Sunday, February 19, 2012

Don't Feed the Beast

Of course we're going to watch the drama, we're human. Greece is/was (take your pick) about to pop, is a tragedy in full swing, full of suffering and misery, and the mainstream will be full of it.

I haven't paid much attention to the mainstream for years now, and yet the dribs and drabs which do filter through on blogs catch my attention. I get excited, worried, frightened, the whole shebang. There's been some well-sourced rumours flying around for a couple of days now, that Greece will be forced/allowed (take your pick) to default in the second half of March (23rd). As part of this the major banks have been given advance warning, to give them a chance to protect their assets. The little guys will take the hit. Too Big To Fail means far more than rescuing 'systemically relevant' banks. It is about protecting the exploitation system, the state itself, the Hobbesian, inflexible hierarchy of rulers and ruled only a tiny minority truly benefit from.

This morning, Zero Hedge posted an article on the ECB's latest move, shocked that the 'Rule of Law' is arbitrary, can be amended retroactively, is not sacrosanct. But this has been so since forever. Cheap oil and the profits therefrom have merely masked it. Now that easy growth is impossible, the system is doing whatever it has to, to keep itself functional, and its core functioning is extraction of the ruled by the rulers. It's that simple. Here's a quote from Zero Hedge:
The ECB, on its own and without judicial or parliamentary review, has swapped their Greek debt for new Greek debt that is not subject to any “collective action clause.” They did this unilaterally and without the consent of any other sovereign debt bond owners of Greek debt. They did this without objection of any nation in Europe. They have retroactively changed the indenture, the contract made by Greece with all of the buyers of their bonds, when the debt was issued. There is no speculation involved in these statements, there is no longer any guesswork on what might be; the ECB swapped their bonds for new Greek bonds with the assent of the Greek government and it is now a done deal.
What else were they going to do? The system is in an advanced stage of collapse. Whatever it takes, whatever must be sacrificed to survive, will be done. And this is a fight for survival. But this system cannot survive, too much has changed. We cannot grow economically as it needs us to, we are increasingly disenchanted with Consumerism, there is the Internet spreading information faster than the control structures can control, technology is rendering the work-for-wage model obsolete (if it isn't already), and easy oil is not sufficiently plentiful.

Our focus should be on what world we want to build in the new circumstances, not on the quickly-changing details of the economic and political day-to-day, as 'exciting' and horrible as they can be. This requires of us that we don't feed the beast. Don't vote. Consume less. Study alternative currencies. Support endeavours you resonate with which offer elements of the new, such as gift economies and renewable energies, organic farming or permactulture, etc. Don't send any money, or send as little as possible, to the mainstream media. And make your voice heard, maturely, patiently, humbly, in independent outlets, among friends and neighbours. In such little steps we can contribute to a more gentle collapse of the old, a more vigorous emergence of the new. It is not that we rush childishly into the sparkly future, rather, we act in accordance with reality, foster our and others' common humanity and civility, and be as constructive as possible.

It is not going to be easy, and I strongly suspect terrible tragedies lie between us and whatever new stability results from all this upheaval, but this is how history unfolds. Change is difficult, profound change profoundly so.


Debra said...

About two weeks ago, I went to a professional presentation about delusion/psychosis.
And at one point, I observed that it is becoming increasingly difficult to separate.. the inside from the outside, the furrener from the native, the loony from the.. collective feeding frenzy.
That our symbolic structures are working so mecanically.. FOR THEMSELVES and not us, that we really need out.
Some people cagily made the observation that what we are seeing is not symbolic structures but.. "symbolic structures". As in, not A, but A prime.
I definitely disagree with this. We are still watching A, but we are succumbing to A without... God, whatever that means.
One of my most abstract definitions... those puzzles with the squares that you move around in order to solve.
You can't move the squares around unless you have AN EMPTY SQUARE.
When you insist on filling up all the squares, and occupying all the territory, the game no longer works.
That's a pretty good definition of God, don't you think ? :-)
By the way, I opened up Descartes last night, and was pleasantly suprised to see that he is much more nuanced than I thought he was.
But that sentence... IT IS THE ROOT OF OUR MODERN EVIL. (I think I translated that sentence from "Discours sur la Méthode" for you a while ago, didn't I ?)
Ah.. the joys of hunting... Salute meow for me. A fellow hunter.
Blogger appears to have gone off the deep end with the double identification...

