the discomfort in trying to answer “Why did I do that?”, or “Why did he do that?”, or “Why did she do that?”  The real answer, down to the neuron, is like education, too complicated to understand entirely.  The non-veridical concept of “free will” or “lack of free will” is assumed as a practical vehicle toward understanding human behavior.  Free will, like concepts of gods or god stories, is a practical and illogical explanation that conveniently and more easily explains behaviors without having to take the trouble to objectively study them; free will makes dealing with human choices efficient.  Free will is an unconscious assumption of the human mind passed on generation to generation directly or indirectly.

So, who is right when it comes to free will, the objective proponent or the subjective proponent?  Both.  Who is wrong when it comes to free will, the objective proponent or the subjective proponent?  Both.  The “problem” of free will is not a problem at all.

 

Yet, any impasse about free will implied by the foregoing discussion is not a “hard” impasse like the subjective trap in Perception is Everything, [Jan., 2016].  Progress can be made toward understanding free will, by, first, dropping the “free” part and just talk about “will,” or just talk about human volition.  So my choice of paths employed above would come to a discussion of my choice being a product of my personal volition in that moment.  Next, one’s volition, or will, can be seen as a well-developed psycho-physio behavior practiced inside the individual from early days of infancy, if not before in the womb (See “I.  Development of Self-Consciousness in a Human Infant” in Perception Theory (Perception is Everything) — Three Applications, [Feb., 2016]).

Part of human self-consciousness is the awareness we can willfully do or think things just by employing an “I want to..” in our mind.  In my opinion, the “feeling,” perception, genetic tendency, or epiphenomenal “extra” for self-consciousness that we can will any action or thought of our own free will is one of many important evolved results of the “Cognitive Revolution” that occurred in our species, according to Harari (Sapiens and Homo Deus), between 70,000 and 12,000 years ago, before the Agricultural Revolution.  Clearly, our conviction we have a will that we control had, and probably still has, survival value — a trait “favored” by our physical and cultural evolution.  Perception Theory emphasizes that, as our self-consciousness was developed, probably around and within the Cognitive Revolution, our imaginations developed the ability of perceiving ourselves independent of our present setting.  That is, we could imagine ourselves not only in the present, but also imagine ourselves in the past or in the future.  Imagining ourselves in this way naturally includes imagining ourselves doing or thinking something in the present, past, or future.  The logical explanation of the cause of our doing or thinking something independent of setting is having the ability to command our thoughts and actions of our imagination; it is logical to us we have a will “barking orders of our judgement or whimsy” within our imagination.  And it is logical to us because we’ve been exercising that will since we were infants, according to our imagination. (Perception Theory (Perception is Everything) — Three Applications, [Feb., 2016])  We can easily imagine all infants, including ourselves when we were one, for the first time reaching out with a hand to touch or grasp some object that is not part of their body; the baby “wanted to” or “willed” his/herself to touch or grasp.

Not only can “will” be seen as a natural evolutionary development in our heads, it can be seen, thanks to modern science, as subject to statistics and probabilities of the complicated.  In the wake of the revolutionary development of the Kinetic Theory of Matter wherein all matter (including our bodies and our brains) is seen as composed of countless particles called atoms or clusters of atoms, molecules, statistical mechanics was developed in place of Newtonian mechanics, which had “no prayer” to describe countless masses moving and colliding with each other.  Statistical measurements, such as temperature, were defined to represent an average value of kinetic energy for all the masses, which tells you nothing about the value for a single particle.  Moreover, the scale of atoms and molecules is quantum mechanical, meaning mechanics are quantum, not Newtonian.  Hence, interactions on an atomic scale, such as the firing of a neuron in a brain cell, are statistical and quantum, not biological in scale and behavior.  In other words, our brain-based non-veridical “mind” exists because of countless neurons (brain cell) quantum mechanically interacting in accordance to biochemistry; just like the “well-defined” big-scale images on our TV screens are produced by atomic-level, quantum solid state circuitry understood in terms of electrons which are so tiny they can only be “seen” indirectly, our “well-defined” imagined images on our world perception screen in our heads are produced by atomic-level, quantum biochemistry within neurons understood in terms of the same electrons.  And all quantum phenomena are “fuzzy,” not fixed, subject to statistical fluctuations and unavoidably described in uncertain probabilities; the appearance of certainty on the scale of our bodies (big-scale) is the statistical mean of atomic “outputs” filtered by our averaging senses to a single result.  When we perceive “red,” the probability that we are perceiving data similar to previous perceptions of red is high, but, statistically, can never, ever be exactly the same, because the same exact set of electrons, atoms, and molecules that produced the previous perception are not available to produce the next; our big-scale senses only deliver the average of countless atomic-level inputs from incoming light data and processed, averaged biochemical data by our retina cells and optic nerve cells.  Imagine how “averaged” must be the non-veridical images on our world screen!  Our “feelings,” perceptions, and convictions are our big-scale utilitarian “averaging” of unimaginably numerous and unfathomably complicated quantum behaviors of the atomic level particles making up our brain.  And each “averaging,” it stands to reason, can never be repeated in detail.  Equally reasonable is the assumption that the averaging only has to be accurate enough to “get us by,” to assure that we survive as a species.

Our “will” is a self-imposed, evolutionary, imagined property describing our subjective “self,” the epiphenomenal result of the long-ago origin of self-awareness and self-consciousness.  It is a psychological, positive, mental “crutch” to attribute to ourselves the ability to conjure actions and thoughts; it is basic to our self-confidence.  There is, however, as best we know, no reason to call it “free.”

Further ontological insight into “will” can only be possible through future understanding, via scientific research, of how the physical, veridical brain can produce epiphenomenal, non-veridical perceptions.  The same research will perhaps make progress toward understanding and, maybe, redefining (“overcoming”) the subjective trap.  Though obviously useful, Perception Theory can be improved with better models and metaphors than veridical, non-veridical, world-view screen, etc.  Building a better theory seems necessary toward better understanding “will” and the subjective trap.

 

RJH

 

Toward an Imagined Order of Everything, Using AVAPS

Perception Theory (Perception Is Everything, [Jan., 2016]; Perception Theory (Perception Is Everything) — Three Applications, [Feb., 2016]; and Perception Theory: Adventures in Ontology — Rock, Dog, Freedom, & God, [March, 2016]) defines human existence in terms of the products of our imagination, products formed by the non-veridical, subjective mind mixing veridical, empirical raw data from our senses with previously formed non-veridical subjective ideas, concepts, and perceptions. These products “appear” on the world display “screen” of our mind’s consciousness (Figure 1 in Perception Is Everything, [Jan., 2016]). These products can be conveniently classified as “imagined orders,” after Yuval Noah Harari (author of Sapiens, A Brief History of Humankind and Homo Deus, A Brief History of Tomorrow).  Any products of the human mind that have been shared partially or wholly across the species throughout cultural history can be called imagined orders, such as plans, ideas, conceptions, inductions, deductions, scientific theories, political theories, economic theories, philosophies, religions, and ideologies of all ilks.  Since Perception Theory postulates that “Perception is everything” and since all perceptions are products of the non-veridical imagination, it follows that Perception Theory itself is an imagined order.

Using anthropology, archaeology, and history as forensic sciences, directions of human betterment and human progress can be ascertained by comparing the historical effects of different imagined orders across time.  In other words, there are better imagined orders than others, measured in benefits to the species; we need to follow the directions suggested by the “better” imagined orders.  In AVAPS! [May, 2018] it was suggested the “better” imagined orders were those as veridical as possible; in other words, the “better” imagined orders resonated strongly with the veridical, “real” world.  For example, the toxic theology attributed to all religions based upon gods and god stories (Perception Is Everything, [Jan., 2016] and Perception Theory: Adventures in Ontology — Rock, Dog, Freedom, & God, [March, 2016]) is not one of the better imagined orders upon which we should base future imagined orders.  In his song “Imagine,” John Lennon was right to suggest we should imagine no religion.

