What is the difference between liberty and autonomy?

Autonomy is the ability to act on your own, from your own initiative, according to your own values, in order of your own priorities, and without reliance on someone or something else to actualize a given objective. In this sense autonomy is individualistic in its orientation, and is concerned most with an individual’s self-directed thought and action.

Liberty is a much broader and deeper semantic container, with many other components and considerations. In an individual context, having autonomy is just one facet of liberty. Additional facets include lack of substantive interference with autonomous thought and action, and productive conditions that facilitate individual ability to self-actualize, and even enhance opportunities and capacities to do so. In a more collective context, liberty is a consensus expectation of mutual (passive) permission and (active) support for maximized autonomy. This is where “enhanced opportunities and capacities” become a collective, mutually beneficial consideration.

However, in a collective context there is the added layer of an agreed-upon values framework. In other words, a framework within which some actions are permitted, but others are not. This is where the intersect of collective standards of liberty and individual aspirations of autonomy can potentially interfere with each other, and it has frequently been the aim of civil society at various points in history to reconcile the two.

My 2 cents.

From Quora: https://www.quora.com/What-is-the-difference-between-liberty-and-autonomy/answer/T-Collins-Logan

Todd's Take on Epistemology: Sector Theory 1.0

Pieces of this particular puzzle have been knocking around in my head for some time. In particular, those already familiar with my essay on Constructive Integralism will encounter a familiar feel...but now it's in a simple infographic! Actually the graphic is not-so-simple, and requires some further (and likely ongoing) clarification. However, most of the pieces are there, and perhaps the underlying concepts will gel more quickly for some folks in this format.

A couple of introductory notes:

1) The "realm of exclusionary bias or conditions" includes descriptions of widely researched conditions and characteristics - some clinical, some subclinical or forme fruste - that have a known impact on neuroplasticity, perceptive ability and general flexibility of thought. This is a deliberate effort to group similar cognitive tendencies into affinitive buckets for a given sector. However, they aren't intended to ascribe causality.

2) Please assume that all of the lines that divide the circle (and create the sectors) have arrows indicating the relationship between the "exclusionary barrier" and the realm of exclusionary bias - those go hand-in-hand.

3) Abbreviations are as follows: GOB = ground of being; PPD = Paranoid Personality Disorder; ICD = Impulse Control Disorder; NPD - Narcissistic Personality Disorder; OCPD = Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder (not to be confused with OCD!)

4) Elaborating on the Omega Point at the center of the circle will be a project for a later time - though I suspect some folks will already intuit its meaning. Suffice it to say that the processes represented by the Sector model are akin to those discussed at length in the Constructive Integralism paper, but with ontological as well as epistemological implications.

5) My usage of specific terms is discussed in detail among my other works - primary drives, for example, as well as ground of being, codependence, agape, hyperrational (also see Constructive Integralism essay), rigidified associations (or rigid "chained associations"), memory field, and so on. Please forgive my lack of detailed definitions here; instead, I have linked them to the source material in this paragraph - so you can simply follow the link and perform a search within that document on the linked term. Please note that, since the source material is in different formats, the search facility available to each also operates differently. For example, for the Publitas books, you will need to "open" the book and select the magnifying glass icon on the left, then enter the search term in the text window above it. For PDF files, you can open them in your browser viewer and use the browser search facility (command + F), or download them and use the search facility within Adobe Acrobat or other PDF viewer.

6) Implicit to Sector Theory is that all sectors must be included in the final integration to approach a virtual approximation of what knowledge is true, reliable and cohesive. To exclude any sector completely is to initiate an unacceptable bias, and either muddy the truth or miss it altogether. It is of course understood that "truths" operating within a given sector do not necessarily require involvement from other sectors. But there's the rub, because over-reliance on any one sector inevitably results in Cartesian, reductionist distortions that exclude completeness and complexity, even for what is perceived as basic, rudimentary information. This has been an understandable consequence of the specialization and separation of disciplines in the modern age, but it seems long overdue that we move beyond it to a more inclusive, integralizing understanding. In many ways this framework echoes Integral Lifework itself, where all dimensions of being require attention and compassion in order for the whole to thrive.

7) I plan to add additional FAQs to the section after the graphic in the coming weeks...stay tuned....

Lastly, a special thanks to Ray Harris for challenging me to clarify my epistemological positions.

Okay...so here it is...enjoy.



SECTOR THEORY FAQ

Why Sectors in a Circle?

There are a number of aspects to this representation. One is the obvious allusion to Aristotle and the Tao. Another is a differentiation of the unique perception-cognition available to us in each sector - that is, multiple ways of knowing. Another is the principle I've promoted in much of my writing that we tend towards two orientations with respect to knowing, identity, morality, wisdom and so forth: one is to look within, concentrating and distilling our attention and perception, listening attentively and letting go of preconceptions, and then relying on that process to both inform and measure our progress; the other is to become dependent on resources and authorities outside of ourselves or our own judgment, to externalize and diffuse our points of reference as they become ordered and organized by someone or something else, and to avoid internal inquiry. The wedge shape of a circle's sector is an elegant representation of these two directions, with the wider end projecting into an homogenizing externalization of our consciousness (i.e. the "realm of exclusionary bias and conditions"), and the narrowing end refining, concentrating and distilling our consciousness into an eventual "single-pointedness" of clarity. You will also notice left-right distinctions that roughly mirror some neurological brain structures - though this is more to illustrate contrasts and dialectical tensions inherent to our cognitive input streams. Although each sector represents a unique perception-cognition processing space, their boundaries (both functional and structural) tend to be soft, flexible, permeable and interpenetrating rather than impermeable and fixed. All of this becomes important in appreciating balance between contrasting sectors and groups of sectors, and encouraging synthesis rather than excluding inputs - because all sectors have something to contribute. There is also the issue of temporal speed and orientation, which tends to be different within each sector, and which I cover in the "What is the Integral-Contextual Crucible?" FAQ answer below. Lastly, the size of any given sector will vary from one person to the next, based on native tendencies, learned habits and nurtured facilities. Their representation here is ad hoc.


What is the Exclusionary Barrier?

Now the "either exclusionary barrier or integrative faculties" ring within the circle is really a kind of semi-permeable cell wall around our innermost processing centers. It represents the ideas illustrated by the following belief/learning flow diagrams:



The first diagram illustrates how we can easily ignore, resist or exclude new information that does not conform to our current understanding; the second diagram illustrates how we can more thoughtfully evaluate and integrate such new information. Rigid exclusion or more fluid integration - sometimes these become a reflex, sometimes a choice...but always, eventually, they become part of our cultivated habits. It is simple to observe how confirmation bias, logical fallacies, cognitive dissonance and other impedances to learning and growth can be represented by these diagrams. It is also easy to observe how different sectors can have different permeability and flow for each of us.


How Does Sector Theory Compare With - Or Add To - Traditional Proposals?

This is an extensive topic that will need to be elaborated upon with additional detail, but the basic ideas are as follows....

Traditional Western epistemology would define "knowledge" as a) a sincere belief that is b) factually true and is c) justifiable, as applied primarily to a priori and a posteriori propositional knowledge. Although there is broad agreement regarding the first two components, over time there has been significant variability and discussion around approaches to the justification question, and Sector Theory tends to focus on this area along with some other unsettled challenges. For example, Sector Theory seeks to:

1) More comprehensively account for justification, inclusive of diverse perception-cognition processes (including those that are nonrational, non-discursive, preconceptual, etc.), different forms of evidence, moral (deontological) components and the impact of moral development, internalistic vs externalistic qualities, and testing for reliability and operational efficacy in the real world.

