Saturday, January 7, 2012

Muddling Towards Theocracy

"The logic that prevents legislators from dealing with economically suicidal problems like overpopulation, consumer addiction, climate change, peak oil, and the Federal Reserve is the selection of convenient myth, usually religious, over provable fact,"

 “In no instance have the churches been guardians of the liberties of the people.”

— James Madison
“A firehouse is more useful than a church.”

— Benjamin Franklin

Julian Assange at Occupy London (mic check):

What is happening here today
CROWD: What is happening here today

is a culmination of dreams
CROWD: is a culmination of dreams

that many people all over the world
CROWD: that many people all over the world

have worked towards:
CROWD: have worked towards:

the (unintelligible) of London.
CROWD: the (mumble) of London.

What we face today
CROWD: What we face today

is the systematized destruction
CROWD: is the systematized destruction

of the rule of law.
CROWD: of the rule of law.

When we first listened to this, casually from a podcast while we were distracted with other things, what grabbed our ear was “… is epistemization of the rule of law,” which struck us as brilliant. Did he just say that? Then we rewound and heard the actual statement. Sigh. We liked “epistemization” better and suspect it would have worked well for Assange, who is known for elevating the discussion by deft — albeit oblique — parry, in the style of Bob Dylan or John Lennon.

Epistemology is the study of how we know if we know what we think we know.

To an epistemologist, the construction of the rule of law might be a worthy undertaking. It would begin by asking some deeper questions.

Going back to Socrates, we can posit that “knowledge is an evidence-justified belief.” In order to know that a given proposition is true, one must not only believe the proposition, but one must also have a good reasons supporting that belief. Made-up reasons don’t count. Faith-derived reasons don’t count.

Do you know that “knowledge is an evidence-justified belief.” No. Do you think you could find evidence to justify it?

Question authority. This causes a nearly infinite loop for epistemologists, because whether reasons are made up or self-evidently true regresses back to the core of your beliefs and how they were formed. The more we learn about neuroscience and inherited responses to our environment the more we have to question how, when and by what means our core beliefs are derived.

The process that produces law, be it national or local, is flawed in that it derives from a very thin and suspect consensus about the nature of reality. There is scant scientific or logical basis for punishing people who are following the instincts of their reptilian brains as informed by whatever socialization processes might have been thrown at them when they were children. We now have nearly 2 million people behind bars in the United States, the majority for victimless or “status” crimes. At least 10 million are imprisoned worldwide. What an enormous waste of resource!

“Men do not learn much from the lessons of history and that is the biggest lesson of history.”
— Aldous Huxley

The global prison gulag only dates back 200 years, to William Penn, who abolished the Duke of York’s criminal code in the Pennsylvania colony after having been imprisoned for his Quaker beliefs. Under the old system, jails were usually just holding tanks while awaiting sentence, although a rare sentence might be imprisonment in a dungeon. Under Penn’s system crimes like "defiling the marriage bed" were punished by public whipping plus a one-year sentence for the first offense, life imprisonment for the second. Mercifully, the death penalty was lifted from denying "the true God" (a charge used against Quakers) and homosexuality. Under later revisions by Benjamin Franklin, Jeremy Bentham and others, dungeons became monastic cells and prisoners received useful trade instruction in workshops. This notion of criminal or psychological rehabilitation is now only practiced in a few smaller countries. The largest gulags are strictly punitive and torture, especially sensory deprivation, is undergoing a revival.

Rationally, there is no reason to punish gay people by making them hide their sexuality or denying them marriage benefits, any more than there is reason to apply the same to people of color, or to short people. But we hear presidential candidates saying:

“They can get married. They can marry a man if they’re a woman. Or they can marry a woman if they’re a man.”

— Michele Bachmann

 “One of the things I will talk about, that no president has talked about before, is I think the dangers of contraception in this country. It’s not okay. It’s a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be. [Sex] is supposed to be within marriage. It’s supposed to be for purposes that are yes, conjugal…but also procreative. That’s the perfect way that a sexual union should happen…This is special and it needs to be seen as special.”

— Rick Santorum

“The more toppings a man has on his pizza, I believe the more manly he is. A manly man don’t want it piled high with vegetables! He would call that a sissy pizza.”

