Friday, January 22, 2016

Finale, Folly, Tragedy

The rise of Trump should be a great shock--a shock among shocks.  It brings a pivotal moment in American history.  Everyone laughed at him just months ago.  He rides a racist backlash to the election of Obama, and a seething unhappiness born from the 2008 crash, which occurred under George W. Bush, driven by Wall Street greed.  He collects those whose preferred reality is a fantasy milieu--a Griffithsian Mayberry that smells of the antebellum South--and forges that prejudiced nostalgia into a spearhead of hate. 

Reason cannot affect the claquish constituents drawn into this disastrous thrust.  Lots of op-ed writers and commentators have pointed out Trump’s “war on reason,” to quote Michael Gerson.  His  sexism, racism, xenophobia and anti-science pander to subconscious triggers.  If he can infect enough people with mental and spiritual blindness, he will become the next President.  The feat will be much easier if the rest of us, swaddled in apathy or underestimation, fail to stand up.

The latest analysis of Trump’s campaign has yielded two insights.  One is that his followers are best described (using a single trait) as authoritarian.  In times of fear--and he is a master creator of quivering puppets--they seek someone to obey without question.  However, I think it important to note that whiteness, maleness, and lack of education, taken together, are better indicators of a Trump follower than the single label of authoritarian. Bigotry and sexism are rudiments of his magnetism, and this is an essential part of a vast tragedy, as I elaborate below.

Another insight:  recent analysis of Trump’s foreign policy, spanning decades, reveals regressive consistency: a mercantile, anti-liberal approach.  It involves the US breaking from alliances and treaties, and offering protection to foreign governments at a price.  Add to this Trump’s admiration of Russia’s de facto dictator, Vladimir Putin--even when confronted with Putin’s methods of oppressing the media and probable assassinations of rivals.  In other words, the USA becomes a fascist, nationalized mafia.

Extraordinarily, large segments of the GOP establishment have done what they can to dethrone Trump.  The National Review just came out with an entire issue titled “Against Trump.”  The editors excoriate him, call him an unreliable, unstable  “huckster.”  An extreme danger.  None of this fazes his followers. They loathe experienced politician and intellectuals, both right and left.  Trump has never held public office or served in the military.   He just brought Sarah Palin on board as an endorser, and she is even more flagrant:  his own silliness, cruelty and rantish lack-of-argument, caricatured, colloquialized, and condensed. 

Exemplifying Trump’s vampire-hold on his followers is the incredible insult he hurled at John McCain, a decorated right-wing war veteran, saying he, McCain, is not a hero, due to the fact that he was captured, and hence a “loser.”  

Indeed, Trump has made insults supreme tools of recruitment and dark titillation.  All Muslims should be banned from visiting the US.  Mexican immigrants are “rapists and criminals.”   Females who challenge him have “blood coming out of [their] wherever.”  And on and on.  He not only mocks reason, he does it at the level of a fifth-grade bully.  And because of this, his invidious tragic fulminations, masses of white people will vote for him.

It is tragedy, worthy of Shakespeare but in kingdoms far more powerful than those he penned.  Even the magic of Prospero pales before our ability to irradiate continents and alter DNA, the essential blueprint of life.  It is not only tragic, it is a stain of colossal shame on white people in modern-day America.  It is also a raw warning about human nature in general, its propensity to sink.  Trump embodies the victory of hatred over intelligence, in the wealthiest country in the world, where citizens are quite privileged, a country that has, by far, the most powerful military.  Even if he loses the election, global society has been tilted farther away from humanism--a celebration and encouragement of creative, scientific and virtuous thought--toward narcissism, toadyism, and fear.  If he wins the Presidency, the USA could take its place next to China and Russia as centralized police states, ones that quash enlightenment ideas such as freedom of speech or religion.  Expect in-or-out bifurcations. Protestant versus Islam (the Pope is against Trump, so an enemy).  White race versus other races.  Male role versus female.  Work ethic versus the indolent humanities.
 USA versus foreigners. 