Игры рынка said...

Vladimir Lenin: Only then, when lower classes do not want to have old any more and higher classes can not keep old any more, only then a revolution can win.

So yes, higher classes seem to be unable. But lower classes also seem to be reasonably happy. No so many people in Greece want to have it all a new way.

"Bread and сircuses" can do magic.

Malagodi said...

cross posted from my FB status:

All in a day's work.

Mother's trip to the library today included a stop at the 7-11 on the way back. I get a slice of pizza from Sayed and wait outside, as is my habit.

A Dodge Ram 1500, jacked up, with oversized tires, completely mud-free is left running by a late 50's apparently Anglo man who makes his way into the store. He has a long grey pony tail. Working class.

I'm waiting by the trash can. On the front of the truck there's a license plate with a rebel flag and Geronimo emblazoned in the middle. Wired to the black crash guard in front of the radiator and protruding up ahead of the Ram hood ornament is a child-sized skeleton; a torso, arms and a skull. It's wearing a Santa hat. A dream catcher hangs from the rear-view mirror and two American flags are posted on each rear corner of the cab.

While I am thinking about what story these symbols tell, a middle-aged man appears by the driver's side of the truck and approaches the 7-11 entrance. Good casual clothes, bluetooth earpiece. I notice the firearm on his waist just as he flicks the tail of his shirt to conceal it. A Glock, naturally. I peg him for a cop, but there's something not-coppish about him. No sign of his vehicle in the lot. I'm looking for a police car, marked or unmarked.

Mother comes out with only a wedge shaped box with a pizza slice. "They didn't have what I wanted. I wanted a Twist-A -Roll." We head back toward the car, she with her walker and me watching the man with the bluetooth and the handgun who had just come out. He crosses the lot behind the still running empty truck. I watch him get into a blue Bentley. He's not nervous, but cautious. He's not a normal cop. A war is coming, and he knows it.

I think of how often I repeat the quote by John Cage; "What we need to do is make the world safe for poverty."

I've been thinking recently about how one would define "divine intervention" for a secular mind.

I believe it would be something like: an unexpected natural occurrence, or series of occurrences, that appear to be driven by a previously hidden logic or law displaying poetic irony.

Toby said...

Hi Debbie,

yes, that is a good definition of God, and actually, I wrote a poem like that a few years back. Very different metaphor (sparrows playing on a curb), but a similar message, that God is a blind spot, is space for creativity, in all things. And yes, we can't fill up all the squares, but we can fool ourselves that we are doing so.

Descartes was no idiot, and as one of the major contributors to defining the now dying paradigm, was a major genius of that era, working within the context of that era. I recall his work as subtle.

Hi Sergei,

I don't envision a revolution in that sense. The miracle required for a smoother transition will be possible only if in the region of 5-10% of a country's population act cohesively (very tall order, but rudimentary structures are emerging) to present those still in the collapsing system with a viable alternative. Whatever 'revolution' emerges from the coming mayhem will be mayhem and mess. And that brings me to Stephen...

Hi Stephen,

that's a very well written mini-article, mini-story. Spooks the hell out of me, but that's where it's at. What's happening is what's happening, not what I might dearly want. And yet divine 'intervention' (whatever intervention really is—move aside, Descartes!) is always everywhere. I always tell my daughters that everything is a miracle. At this juncture, though, I believe there's a lot of poetic irony headed our way, and it's going to be very Greek. There are days, and nights, when I am truly scared.

Debra said...

Last night, my husband and I watched "A Midsummer Night's Dream" on DVD, the 1999 production with Kevin Kline playing Bottom, and Michelle Pfeiffer playing Titania, among others.
The play is painfully pertinent to our times... every scene has something in it that speaks to our... tendancy to dismiss the realm of (poetic) imagination, and insist on the COLD FACTS, the HARD TRUTH...
I wonder is Shakespeare was as scared as modern man is ?
Really Toby, this morning I listened to a French modern philosopher (not in Descartes' league) say, among other things, that we are not seeing the end of the world, THERE IS NO REASON TO BE AFRAID, etc etc.
I am so tired of the.. "elite" ? telling us that there is nothing to be afraid of.
I am PISSED when I see how we are domesticating ourselves and the planet. Big difference.
As for the 7-11 scenario...
I no longer recognize the mother country. In France I have been protected from the mother country's.. evolution ? for quite some time.
But things are deteriorating now... it is getting harder to ignore the impingement that globalized, mass produced, hydrogenated U.S. of A is inflicting on the rest of the planet...

