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Excerpt from The Patterning Instinct: Can We Transform Our Society for a Flourishing Future?

Excerpt from The Patterning Instinct: Can We Transform Our Society for a Flourishing Future?

Ed. note: Excerpted from the final two chapters of Jeremy Lent’s award-winning book, The Patterning Instinct: A Cultural History of Humanity’s Search for Meaning, (Prometheus, 2017) which explores the different ways cultures have patterned meaning into the cosmos, and reveals how various worldviews arose and shaped the course of history. The book uncovers the hidden foundations of our modern unsustainable worldview, and offers a potential vision for a more harmonious future. Jeremy is founder of the nonprofit Liology Institute, dedicated to fostering an integrated worldview that could enable humanity to flourish sustainably on the earth. More info: jeremylent.com.

Ideological lock-in

The reasons our civilization continues hurtling towards a precipice are multi-layered. There are some readily identifiable factors; underpinning these are certain structural characteristics of our global system that lock in our current momentum; and underlying these are cognitive frames –  mostly concealed – that form the basis for our collective behavior. Each of these layers must be addressed to make a meaningful course correction.

The easily identifiable forces propelling humanity on its current course are the special interests that gain financially and politically – at least, in the short-term – from continued economic growth and use of fossil fuels. Hundreds of millions of dollars are spent annually in political lobbying and funding for those who deny the threat of anthropogenic climate change. They currently exert enough power over the U.S. legislative process to thwart meaningful legislation at the national level.

However, even without these special interests, some structural characteristics of our global system make it very difficult to change direction. One of these is known as technological lock-in: the fact that, once a technology is widely adopted, an infrastructure is built up around it, making change prohibitively expensive.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

‘Patriotism’ and Manipulation of it by the State

‘Patriotism’ and Manipulation of it by the State

The notion that we must ‘support our troops’, that we must be ‘patriotic’ towards our nation state and its military because they are fighting for our freedoms and democracy is at a minimum misguided and more egregiously a manipulated conditioning by the state.

The idea that military ‘interventions’ are necessary to maintain our freedom or expand democracy ignores the evidence that the invasion and occupation of foreign sovereign states is motivated by imperial expansion to control fundamental resources (e.g. fossil fuels) and sustain or improve financial/economic hegemony (i.e. maintain the US petrodollar as the world’s premier reserve currency).

War is racket as US Marine Corps Major General Smedley Butler argued[1]. It serves the financial interests of the State oligarchs. The State, however, must persuade the masses that this is not the case. It must have the support of the people for the political class to remain in their privileged positions and avoid blowback from the citizens over which they rule.

As Murray Rothbard argues in The Anatomy of the State[2]

“[t]he State is almost universally considered an institution of social service…[and that] we are the government…[But] the government is not ‘us.’ The government does not in any accurate sense ‘represent’ the majority of the people…Briefly, the State is that organization in society which attempts to maintain a monopoly of the use of force and violence in a given territorial area…Having used force and violence to obtain its revenue, the State generally goes on to regulate and dictate other actions of its individual subjects…[Moreover, the] State provides a legal, orderly, systematic channel for the predation of private property; it renders certain, secure, and relatively ‘peaceful’ the lifeline of the parasitic caste in society…The State has never been created by a ‘social contract’; it has always been born in conquest and exploitation…While force is their modus operandi, their basic and long-run problem is ideological. For in order to continue in office, any government (not simply a ‘democratic’ government) must have the support of the majority of its subjects…[Thus] the chief task of the rulers is always to secure the active or resigned acceptance of the majority of the citizens…For this essential acceptance, the majority must be persuaded by ideology that their government is good, wise and, at least, inevitable, and certainly better than other conceivable alternatives…Since most men tend to love their homeland, the identification of that land and its people with the State was a means of making natural patriotism work to the State’s advantage.”

The State uses this patriotic ‘feeling’ to convince its citizens that any ‘attack’ is upon them and not upon the ruling caste. Any war between rulers thus becomes a war between people, with the masses defending the rulers in the misguided belief that they are defending themselves and certain ideologies.

In Hegemony or Survival[3], Noam Chomsky argues that Empire (the American one in particular) attempts to maintain its hegemony through military, political and economic means, demonstrating a total disregard for democracy and human rights in the process. He goes on to provide evidence that ‘preventative’ wars by the current global superpower are often used to keep potential/imagined threats from ever reaching a stage where they become real threats to its hegemony.

