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A Surefire Cure For Despair

A Surefire Cure For Despair

“I can’t go on. I’ll go on.”
~ Samuel Beckett

Sometimes it just gets to be too goddamn much. You just finished a soul-draining argument with a family member who insists that Putin controls all major world events because that’s what the TV said so it must be true, then you check the poll numbers for the upcoming elections in the US and UK and you see your favorite candidates just don’t have the kind of numbers they’re going to need, the latest revelation that the US and its allies deceived the world about what’s happening in Syria has been completely swept under the rug by the establishment news churn, Bolivia has been taken over by US-backed Christian fascists, and now you’re watching Mike Pompeo’s stupid asshole face spouting some made-up bullshit about Iran that you know the news media will never hold him accountable for.

And it’s just too goddamn much.

To become oppositional to the status quo is to enter into a long-term relationship with despair. It’s not a monogamous relationship; you’ll have the occasional affair with anger, a fling with fear, a rendezvous with rage, and every once in a while even a brief tryst with triumph. But you always end up drunkenly stumbling home to bed with the old ball-and-chain despair.

Every time you think you might have the bastards on the ropes, every time you see a shining crack in the cage, a glowing glitch in the matrix, it’s quickly covered up by some gibberish about Russia or empty shrieking about Donald Trump, and then everyone’s herded along into the next authorised imperial narrative.

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

The Illiberal World Order

The Illiberal World Order

From a big picture perspective, the largest rift in American politics is between those willing to admit reality and those clinging to a dishonest perception of a past that never actually existed. Ironically, those who most frequently use “post-truth” to describe our current era tend to be those with the most distorted view of what was really happening during the Clinton/Bush/Obama reign.

Despite massive amounts of evidence to the contrary, such people now enthusiastically whitewash the decades preceding Trump to turn it into a paragon of human liberty, justice and economic wonder. You don’t have to look deep to understand that resistance liberals are now actually conservatives, brimming with nostalgia for the days before significant numbers of people became wise to what’s been happening all along.

They want to forget about the bipartisan coverup of Saudi Arabia’s involvement in 9/11, all the wars based on lies, and the indisputable imperial crimes disclosed by Wikileaks, Snowden and others. They want to pretend Wall Street crooks weren’t bailed out and made even more powerful by the Bush/Obama tag team, despite ostensible ideological differences between the two. They want to forget Epstein Didn’t Kill Himself.

Lying to yourself about history is one of the most dangerous things you can do. If you can’t accept where we’ve been, and that Trump’s election is a symptom of decades of rot as opposed to year zero of a dangerous new world, you’ll never come to any useful conclusions. As such, the most meaningful fracture in American society today is between those who’ve accepted that we’ve been lied to for a very long time, and those who think everything was perfectly fine before Trump.

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

Politicians Offered a Choice between Climate Fantasies as Our Future Grows Bleaker

Politicians Offered a Choice between Climate Fantasies as Our Future Grows Bleaker

Greta Thunberg is right — across Canada we are acting like ‘spoiled irresponsible children.’

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Greta Thunberg took her climate campaign to Edmonton this week, and is in Vancouver today. Our politicians should listen. CANADIAN PRESS/Dave Chidley.

Now that we can open the windows again and clear the air of political flatulence, perhaps we can acknowledge the realities that remain like ghosts in our troubled house.

Once again we have been reminded that Canada’s political parties behave like organizations “publicly and officially designed for the purpose of killing in all souls the sense of truth and of justice,” as Simone Weil characterized parties seven decades ago. 

What they have left us are political divisions that have now painted the face of Canada red or blue.

And just as in the excited United States, the conservative blue largely spreads across oil-producing regions suffering from low prices, while the red occupies oil-importing provinces.  

We are now living the storm before the storm and don’t even know it.

The energy divisions in both countries tell a story of appalling leadership, the strength of propaganda and political inertia.

One-third of the blue nation not only doesn’t believe that climate change is an emergency, but remains in denial about the increasing volatility of oil and gas prices.

Low prices and overproduction of high cost bitumen and fracked oil and gas have eroded the economics of the fossil fuel industry, throwing some people in Alberta and Saskatchewan into cauldrons of resentment, stoked by the propaganda manufactured by “wildcat Christians” and the oil industry. 

