Sunday, 18 March 2018

A Sense of Proportion - Nuclear War and Feeling Secure

As we struggle to find the money for the National Health Service and we squabble over what should or not be paid out to Brussels (nothing in my view), there is another world of money out there that has nothing to do with Wall Street or the City of London. To get a feel for this economy, we must switch to the United States for a while.

On 23 February 2008, a US B-2 bomber crashed on the runway shortly after take-off from Andersen Air Force Base in Guam. The findings of the investigation stated that the B-2 crashed after "heavy, lashing rains" caused moisture to enter skin-flush air-data sensors. There were no munitions on board. With an estimated loss of US$1.4 billion, it was the most expensive crash in USAF history.

Yes, that's right - US$1.4bn sunk into one aircraft whose only function was to drop megatonnage on someone other than us. There are 20 B-2s in service with the United States Air Force (excluding the one written off) which plans to operate the aircraft until 2058, Each can deploy sixteen 2,400 lb (1,100 kg) B83 nuclear bombs.You can add up the sums deployed in any way you like but that is a lot of money, a lot of national infrastructure and a lot of healthcare and education costs.

With a maximum yield of 1.2 megatonnes of TNT (75 times the 16 kt yield of the atomic bomb "Little Boy" dropped on Hiroshima on 6 August 1945), the B83 is the most powerful nuclear free-fall weapon in the United States arsenal. About 650 B83s were built, and the weapon remains in service as part of the United States "Enduring Stockpile".

The cost of each B83 bomb is hard to calculate because one would have to take into account research and development, a cost which is spread amongst several items of mass destruction. According to the [US] Union of Concerned Scientists (note we are only talking about the B83 delivery system (the B-2's B83's could be replaced with yet another bomb, the B1): "It cost some $80 billion to develop and build 21 of these planes, or $4 billion per B-2 bomber, and the current life extension program will cost $10 billion. Each can carry up to 16 bombs, so the total cost of each deployed bomb would be roughly $270 million, taking into account its share of the bomber."

Whether these calculations are accurate or not, 21 B-2s each with 16 B83s (that is 336 B83s) are all utterly useless except to devastate another part of humanity or to maintain a 'theory' of deterrence that may or may not have worked for the last seventy years. Of course, other potentially opposing nations have a similar capacity though nothing near as big but still the total sum is formidable, far more massive in the US than elsewhere in the world.

The US hasn't actually built a new bomb since 1992 (as of 2013) and is spending money only on refurbishments of weaponry so perhaps the investment has been made and we should accept the bad investments as something that comes from another age. But now the ramping up of anti-Chinese and anti-Russian feeling by opposing camps in the US and of the latter in the UK raises once again serious questions about what we spend our money and why.

I am not even going to try and estimate total costs when the B2 and the B83 are only a part of the whole and just one unloaded bomber can wipe out $1.4bn of national wealth because of a few faulty sensors. But, before British readers get too smug at this colossal waste while America's built infrastructure crumbles and its inner cities remain sink-pits and it cannot provide even a basic free national health service (let alone the free education that we British have now lost thanks to that vile abortion of claimed Leftism New Labour), the UCS noted in 2013 that "the DOD also is modifying Trident submarine-based missiles—which initially cost about $100 million each—to extend their lifetimes at a cost of about $140 million apiece."

Now, this is my point. Every one of these expenditures was undertaken because elected representatives approved them, often in a bipartisan way and with minimal opposition. There have, of course, been concerns about cost and not only amongst elected representatives. Intelligent military men have themselves often wondered whether this has been the best use of resources, 

And yet, in every case, these measures passed without serious opposition as to principle through Congress (or Parliament) whether the majority were liberal or conservative (or Labour or Tory). The arguments for national resilience and peace are thrust aside in favour of what amounts to a massive gamble on not having to become genocidal maniacs in what would be as likely as not to be a futile revenge attack at best and a war crime beyond the achievement of Adolf Hitler himself at worst.

Ultimately, this is not some sinister plot by a cabal of miltaristic illuminati but is a democratic decision that results directly from your and my vote. When we vote in our standard party preference, we vote in people who will sign on the nod, or with minimal questioning as to purpose, vast sums of money that cannot be spent on economic infrastructures or on social issues or just be given back to the people. We ensure that we are complicit in the use of this weaponry since deterrence only works if there is general agreement that we can use this stuff. We really cannot blame the so-called elite - collectively we the people maintain this system. It would not exist if we did not approve it by our personal votes.

