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The Other Shoe

by geezer in Paris Wed Oct 21st, 2009 at 07:01:22 AM EST

Living outside the US sometimes gives perspective, and can lead to conclusions, concerns that are at variance with those held by insiders. Sometimes the whole thing's a waste, and we take our blinders with us, and our view is limited to the same old narrow slot. But time and experience has an insidious way of reeducating even the most hidebound. Sometimes the things we learn have wide application. Education is coming, for Europe as well as the US....


For a decade my wife and I asked ourselves the question, "How can this go on?" By "this", we meant the inexorable impoverishment of the American consumer, and the consequent deterioration of their ability to consume. Leaving aside our real concerns about the consequences of an economic theology based on the systematic plunder of the earth, and the plunder of each other, we doubted the sustainability of the consumer culture in any case, and therefore the American Empire's viability.

When the "home equity loan" became the source of funds for consumption, we bailed out. We knew it was over- that the motors were now finally silent, that the system was losing altitude fast, and had to crash very soon.
We were wrong. It ran on for another decade, because they found another money pot.

When "funny money" -the rotten, often fraudulent mortgage, attractively mixed and packaged into an investment device, became a fabulously profitable ponzi scheme, we missed it. By that time, the financial system was so out of control, so opaque that few on the outside could see it, and ordinary folks inside the US were as blind as a stump to the last-gasp plunder these things represented.

But now the first shoe has dropped, the crash has come, the Empire is staggering drunkenly about the world stage leaving a trail of wrecked nations and lives, riven by dissension and quasi-fascist factionalism. Reasonable minds want to know---where will the Empire go from here? When will the other shoe drop, and what sort of shoe will it be?
Will it be a rational response, a tactic to engineer a softer landing for the world as well as for the US?
Will the US Empire react in the traditional way, and throw a tantrum, lay waste to the countryside, and then die a noisy death?
There are many possibilities, but one is emerging as the most likely, the choice of the real power centers that control America, and that deeply influence the rest of the world.

It's called The Long War, and it's an upgraded version of a long-running and popular public theater piece that began with the cold war.

The current cast is stellar, and includes all the stars of the Military-Neocon production company.

David Kilcullen, Anthropoligist, soldier and top adviser to:

Gen. David Petraeus, US commander of the iraq forces, and

Gen. Stanley McChrystal, late of the Phoenix project and the equally murderous Iraq ethnic pacification program, now US commander in Afghanistan;

Adm. Mike Mc Mullen, current chairman, joint chiefs of Staff, Pentagon,

Gen. John Abizaid, commander, CentCom, credited with coining the term "Long War"

Robert Kaplan, neoconservative theorist and writer,

John Nagl, leading counterinsurgency theorist and Iraq veteran,
and a host of civilian theorists, commenters and columnists throughout the media.

Andrew Bacevich has collected much relevant historical work describing the strategic and tactical elements, the justifications and some of the doubts into his book, The Long War
 He points out eloquently the genesis of this mode of governance and economic management , and it's a must read for armchair futurologists like me. But  to see the best of the current thinking on the subject, it's hard to beat Tom Hayden.
http://www.thenation.com/doc/20090525/hayden
http://www.thenation.com/doc/20091102/hayden

The implications of this doctrine are staggering. The very notion of a fifty-year war assumes the consent of the American people, who have yet to hear of the plan, for the next six national elections. The weight of a fifty-year burden will surprise and dismay many in the antiwar movement. Most Americans living today will die before the fifty-year war ends, if it does. Youngsters born and raised today will reach middle age. Unborn generations will bear the tax burden or fight and die in this "irregular warfare."

And again,
These projections reveal a staggering audacity--not Obama's audacity of hope but an audacity of martial commitment. A fifty- to 100-year military campaign--the subtitle of Kilcullen's book is Fighting Small Wars in the Midst of a Big One--will span thirteen presidential terms and twenty-five Congressional sessions, casting a long shadow over generations of politicians not yet running for office. The Long War assumes either perpetual democratic approval by many voters not yet alive or that democracy will simply be circumvented by the national security state. Bin Laden will be dead of natural causes or otherwise long before it's over.