2)(a) Differentiate modes of introduction for all knowledge that account for interior and exterior emphases. For example, formal inculcation will usually arrive via exterior introduction, whereas deductive reasoning will arrive via interior introduction.

2)(b) In a similar way - though as a subtly different phenomenon - describe how the justification orientations of each sector will be either externalistic or internalistic. For example, the discursive sector will tend towards internalistic justifications, while the empirical observation sector will tend towards externalistic justifications.

3) Elevate the issue of exclusionary bias, and how that bias (as an over-reliance on one sector or another) can color the same evidence, perception, logic, justification, etc. - even for two different people confronted with precisely the same information (and even via the same modes of introduction) - which consequently leads them to different but equally justifiable conclusions.

4) Speak to the Gettier problem by providing additional avenues of exposing false beliefs and accounting for defeating propositions.

5) Include additional areas of knowledge in the mix, such as procedural knowledge, relational knowledge (i.e. knowledge by acquaintance), other forms of non-propositional knowledge...and indeed wisdom.

6) Address the issue of time, along with some intimately related phenomenological and ontological implications.


Why is any of this important? Because traditional Western models tend to reinforce and enable an atomistic, materialistic, mechanistic, Cartesian, reductionist intellectualism...to the point of disconnection with operational reality. This is not a new criticism of epistemology. In this sense, Sector Theory aims to introduce a dynamic, multipersepectival pragmatism that expands traditional proposals without obliterating them. Those proposals are, after all, limited only because they represent the perception-cognition processes of certain sectors, while inadvertently excluding others.


What Is The Role Of Language In Sector Theory?

Appreciating the role of language is a profound piece of this knowledge puzzle, because each sector relies on and effectively amplifies its own unique vocabulary, grammar, information organization style, communication style and even cultural-linguistic milieux - an often self-contained form of language that best facilitates that sector's inputs and perception-cognition. We can observe evidence of this fairly easily by examining the literature of specialized fields of study: Buddhist sutras that explore the gnosis sector are grounded in language that is fairly inaccessible to many other sectors - just as mathematical proofs that inhabit the systematizing sector are most appreciated in that sector, or poetry that navigates the somatic-aesthetic sector has greatest utility there, or the tacit and unconscious understanding that inhabits the social sector is most useful for social interactions, or the dense and interrelated data of the empirical observation sector has greatest relevance to scientific study. In fact we can quickly recognize just how robust our own utilization of any sector is when we encounter new language that resonates with a flavor of perception-cognition that we routinely inhabit and integrate, or when we take stock of the vocabulary of our own experiences, perceptions and sensitivity in a given sector (for example, our emotional vocabulary). By the same token, when we feel alienated by new language - or it seems strange or unfamiliar - this can indicate that the sectors such language is describing are inaccessible, challenging or uncomfortable for us.

What is also quite fascinating is how some language is able to unify several sectors into a symphonic expression - here I'm thinking mainly of dance, instrumental music, graphic art, sculpture, poetry, song and other art forms; but indeed among humanity's greatest scientists we also find poetic, deeply felt sentiments in response to observations of the elegant order of Nature and the Universe. In other words, there is linguistic evidence of unitive movement across multiple sectors. In all of these instances, I think there is also a strong correlation between our language facility - even if that "language" is more of a felt sense or ineffable intuition - within and across multiple sectors, and our ability to utilize, integrate, and harmonize their input streams.


How Does "Faith" Play Into Any Of This?

Faith becomes part of the discussion for me because the variations of faith relevant to knowledge seem to be widely misunderstood. My approach to the question of faith is discussed in detail in this previous blog post: "Faith" as an Intentionally Cultivated Quality of Character. In that essay I assert that associating "belief" with "faith" is an incorrect approach to spiritually authentic faith, which is much more an expression of trust and hope, and one that is grounded in devotion, trustworthiness, and stick-to-itiveness inspired by love. Spiritually authentic faith is not dependent on a particular belief or dogma, but is a way of being and doing that honors relationship; that is, it is a carefully cultivated prosocial character trait. In Sector Theory I would tentatively observe that spiritually authentic faith is a product of experiences, insights and knowledge that arises primarily from an intersection and synthesis of right-hemisphere sectors as they are currently defined - though the left-hemisphere sectors can be involved as well. So this is one way to approach spiritually authentic faith, and one we might say is not only independent of religious beliefs, but frequently contradicts them.

There is another kind of "faith," however, which is much more common in our daily vernacular, and that is the casual equating of faith and belief. This kind of faith has a spectrum of quality and depth, from irrational whimsy...to reflexive assumption...to carefully rationalized conviction...to assertion justified by unreliable evidence...to conclusion grounded in evidence that is continually revisited and tested, and remains persuasive. Eric Fromm would likely describe one end of this spectrum as "irrational faith," and other end of this spectrum as "rational faith." What I would assert in Sector Theory is that this spectrum of faith exists within all sectors. In fact, the spectrum predictably traverses the axis in each sector between the realm of truth and the realm of exclusionary bias. When discussing faith in the more casual or conversational sense - the sense that equates it with belief - I think each sector evoking its own spectrum of faith has profound consequences. Why? Because it effectively means that we can drift into both rational and irrational faith, or belief that is justifiable and belief that is unjustifiable, regardless of the basis of our knowledge and the individual sectors involved. This should be substantial wake-up call for any of us who believe we are safe and secure in our knowledge and beliefs, simply because the sectors we prefer are reinforced by our chosen tribe, culturally favored, historically ascendent, or intellectually in vogue.

I would then take this one step further in saying that, unless as many sectors as possible harmonize around a given belief - unless the elements of a particular flavor of faith honor a healthy majority of sectors - then the resulting dissonance will tend to push a particular faith towards the unjustifiable end of the spectrum. That is, the end of the spectrum that revels in exclusionary bias. So this is yet one more reason why respectful and compassionate integration of all sectors is the aim of Sector Theory...to avoid the calamities of irrational faith.


What is the Integral-Contextual Crucible?

Explaining this concept is challenging. The essay Managing Complexity with Constructive Integralism begins to wrangle together many of the ideas I've introduced in writing over the years that speak to the essence of this concept. But, frankly, even that essay and all of the other writing it references are still not the full picture. My goal here will be to distill and refine the main idea just a little bit more...and to do so as briefly and concisely as possible. I suspect this will still be just one more step in an ongoing process.

I've called this a crucible because it can perform several unique functions. For example, it can separate out desirable elements from less desirable ones, or extract a rare essence from an obscuring muddle of factors. It can also combine seemingly mundane ingredients (experiences, insights, sensations, perceptions, observations) in ways that create new substances and structures that have unusual properties. A crucible performs these functions under specific conditions as well; for example, with the application of extremely high energies, with just the right combination and proportions of ingredients, with just the right container materials, and so on. As a metaphor, the crucible is very useful.