Selfishness is key, brittle egos that need to be superior and suppress any evidence to the contrary.  It is a strategy of hierarchy and contempt.

On a planet infested with nuclear silos and submarines; with gene tech and robotics rushing forward; with global warming intensifying (Trump thinks it’s a hoax); with Earth’s sixth mass extinction proceeding; and with the geopolitical orientation shifting against freedoms of speech, religion and other rights, not only have the American people failed to pick up the candle of reason, they have put on the jackboots of the oppressor, raised them high, in salute of Trump, and crashed the benighted soles down to snuff out that special flame.  Because it is a collective act against reason, it is an act against what makes humanity special.  It is an act of self-contempt, of self-degradation, at the human core.

Narcissists have a psychic hole.  They crave constant reinforcement and validation.  But the hole is unfillable, a demanding trench.  More attention requires more performance, greater thrill, more reckless risk, to satisfy the fawners.  And so the bottomless folly takes everyone down, lower and lower.

A Trump biographer, Michael D’Antonio, claims that Trump brings out the worst in people, magnifies it, and exploits it (1).  He hawks a mental substance that is anti-ethical (and so, I would add, in effect, evil).  Those who buy in are also bought.  Fear over Love.  Ignorance over Enlightenment.  History tells us that demagogues like Trump conduce to dramatic rises in tension that inflame massive war.  We had two world wars in the 20th century.  America viciously and unnecessarily dropped atomic bombs.  When WWIII comes, how many nuclear missiles will detonate, each stronger than those that annihilated Hiroshima and Nagasaki?

To Trump, it all seems just “fun.”  He will probably laugh and say it is fun when the warheads detonate, cackling deep within his privileged bunker.  D’Antonio, doesn’t think 'the Donald' has much respect for humans.  He considers them petty creatures, at essence detestable.

We live in a time where final judgement, in the form of extinctive warfare, could end the human race.  To survive, we need to evolve our ethics and become psychologically alert.  We can’t be susceptible to narcissists and sociopaths who excel at rhetoric.  Our minds have such beautiful potential, to expand and fill with light and compassion.  But it seems likely now--as Stephen Hawking recently postulated--that we will destroy ourselves.

Whatever happens, each of us is like a miniature, unique world.  Alone or in small groups we can seek the Good, work with our emotions, even the most vehement, to reach catharsis and sublimation. Individuals can achieve grand milestones--moral victories and enlightenments.  If just some of us overcome the pull and pressure of ignorance and hate, reaching new levels of awareness, that is a special accomplishment.  That says something about life, and its possibilities, within this multifarious universe, full of billions of galaxies, that we all share.


Thursday, December 10, 2015

Neurochemical Warfare

 In only a matter of months, Donald Trump has made the unthinkable real.  Many laughed, at first, at his candidacy, dismissed him as a clown.  Now his fascism snowballs with increasing weight.  Even mainstream media outlets have compared him to the Fuhrer.  His every latest rant conjures a reminiscence of that terrible Nazi rise. 

Given the grave threat, which has left many stunned, it is vital to break out of such incredulity, to accept that Trump will keep escalating as he seeks the next crest of attention.  Now that he has called for a “total and complete” ban on Muslims, it is only a matter of time before the violence slouching in his rhetoric spurs a rash of physical attacks.  Hate groups are already benefitting (1).  A few days ago a severed pig’s head was thrown at a mosque in Philadelphia, and in general attacks on Mulisms are on the rise.  Trump didn’t create this hysteria but he stokes it and focuses it in monstrous ways:

Instead of standing by and saying things like, “Can he get any dumber” and dismissing his campaign as “foolish,” we need to open our eyes.  The blitzkrieg-quick momentum of the demagoguery, and how far it has taken America (and the world) into darkness, is probative and prophetic.  Painful though it is, we need to confront this fascism.  We are not doomed to repeat history, yet if we do repeat it, WWIII will end history.  Notice how divorced from fact and reality Trump’s narcissism sits, on its throne of lies, and realize that his ego needs more and more, which requires pushing the tension to extremes (the desire to hate in his followers demands it, so Trump is also a pawn).  The ultimate end, as his grandstanding meets stronger and stronger resistance, will be a nuclear launch.  Deified hate, in its supreme reach for anti-glory, will not shy from sacrificing the human race.