 

Perception Theory came not only to using Harari’s terminology, but originally came from questions taking years of off-and-on reading to resolve in my head questions like:  “What were the major historical events contributing to the modern world?” (The Big Picture, [Sept., 2011]); “Is the United States a Christian nation?” (The United States of America — A Christian Nation?, [June, 2012]); “Why did the US-like ideals in France devolve during the French Revolution into the Terror?” (Sticks and Stones May Break Our Bones, But Words We Don’t Know Can Also Hurt Us, or, Jesus Was a Liberalist, [March, 2012]); “Why was I never in my 40-year teaching career (within both public and private schools) never intellectually reconciled with the educational system I was supposed to be a part of?” (What is Wrong With Public Education…and What To Do About It, [April, 2012], What is Wrong With Public Education…Briefly Revisited, [April, 2012], 1:  Education Reform — Wrong Models!, [May, 2013], 2:  Education Reform — The Right Model, [May, 2013], 3:  Education Reform — How We Get the Teachers We Need, [May, 2013], Top Ten List for Teachers of HS Students Preparing for College or University (Not a Ranking) – A List for Their Students, Too!, [Dec., 2014], and “Campusology” at Texas A&M and in Education 6-12, [Nov., 2016]); “Why am I so critical of American political conservatism?” (Citizens (I) Call For the Destruction of the Political Professional Class, [Nov., 2012], Citizens (II) The Redistribution of Wealth, [Jan., 2013], Citizens (III) Call for Election Reform, [Jan., 2013], An Expose of American Conservatism — Part 1, [Dec., 2012], An Expose of American Conservatism — Part 2, [Dec., 2012], An Expose of American Conservatism — Part 3, [Dec., 2012], Some Thoughts on Trump’s Election, [Nov., 2016], Dealing with Donald, or, A Citizen’s Survival Guide for Trump’s Apparent Presidency, [Dec., 2016]), 21st Century Luddites?, [March, 2017],  21st Century Tories?, [March, 2017], and Egalite:  A Qualified Virtue, [Feb., 2018]); “How did Christianity (and by implication other ‘world’ religions) come about?” (Sorting Out the Apostle Paul, [April, 2012], Sorting Out Constantine I the Great and His Momma, [Feb., 2015], Sorting Out Jesus, [July, 2015], At Last, a Probable Jesus, [August, 2015], and Jesus — A Keeper, [Sept., 2015]); “What are the historical and political effects of globalization?” (Going Global, [March, 2018]).

The results of reading summarized in the above posts indicate the possibility of talking about an “imagined order of everything,” or “universal imagined order,” or “global imagined order” made of component imagined orders seen as “good” for mankind and devoid of imagined orders shown by anthropology, archaeology, and history as “bad” for mankind.  Indeed, is it possible to imagine such a universal order?; is the indication valid?  What follows is the attempt to answer “yes.”  Many of the posts cited above correspond to “good” component imagined orders making up parts of the universal imagined order.

So far, Perception Theory, as developed by the above sources, suggests the global imagined order should include the following component imagined orders (in no hierarchical listing):  a) ethical, b) political/social, c) economic, d) ecological/environmental/agricultural,  e) educational, and f) scientific.

The imagined structure of the global imagined order has to be applicable to all humankind all over the globe and all humankind who will in future leave the planet to live and work in outer space, and, epistemologically, the components of the global imagined order must not conflict or contradict each other, just as we have today in modern science; the physical sciences do not say one thing while the life sciences say another, conflicting, contradictory thing.  The inclusive group of all of us will be thought of as the “ultimate family” and the components of the global imagined order must be also inclusive, compatible, and cooperative.

 

a) Ethically, individuals need to relate to each other via the Golden Rule, the Principle of Reciprocity — like the philosophy of the ethical teachings of Jesus (Jesus — A Keeper, [Sept., 2015]).  As Jesus — A Keeper, [Sept., 2015] points out, many other thinkers throughout human history — both sacred and secular — before and after the beginnings of Christianity, taught the ethics of the Golden Rule, or the Principle of Reciprocity.  Emphasizing that the Principle of Reciprocity is its own reward, no in-life or afterlife punishment need be taught to young minds.  For this reason and for the sake of avoiding hurting each other due to non-veridical epiphenomenal overload in individual minds, all supernatural gods and god stories should be phased out. (Perception Theory: Adventures in Ontology — Rock, Dog, Freedom, & God, [March, 2016])  John Lennon in “Imagine” sang of not only imagining no religion, but also “no hell below us and above us only sky.”

Harari classifies “religion” as any ideology (non-veridical concept) as anything that can bring together a human group of roughly 150 or more to agree upon a common purpose or action.  He therefore goes on to say that the “religion” of the enlightened West is liberal humanism, wherein the feelings and insights of the individual are supreme, replacing gods and god stories. (For comparison he reminds us of evolutionary humanism, the ideology or “religion” of fascism — which lost out in WWII — and of social humanism, the ideology or “religion” of communism — which collapsed beginning in 1989.)  I prefer to relegate “religion” to any ideology involving gods and god stories; animism and any thought system involving “spirits” (imagined non-veridical concepts) are also relegated to “religion.”  Any form of humanism is, at best, an ethical ideology, in that it attempts to suggest how we should behave toward each other as members of our species.  Therefore, my choice of Jesus’ (and others’) teachings of the Golden Rule could be considered humanistic.  However, I prefer to divorce “religion” from both “ethics” and “humanism.”

All religion, with its gods and god stories, is based upon the dangerous and deplorable “us-them syndrome,” which sooner or later fosters animosity between believers and non-believers.  This syndrome dooms all theologies to toxicity.  As Diderot said, “Sooner or later the moment comes when the concept [of God] that prevented the theft of one ecu [French coin of face value of about $30] causes the cutting of the throats of a hundred thousand men.” [parentheses mine]

Ethics fosters no “us-them syndrome.” (Jesus — A Keeper, [Sept., 2015])  And to me the Principle of Reciprocity is the ethics for us all.

This is not to say that religion and its accompanying theology, as I am defining it, will not be part of human culture eventually.  Being religious is a genetic tendency “built in” by our evolutionary past, but has become unnecessary to our survival, as other assurances have been developed by our minds that contribute reliably to our survival (e.g. science and medicine).  Therefore, religion is delegated to the individual mind henceforward; theology is limited to the individual, thanks to the subjective trap (Perception Is Everything, [Jan., 2016]).  Religion, with its theology, gods, and god stories is a personal matter for the single member of the species.  I have my own personal theology, for instance, and can say, along with Thomas Jefferson, “I am a sect of one.” (The United States of America — A Christian Nation?, [June, 2012], Jesus — A Keeper, [Sept., 2015], Perception Theory (Perception is Everything) — Three Applications, [Feb., 2016], I Believe!, [Oct., 2016], Hope and Faith, [Jan., 2017], and Prayer, [Feb., 2017])

b) Regarding political and social organizing of the human species, whatever avoids war, colonialism, and imperialism of all forms must be avoided.  No grouping of humans must advance itself at the expense of another; exploitation of one nation of another must cease.  The imagined order of egalitarianism must be expanded so that nations cease to be independent of all other nations; we are all stuck on the same planet with, at this time, no alternative; this earth is all we got.  Therefore, egalite must be expanded from egalite only among citizens of a single nation to egalite of every Homo sapiens on the planet  (Sticks and Stones May Break Our Bones, But Words We Don’t Know Can Also Hurt Us, or, Jesus Was a Liberalist, [March, 2012], and Egalite:  A Qualified Virtue, [Feb., 2018]).

The imagined order of the UN needs expanding into a more global UN composed of every nation, nations which cease to have political borders.  All military forces of each nation join the single global UN force for the purpose of keeping the peace worldwide and of responding to human need created by natural disasters anywhere in the world.  Similar to the way individual States in the United States relate to the national federal government, all nations relate to the global government, with responsibilities, resources, and money separated into regional and global designations.  The global government will be a republic both capitalistic and representative similar to those imagined at the births of the American Republic and the French Republic (Sticks and Stones May Break Our Bones, But Words We Don’t Know Can Also Hurt Us, or, Jesus Was a Liberalist, [March, 2012], The United States of America — A Christian Nation?, [June, 2012], For Your Consideration, I Give You…..Tom Paine, [August, 2014], and Egalite:  A Qualified Virtue, [Feb., 2018]).  No nation needs its own militia anymore, as danger to one UN member is danger to all; the peace-keeping global UN force, with no peer anywhere, will assure the protection of life, liberty, property, and rights the world over.

Health care, education, and housing will be provided by the global UN.  (Members in health care will be on a worldwide payroll, supported by worldwide competitive drug manufacturers, cutting-edge medical schools all over the earth, and globally reviewed medical research.)  The legacy of both UNICEF and UNESCO will be strengthened and widened.  Suffrage, the right to vote, will truly be universal.  The whole world will democratically vote to see what behaviors are deemed criminal enough to deny individuals of such rights as freedom and the vote.

The chamber of world representatives as well as the head of the executive part of the world government (a President, General Secretary, Prime Minister, etc.) shall be elected for finite terms by a democratic worldwide vote (not by electors).  A world court shall be periodically reformed from a cadre of elected judges (judges-in-waiting) from each former-sovereign-nation, or nation-state.  The court shall be appointed by a vote from the chamber of representatives (Congress, Parliament, Convention, Assembly, Althing, etc.) and shall preside and settle all disputes between or among nation-states.  All three branches of the world government, the legislative (chamber of world representatives), executive, and judicial (world court) shall be subject to limited terms, ceilings for years of service, and prohibitions to personal gain beyond their salaries.  Conviction of accepting bribes, accepting payments/perks from lobbyists, both corporation and/or political lobbyists, or committing criminal/civil crimes shall result in immediate termination and swift replacement by the germane nation-state government.