Tao Jonesing said...

Our focus should be on what world we want to build in the new circumstances, not on the quickly-changing details of the economic and political day-to-day, as 'exciting' and horrible as they can be.

I'd disagree slightly.

Yes, we should not focus on the details for what the truth of the matter asserted. But we should consider the magnitude and direction of the change in the details over time. This is critical. By doing so, you will recognize true panic when it exists.

The reason this world seems so complex at times is because we attempt to use static language to describe a dynamic system. (In this sense, I wholeheartedly agree with Debra's emphasis on the importance of language in shaping the choice we understand we have.)

Don't vote.


Consume less.


Study alternative currencies.

Depends on what you mean. Any currency that is privately controlled will be co-opted by the usury crowd. BitCoin is not safe.

Support endeavours you resonate with which offer elements of the new, such as gift economies and renewable energies, organic farming or permactulture, etc.

Again, be careful. Some of the choice we've been offered (e.g., "organic" farming) have been co-opted by corporate agriculture. I defer to Russ here.

Don't send any money, or send as little as possible, to the mainstream media. And make your voice heard, maturely, patiently, humbly, in independent outlets, among friends and neighbours.

Agreed, but I'd go a little farther. Our voices are irrelevant. What matters are ideas that resonate. The current paradigm is cracking, and the ideas that will resonate are those that appear to be the simple fix.

The trick is passing off revolution as evolution, something no "progressive" has ever managed to do.

Toby said...

Well, Tao, actually we are in full agreement. Your qualifications are in my head generally already. The only thing I really prescribe is study and constant testing, as it were, of the information we discover 'out there'. Part of that is idea exchange as here at this blog, part is actual doing. But there is no perfect formula. That's very clear to me.

This will not be uniform, and cannot be steered by one person. It is like an impossibly large, unconducted orchestra finding very new rhythm, melody and purpose by trial and error. With luck, the tiny steps people take in the direction of resource-based economics, even if they begin their migration not too critically, or not 'radical enough' for purists, are steps in the healthier direction. Circumstances outside anyone's control (I include technological unemployment here) will shepherd humanity into more sensible avenues, IF sufficient numbers take the steps outlined here, in a sufficiently coherent way, and manage to build a viable enough system capable both of attracting people by the millions, and robust enough to withstand the onslaught of the psychopaths. Otherwise, it will be a horrible, grinding feudalism that greets us.

"Our voices are irrelevant. What matters are ideas that resonate."

What's the difference between the two? Are voices are relevant when they are contributing to building the ideas that resonate and make long term sense. It's always been that way. Only, this time, a global paradigm is on the line. It's the vast scope of this change that gives me as much cause for hope as despair, though I try to be more hopeful here than despairing, which is, of course, another way of not feeding the beast.

Debra said...

I think we are doing many of the same things, Tao, so I will pick up on where we don't agree.. if you don't mind ?
One of the main reasons why our world seems so complex is that we have divorced it from our bodies to such a great extent. We have succumbed to the Cartesian MIND/BODY dualism, and as a result are in seesaw mode between mind and body, without being able to link them together.
When this happens, you get on one side... the body treated as bits and parts of a machine, and on the other side, what is at the bottom of blogger's word verification, what I call the combinatoire, or an endlessly generating symbolic system that is anchored in nothing, and works for itself.
A quick look at chapter 4 of Descartes, (The Method) and the cogito shows how Descartes, in a situation of radical doubt, and in the desire to CLEAN THE SLATE with respect to the scholastic tradition, posits that the only thing that he is sure of is that he IS because he is thinking (egocentrism, Tao...). Because he THINKS... that he can think independently of his body, pretending it is not there, and that his thinking... soul is immortal, well, he sticks the body IN SECOND POSITION.
Our modernity is rooted in this sterile dualism.
Are our voices irrelevant ?
Are our ideas divorced from.. OUR BODIES ?
Certainly the virtual universe is one more attempt to perpetuate Cartesian dualism, but how long will we manage to keep up this act ?
I think that Cartesian dualism and the universe it has significantly contributed to putting into place are disintegrating before our eyes.
Does this sound.. scholastic ?
Not from my point of view...
And in the end, our illusion of control remains our greatest illusion.
It, too, is falling by the wayside...