The brain is far different from a computer, so I am leery of analogies.  But we’ve begun to discuss how computers “think, see, hear,” and so on.  They continue to complexify, and rudimentary comparisons can be useful.  So, I want to bring up the concept of a psychological virus  The psychological virus as a correlative of a computer virus.

Computers are adaptive and malleable but when a computer virus takes hold, it attenuates the machine’s ability.  It does so by infiltrating and spreading into command systems, wherever they might be in the operating system. The result is an infection, a terrible hobbling of the machine’s reach.  Likewise, Trump’s insidious, demonizing phillipics send out a psychological virus, a trojan horse  for the mind. 

The hate seeps in, solidifies a black-and-white worldview, creating what psychologists call confirmation bias.  Perception gets skewed, sees what it wants, regardless of evidence.  The neuroplasticity of the dendrites gets locked down, with an emphasis on the higher, cortical regions.  The mental garden of neurotransmittters, with all its capacity to bloom with candor, hardens into a warren of intransigence.

Once a psychological virus is in place, it can’t be removed, unlike its computer counterpart.  Our society embraces the idea of the adult human being as a rational autonomous agent.  However, as marketing firms, scholars, and political advisers know, this is far from how life actually transpires.  Simple emotional appeals, the ‘big lie’ (to reference the infamous Hitler quote) are far better ways to reach much of the population, especially when they are disaffected, as by a cruel, unjust economy.  Better to channel thought rather than appeal to its noble rational side.  Better to strap autonomy within a harness of prejudice rather than let someone steer their own  well-considered course.  The followers of hate-speakers can be incredibly intelligent and yet also psychologically trussed.

When capacity for thought has been subverted so much that it modifes fact for specious, fallacious ends, the sort that sustain and expand a militarized, racist march, the person in question has been fully co-opted into the darkest of mental diseases.

The use of such techniques (I'm calling them psychological viruses to show how vulnerable, how susceptible, we truly are; and to belie the great myth of our simple rational autonomy) is well-known.  They have been investigated and documented throughout the bellicose record of human discord.  In light of this scholarship, we can talk of the psychological virus as being the weapon of 'neurochemical warfare':  the use of rhetoric to mobilize people into a crusade, and instill a devotion to whatever atrocity is demanded by the collective delusion.  That there is one great leader, a singular force akin to a god, a perfect being who can do no wrong, that is the historical exemplar, and it is one that Trump clearly craves.

The stronger he gets, the weaker he will get.  Even the slightest hint of disagreement could become a slight:  a lack of fealty to the Father.  He will lash out, thinner and thinner, needier and needier.  At some point, the very existence of the world itself must offend him.  He will then try to make it pay for imposing the truth:  that he is not really a god, not always right, not even close; and, in fact, he pushes to become something far different, the opposite of what he claims:  a spearhead, not of the good and pure, but rather of global evil.


Saturday, November 28, 2015

Sane Zombies

Sane zombies?  It doesn’t work as a concept.  It’s a contradiction in essence.  But that’s the point.   

In my last blog post,  I talked about werewolves and vampires as symbolisms of human monstrosity, our devastating effect on the ecology and meteorological homeostasis of Earth.  Also, our relationships to each other, and animals, the exploiters and the exploited, the consumers and the consumed, the powerful, the toadies, the thralls.  Souls, the potential to actualize with dignity and health, are sacrificed to this maleficent trench.  The zombie theme adds yet another component:  the  teeming senselessness.  Idiot conformity and, in response, the validation of gory  killers.  Our airwaves endure an orgy of zombie parades, and the de facto deputized resisters, little islands of the beseiged, trapped in a sea of compromised flesh, butchering the lost in droves.  When we see characters in the Walking Dead slaying the mentally withered through varied means of bloody violence, it taps into a subconscious disgust of  fellow humans.

