2018-05-14

Free...ze!


When you shout “betrayer!”, what does it imply?
When you hear the word “god”, what does it invoke?
When you read about “money”, what does it mean to you?
When you use the word “freedom”, what does it feel like?

You may have a clear image, or you may have a fuzzy understanding of that something, but almost certainly you will be prone to some kind of deception. For to be able to stand living in civilization, it takes mental adjustment to the many ways in which the system violates common sense and normal human behaviour. Civilization has taken our language and turned it into a weapon – against us. By redefining the meaning of words – and there are several methods and strategies available to her – she can invoke the deeper meaning, the concept of, a phrase within us while referring to a much shallower or even conflicting notion of it. Newspeak and Doublethink, far from being fictional ideas out of an oft-cited, rarely fully understood novel, are part of today’s state of affairs; they come as easy to us as breathing the pungent urban stench of civilization while thinking nothing of it… and it’s just as poisonnous.

The power of language and its intimate relationship not only with all the rest of cultural phenomena, but with reality itself, has been well documented. Just two among many relevant works may already suffice to make that point: Daniel Everett’s report Don’tsleep, there are snakes and Stuart Chase’s book “The tyranny of words”.

Inspired by Keith Farnish’s work Underminers: a practical guide for radical change”, the German translation of which will be available from June on, I’ll undertake an effort of compiling an encyclopedia of terms from all fields of knowledge and all aspects of life that attempts to point out the deception in our current use of words, and rectify them to again mean what they originally stood for.
This book will be an alternative to mainstream reference books only insofar as it provides a different view. It’s actually the latter that spread “alternative facts”, as has been aptly admitted by one of the perpetrators themselves. Revealing quotes like this, from both sides of understanding, as well as tons of cross-references for the intuitive untangling of a seemingly unsolvable problem, and my own definition of things, peppered with humour (black and white) will make up the main body of the encyclopedia. Expect something like Robert Wilson’s "Everything is under control" to come your way by the end of next year.

The project will start with the German language but I'm already looking for people who would work on the English version. Can you help?

2018-05-08

In the image of the Machine

"The conventional models of human response are based on the civilized world and, yes, there are common strands in all cultures but, for instance, when a death occurs in a tribal culture that has, like all animals, accepted death as part of life then denial is not part of the equation. Neither is bargaining – for how can you bargain with the inevitable?
When Elisabeth Kübler-Ross posited her model for bereavement, it was always going to a be a model for how the civilized human deals with death; it took no account of the way all humans deal with death, for not only are we all slightly different in our approach to everything – not just bereavement – we, as de facto civilized humans, are freaks.
Homo sapiens civilis never evolved. Civilized humans have been created in the image of the machine: we don’t behave as normal human beings any more."
-- Keith Farnish: "Underminers. A Practical Guide For Radical Change"

2018-04-28

Live Bait Armenia


According to Arka News Agency, the reaction of the Russian government to the so-called revolution in Armenia was:
"We hope that the situation will develop exclusively in the legal and constitutional field, and all political forces will show responsibility and readiness for a constructive dialogue. We are convinced that the prompt return of life in the country to normal and the restoration of public accord meet the fundamental interests of the fraternal Armenia."
Other governments reacted in similar ways. According to Wikipedia, the U.S. State Department expressed hope that the successor of the resigned prime minister will be chosen in a transparent and constitutional manner. And haven’t we heard it all too often when there was a disaster unfolding, “Peace is the citizen’s first obligation”?
Let me spell it out clearly: The governments of the world do not care who is running another country, in the first place. No matter who takes over the show (sic!), they can get bribed, coopted, cajoled, coerced, or forced into singing with the choir. Very few consistently reject to play along, and the mainstream press calls them ‘dictators’ while you will find their countries’ names on the list of ‘rogue’ states.
What governments, first and foremost, care about is that each regime has their people under control. They cannot have folks discover that they fared better without life-sucking dimbulbs above their heads, who are wrecking society and habitat at the same time.
All governments are occupying forces. They are tyrannies, all of them, and this includes the so-called democracies. For how can you be free while you are following orders, rules, laws, and constitutions? The earlier this is understood, the better.
Thinking that people need governance is a clear sign of having been brainwashed into an addiction from civilization. None of the wild cultures around the world would tolerate the rule of some over all the others; that’s what wild’ means; that’s what ’free’ means; that’s what ’egalitarian’ means; that’s what ‘fraternal’ means.
We don’t need another system: Anarchism worked well for humans for next to three million years.