Try looking up what one single B83 bomb could do to a city of civilian men, women and children and be saddened at the implications of that complicity (we do not consider, of course, the Russians or Chinese to be any less complicit except that the Chinese people do not get to vote in the people who would do this although they probably would if they could). We have a global system here but all countries claim a mandate from their people, directly through a vote or indirectly through a Party mechanism.

So, every voter (where there is a vote) must genuinely believe in their heart of hearts that their country is at threat to a sufficient degree that vast sums must be diverted from socio-economic development and/or private resources and that it is reasonable for that threat to be dealt with by being prepared to immolate tens of millions of other human beings in a forlorn gamble that the machinery of death will never be needed.

I am not sure if this is right or wrong. I only know that it is ridiculous. Perhaps it is true that, without WMD, America and Britain would be like Carthage before Rome. Perhaps, on that basis, the massive and otherwise wasteful expenditure is worth while as is the gamble that it will never be deployed - that being wasteful is part of the game since its use lies in its not being used like some weird metaphysical game fit for continental philosophers.

I don't care. What I am interested in is the institutionalisation of paranoia, the preparedness to spend such vast sums on extreme possible events (like the vast sums spent on anti-terrorism activity that still can't stop a nutter shooting up a school), the unthinking acceptance of this state of affairs by the entire political class and the apparent inability of the voting population to see the levels of cost and, yes, again, the paranoia (which can be manufactured if necessary as we are seeing in London as I write) involved in giving up many social benefits, economic advantages and even personal wealth for what amounts to the mass embracing of a psychological neurosis - existential anxiety about the 'other' - without ever bothering to get to know or understand or compromise with that 'other' in an alternative strategy of 'peaceful co-existence'.

Imagine a world where those sums had made America and the UK wealthier and more socially secure and both had retained only enough firepower to cause sufficient harm while offering us resilient countries that would fight in the streets for their liberty if necessary. Macmillan in 1957 made a decision for budgetary reasons to drop a strategy of resilience for deterrence and he was not malign or even stupid in doing so. It had its logic but it was the logic of Aquinas - the building of an entirely logical system on a few basic false assumptions shared by everyone without further thought. Reagan too made strategic deterrence a platform and it helped to get him elected - his voters liked this system and simply wanted more protection through the futile 'Star Wars' programme.

Perhaps this is what it is all about. As with air power more generally ensuring that there are no body bags amongst the aggressors but only vaporised remains of civilians below, so these expenditures are really protection money paid by 'our' civilians. The people pay over to the 'racketeers' (the Crown or the Federal Government) the funds and, in return, the racketeers 'protect' them, not so much from the enemy but from the costs and risks of having to face the enemy themselves or becoming resilient in adversity.

Maybe that is the secret. Maybe WMD expenditures are much more 'snowflake' than we thought they were. Maybe they exist so that voters can pass over the difficult business of defending something worth defending because they have a stake in it but where they might risk personal hardship, death or injury (in taking that particular gamble over the response to the intentions and strength of an enemy) and thereby they give responsibility for the throw of that dice to an elite that then develops a bit of an economic interest in keeping the system going.

If I am right, then perhaps the people are using democracy just to offset responsibility and thought. In the wisdom of crowds, they are getting what they want. But what do they want? Maybe they simply do not want to think about these things. Maybe they want to hire people to do their thinking for them and to take on responsibility for the acts that might be necessary to survive. They prefer those acts to be separate from themselves under conditions where they do not have to make any choices rather than make choices that are existential. Democratic humanity, under this thesis, is existentially cowardly but not irrational.

The gamble on letting this protection money (aka wasted money) be spent on a system detached from their daily lives and responsibilities might be likened to the money they spend on entertainment - a distraction, an avoidance, an evasion. From this perspective, the gamble on the economy slowly dying in the future and social care and security collapsing or being inadequate in old age is set against the gamble not of the Russians declaring war but on what might happen to themselves if they declare war. But why would they prefer mass immolation? Do they think the 'other' would immolate them 'just for fun'? Has Hitlerism created an idea of the other's intent to general extermination as if we were Carthage-in-the-making?