— Herman Cain

Why does the President of the United States seek the death penalty for Time’s Man of the Year Bradley Manning, who should be getting the Presidential Medal of Freedom for risking his life to uphold the Code of Military Conduct and the U.S. Constitution (which he had sworn an oath to preserve and obey when he enlisted)? Perhaps he should get the Nobel Peace Prize for having revealed war crimes and high misdemeanors that precipitated the Arab Spring and Occupy movements around the globe. Answer: because Manning (as surrogate for Assange), broke the faith that keeps Black Ops operating in the light of day — under color of law. He pulled the veil on the Wizard of Oz.

There is no logic that informs a decision to send teenage first offenders off to prison for most of their adult lives because they possess or sell spiritual medicines. There is no benefit to the offender by doing that. The premises of the elected representatives of the offended society — that such punishments deter, that those individuals need to be kept segregated from “normal” people, from the potential for further crime, or that society must punish such activity or suffer moral decline — are all nonsense by any rational empirical test.

Ten Commandments of the Energy Ethic for Survival of Man in Nature 
1. Thou shall not waste potential energy.
2. Thou shall know what is right by its part in survival of thy system.
3. Thou shall do unto others as best benefits the energy flows of thy system. 

4. Thou shall revel in thy systems work rejoicing in happiness that only finds thee in this good service.
5. Thou shall treasure the other life of thy natural system as thine own, for only together shall thee all survive.
6. Thou shall judge value by the energies spent, the energies stored, and the energy flow which is possible, turning not to the incomplete measure of money.
7. Thou shall not unnecessarily cultivate high power, for error, destruction, noise, and excess vigilence are its evil wastes.
8. Thou shall not take from man or nature without returning service of equal value, for only then are thee one. 

9. Thou shall treasure thy heritage of information, and in the uniqueness of thy good works and complex roles will thy system reap that which is new and immortal in thee.
10. Thou must find in thy religion, stability over growth, organization over competition, diversity over uniformity, system over self, and survival process over individual peace.
Howard T. Odum, Environment, Power, and Society (1971) 244.

The logic that prevents legislators from dealing with economically suicidal problems like overpopulation, consumer addiction, climate change, peak oil, and the Federal Reserve is the same logic that pushes them to enact impossible voter ID requirements, ban imports from Cuba, support Israel’s indefensible outrages against Palestinians, or shut down birth control funding to the United Nations. It is the selection of convenient myth, usually religious, over provable fact, as the foundation of most, if not all, of our body of law. It might be the terminal disease of our civilization, and our species, although there are many other viable candidates for that position.

“I am convinced that if we do not decisively win the struggle over the nature of America, by the time [his grandchildren are] my age they will be in a secular atheist country, potentially one dominated by radical Islamists and with no understanding of what it once meant to be an American.”

— Newt Gingrich

Canadian physician Gabor Maté says that we are systematically destroying children by the faith-based systems we have enshrined in our laws and culture. He describes the impact of 'adverse childhood experiences' or ACEs (e.g. a child being abused, violence in the family, a jailed parent, extreme stress of poverty, a rancorous divorce, an addict parent, etc.) on how a person lives their lives and their risk of addiction and mental and physical illnesses; as seen in a number of U.S.-based ACE studies. Having a number of ACEs exponentially increases a person's chances of becoming an addict later on e.g. a male child with six ACEs has a 4,600% or 46-fold increase in risk. ACEs also exponentially increase the risk of diseases e.g. cancer, high blood pressure, heart disease, etc. and also suicide and early death. Maté explained it to Amy Goodman on Democracy Now!:

“The human brain, unlike any other mammal, for the most part develops under the influence of the environment. And that’s because, from an evolutionary point of view, we developed these large heads to house our large forebrains, and to walk on two legs we developed a narrow pelvis. That means — large head, narrow pelvis — we have to be born prematurely. Otherwise we’d never get born. The head is the biggest part of the body.

“Now the horse can run on the first day of life. Human beings aren’t that developed for two years. That means that much of our brain development, that for other animals occurs safely in the uterus, for us has to occur out there in the environment. Which circuits develop and which don’t depend very much on our mental input. When people are mistreated, stressed or abused, their brains don’t develop they way they ought to. It’s that simple.