Hayden also points to the vision of an "Arc of Instability" in which the necessary military operations to come are almost limitless. Among many other insights, he says,
There is a chance, of course, that the Long War can be prevented. It may be unsustainable, a product of imperial hubris. Public opinion may tire of the quagmires and costs--but only if there is a commitment to a fifty-year peace movement.

   I'm not optimistic. B.F. Skinner, the influential founder of the cult of behavioral psychology, wrote, in essence, that wars were great things, that they were the ideal device for focusing the public's mind and manipulating mass behavior into making the huge sacrifices necessary to set the stage for the emergence of prosperity. Such notions seem to have been tempting to the military mind, and to the other centers of power that have managed the American machine for so long, Skinner's barbaric personal behavior and the failure of most of his theories to stand the test of time has not altered their allure, perhaps because barbaric behavior is at the heart of warfare, kinetic or economic, anyhow.
What is clear is that, with the technologies and media infrastructure of public manipulation used to gin up the Iraq debacle, any time a new villain is needed, one can be manufactured.

What I'm concerned with here is the overlooked relationship between the first shoe, and the long war, and I'll state my thesis simply:
The long war, behind it's newly spruced-up facade, is primarily a technique to discipline the American public to endure the hardships to come, to condition them to make the sacrifices required to defeat a non-existant enemy, in a war that will never end. It's that long-sought technology to manage the failure of the market theology, and much of doctrinaire capitalism.

Instead of replacing these things with ideas more workable in today's world, and since there seems to be no more easily plucked fruit on the American money tree, we will simply do some operant conditioning on the masses to alter their behavior into one of docile acceptance of a greatly lowered standard of living and reduced civil liberties, as we divert an ever-larger portion of our diminishing wealth into war.

Will it work?

There are two answers to this, I believe.
Yes, the American public will bow to this perceived existential threat, and eat beans and rice for the good of "The War Effort", and

No, it will not work.

Yes, Americans will buy it.
If the giveaway of untold trillions of tax dollars to a banking industry that was itself largely responsible for triggering the current financial catastrophe, while leaving millions of Americans unemployed, increasingly homeless and without medical care has not triggered a massive reaction from the American people, then nothing will. Does anyone out there see this massive reaction? Me neither. And,

No, it will not work.
Tom Hayden details the many holes in the whole thing, historic, strategic and tactical. But it's easy to sum up the reasons why it will not work.
It's a plan from a lost century, lost in the mists of time, a plan from pre-global warming, pre-peak oil, pre-resource stretch, pre-modern China and India. It's a plan based on profligate waste of both human life and the world's resources, a plan based on the assumption that it is our national right to commit waste on a global scale, a plan assuming we will have the power to force acquiescence to such policies on the world. None of this is true.
But it will take a while for this fact to become obvious to the cretins in charge. The Empire will thrash violently in it's last years.

Buckle on your skates.

Display:
I think that there is are new generations of the military - brought up on and in, the information age - who know perfectly well that the age of big metal, and baroque weaponry, is over.

Perhaps one of the most perceptive and radical thinkers in the UK military/MOD flew up and spent most of a day with solveig and I in connection with the future of a networked society, and its implications for military strategy.

It was a fascinating discussion (for us, anyway!) which arose out of a bout of concern (post Lehman) of the potential effects of economic collapse on a modern economy. Our friend said that the real wake-up call for the Powers-That-Be was the UK fuel protests, when refineries etc were shut in by lorry drivers, and the fragility of 'just in time' infrastructure became clear.

Also, at a conference I attended in Lausanne a few years ago re '"Economic Terrorism" (sponsored and convened by the US Dept of homeland security) there was recognition, for instance, that a few malicious people/economic terrorists seeding the US Mid West with foot and mouth virus constituted a colossal economic threat. Potential losses running to multiple billions, achievable, like 9/11, at minimal cost.

When I spoke re energy markets, there was no disagreement with my thesis in relation to the vulnerability of clearing houses etc as 'single points of failure' and my observation that the only difference between hedge funds and 'economic terrorists' is motive.

I believe that there is a window of opportunity to redeploy the military industrial complex to a different campaign - ie the survival of the planet - and that the enabling factor is pervasive direct instantaneous communication.