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

So Sorry, Your Karma Ran Over Your Dogma

So Sorry, Your Karma Ran Over Your Dogma

When dogmas lose their grip on believers, they collapse in spectacular fashion.

Karma covers a lot of ground, but it boils down to consequences: consequences not just from your actions but from your convictions, schemes, obsessions, and yes, dogmas.

The reason why Karma runs over Dogma is that nobody clinging to a dogma sees themselves as dogmatic. The true believer never sees their conviction as dogma, but as Revealed Truth, as self-evident, a view that is buttressed by all the other True Believers who surround the believer, reinforcing their conviction and soothing any nagging doubts by mocking, “debunking” or marginalizing heretics and critics.

In our society, the mass media serves as a soothing echo-chamber of dogmas. It must be true, the news anchor said it on TV, etc.

Dogmas generate power and profits. Trillions of dollars flow into a few pockets because people believe the dogmas that “you need a college diploma to succeed” and “America’s healthcare system is the best in the world.”

As evidence-based doubts seep in, those at the top of the “faith” who have the most to lose become increasingly fanatical and rabid, pushing an increasingly restrictive Orthodoxy on true believers and establishing an Inquisition to excommunicate or eliminate any heretical doubts or dissenting views.

As the increasingly detached-from-reality leadership senses their power waning, they double-down, exhorting the faithful to support the orthodoxy even as the orthodoxy reaches new heights of fanaticism.

As moderates drift away (or sneak away, loudly proclaiming their fealty to cover their escape), the leadership triples down, demanding unwavering loyalty of the remaining believers, who themselves triple-down by reassuring each other that they really are on the right track and the world is about to awaken to the correctness and righteousness of their cause.

The problem with dogmas is that they are detached from the real-world consequences of dogmatic convictions. 

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

How To Awaken From The Matrix Using Self-Enquiry

How To Awaken From The Matrix Using Self-Enquiry

I talk about the power of self-enquiry a fair bit in my musings about enlightenment and human consciousness, so I thought it might be good to tap out a simple how-to on the subject in case anyone finds it useful.

Self-enquiry, or self-inquiry, is a practice popularized in the west by the circulation of nondualist teachings from the renowned Indian sages Ramana Maharshi and Nisargadatta Maharaj. It requires no faith in any teacher, teaching or tradition, nor even in the practice itself. Self-enquiry is a method for inquiring for yourself into your own nature and discovering in your own firsthand experience what lies at the end of that investigation.

Most of our suffering and confusion (which is what the propagandists I write about rely upon to manipulate us into believing establishment narratives) stems from a fundamental misunderstanding of the way our experience is actually happening. Partly due to culture, partly due to language, and partly due to the fact that we begin life as helpless little things at the mercy of an often terrifying world, we develop mistaken notions about ourselves, about our minds, and about the world, and we form conditioning patterns around those mistaken notions. Self-enquiry works to correct those fundamental errors and habits of perception, which allows for the possibility of a serene mind and an efficacious way of functioning.

Self-enquiry is a practice that you can engage in all day, every day, to whatever extent that you’ve got attention at your disposal for the endeavor. You can do it at work, while driving, while eating, in the shower, whenever. There are many different approaches to the practice, but here’s the way I’ve found useful, broken down into its five distinct steps. If it speaks to you, bookmark it and refer to it as often as you find useful:

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

‘The Reality Bubble’: Or Pretending Ourselves to Death

‘The Reality Bubble’: Or Pretending Ourselves to Death

Our illusions and blind spots keep us happy. And could doom us.

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We create a bubble that lets us be blind to the world around us, writes Ziya Tong. And we like it in there.

We are also richly endowed with metaphorical blind spots, which enable us to deceive ourselves even about what can see perfectly well. 

Tong, a very experienced science communicator, was the co-host of the Discovery Channel’s Daily Planet for a decade. Her book, The Reality Bubble, illustrates its argument. It begins with interesting little factoids. Your face is crawling with tiny eight-legged mites; the alarm barks of prairie dogs, analyzed by computer, reveal “words” defining the nature of the threat: coyote, hawk, tall guy in a blue shirt. We may keep consuming such factoids like salted peanuts and begin to lose the point of them.