Let’s be honest, many liberals are disgusted with humanity.  As are those on the other side of the fence, who chant to the fascist rhetoric of Donald Trump.  Warnings about Trump’s trajectory toward police state have already been written, excellent op-eds in newspapers like the Washington Post and the New York Times.  Here’s a few, one is explicitly Hitleresque:

We all partake in the actualization of the vampire, werewolf and zombie themes.  The people who read this blog are most likely privileged.  We may not be aware, not often, but we buy things, all kinds of things, made by the exploited.  We suck the life blood out of those in sweatshops, and callously plod along the path of consumerist devouring.  We in the USA contribute to greenhouse gas emissions at a grossly disproportionate rate.  With the boomer generation as bellwether, we have become blithe in our habits, our driving of vogue cars, our casual flipping of the coal-hungry electric switch.  The vertical production chains around food and clothing showcase other ways in which we support (effectively revel in) the degradation of workers, the ongoing wreckage of Gaia, the extirpation of Her creatures.

Despite all this, as I hinted above, there is a difference between monsters.  That we are all to blame does not make us equally culpable.  Or equally ready to effect much needed change.  Imagine if Trump became President.  He could.  He erects a wall between the USA and Mexico, coercing our southern neighbor to pay for it.  He registers Muslims in a data base.  He feasts on social veins of ethnic antipathy, even as he bloats them.  He has said America must do the “unthinkable.”  Are we to assume his gross narcissism will stop short of nuclear options?  Should we just hope he won’t go too far, as many did with Hitler?  Narcissists and sociopaths, engrossed in selfish excitement, need to up the ante to get their rise.

Too often we use the idiom ‘nuclear option’ in casual ways.  We should really stop.  We need to be alert to the tens of thousands of ICBM’s launchable by a hate-mongerer like President Trump, or by any one of the other leaders in other troubled countries that possess such doomsday weapons.  India and Pakistan are a rancorous pair, locked in mutual seethe.  North Korea, absolutely Orwellian in its totalitarianism, has nuclear weapons.  And so on.  I haven’t even mentioned global warming--about which the GOP is in utter denial--and how it lards the odds of anomie.

It comes down to how we deal with our disgust and rage.  I think Martin Luther King, Jr. had it right.  Only love has a chance to overcome hate.  Hate in response to hate results in unmitigated violence.  Hitler’s hatespeak led us into WWII.  We can’t afford to let Trump’s hatespeak reign.

It’s tremendously hard not to mock and taunt the Trumpites, their starry-eyed “amens!” Presented with history, the xenophobia of past generations, even targeting their ancestors, they deride the argument, refocus on the “evil” of liberals.  Trump’s obvious lies do not bother them, if they can see the obvious at all.  Trump mocked John McCain’s status as a war hero, a Republican Senator who was imprisoned in Vietnam for years.  The Trumpites don’t even care about this attack on a patriotic solider, a symbol they usually hold dear.  Trump can mock whoever he pleases, even his followers, as long as he validates their fearful racism.  The insular purity of their apple-pie white bread myth.

This article came out yesterday:

Love is the only way to challenge the momentum of such rancor.  The sort of love espoused by King.  Or even the Bible.  Jesus was compassionate toward the poor and the weak.  If liberals respond to Trump's followers with agape, the kind of love King endorsed, or Buddhist compassion, or any other spiritual tradition of care, as opposed to attack, it will make it harder for Trumpites to see those outside their in-group as subhuman.  It could disrupt the black-and-white worldview.  Perhaps more importantly, it could influence those who are still undecided, apathetic or unaware.  Those on the fence.