"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Wed Oct 21st, 2009 at 07:44:46 AM EST
The thinkers you spoke with are resident in a military culture that has at it's disposal a few percent of the cash shoveled into the pentagon's dumpster.
Perhaps budgetary hunger stimulates the brain.
I believe that there is a window of opportunity to redeploy the military industrial complex to a different campaign - ie the survival of the planet - and that the enabling factor is pervasive direct instantaneous communication.

That's a pretty provocative statement, Chris. I agree the potential to do great things would be there with a redirected military/industrial machine humming down the green highway, but--given this "pervasive instantaneous communication"-- then what? The military I know so well will think, first, how the enemy can jam it, then how to censor it, then how dissidents might use it to foment ---insurgencies.

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.

by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Wed Oct 21st, 2009 at 08:11:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
i've long believed the military would be useful for large greening projects. it would give them a sense of identity that's wider and more benign.

kinder, gentler killing machines.

who, when they're not 'needed' for enemy-disposal, can balance their karma by doing stuff that lil' folks can't on their own. tree planting, well digging, levee building.

keep them fitter than always blowing shit up, too.

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Wed Oct 21st, 2009 at 10:18:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
geezer in Paris:
and that the enabling factor is pervasive direct instantaneous communication.

In fact I left a lot out by putting it like that. Although cyberwarfare is definitely a growth area, I wasn't really referring to that.

I think that the changes in political economy which flow from globally networked markets and financial systems could lead to a mechanism which gives the military industrial complex a more 'profitable' area of investment. ie to turn swords to green ploughshares could well become the smart thing to do, economically.

It is energy shortage that will lead to a pull-back by the US, and ensure that no single dominant nation is in a position to project global power in the same way as the US, and the British before them.

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Wed Oct 21st, 2009 at 10:19:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The military I know so well will think, first, how the enemy can jam it, then how to censor it, then how dissidents might use it to foment ---insurgencies.

Construe "the military" to include "the security state" and I am certain that they are already monitoring the web in what they conceive as a very sophisticated manner.  They have, in effect, told us so. The fiber optic feeds go through splitters and one stream goes to NSA.  This came to light under B43.

At this point there is likely no point in doing more than just monitoring the sorts of discussions occurring on ET, Booman DKos, etc., but I am reasonably certain that such sites are characterized and categorized by multiple agencies. But there are severe limits on the amount of reasonably high level analyst time can be devoted to non-critical matters. But then what do we know of what others think is "critical."

So I chose just to "not let it bother me."  I believe I know approximately where the bounds of civil discourse are, and I know what are supposed to be my individual rights under the US Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, for whatever protections those may afford, and I attempt to remain within those as well.

Meanwhile I continue my feeble attempts at subverting the blinders with which we are provided by the conditions of our culture and society. A lot more people than some might expect are coming to see just how invidious to the interests of >95% of the population are the current power arrangements in the US and Europe and how detrimental to the welfare of that >95% majority are the policies that are directed to the benefit of the <1% minority.  I find that this is becoming apparent to store clerks, plumbers and other ordinary people I meet in Northern Arkansas.

I think those inside the D.C. beltway are also beginning to sense this.  Thus the Kabuki around the bailout bonuses and the threats to remove anti-trust exemptions for the insurance industry. The real question will be what they will do if and when it becomes obvious that relatively cheap gestures and the offering up of scapegoats is insufficient.

The 2010 mid-term elections are only 54 weeks away. The Masters Of The Universe may think that they have put the genie back in the bottle, but first they had to glue the bottle back together.  The system is unstable, non-linear and under stress.  If even a few of those with underwater residential mortgages decide to stop paying and gamble on the banks not being able to show title, that alone could bring the system down.

The MOTU and their nominees at the Fed and Treasury have accomplished a putative recovery by tossing the futures of most US citizens into the machine. The longer it goes, the worse the end will be.  How much longer can the levitation and manipulation continue? Until it doesn't, I suppose, and it will collapse rather suddenly.

On the bright side, at least we get to know how it feels to be a millenarian, waiting for The End. I think that The Long War, hubris beyond dreams of grandiosity, will likely be a lot shorter than the Iraq war--not because the US population will rise up against it, but because, when the next shoe drops, when the next down leg in the economy comes, it will be spectacular and the pretense that we can afford a Long War will be exposed for the folly it is. Should we attempt to wage it, that will accelerate the loss of global reserve status for the US Dollar.  Without that ace and without the support of solvent allies, how can we finance such a war?