2018-04-13

Getting the goat (2)


It’s impossible to make someone get your goat


Wilhelm Busch: Balduin Bählamm, der verhinderte Dichter (pd)
as long as they wouldn't get it.

2018-03-30

Getting the goat

The moment a conflict gets resolved
a new life is born.

Creative Commons by-nc-sa 4.0 intl. Jürgen Hornschuh 2018

2018-03-23

Tick-Tock in Zeitgeist land


Well, IF everybody would just do as I said the world would be a better place. The issue with this is as much my delusion about my being right, and the fact that IF information counted for anything we WOULD not be in this situation in the first place. The word "collapse" has become a staple in the mainstream media, and it changed nothing. As opposed to Zeitgeist's rationalistic vision, "informing people" is exactly NOT what is triggering change.

There is a lot to be said about dysfunctional open -- and hidden -- premises in Zeitgeist's worldview. The most obvious thing about the movement, though, is that there are no recipes for bringing about the proposed change, no timelines, no triggerpoints for how or when to start, and, worst of all, no actual activity right now -- other than symbolic "action" like leaflet distribution, meetings, protest marches. In ten years, Zeitgeist has achieved nothing but the promotion of its leader's movies.

That the envisioned paradigm shift hasn't happened yet, despite all the information available, is a clear sign to me that the core of what it means to be human has never been spoken to; and what is most important to people, us, has never been addressed. The Universe is not a clockwork, living beings are not machines. If the theory of evolution holds true emotions, affections, intuitions, and beliefs have developed for a good reason; it is emotions, relationships, and beliefs that have us engaged into actively shaping our lives. When it is millions of fish being poisoned by industrial civilization, I write a petition to the UN, period; when it is my lap dog, though, that is being poisoned by the same system, I am up on the barricades, stop my interaction with the perpetrators, and immediately start to find a way to create better food – because of my love for that animal.

Healthy people have emotions, psychopaths don't. In other words, a world free of subjective decisionmaking is a psychopathic world, and the lack of activity towards stopping the destructiveness of our system is built into the notion that Zeitgeist propagates: that you shouldn't take things personally, that you should wait with changing your life, that you should leave it to someone else to bring the system down, that personal action is too impotent to achieve anything anyway, and that the corporations are right with their idea that the world is nothing but a pile of spiritless resources, waiting to be put to use by people.

Go ahead, if you wish, dear Zeitgeisters. You got every right to do so. But the Z Paradigm doesn't differ as much from what we already have as to be able to inspire change. It's the technological Golden Age in updated fashion which, after ten thousand years of “progress”, is still lingering just around the corner.

2018-03-02

Groundhog day

Have you ever had the feeling that every word said leads you one step further away from the truth?

photo by Land Between the Lakes KY/TN, CC 2.0 by-sa 2015

Have you ever got the impression that you -- and with you, all of mankind -- are already trillions of miles away from it? Like, flying away on a wave to the edge of the Universe, at the speed of light, with no chance of ever returning in the same way you came here?

Have you ever seen so clearly that every single concept you held dear in your mind, thinking it was true -- actually every concept that anyone ever has ever conceived of -- has been nothing else but a trap, keeping us stuck in that ever-expanding wave of nonsense we call reason?
And still, there was nothing you could have done about it, other than abandoning it?

Ah, welcome to my world.
The ever-recurring question of the meaning of communication, it has me again. And I wonder what will become of the words I have uttered, the essays I have scribbled, the books I have written... maybe I sell them for what they are: entertaining hullaballoo.


2018-01-18

Human nature – the fucked-up ape?


How many times did I hear people talk about human nature as if they wanted to say, “Sorry, shit happens”? As if humans were like that: greedy, competitive, murderous, meat-eating bastards, a species innately flawed and incorrigibly evil. As if humans had no positive characteristics – other than their superior intelligence gone ape, of course. If they had, it couldn't be part of human nature, could it?