The mutual immolation somehow looks less dangerous to voters (because it is chosen internally to be unimaginable as much as there is trust in deterrence as game theory) than a resilience strategy when voter resilience is already being tested to the limit precisely by that lack of economic resource and social security in everyday life that might (if they but thought about it) be resolved with massive savings on WMD delivery systems. But something else may be going on here.

For democratic humanity, a simple immolation of the civilian men, women and children of the other side is infinitely preferable to facing them directly in battle. Perhaps they know that they are now flaccid and weak. Perhaps middle class Americans know that the Viet Cong drubbed them because the Viet Cong were not flaccid and weak. Air power then proved fruitless and probably will again. Sometimes I think the admiration for Israel is such a projection - by supporting a people that is resilient and not flaccid and weak, its supporters perhaps think that this makes them strong. Of course, it does not. This is the mentality of nations used to watching screens and not doing things.

The existence of air power allows the democratic human to feel as if he was in control, as if he could win at no cost to himself ... and it is that feeling of control and misplaced hope that has one central purpose - the alleviation of anxiety. In the end, these vast expenditures are, perhaps, a pharmaceutical, an anxiety-relieving drug, more than they are even a protection racket. People simply do not want to have to think about these things because these things make them anxious. A big abstract anxiety (global immolation) is much easier to cope with than the anxiety of taking responsibility in a resilience-driven society.

Still you vote these people in every time, you cowards. Thank you for that. I feel so much more secure now ... 

Sunday, 25 February 2018

Should I Apologise For This Posting? Sex & Power in the Modern World

One of the weirder aspects of our current culture is the ritual abasement of alleged wrong-doers, usually in the form of a forced apology on the advice of 'PR consultants'. My interest relates to something Jordan Peterson has raised. I am not an enormous fan of his total vision which is, in my opinion, flawed in several respects - the stoicism, the concentration on judaeo-christian values, Jungian archetypes and an over-deterministic biologism create the very model of an ideology, a trait that he claims to abhor in others. Or am I unjust and that these traits are those of his followers who have managed to miss his point about ideology? Wherever his new-found popularity leads, he is a reasoned debater with a thoughtful stance on life and he undoubtedly has insights on gender relations which are 'controversial' but none the less on the right side of the game.

His thesis (which is most observable at the point where a new cultural hegemony emerges and displaces another) is that politics is an expression of personality traits. Because sexual difference results in the emphasis of different personality traits (so much, so scientific) in the genders, shifts in the power between genders mean that the personality traits associated with the rising gender began to be valued and then affect discourse and practice under the new order and at the expense of the falling gender.

The narrative of psychopathy (where psychopathy is culturally widened to include a lot of normal male behaviour that does no harm) being 'bad' and empathy (even where an excess of empathy can be as harmful as full-on sociopathy in terms of adequate social functioning) is just one signifier of a cultural change that can be traced to a recent shift of values from the falling masculine to the rising feminine. This has been happening with gathering pace over the last three decades or so, reaching its crescendo in aggressive reaction of now-hegemonic liberals to the insurgency of democratic populism.

All talk of Jungian archetypes here is so much displacement although it is a useful poetic tool for describing what is happening. For actual causes, we have to turn back to a brute materialism. The bottom line lies not only in that women are now voters conscious of being voters as women (though this is exaggerated in its effects) but in the far more important fact that most purchasing decisions for most consumer goods, especially repeat purchases, under late liberal capitalism, are made by women,  Women also take an important role in many male purchasing decisions. Male-dominated corporations have recognised this. They have realised that the huge increase in educated women allows them to tap into this economy more effectively and that single women are also very likely to throw their energies into their work as expression of meaning far more than most men for whom the work is likely to be 'just a job'.

New centres of power have emerged in the corporate sector for women - notably human resources and marketing - just at that point when a particular form of education has introduced an ideology of empowerment for women (feminism). Peterson himself points out in addition that men have withdrawn from the universities and media relative to women so that we can see how the high ground of culture, combined with the entry of women into politics, has created a new female cultural domination where the next stage is a demand for 'gender equality' - which really means a demand that educated middle class women dominate the institutions that hire them in such numbers.

These are just facts on the ground. Economic change has not only shifted political power increasingly towards women (even if this is not yet fully equalised) but it has shifted cultural power in such a way this cultural change is working at a faster pace than the political change that will follow. In general men are giving up on politics but also on culture, the universities and the media where culture is manufactured. The fact of democracy is their last bastion against the possibility of total manipulation by a new administrative elite made up of educated women and the male elements in the 'capitalist' and 'managerial' classes who understand the profit in this revolution or who simply go with the flow of history. The dislike of democracy in liberal circles lately is perhaps a recognition of democracy's 'last fortress status' against ideology.