The real dark side is the possibility that the current system could prop itself up for another 5-10 years, but for that to happen, the bad debt would have to be dealt with. It doesn't appear that that will happen any time soon, and wealth has become so concentrated that all that now remains is for the MOTUs to turn on each other. Trying to extract more money from the general population is coming to be like extracting gold from US Midwest topsoil. Have a nice time at the top of the pyramid, Goldman.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Wed Oct 21st, 2009 at 11:04:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
ARGeezer:
 The system is unstable, non-linear and under stress.  If even a few of those with underwater residential mortgages decide to stop paying and gamble on the banks not being able to show title, that alone could bring the system down.

But I'm sure that is a problem that can be solved by their pet Congress. I'd call it the They-Don't-Need-To-Show-Title-Because-We-Say-So-Act.
by generic on Thu Oct 22nd, 2009 at 06:41:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Hopefully, that would be blocked by those concerned with the popular vote next year.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Thu Oct 22nd, 2009 at 11:46:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
And fortunately, the markets and market perceptions move a lot faster than Congress.  If such a phenomenon emerged, the damage could be done before the act was passed.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Thu Oct 22nd, 2009 at 11:49:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Executive order?

En un viejo país ineficiente, algo así como España entre dos guerras civiles, poseer una casa y poca hacienda y memoria ninguna. -- Gil de Biedma
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Oct 22nd, 2009 at 12:01:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
One-term president.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Thu Oct 22nd, 2009 at 04:06:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Revolving door.

En un viejo país ineficiente, algo así como España entre dos guerras civiles, poseer una casa y poca hacienda y memoria ninguna. -- Gil de Biedma
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Oct 22nd, 2009 at 04:40:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The prospect of being a one term president might be the ONLY thing that could get Obama to get tough on the banks.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Thu Oct 22nd, 2009 at 08:19:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
  Behind some of my commentary--which in this case has been posted mainly at Booman Tribune rather than here, is the growing feeling that the Soviet collapse of almost twenty years ago now, may be a harbinger for the course that the U.S. political culture is on.

   If so, there may remain for the American public and the government an opportunity which the Soviet system and in particular the Russian public within it did not have, namely, the opportunity to grasp that a collapse is looming and that while it may not be prevented, it might be "controlled" or "directed" to occur in such a way as to minimize the social, economic and political devastation.  There are reasons to believe that the U.S. is better armed to manage such a controlled collapse than the Russians were simply because the Russians were faced with the failure of their system and its replacement by one which was still largely alien to them.  The people who made out best in the wreckage of the Soviet system were, predictably, those who were already adept at understanding and using the black market economy and playing both ends (the corrupted official government system, and the black market system, against a middle, which, with the ultimate collapse, vanished brutally and violently).

   What's involved, as I imagine it, is the Obama administration's (assuming things come "sooner" rather than "later" --and the sooner the better) recognizing (avowedly or otherwise) that the real best hope is for a managed collapse and reorganization to a post-19th century Robber Baron/Reaganite capitalist system to one which is something near a fully-fledged social-democratic state of the sort that are accepted as routing in Europe.  This would not mean the end of private property or of corporate power, but, if it's to be beneficial to the U.S. public, and, if it's to forestall the kind of Wild West chaos that the Soviets experienced, it would have to mean a very significant intervention by populist government into the completely putrid Corporate/State nexus in which the government simply legislates for the interests of top 1% of the nation's wealth holders.
 (See, in that regard, Working Paper N° 15408 from the National Bureau of Economic Research by Piketty, Atkinson and Saez, entitled, Top Incomes in the Long Run of History, at this link: http://www.nber.org/authors/thomas_piketty )

   When the Soviet system went down, its people didn't have a chance to escape widespread social disorder.  For the U.S. version of that calamity, there remains a chance to prepare and direct and minimize the damage, but, as I see it, no real chance to prevent the collapse coming in some form, and in a future that is harder and harder to imagine as being generations away.