But Tong uses every factoid to back up her thesis. We never knew about the mites until the microscope let us examine ourselves up close and very personal. We thought we were the only language users until we used computers that could detect every nuance in a prairie dog’s bark. Our unaided senses operate in a very narrow spectrum, and the “real world” we perceive is just a reconstruction in our brains of electromagnetic and sound waves that impinge on our eyes and ears.

Blind spots aren’t just physical. Leeuwenhoek developed the microscope in the 17th century, and promptly discovered microscopic life. It took two more centuries until Louis Pasteur identified microbes as causes of disease, and another century before we began to realize that not all “germs” are bad: most help keep us alive and healthy. 

Tong writes that we can be blind to the obvious individually, and as a society. 

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

Perhaps It’s Time to Believe the Impossible

PERHAPS IT’S TIME TO BELIEVE THE IMPOSSIBLE

“Alice laughed: “There’s no use trying,” she said; “one can’t believe impossible things.” “I daresay you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was younger, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.” – Alice in Wonderland.

It is often said, usually by those who wish to “educate”, control and manipulate us, that we are defined by what we believe. I submit it’s the other way around. We are defined, or more accurately confined, by what we disbelieve and think impossible, or at a minimum, improbable.

Once we consign something to the impossible, unbelievable, farfetched, unlikely, preposterous and unreal cognitive file, rarely, if ever, do we fish it back out of the garbage bin for reassessment and reconsideration. And why would we do so since it clearly belonged there to begin with, otherwise we never would have discarded it in the first place.

That right there is a perfect example of circular logic and emotionally comforting thinking.

From the point in time when non-religious standardized thinking was institutionalized, more commonly known as the scientific revolution of the 16th and 17th centuries, we have been conditioned to believe everything and anything can (eventually) be cataloged, quantified, qualified and confirmed…or denied. More importantly, the scientific method insists “real” truth can only be verified by way of uniform methods that produce repeatable results.

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

So, You Think Science Will Save the World? Are You Sure?

So, You Think Science Will Save the World? Are You Sure?

I understand that by publishing this post I may be giving ammunition to the anti-science crowd. But we can’t just hide in the ivory tower and tell people that science is perfect as it is. We need deep reforms in the way science is done.

In Italy, we have a term for those who engage in a task much too big and too difficult for them. We call them a “Brancaleone Army” (Armata Brancaleone), a term coming from the title of a wonderful 1966 Italian movie where an Italian self-styled knight tries to lead a ragtag army of incompetent fighters. The sad conditions of science nowadays sometimes look to me like the story of the Brancaleone army.

What is truth? These famous words come not from a scientist but from a politician, Pontius Pilate, governor of Palestine in Roman times. As a politician, Pilate knew very well how truth could be twisted, stretched, sliced, cooked, flavored, and rearranged in many ways in order to be sold to people. Things are not different, today. In politics, truth is what you perceive to be true. After all, isn’t it true that we can create our own reality? (a US government official is reported to have said that at the time of the invasion of Iraq, in 2003).

Eventually, the Roman Empire drowned in its own lies, it was an epistemological collapse. Something similar may happen to us: we cannot continue for long to ignore reality, believing that we can manufacture our own, and deceive everyone in the process.
…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Why do we need to think and act more systemically?

Why do we need to think and act more systemically?

The power and majesty of nature in all its aspects is lost on one who contemplates it merely in the detail of its parts and not as a whole.

— Pliny the Elder

An increasing number of people are beginning to understand that the world we participate in is too complex, magnificent and changeable for any single perspective to do justice to its diversity and complexity. There is more to life than a ‘theory of everything’ that reduces the awe-inspiring diversity, creativity and beauty surrounding us to a series of abstract mathematical equations.

We live in networks of relationships defined by qualities that make life worth living. Most qualities escape quantification and mathematical abstraction. We need to acknowledge and value multiple perspectives and find ways to integrate their different contributions into a framework of thinking that can inform wise action.

In order to achieve a collaborative way of acknowledging, integrating and evaluating multiple perspectives, we need to move beyond dualistic either-or logic which suggests that, if two perspectives seem to contradict each other, one of them must categorically be wrong in order for the other perspective to be right. Yet, at a time when our cultural belief in the ability of science and technology to fix all our problems is beginning to wane, we also need ways to evaluate and compare different perspectives.