There is also increasing evidence that, in fact, the State’s citizens have far more to fear from its own government with regard to a loss of freedoms and erosion of democracy than some concocted threat from outside its own borders. The mass surveillance programmes revealed by NSA insiders, undermining of elections, and constant devaluation of currency/purchasing power comes to mind.

To once again quote Murray Rothbard:

“The greatest danger to the State is independent intellectual criticism; there is no better way to stifle that criticism than to attack any isolated voice, any raiser of new doubts as a profane violator…[and] to depreciate the individual and exalt the collectivity of society…[In fact,] the State must nip the view in the bud by ridiculing any view that defies opinions of the mass…Thus, ideological support being vital to the State, it must unceasingly try to impress the public with its ‘legitimacy,’ to distinguish its activities from those of mere brigands.”

The State, therefore, relies upon and manipulates its citizens’ very emotional notion of ‘patriotism.’ It uses it to maintain and expand its control of resources (both physical and financial) both domestically and abroad. And those who question or challenge it are branded treasonous and attacked/ostracised in any number of ways. Questioning is not allowed.

 

 

 

 

[1] War is Racket. 1935. Smedley D. Butler.

[2] Anatomy of the State. 1965. Murray N. Rothbard.

[3] Hegemony or Survival: America’s Quest for Global Dominance. 2003. Noam Chomsky.

Ideology as Addiction

Ideology as Addiction

Solutions abound, but they aren’t one size fits all ideologies.
It isn’t just coincidental that ideology shares so many dynamics with addiction. Though ideology is a faith-belief dynamic rather than a chemical process, both require constant reinforcement/renewal and both demand a painful withdrawal procedure of those who decide to free themselves of the monkey on their back.
The individual addicted to an ideology needs a constant drip of confirmation that the ideological belief is both correct and ethically superior to competing belief systems. The ideology-addict gets a much-needed hit of confirmation by reading, watching or listening to other believers’ justifications and defenses of the ideology.
Ideology fills two basic human needs: certainty and purpose. a constant state of uncertainty places a corrosive burden on the mind, emotions and spirit; the solution is a decision or resolution that resolves the uncertainy.
Humans need purpose to guide their life; aimlessness is debilitating and unnatural.
Addiction provides purpose, as the life of the addict is guided by the need to satisfy the addiction.
Ideology also provides purpose: the believer is called upon to defend and evangelize the ideology as an abstraction, and support its manifestations in the real world.
Addiction is an all-or-nothing state of being. If an individual can abandon the addiction at will and feel no deprivation, it isn’t an addiction; if sporadic half-measures suffice, it isn’t an addiction.
Ideology is also an all-or-nothing state of being. One doesn’t believe in capitalism or socialism, for example, in half-measure or occasionally when the whim strikes; one is convinced of the rightness of one’s ideology as a permanent state of certainty.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Peak Oil & System Justification: “Threatening” Status Quo

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It’s a lot easier to seek confirmation than information.
So not only does the online world provide less information, it provides more spin and distortion of that information from an online empire of advocates that enables us as never before to find the voices we agree with, and to ignore anybody else. 

DENIAL & AVOIDANCE HAVE DRAWBACKS

When you are confronted with information that contradicts your attitudes, beliefs, impugns your identity, or groups that you identify with, you—we—all of us are motivated to reason through that information in a way that keeps our original attitudes intact.
So, we’ll counter argue, we’ll criticize the data source, not pay attention to information that contradicts our pre-existing attitudes.

Mix in the conservatives’ recognized fear of change and support for simplified decision-making with their inclination to support the “system” as currently structured [so as to avoid change and any considerations regarding new perspectives or factors], and then add human nature’s basic desire for consistency in thought and belief, quite the stew is served! Avoiding new and contradictory information is step one, supplanted with a quest for obtaining reassurances as needed.

Questioning what the reassurances are, their sources, how they came to be, or what they are based on and/or if they are even valid are not part of the program. So those so inclined defer knowledge and presumed expertise to others who share their psychological and ideological preferences, and what results is a profound urgency to preserve what they know, regardless of the implications. Sometimes that’s just fine.