All nation-states will be required to limit campaign and election time for choosing members of all three branches of world government to one year or less.  (Citizens (I) Call For the Destruction of the Political Professional Class, [Nov., 2012] and Citizens (III) Call for Election Reform, [Jan., 2013])  In addition, within every nation-state, campaign contributions must have a universal limit per person and must come only from individuals, not corporations or political organizations.  Exceptions to these campaign contribution rules will result in the candidate’s expulsion from the race.

c)  The economic organization of the global UN implies a global economic system — a worldwide capitalism regulated to create both capital to build business and personal wealth.  Taxes on personal income  and investment requirements will be structured to make personal wealth limited, assuring capital will be reinvested into economic growth. (Citizens (II) The Redistribution of Wealth, [Jan., 2013])  Businesses will have incentives to operate with the partnership of the employees (mandatory employee stock ownership and mandatory retirement fund for all employees), so that all within that business have the same incentive to succeed.

Worldwide trade will be the primary modus operandi to insure perpetual world peace.  War to any degree hurts everyone, the least of which way is cutting off trade (death and maiming being the greatest way), but, at the same time, probably the most important way for the species at large.  (Going Global, [March, 2018] and 21st Century Luddites?, [March, 2017])  All economic barriers will come down; there will be no need for tariffs.  There will be a worldwide currency, similar to that in the European Union.  All stock markets will resonate to operate as if at one single site, as world trade makes every regional economy in business partnership with the rest of the world.  Highways on the land, sea, and air will perpetually be filled with exchanged goods.  Hunger, disease, and poverty will become things of the past (like smallpox, polio, and yellow fever) through trade.

d) Ecologically, environmentally, and agriculturally speaking, the home to all of us, the earth, needs to be treated as our one and only hope and treated holistically.  I’m not talking a cult-like worshiping of our planet as some living Gaia, but, rather, the development of a worldwide respect for not only the biosphere, but the great oceanic and geological processes that make our existence possible.  This respect is admittedly teleological, even selfish, as we have to use this planet to generate all the sustenance our species and our fellow species need both now and in the future.

Therefore, agriculture must be guided by environmentalism and ecology, as suggested by the warnings of both Harari and of Mann (1491 and 1493).  The vision of thinkers like Michio Kaku must engage thinkers and planners of the world government.  The world government has to allocate its efforts and resources toward making the land, sea, and air more productive without placing more of our fellow species (both plants and animals) on the endangered list.  Projects of converting sea water into fresh water should dominate most of the future seashores.  The possibility of turning the Sahara and other world deserts green should become more feasible.  All ocean shallows becoming underwater farms should be forthcoming.  Orbiting agricultural stations wherein food is perpetually grown in ideal conditions to feed the entire planet should become commonplace.  In addition, synthetically produced food, such as animal tissue, should be grown in “giant test tubes,” with the goal of not having to eat our domesticated sources of meat; genetic engineering is just as important in agriculture as it is in human medicine.  Synthetically produced food, especially large-scale synthetically product animal protein, can mean the land now needed for pasture can mostly be turned back to natural processes, producing through evolution more genetic vigor needed for the future.

As I said in  AVAPS! [May, 2018], “The world needs more marine biologists, not more missionaries!”

e)  Education needs to become an egalitarian worldwide phenomenon, particularly the education of young minds as practiced in American public schools (Egalite:  A Qualified Virtue, [Feb., 2018]).  This means educational funds for the entire world will come from taxation of personal property in all nation-states and distributed fairly to all nation-states by an educational arm of the the world government.  However, public education as practiced worldwide must be freed from “professional educators” and applied as in undergraduate and graduate college and university faculties, exemplified by such faculties in the United States.  (1:  Education Reform — Wrong Models!, [May, 2013], 2:  Education Reform — The Right Model, [May, 2013], 3:  Education Reform — How We Get the Teachers We Need, [May, 2013], Top Ten List for Teachers of HS Students Preparing for College or University (Not a Ranking) – A List for Their Students, Too!, [Dec., 2014])  A system of public schools from kindergarten level to grade 12 and at least one major four-year research college or university will be established in every nation-state, if not already in place in a given nation-state.  Through school taxes in every nation-state the education of each child from kindergarten through four years of university shall be offered free of charge (provided the student successfully fulfills the requirements of each previous level in college).  The deficiencies of a nation-state to provide such free education to a qualified student will be made up from a world education fund managed by the world government and contributed to annually by all nation-states as part of “membership dues.”

The worldwide curriculum used by all the planet’s schools will feature general physical and cultural anthropology, which will be focused on the cultural history of the particular nation-state.  World history touching upon the cultural histories of every nation-state will be taught in every nation-state.  The language of each nation-state will be taught locally, but the languages designated as “world languages” (how many?) by the world government will be taught in every nation-state.  (Presumably, these world languages, like the languages chosen in the UN today, will be the official languages used in the world government.)  All sciences and mathematics will be taught via a worldwide curriculum; math is treated as the “language of the universe.”  Engineering will have a local focus within a nation-state, along with an engineering curriculum of worldwide scope.  Philosophy curricula will have their universality supplemented by the works of local philosophers within each nation-state.  As part of the worldwide philosophy curriculum, comparative culture over time, including comparative religion, will be offered.

Cooperative research at the university level, which would inevitably be international cooperative research, will emphasize dealing with the challenges of climate change, of artificial intelligence, and of mankind traveling into space.  Architecture, also a worldwide endeavor, will work on novel housing for a presumably increasing global population — housing able to adapt to possible rises of ocean levels; living under the surface of the oceans as well as in space colonies in orbit, on the moon, on Mars, on moons of the gas giants, in interplanetary space, and in interstellar space will be worldwide endeavors.  Funding for all this research will come from local nation-state and worldwide dues contributed to the world education fund, not to mention research grants from corporations.

A given student’s education toward a college or university degree will normally be peppered with study programs abroad in other nation-states and with opportunities throughout to develop artistic and athletic skills.  Academic contests, art expositions, and athletic contests among teams of students from all nation-states will be preludes to worldwide Olympic-style events that include not only athletics, but academics and the arts also.  With sponsorship from their native nation-state, outstanding performers in these areas could be professionals in these areas, expanding the number of such professionals today.  A worldwide educational system will provide stage and lighting for ever-amazing intellectual and physical achievement.

f)  Science and math requirements characterize every level of every student in a worldwide educational system.  The philosophical assumptions and underlying concepts of science and math are replete in the philosophical studies of epistemology, ontology, ethics, and anthropology.  Children learn to count as soon as they learn to speak and read; children learn to test, experiment, and answer their own questions as soon as they are rationally able.  Truth based on evidence rather than authority is taught as early as possible, and scientific skepticism is practiced as early as possible.  Teachers will need to be trained to expect everything they teach be questioned by their students.  History of science will be taught as a parade of great ideas, not a parade of great people.

Next to the classrooms, the most important part of higher education will be scientific research.  It will be up to teachers to develop a science of education, if that is possible.  It will be necessary to develop a robust ethics for science and engineering, presumably based upon the Golden Rule and a dedication to protect and advance the integrity of science itself.  Done right, these precautions will assure that areas such as artificial intelligence, genetic engineering, and robotics will not run amuck with dire consequences for our species.

Most of all, science must be remembered as a non-veridical enterprise of our imaginations, just as theology is.  All areas of study, including science, must function in such a way as to develop the imaginations of all people of all ages; all curricula and all teachers who teach young minds need to stimulate the imaginations of young minds; those who don’t need to be rewritten or asked to find another job, respectively.  And, it almost goes without saying, science needs to be AVAPS; the star-stuff we are must keep focused upon the star-stuff we are not.

 

In summation, then, an imagined order of everything or a global imagined order for all mankind should include:

a) A specific, non-religious ethic of the Golden Rule, or the Principle of Reciprocity; “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

b) A UN-like world government wherein all nations function like States of the United States in a federal government.  This world government has the three branches of the legislative, the executive, and the judicial.  Members of these branches are democratically elected by a worldwide body of voters wherein suffrage is distributed as wide as possible.  It will have jurisdiction over a single, global military force to keep worldwide peace and respond to emergencies everywhere.

c) A planet-wide economic system of regulated capitalism engaged in worldwide free trade within a single universal market.

d) An environmentally conscious planet-preserving agriculture utilizing the best potentials of bio-technology.

e) A worldwide educational system offering a free universal education and funded by a world education fund governed by the world government, offering a globally coordinated curriculum.

and f) A commitment to progress indicated by an imaginative, respectful, and ethical worldwide scientific endeavor.