The term "integral-contextual" has a specific meaning here as well: to integrate and harmonize within a broadening comprehension of context, inclusive of all apparent paradoxes. Now because every sector has its own inherent contexts, and because the relationships between sectors often introduce additional contexts, we are already brushing up against orders of magnitude in contextual complexity. For example, the mimetic-semantic sector alone has cascading memeplexes of context, some of which seem to operate entirely independently of each other. When these intersect in any way with, say, contexts that evolve in the social sector, the result is a snowballing tug-of-war over which contexts have primacy in which environments and situations, over which evidence is reliable or applicable in each context, how all contexts integrate with or revise an existing values hierarchy...the snowball can quickly can get out of hand. On top of this, we could throw in the tensions between interior and exterior justifications - that is, between the realm of truth that inhabits our interiority, and the external authorities and influences that pull us toward the realm of exclusionary bias. And the incredible human being - with all its intrinsic intelligences and vast capacity for perception, experience, learning and memory - somehow navigates all of this while performing countless other tasks and maintaining myriad relationships. Even as the contextual storm approaches an infinite number of often competing combinations, we somehow manage to manage it - and often in a fairly unconscious way. It is an awe-inspiring feat.

But the main point here is that the integral-contextual process is occurring whether we intend it to or not. And so the question becomes one of conscious, active engagement: how can we participate in our own integral-contextual journey in the most fruitful and skillful way?

First let's touch upon the concept of a neutral holding field. In order to navigate complexity - and indeed fully integrate all the sectors in this model - we need to cultivate some safe interior spaciousness. The neutral holding field is just that: a place where all contradictory and competing concepts, information, experience, insights, observations, etc. can peacefully coexist...without favoritism or exclusion. In the chart, that is effectively the space between the inner ring and the outer ring around all sectors. We can think of it as the workbench where we have set all of our ingredients in preparation for adding them to the crucible; they are all on the same plane of consideration.

Remembering that we will require high levels of energy to "heat up" our crucible, where will that energy come from? Thankfully, we have a number of sources to choose from - human beings are superb at generating immense interior and exterior energies from next to nothing. But which ones will work best for us here...? Will power, because it is most concerned with immediate action, reification and operationalization, tends to magnetize anything floating around in a neutral holding field, causing them to crash into each other or quickly clump into amorphous blobs. So we need to relax our will a bit, and allow that to be at rest. And this means that the many of the more petulant offspring of our will also need to take a nap: anger, egoic cravings, acquisitiveness, jealousy...these sorts of critters. And how can we accomplish this? Most often this will be a consequence of the mental, emotional and physical self-discipline that emerge from consistent meditation practices. There are other roads to a neutral holding field, but meditation has proven to be quite reliable when it is engaged with the right intention. I discuss this "letting go" in more detail in other writings (such as Essential Mysticism), but the basic idea is that a neutral holding field is a cultivated condition.

Which leads us back to the question of which energy will work to energize the crucible. In short, the ideal energy source also happens to tie neatly into the ideal intentionality behind meditation practice: a compassionate affection that aims for the good of All. This is the primary unitive engine for our crucible, and a critical filtering mechanism as well (in terms of discernment and skillfulness). And although we sometimes think of compassion, love or agape as quiet, soft, caring, quiet, generous gentleness, the reality is that these have high-octane, explosive, exponentially amplifying characteristics as well. In fact, I would say that the only energy equal to the task of integrating infinite complexity is infinite love-consciousness. It can integrate, harmonize and unify just about anything. But where does that unitive energy come from? Ah...well that is a topic I'd like to explore in another section of this FAQ, but suffice it to say, for now, that it can be unleashed through the same process that creates the stillness of a neutral holding field: meditation.

There is also another kindred energy in play, and although I believe it issues from a similar Source, its characteristics are quite different. It is the energy of a tidal zone, or of changing seasons, or the tension between dialectic components, or of a musical progression that yearns for resolution, or indeed of emergent complexity itself. It is the energy of evolution, synergy and synthesis. As such, this energy is not really a conscious choice. We can encourage circumstances (in our environment, in our relationships, in our minds) to allow this energy to emerge and play itself out in a co-creative fashion...but we have no real control or influence over it. It was before us, and remains beyond us. And although we might also associate this continually emerging force with agape, it is not really the same vocabulary of experience as our embracing charitable love-consciousness. It is, perhaps, a different order of the same energy, but again it is outside our realm of choice, intention and volition. Nevertheless, this force plays a critical role in generating interior and exterior momentum and growth - and in supercharging the integral-contextual crucible.

[As a side note: Those familiar with Ken Wilber's work will recognize echoes of his definitions of "eros" and "agape" amid my descriptions of these multiple facets of agape. However, I don't divide the "transcending to unify" from the "reaching down to include" forms of love in the same way; in fact I think it is an error to make that division or use these descriptions. Instead, I tend to refer to the difference as an intrinsically emergent (an immanence, if you will) vs. a conscious response or choice of love-consciousness (as a component of growth and moral development). This latter formulation is as much a cooperative mechanism for transcendence as it is a recognition of what is already here, now.]

The terms a friend recently used in exploring this territory are emission and attraction, and I think those are excellent descriptors. The convergence and integralization of all sectors (and all the seemingly disparate material and energy produced within those sectors) that occurs within the crucible is a product of attraction, of unitive power. At the same time, emission is also simultaneously occurring - from within the crucible into all other sectors. Truth is radiating outward and modifying all information it encounters. And yet...when those emissions "forget" where they came from - when they disconnect from the integral realm of truth entirely - they can revert back to a state of incompleteness, of partial truths, in which they appear to operate within each sector. And so the process begins again...as a byproduct of the tidal currents of existence. In this sense questions about absolute truths vs. relative ones, or interior vs. exterior justifications, or qualities of logic and evidence, or transcending and including each realm of conception...all of these distinctions begin to dissolve. There is an ebb-and-flow, a relinquishment and recapitulation, a cycle of apprehension and actualization that is in constant flux. We might call it the pneuma of wisdom; the breath of truth.

As a final note, there is also the issue of time - both processing rates and time orientation or context - that extends from each sector into the crucible. Each of the sectors represented tends to operate at a unique processing rate, and with a unique orientation to past, present and future. Some can process very quickly...seemingly instantaneously...and may be primarily future-oriented. Others are very slow...glacial even...and preoccupied with the past. Some hum along at a more conversational processing rate, and are quite comfortable in the present. And in some of them time does not seem to exist at all, or seem to operate with past, present and future as concurrent contexts. Previously (in the book True Love) I had organized these processing speeds into just five spacetime designations: mental, emotional, somatic, spiritual and soul. But as the Sector Theory chart illustrates, there are at least twice that number of sectors...and possibly more that I have failed to include. And all of them can operate at their own unique processing speed. Why is this important? Because, just as we can become biased about the sector within which we prefer to operate, excluding one or more of the others, we can also become biased about the processing speed we prefer. And this is a fairly counterproductive tendency when it comes to the many nuances, insights, connections and conclusions among different kinds of knowledge. So, both within the neutral holding field that surrounds the crucible, and within the crucible itself, our expectations and operations regarding time will also require suspension.