 

"In such an environment it is not surprising that the ills of technology should seem curable only through the application of more technology..." John W Aldridge

by proximity1 on Wed Oct 21st, 2009 at 09:30:36 AM EST
 
more semi-related thoughts about conceptions of  'the other shoe'

 

    ...The two world wars, unstable booms, and the abysmal depression of our time have profoundly shaken national confidence in the future.  During the boom of the twenties it was commonly taken for granted that the happy days could run on into an indefinite future; today there are few who do not assume just as surely the coming of another slump.  If the future seems dark, the past by contrast looks rosier than ever; but it is used far less to locate and guide the present than to give reassurance.  American history, presenting itself as a rich and rewarding spectacle, a succession of well-fulfilled promises, induces a desire to observe and enjoy, not to analyze and act.  The most common vision of national life, in its fondness for  the panoramic backward gaze, has been that of the observation-car platform."...

    ..." Above and beyond temporary and local conflicts there has been a common ground, a unity of cultural and political tradition, upon which American civilization has stood.  That culture has been intensely nationalistic and for the most part isolationist; it has been fiercely individualistic and capitalistic.  In a corporate and consolidated society demanding international responsibility, cohesion, centralization, and planning, the traditional ground is shifting under our feet." ...    -- Richard Hofstadter, writing in the introduction to The American Political Tradition, January, 1948

    "Cracking at the seams" ?

    A broadly-shared idea of some common ideas within a sense of identity among Americans used to produce at least the impression that such an identity, whatever it was, whatever it meant, was real and something people could take for granted.  Since that time, the unifying sense of identity has suffered under the intense strains of bewildering technological change which took no account of it and often undermined it.  Today, a national identity not only seems to have vanished, it has become a challenge just to imagine what it must have been like when it existed.

    Today, Americans are deeply divided in their self-images and their beliefs about who they are (that is, their senses of identity), and who they should be and become; bound up in all that are the deep divisions over practical courses of action in dealing with the various pressing social and political problems of the day.  The markers which once served to provide generations of Americans with a shared idea of their place, their direction and their rate of progress (or regress) have largely disappeared and now little remains of a very generally valid and unifying experience of childhood and the passage from it to adulthood.  Looking around themselves today, Americans have little idea of how much and in what aspect their own experiences are known and understood and shared by their fellow citizens.  In its place has grown up a marked tendency to treat others as having a suspect claim on being real Americans.  It's difficult to say which was the larger influence on a growing and self-reinforcing development of these trends, the political, which fed into social habits, or, conversely, social habits which in turn brought on political trends which in their turn completed a self-reinforcing "loop" of cause-and-effect.  Whatever the case, a parting of the ways seems as well established within the social realm as in the political and these then tend to blur into one, making it difficult to see where social ills end and political ills begin.

    Part of what has seemed to crack under the strain for one side of the divided American identity is the abiding acceptance of what historian Richard Hofstadter described in the citation above, a culture which "has been intensely nationalistic and for the most part isolationist; it has been fiercely individualistic and capitalistic," is now no longer so uniformly so.    What's badly lacking, I believe, is a working sense of identity--supple enough to embrace a people who now are more diverse in origin, experience and self-conception than has been true of the society which lived up through the end of the first World War.  An old fashioned nationalistic identity, fierce and xenophobic in character and held rather defiantly against "the rest of the world" beyond the borders of the U.S. has been reduced to the property of only roughly half ---and the most politically reactionary and conservative half, at that--of the American public.  For the rest, there is deep doubt and unanswered questions about how to define their identity and about how to understand what that identity consists of specifically.  This reigning confusion has brought voids into relief and made room for people who always thought of themselves as thoroughly progressive and staunch defenders of civil liberties to openly hesitate over a former categorical opposition to violations of those rights, as for example, when they begin to think that there may be circumstances in which torture must be considered and perhaps even countenanced.  

    Somehow, some new and practically-useful sense of American identity which would foster and encourage freedom and openness, rather than the growing National Security State, which is a kind of short-hand for its opposite, must be fashioned and made effective.  But our social institutions are ill-equipped for this task and much about them---such as the atomized television and internet culture of mass media---work more against the formation of such a new and unifying identity than in favour of it.  In any case, whatever it is, it must come about "organically" rather than by some "canned" and forced process which resembles a Madison Avenue advertising campaign.  It cannot be imposed, it has to be felt sincerely.   Thus, what's needed has to come about through a truly free and consensual set social processes.  We can describe what we lack and what we need but we can't consciously engineer it in more than an indirect manner which proposes ideas which are found to be seductive in their appeal.