Well, I don’t know… The way that term human nature is normally used, “human nature, being what it is…,” appears to me like a cheap excuse by the speaker for not being willing or able to change any of their fucked-up habits
 
It’s funny, anyway, that you can meet people all over the world who just don’t fit into any of the patterns human nature is said to contain. If there is such a thing as human nature, there’s certainly not just one of its kind. Rather a multitude of natures, like there is a multitude of cultures. Nobody speaks of “the” human culture. Have you ever heard that expression outside Iain Banks’ science fiction novels? I haven’t.

With people showing all kinds of virtues, the observation I made in them – and in me – is that we have the ability to act in beneficial or damaging ways, to nurture or to consume, to love or to hate, to be aware of our True Self or to be selfish, to be curious or to be indifferent etc. We have the whole range of ways of living in us, and it depends on a variety of factors during our immature years how we are coming of age. 
 
Observation may tell you that, as adults, again, we are not stuck with what growing up in this gruesome culture of ours has made of us. We may awaken, we may change our ways, we may learn to think and speak and act differently, and that means that we are not victims of human nature, no matter what human nature is meant to imply
 
So if human nature, independently of what it supposedly is, has no ultimate power over us, it is a pointless, useless concept to consider when we discuss ways of addressing the challenges of our time. Chuck it in the waste bin.

2018-01-04

Non-scientism: Rejecting Knowledge-as-Power


When, after the inauguration in January 2017 in D.C., Kellyanne Conway coined the term “alternate facts”, the resulting public outcry rightfully banned it into the realm of deception and falsehood. Facts are facts, as far as objective truths go. We may doubt the accuracy of the numbers of attendants in one, or both, of the rallies implied in White House press secretary Sean Spicer's comparison, but uncertain numbers are not facts. As facts describe the materialist, reductionist, objective, scientific view on the universe, they have to be – and they are – discrete and accurate. Alternate facts don't exist, period.
Alternate truths do, though. Facts are one aspect or layer of reality alongside others. When we include emotions, feelings, morality, intuition, belief, creativity, spirit, soul, body awareness, or other means of perception and ways of knowing, we can begin to make qualitative rather than quantitative statements about reality. Truth in the realm of phenomena and appearances is inescapably subjective in nature. So when you hear me uttering criticism in relation to science, its focus is usually on
  1. the claim that you can keep the observer completely separate from the observed, meaning to say that the scientist can perform a research without having an impact on the result;
  2. the claim that only scientific research results can describe reality accurately and that there can be no truth beside the things science can describe, meaning to say that science has a monopoly on reality, and that facts equal reality;
  3. the notion that we may trust scientific research results and simply believe them because, in principle, we could check their validity, even if we can't.
I can call myself lucky if anybody read all this without condemning me as someone wearing a tin foil hat, but that would be a waste of hate. I am not rejecting science and its results as a whole. I question the quasi-religious way – scientism – in which its premises, methods, and knowledge are taken at face value. I have not measured the Earth's circumference and I don't know anybody who has; when I use 40,000km as a number for modeling an image of the world I live in, I am well aware that there have been – and there still are – other worldviews, and that it's just a model. The number as such is absolutely meaningless without a framework of references in my individual subjective life. Still, many take facts as a device for establishing universal truths which helps them in their effort to dominate and control nature, the wild, the enemy, the unknown, or by whichever name the other goes.

Professor emeritus of African Studies at the University of New York, anthropologist Marimba Ani, in her seminal work “Yurugu: An Afrikan-centered Critique of European Cultural Thought and Behavior” (1994) identifies the claim for objectivity and universality as vehicles by which slavery, colonialism, cultural imperialism and globalization have been justified as rational, necessary behaviour. In other words, scientism's claim to objectivity and universality of scientific knowledge is an expression of the West's urge for domination.