To summarize, then: the formula - if we can call it that - for activating the crucible is mainly a product of interior discipline. And, like various forms of meditation, this interior discipline is not simply a metacognitive process, or felt experience, or intellectual intuition, or anything that could be confined to one sector. It is, instead, an opening up of a particular quality of interior space and time that welcomes the input streams of all sectors into convergence. The specifics of the practice are not the focus of this FAQ, but they are amply covered in the writings referenced throughout my elaborations here. Now...how did I arrive at any of these conclusions? Well I bet you can probably guess by now: via meditation and mystical practice; in other words, through a slow and difficult opening to sectors that have often been neglected in the scientific era (gnosis, somatic-aesthetic, intuitive-empathic), a gradual application of that understanding and awareness in the integration of multiple sectors, which in turn stimulated a modicum of discernment, and eventually a clearer appreciation for my own responsibility to actively introduce and refine that synthesis. This is what led me to the conclusion that consciously engaging the integral-contextual crucible was necessary. I hope I have conveyed some spark of illumination as to why.


What Importance Do Ethics and Moral Development Hold in This Model?

Here we can again find a parallel between Integral Lifework's nourishment dimensions and sectors of knowledge. Our moral maturity will act as a clarifying and focusing lens for all sectors, changing how we view and weigh the information in each sector prior to integration, the quality and sophistication of integrative capacity we bring to bear on that information over time, and how we apply our most distilled and integral understandings in real world environments, relationships and situations as we mature. One of the more pronounced aspects of this moral development is the importance and role of morality itself - that is, its involvement in various ethical systems and our willingness to consistently apply those ethics. Moral sensitivity and ethical frameworks will also have a strong influence on how we view various sectors outside of our habitual comfort zone: Can we tolerate them? Can we accept them? Can we value and trust them? Can we actively expand them? Can we appreciate them as equal contributors? Can we openly and eagerly integrate their information? In this sense the habits of externalizing, exclusionary bias are either a consequence of moral immaturity, or can become a substantive barrier to moral growth. The more calcified and reflexive our rejection of any sector becomes, and the more deeply ingrained our habit of over-reliance on preferred input streams, the more suppressed our interior evolution and moral sensitivities will be. In contrast, if we cultivate multiple sectors and consciously reinforce their unitive synthesis in the realm of truth, a natural byproduct of this effort is an encouragement of moral development and operationalization.

For an overview of the phases of moral orientation that I believe roughly track a progressing maturity, check out my Integral Lifework Developmental Correlations chart.


What Is The Realm of Truth?

In an Hegelian sense this would be where Absolute Knowledge comes to fruition - where subjective and objective conceptions are reconciled; where the external object and internal subject become more intimate. But, across all sectors, this process of de-alienation is occurring iteratively - in higher and higher orders of resolution throughout a gradual embrace by the integral-contextual crucible. Are there subordinate, "less complete" truths? Of course, that would be the isolated, still differentiated knowledge within each sector and time-space - where subject-object relations remain less intimate and more alienated.

Another way of describing the realm of truth is as the outer courtyards of the residence of suchness, where the phenomenological foundations of perception-cognition begin to intersect with the ontological foundations of existence. Here words and concepts begin to fall away from integrated material, hinting at their unitive essences. Differentiation and non-differentiation comfortably coexist in this space, as do structure and structurelessness, content and contentlessness, infinite time and its collapsed finitudes, and the spontaneous arising of inter-paradigmatic and rhizomatic interactions with new information.


What is the Omega Point?

As I began to summarize my thoughts about this, I realized a full elucidation of the Omega Point will be a much larger undertaking; so I will be writing another blog post or essay and linking to it here. In brief, however, I have come to accept the proposal that the Source of all sectors of knowledge and all modes of experience is the same as the Source of all strata of existence and being, which in turn has been mirrored and amplified in the perceptions, structures and processes of consciousness itself (at a quantum level). Consciousness, then, in conjunction with spirit, helps synergize a reflective, participatory interplay between the unmanifest and manifest, so that the Universe may become aware, the Source be able to understand itself more fully, this teleios can express itself with spontaneously creative freedom, and the Perfect, Absolute Unity return to itself as a single point in spacetime. These are all facets of the Omega Point. Much of this isn't new - as those who have studied mysticism, the history of philosophy, and the physical nature of our Universe will recognize - but my aim has been to cobble together some clearer phenomenological, developmental and metaphysical models to encompass the whole.

Understandably, there are a lot of different components to this proposal that will be covered in more detail later on, but only a few central conclusions that impact the sector model, so I'll touch on those here. The first is that love-consciousness is the carrier frequency throughout every phase of origination, differentiation, integration and unity; it is a fundamental constant and cofactor, energizing and shaping every process - both observable and unobservable. The second is that our primary drives (to exist, explore, affect and adapt) both manifest and construct an evolutionary impulse across all dimensions of existence; they are our persisting co-creative instruments, and thus deserve special attention as they generate enduring artifacts of will. And lastly, the reason there is such beautiful symmetry between origination and unification is that the manifest has never been orphaned from the unmanifest - the Omega Point is the beginning, the end, and everything in-between. It is merely our finite understanding - our small part in the forgetting, reflecting and remembering - that fractures that continuity in being and time.

However - and this is a departure from variations of the anthropic principle - I believe there is an important caveat to keep in mind: we cannot assume humanity is a particularly accurate, artful or necessary representation of any of this. Making such a characterization leads us into an anthropocentric trap, where humanity retains an inflated significance that may in fact need to be earned...if it is valid at all. Copernicus revisited. Instead, I would say homo sapiens is much more likely to be one of many expressions of evolutionary energy across many variations of spacetime - and perhaps we are even particularly limited, flawed or ultimately vestigial with respect to an emergent self-awareness of the Source. The humans of this Universe may not even be the best representations of ourselves. And, surely, consciousness and complexity have found additional vessels, and likely ones more suited to the journey than we are. So the outcome of the Universe may be a given, but humanity's role and destiny are not. Which implies, I think, the necessity of conscious and continuous engagement. As I have written before regarding what I feel is an imperative reciprocation: "Because the Universe has conspired in favor of my consciousness, my consciousness conspires in favor of the Universe."

Ouroboros - The Eternal Return



More FAQs to come....

What do you consider to be the limits of your responsibilities both personal and social?

Personally I don’t believe there are any limits to my responsibilities other than pragmatically; that is, what I can realistically accomplish. Fundamentally, I owe everything I have, am and will ever be to my society, and likewise am deeply indebted to every personal relationship in my life for nourishing and nurturing me and inspiring me to grow. What mitigates my responsibilities - that is, the quality and extent of my “response” to these incredible gifts - is my time, energy, accessible resources, life-balance, integrity in adhering to my own values hierarchy, and the priorities, agreements and contracts I have already committed to. In other words: where one area of indebtedness competes with another area of indebtedness, I am forced to prioritize and of necessity exclude some actions. There is only so much time in a day. However, if I had unlimited time, unlimited resources, and unlimited personal energy, then my responses from a place of affectionate compassion (on a good day) or dutiful obligation (on a baseline day) would be equally limitless.

My 2 cents.

From Quora: https://www.quora.com/What-do-you-consider-to-be-the-limits-of-your-responsibilities-both-personal-and-social/answer/T-Collins-Logan

Steve Bannon as Conservative Archetype: Brilliant but Broken, Capable but Incomplete



My original title for this post was "Why is Steve Bannon Such a Dick?" But that seemed a level of provocation and insensitivity that, frankly, verged on irony. However, it does remain a central question being answered here.