It is as a result of all this that the personality traits associated with women are becoming culturally dominant. Peterson's concerns are not that these personality traits are not good (rather they are just facts on the ground that come with any increase in power for women) but that we are replacing one imbalanced cultural arrangement with another (male personality trait dominance with female personality trait dominance), that this is creating the potential for the same sort of violent tensions that the first imbalance did - and that this has triggered a populist revolt which also happens to appeal to many 'conservative' women.

For this is an important point, the educated middle class feminism of the new world is deeply presumptuous in its claim to represent all women much as many men are linked by interest and sentiment to the new world of empowered middle class women. This is not a line that separates one gender from another in reality but one that separates two types of personality trait with different expressions in men and women (and which inter-mix with many other traits and histories which ultimately result in all individuals being unique even if they insist on then recombining into tribes and ideologies).

These thoughts were initially triggered by an article in the most recent British Psychological Society's Digest, "Flowers, Apologies, Food or Sex? Men's and Women's Views on The Most Effective Ways To Make Up". This article has one line that tells us that there may be a connection between general female personality traits (though we must make the central point here that these are general traits that differ considerably between women and may be part of the personality type of many men as well) and the emergence of female cultural power in the West - "... women thought their partner apologising or crying would be more a more effective way for their partner to make up than did the men."

Now, observe what happens in a scandal today and then compare it with 50 years - the insistence on apologies and the showing of remorse. The male instinct is that when something is done that is wrong, then apologies and emotion are relatively irrelevant - what is necessary is change in actual behaviour and restitution or recompense with what the wronged person wants (usually sexual relations in the case of men apparently, and there is nothing wrong with that if it is just a desire and there is no question of anything other than consent).

The female instinct is to ignore all that and demand an emotional submission and a change in language (which is symbolic for an expected if unverifiable change in thought). Showing emotion while using submissive language is a near-guarantor that the change of heart is 'sincere'. What the man thinks is important to most women whereas what the woman thinks is less important than what she does to most men. One trait finds security in knowing other minds (which can tend to household totalitarianism) whereas the other trait finds security in 'obedience' and 'compliance'. Again, this is not necessarily reflective what women and men actually do or think but is only what 'gender norms' imply as personality traits become dominant or submissive in society.

If some women might find a sexual act to be a demeaning as a means of recompense, bluntly many men consider a forced apology to be equally demeaning. In both cases, if freely given out of love and respect, there is no issue but if forced out of an imbalance of power or some form of household act of terror (such as 'not speaking'), then there is broadly an equivalence of distaste for what is being forced on the 'loser'. Sexual coercion for women and psychological coercion for men are pretty equivalent in terms of their damage to personal autonomy. The wife-beater and the persistent nag are actually perfectly equivalent when one takes into account of the nature of the victim of the act. Our society tends to recognise the first as problematic (which it is) yet willfully ignore the second as equally problematic.

The female instinct is encapsulated in the Catholic confessional where absolution comes from a verbal formula and then a 'change of heart' yet public policy at the same period of male 'dominance' through the institution of clerical power in society was rarely interested in such things. The paradox of priestly male dominance is that this interlocutor with God is, in effect, a eunuch - cruelly one might say, like many urban liberal middle class males. 'Patriarchal culture' co-existed with 'matriarchal culture' (a fact conveniently forgotten by feminists) but was not formally ideological or totalitarian (although matriarchal culture could be totalitarian within the household as patriarchal culture could be within the court). Male culture just wanted material compensation and simple submission to superior power by dint of language and acts without emotion. The formal act of obeisance is not an apology but something else.

Male dominance strategy was more interested in brute power relations rather than (primarily) control of culture even if Power did control culture through the court. Instead of a celebrity apologising for an abusive act in order to placate female consumers of entertainment products and then be obliged to show emotional regret in order to continue to be able to work, the traditional  'male' response would be to bring that person to justice for a crime but ignore the act if it was not a crime. This latter stance is, of course, now unacceptable - a wrong act is now deemed wrong, whether a crime or not, in a return to a modern version of clerical moralism. Shame (and guilt) are policing methods that are embedded in the community because they have been imposed from outside by the agents of the dominant culture.