RUNNING THE RISKS

But when the challenges we face have the potential for imposing so much change, denying themselves a place at the table carries a certain set of risks. Blithely dismissing those risks—made easier by avoiding information worth at least considering—is a curious strategy.

As liberalism has increasingly been aligned with the values of empiricism and reason, the incentives for conservatives to reject empiricism and reason multiply.
To be a ‘conservative’ increasingly means taking a contemptuous view of reality.

Today we in America are besieged by a reversal of intellectual growth that finds comfort not in scientific inquiry and method but rather in instinctive reliance upon either what we want to believe or what we think others want to hear.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Peak Oil; Climate Change; & System Justification Pt 8

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Of course it’s threatening to think that our lifestyles, systems of governing, and capitalist processes themselves may all face drastic changes in the not-too-distant future because of the facts and reality of Peak Oil and climate change! I’m certainly notthe poster-child for Peak Oil advocacy and lifestyles. I have a very nice, capitalist, well-to-do lifestyle. To hell with all of you, I don’t want MY life to change!

STATING THE OBVIOUS

I’ve noted this on several occasions: I’m willing to wager that almost all those urging greater awareness of the oil production/energy supply challenges we’ll be facing soon enough would be delighted to be proven wrong. None of us are eagerly—or in any other manner—awaiting the onset of the inevitable magnitude of personal, economic, commercial, and cultural changes which our beliefs about peak oil suggest. Being wrong about this would be ideal, but we—I—have serious doubts about that outcome being the likeliest.

There’s too large a group of ardent and well-financed others well aware of the inherent limitations finite resources carry. They more than most appreciate how widespread will be the impact of a diminishing energy supply colliding with increasing demand and a growing worldwide population. They also understand—as do those opposing/denying the facts of climate change—the costs and consequences to their own organizations once their Business As Usual practices succumb to the production facts of these finite resources.

What worries us: the problems will be of such scope and impact and complexity that we strongly believe in a need for planning to take place now—by all of us, both Left and Right—and we’re not seeing enough honest, intelligent, rational analysis from those whose contributions will be every bit as important and meaningful. The ideology sponsoring practical and effective adaptations and solutions won’t matter to us if they work.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

In Praise of the Reprehensible

In Praise of the Reprehensible

Last month’s post here on cultural senility and its antidotes discussed the way that modern education erases the past in order to defend today’s ideologies against the lessons of history. While that post focused on the leftward end of the political spectrum—the end that currently dominates what we still jokingly call “higher education” in today’s America—the erasure of the past is just as common on the other end of things. Between the political correctness of the left and the patriotic correctness of the right, it’s hardly surprising that so many Americans stumble blindly toward the future in a fog of manufactured ignorance, sedulously shielded from the historical insights that could give them a clue about the troubled landscape about them or the looming disasters ahead.

This week I’d like to discuss another aspect of that erasure of the past. I’ll be concentrating again on the way it’s done on the leftward end of things, because that’s the side that’s doing the most to deform American education just at the moment, but I’d encourage my readers to keep in mind that the issue I have in mind is a blade that has two edges and cuts both ways. That issue? The censoring of literature from the past in order to make it conform to the moral notions of the present.

It so happens, for example, that quite a few works of American literature talk about people of color in terms that many people today find extremely offensive. Now of course just as many works of American literature discuss women, sexual minorities, and just about any other group of people you care to name, other than well-to-do, college-educated, white male heterosexual Anglo-Saxon Protestants, in highly insulting terms, but let’s focus on racism for the moment.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Benn Steil: Why Is Paul Krugman Still Calling For Fiscal Stimulus?

Nobel economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman is fond of mocking his critics for being ideologues rather than economists. In contrast, Krugman’s own policy prescriptions, he assures us, are based wholly on soundeconomic science.

Case in point is the theory of liquidity traps, which goes back to Keynes. An economy is said to be in a liquidity trap when the central bank is powerless to stimulate economic growth because the public demand for liquidity has become limitless. This could happen when interest rates have been driven down to zero, a situation in which people may prefer holding cash to consuming or investing.

Krugman has argued that the rules of the policy game are different in a liquidity trap. In normal times, when short-term interest rates are positive, governments can and should rely on monetary policy – cutting rates – to stimulate economic activity if output is running below capacity. There is no need for extra government spending to substitute for deficient private demand – what we call fiscal stimulus. The private sector can do the job on its own with an appropriate level of interest rates. But if rates are at zero, and need to go lower, the central bank is out of ammunition. The government must step in with higher spending, even if it means running large budget deficits.