Humanity seems to be marching in good zombie-fashion toward doom.  The USA, with its supreme military, harbors tens of millions of citizens foaming at the mouth before the infectious vitriol of their grand hotspur--a needy man of huge ego who, according to his ex-wife, kept a book of Hitler’s speeches next to his bed.  Americans, especially the white classes who adore Trump, have it pretty good.  They can, for instance, spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on a gun, money that constitutes a month or even a year of wages in other countries.  Still, Trump has managed to fill their minds with ugliness and loathing.  A complete lack of appreciation for historical perspective.  I wonder how many people watching zombie shows are mentally substituting “illegals” for the ghouls of drama.  Subconsciously, at least, I think that would be a large number of folks.  How many displays of hate, bolder and bolder by a dark leader, will it take before the fury that lurks below leaps into the real?

White protesters with guns in Dallas, standing near an Islamic sanctuary.  Scary, scary photos:

What we need, of course, is not sane zombies.  That’s impossible.  We need to stop looking at each other with dehumanizing hate.  We need to stop thinking of each other as no better than zombies--and instead embrace love.  It’s trite.  But so what?  “The great way is easy, yet people prefer the side paths” -- Lao Tzu.

"When the power of love overcomes the love of power the world will know peace."
-- Jimi Hendrix 


Thursday, October 8, 2015

Better Vampires, Saner Werewolves

I think the political cartoon below by Pat Bagley nicely sums up the split mind of the USA.  On one side, you have people pushing for progress and greater awareness.  You can easily imagine a multicultural diversity of folks.  On the other, you have a faction in denial, driven by fear and hate, locked into closed-mindedness.  This, it is clear, is the Republican side, the stubborn  and bitter white core that is, demographically, fading in numbers relative to other ethnic groups.  These are the folks that buy readily into, say, Donald Trump’s intense racism when he says he wants to build a wall between the US and Mexico.

I don’t write on this blog much anymore, mostly because I am fixated on my novel, which involves two very different cultures and two sets of protagonists.  Another reason, much less, is that I feel the main points I want to emphasize are fairly simple.  Bagley’s cartoon sums a lot of it up.  I’m just repeating myself when I lament that we are in the midst of the Earth’s sixth mass extinction, and our declining war-addicted empire just doesn’t care.  It comes down to human psychology.  Our enemy is not ‘out there’ somewhere.  It’s our ability to become a slave to our fears and hatreds.  So much of the population is manipulated that way.  Again, Bagley’s cartoon.

I’ll always be awed and disgusted by what I’ve been born into.  This human-dominated world that is on the verge of nuclear war or other civilization-ending chaos; that is on the verge of merging the human species with computers and other cyborg machinery; that has changed the Earth in ways not seen in the planet’s 4.5 billion years.  Honestly, we should all be stunned and amazed constantly, not only by the incredible beauty and complexity of life, but also by what humanity has done, and is doing, to change the nature of it.

We’re blind.  I’ll always be sickened and grieved by the vast genocide of the Native Americans that took place not long ago, committed so that my country could expand, following its self-proclaimed “Manifest Destiny.”  Every privilege I have, every bit of time to write or think, or just be free of constant worry or the need to work and bow down to oppressive forces, comes at the price of unmentionable injustice. This is something none of us should forget and we who benefit deserve to carry a burden of shame; for the momentum of horror continues in various forms.  It was only a hundred and fifty years ago that the atrocities were carried out, scalps sold, massacres conducted, hatred incarnating into murder and demonic cruelty.  This is not ancient history.  The mindset of the genocidists still infects us.  Look at how many people cling with nostalgia to the Civil War, which ended in 1865.  We're very much still children of those times, and its white-supremacy.

I’m of course sickened by all the other genocides as well.  And much else, as I’ve made clear over years on this blog.  My life is a strange duality of fascination for the beautiful and miraculous aspects of being alive, and utter disappointment in humans.  And also the Architects of this universe, this universe that was designed to foster realms like Earth, so magical and yet tragically flawed.  Resplendent and giving, yes, but also inveterate with violence, themes of predation and brutality built into the clockwork of ecological and evolutionary systems.