The community itself rarely polices these issues today. It has become a matter of public discourse through newspapers, broadcasters and social media. Since the funeral of Princess Diana and Blair's calculated use of emotion to appeal to feminine and media sentiment, emotional responses to events have been manufactured from above as weapons or tools in cultural warfare by ideologically-motivated groups. The vigils surrounding the death of Jo Cox, MP were a perfect example of such manipulation, closer to Goebbels' distasteful (even to Hitler) manipulation of the killing of Horst Wessel than to any reasoned consideration of what to do about rare cases of lone fascist fanatics.

Charlie Brooker's 'Black Mirror' series has several excellent satires on this culture of manipulation but he still looks at it from within his own class, blaming the lumpen mass for its reactions and weakness rather than investigating the ideological manipulation of emotion in a competition between factions within elite groups. All elite groups now engage in this use of emotion as communications tool or weapon and not just the cultural Left. The cultural Left is perhaps simply more adept at it because they have an ideological framework for it.

Ignoring a wrong is, of course, unforgivable (perfectly reasonably) for women where the structures of power have not created the means for 'bringing to justice'. This may be the core of the problem here. After all, many solutions to alleged female abuse would require a legal system that was so intrusive on normal male behaviour (in order to catch truly errant male conduct) that men would live under a regime similar to that of 'The Handmaid's Tale' but under female domination. What is required is a balance of interest between the genders that lets individuals flourish as they are and has rules on lack of consent and bullying but creates a grey air of private life where individuals are allowed to congregate with those that are like them without wider community intrusion. The new warrior liberalism is like the old conservative authoritarianism in that it constantly expands its territory to fill a vacuum, like any empire. It is, in this respect, culturally oppressive even as it raises issues that must be raised - especially regarding the ignorant behaviour of some men to some women.

Western society resolved this in the past through somewhat hypocritical 'codes' outside the law, using shame (or guilt) but these are no longer possible and in any case were oppressive towards those women who were not 'inside the code system' by choice or lack of resources. The Irish Catholic Church's treatment of women 'outside the codes' is a lesson in pure evil. We have not found the way forward yet but it probably lies in 'values paganism' re-instituting 'codes' that permit autonomy and free speech, rewards those who show respect to others in the context of an ideology of self respect and punishes all forms of coercion (ideally, including unlawful state coercion).

We are moving here towards wanting a culture of 'good manners' for private life within a framework of law that punishes severely evidenced wrong-doing (essentially any form of unlawful coercion of the individual). Needless to say, this must include tools for the gathering of evidence and strong and impartial law enforcement. The DPP's recent behaviour in relation to alleged male rape trials was a moral disgrace but women are right to want a debate on the boundaries that dictate the correct behaviour between men and women - a debate which, if undertaken openly and reasonably, might come up with some uncomfortable conclusions for both genders as to their conduct 'in the field' and the necessity for creating social rather than legal solutions to the problem of consent.

This strategic difference between a society in which either male or female personality traits shift from private life to public policy and dominate the whole is fascinating. The shift to female personality trait dominance explains our new cultural elite's determined drive for apologies and that industry of PR people who trot out the need to apologise (rather than make restitution and be subject to material containment) in order to 'salvage' reputation. The person who apologises then has to go into the wilderness and claw their way back if they can (without any real attempt at justice), perhaps on their knees in penance for crimes that may or may not have been evidenced. The new argument that the 'victim' must be believed throws out of the window not only certain standards of jurisprudence but disallows both malice and false recollection in good faith. And yet we all know that, just as some claims are false, other claims are true and cannot be proven so that a moral injustice has been done when nothing can be done.

Social change is thus not effected by a reasoned consideration of how to change laws and regulations to deal with moral injustice but by 'exemplars' - much as medieval Churchmen dealt in exemplars to guide their flock. Regulation and law try to follow, usually finding that things are a lot more complicated than the ideologists think. Alleged wrong-doers are judged not by judges in accordance with the law but by a sort of Salem-like community of social media and mainstream media witches who are uninterested in investigation of the actual truth of claims or with context. This is dark stuff.

