America the self-pitying? Or just plain stupid?


 

Paul Wallis, Sydney Media JamTo us foreigners, America’s apparent total refusal to see the obvious from 2016 is baffling. Trump will come and Trump will go. He’s not the long term problem. The problem is America’s total failure to face any kind of tangible reality, or do anything about it, for decades.

It’s a horrible shame. Things could have been so much better. Ignorance and real, applied stupidity have done the damage.

America’s horrible list of failures

America has successfully failed to face:

  • Trashed generations which could have been so much more.
  • Lost, bungled wars of all kinds despite an effective military.
  • Its own deliberately generated hatreds and polarizations.
  • A culture of intellectually bankrupt financial management.
  • The plague-like spread of organized crime and corruption at all levels.
  • The culture of dishonesty which is now poisoning every single fact.
  • The industry of greed which perverts basic daily business at all levels.
  • A truly psychotic business management culture.
  • Ridiculous prices “because we can” for critical basics like health and education.
  • Unspeakable generational poverty and demonizing of the poor.
  • Stunningly talentless maladministration on every level of government.
  • Colossal waste of people and resources on a fantastic scale.
  • Chronic insularity at the expense of all known facts.
  • The institutionalization of the Rust Belt and the mentality of Failure Incarnate that it represents.
  • Serial corporate law breaking in all sectors.
  • Careerism and related life models based on a world which no longer exists, at great expense.

THE great American novel. Should be used as a political primer until 2020.

Arguably worse than all of the above is the unquestioning acceptance of failure in every possible form. Not one damn thing has ever been done about any of it, all the way back to Nixon.  It’s self-inflicted. Whole generations of weak, facile, astonishingly stupid and even more astonishingly untrustworthy people have made it happen.  Others have allowed it to happen. Guilt is shared.

Consider this little litany, which is just a sample:

  • McCarthyism, the All-American mechanism of oppression still used today
  • Vietnam
  • Watts riots
  • Watergate
  • Enron
  • Lehmann Bros.
  • Insolvent banks
  • GFC
  • Sub primes
  • Municipal bonds
  • Hurricane Katrina/FEMA
  • 911

You can’t have this level of constant, unmitigated, catastrophic national failure by accident. The reaction to decades of failure has been equally pathetic. The only visible reaction to 60 years of obsessive failure has been for someone to occasionally pop out like a cuckoo clock and say “O woe is us”, and disappear in a puff of utterly useless self-pity.

America vs its own success?

For a culture based on success, America has totally ignored the downsides of success. Past success spoiled America in a deadly way. The prosperity of the past was a good excuse to let things slide. They slid. Who cared about some war in a country they’d never heard of, or some riot somewhere? Everyone was comfortable, and comforted by the theory of trust in something called America. The future was going to be so much better, too. It isn’t, in case you hadn’t noticed.

Experts by the shipload from 1945 onwards warned of future problems and were unanimously ignored in all practical terms. From Silent Spring to global warming, ignorance is highly paid bliss.  Ignoring experts is now standard practice. (They’re still warning, but at least they’ve stopped expecting anyone to listen, let alone understand a word.)

The bottom line is that Americans wax lyrical about a vision of America and simultaneously bemoan the inglorious actual failures. Absolutely nothing is done, and more failures inevitably emerge. It’s no coincidence. Failure generates failure. Failure evolves, like a new disease. The next big financial crashes and the next political disasters will be created by failures happening right now. Face it and fix it, or fail again.

Paul Wallis, Sydney Media Jam, Paul Wallis books

SMJ is finally re-published in a sort of reduced form, still a lot to do.

 

 

Minimalism, a rebuttal


 

Paul Wallis, Sydney Media JamMinimalism is to me the epitome of this idea-less, loveless, lifeless society. Replace a life with an empty space. Decluttering is one thing; removing all aesthetics and life values is another.

What, nothing matters? No keepsakes, no beautiful things? Exactly what I’d expect from this rathole of a pseudo-civilization; a barren wasteland, with a brand name and a smug little rationale. Minimalism is the sort of aesthetic you’d expect from an underachieving termite.

What minimalism is and isn’t

Listen, phonebrains, while I explain a few things:

Minimalism is called “living with less”. That’s a death sentence if ever there was. Already living in overpriced antique pigeon coops, you want less?  Remember doing more with less, that farcical fraud foisted on business? Remember how it meant doing a lot more with a lot less and achieving nothing but stress?