I'll dive right in with my primary thesis: Steve Bannon lacks something important in his psychological makeup. Important how? Important in being able to formulate wise and discerning choices, for one. Important in navigating the perspectives of others. Important in even understanding the world around him, and why things are the way they are. Important in appreciating how he himself has accomplished the things he has done, and why he feels so disappointed and frustrated - both with other people, and with the institutions of modern society. Important in being able to manage a position of power, and use that power effectively for his desired aims.

So what is lacking, then?

I don't know Steve Bannon personally, but I have been immersing myself in his language, sifting through his life experiences, and watching him closely from afar. This means I could be mistaken in some of my judgments about him, but I suspect I likely have cobbled together a fairly accurate picture. And what seems glaring is the same insight I've had about nearly all of my acquaintances and friends who lean towards Bannon's slice of the sociopolitical spectrum: a pronounced lack of emotional-perceptual intelligence. And just so we have that slice nailed down, I would call it "the tribe of self-righteous privilege." However, lest I seem to be projecting some preexisting bias about this particular tribe onto Mr. Bannon, I will walk you through my thinking as carefully as possible.

First it should be said that those who don't possess this particular kind of intelligence tend to react to descriptions of it in predictable ways. They will say it's "touchy-feely bullshit," "irrational," "girly talk," or even "gay." It is interesting how quickly they will associate strong, masculine, dominant characteristics with their own mode of being, while distancing themselves from emotional-perceptual intelligence as something feminine, weak, inferior or other. This is telling in itself, and perhaps touches on tendencies I observed in a previous blog post about the tensions between testosterone and feminine power, but the important observation right now is that this deficit produces an almost universally hostile discomfort with - and dismissal of - the very qualities that are lacking.

But let's look at some illustrations. Here's one of Steve Bannon's quotes from a Mother Jones interview:

"I don't think it's a systemic race problem in this country. My own life experience. I've just seen in communities like Richmond, Virginia and the United States military when I was a naval officer. I don't see systemic racism in the military. I don't see systemic racism in these communities."


There are actually two errors being made here - one perceptual, and one cognitive. The perceptual error is "not seeing" systemic racism. I worked for the military as a civilian during some of the same years Bannon was an officer there, and I can tell you racism was not only systemic and pervasive, it was well-known - a raw and chaffing wound barely concealed beneath the veneer of military discipline and bureaucracy. Bannon's subsequent cognitive error is concluding that, because he doesn't see systemic racism, it doesn't exist. And we see him repeating these two errors over and over again in his writing and interviews - essentially locking down on a set of conclusions without perceiving the reality that contradicts them. For example, from the August, 2016 Atlantic article:

“After making the Occupy movie, when you finish watching the film, you want to take a hot shower... because you’ve just spent an hour and fifteen minutes with the greasiest, dirtiest people you will ever see.”


And from a 2011 Political Vindication Radio segment:

“That’s why there are some unintended consequences of the women’s liberation movement. That, in fact, the women that would lead this country would be pro-family, they would have husbands, they would love their children. They wouldn’t be a bunch of dykes that came from the Seven Sisters schools up in New England. That drives the left insane and that’s why they hate these women.”


These need not be, as many in mainstream media have opined, evidence of a deep-seated racism, sexism or anti-liberal rage. There is a much simpler explanation: Steve Bannon is just clueless. He does not have the innate capacity to accurately perceive what is really going on in the world around him, or how other people experience reality, or why certain sentiments he can't comprehend even exist. Like so many of his brothers and sisters in the tribe of self-righteous privilege, Bannon's empathic antenna is broken; he is constitutionally incapable of fully appreciating any experience - and particularly felt experience - outside of his own. On a cognitive level, Bannon has demonstrated an equal incapacity to appreciate or understand the building blocks of alternative worldviews, which again leads to more cognitive errors. I suspect that even his own felt experience and interior emotional landscape are also a mystery to him, as the organs of perception involved in empathy or a nuanced understanding of complex social issues are the same ones that provide accurate and multidimensional self-awareness. But of course, as I said, I don't know him personally.

At this point I think it is important to underscore how a person can journey through life - and even succeed in fairly prestigious areas - while exhibiting what is essentially a profound form of emotional-perceptual retardation. Bannon himself seems to have demonstrated a high level of success and adaptability in the military, in business school, in the investment banking industry, in journalism and mass media, and now in the political arena. He has made millions of dollars as proof of his own abilities, and has risen to a tremendous position of influence. And of course such successes seem to countervail any necessity for cultivating emotional-perceptual intelligence or relying upon it - and certainly bring its utility into question. In fact, this is what all-too-frequently leads to the condition of self-righteous privilege, where the experience of ongoing success amplifies the artificial "rightness" of ones own worldview in a self-congratulatory way, while justifying a reflexive rejection of all other perspectives...since they can't be understood anyway.

But here's the rub: If you are white and male, and fairly bright in an analytical or systematizing way, who has benefitted from all the perks of a civil society established long before your birth, and are able to navigate environments and relationships that are orderly and structured to an almost mathematical degree, and then you have a bit of additional luck or find yourself in the right places at the right times...well, you do often get to be a winner, especially in the material sense, in modern American culture. But it would be a mistake to believe that this winning is purely a result of your own choices and efforts, or that anyone else could achieve similar results if they just worked hard, played it smart and "pulled themselves up by their bootstraps." It is like a rat who believes they own the maze within which they scurry, and have control and responsibility over the button that provides them cheese. Because, in fact, there is a magnificent mass of cultural momentum at work here - an enormous wave of preexisting conditions spanning countless generations that lifts any individual to the apex of their own accomplishments. In Bannon's case, it is easy to trace the convergence of these factors to his obtaining royalties from Seinfeld, a TV show he himself had no idea would be so successful, but which played a large part in making him independently wealthy. Right place, right time, and a ripe opportunity to cash in on his multigenerational cultural capital. But self-sufficiency? Superiority? Righteousness? Hardly.

A humble person - a person who recognizes that a lot of variables beyond their control have been involved - might respond to this progression by saying "I've really been blessed," or "If I have seen farther than others, it is because I'm standing on the shoulders of giants." But a member of the self-righteous privilege tribe is by definition much more arrogant. They cannot penetrate or appreciate the expanding cascade of cause-and-effect in play regarding their own abilities, opportunities and successes. They cannot see how their white skin helped them, or how their maleness gave them a leg up, or how a tradition of education in their family - or some trade skill, or entrepreneurial spirit, or wealth, or critical thinking, or emotional and physical safety, or availability of capital, or any other inherited, temporal or geographic advantage - provided them a deep well of resources that other people simply do not have. They do not recognize how centuries of hard-won civil society enabled and supported their cavalier capitalist adventures, and protected them from harm. And because they cannot perceive these things, they mistakenly assume they can take credit for their own achievements, and further that anyone who doesn't succeed within the same culturally shaped opportunities and systems - ones that clearly favor white, American-born men who possess a narrow spectrum of intelligence - is simply not trying hard enough, or not thinking smart enough. The self-righteous privileged often assert that everyone else is acting like a rat in a maze, expecting to be guided and fed. Everyone else is whiny and entitled. But not them, no.

