Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Progressively speechless

Redefinition is a major tool of propaganda: changing the meaning of words, in even subtle ways, can remove their potency or redirect them toward the agendas of power. 

Corporate marketing plays no small role in this process: Autonomy is a software company; Anarchy is a deodorant fragrance.

Monday, October 29, 2012

An anti-civ poem to start the week

A reduction in magnification,

and the rush-hour traffic becomes a sprawling
colony of internal combustion parasites,
insatiable insects with gas-pump
proboscises caught in a repetitive motion
daily back-and-forth
ritual two-step
following the genetic commands of an unseen queen,

a deadly planetary infection,
a pox human
raising puss-swollen lumps of landfill and
cities like a scaly contagious rash:
global warming fever blisters.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Increasingly brainless

Science is frequently employed as the poster child for civilization. The findings of empirical science are typically converted into corporate propaganda long before they enter general circulation. And some findings, specifically those that are radically inconsistent with the idea of civilization as a mode of human progress, are ignored into obscurity. 

Consider the data showing that the human brain has been shrinking over the last dozen millennia. Specifically, the volume of the average male brain is 1350cc today as compared to 1500cc 20k years ago (a whopping reduction of 10%). To the extent that brain size is a marker of intelligence, this would seem to suggest that civilization emerged only after humans were dumbed down relative to their pre-Neolithic counterparts.

One explanation links reduced brain size to increased population density and the need to curb aggressive behavior. With people living in closer quarters, aggressive behavior became increasingly maladaptive, so the theory goes. Since aggression tends to increase with age, one way for nature to decrease aggressive behavior is to slow down maturation (a process called neoteny). The gradual juvenilization of the adult population was brought about by selective pressures that led to the retention of child-sized brains into adulthood. So, not only did we become dumber as a species, we became more childlike as well.

Unfortunately, the capacity for lethal aggression is not the only characteristic that increases with maturity.

Where is the idea of civilized progress in all of this? Easy, according to the scientist/propagandists: our brains are smaller now, but they are also far more efficient!

Nice try. 

While there is ample evidence to support the immaturity hypothesis, there is absolutely no evidence that a decrease in brain size was accompanied by a concomitant increase in processing efficiency. It is likely that a Paleolithic human transported to our time would consider our wisest elders to be emotionally immature children, and look upon our "advanced" civilization as some kind of bizarre magical nursery for mentally retarded infants. 

Monday, October 22, 2012

A debate, but little distinction

In foreign policy the choice is between an Obamination or a Mittpocalypse, a choice between intensified psyops and drone attacks (both foreign and domestic) or an Arab spring turning to a nuclear winter.  There are several children in Pakistan and Afghanistan and Yemen and Somalia and Iraq to whom it makes no difference whatsoever. Their future has already been set: vaporized in the name of corporate greed.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Targeting the symptoms

If technology is causing the problem, then the solution is not more technology. But the global corporate machine establishes the rules of engagement, so all problems are essentially ones of implementation—literally a result of not having the right implements.

If global warming is being caused by too much industrial CO2, then the industrial process needs to be retooled in a way that leads to a slower increase in CO2 production. (And where retooling would cut too deeply into the corporate bottom line, propagandists stand at the ready with bullshit ideas like "clean coal.")

If bees die because of exposure to plants that have been genetically modified to produce their own pesticide, then we need to modify the plants further so they don’t need bees.

If factory agriculture leads to nutritionally deficient food, then we need to consume artificial supplements. If consuming factory farmed and genetically modified food causes cancer, then obviously we need to develop better cancer treatments.

And when the human psyche begins to buckle under the pressure of its industrialized burden, we have supportive "emotional technologies" such as psychotherapy, 12-step programs, and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors.

When we catch a cold virus, it is the symptoms that we are most concerned with. The coughing, sneezing, fever, and physical discomfort are how we know we are infected. But the symptoms are not produced by the virus, they are produced by the body in response to the virus. The symptoms are the body’s natural defenses—and a sign of a healthy immune system. Increased mucus production is the body’s way of removing virus-infected tissues from throat and nasal passages to the stomach where they can be destroyed by digestive acids. Fever is the body’s attempt to overheat the temperature-sensitive virus. Commercial cold treatments target the symptoms and not the virus itself. Ironically, over the counter cold medication, by reducing the symptoms, actually works in favor of the virus by interfering with the body’s natural defenses.

Two things that we should take from this: first, that the true target might not be what we think it is, and in order to see this it is necessary to look below the surface; second, that if we don’t look below the surface we run the risk that the most obvious "treatment" might actually make things worse in the long run. 

Power carries an additional risk. The power to alleviate a few of the surface symptoms can mislead us into thinking that we understand the problem. Because we can devise a technological solution to a problem does not mean that the problem was caused by the lack of appropriate technology any more than headaches are caused by a lack of aspirin.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Anarchy, authenticity, and the technology of authority

As a rebuttal to those who would insist that some form of government is necessary, that we need systems of authority and coercive control, I would ask two questions: first, what, exactly, do we need these systems of authority for? And second, who is “we”? 

Systems of authority are necessary requisites for any technology beyond simple tools and crafts. Authority is necessary for any technology that involves division of labor and specialized knowledge—at a bare (and rare) minimum to serve a coordinating function, and usually to impose “divisions” of labor that force some people into undesirable stations—somebody has to work in the mines.  So without highly oppressive systems of authority underwritten by lethal coercion, we could never have computers or automobiles or professional sports. 

But, and here’s the clincher, since most of our goals and purposes are—through reverse adaptation—being generated by technology itself, without authority and the technological order that it supports, individuals would be left to our own devices (both literally and figuratively). Authentically human motives and goals would emerge as the only motives and goals possible.  

In other words, our perceived needs for the technological systems that require coercive authority and control are generated by the systems themselves; remove the systems and our needs for them evaporate.  

And In regards to the “who is we” rebuttal: when people say such things as “we need government” they are referring to an abstraction, an imagined collective humanity. This “we” does not exist.  Instead, there are real concrete individuals who have real concrete needs as individuals. Some of the needs of one individual are the same as the needs of other individuals. But, once again, the majority of the specific needs that are in play at any given time are needs that have been generated as a function of life embedded in the technological order. Remove authority, and the technological order evaporates along with these needs. 

So it is true that we (the abstract human collective) “need” systems of authority as long as we (individual people) continue to pursue purposes generated by those same systems of authority. Which is to say that we (both collectively and as individuals) really don’t need these systems of authority. If anything, the systems of authority need for us to continue to act as if we need them. 

A reversion to the base-anarchy of our pre-domestication past seems to me to be the only option if the goal is to live an authentically human life. And any goal that is inconsistent with authentic human living is not an authentic human goal. Unfortunately, any attempt to promote the proliferation of authentic humanity, however modest, is sure to engage the protective defenses of the technological order. 

So, at least at some level, the problem is well defined.