I frequently rail at God, though I doubt there is one ‘God’ who created all this.  Still, such a God makes an easy, cathartic target.  “Why did you set things up, knowing this was likely to happen?”  "Why? You idiot!  You asshole!"

Most likely I am railing at no one, though it is better than railing at individual people.  We are to blame but we are also very much ignorant pawns of greater ideational systems and the psychology of zeitgeists.  What is infuriating is that we don't have to be ignorant. I sometimes wonder, though, if some people can escape their denial.  Some people seem, after a certain time of letting it settle, locked into ignorance forevever.

Our culture is fascinated by vampires and werewolves.  I think this is so in large part because humans are the real vampires and werewolves.  We consume life, even torture it in factory farms, to survive.  Our need to consume life, magnified through the egregious lens of consumerism (note the essence of that:  consume), has turned much of the planet into a stranglehold of crop lattices.  We are also werewolf-like in that we wear pretty faces, as individuals and nations, proclaiming Liberty, Equality and all that--but the truth explodes into world wars, and the detonation of bombs that are like massive claws swiping the skin of this abused world.  The truth is also the factory farms where animals are tortured, and the manufacturing plants were peasants toil akin to slaves.  Anyone reading this is probably not shackled to the wide oppressive base of the socio-economic pyramid.

Even though we are all vampires and werewolves, it doesn’t mean we can’t work for good and improve.  That's the key.  Some people are better than others ethically.  Some are more innocent.  Again, my philosophy seems to revolve around polarities yet acknowledges the importance of gradations.  Polarities in the essence of life.  Beauty and ugliness.  The search for Good and yet the continuous blight of atrocities and heinous crimes.  Within this framework, we can each move forward, as individuals or collectively.

My spirituality now acknowledges that there are spirit guides who are good, not absolutely, but that is their goal, or part of their purpose:  seeking the good.

There also might be greater gods, but I see them as much less caring.  There is no all-powerful Good God watching over us.  Such a being would not allow the genocides, the defacing of environments, the trashing of an entire world by selfish little creatures who wear pleasant facades but fall into patterns of us-versus-them, conformist etiquette that says all the right things--but harbors eruptions of the worst.

One of two fates will congeal.  Either humanity will collapse and nature will thrive in multifarious abundance again (witness what is happening amid the ruins near Chernobyl).  Or humanity will continue its technological push and create a new kind of species, no doubt through terrible, wrenching upheaval that involves much injustice, class privilege, and vicious repression (we have all these now, nothing new here).  That new techno-species will continue to ride the cyborg wave through versions of 'advanced' creatures.

Hopefully they will be advanced.  Not in sheer power to destroy and conquer, but rather in virtue.  The happiest ending, maybe, is for creatures of light to evolve.  Beings who do not need to devour other life forms; that are not beset by the fears and lusts that cripple sanity.  But as for us humans, we are not creatures of light.  We are vampiric and lycanthropic.  We express as much in our movies and books; that is, our myths and cultural fascinations.  Subconsciously, at least, we know what we are.

We’re tasked, though--if we seek the Good--to channel our energies in new and better ways.  To control and redirect our desires.  To push for awareness and a healthy psychological dynamic.

It can be done.

We’ve seen new awareness in recent history.  Raised-consciousness that challenges sexism, racism and the callous idea that the Earth and its creatures are just bland resources, numbers in a profit equation.  A lot could be solved simply by preventing talented narcissists and sociopaths from usurping the reigns of power.

Freedom is consciousness-raising.  Awakening, layer after layer, to a great universal compassion, the sort of inspiration and spiritual infusion that drove Martin Luther King, Jr..  On the other hand, freedom is not freedom to be racist or sexist.  

 That kinda sums it up.  Bye!  Owl.

(click on image to expand)