In this context, it really makes predictable sense for Steve Bannon to act and speak the way he does. Why he feels he can ignore the opinions and input of others. Why he has sought so much power, so quickly, and championed his goals and worldview so aggressively. Why he has become so enamored of a Reagonesque, highly romantic but fictional ideal of the American past. Why he lashes out at anyone who disagrees with him, telling them to "Keep their mouth shut." Why he took advantage of non-profit tax shelters (GAI) to pay himself and employees of a for-profit business (Breitbart), even as he rabidly criticized the crony-capitalism of government at that time. Why he can rage against the press now after having acted for years in precisely the same capacity. Why he can sneer with disdain at recent Goldman Sachs "gambling" habits, after building and selling his own rent-seeking investment firm for a handsome profit. Why it shouldn't surprise us when he declared via The Daily Beast: "I'm a Leninist...Lenin wanted to destroy the state, and that's my goal too. I want to bring everything crashing down, and destroy all of today's establishment." And it is certainly a good explanation for why he gets along so well with people like Donald Trump and Sarah Palin. In Bannon's mind, these often contradictory and hypocritical sentiments, behaviors and relationships are grounded on a wholesale misperception of reality, and a consequent projection of uninformed, unconstrained and immature ego onto everyone and everything around him. Steve Bannon is an incomplete man, but part of that incompleteness is that he has no idea what he is missing, and automatically devalues and dismisses the qualities he lacks when encountering them in others. He does not know what he does not know, even as he rails against the ignorance outside himself.

All of this understandably leads to immense frustration and resentment, because members of the self-righteous privilege tribe inevitably ask: "Why doesn't the world operate according to my values and priorities? Why aren't more people like me? Why do they believe such bizarre things that contradict my worldview? Why should I ever have to compromise? What will it take to make them see they are wrong? How can I get control of this situation?" To paraphrase how Steve Bannon frequently framed this on Breitbart: "We can't let the crazies win." So now we get to witness what brilliant but broken, capable but incomplete human beings can do from the highest positions of power. Bannon and Trump are quite the team in this regard. Hopefully I have offered some helpful insight as to what governs our new leaders - and, indeed, why Steve Bannon is such a dick. Let's just hope that Mr. Bannon doesn't share Lenin's tolerance of violent, dictatorial revolution to advance his ideals, and that he doesn't encourage his angry and vocal tribe to elevate a second Joseph Stalin into power.

Or has that already happened...?


For more:

https://www.bloomberg.com/politics/graphics/2015-steve-bannon/

https://www.romper.com/p/7-steve-bannon-quotes-on-race-that-are-seriously-concerning-22875

http://www.breitbart.com/big-journalism/2016/07/10/sympathy-devils-plot-roger-ailes-america/

http://www.thewrap.com/steve-bannon-seinfeld/
650 hits

What are the most important ideas you'd like to share with others?

That would probably be what I’ve written about in my books and essays - and what I still plan to write about. Those topics include:

- That it is imperative to replace capitalism and consumerism with a more egalitarian and compassion-centric political economy…soon!

- Encouraging multidimensional self-care that encourages moral development, healing and self-actualization.

- Ways to actively re-contextualize memories in order to heal past trauma and reconfigure self-concept.

- The underlying unity of all spiritual traditions and experiences, and the importance of practicing techniques that engage the spiritual dimension of being.

- That the most important thing in life is to learn how to love effectively.

My 2 cents.

From Quora: https://www.quora.com/What-are-the-most-important-ideas-youd-like-to-share-with-others/answer/T-Collins-Logan

What is wisdom?

What is wisdom? I think wisdom is appreciating what actions, aspirations, intentions and consequences are the most holistically beneficial, for the greatest number and the greatest duration, as well as confidently intuiting why they are beneficial. This then leads to a practiced ability to generate circumstances over time - or make choices in a given instant - that support and enlarge such an understanding even as it is reified. In other words, wisdom will beget its own embodiment in being. I also believe when authentic wisdom is in play, there is a kind of effortlessness to its efficacy and amplitude, even as it propagates itself. Wisdom does not try to love someone or strive to “do the right thing,” it is instead on fire with a compassionate affection that knows just how to be, and inspires that same energy as a gift in others. What often prevents wisdom from either blossoming within us or bearing fruit in our lives is our impulse to lock it down in rational terms, or explain it in a language that can be universally understood. But because it is experiential in nature, such attempts will always fall short.

My 2 cents.

From Quora: https://www.quora.com/What-is-wisdom/answer/T-Collins-Logan

How do you look into the aspects of reality and know it's not an illusion?

We don’t know it’s not an illusion. About the best we can do is participate in consensus and keeping checking it against our experience. What you are touching upon is epistemology: how do we know what we know, and how can we know that we actually know it for certain? Personally I answer this question with the following approaches:

- Is there a measurable, empirical basis for my assumption, and am I comfortable relying on the metrics involved?

- Is there a consistent, subjective felt experience that corresponds with my assumption?

- Do the results of choices and actions predicated on my assumption produce fairly predictable results?

- Have I been able to gain any insight into the veracity or efficacy of my assumption through reflection and meditation?

- Do others share a consensus about these correlations?

- Is there new evidence, experience or consensus that would lead me to consider revising my assumption?

My 2 cents.

From Quora: https://www.quora.com/How-do-you-look-into-the-aspects-of-reality-and-know-its-not-an-illusion/answer/T-Collins-Logan

What is the best environment for meditation?

A couple of thoughts to echo some of what has already been said and add a thing or two…

- As few distractions as possible - a “safe place” where you won’t be interrupted by abrupt sounds, interactions, electronic devices, etc. This is especially useful when you begin meditation practice…it helps with focus and discipline.

- Natural environments outdoors are great - if you can be alone and undisturbed.

- Creating a “consecrated space” that you revisit each day can reinforce disciplined practice. There is something about returning to the same physical location (and same body position, meditation routine, etc.) that helps strengthen meditation.

- A consistent length of time. This turns out to be quite helpful. Even if you aren’t meditating for the entire duration, knowing that you have a set period to be meditating anchors one’s practice.

- A clear intention for your practice. Why are you meditating? What is the point? Knowing this before you begin (and recalling it to mind afterwards) are useful and productive bookends.

For other suggestions, I recommend reading this book online for free: Integral Lifework: Essential Mysticism

My 2 cents.

From Quora: https://www.quora.com/What-is-the-best-environment-for-meditation/answer/T-Collins-Logan

What is the most misunderstood thing about economics?

As a caveat, I’m not an expert in economics. Yes I’ve read a bit, researched a lot, written some…but one thing I’ve learned (so far) is that economics is pretty vast. Lots of different schools of thought. Lots of different angles - a lot of which I don’t have deep knowledge about. But that’s never stopped me from having an opinion before. ;-) First off I’d like to say I appreciate Austin Middleton's post here. Understanding the specific methodology being discussed or evaluated is absolutely critical. All of which brings me to my first point: I don’t think it is possible to generalize with confidence about “the most misunderstood thing” regarding this particular topic. It’s just too wily of a beast to pin down in that way. Of course that was a generalization…but I’m sure you get my drift.
That said, I’ll share some of my own personal misunderstandings about economics - or at least how my understanding has evolved over time. I suspect that others - perhaps many people - have begun with similar initial assumptions to my own. So here goes:

1. Initial assumption: Macroeconomic models and analysis have fully understood and expressed how economies function. Current conclusions: not by a long shot; there remains a level of mystery and complexity to macroeconomic interdependencies that no one has penetrated.