'Justice' is offered as a form of communitarian assault on the errant individual but it is increasingly based not on cool and fair assessment of the equality of the genders in their rights to self discovery and self creation but, in fact, on one simple truth - female voters and consumers can dictate terms to the mostly male elites who run the productive end of capitalism and who probably know their days are numbered. However, let us be clear, when this goes wrong, this is not all women judging some men but some women, the educated liberal middle class elite component of the gender, seeking out some men and judging them as representative of all men. This is no different from a minority of male priests seeking out and judging a few women and making claims about the whole sex - which is what happened 500 years ago, more recently in backwaters like Ireland.

Justice as the rational business of formal complaint to enforcement authorities involving courage on the part of the complainant and then the necessary procedures to judge truth or falsehood on the evidence is abandoned as (in effect) 'patriarchal'. The problem is that 'male' courage is socially created - courageous women obviously exist and most men are cowed by power but it has been historically far harder for women to adopt the risks of a courageous stance. Woman are thus often disadvantaged by the ideology of courage as are all vulnerable people in certain social conditions. Justice is not justice if it is not just and there are justifiable reasons for concern that our legal and regulatory systems lag our understanding of the primacy of networked human autonomy in a culture of equals rather than as a hierarchical structure of competing elites embedded in the past.

Those who feel wronged are probably right that they have to fight to get noticed in a society that ignores them until they get noisy and emotional - child abuse victims are the obvious recent example - but they are playing a flawed game in a flawed system. The real requirement here is to unravel the hierarchical elite-based system and replace it with something that starts with a reasoned understanding of what we are really like and not what ideologists think we should be.

There are reasonable arguments that 'justice' has not caught up with the needs of women but it has also not caught up with the needs of fathers or polyamorists so the problem is more widespread than feminist theorists think - it is a problem of the inappropriate parts of Iron Age ideology and industrial social structures being retained while the appropriate parts have been jettisoned. It is a problem of society not being in tune with the actually existing human condition.

This is a new world that is coming and yet it has now spawned its own resistance because not all women share a belief in the necessary extension of the traits attributed to them (such as the apology and grovel being sufficient) into the public domain (while wishing to retain them in the private domain). These 'conservative' women match in numbers the 'liberal' men who have calculated on moral and pragmatic grounds that 'equality' just means that the old order is dead and that they have to find a place in the new order.

We all chuckle when some liberal metropolitan male supporting the new order gets caught out as an 'abuser' (even if this means little more than some crass language or a blundering touch) just as we have always chuckled when some Southern Baptist Minister gets caught out in 'cheating' but both breeds of men have allowed ideology to conquer the reality of their condition which is as creatures of ideology. Both men are often subject to disproportionate witch hunts as exemplars of wrong-doing within their community. All men become 'rapists' to their critics in one world and all churchmen are hypocrites to their critics in the other world - both propositions are absurd. A better truth is that neither sets of men have the courage to be who they are and yet show the rest of the world respect. They have become stupid because they are cowards, unable to live their lives as the persons that they are because history and ideology have dictated personae that drown their true selves. The same has applied to women stuck in households and then humiliated when they escape release in a love affair.

The point is that the human condition (and society is just the public expression of the human condition) requires respect for all human traits, for difference and for variability (which is incidentally another sound point made by Peterson) This includes many other traits, whether libertarianism or authoritarianism or empathetic or (non socially harmful) psychopathic traits, as much as the traits that tend to show difference between men and women because of their biochemistry and brain structures (a difference which science accepts as partially true without drawing any valuation conclusions in relation to the principle of equality).

Our society is rapidly spinning into another round of disaster to match that when male personality traits dominated over female personality traits. You cannot exterminate the 'other'. The key issue here is a fundamental respect for personal autonomy. Autonomy emerges out of each individual's very particular model of perception, cognition and biochemistry as well as history. The uniqueness of the individual is our starting point. From there, comes respect for others and (which is where brute males fall down but also authoritarian female household matriarchs) consent. Indeed if two people want to do anything, no matter how distasteful to others, in private, or to speak of it (since free speech and struggle between persons through robust persuasion are central to the good society) then it is no one's business but their own.

So back to the apology. There is nothing wrong with the apology as either sincere expression of regret or perhaps as tactical tool to end a fruitless squabble while considering one's position (yet is it ever really healthy to apologise for something that you feel you have no need to apologise for?!). But there is a lot wrong with the public institutionalisation of the apology to meet communitarian needs that have nothing to do with the job in hand and force people into modes of submission which actually change nothing, Indeed, the public apology is often little more than cover for a decision not to resign and not to make recompense. It is not embedded within a culture of honour as in Japan where both apology and resignation are carefully encoded within a shame culture with a long history.