 

RJH

 

 

 

AVAPS!

Describing human existence in terms of Perception Theory (Perception Is Everything, [Jan., 2016]; Perception Theory (Perception Is Everything) — Three Applications, [Feb., 2016]; and  Perception Theory: Adventures in Ontology — Rock, Dog, Freedom, & God, [March, 2016]) demonstrates that all perceptions, concepts, ideas, and theories are necessarily non-veridical, due to the subjective trap. Logically, it is possible no product of the human subjective mind is faithful to the veridical, “real world,” empirical data bombarding the human senses; it is discomforting, to say the least, considering the possibility that our collective perceptions over time (our existence) have little or no bearing upon an objective, external-to-our-mind, universe “out there” which we presume and assume to exist.  (An in-depth review of the veridical/non-veridical dichotomy can be found in At Last, a Probable Jesus, [August, 2015].)  The source of this discomfort is the ontological baseline assumption that we are star-stuff in self-contemplation (Perception Is Everything, [Jan., 2016]), for the more disengaged our non-veridical perceptions are from the raw data upon which they are based, the more removed we are from our physical building blocks (star-stuff), from the very veridical universe of which we are a constituent part.  In other words, the less we are “at one” with the universe — the less we see ourselves objectively, as we really are.

I am happy to say that Perception Theory uses the cultural history of our species to avoid the non-veridical discomfort and possible despair of disengagement from the veridical universe, thanks to the help of two recent works by historian Yuval Noah Harari, namely Sapiens, A Brief History of Humankind (2011, ISBN 9780099590088, Vintage, London) and Homo Deus, A Brief History of Tomorrow (2015, ISBN 9781784703936, Vintage, London).

It was encouraging to read that Harari, though doing history, was using a human ontology parallel to that of Perception Theory, especially since I had formulated Perception Theory before I had read Harari.  That is, he understands the creative power of the human imagination, the existential, subjective part of human existence as well as the power that same creativity can have on the empirical, objective “real” world of science.  He does not deny the benefits to humanity given us by non-veridical scientific theories, but he understands they cannot be purely objective, can be themselves veridical.  What I call the non-veridical perceptions, concepts, ideas, and theories of our imagination Harari calls “imagined orders,” a term I will use henceforth for brevity.  One class of imagined orders we call “religions” (Perception Theory: Adventures in Ontology — Rock, Dog, Freedom, & God, [March, 2016]; I Believe!, [Oct., 2016]; Hope and Faith, [Jan., 2017]; and Prayer, [Feb., 2017]), with their “toxic theologies.”  Another class would be the imagined orders we call “scientific theories,” with their history of human-altering and planet-altering effects.  Clearly, essentially any well-developed concept in our minds could be call an imagined order.  For example, political theories, economic theories, and ethical theories.

Cultural history has given our species a direction, a clue for our imagined orders.  Ask what imagined orders have vaulted us into the world-wide collective of the “modern world,” in which we are benefactors of healthier, longer lifespans, of being relatively free, for the first time, of large-scale famine, plague and war, and of emerging with a consensus idea of the best political, economic, and ethical directions to pursue.  The answers have come in the survival of the political, economic, and ethical catastrophes of the 20th century:  combinations of imagined orders  of applied scientific theories, of non-theological, humanistic religions, of humanistic ethics that reach beyond our own species to other species, of practical capitalistic economies mitigated by tried and true socialist programs like universal health care, universal suffrage, universal, free public education, and care for the elderly, of political cooperatives based upon world trade and free from nationalism and delusions of empire, and of educational imaginative orders based upon how minds actually learn.  In other words, history has witnessed our blindly “stumbling” upon imagined orders that “work” for all of us because those orders take into account the natural more than the imagined supernatural, fanciful, or ill-conceived; we now know more imagined orders that “fit” the universe of which we are a part than ever before.

Consequently, I, as a scientist, am, perhaps, more optimistic about our future than the historian Harari.  It seems straightforward to me that our cultural history mandates we in future make our imagined orders as veridical as we possibly can, like great scientific theories like gravity, quantum mechanics, kinetic theory of matter, chemistry, biochemistry, evolution, and plate tectonics.  That is, make all imagined orders, scientific or not, as veridical as possible; in the vein of KISS!, “keep it simple, stupid!”, AVAPS!, “as veridical as possible!”

 

Here in the 21st century, we know what past mistakes to avoid repeating.  Don’t make the liberal mistake of making equality more important than freedom and brotherhood.  Don’t make the conservative mistakes that wealth cannot be created, that there are only zero-sum economies, that some must gain at the expense of others.  Don’t confuse education with indoctrination.  Don’t base truth upon authority.  Don’t create religions and political theories of intolerance; there are better imagined orders than religions, or nations, or empires.  There are better imagined orders than liberal humanism, social humanism, and scientific humanism (Homo Deus).

With the help of Harari, it is now possible to apply Perception Theory toward better imagined orders for all of us.

RJH

 

P.S.  Thinking toward better imagined orders need not be more complicated than asking the question “What the world needs now is __.”  The Beatles have suggested all you need is love, and that means the human capacity to love ourselves, others, and everything outside ourselves needs to be borne in mind.  Dionne Warwick sang it more directly with her 1966 hit “What the World Needs Now Is Love.”  What do all of us love?  Lots of things, sure, but the things that have grown to benefit everyone, like the inspiring contributions of the humanities and the world-altering improvements to our living on this planet of the sciences, engineering, and medicine seem to beckon our ardor.  Let me plant the seed of: what the world needs now is more scientists, engineers, doctors, environmentalists, social workers, care takers, historians, and philosophers.

Not long ago I attended a Southern Baptist church in which my wife grew up and in which we were married.  At the end of the service a 10th grade girl made public her decision to become a missionary instead of her previous dream of becoming a marine biologist.  My heart sank.  “The world needs more marine biologists, not more missionaries!” I said to myself.

 

RJH

Going Global

In addition to being possible 21st century Luddites and possible 21st century Tories, early 21st century American ultra-conservatives, such as those brought “out of the woodwork” by the Donald Trump administration, display other facets worthy of condemnation (21st Century Luddites?, [March, 2017] and 21st Century Tories?, [March, 2017]).  A common thread running through American ultra-conservatives very different from, say, lifting up the 2nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution as a sacred call to own as many powerful weapons as possible {Guns, “Gun Control,” and School Massacres (Part The First), [March, 2013]; Guns, “Gun Control,” and School Massacres (Part The Second), [March, 2013]; Guns, “Gun Control,” and School Massacres (Part The Third), [April, 2013]; Guns, “Gun Control,” and School Massacres (Part The Fourth) — the “Smoking Gun,” [May, 2013]; Guns, “Gun Control,” and School Massacres (Part The Fifth) — “Four Dead in O-HI-O,” [June, 2013]}, is categorically demonizing globalization.  Why?

First, I had to find out what is the consensus definition of “globalization,” when did it begin, and what is its history.  Two paired books helped me do just that:  1) 1491, New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, Charles C. Mann, Vintage Books, 2nd edition, New York, 2011, ISBN 978-1-4000-3205-1, and 2)  1493, Uncovering the New World Columbus Created, Charles C. Mann, Vintage Books, 1st edition, New York, 2012, ISBN 978-0-307-27824-1.  The two titles tell the reader a lot.  They sandwich the year before and the year after Columbus “discovered” America.  (Of course this language we learned in school discredits historical characters like Lief Erikson, and, worse, an entire people who migrated across the Bering Strait into the two continents of the New World thousands of years ago.)  Clearly they compare the “before” and “after” of the European discovery of the New World; the pair present a measure of the impact of that discovery, an impact that echoes across centuries to the present.  Mann’s major theme is that globalization as we know it today began with Columbus’ first voyage.

The year 1492 ushered in a world-wide exchange of cultures, knowledge, foods, diseases, wars, and forced labor in the form of slaves.  As technologies of transportation improved, worldwide trade and colonial exploitation integrated the planet Earth into a global market.  Projecting this sweeping historical view into the 21st century, Mann, in my opinion, suggests that the lesson of globalization is that trading with each other is better than exploiting and killing each other.  A rather obvious good lesson, I’d say.  So, why would anyone be against globalization as defined by these books?