This is a simulation of the known universe. Minimalism? None.

The universe. Minimalism? None. This single picture has more meaning than any empty damn barn will ever have. You wouldn’t be allowed to put it on your wall, because it’s not a minimalist value.

Minimalism means by definition fewer aesthetics. Can you exist without a likeable environment? Would you want to? Because that’s what this “interior desertification” means. How at home do you feel in a barren space like an airport? Do you go to a “nice” pub, with a friendly environment, or some damn laminated hell with nothing but lifeless spaces?

Minimalism means life without art. Ignore a few thousand years of aesthetics, why don’t you? You could be as pig-ignorant as anyone you’ve ever despised. “Well, how long can you look at the same painting?”, you ask? Answer; decades, if you know a damn thing about how to look at a painting. You’ll always see textures, colour combinations, etc. The painting will reflect differently with different moods, emotions, etc., too.

The lifestyle aspect of minimalism is one of its few valid features; it reflects a nothing of a lifestyle. Emptiness, not humanity, not even personality. The irony of using natural materials in “minimalist” environments is that you might as well be back in the caves, where you presumably belong, not living as some sort of allegedly advanced, evolved being.

To me, minimalism is subhuman. It’s a monument to nihilism, that great philosophical cop-out of humanity, in which everything is considered meaningless. It’s as pitiful as “prove existence” for first year philosophy hacks. How spiritually gutless can you get? Minimalism, like nihilism, means you have no skin in the game of being yourself. You can’t win, but you can’t lose, either, with no commitments. You can’t even play the game. That’s minimalism; a void in to which you can escape. You can have it; just don’t ask me to do anything with it but bury it.

Paul Wallis, Sydney Media Jam, Paul Wallis books

 

The Analects of Confucius, China’s Socrates


 

Confucius may well be one of the least pretentious people in history. He’s a good, interesting match with Socrates, in many ways. He’s also a very observant person. The West has largely overlooked Confucius. In the early days of Western contact, the Chinese habit of literary and colloquial references was totally misunderstood and even taken literally. The result was that Confucius, a very literary person, was classed among the “inscrutable” sayings.

I’ve long thought that referring to China as “inscrutable” simply meant that nobody was looking very hard. Reading Confucius as translated by DC Lau, that impression is confirmed. (I prefer to read native speaker translations of Chinese. The old Chinese idioms are tricky, and often misinterpreted by non-Chinese translators, simply because contexts are very dynamic in Chinese.)

The Analects of Confucius

Analects of Confucius

Inscrutable Chinese Art. See what I mean about not looking?

Confucius apparently had a rather turbulent, sometimes quite difficult, life. An avid student of everything, he was as absorbed in every facet of ideas as Socrates. Anyone with a brain will recognize the likely problems with being that intelligent in any society.

In old China, a land of quite incredible culture and incredible violence, Confucius stood out. He was famous for his mind in a country where famine, war, and corruption were ways of life. He was a “spiritual humanist” (based within the culture’s highest attainments to that time.

(“Spiritual humanist”. What an expression! Wish I could say I thought of it without the obvious inputs from a totally different perspective on life, but I didn’t. Read and learn, indeed.)

Earning respect in ancient China wasn’t easy for anyone, despite a great cultural respect for literacy and intelligence. To stand out in this environment was no minor achievement. A native of Lu, a minor Chinese state, his reputation spread within his lifetime, adding a burden of fame to frustration and what appears to be a constantly evolving knowledge and logic base.

The Analects are a series of notations about Confucius. It’s a pretty eclectic mix, but the man’s wit and compassion are more than obvious.  His status, ironically, has rather obscured his genuine insights and talent for observation. That status has also rather overstated the reverence and focused less on the highly intelligent person.

The Analects are arranged in 20 books in the DC Lau translation.