Science might not offer us the ‘objective’ picture of reality we were taught in school, but it remains a powerful method of inter-subjective consensus-making and constitutes a fairly reliable basis upon which to act — more so, say, than the opinion, intuition or spontaneous insight of a single individual — in most but certainly not all cases. We should neither exclusively favour inter-subjective ‘rational’ reasoning nor only rely on individual insight and intuition, but let ourselves be informed by both, as and when appropriate.

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

The (Mind) Games People Play

THE (MIND) GAMES PEOPLE PLAY

Fair warning! This is a long and dense read and not intended for the faint-hearted

While most of us would accept there are two states of mind when it comes to perceiving reality, belief and disbelief, I posit there are three. And this third state of mind, the suspension of disbelief, is employed by nearly all of us most of the time when interacting within our own perceived reality.

If we are to recognize the prevailing global cultural insanity as a long duration event, meaning it started many centuries ago and will last many centuries beyond today, being logical and rational, while an essential component of survival, can only be viewed as a significant disability when trying to make sense of an insane world.

This is particularly true when we closely examine group and individual psychology and how it affects everything from culture to money to politics and all the prevailing memes in-between. Any sober assessment of the human condition leads to one conclusion only. Everyone is insane, including you and me. It is only a matter of degree, not if.

That said; for the sake of this article let us assume one can be sane enough to recognize his or her own insanity. While nearly all will point to the actual behavior of the insane as proof of the illness, I tend to focus on the driving force behind the behavior. My experience shows this to be our horribly distorted belief system(s) which propel us deeper and deeper into our madness.

But belief is a misnomer for what actually occurs in the real world. The word belief implies action, intent and effort, as in a verb or adjective. However this should be differentiated from passive belief, which is a subconscious and conscious embrace of a thought or idea which we embody in whole and absolutely.

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

Can We Ascertain the Facts of Reality in Economics by Means of Mathematics?

It is generally held that by means of statistical and mathematical methods one can organize historical data into a useful body of information, which in turn can serve as the basis for the assessments of the state of the economy. It is also held that the knowledge secured from the assessment of the data is likely to be of a tentative nature since it is not possible to know the true nature of the facts of reality.

Some thinkers such as Milton Friedman held that since it is not possible to establish “how things really work,” then it does not really matter what the underlying assumptions of a theory are. On this way of thinking, what matters is that the theory can yield good predictions.

According to Friedman,

The ultimate goal of a positive science is the development of a theory or hypothesis that yields valid and meaningful (i.e., not truistic) predictions about phenomena not yet observed…. The relevant question to ask about the assumptions of a theory is not whether they are descriptively realistic, for they never are, but whether they are sufficiently good approximation for the purpose in hand. And this question can be answered only by seeing whether the theory works, which means whether it yields sufficiently accurate predictions.[1]

For instance, an economist forms a view that consumer outlays on goods and services are determined by disposable income. Based on this view he forms a model, which is then validated by means of statistical methods. The model is then employed in the assessments of the future direction of consumer spending.

If the model fails to produce accurate forecasts, it is either replaced, or modified by adding some other explanatory variables.

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

Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast

Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast

Alice laughed. “There’s no use trying,” she said. “One can’t believe impossible things.”

“I dare say you haven’t had much practice,” said the queen. “When I was your age, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”   –Alice in Wonderland

We live in an age when the level of deceit and propaganda is at an all-time high. Joseph Goebbels, Vladimir Lenin, and others did their best to force-feed propaganda to the masses, but they were rank amateurs compared to the spin doctors employed by the political leaders of today. They’re masters at convincing people of impossible things.

Whenever I listen to Americans discuss their country, I find people that are eager for more news and information, yet most, without even knowing it, accept much of the dogma they’ve been fed on a daily basis by their government and the media, even if, to outsiders, the assumptions are preposterous. Only those who make a concerted, ongoing effort to see through the smokescreen seem to keep clear.

Here are six impossible things that many seem to have little trouble accepting as reality.

Yes, the country’s in a mess, but that’s because of opposition-party meddling. If the party I favour could get a majority, they’d sort things out.