"In such an environment it is not surprising that the ills of technology should seem curable only through the application of more technology..." John W Aldridge

by proximity1 on Wed Oct 21st, 2009 at 10:51:31 AM EST
But our social institutions are ill-equipped for this task and much about them---such as the atomized television and internet culture of mass media---work more against the formation of such a new and unifying identity than in favour of it.  In any case, whatever it is, it must come about "organically" rather than by some "canned" and forced process which resembles a Madison Avenue advertising campaign.  It cannot be imposed, it has to be felt sincerely.   Thus, what's needed has to come about through a truly free and consensual set social processes.

If first causes are the aim-- a "felt sincerely"-- we're gonna have to wait a long time.
I've asked at least ten people here in France to help me understand the process whereby it became self-evident that health care is a human right, and the vast majority have only a sketchy notion. So it's almost inchoate.
Melancthon came closest with his excellent references, but the process whereby such consensus arises is tied deeply to a historical context, an educational process that is capable of producing readers who are also problem solvers, deep roots in a social history that not only allows protest and revolutionary behavior, but rationalizes the dialectic between mutuality-ccoperation, and individual analysis. We don't do that in North America.
My landlady once said the nemesis of France was a plague of meetings. What set her off was the building syndicate- the group of apartment owners who met several times a year to decide how to deal with mutual needs vis. thebuilding. Yet, the building was centuries old, and in prime shape.
We compete. We don't plan to stop. End of story.  

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.
by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Wed Oct 21st, 2009 at 02:31:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
 "I've asked at least ten people here in France to help me understand the process whereby it became self-evident that health care is a human right, and the vast majority have only a sketchy notion."

  That's a fascinating comment.  

  I think that there must surely be a very thorough body of academic work on the process of creating and transmitting phenomena that we're talking about here, social identities, national identities.  This surely involves much myth-making in it.  But the myths have to be sturdy enough to actually "do work", "carry a load" in a conceptual and imaginational sense.  When they no longer do that, when they fail, something quite vital is lost and that entails a real period of danger, of risk.  But these processes have been repeated over history.  The British weren't always British, the "Romans" weren't always an imperial power.  When they "became" these, they had to in some way fashion a sense of identity as being such, just as, before, during and after the American revolution, the colonists had to fashion one for a "people" (who before were "Virginians", or "Pennsylvanians," or "New Yorkers" but not "Americans of the United States of America" until later;  then, later, with Rome, when Rome fell, an identity had also to fall and be replaced by something else.  This will happen as a result of "facts on the ground."  But, I wonder if people who see that a former myth-set is no longer effective and a former identity-set no longer serves the social needs these mental constructions have to serve can in some way help the creation of a new conception.

  "We compete. We don't plan to stop. End of story."

  Nature and limits she carries inherently shall "stop us" "one way or another".  As the saying goes, "Things that can't go on forever don't."  So, "our plans" won't make a bit of difference to nature---and never did.  If we can't learn that lesson peacefully, it will be forced on us violently.  Of course, you know all that already, I'm just sayin'.

    Also, I'm more and more convinced that the perculiarly American version of the "Protestant Ethic", as well as B. Franklin's philosophy of thriftiness, so fiercely transmitted as a secular American religion throughout the social ranks---down, even, to today!, are, together, at or near the top of the worst social elements of American society, poisoning and infecting everything about the society as only the worst kind of cancer could do.  

  Our myths are exhausted, our identities no longer "work" and we are now as a society bewildered, trying to guess at what troubles beset us and coming up with little in constructive understanding.

"In such an environment it is not surprising that the ills of technology should seem curable only through the application of more technology..." John W Aldridge

by proximity1 on Wed Oct 21st, 2009 at 03:12:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
proximity1:
Our myths are exhausted, our identities no longer "work" and we are now as a society bewildered, trying to guess at what troubles beset us and coming up with little in constructive understanding.