Tao Jonesing said...


Your last comment is an interesting one.

I'd go farther in some respects and say that the reason that the current age always seems more complex than the prior age is the compulsion to boil everything down into a duality/dichotomy/dialectic. We humans inherently try to digitize an analog world, and it just doesn't work. Each generation always convinces itself that it is facing challenges never faced before, but at best the difference is the magnitude of the problem, not its nature.

But, personally, I view Cartesian dualism as completely irrelevant. Most people have never heard of it. Heck, I'm a pretty well read guy, and I never heard of it before I started haunting Toby's halls here.

The reason why people are divorced from being human is the division of labor, the atomization, demanded by capitalism. My mind is not at all divorced from my body, but my daily tasks are certainly divorced from meeting my daily needs. How exactly does developing a strategy for a difficult negotiation equate to food?

False dualities/dichotomies need to be discarded/ignored before we can embrace what it truly means to be human. The recognition of that fact is a central premise of Taoism (I am not a Taoist, by the way), and what makes it true in a human sense. The problem is that there are those who foster false dualities/dichotomies in order to gain personal power and wealth. The sooner we wake up to this reality, the sooner we can avoid the traps laid by the venal for the unwary.

Toby said...

If I may, Tao...

"But, personally, I view Cartesian dualism as completely irrelevant."

Dualism has been around for a very long time, way before Descartes crystallized it into a neat formula. Simply the sentence, "This is my body" is dualistic, for which body 'component' is it 'owning' one's body? As soon as we differentiate, separate nature into 'tamed' and 'wild', we have begun dualism, and it is my opinion (though I have this view from Charles Eisenstein's "The Ascent of Humanity") that dualism could not be more pivotal to our paradigm. The entire myth of human ascent is about mastery of nature, which is a dualistic ambition: Man (not-nature, somehow divine, not of this world) controls and masters nature (a 'machine' to be understood and dominated via analysis; digitized, if you like). We even have the weird word 'unnatural'. There is nothing which is not natural. 'Unnatural' is an impossibility.

Dualism lies right at the heart of the problem, is in fact the foundation stone which is crumbling 'beneath' us.

"Each generation always convinces itself that it is facing challenges never faced before, but at best the difference is the magnitude of the problem, not its nature."

I agree and disagree with this. History does not repeat, though it does rhyme, and there are patterns, but each iteration is different, and importantly so. We are facing unprecedented challenges, though many of their characteristics have been faced before, particularly growing beyond our environment's capacity to support us. And yet, and yet, and yet ... wisdom does accumulate, albeit fitfully. Once there were no humans, once there was no biological life on earth, there are repeated extinction level events, periods of great evolutionary creativity, and all these great spirals go far beyond the human domain, yet we are of it, embedded in it, emerging from it, as is everything else. This time is different, because every time is. And I would go so far as to say that this time is pivotal on all sorts of levels, not just the human. This is not just another crisis. Dualism is crumbling, and that is enormous, and as far as I can tell, unprecedented. And global too. This is a very big deal.

Debra said...

In response to both comments...
I agree with you that dualism has been around for a very long time, Toby, but...
CARTESIAN dualism is a very big deal, and it is not any old dualism.
Reading through the Discourse, I am absolutely amazed to discover to what extent our modernity rests on the Cartesian blueprint, with the following essential elements of it : egocentrism (not a value judgment on my part, the cogito says : "I think, therefore I am", and presents this premise as the only certitude for Descartes. That is tantamount to setting the individual ego at the center of the universe, and the human experience, and making all experience derive from the ego (Freudian sense here) thinking), the CREATION OF ARTIFICE by man opposed to the divine creation of nature, health as the be all, end all of scientific research, just to name a few elements.
Dualism entails the rejection of the THIRD term (and by the way, the debate about the reification of language concerns dualism, too. Reification means making a simple equation... this=this, on one plane. Example : in the 19th century, alienists in the mental hospitals did autopsies on their patients in order to localize the lesions responsible for mental illness. Attempting to localize the soul in the body, or mental illness in the body, for that matter, reflects dualism : the soul is exactly here, and can be SEEN in this organ, for example, in a one on one correspondance. It is interesting that we have managed to localize... our minds in our brain, while our entire nervous system is all over our body, and not just in our brain. Our brain is helpless to make any decisions, conscious or otherwise,without all of its periphery...
Freud fought long and hard against dualism, and to a great extent, his insistance on the unconscious was an attempt to escape it.
Dualism is a very human temptation though.
I think.. that it has roots in our absolute necessity to find community through our RESEMBLANCE to other human beings (mirror identification), as opposed to.. our other great need to establish difference.
The human condition.
We will not escape it...
And Tao.... OUR minds are divorced from OUR bodies. Otherwise... you wouldn't have come out with that sentence, right ?