An apology in Western culture is simply a response to an assault, an act of obeisance on feminine lines. All an apology of this sort may do in our culture is to trigger the imposition of yet more oppressive rules and regulations that may benefit a certain type of woman in a certain situation but which may limit the lives and opportunities of other women and degrade relations between the sexes. There is no thinking-through of the problem that was demonstrated by the act that required the apology.

We should have more considered explanations to hand, more justice (evidence-based dealing with claims), more resignations, better laws and better law enforcement and fewer apologies and far fewer restrictions on free speech and normal human interaction. We should have more honour and good manners. We should pre-empt the bitter onslaught of an insane social media-driven witch hunt with better education on consent and respect. Our entire culture is in danger of becoming supine before just one personality trait and just one ideology (feminism) just as, in the 1930s, it became supine before another personality trait and another ideology (fascism).

Saturday, 6 January 2018

Philosophy & Magical Thinking

The philosopher R. G Collingwood took magic seriously as something that was inappropriately judged in scientific terms. It was best judged alongside art as a craft with ends in view that involved the arousing of emotion. He was deriving his notion of magic from the anthropology of his day but what he was trying to say in the round was that magical thinking and practice were not 'primitive'. It was just another way of seeing the world and engaging with it that was perfectly functional within its own cultural frame of reference. It is on emotion that he is most interesting:
" ... although magic arouses emotion, it does this in quite another way than amusement [which Collingwood associates with Art]. Emotions aroused by magical acts are not discharged by those acts. It is important for the practical life of the people concerned that this should not happen; and magical practices are magical precisely because they have been so designed that it shall not happen. The contrary is what happens: these emotions are focused and crystallized, consolidated into effective agents in practical life. The process is the exact opposite of a catharsis. There the emotion is discharged so that it shall not interfere with practical life; here it is canalized and directed upon practical life." [R.G. Collingwood, The Principles of Art, Oxford, 1938, p.67]
This is interesting because we see this contrast all the time in observing people in their relations with significant others. We also note what happens when emotion is stunted and people are trapped in an addiction to emotional states (the weekly marital argument, the addiction to the state of love, anger at the same thing every time without moving forward).

High emotions seem best directed as either catharsis (an explosion that rewires the brain or moves a person on from one state to another) or channeled, within a context often ritualised in all but obvious name, in order to let the emotion change the world in which the person lives by permitting the conditions for action or change.

One model changes the person (or forces behavioural change on the target of the emotion which may, of course, be mere bullying) and the other transforms the social and cultural, possibly material (but the jury is out on that one) world in which the person has to survive. Both are evolutionarily honed on organism survival. The explosion of emotion forces change in the world in others or in oneself while the sublimation or channeling of emotions manipulates others or one's sub-conscious into desired outcomes.

From this perspective, magic (the channeling process) is as efficacious in its way as doing art, experiencing art or undertaking psychotherapy or religious practice and more effective than science in some contexts (changing the social and cultural conditions we live in) while less effective than science in others (changing the material conditions in which we live).

Science-based politics always fails because magic-based politics will always beat it in an open struggle for hearts and minds as much as magic-based construction will see buildings fall and planes drop out of the sky. Magic will certainly not allow a man to fly despite the claims of yogis and certainly not with the efficiency of modern technologists but it will allow him to cope with, manage or exploit the social and cultural changes created by a world in which people can fly by other means.

Collingwood is not advocating that magic is real insofar as some claim that it can change material reality - there is still no evidence for this and unlikely to be any evidence at any time soon. Magic is only real insofar as it affects psychological reality which is, in fact, the reality that most accords with the really lived lives of most people in the world. Most people use technology and take it for granted but few understand it. It may as well be magical for all the actual comprehension of the science behind it.

At the outer reaches of physics and cosmology, science goes so far beyond perceived reality that its reality looks a lot more magical (although ultimately based on logic, mathematics and observational experiments) than magic does to the mind who has not simply decided to 'believe' in science (a most reasonable belief but still, for most people, a matter of faith rather than knowledge).

Magical thinking is anti-thinking from the inside outwards, constructing reality from the self, the consciousness that is embedded in material reality and is capable of flying shaman-like at any time it wishes. This is opposed to scientific thinking which is reasoning of the outwards world undertaken inwardly.