Look again above at the grossly over-simplified list of what was and is being exchanged in globalization; not all of them can individually be labeled as “good.”  Sure, to take one many foods from South America that “saved” Renaissance, Reformation, and Enlightenment Europe, the potato, the “spud,” became the basis of the diet of the poor, and, later, the middle class.  Yet also from the New World came venereal disease and to the New World came European diseases to which native Americans had little or no resistance.  European diseases were even more devastating to the New World people than the Black Death was to Europeans about 150 years before Columbus sailed westward. However, economies based upon world-wide trading were spawned, economies like which are expanding to this day.  For example, the gold and silver mined by the Spanish with native American slave labor in Mexico and the Andes went not only east to Europe, fueling many national economies, but also went west across the Pacific to the Philippines, where Chinese traders traded Chinese goods like silk for the precious metals; this westward movement fueled the economies of China and the Philippines, as well as that of colonial Spain.  Foodstuffs like the potato and corn (maize) also went west.  Black markets and pirate economies sprung up in the Caribbean and in the waters off China as a result.  Another example was the flow of furs and timber to Europe from colonized North America.

But human beings, especially those from Africa, became commodities of trade to work the sugar cane and tobacco industries in the New World, later followed by the cotton industry.  Tropical diseases, such as malaria, killed off European overseers so badly, sometimes slave populations literally disappeared off the plantations into the interior to form new, independent, and undocumented societies often of blended heritage from native Americans — societies of mulattoes and maroons for example.  Because of sickle cell anemia from Africa, more slaves survived the ravages of disease than did the Europeans.

These examples are but “the tip of the iceberg” found in Mann’s books, but they are enough to clearly show that globalization is a mixed blessing; its contributions to our species often came at a considerable price of human suffering.

The more I knew about the history of globalization, the gift of hindsight compelled me to say the price mankind paid was more than worth it, given how global trade of resources back and forth across the oceans made possible the worldwide improvement of life compared with that hundreds of years ago.  Much of this improvement, like the establishment of democratic republics and the march toward universal suffrage and social justice, the rejection of monarchies, and the rejection of slavery, centers around making sure the price paid for globalization is more humane than ever before.  Yet, ultra-conservatives speak of globalization as if they wished it had never happened, even while speaking in an environment filled with comforts and advantages made possible by globalization.

Could it be that conservatives don’t know enough history to appreciate what globalization has done for us?  Possibly, but there are lots of ultra-conservatives, like Steve Bannon of Trump administration infamy, who appear very smart and well-educated.  So, the question begs itself — why, when you know the effects of globalization throughout modern history, would you despise it so?  Why are so-called liberals pro-globalization while so-called conservatives seem anti-globalization?  Those conservatives who still prefer war over trade are getting fewer and far between, as they are symptomatic of vestigial colonialism and imperialism, which began disappearing after WWI and WWII.  So it is possible a conservative might be both anti-war and anti-globalization.

I suspect the answer to the questions in the previous paragraph is found in the phrase above containing the words “mulattoes and maroons.”  Ultra-conservatives equate globalization with the mixing of races, and, as a result, become usually political isolationists.  In a word, they are racists at the core; they are xenophobic toward persons not like them.  It is true, much mixing of races came with globalization; Spaniards and Portuguese with American Indians became Mexicans, Central Americans, and South Americans; Europeans with Africans became mulattoes; Chinese with Filipinos became Sangleys, or Chinese Filipinos.  It is no accident that even in “progressive” societies like the U.S., many family trees were produced by brides and grooms marrying “one of their own.” Not that all who want to maintain a strong connection to the “mother country” are racists.  Rather, that the attachment to the “mother country” is psychologically based upon a racist xenophobia for some of them.  Ultra-conservatives have politicized this racism and politically express their racist bias by opposing globalization.  Their economics resemble that of a long-past colonialist, imperialist overseer.

RJH

P.S.  Lest you, the reader, think my linking anti-globalization with racism is but fanciful whimsy or giddy rationalization, consider how a growing number of historians and anthropologists are agreeing that the concept of “racism” was not a concern in Western civilization until it was clearly possible European and non-Europeans would be living together in an ongoing situation; that is, until different races lived together to make interracial mixing possible.  In other words, racism was not a considerable problem in Western culture until very different groups were shuffled across oceans; racism became synonymous with globalization when globalization began such shuffling, when the New World was “discovered” by Columbus.

Egalite: A Qualified Virtue

For years I’ve pondered why the French Revolution devolved into the Terror despite the fact its values (liberte, egalite, and fraternite) paralleled nicely those of the American Revolution (life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness). The answer came slowly to me with further reading (Sticks and Stones May Break Our Bones, But Words We Don’t Know Can Also Hurt Us, or, Jesus Was a Liberalist [March, 2012]).  In a nutshell, the Terror destroyed the idealism of the French Revolution over the “middle” virtue, egalite, or egalitarianism.  Robespierre’s regime began labeling anyone who was different, who stood out from the crowd for any reason (greater skill at something, for instance), as being counter-revolutionary, and, as such, he/she became a potential victim of “Madam” guillotine.  In order to avoid the possibility of the “middle” virtue being elevated at the expense of the other two a la Robespierre and have such a tragic event be associated with the term “liberal,” I suggested in the post cited above the political position of “liberalist,” wherein all three virtues must be held co-equal; one or two cannot dominate at the expense of two or one.

Another horrific example of mutilating the intended meaning of egalite is the history of the Killing Fields of Cambodia, outlined from “the inside,” from personal observation, by Chenda Tom in her book He Knows The Plan, Lulu Printing, 2018, ISBN 978-1-387-47663-3.  In the 1970’s the radical left-wing Khmer Rouge group, led by the despot Pol Pot, suddenly took over Cambodia and destroyed the country’s society in the name of forcing everyone to be “equal.”  The entire population was stripped of professional and occupational designation and forced to live and work in rural camps reminiscent of the Japanese determent camps of WWII.  Khmer Rouge “soldier/overlords” allowed the sick and starving to die, as well as killing indiscriminately at any provocation they imagined, resulting in the filling of mass graves wherein countless skulls began to accumulate; over two million died, one quarter of the entire Cambodian population.  One died in the Killing Fields if one was not judged “equal.”

Over my teaching career of 40 years, both in public and private school, I was fascinated how parents expected their student children to emerge as intellectual equals, as if the high school diploma made a given student equally as smart as the next.  Many schools resisted ranking students academically, though not successfully, as colleges and universities wanted to know how applicants compared with their peers in the classroom.  Though not as egregious as the Terror or the Khmer Rouge, this resistance is also indicative of a misunderstanding of equality in the education of young minds.

So terribly can equality be distorted, George Orwell wrote the book Animal Farm as a satire of egalite and equality well before the advent of the Killing Fields.  This classic is summarized in the phrase “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”

Clearly, the ideal of egalite or egalitarianism needs to be qualified.

 

Our Declaration of Independence proclaims:

“We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are

endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life,

Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness…..”

Note the Declaration does NOT say that all Men will turn out equal, just that we all START OUT equal.  Thus our society and its sub-units, like schools, are obliged to give all of us equal opportunities and rights AT THE BEGINNING of our citizenship or school, NOT at the end.  How we end up is up to us, and our government will not, presumably, behave to give certain citizens advantages over others in the pursuit of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; in other words, in terms of the French Revolution, liberte, egalite, and fraternite.  Exceptions to both American and French egalitarianism for all citizens are instances when the citizens forfeit their opportunities and rights given them at the beginning by violating the law — committing a crime, say.

It is like a race where everyone lines up at the same, fair starting line understanding there is no assurance that everyone will win; breaking the rules of running etiquette during the race will disqualify a runner or runners from winning the race.  The parents of school students I mentioned above are like spectators of the race expecting all runners or most of the runners to cross the finish line at the same time.  The Terror or the Khmer Rouge is like forcing the entire entourage of racers to step across the finish line simultaneously.  If the race is a metaphor of life, the Terror or the Khmer Rouge prevents the racers from “living.”

So, the United States’ Declaration of Independence and France’s Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen give the citizen a QUALIFIED equality — the right not to be handicapped at the start of citizenship and the right to achieve as much as possible without violating the rights of fellow citizens.  Chances are our crossing the finish line — making the most of our citizenship — will be a solitary one, with many ahead of us and with many behind.

Just like liberty or freedom is not absolute (We cannot do anything unlawful and/or at the expense of the liberties of our fellow citizens.), egalite is not absolute (We are equal only in opportunity and rights.).  Take advantage of your egalite if you are a citizen of the United States or France; your rights and opportunities at the start are indeed the same; how and when you cross the finish line is up to you; if you do your best, you can celebrate the finish line regardless of how your finish compares with others’.