To me that is a major opportunity: a vacuum to fill.

Our challenge is to create a new myth/narrative.

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Wed Oct 21st, 2009 at 04:44:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Absolutely!

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Wed Oct 21st, 2009 at 05:12:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]

  yes, it is an opportunity--- or certainly could be seen as such.  But, if it's not recognized, not seized, then it's an opportunity missed.

 

"In such an environment it is not surprising that the ills of technology should seem curable only through the application of more technology..." John W Aldridge

by proximity1 on Thu Oct 22nd, 2009 at 09:21:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
  "If first causes are the aim-- a "felt sincerely"-- we're gonna have to wait a long time."

  I don't think that's necessarily true.  Conceptions of identity might usually, often, develop over a period of years and decades but I don't think that this is necessarily the case.  Actual events which are momentous enough to alter broad publics' ideas of themselves can occur and produce influences in much shorter stretches of time.

  E.g.:  A war is lost or won, a currency collapses, a heroic breakthrough in a long-standing problem of domestic or international affairs, the restoration of an institution--one formerly thought definitively lost, the restoration of rights and freedoms which had either been suppressed or rendered de facto "dead letter", these can, with relative alacrity, alter notions of group identity by infusing or inspiring renewed faith, self-esteem, mutual good regard among differing groups previously disaffected, etc.

    An important part of what's been so badly degraded in society are these very aspects of faith, self-esteem, mutual good regard among differing groups previously disaffected.  When the political institutions whose respectable and dependable  operation underpins a people's belief in their political system's integrity are degraded, the consequences can be serious loss of faith, etc.  Conversely, the restoration of these same can contribute to a renewed or improved belief in one's political system and, by extension, a greater optimism, sense of self-esteem and improvements in things related to these.

   So, rather than exhorting people to "feel more optimistic," or to "have courage", "keep faith/hope alive", the practical course is to take effective actions which, when seen, broadly inspire these feelings without having to call for them.

   For these reasons, I believe it was a very serious and profound mistake for Obama to have, as he seems to have done, decided to "turn the page" on the Bush/Cheney years and the work of holding those in it responsible for their many and gross illegal acts, acts which dealt severe blows to the nation, to the public's sense of identity as a free, fair and just people, to the credibility of the conception of the United States as a democratic society.  It is not one, in fact.  But the Bush/Cheney tenure brutally made this fact manifest to many who had previously been able to sustain a belief in the myth of their society's democratic character.  To maintain such a faith today requires more than most people (other than the most die-hard conservatives) can muster in suspension of doubt or disbelief.

   If our identities and our myths have been made ineffective, that is large part because in the real waking world of daily life, actual events have revealed them to be, to have been for some time, even, empty of substance--and these revelations have come in ways that have been brutally shaking.

   When the WTC towers collapsed, the event in itself was not so much the world-changing event that many claimed.  Rather, it was a marker. For certain ways of belief, many held so unselfconsciously that they were hardly noted, the towers' collapse made the falsity of those beliefs suddenly and dramatically manifest and if they didn't fall with the towers, they fell in the hours, days, weeks and months which followed their collapse.  In fact, though, the processes long predate the events of that single day.

"In such an environment it is not surprising that the ills of technology should seem curable only through the application of more technology..." John W Aldridge

by proximity1 on Thu Oct 22nd, 2009 at 09:16:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Non-radical Behaviourism and the reverse-engineering of the 'Cognitive Revolution' are, imo, two polar views of the same problem.

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Wed Oct 21st, 2009 at 02:51:22 PM EST
Pray tell how.  I need to know!

European Tribune - The Other Shoe

Skinner's barbaric personal behavior

As someone who was drummed out of College for refusing to accept Skinner as Gospel and complete a course designed to prove the inviolability of his principles by applying them to the learning exercises on his course - I proved they didn't always apply - at the cost of my college place.  I could abide the implicit fascism.  But what do you know if Skinner himself?

notes from no w here

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Oct 21st, 2009 at 08:17:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Had I faced the same requirement I likely would have shared your fate, Frank.  My '70s characterization of Skinner's "approach" was: "A psychology whose resolution cannot distinguish between the behavior of a rat and a man, because it is incapable of rising to even the level of the rat is useless beyond rudimentary things."  He epitomized scientific reductionism at its worst--extending even to placing his own daughter in a "Skinner box" for warmth and nourishment!  A moral monster.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Thu Oct 22nd, 2009 at 12:15:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Skinner was a Radical Behavourist - which I specifically excluded ;-) There are many flavours of Behaviourism.