This seems to have been a popular belief for decades. It’s believed by Democrats and Republicans alike. But, in 2001, the Republicans held both houses of Congress, plus the presidency, yet even then they failed to deliver on what they claimed were their party’s fundamental goals. Between 2009 and 2011, the Democrats controlled all three, yet they, too, failed to deliver.

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

Manufacturing Normality

Manufacturing Normality

Who’s behind this “fake news” menace? Well, Putin, naturally, but not just Putin. It appears to be the work of a vast conspiracy of virulent anti-establishment types, ultra-alt-rightists, ultra-leftists, libertarian retirees, armchair socialists, Sandernistas, Corbynistas, ontological terrorists, fascism normalizers, poorly educated anti-Globalism freaks, and just garden variety Clinton-haters.

Fortunately, for us, the corporate media is hot on the trail of this motley of scoundrels. As you’re probably aware, The Washington Postrecently published a breathtaking piece of Pulitzer-quality investigative journalism shamelessly smearing hundreds of alternative publications (like the one you’re reading) as “peddlers of Russian propaganda.” The piece, a classic McCarthyite smear job perpetrated by the Post‘s Craig Timberg, was based on the groundless, paranoid claims of what Timberg unironically describes as “two teams of independent researchers,” The Foreign Policy Research Institute, a third-rate, former anti-Communist think tank, and an anonymous website, propornot.com, that no one had ever heard of prior to its sudden appearance on the Internet last August, and which, based on the tenor of its tweets and emails, appears to be run by Beavis and Butthead.

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

Seeking Calm in the Middle of Chaos

SEEKING CALM IN THE MIDDLE OF CHAOS

“Do. Or do not do. There is no try.” – Yoda

A lie repeated often enough becomes the truth, both for those who wish it to be the truth because it fits their (programmed) mindset, and those who practice what I describe as ‘garbage in, garbage out’ non critical thinking. Setting aside the desire to expand upon the definition of ‘truth’, if the purpose of the lie (and the intent of the liar) is to shape reality via propaganda dissemination (basically to gain advantage) might not the lie also be directed towards those who know it to be a lie?

As silly as that statement may appear on the surface, it is reasonable to inquire exactly how a known or suspected lie may significantly shape the reality of those who at a minimum may not know the truth, but can smell a lie a mile away. The answer comes by way of how we react to the lie and not the lie itself.

If we are consumed by the lie, either by accepting it as ‘truth’ or by obsessively and forcibly exposing it, particularly to those who could care less or to those who are of like mind who need external affirmation of their alternative reality, we are effectively disempowered by the very lie we reject.

Most assume a lie is used primarily to hide the truth. And for this purpose it is most effective, particularly when it fits neatly within the overall controlling narrative. But the lie is also purposefully directed towards those who know a lie when they hear one.

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

According To Deutsche Bank, The “Worst Kind Of Recession” May Have Already Started

According To Deutsche Bank, The “Worst Kind Of Recession” May Have Already Started

One week ago, Deutsche Bank’s Dominic Konstam unveiled, whether he likes it or not, what the next all too likely step will be as central bankers scramble to preserve order in a world in which monetary policy has all but lost effectiveness: “It is becoming increasingly clear to us that the level of yields at which credit expansion in Europe and Japan will pick up in earnest is probably negative, and substantially so. Therefore, the ECB and BoJ should move more strongly toward penalizing savings via negative retail deposit rates or perhaps wealth taxes.”

Many were not happy, although in reality the only reason why the DB strategist proposed this disturbing idea is because this is precisely what the central banks will end up doing.

Today, he follows up with an explanation just why the central bankers will engage in such lunatic measures: quite simply, he thinks that economic contraction is now practically assured – and may have already begun – for a simple reason: contrary to popular belief, this particular “expansion” will die of old age after all, and won’t even need the Fed’s intervention to unleash the next recession (if not depression).

There is an old saying amongst market watchers that economic expansions do not die of old age. Rather, during the course of the business cycle dynamics emerge that threaten to become unacceptable from a policy perspective. In the context of economic expansion, that dynamic has been inflation. The conventional pattern has been that as expansions mature, demand for labor outstrips the available supply, creating upward pressure on wages. In the presence of pricing power, higher wages are passed along to end consumers through higher prices.

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

Olduvai IV: Courage
In progress...

Olduvai II: Exodus
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