Central parts of the Analects:

  • The rites: Traditional practices, rituals, and values.
  • The gentleman: The ideal man.
  • Filial piety: Respect for one’s ancestors. (Confucius didn’t invent this. He made it a core value in his system of thinking to develop “society as a family’, perhaps one of the most genuinely civilized ideas of all time.)
  • The Way: Not quite the cosmic Way of the Tao, but the humanized version, with some relationships.
  • Character: The core issue of human conduct and values.
  • Ethics and correct behaviour are fundamental Confucian values.
  • Aphorisms: In the Analects, these statements become aphorisms as isolated  statements. Other text indicates that they originally had more qualifiers and that Confucius routinely explained his thoughts, but they’re extremely interesting even on their own.
  • Anecdotes: Interesting, and clearly intended to give some insights into Confucius’ real personality. (Pity more major historical figures weren’t given real personalities.)

Mysticism isn’t Confucius’ style. He works on practical principles, and tries to develop them.  That 2600 year old bit of good practice makes the Analects very readable and the meanings a lot clearer.

(For the record, Chinese “mysticism” is usually based on idioms and thick-headed Western literal translations. The Chinese sages didn’t go out of their way to be obscure. Add to this the fact that the spiritual side is a core element in Chinese philosophy, and you’re basically reading an alien culture. Western philosophy gave up on metaphysics a long time ago, and has been much poorer as a result.)

Confucius for modern readers

For modern readers, Confucius will come as a revelation or perhaps even a shock, if they fully understand some passages in the Analects. Confucius tries, hard, to take ideas out of the banal and show them as working things. His apparently endless efforts to make sense out of ideas are as interesting as Socratic debates, with a laconic style which is admirable.

For example:

“In his errors, a man is true to type. Observe the errors and you will know the man.”

Love Chinese culture. I have Chinese immortals in my stories, including one guy who recited a poem. His friends asked, “Ancient?” He said, “Not very. I wrote it this morning.”

Think about that for a second. It’s an appeal to the individual, a principle, and a good expression of a practical option for those trying to deal with “errors” in all their myriad forms. Whole books and much turgid pondering of the obvious have been written on the same subject. He does it in 18 words, with a bit of advice.

In one passage, he’s asked how he compares with a man called Hui. Hui is a man “living on rice and a ladle of water” without complaint. Confucius asks how he could dare compare himself with Hui, whom he clearly admires.

Comparing himself to another man, he says that when this man learns one thing, he understands ten things, whereas Confucius claims only to understand two himself.

This very honest character shows up continually in the Analects. The voice is usually very consistent. Any variation of character would actually be suspect. Like Socrates, a real person is clearly visible.

Confucius is old China at its best and most thoughtful. Read this in company with the Tao Teh Ching, and you’ll encounter two key facets of a world of thought you may never have believed possible.

Suggestion: Read when you have no distractions and are in a frame of mind able to absorb this text. It will be worth it.

Paul Wallis, Sydney Media Jam, Paul Wallis books

History as psychosis?


 

Paul Wallis, Sydney Media JamThe definition of psychosis is: “ A severe mental disorder in which thought and emotions are so impaired that contact is lost with external reality.” If you consider that as a description of humanity’s relationship with other people’s realities, psychosis covers it nicely.

Humanity is its own worst enemy, and worst friend, in some cases.  In this time of global disasters, it’s worth looking at how thought and emotions have basically lost the plot.

Psychotic is definitely a word which can be applied to the current mess.  This world is so bad now that losing contact with reality is probably a better option than facing it. Thought and emotions, however basic and delusional, paranoid and absurd, were the mechanisms which caused it.

The mere fact that a collection of brattish fools and criminals of various kinds are now in charge of a disgusting global dunghill should be proof enough.  Poverty, slavery, gigantic pandemics, you name it; it’s the Middle Ages with smart phones.

Psychosis in history

Psychosis, you say, Aarfy? Nah…

This has happened many times before. It’s a textbook case, in fact. The diagnostic pattern couldn’t be more obvious. The more out of touch and delusional a ruling clique, the more catastrophic the backlash. History is full of ruling cliques who were running empires one day and being executed or assassinated the next.

Yes, this type psychosis is stupid, as well as delusional. The bigger, more obvious targets are the first hit. One of the reasons that astonishingly untalented people become “leaders” is that everyone else isn’t quite stupid enough to make a target of themselves, particularly in dangerous times. In the corporate world, the least mentally agile or most trusting are the ones given responsibility for failures, etc.

Power does more than corrupt. It rules rulers. It makes them its slave. The most idiotic actions in human history can be traced to the incompetent being “given” power.  In practice, the “gift” is a trade off with those ruled. Real power exists in its exercise, not in titles like Emperor, President, etc.