2. Initial assumption: the time for Keynesian approaches is long past. Current conclusions: Keynes is, thus far, one of very few theorists who seems to have made consistently accurate predictions about cause and effect at the macroeconomic level.

3. Initial assumption: game theory is a cool and sophisticated mathematical way to go about evaluating and modeling economic interactions. Current conclusions: game theory is an almost silly, tail-chasing exercise that is mainly relevant only to itself.

4. Initial assumption: It is possible to intuit or deduce the economic dynamics of a given micro or macro situation from a consistent ideological standpoint, prior to collecting empirical data. Current conclusions: Freakanomics.

5. Initial assumption: the Austrian School has something viable to contribute to economic theory. Current conclusions: the Austrian School is a silly, absurd tail-chasing exercise predicated on flawed assumptions about human behavior.

6. Initial assumption: Authoritarian State socialism is the only kind of socialism widely implemented. Current conclusions: there are nearly as many variations of socialism as their are hairs on a cat, at least half of which focus on diffused, democratic, highly distributed models without central controls, and many different models have been tested - or have occurred organically - in the real world.

7. Initial assumption: Milton Friedman was vehemently opposed to crony capitalism. Current conclusions: Milton Friedman’s entire life’s work was spent engineering the tools and techniques crony capitalists use to manipulate markets and maintain their power…and Friedman both knew this and actively participated in it.

8. Initial assumption: Adam Smith was the forefather of neoliberalism. Current conclusions: Neoliberals consistently disrespect the insights and principles Adam Smith championed.

9. Initial assumption: Marx’s conceptions of the flaws of capitalism were simplistic and quickly overtaken by the evolution of modern industrial, informational and financial economies, but his ideas about historical materialism seemed to be compelling. Current conclusions: Historical materialism is probably Marx’s greatest error and has contributed to the worst possible outcomes for socialism, but Marx’s understanding of the flaws of capitalism were spot on, and are still being vindicated today in nearly all of its manifestations.

10. Initial assumption: That the “tragedy of the commons” is an actual real-world inevitability. Current conclusions: The tragedy of the commons is more of a thought experiment that has been overapplied, and is contradicted by empirical studies such as Elinor Ostrom’s common pool resource management research.

As you can see…there are lots of facets here. We could pick any one of them to launch a lengthy discussion on what misunderstandings exist, why they exist, who seems to have them, etc. And then we would probably disagree. So, returning to my initial point: economics is a wily beast.

One last thing I would bring up is that the battles over various schools and methodologies in economics seem to be almost tribalistic or religious in nature. Like whether PCs or Macs are better computers, or whether Democrats or Republicans have better sex. It’s almost as if economics was intended to be vociferously ranted about late at night, over several beers.

My 2 cents.

(I may come back and add more topics as I think of them, just for fun…)


From Quora: https://www.quora.com/What-is-the-most-misunderstood-thing-about-economics/answer/T-Collins-Logan

What is the worst damage that Trump could do to U.S. democracy and its Constitution in 4 years?

It is much easier to destroy than rebuild - both in resources, costs and amount of time required. So whatever damage is done may be very difficult to reverse. In this sense I would vehemently disagree with Thomas Friedman and others who have tried to minimize potentially negative consequences. That said, what specific damage (to U.S. democracy and the Constitution) could Trump do?

1. Provide resources and support to Republicans to hold (or possibly increase) the state-level obscene gerrymandering that won them the House via the last census. It should be noted that the resulting makeup of the House does not, by any stretch of the imagination, reflect the actual demographics of the country.

2. Both indirectly and openly expanding funding, support and coordination for ALEC and the State Policy Network (SPN) for a deepening corporate takeover of state and federal legislatures.

3. After far-right appointments to SCOTUS, a continuing rollback of voting protections and access, and supporting efforts to disenfranchise or obstruct progressive-leaning voters (i.e voter roll purges, ID requirements, other responses to voting fraud conspiracy theories, etc.) in cases that come before the Court.

4. Starting a trade war that impoverishes the U.S to such a degree that unemployment, and lack of support from now defunded social safety nets, creates catastrophic economic hardships across the country - all of which could contribute a the breakdown of civil society (inclusive of democratic functions and Constitutional protections) in the hardest-hit areas of the U.S.

5. Tacit endorsement of hate speech, xenophobic bullying, racial violence and violations of civil rights can thoroughly undermine democratic institutions - for example, people becoming too afraid to vote, or to run for office, or to speak truth to power, or to hold elected officials accountable. There is evidence that this has been occurring already.

6. Untempered, open support and praise for brutal, megalomaniacal dictators who are actively trying to undermine democracy in the U.S. and Europe. And yes, of course I mean Putin.

7. Thanks to Edward Snowden, we know just how wantonly the U.S. security agencies were disregarding the U.S. Constitution under Obama. Can you imagine the abuses a pompous, insecure, impulsive and spiteful man-child will initiate with those tools at his disposal…?

8. Advancing neoliberal and socially conservative agendas that a) encourage a widening wealth disparity; b) amplify disparities in quality of education (and other public services) according to income; and c) increase populations of poor, unwanted, circumstantially challenged children (if Roe V. Wade is overturned, Planned Parenthood defunded, health insurers and facilities are allowed to deny abortions, etc.). Even if reversed in future administrations, this agenda will likely result in at least one generation of young people being dumbed down, stressed out, and impoverished…even as that generation creates another population boom. And this surge in unhealthy, poorly educated, poorly adjusted, financially stressed citizens will have a hugely negative impact on the quality of U.S. democracy over time.

9. Along similar lines, the reshaping of the Internet to appease corporate priorities (i.e. reversing Net Neutrality) will - absolutely and incontrovertibly - undermine free speech and unfettered access to high quality information and diverse perspectives. And as Internet traffic, searches and access become more commercialized, the ability for citizens to become well-informed in a carefully considered way will be obliterated. We witnessed what the lack of quality information - and abundance of highly distorted propaganda - did to the 2016 election. A fully corporatized Internet will be a final nail in that coffin. (To a lesser degree, defunding PBS and NPR will likely also actively frustrate and dilute capacities for voter self-education and exposure to diverse perspectives.)

10. The relaxing or reversing of other government regulations in favor of corporate interests - or effectual decommissioning of entire regulatory agencies, as the case may be - will multiply, amplify and irreversibly calcify untold negative externalities. And moving SCOTUS farther to the right will just exacerbate and accelerate this spiral. Climate change is only the tip of the iceberg. If what happened under the Cheney-Wolfowitz administration is a foreshadowing, we’re looking at devastating consequences to the environment, wildlife, worker protections, consumer protections, natural resources, and civil liberties. Indirectly, all of this will have a dampening effect on democratic institutions and function.

11. And yes, it is not inconceivable that a POTUS with Trump’s demonstrated poor character, erratic temperament, questionable judgment and nonexistent grasp of the facts could ignite an escalation of military conflict ending in the nuclear obliteration of huge portions of the globe, including the U.S. This would also likely have an impact on U.S. democracy and the vitality of our Constitution.

My 2 cents.