“And unfortunately, my profession, the medical profession, puts all the emphasis on genetics, rather than on the environment. Which, of course, is a simple explanation that also takes everyone off the hook.

“If people’s behaviors and dysfunctions are regulated, controlled and determined by genes, we don’t have to look at child welfare policies. We don’t have to look at the kind of support that we give to pregnant women. We don’t have to look at the kind of non-support that we give to families, or that most children in North America now have to be away from their parents from an early age because of economic considerations. And especially in the States, because of welfare laws, women are forced to go find low-paying jobs far away from home, often single women, and not see their kids for most of the day.

“Under those conditions, kids’ brains don’t develop they way they need to. If all that is caused by genetics we don’t have to look at those social policies. We don’t have to look at our politics that disadvantage certain minority groups, cause them more stress, cause them more pain, set them up for addictions and economic inequalities. If it is all genes, than we are all innocent and society doesn’t have to take a hard look at its own attitudes and policies."

“As a Congressman, I’ve never voted for any budget that includes funding for Planned Parenthood. Instead, I’ve introduced the Taxpayers’ Freedom of Conscience Act to cut off all taxpayer funding of abortions, so-called “family planning” services and international abortionists.”

—  Ron Paul, on Planned Parenthood and the medical services it provides to the poor.

“Our nation needs to stop doing for people what they can and should do for themselves. Self reliance means, if anyone will not work, neither should he eat.”

— Michele Bachmann

“Yes, but not overnight. As a matter of fact, my program’s the only one that is going to be able to take care of the elderly. I’d like to get the young people out of it, just the younger generation.”

— Ron Paul, after being asked if he favors abolishing Social Security.

Maté continues:
"The first point is that if people who become severe addicts, as shown by all the studies, were for the most part abused children, then we realize that the war on drugs is actually waged on people that were abused from the moment they were born, or from an early age on. In other words, we are punishing people for having been abused.

“The second point is that research clearly shows that the biggest driver of addictive relapse and addictive behavior is actually stress. In North America right now, because of the economic crisis, a lot of people are eating junk food because junk foods release endorphins and dopamine in the brain. So stress drives addiction.

“Imagine we were trying to come up with a system that tries to help addicts. Would we come up with a system that stresses them to the max? Who would design a system that ostracizes, marginalizes, impoverishes and insures the disease among the addicts and hopes through that system to rehabilitate large numbers? It can’t be done.

“In other words, the so-called War on Drugs — actually a war on people — actually entrenches addiction deeply. It institutionalizes people in a system where there is no care. We call it a correctional system but it doesn’t correct anything. It is a punitive system. So people suffer more.”

If Assange had actually said what we heard him say, “What we face today… is epistemization of the rule of law,” we would be cheering. THAT is the discussion we need to have.

1 comment:

solarsmith said...

A comment from someone who spent his childhood in the wholly different culture of another country:
When I came back to the USA at age thirteen, my family landed in Texas with my stepdad's family. Right away I noticed that there was a tension or tightness in the air, causeless and constant. It existed in my uncle's home, in the school, in the streets. I didn't think it was caused by me, because I could feel it in others from afar. It seemed to be of a piece with the occasional fights between kids at school, when you felt the total desperation, the meanness, and the violence so far out of proportion with the apparent cause of the fight.
Something is eating these gringos, I thought.
Later on we studied "American History", and it gradually dawned on me that the settlers of North America had fairly systematically exterminated the natives of their continent. Neither the books nor the teacher expressed any emotion or moral judgment when these topics were briefly mentioned. Then I learned that North Americans had slaves until about 100 years before, and that black people and Latinos were still being treated with contempt, economic and political oppression, and sometimes violence. As a kid, I wondered how people could stay sane knowing those things. But when I got shoehorned into going to church, I found what kept folks' minds somewhat stable: their faith-based belief in so many impossible things. That God is jealous, vengeful, and not above committing genocide or condemning people to eternal torture in hell. That, to my juvenile literal mind seemed to explain that tightness around the eyes and mouth, threatening to explode into causeless violence, that I witnessed among many men and kids in Texas. I thought this is a semi-conscious inner conflict between their horrible predatory history, a blood-god that seems to approve this kind of garbage, and their good sense, the sense of justice that everyone really knows in their heart and mind instinctively.




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