While in no way disproving the theory, recent years have shown, however, to Krugman’s admitted surprise, that the so-called zero lower bound on rates is not, in fact, a lower bound. Central banks in Europe and Japan have experimented with negative rates and have found that they have thus far not driven banks to hoard cash in vaults (as a means to avoid paying the central bank to hold their balances). So the lower bound is actually somewhere below zero.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

How Propaganda (Actually) Works

How Propaganda (Actually) Works

Political Propaganda employs the ideals of liberal democracy to undermine those very ideals, the dangers of which, not even its architects fully understand.

In the early years of DeSmog’s research into environmental propaganda, I thought of industry PR campaigns like “junk science,” “clean coal,” and “ethical oil” as misinformation strategies designed to dupe the public about the real issues.

Although there is obvious truth to that view, I now understand that propaganda is far more complex and problematic than lying about the facts. Certainly propaganda is designed to look like facts that are true and right, but not in a way we might think. What’s more, the consequences are far worse than most people consuming and even producing it realize.

Much of my new understanding comes from conversations with Jason Stanley, an American philosopher and professor at Yale University and author of an important new book How Propaganda Works. According to Jason Stanley, the danger for a democracy “raided by propaganda” is the possibility that the vocabulary of liberal democracy is being used to mask an undemocratic reality.

In a democracy where propaganda is common, you have a state that appears to be a liberal democracy, its citizens believe it is a liberal democracy (they have free speech) but the appearance of liberal democracy masks an illiberal, undemocratic reality.

In this rich and thoughtful book Stanley defines political propaganda as “the employment of a political ideal against itself.” DeSmog stories about groups presenting ideologies or financial interests as objective and scientific evidence are paradigm examples of this type of propaganda.

“Propaganda that is presented as embodying an ideal governing political speech, but in fact runs counter to it, is antidemocratic …  because it wears down the possibility of democratic deliberation,” Stanley writes.

He dismisses the idea that it’s deception that makes propaganda effective. Instead, Stanley argues what makes propaganda effective is that it “exploits and strengthens flawed ideology.”
…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Ecological Panic: The New Rationale For Globalist Cultism

Ecological Panic: The New Rationale For Globalist Cultism

Faith in an ideology based on a desire for power over others and the need to feel personally superior without any legitimate accomplishment is perhaps the most dangerous state of being an individual or society can adopt. I would refer to such a mindset as “zealotry,” an integral element of cultism and an extreme result of the elitist side of faith.

Zealotry and cultism are not limited to the realm of the religious. Zealotry is a clever devil hiding in the woodwork of any political or academic construct, and this includes the scientific community when it strays away from empirical logic and honest data into a world of pseudoscience and social engineering. I cannot think of a better example of zealotry feeding scientific cultism than the highly propagandized climate change/global warming movement.

Anthropogenic (man-made) global warming is quickly becoming the overarching rationale for almost every policy toward global centralization, as well as a scapegoat for nearly every major crisis from mass shootings and the rise of ISIS to geopolitical shifts in economic structures. Global warming has been projected as a magical force deviously underlying everything. It is presented by climate scientists and activists as an all-encompassing behemoth of cause and effect, yet nearly all of this frantic pontificating is supported by faith, rather than hard data.

The issue is one of transparency. Without transparency of experimental data, climate scientists and think tank operatives become immune to examination. That is to say, if climate scientists and organizations, many of which are funded by public tax dollars, are not required to reveal the raw data behind their claims on global warming, then their claims are no longer a matter of “fact” or scientific process.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

So you say you don’t want a revolution?

So you say you don’t want a revolution?

Over the past few months we have been forced to bear witness to a humiliating farce unfolding in Europe. Greece, which was first accepted into the European Monetary Union under false pretenses, then saddled with excessive levels of debt, then crippled through the imposition of austerity, finally did something: the Greeks elected a government that promised to shake things up. The Syriza party platform had the following planks, which were quite revolutionary in spirit.