 

As we physicists like to say, “That is the theory.”  Often theory and experiment, or theory and practice are far from being the same.  Ideally, the movement of establishing equality in the newly formed United States would begin as soon as the American Revolution ended.  Just look at the history of women and of African-American former slaves in the United States to see how far from ideal was the progress of egalite in our country.  Slavery was not abolished until 1863; women were not able to vote until 1920, after WWI; widespread acceptance of the LGBTQ community did not enjoy the protection of law until the 21st century; reparation to Native American communities did not begin until well into the 20th century; women still do not enjoy equality with men in the work force; xenophobia seems to trump xenophilia still as the reaction to immigration into the US.  The road to equality in the USA is still filled with roadblocks of misogyny, racism, sexism, xenophobia, traditional unjust entitlements, and irrational, a-historical nationalism.

As inertia-filled the movement toward equality is, the good news is that there has been reformist progress — the liberal spread of rights and privileges despite conservative resistance — in our country over the last 242 years.  I do not know enough modern French history to know how liberal reform and progress in the brain-child of the French Revolution compares, but I think France can make similar claims.  I am sure that in the long run both countries have avoided the horrors of Robespierre and Pol Pot — avoided the distortions of an unqualified egalite.  Just remember, you two countries, keep all three, liberte, egalite, and fraternite, equally important and equally strong.

RJH

 

To Run or Not to Run, That is the Question

Recently I turned down an opportunity to have my name put on a Democratic ballot for an office whereon a Republican is running unopposed. This is part of the Democratic strategy in Texas to eventually turn the State blue, a strategy I see as the Texas plan to organize the Resistance to Trump on the way to getting our country progressive again. Why would I turn down participating in a cause in which I believe so strongly? As the new year 2018 ushers in, to try and answer this question would be cathartic to me personally and perhaps interesting or entertaining to my readers.
As I told Dr. Jon Reese in my “no thank you” Facebook post, I appreciate the flattering thought that young activists in the Democratic Party would think me worthy. But I cannot run for any public office without the full, enthusiastic support of the love of my life, my wife Sylvia. Briefly, Sylvia simply cannot function as a politician’s wife; she avoids the give and take of differences of opinion, belief, position, and philosophy. This is not to blame her at all for my declining. The better reason for my not running is the subject of the rest of this post.
Let me quote at length from my reference to Jon, the post Sticks and Stones May Break Our Bones, But Words We Don’t Know Can Also Hurt Us, or, Jesus Was a Liberalist, which I posted on my website www.ronniejhastings.com in March of 2012:
“Beginning as far back as high school, I have been called or labeled a progressive, a liberal, a pinko, a communist, a socialist, a fascist, a Nazi, a Democrat, a secular humanist, a scientific revolution freak, a political revolution freak, an agnostic, an atheist, a Christian, a Texas-phile, a Texas Aggie, a Marxist, a liberation theologian, a Southern Baptist, an anti-cleric, a nuclear physicist, an arrogant high school teacher, a great teacher of math and physics, an unqualified math teacher, a painter of Texas flags on barns and sheds, a history freak, an American Civil War buff, an unintentional expert on Cretaceous fossil fish teeth, a barbed wire artist, a country redneck, a designer and builder of porches and decks out of composite materials, a male chauvinist pig, a land owner, a student of comparative religion, a gadfly, a Teutonic freak, a Napoleonic freak, a lover of ’66 red Mustangs, a coon hunter, a rock mason using only unaltered, natural-shaped rocks, an optimist with rose-colored glasses, a member of a sneaky group of pranksters, an amateur dinosaur track hunter, a militaristic war-hawk, an Obama-phile, a dinosaur freak, a rock-and-roll freak, a painter of the Lake Cisco dam, a heavy metal music freak, a cancer survivor, an anti-creationist, an evolutionist, an anti-intelligent designer, a hippie, a PhD, an absent-minded professor, an empiricist, a philosophy-phile, an epistemology freak, an incurable screamer of rock songs in karaoke bars, a beer connoisseur, a protester of stupid rules, a feminist, an insatiable reader of non-fiction books, a war gamer, a lover of all things Cisco, Waxahachie, or College Station, an astronomy teacher, a fanatical football and baseball fan, a driver of tractors and trucks, and a writer of ‘improbable histories.’” Since then I’ve been called on social media an “intellectual” and an “idiot.” I’ve even recently been called “narcissistic” because I had the “gall” to write my take on the origins of Christianity, which I wrote to my personal intellectual and emotional satisfaction (also found on my website); I didn’t write it to convince or convert anyone — I thought it might help others to do something similar and give me some feedback (Talk about cathartic! I highly recommend it.).
Now, imagine someone with all these labels, given sincerely, or as a joke, or anywhere in between, running for public office! An opponent could just go down the list throwing mud, and my campaign would be spent putting out “brush fires” caused by one or more of these labels. Even if my wife was an enthusiastic supporter of my campaign, I had all the campaign money I needed, and I had a great and massive PR staff eager to do battle with all the barbs that would be hurled, it would be exhaustive, even if fun, with little time, effort, and money available to get my message and position out to my constituents.
And I am to blame for being such a nightmare candidate.
Yeah, I admit I’ve spent most of my life cultivating my image as being hard-to-label. I never sweated the contradictions with which I was described, as I’ve always figured that if it was important for someone to know the real me, they would approach me and I would be happy to oblige them. It all is based upon the fact I’ve never known anyone, living or dead, like whom I would want to be; I’ve always been comfortable in my own skin, never envious of anyone; I’ve never worried much about what others might think of me. Instead of having heroes in my life (The only exception I’ve claimed is the great Brave slugger Hank Aaron.), I’ve cherry-picked attributes from other people’s lives which I admired and tried to make those attributes my own.
Example of cultivating my image: As a Senior in high school, I was reading a copy of William L. Shirer’s “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich,” a paperback copy with a big honking swastika on the cover in the athletic field house while waiting on a washer of players’ clothing to finish up. In comes a visiting team to use the field house and gazes suspiciously at my reading selection. When asked if I was a Nazi, I answered in a non-committed way, and my good M-4 buddy Bob Berry and fellow athletic trainer/manager, who knows me very well and who arrived upon the scene, did not blow my ambiguous cover toward the strangers.
Example of cherry-picking attributes: Despite the causes they fought for, I always admired the strategic and tactical skills of such leaders as Hannibal, Stonewall Jackson, and Erwin Rommel. Such admiration (bolstered by the fact they are all studied in classes of military strategy in all countries) has nothing to do with my admiration or condemnation of the causes for which they fought.
Little did I know that I’ve lived a life making me a maverick political candidate, a candidate making maverick politician John McCain look like a “yes” man. Psychologically, I suppose, it all stems from the fact I am an only child not wanting ever to be like anyone else, and relishing the thought that I am seen by others as being different. I really think that the more perplexing I seem to others, the more different I am to them. I don’t think this is narcissistic at all, as self-deprecation and self-denigration have always been tools at my constant disposal; I think I take criticism from my friends well; I could not have executed the things I’ve done without both their encouragement and their criticism.
Put succinctly, a candidate needs to sow the seeds of transparency; but I have a tendency to sow the seeds of opaqueness — of being hard to figure. Looking at me is like looking through a glass darkly; my waters are muddy — you can’t see very far. I hold my cards close to the vest. Good candidates make listeners and readers clap; I would more than likely make them scratch their heads.
I feel comfortable with self analysis, unafraid of what I might find. For instance, I’ve discovered recently why I like the game of American football, and the reason is not pretty. It’s the violent collisions of blocking and tackling. Give me a game of rugby over a game of soccer any day! I never played the game of American football and I tried to keep my sons from playing it; I don’t want to violently collide with others — I want to (voyeuristic-ally?) watch others do it.
In that vein of self-analysis, as I also told Jon, I consider myself an independent, not a Democrat or Republican; I am democratic, not Democratic. And, this stems from the fact I tend not to be a “company” guy, a “party” guy, or a “team” member. Needless to say, I am not a “yes” man; if anyone wants my respect, they must earn it; I do not give respect just to anyone. In spite of the fact I’ve never voted for a Republican candidate for President in my life, I’ve never supported every plank of any Democratic platform. Should I serve as a Democratic office holder, I would never support an issue the party touts if I did not personally agree with it. An office itself is no more worthy of respect than the person occupying it at any particular time. The American Constitutional political ideals establishing the office ARE worthy of perpetual respect. I support many causes and organizations, always tentatively, but am most loyal to the M-4, the group of high school buddies formed while we were in high school, as well as my life-long friend Dr. Bill R. Lee. (See Fun Read on my website.)
I am a septuagenarian, a peer of Bill and Hillary Clinton, and of Donald Trump — a “baby-boomer” forged in the three fires of the three social revolutions that exploded in the 1960’s — 1) civil rights movement, 2) women’s movement, and 3) anti-war movement; I was inoculated by all three revolutions, and all three “took.” Religiously, I use the phrase by Thomas Jefferson, “I am a sect of one.” I think the same thing could be applied to me politically, “I am a party of one.” I don’t know of anyone who agrees with me in the areas of religion and politics. And, again, I don’t try to convert or evangelize any to my views, but I do try unashamedly to get all to think and research. But, and here is where I hope my difference makes a difference: It’s OK if no one agrees with me. I’ve laid out my positions on religion, politics, and philosophy on my website if anyone wants to label me with “applicable” labels. (See Sticks and Stones…. referenced above, my five-part series on the origins of Christianity, and my six-part series on Perception Theory, all on the website www.ronniejhastings.com) I can be accurately labeled; you just gotta read what I’ve laid out for any to consider.
For anyone wanting a candidate, I, again, am probably your worst nightmare.