Debra said...

Today on my loony forum, I told a woman that the inertia of the social body is such that it takes about... 500 years for an idea to work itself into our daily life.
Today's physics is light years away from penetrating the fabric of our daily life.
Will Internet change this ?
I doubt it..

Debra said...

On further reflection, I am obliged to apologize to Descartes, towards whom I am extremely ambivalent at times.
Cartesian is NOT dualism according to Descartes, Cartesian dualism is OUR perversion of Descartes' thinking.
God has a central, pivotal position in Descartes' thinking as a radical alterity (other), thus a third term.
Cartesianism has become a dualism since WE have evacuated God as a third term....
Very unfortunate for us...

RogerGLewis said...

Hi Toby Hi Debra,

Listened to this and thought of you both so came here to post a link.
Very funny but profound on the dangers of Binary Thinking and so good on ecological perspectives to economic problems/solutions.
Anyway hope you jhave a great Sunday with your families, I listened to this when Washing up this morning.

Toby said...

Hi Roger,

thanks for the link. I'm downloading it now and will listen to it later.

Hi Debbie,

I think your point about mainstream society being centuries away from incorporating what modern physics is telling us is very important, but it kind of undermines your other point about the subtlety in Descartes' work. What counts in the long run is the mythic version of the work which filters through, and also that most people haven't even heard of the man. Furthermore, I would say that God as the third element is not pertinent, since God is also above and beyond nature, like soul. Soul is in the machine, doing stuff like science and mastering the machine, in honour of God to which it returns at some point. The presence of God does not alter that dualist dynamic one bit, as far as I can tell. Eastern BothAnd philosophy offers more illuminating angles for unraveling and dispersing the confusion of EitherOr Western philosophy. It's not that I'm an expert in either, but others who are have convinced me this is so, including Hermann Hesse for example.

The fruits produced by the meeting of open Western and Eastern minds are juicy and replenishing, and it is from I derive my optimism. Because you are right about humanity generally being very behind the curve in terms of the wisdom and knowledge we have 'unearthed' or generated, I think the recognition that there is only God, or only Nature, or only Universe suggests, strongly, that miracles are on their way, and that the unexpected, in a BothAnd manner, is what will shift us up a gear, albeit very unevenly (diversity is key). Bloodshed and horror will be part of this, but the Phoenix myth (and others like it) is—my intuition tells me—going to play a central cameo.

Life always finds a way.

Debra said...

Toby, I wonder if we are not trying to find our way towards immanence, as opposed to transcendance ? (Yes, I know, it is impossible to escape those oppositions, isn't it ?)
What kind of logos is possible with immanence ?
What kind of (unconscious..) theory of language does it imply, and what kind of language does it create ?
Doesn't our current civilization rest upon a transcendant vision of logos which is vacillating at this time ? (I am an amateur philosopher, and very ignorant, so this may be totally off base.)
I do not believe that it is desirable that we all end up with.. one ? God/vision of God ?
Wouldn't that be the triumph of monotheism ? Babel ?
As for no one ever having heard of Descartes, that is not a problem for me. You don't have to CONSCIOUSLY THINK about every breath you take in order to breathe now, do you ? But that doesn't mean that at another level, something is not going on, outside of the radius of your immediate consciousness, that allows you to breathe..
The meaning of the relatively invariable words we speak/write changes at a varying rate. They do not all change meaning at the same time. That means that... at any given time, different temporalities are present in the culture. And I also think that the invariable word transmits all of its previous meanings in a mysterious way that I can not explain...
Roger, I will look at your link. Thanks for your kind words.