  • Put an end to austerity and put the Greek economy on a path toward recovery
  • Raise the income tax to 75% for all incomes over 500,000 euros, adopt a tax on financial transactions and a special tax on luxury goods.
  • Drastically cut military expenditures, close all foreign military bases on Greek soil and withdraw from NATO. End military cooperation with Israel and support the creation of a Palestinian State within the 1967 borders.
  • Nationalize the banks.
  • Enact constitutional reforms to guarantee the right to education, health care and the environment.
  • Hold referendums on treaties and other accords with the European Union.

Of these, only the last bullet point was acted on: there was a lot made of the referendum which returned a resounding “No!” to EU demands for more austerity and the dismantling and selling off of Greek public assets. But a lot less was made of the fact that the results of this referendum were then ignored.

But the trouble started before then. After being elected, Syriza representatives went to Brussels to negotiate. The negotiations generally went like this: Syriza would make an offer; the EU officials would reject it, and advance their own demands for more austerity; Syriza would make another offer, and the EU officials would reject it too and advance their own demands for even more austerity than in the last round; and so on, all the way until Greek capitulation. 

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

 

 

 

 

An Open Letter to Britain’s Leading Violent Extremist: David Cameron

An Open Letter to Britain’s Leading Violent Extremist: David Cameron

Dear Prime Minister David Cameron,

It is with deep disappointment that I read excerpts of your speech provided by Downing Street to the press, purporting to set out a five-year strategy to tackle fundamentalist terrorism, which — whatever its intentions — is thoroughly misguided, and destined to plunge this country, as well as the Middle East, into further chaos and misery.

I am writing this open letter to request you, as a matter of urgency, to abide by your obligations as a human being, a British citizen, a Member of Parliament, and as our Prime Minister: to undertake proper due-diligence in the formulation of Britain’s foreign, counter-terrorism and security policies, based on the vast array of evidence from scientific and academic studies of foreign policy, terrorism and radicalisation, rather than the influence of far-right extremist ideology, and of narrow vested interest groups keen to profit from war and fear.

Ideology, innit

In your speech, you say:

“It begins by understanding the threat we face and why we face it. What we are fighting, in Islamist extremism, is an ideology. It is an extreme doctrine. And like any extreme doctrine, it is subversive. At its furthest end it seeks to destroy nation-states to invent its own barbaric realm. And it often backs violence to achieve this aim….

And like so many ideologies that have existed before — whether fascist or communist — many people, especially young people, are being drawn to it.

We need to understand why it is proving so attractive… The root cause of the threat we face is the extremist ideology itself.”

But this is already incoherent. You state that the threat is Islamist extremism, an ideology. You then claim that we need to understand why that ideology is so attractive, and you answer the question by claiming that the “root cause” of this threat is the “extremist ideology itself.”

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

 

 

 

American journalism’s ideology: Why the “liberal” media is fundamentalist

American journalism’s ideology: Why the “liberal” media is fundamentalist

Note: The memo below is my response to an editor at a U.S. news organization who was soliciting feedback for a review of the organization’s coverage of environmental news. From a conservative point of view, this newsroom is part of the “liberal media.” My goal in the memo was to step back from that superficial, diversionary label and evaluate the deeper ideological commitments that shape mainstream news.

Evaluation of a news media outlet’s coverage of a subject often focuses on a critique of how stories are covered, suggestions for how stories can be improved, and ideas for stories that currently aren’t being covered. Such an evaluation of XYZ’s environmental coverage would be useful, but it also is crucial to consider more basic questions about the ideological framework in which the coverage goes forward.

Talk of journalism’s ideology typically meets resistance, given that journalists routinely assert that they are non-ideological. If “ideology” is defined as a rigid, even fanatical, devotion to a set of ideas no matter what the evidence, then it is a good thing for journalists (and everyone else) to avoid ideology. But if ideology is understood as the set of social attitudes, political beliefs, and moral values that shape one’s interpretation of the world, then everyone works within an ideological framework, including journalists. Then the task is to understand competing ideologies, including one’s own, and not to imagine that anyone, or any institution, transcends ideology.

There are three key elements to the dominant ideology of the contemporary United States—involving world affairs, economics, and ecology—which can be best understood as forms of fundamentalism. Moving beyond the religious roots of the term, we can understand fundamentalism as any intellectual, political, or moral position that asserts a certainty in the truth and/or righteousness of a belief system. In that sense, the United States is an especially fundamentalist country.

 

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Olduvai IV: Courage
In progress...

Olduvai II: Exodus
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