The rejection of scientism therefore poses a threat to the Eurocentric world view. It thus undermines Western dominance. We find a similar notion in the work of professor emeritus of pedagogy at FH Wiesbaden, Marianne Gronemeyer who writes in, “Die Macht der Bedürfnisse” (approx., The power of needs, 1988), that trusting unknowingness more than knowing-it-all constitutes a threat to the premises of science.
Not committing oneself to the monopoly of science has yet another dimension: science, by its core principles, cannot allow the undiscovered, unexplored, and uncharted to exist. They pose a threat which is inherent to anything that has not been fathomed by “reason”: otherness, eeriness – a nuisance that is overgrowing everything. The exorbitant and insatiable obsession with safety, security, and certainty results from the attempt at limiting life to its purely positive aseptic aspects. It drives us to shine a light upon the very last corner of the world in order to turn it into means for satisfying the desire for safety and comprehension. This is how the not-yet-known which rises to awareness inevitably becomes a problem that cries for a solution.”
Albrecht Dürer, 1491/92
It seems, though, as if scientism is beginning to lose its power over people's minds. Gronemeyer quotes Peter Sloterdijk (“Critique of Cynical Reason”, 1983), saying,
“Nobody believes anymore that today's learning will prevent tomorrow's problems. It's almost certain that it causes them,”
and that
“You can't be friends with knowledge any longer. Knowing what we know today we don't consider embracing knowledge; instead, we ask ourselves how to face it without being petrified.”
Gronemeyer continues,
“Not-knowingness (in the sense of Non-scientism) opposes – or rather, evades – the compulsion to penetrate and enlighten,”
a) either by willfully ignoring the unknown, and remaining indifferent to it,
b) or by facing the unknown with awe and respect for its nature,
c) or by exploring the nature of one's unknowingness, thus increasingly becoming skeptic of the things one takes for granted.

One of those things being the urge to collect endless amounts of factoids in the hope that those might deliver the foundation for protective measures against a future which scares us.
“Having to take a decision that is not based on certain knowledge is bad enough; taking decisions under the illusion of certainty, though, is a catastrophe.” --Amory B. Lovins (Soft Energy Paths”, 1977)
This has implications for the way we may deal with the converging existential threats humanity is facing today. Gronemeyer concludes:
Not-knowingness (i.e. Non-scientism) is not about gaining certainty in decision-making, it is relentlessly busying itself with uncovering the illusion of certainty […] Unknowingness is therefore calling for deliberation and cautiousness. Cautiousness, in turn, is much more connected to our ability to forbear than to our ability to effect. The current state of the world does not require our every last effort, it requires us to desist.”

2017-12-21

Surrender or suffer


How can the independence of human volition be harmonized with the fact that we are integral parts of a universe which is subject to the rigid order of nature's laws?”, asked Max Planck. (emphases mine... so proud of it)

Wow, that's three assumptions in one sentence, and one hell of a question to ask... usually put forward during the small hours, after one long drunken party night, when it's just the host and his best friend sitting on a sofa in a candle-lit room. But people are ruminating something like this since forever. Open any philosophy primer you got it there, right in the center of the presentation, no matter who wrote the volume.

Leaving aside premise two – humans are integral parts of the Universe; we'll come back to this in a minute – can we do as we please or are the gods, or chance events, or the laws of physics – force majeure anyway – determining what's going on? (and what is the role of the CIA, or the Vatican's here?)

Good question! I said that already, right. And like every ordinary history-of-science edutainment programme, I'll get you stranded with more of those questions than you had before, I believe. Weird hypotheses and unprovable theories, here we go.

One of them being that either determinism or free will might be an illusion. Likely both.
Free will is the sensation of making a choice. The sensation is real, but the choice seems illusory,” said Brian Greene, an American theoretical physicist, mathematician, and string theorist. Russian geologist Vladimir Vernadsky joined him by asking: “Thought isn't a form of energy. So how on Earth can it change material processes?”

There is this thing about premises: once you start looking out for them they are popping up left and right. Can real sensations have illusory content? Does thought have no substance / energy to it? I am not buying into these assumptions just like that. In some way they sound true enough, because you cannot see or touch mental activities. Viewed from an Asian perspective, though, reality does not merely consist of forces and matter, as described before (see also Cognitive justice: science and the sacred). When we feel free, or bound, this feeling expresses the state of a relationship. And it touches right into what many cultures regard as the building... uhm... blocks of reality.