Toby said...

Roger, that was a great link, I loved that interview, it brought across so well how powerful humour, love and cooperation are, far more than competition, violence and fear, as important as the latter triumvirate is. Beyondananda reminded me of my belief that evolution is discovering cooperation and sharing as powerful survival techniques now, and that, there is a very fearful and paranoid paradigm that cannot cope with this (re-)emergent wisdom.

Debbie, I had, two times, a hard time piecing together the position of your last comment.

We co-evolve with language (as with all other systems we are capable of perceiving and interacting with), and language is a kind of ongoing, collective Freudian slip (like myth) we mostly fail to notice, and yes it changes, with us, unevenly and slowly. Yet there are bursts of rapid change, such as during the late Old English period when pronunciations changed profoundly in one century (lief becoming life, for example). In nature, there are similar bursts of rapid change; as below, so above. I think we are going through such a rapid evolution right now. This means, in extension, that our ideas of, and relationships with monotheism and dogma, religion, science, morals and mores, etc., are co-evolving with us too, becoming richer as we discern more subtlety and pick out more information from Universe, and this expands language greatly—which remains a restrictive/enabling filter nevertheless. This process is now happening very quickly, and is, I believe, mirrored elsewhere in nature. But again, I'm no expert here, just reading between the lines.

So, for me, as I read and write and listen and learn, I find I increasingly don't know what I should be afraid or wary of, except the lashings-out of the dying paradigm. What will be will be. Change cannot be stopped, and our personal preferences for this or that 'solution-set' are ego-based attachments to our past, with attendant ego-based delusions of grandeur that our preferences 'matter.' They don't, and yet they do too, in ways we don't quite know how to perceive, yet.

That is my intuitive, non-specific response to your latest comment. I hope it's relevant.

Tao Jonesing said...

Differentiation is how human beings decide. As I said in the comment you respond to, human beings are compelled by how their brains are wired to boil everything down to two choices. So, we are not really disagreeing with the function, but the label ("Cartesian dualism") and what it means (I focus on the function as a dynamic process, you focus on the function as captured at a particular moment time, i.e., as something static).

Dualism lies right at the heart of the problem, is in fact the foundation stone which is crumbling 'beneath' us.

What you call "dualism" is the heart of the problem, but while the current state of the function may be crumbling, the function will live on. There is nothing happening today that will force people en masse to give up the basic dualistic notions of things like right and wrong. They may substitute old concepts of right and wrong with new concepts of right and wrong, but the "paradigm," the foundation stone as you call it, ain't going away unless and until people learn to acknowledge and embrace the uncertainty in their lives. I do think that portions of the Tao Te Ching do a good job of teaching the principle, but even those teachings have been turned into a religion that, at heart, engages in what you call dualism that defies what the Tao Te Ching attempts to teach.

The reason you say that history rhymes but does not repeat is because you are focused on the state, i.e., the particular facts on the ground. Those are irrelevant because the same process has always been, and will always be, at work. At BEST, history when truthfully and completely told will tell you the outcome of that process, but you cannot learn anything about the process from reading the history, other than the societal values that set the expectations of the age. Based on my view of history, that seed function, which makes us human, has not changed. We're walking fractal generator fossils.

And yet, and yet, and yet ... wisdom does accumulate,

Really? Where? Wisdom for the most part is based on false assumptions that are treated as the truth. We all assume that what we were taught of history is the truth, and yet, if you spend any time studying history with an open mind, history bears little resemblance to what you were taught, at least here in the U.S. (FYI - I am being too kind; I've witnessed a tremendous amount of cognitive bias across all nationalities).

As far as I am concerned, it is impossible for wisdom to "accumulate" because that implies wisdom is something static. Yesterday's wisdom is tomorrow's basis for conning old people out of their savings.

The only "wisdom" that is worth anything is that which describes the function dynamically, i.e., how that function works. You still cannot predict how people will react, but at least you understand what may happen and, therefore, can prepare for it.

Dualism is crumbling

Dualism cannot crumble. It is what drives every animal on this planet, choosing between good and bad (in an existential sense). We're all just Turing machines, some more complex than others. The duality function ain't going away.