 

However, living as long as I have, I am not a political virgin. 1) I was in student body politics throughout high school in the 1960’s through the Student Council, including multiple class presidencies, and Vice-President and President of the student body. 2) I was department chair for both the science department and the math department in Waxahachie High School. (‘70’s through ‘90’s) 3) I was on the Texas State Textbook Committee during the ‘90’s, including the chair of the physics committee, selecting textbooks for all Texas public schools in the subjects of biology, chemistry, and physics.
In these capacities, it must be said, I was accused of falsehoods, which I politically handled through a combination of humor and self-denigration. Contact me if you want details on these events. Like the Farmers Insurance commercial, “I’ve seen a thing or two.”
If my political experiences could be of help in the progressive movement in local, State, or national politics, I would be more than happy to serve behind the scene as an adviser and strategist.
If a miracle occurs and my wife changes her mind and becomes the ideal politician’s wife and if a second miracle occurs and somehow some savvy political caucus discovers I’m not going to be controversial after all, then I would consider running in a local school board election or running for the Texas State Board of Education, both positions in which I would relish fighting for a couple of my all-time political passions — rights of students and reform of teacher certification.

 

Whew! Sorry for the lengthy self-analysis………I think I feel better…………………….
RJH

21st Century Tories?

With American conservatives in power in the wake of the 2016 US Presidential election, the sharp dichotomy of political divisiveness from this election makes comparison of who makes up the two sides very easy.  21st-century American conservationism is bound to the post-both-Bushes Republican Party and to the populist “know-nothing-like” Tea Party (i.e. Freedom Caucus) movement largely populated, embarrassingly, by members of my own generation, the generation of Baby Boomers, born during and just after WWII.  Older modern-day Republicans and modern-day old populists, on the average, are made of those relatively unaffected by the three-pronged social revolution in America during the 1960’s:  Prong 1, the civil rights movement, Prong 2, the women’s movement, and Prong 3, the anti-war, anti-govt. movement.  In my opinion, President DJT, a member of my generation, embodies the oligarchical and plutocratic branch of modern American conservatism giving big business a very bad name.  Mix together these ingredients, and you have the definitive recipe of early 21st century American conservatism.  In this post I would like to make the historical comparison of this conservatism with a group we studied in American history known as the Tories of the 18th century.  (I could use “right/left” to describe the American political dichotomy, but herein I have obviously chosen “conservative/liberal.”)

The American Revolution was a close affair, whose outcome was in doubt for many years.  As I have said elsewhere (The United States of America — A Christian Nation?, [June, 2012]), American colonists rebelling against the British crown and Parliament won by two decisive factors (besides tactical and strategic opportunism and plain old luck):  a) the fledgling upstart nation made itself a secular, not a sacred, cause, and b) the French crown furnished the colonist cause with vital military and financial aid.  What contributed more than anything to the Revolution being so nip-and-tuck and up-in-the-air was the large population of colonists who did not support the rebellion, those who remained loyal to Parliament and King George III — those who became known as Tories or Loyalists.  There were not only patriot militias in the Revolution, there were Tory militias.  At Revolution’s end, at least three fates awaited these Americans who opposed the rebellion.  1)  Those who could afford passage made their way back to England, joining the likes of Benedict Arnold, 2) those of more modest means made their way to Canada (Today, many residents in the lower peninsula of the Province of Ontario between Lakes Ontario, Erie, and Huron are descendants of Tory families who crossed either the lakes or the Niagara River.), or 3) many Tories went “underground” with their “true” patriotism and gradually became indistinguishable within the new society of the United States.  Almost all identified Tories faced violence and/or threat of violence as the Revolution concluded; many never tasted liberty and justice until they left the USA; “the spirit of ’76” could not tolerate anyone deemed “traitorous.”  Even the bastard son of Benjamin Franklin was a Tory New Jersey governor, incarcerated during the Revolution, and he eventually moved to England in 1782, away from his father.

Clearly, 18th-century American Tories fit the “original” definition of conservatives — those who in principle oppose change in their lives, usually because they live more comfortable lives than others around them.  This is why conservatives often are the rich and powerful.  The original definition of liberals identified those who, like the conservatives, wanted for themselves and their families, money, power, property, and happiness; but liberals were not against change in their lives if that change meant others could also have the money, power, property, and happiness both liberals and conservatives enjoyed.  This is why liberals are often connected with the idea of “spreading the wealth,” which, contrary to conservative political mythology, does not mean “robbing Peter to pay Paul;” liberals know that enough new wealth can be created, in principle, to allow all who work to live as comfortably as they.  Succinctly, conservatives have always tended to exclude others, while liberals have always tended to included others.

The Tory position toward the American Revolution was obviously conservative; the Patriot position toward the American Revolution was obviously liberal.  Only subtle differences in these “original” definitions are still around here in the 21st century.  Today conservatives fear change will be at their expense, with complete disregard to today’s inequality of wealth, which causes the inequality in wealth of the 18th century to pale in comparison.  Liberals have struggled to learn change must not be at the expense of any one of the three principles from the French Revolution (another liberal rebellion), liberty, equality, and brotherhood (liberte, egalite, and fraternite, or LEF for short). [The French Revolution, despite virtually the same ideals as its American counterpart, devolved into the Terror when equality was emphasized above those of liberty and brotherhood.  Because of this liberal “black eye” concerning the Terror, I’ve proposed those who sustain all three ideals of LEF in perpetual equal importance be called “liberalists” instead of “liberals,” but, so far I’ve not gotten many “takers.”]

I therefore argue that in 21st-century America, conservatives are modern-day Tories.

This “Tory” argument is another approach in my earlier critique of American conservatism:  An Expose of American Conservatism — Part 1, [Dec., 2012], An Expose of American Conservatism — Part 2, [Dec., 2012], and An Expose of American Conservatism — Part 3, [Dec., 2012].  Ancillary to these three posts are suggested changes in the modern American political system aimed at both conservatives and liberals:  Citizens! (I) Call For the Destruction of the Political Professional Class, [Nov., 2012], Citizens! (II) The Redistribution of Wealth [Jan., 2013], and Citizens! (III) Call for Election Reform, [Jan., 2013].

One of many parallels one can draw from this approach is how in America attitudes of the rich and powerful toward the poor and disenfranchised has remained remarkably unchanged for about 240 years.  In the colonies, British aristocrats in the form of colonial governors, many of the rich “landed gentry,” and rich British and American merchants tended more often than not to “look down” upon the poor peasant class of small farmers and workers, and especially down upon African-American slaves.  Concern for the bettering of the lives of those struggling to live was not a priority of Tory-like conservatives.  Today, oligarchs and plutocrats of many ilks have a similar lack-of-concern; or, as I like to crudely and rudely (some would say unnecessarily) say, conservatives, on the average, don’t give a shit about others beyond their own; liberals do give a shit about others.

I personally witnessed conservative disdain toward those not considered “of their own” in the small west-central town of Cisco, Texas, in which I grew up; this disdain by conservatives was like a pervasive xenophobia — uncomfortable with, dismissive of, and mistrusting of those who were “different” than they.  The rich and powerful, usually town folk and large land owners, tended to “look down upon” poor town folk, small land owners, poor to middle-class farmers and ranchers, and generally anyone who lived in the country outside town; conservatives tended to classify people according to the size of their bank account, the amount of property they owned, and on which side of the city limit line they lived.  There were very philanthropic, well-to-do people in my home town, but to me they seemed “few and far between,” although I grew to recognize them as part of the “Cisco liberals.”  I saw conservative disdain by the rich “from both directions” or “straddling” this social judgement because I lived in a lower-middle to middle-class neighborhood in town and, simultaneously, “lived” on the farms and ranches of both sets of my grandparents outside town.  I was fortunate that this unique perspective of my growing up never ingrained into me to “look down” upon anybody.  But I sure sensed others “looking down” and sensed being “looked down upon.”  All I had to do to be so sensed was to wear my “country” working cloths downtown.  It was fun to project myself as a city boy sometimes and as a country boy at other times, but I soon grew to understand that what would not be fun is to become as those who “looked down upon,” or, who were, as I know now, modern American conservatives — who were, in words of this post, modern American Tories.  I rejected the social bigotry that was obviously germane to the conservatism I knew; it took me a long time to figure out what that rejection meant I had become, but eventually (with the help of the social revolutions of the 1960’s and the political definitions above) I realized I was a liberal.