Psychoses don’t need conspiracy theories. This book is history. Consider.

The Roman emperor Augustus, one of the smarter leaders of all time, basically disappeared from sight while ruling. It’s an almost unique achievement. He continued to actually rule, but from a safe distance, away from the poisonous and dangerous Roman Senate and the entrenched politics of his time. He became a god, in fact, rather than theory, because he could override the Senate and anyone else. That was a mix of personal and national survival, about as sane as any leader needs to be. He basically dodged the psychosis of power and the psychoses of history. His successors, with a few exceptions, did the exact opposite, and destroyed the empire.

The psychosis finds a home among the stupid, the greedy and the lazy. Those who perpetrate history’s horrors are never truly intelligent, but they are psychotic by any standards. The politics of the cave, the friends of the powerful and the corrupt, continue, and that really defines the problem.  The stupid, greedy and lazy always associate with the powerful. Even if the ruling clique isn’t psychotic by nature, it will become so, sooner or later, because of the corrupting influences on it.

Didn’t know that, eh?

The psychosis becomes the norm. Loss of contact with reality requires a particular type of logic. Some subjects are forbidden. Others are ignored, or ridiculed.  Facts are interpreted, rather than understood correctly. In a truly psychotic environment, there’s little point in understanding facts, anyway. There’s nobody there who’ll be prepared to do anything about them.

The loss of contact with reality, however, includes a fatal flaw in the psychosis; it also means denial of real dangers which can destroy it. The dangerous enemy is devalued. Even actual attacks are downgraded to nuisance value, not seen in their true light. The psychosis thrives on its achievements, whether they exist or not. Therefore, anything which contradicts those achievements is not accepted as fact.

The psychosis, like a disease, also has a weakness. It tends to kill its host. That’s long been argued by biologists as an own goal for diseases; it’s anti-survival. That a psychosis, the epitome in human history of anti-survivalism, acts against its own survival is rather reassuring.

Psychosis  as a living thing

Isaac Asimov wrote a story published by Galaxy Science Fiction in 1951 called Hostess about a parasitic species which existed only in the minds of people and aliens. It was an intelligent species, but it didn’t have a particular form, just a mentality. The parasite can breed by mixing hosts, and then the hosts are no longer required. The parasitic species continues its existence at the expense of the host species. It actually is a typical parasite.

There’s nothing at all unlikely about this scenario. A psychosis, created by chemical actions, is alive by most definitions, if it acts consciously and reproduces in some form. It’s a bit strange, in fact, that humans, so obsessed with their own mentalities, don’t recognize the difference between parasitic behaviours and natural behaviours. The historical psychosis has a long list of examples of itself in genocidal maniacs, serial killers, tyrants, religious nuts, and megalomaniacs. About 10% of managers, in fact, are believed to be psychotic, and they sometimes show all the traits of true human-hating psychosis.

Do you see it?
I see a herd of beautiful wild ponies.
Thanks, Daria.

Much less reassuringly – There’s no credible, survival-based rationale at all for humanity’s seemingly endless psychotic social, military, religious, psychological and economic wars against itself. It’s as if an anti-human psychosis was a sort of plague, acting the way it does, for thousands of years. Whole civilizations have come and gone on the basis of psychotic behavior.

Being anti-human also  isn’t any kind natural human mental state. Humans are basically co-dependent, whether they like it or not. The only reason humanity survived prehistory was because people cooperated.

Humans survive a lot better when they’re not at war with each other in any form. Another friendly human is a major asset. Anything which promotes human conflict is anti-human, anti-survival, and therefore psychotic. Anything which poisons the social environment, like bullies, criminals, etc. is also anti-survival on the same basis, simply because they disrupt valuable natural cooperation.

So – The psychosis is anti-survival, but it’s also a historical fact. There’s a trail of disasters all the way back to the beginning of human history showing how useless this psychosis is and always has been. Did humanity defeat all its natural enemies and simply replace them with itself? Or is there some serious disease affecting people throughout history which is a real risk to future human survival?

Paul Wallis, Sydney Media Jam, Paul Wallis books

Still working on the upgrade, sorry, and working pretty much all the time otherwise. It happens when it happens.