This story: Just what does make me 'me'?, illustrates the centre of the 2 polar views. (And I should point out Biological Behaviourists did not have access to imaging of 'under the skin' events).

Firstly the mathematician looking for himself comes to the same conclusion I have expounded here several times. That the conscious self is the result of complexity - multiple synchronous terminations of the various systems of the brain. I also add that the conscious self is 'after the fact'. i.e. it is the result of neural activity, not the cause of it. And that this neural activity is in response to external and internal stimulii that are "compared" to previous experience patterns.

Some of the results of this neural activity result in internal actions that are not visible, but may be detected by the owner of the body. Some result in visible activity, to observers, that can be called behaviours.

Behaviours emerge when the just active parts of a neural networks are reinforced. i.e. new dendritic connections are made with neighbouring neurons that were simultaneously firing (in a certain pattern of firing). This makes it more likely that the behaviour will be repeated in the presence of the same pattern of stimulii. It is this 'strengthening' that can feedback on itself, and turn into a learned behaviour disorder.

The mechanism by which external or internal 'modifiers' (biochemicals) 'switch on' this 'strengthening', and how they themselves are 'switched on' for release, is complex of course ;-)

In the case of endorphins, they are part of the opioidergic system and when released by the pituitary gland and hypothalamus, will enter receptors on neurons that are active, and 'switch on' the strengthening growth. The molecular shape of the endorphin fits exactly in the 'lock' of the receptor. Diamorphine 'happens' to share the same shape, but unlocks many more receptors, because their shape functions as a master key. The other hormones and hormone/transmitters do different things, but they all have a reinforcement role in different systems.

It is the 'reward' bit of the Behaviourist/Conditioning equation that was not understood by these practitioners. There is no 'reward' - there's simply a set of stimulii that activate a hormone or a transmitter release. Which leads to strengthening, which leads to a more predictable response, which equals behaviour.

But how the 'program' manages to metaprogram itself - now there's the question ;-)

<hides>

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Thu Oct 22nd, 2009 at 08:41:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's all done by the Metaprogrammer, of course!

notes from no w here
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu Oct 22nd, 2009 at 09:39:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Now don't go getting both of us in trouble...

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Thu Oct 22nd, 2009 at 09:53:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Must.

Restrain.

Self.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Thu Oct 22nd, 2009 at 01:03:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Robert Gates was in Japan last week, and China and Japan (and Korea and Australia and India) were at ASEAN together. Those two little news items tell you everything you need to know about the future.

In a diplomatic scuffle that threatens to reshape the U.S and Japan's warm relationship, the newly-elected Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) has delayed agreement on a troop accord with the U.S. The decision flies in the face of U.S. Defense Sec. Robert Gates, who has urged Japan to follow through on the agreement to reduce the number of American troops in Okinawa. Japanese officials want to move more troops off the island. Why? The political climate is changing in Japan, with the current ruling party swept to power promising less subservience to American interests.

http://www.theatlanticwire.com/opinions/view/opinion/Should-the-US-Military-Leave-Japan-1372

HUA HIN, Thailand, Oct. 25 (Xinhua) -- Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao was obviously more than delighted that he has been able to earn respect for China among its Asian neighbors at ASEAN-related summits.

Wen proposed strengthening regional cooperation among the ASEAN Plus Three dialogue partners to combat the global financial turmoil and the economic downturn, and made a number of pledges to increase China's support for the ASEAN countries, including raising the preferential part of a 15- billion-U.S.-dollar commercial credit by 5 billion dollars to hit 6.7 billion dollars.

China and ASEAN are set to launch the China-ASEAN free trade area on Jan. 1, 2010. It will cover a population of 1.9 billion and boast a combined gross domestic product close to 6 trillion dollars.


http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2009-10/25/content_12324735.htm
by asdf on Sun Oct 25th, 2009 at 02:45:49 PM EST


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