Freedom also lies at the heart of every spiritual tradition there is, yet not in the form of civil rights, free choice, free enterprise, or free thought. To put it bluntly, according to those traditions freedom is the freedom from being ruled by one's desires, or, in other words, the freedom to want what you get because you love what-is.
Does that sound awful to you? I guess it does, even to those who live by it because I so horribly oversimplified the matter. But I'm serious here. What I am trying to point at is that we need to have a look at hidden assumptions because they define what we mean by 'freedom'. That's a difficult task. They often dwell in the subconscious parts of our mind, together with all the rotten stuff about peculiar sex fetishes and gory violent phantasies. Yet they may become conscious when they get confronted with surprisingly different sets of premises. For the sake of this argument, let's just take a quote from the American teacher Adyashanti, on the relationship between reality, thought, and suffering:

[The idea of control over one's life] is based on a fundamental misunderstanding. It is based on an understanding that you are a separate individual person, human being, separate from the whole, separate from others and separate from life, and you need to make sure that your life and your car get where you want it to get. If there is a prescription for suffering, I'd say, that's about as accurate as you can get. Funny thing is that the very prescription for suffering is the very thing that we think is the prescription for happiness.”
--Adyashanti - Surrender or suffer, 29:20

People who believe in the individual's freedom of will and choice hate this kind of speech. Not only does it mention the premises that usually nobody talks about because they seem so self-evident. To them, it sounds like saying, “Freedom is slavery”. And that hits the nail right on the head, though not in the Orwellian sense: According to the Buddha, their misunderstood freedom of choice makes them slaves to their desires. Such slavery comes with all sorts of nasty ramifications like, suffering from lack of ice cream in the presence of huge amounts of milk shakes.

Is Adyashanti a determinist? Not at all. His Zen-based, Non-dualism shaped understanding teaches that we make a conceptual mistake when, in our mind, we pit freedom against determinism. Separated from each other both notions are illusory. As we are one with all of existence there is no separate me that could manipulate an external reality or get controlled by it. It only appears this way. To make it more interesting, ie. confusing, Buddhists believe that their lives are determined by karmic forces... and they get encouraged to alter those through right action and right thinking.

So, when neither free will nor deterministic philosophy are convincing models for how the world works, can we imagine a both-and relationship instead?
The Norman Cousins quote (see image) points in one possible direction.
In a book I recently read and presented here (see essay The limits to reason) I found a similar, yet slightly different thought that conciliates determinism and free will into a holistic view:

We, like any other entity, are an element in Nature's round. The notion that we have the freedom to do as we like is an illusion. Each of us do as we must do as part of Nature's round. We have a free will only to the extent that we can choose to recognise our embeddedness in the round and participate willingly or be dragged along unwillingly, live joyfully or miserably.”
Tending our land, by M. G. Jackson & Nyla Coelho. Kolkata, Earthcare, 2016, p125

So your fate depends on what you make of it. This works on two levels simultaneously. Surrendering to the suchness of existence removes the element of suffering. Suffering comes into existence when I desire something which I cannot have, or when I get something that I do not exactly desire. When I am free of desires, or when I feel no obligation to follow those I have, I am liberated. I have no choice over what happens, but I have choice over how it affects my feelings. The stories we tell about what happened to us vary very much depending on how we feel about events -- and vice versa. If you asked me today to tell the story of my divorce I'd give you a completely different account of it than I would have five years ago or back then when it happened. Yet I would have insisted each time when I told each different story that this is what I really experienced. (No. DON'T ask!)

From this follows what happens on the second level: having changed my view from victim to observer or to active participant – which is a freedom I have – my actions and responses change accordingly. Within each worldview – victim, observer, actor – I have no choice over my reactions to outside stimuli. Hypothetically I might have done something else, yet I didn't; I chose to do what I did because I thought what I thought, and that's it. From there on, it's all deterministic. Sounds interesting enough to me to run some experiments with this assumption as a basis, although I suspect that Adyashanti got it more accurate.

Proof? I can prove the both-and hypothesis no more than any of the deterministic and free-will philosophers could prove their favourite view, but I may take this idea and compare it to my perceived reality. If I'm lucky I can verify it as a functioning model for my everyday life, but most likely I'll find exceptions to the rule, and the inquiry into the nature of truth and reality goes on – which I'm fine with.

Use? I'd say the question whether someone is responsible for their actions or not makes a big difference. If my actions are determined, there is no place for worry, shame, guilt, and punishment; can't be held accountable for something that was not under my control. No use feeling bad about it either.
And if freedom is our true, deepest nature, there, too, is no place for worry, shame, guilt, or punishment; for what kind of freedom were that if I wasn't free to make mistakes? After all, I can choose to mend my ways anytime.
...
So why do I often choose not to?

O dear, don't get me started.