Eventually scientific thinking ends up following its own logic into mysteries that bend reality and magical thinking ends up following its own logic into realities that bend if not materiality, then society and its workings on materiality.

Science gives us the tools but magic enables us to use the tools by triggering our emotional commitment to a purpose for which the tools have a use. The magical process is an operation on 'morale' - one's own and that of others as manipulation. It is why propaganda, PR and the totalitarian cultural forms of late capitalism are 'magical'.

It is also why magical operations can construct true selves (despite the post-modern nonsense that there are no selves because rational thinking says there are no selves) that flourish regardless of social norms, far more effectively that psychotherapy's attempt to adapt the individual to society and creating a working norm that is healthy within that framework.

The shaman is often indistinguishable from the modern psychopath but his context makes him different. Our 'normal' magical rituals often have a social context that removes their efficacy because the total system disrespects the mobilising power of emotion except as manipulation from above (which has incidentally 'conceptualised' and commercialised art, its sibling, out of existence).

When the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia can buy Da Vinci's 'Salvator Mundi' for $450m simply to establish his modernising credentials and shock his culture into compliance with a new ideology, then art is effectively dead and magical thinking rules.

Magical operations are all around us, operating every day in our lives. The late Marxist attempt to theorise rationally about these operations in nonsense terms such as 'objectification' and 'commodification' utterly misses the point that rational, political manipulation of emotional content must always result in a logical dark magic to maintain emotional balance. Populism's rise was inherent in the manipulations of late liberal capitalism and predictable.

Earlier Marxists would not have used this language but they would have understood the point better ... the decadence of Marxism as it got captured by the middle classes is one of the tragedies of our time. Early Marxists would have seen each magical operation in society as a thesis calling forth by its very nature its own antithesis. Successful magical operations incorporate their own antithesis into their workings to that synthesis is part of what the operation is intended to effect.

A true magician would have understood Newton's "For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction" to be as applicable to his world as that of the physicist - a lesson not understood by the dark master magician Adolf Hitler and certainly not understood by contemporary pseudo-scientific materialists who take no account of a huge swathe of matter that is ignored because it cannot yet be weighed - the magical minds of men and women.

The human mind is essentially magical. Rationalist liberals hate this and want our minds to be scientific but, if they were, we would not then be human. Just as the fact of a rough 15% of the population (like me) being completely irreligious does not remove the fact of the species being, on balance, religious in its spiritual or communitarian senses (horrified as I am by what this means) so only a minority of humans are purely rational actors and there is no earthly reason why they should expect to rule over others who think in different and equally efficacious ways.

Indeed, just as the fanatically religious and the atheist, the asexual and the polyamorous, have more adjustment problems with social reality than the general majority of humanity, so the radical rationalism of futurist technologists and the lifestyle magicians are faced with the same near-outsider status. Fortunately, most people are sufficiently rational to have faith in science and sufficiently magical to run their own lives effectively in the world the scientists have made.

Anyone who wants to understand themselves and the world and to know how to manipulate the reality created by the rationalists has to learn to become a magician. This does not mean dressing up in a dark cloak and leaping naked on the Seal of Solomon shouting the names of 10,000 demons. That's just fun but probably a bit of a waste of time magically speaking.

It simply means isolating the will from the world and applying it to what you want rather than what other people have told you that you must want and then finding the techniques that tap into the enabling (usually emotional) sub-conscious, stripping away layers of social patterning in order to find out what is under there, how it can relate most effectively to 'reality' and then bending self and reality through will to create a new functional reality within oneself or as a re-patterning one's relationship with others.

The supernatural does not need to exist to make magic work but its pretend existence itself can become a tool or weapon in the process of self and social construction. But bear in mind that you are always up against 6 billion or so other natural magicians, all creating their own reality out of the material to hand. Some of those will be your enemy (snowflakes, religious fundamentalists and radical feminists are mine) because their reality must place constraints on yours.

In practice, all magical thinking is struggle for social and personal survival in which the dangers are obvious - you lose or, worse, you win, and don't stop there but try to go beyond survival to domination. And that is where every action having its own reaction comes in. The Wiccans have it right with 'Do What Thou Wilt an Harm No One' since 'bad magic' (as one A. Hitler found it) will come back to bite you because of the eventual opposition it creates. To live long and prosper, there is only ever 'white magic' ...