Yes, today's version of the two dominant "states" may be crumbling, but unless people are taught from an early stage to avoid the drive towards false certainty that creates the false choice between two states, all that will happen is that we will see two new states switched in for the old ones. Societal values change all the time, but human nature will not unless we start discussing it in terms of how it works instead of what results from it.

Seriously, the Great Depression changed everything, swapping in new values for old values, which lasted until the neoliberal machine managed to swap in new versions of the old values for the new values. If real history is a guide, the next dualistic paradigm will be even more oppressive than the current one.

Tao Jonesing said...

From chapter 2 of the Tao Te Ching, which significantly predates DesCartes:

When people see some things as beautiful,
other things become ugly.
When people see some things as good,
other things become bad.

Being and non-being create each other.
Difficult and easy support each other.
Long and short define each other.
High and low depend on each other.
Before and after follow each other.

Therefore the Master
acts without doing anything
and teaches without saying anything.
Things arise and she lets them come;
things disappear and she lets them go.
She has but doesn't possess,
acts but doesn't expect.

When her work is done, she forgets it.
That is why it lasts forever.

Debra said...

Hi Tao,
Thanks for the I Ching quote.
I feel that there is much food for thought in Lao Tzu.
He too, was tempted, apparently, because in the end..HE WROTE DOWN the I Ching...
Dualism is a major temptation for us at all times, and all throughout history.
Is this dualism a phenomenon that stems from our natural world itself ?
I think not. I believe it is an effect of language itself, as I like to say.
But distinctive opposition to create meaning in language does not necessarily mean reducing such opposition to binary.
For example..
If we look at ONE...
What is the opposite ? None ? or... many ?
There is more than one choice for an opposition, thus, it is NOT necessarily binary.
The too easy opposition of "good" and... "bad" ? (or "evil"... ?), "truth" and "lie" is reductionist.
As I also like to repeat, the realm of fiction itself, introduced as an opposition in "truth", "fiction", "lie", is necessary in order to keep us from becoming robots.
I attach such importance to Cartesian dualism because in the Method, Descartes introduces a fateful idea : that what is outside the realm of the immortal soul is of a mechanical nature.
He arrives at the paradigm of the animals as machines, and the body as machine, too.
To me, this.. METAPHOR ? is visible all over our social organizations in the West, and we talk about ourselves as machines.
No go, for me. The words "functioning" "programmed", etc are a symptom of this way of seeing the world. Could we have.. INVENTED the computer without Descartes ? I doubt it...

Tao Jonesing said...

Is this dualism a phenomenon that stems from our natural world itself ?

Yes and no. It is a phenomenon driven by an animal's drive towards a single thing: the safety of certainty. To create certainty, the animal differentiates between the safe and the unsafe, i.e., that which provides comfort and that which discomforts.

The function is natural, but to say that it stems from the natural world is, on the one hand, false because the natural world is a static non-sentient thing incapable of action, and it is actions taken in response to the function that give rise to the "dualism." On the other hand, the function is built into our DNA, and all animals' DNA, and thus does stem from the natural world.

But distinctive opposition to create meaning in language does not necessarily mean reducing such opposition to binary.

Language follows the function, it does not drive it. The function is iterative and, therefore, ultimately capable of comparing several choices over time, but only by the process of elimination, comparing two choices at a time.

Could we have.. INVENTED the computer without Descartes ? I doubt it...

Descartes is irrelevant. What he discovered was discovered independently by many who came before and many who came after.

Tao Jonesing said...

I feel that there is much food for thought in Lao Tzu.
He too, was tempted, apparently, because in the end..HE WROTE DOWN the I Ching...

Lao Tzu, like Moses and Jesus, is most likely a fictional character. And to the extent that he existed and wrote anything down, later scribes in all likelihood added and subtracted from what he wrote, just as Christian and Jewish scribes did to the books of Moses and the Vulgate. With respect to the Tao Te Ching, it is pretty obvious to me which chapters are interpolations added by later scribes and/or translators.

The fact is that one of the best ways to destroy the true meaning of dynamic thought is to capture it in time and render it a static thing. Doing so give the enemies of dynamic thought something to aim at. Descartes perhaps inadvertently did precisely that because, for whatever reason, people seem to believe that Cartesian dualism is a static thing and a choice. It is, in fact, a dynamic function that human beings cannot escape and can only hope to control.