The attitude I’ve developed toward American conservatives as described above was encapsulated years ago when my wife’s maternal grandmother said, as she was encouraged to be impressed by the gubernatorial mansion in Austin, Texas, “Well, that doesn’t make him any better than we are!”  At that moment I knew I had politically married into the “right” family for me.

I think I see why conservatives, modern-day Tories, fall prey to the social bigotries of their society.  They simply parrot the bigotry of their parents and grandparents so doggedly they fail to see that what they politically preach is racist, inhumane, xenophobic, anti-Christian, greedy, sexist, misogynistic, selfish, and/or “blue-bloodied.”  As I’ve told many of my generation who voted for and support Trump, they themselves may not be social bigots, but by their vote and support, they have “hitched their wagon” to the basest of these forms of social bigotry, because of Trump; they are guilty by association.  While it is certainly true that both conservatives and liberals can be bigots, my experience has seen more social bigotry in the former than in the latter.

Lest I be accused of being too “black/white,” compartmentalized, or simplistic regarding the conservative/liberal duality, I fully acknowledge that instead of two separate parts of the political spectrum, the spectrum is a blend of the duality.  And all along the spectrum individuals can be as free from social bigotry as possible, as Jesus taught.  Just like men can have female attributes and women can have masculine attributes, there are liberal conservatives and conservative liberals, both groups hopefully being bigotry-free.  For a long while I have considered myself to be a social liberal and a fiscal conservative, and I’ve met others who feel the same way.

Nonetheless, it seems logical that  since the rich and powerful are few in number, a new-comer to the earth might, looking at the American political situation, predict that conservatives would never be put into office by the voting electorate.  But, since we have approached closer than ever to universal suffrage during the 20th century in America, conservatives are in office as much or more than liberals.  Part of that can be explained by corruption, as conservative oligarchs, like the Koch brothers and Cisco’s Wilkes brothers, can attempt to “buy” elections by having more campaign money than some liberals, but that is not the full story.  Conservatives have co-opted the political tactics of aristocracies, monarchies, and church leaders to convince the poor and disenfranchised-from-the-“American dream” that they too can become rich and powerful like the conservative rich and powerful.  And certainly that is possible, but it is like telling all junior high football players they will be able to play in the NFL; odds are they will not play in the NFL; likewise odds are most Americans will not become rich and powerful.  The odds are better to go from poor and destitute to rich and powerful in the United States than anywhere else in the world, I agree, but to suggest that is common is to be cruelly misleading.  The ease of that transition from poor to rich is the myth of conservatism, as it gets the demographically non-conservative to vote for the conservative, to vote against their own best interests; voting for liberals is to vote for those who are interested in the demographically non-conservative climbing to the same demographic as the well-to-do liberals and conservatives; liberals tend to see the “American dream” as potentially attainable, as difficult as it is to realize, for all who work to develop fully their personal attributes.  When in office, conservatives usually work to see that it will be even more difficult for the poor-through-middle class to climb the socio-economic “ladder,” by funneling wealth so that the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, like in pre-Revolutionary France.  Thus, conservative politicians and their supporters are often culpable of using the myth of conservatism like propaganda to which every fascist could relate.  A corrupt, bigoted American conservative, as the Trump era has shown, can sink to the autocratic depths of fascism and communism.

Hamstringing even slow, healing change among the modern American Tories is their almost reverent deference to authority, authority of any sort.  It is like the divine right of kings turned into 21st-century jargon.  The election of Trump among his supporters brought phrases like “We should respect the office of President always, and therefore, anyone in that office.”  I think the framers of the Constitution were so “gun shy” of kings, queens, kingdoms, theocracies, and aristocracies of all ilks, for very good reasons, they knew that any office created by the Constitution is never at any given time any better than the individual occupying it.  So the expulsion of Nixon in the wake of Watergate should not be viewed with tragic sorrow, but with great pride, as the system set up by the Constitution providing the peaceful transfer of power, even in times of crisis like Watergate, allowed the American people’s elected officials to preserve the dignity of the office of President for future Presidents.  In that spirit, Thomas Jefferson taught that one of the most patriotic things a citizen can do is to be critical of all elected officials.  Those of us howling about what Trump is doing to the dignity of the office of President are doing so out of the spirit of patriotism, the “spirit of ’76,” the bane of Tories past and present.  Bottom line, patriots:  elected officials must earn our respect, not be given it!

Germane to this myopic, almost blind, deference to authority practiced by modern-day Tories is the conservative tendency to not only defer to authority, but to believe everything authority tells them.  The insanity and danger of this tendency was what the third prong of the social revolution of the 1960’s cited above was all about — don’t just believe what the government tells you; vet and check out what they are telling you for yourself.  Today this is so much easier to do with cyberspace media (internet, etc.) than it was back in the 1960’s.  In other words, grow a “metaphorical pair,” a spine, a courageous, confident skepticism!  Parts of this conservative tendency to believe are intellectual laziness and ease of distraction.  Formally educated or not, every American citizen can become an informed voter, but it takes effort, and in my experience, it also takes time, like enough time to read and reflect on a novel like War and Peace.  Vital to an informed electorate is the ability not only to distinguish between fact and opinion, but also to recognize distraction from evidence.  From the time of the original Tories and even much, much earlier, conservative and liberal authorities have “gotten away” with corruption and scandal because ill-informed voters cannot follow the “scent of the trail.”  Once a voter learns such guidelines as “what evidence supports this,” “follow the money,” “what did he/she know and when did he/she know it,” and “where have we seen this before in history,” the trail will get hotter and hotter if there is actual corruption and scandal.  Therefore, my fellow American citizens, don’t be like a Tory, be like a hound on a hot trail or a shark in bloodied water.  Hold all politicians’ (conservatives’ or liberals’) “feet to the fire.”

One final warning concerning a thankfully few number of “ultra” conservatives — the horrible state of mind to which irrationally committed conservatives can stoop, in which they are un-phased by facts; the ideology in their heads “trumps” (pun intended) the evidence “staring them in the face.”  These are conservatives who seem to have the attitude, “Don’t confuse me with the facts.”  — a complete refusal to consider evidence.  At the close of the Watergate scandal, many conservatives still believed Nixon was innocent and/or he was framed!  This example reminds me of a story I used to tell my students in class to warn them of the “insanity” of irrationality and abandonment of “common sense.”  Briefly, the possibly apocryphal story (to me “apocryphal” means “if it’s not true, it ought to be”) went like this:   In Belton, Texas, years and years ago, a con man collecting money from his “marks” supporting the development of his “perpetual motion” machine, using a prototype with which he was publically “wowing” his credulous audience, was eventually exposed by skeptics who found a hidden battery/wire boost of energy to keep the prototype moving.  The money was recovered and returned to those who had been conned, but a few refused their money because they still believed in the con man!  Whether from fear of embarrassment or lack of the ability to understand the significance of the battery, those who refused to take back their money chose their faith in a crook over the facts before them.  I personally experienced the same phenomenon years ago when I got a Biblical literalist, creationist friend of mine to admit that, no matter how much evidence I placed before him, he could NOT admit that he possibly could be wrong!

It is not hyperbole to state that it is possible that modern-day American Tories, today’s American conservatives, can sink to this depth of mental bankruptcy and intellectual indecency; this depth is like “credulity on steroids!”  I’ve not yet met anyone of liberal tendencies who seems in danger of such depth.  I am relieved to say that the overwhelming majority of my conservative friends also seem not to be in such danger, so I want by this to warn them not to be associated with such danger.  In fact, let me exhort the entire political spectrum, conservative or liberal, to “call out” anyone on that spectrum who has sunk to this depth, anyone who, in terms of the “farm/ranch lingo” of my upbringing, has gone, politically speaking, “bat-shit crazy.”

 

I think history is on the liberals’ side.  Post WWII’s emergence of progressive political ideals in Western Europe, North America, Australia, Japan, and other nations has marked the transfer of more political power into the hands of the electorate than into the hands of the elected; this despite conservatives’ everywhere “dragging their feet” against this transfer; remarkably and thankfully, our vote is mightier than the sword or the dollar.  Consequently, history’s political compass points in a direction constituting anathema to 18th-century Tories, and, therefore, anathema to 21st-century Tories.  It is the “good sort of anathema” towards which to steer the future.

RJH

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