Toby said...

Tao, I disagree (and agree too) generally with your position, but partly because mine is more nuanced than you characterize here, most likely because I haven't written as carefully as I might, certainly because it would take many thousands of words to get my position across, and it would change while writing it down anyway. I haven't even defined my terms. Just for the record, and very briefly, what I call dualism here, in this exchange, is humanity's generally 'immature' relationship with EitherOr, Right or Wrong, Pain or Pleasure. That relationship is crumbling, becoming more nuanced. I believe more BothAnd is emerging. I.e., pain is pleasure, right is wrong, depending on your perspective. Of course this is not new, but it is very new at the scale at which this awareness is unfolding, and at this juncture of human history, and the consequences, the ripple effects of this are enormous, unprecedented.

I once had a very long email exchange with a guy called John Ringland, whom I admire greatly. He had a mathematical formula for 'change is the only constant'. It was something like M=M*V, where M is the matrix and V is the vector of change. So, a loop of constant change, a change generator. That is the nature of nature, always generating change. We are of that, have emerged from it. But wisdom accumulates because it is not just dead matter, it is not chaos, it is life, consciousness, learning as it goes, becoming increasingly sighted. As Charles Eisenstein says, matter is what we see of spirit, of consciousness. And no, I don't know what those 'things' are.

"As far as I am concerned, it is impossible for wisdom to "accumulate" because that implies wisdom is something static. Yesterday's wisdom is tomorrow's basis for conning old people out of their savings."

Wisdom accumulates, it cannot not. A rain forest is wisdom, a city is wisdom, a coral reef is wisdom, human biology is wisdom. And this absolutely does not imply static accumulation. Change happens and challenges accumulated wisdom, wisdom being how systems do things to carry on being the system they are, in the environment of 'other' systems supporting it. If a system's accumulated wisdom cannot adapt to the new circumstances, it is broken down and reprocessed into new structures, new wisdoms. Speaking 'spiritually', I suspect no wisdom is lost, but that is a whole other ballpark, and this is just a blog post. I also suspect this process is infinite. And I also do not know what time is, but am sure it is a vital part of this beautiful puzzle.

And I do not focus on static states. That is a misreading of my thinking. Probably my fault, but I thought I ought to point that out too.

Toby said...

Oops, I forgot this:

"When people see some things as beautiful,
other things become ugly."

I disagree, or rather, there's more to it than that. Everything is beautiful, everything is God, everything is Nature, and there is no such thing as nothing. And I could go on and on about that too. Indeed, the first full book of poems I wrote, maybe seven years ago, I called "Death and Other Beauty".

The line I quoted from your comment troubled me greatly for years, because I have, for a long time, been bothered by EitherOr, without being able to identify the source of the itch. Now it's clear, but that clarity has thrown up an enormous amount of new confusion to busy myself with. BothAnd, so to speak.

Debra said...

If Descartes is irrelevant... then we are all individually irrelevant.
I do not believe that at all.
I believe that each and every one of us contributes to what is unfolding before us in an exponential fashion.
My friend Thai who died a few years ago told me about fractals, and the new physics, and although I don't really desire delving into these fields, what I superficially know of them indicates how each individual has his irreplaceable part to play in what is going on, for lack of a better word, and how point of view influences the very nature of matter itself.
Jesus, Lao Tse a fiction ?
Says who ? And what does "a fiction" mean in that context ? A fiction... like you and me, for example ?
Why not ? WE are fictions.
Language drives much more than we drive it.
Just by.. creating the machine metaphor, Descartes set incredible things in motion.
When a metaphor is created, and enters the language currency, IT starts creating exponential effects...
Ultimately, we will end up at the free will debate.
There is... a finite number of considerations that we can arrive at in examining the human condition.
And Tao ?
One last thing. Your suppositions about animal nature are the vestiges of... CARTESIAN DUALISM and the machine metaphor.
See how WE are driven by prejudices that go way beyond what we consciously know ?
They are floating around us in our environment to the extent that we take them so much for granted.
If... you start reading hunter's accounts of animals, and not scientists', you will see.. DIFFERENT ANIMALS.