From Quora: https://www.quora.com/What-is-the-worst-damage-that-Trump-could-do-to-U-S-democracy-and-its-Constitution-in-4-years/answer/T-Collins-Logan

Cutting Through The Bunk: Why The World Is Self-Destructing, And What We Can Do About It



"Experience hath shewn, that even under the best forms, those entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny; and it is believed that the most effectual means of preventing this would be, to illuminate, as far as practicable, the minds of the people at large..." - Thomas Jefferson, A Bill for the More General Diffusion of Knowledge, December 1778


Like most folks who enjoy tracking the news, opinion pieces and stories circulating on social media, I've been deluged with opinions lately. About why Trump got elected, why liberal ideals are flailing, why cultures around the globe seem to be regressing, why the working class is so angry, why there is an upsurge in nationalistic sentiment, why the global economy is sputtering, why Islamic extremism won't go away, etc. And I have to say, nearly all of the explanations I've seen or read seem to be...well...almost complete bunk. Not entirely, but almost. Even the folks that I admire and respect - and whose writing I've followed for years - appear to be missing what is obvious, and choosing instead to follow the crowd down a rabbit hole of elaborate speculation. It's almost as if our cognitive dissonance between the way we expect the world to be, and the way the world actually is, has hit a hard, thick, impenetrable wall. And, perhaps as an understandable consequence, our collective realm of thought is self-destructing along with everything else. It really feels like all of humanity is undergoing a psychotic break.

But enough of this positive, uplifting preamble. Am I now going to sell myself as the one sane voice in the wilderness? The one person who can see through the fog of delusion, into realms of pure causal clarity? Well I haven't performed any miracles lately, or won a Nobel Prize, or even succeeded at ridding our back yard of its prodigious gopher population...so I can't assert any special knowledge or authority on the state of reality. But perhaps I can at least poke some holes in what I perceive to be a sort of mass hysteria around the current state of affairs, and inspire one or two minds to free themselves from what - to me at least - seems like a glaring oversight of several basic facts, and several fairly reasonable, even predictable conclusions about why we have arrived at this rather bizarre moment in global and domestic affairs. I've also got some proposed solutions up my sleeve.

Okay so let's start with the easy stuff....


HOW DID TRUMP THE IMPERIOUS IDIOT BECOME POTUS?

Trump won the election for four fairly straightforward reasons:

1) Tapping Into a Deeply Felt, Enduring Anger

A large number of fearful, uninformed and relatively gullible people were really angry - and in fact have been really angry for quite a while now - and Trump tapped into that anger and channeled it to his own benefit. How did he tap in? Mainly by amplifying the blame for all white working class sufferings on a Bogeyman painstakingly propped up by decades of propaganda (see #3 below). The groundwork was already laid for Trump in this regard, he simply capitalized on it. And sure, Trump also called upon the timeworn tactics of racism, sexism, Islamaphobia, xenophobia, "pro-life" religious conservatism, and mixed these with extraordinary lies and grandiose exaggerations, even stirring a pinch of Occupy Wall Street speak into the mix. Here again there was nothing new, just borrowed ideas and rhetoric from previous streams of propaganda and populism - his opportunistic tools. I have discussed elsewhere how Trump also deployed a uniquely American flavor of salesmanship, and tapped into longstanding fears about the decline of testosterone and an ascendance of the feminine, and perhaps these were even more representative of his unique character. I've also discussed some of the other factors involved in this post. But the main driver behind the success * of Trump's nationalistic populism was anger - an anger surely shared by many around the globe.


2) Hillary Clinton's Flaws as a Candidate

Hillary Clinton was simply not a winning enough candidate. Despite her capturing the popular vote, a diverse and widely-distributed group of Democrats who showed up for Obama didn't vote at all in 2016 (about 7 million of them I believe), because they simply weren't inspired by Hillary. Another large portion of Democrats in the Rust Belt voted for Trump instead...because they really didn't trust or like Hillary Clinton. And of course when Hillary ran for President previously, she lost the Democratic primary to someone who was simply a more attractive candidate to many people. I'm not saying Hillary wasn't qualified, mind you, just that she wasn't compelling enough to mobilize voters. Imagine, for example, how exciting things could have been if a Sanders/Warren ticket - or a Warren/Booker ticket - had emerged from the primaries. Gosh golly I think some otherwise apathetic peeps might have gotten themselves to the polls.


3) Decades of Relentless Propaganda and Manipulation


A concerted propaganda effort over many years - and costing billions of dollars - was executed by wealthy conservatives (the Koch brothers, Roger Ailes, etc.) to misinform U.S. citizens about anything and everything, mainly to get them thoroughly and irrationally fired up against President Obama, Hillary Clinton, Democrats, the Affordable Care Act, marriage equality, liberal immigration policy, Black Lives Matter, protecting minority voting rights, or anything else smacking of progressive ideology, "big government," liberal elitism or the dreaded socialism. The Heritage Foundation, Cato Institute, FOX News, Glenn Beck and The Blaze, Rush Limbaugh, RedState, Infowars, Breitbart, and carefully organized Tea Party grass roots activism all propagated very similar (sometimes identical) narratives about the failures and "evils" perpetrated on America by these nefarious, malevolent ne'er-do-wells. Most of this propaganda had little internal logic, and relied on few real facts, generating instead a slew of "alternative facts" that conformed with an alternative Bogeyman/conspiracy reality.

This propaganda has also made a concerted effort to vilify "the liberal media," evidence-based analysis of policies and practices, anything that sounded too "intellectual" or wordy, and even the usefulness or viability of scientific research. This was a transparent tactic to undermine contradictory perspectives that threatened the propaganda narrative - that is, a transparent tactic to undermine the truth itself. As a consequence, a new breed of Republican politician began to surface that could provide a charismatic, often hokey or folksy front for this "anti-establishment" propaganda machine, often without an ounce of real substance to back up their facade. This is part of why the ignorant and silly sound bytes of Michelle Bachman, Todd Akins, Sarah Palin, George W. Bush and others seemed to skyrocket them to popularity, and how folks who are clearly unqualified, incompetent or just plain stupid have attained positions of immense power in Republican administrations. It's all part of a clear and deliberate effort to prop up an alternate reality narrative.

We must also keep in mind that any Republicans who disagreed with this narrative or its political offspring were also rapidly ejected from the herd. Skilled, intelligent, well-meaning Republicans were quickly forced to either dumb themselves down and conform to the silliness, or switch parties, or retire. This was all about capturing and retaining political power, a hoodwinking of America to facilitate plutocracy and corporatocracy. And of course we are already seeing the new Trump administration continuing these same distortions and tactics to support their particular reality field.


4) Underhanded and illegal help.


We may not know for some time all the details about Russia's intrusions into the 2016 U.S. elections. We also probably can't know exactly how much they really influenced voter turnout and choices. We do know, however, that these actions were deliberate, well-planned and pervasive. We also know the aim was to influence the specific outcome of denigrating Hillary Clinton, and several other Democrats, so that Trump and other Republicans could win these contests. We also know Russia has been involved - and continues to be involved - in such activities in other countries. And did FBI Director Comey's actions in the weeks prior to the November vote have a significant impact? We may not know that for certain either. In addition, however, we also know that Republicans both gerrymandered many states to provide a majority in both local legislatures and the House of Representatives, and aggressively purged voting rolls of African American Democrats to similarly skew results in their favor locally and nationally. And because the margin of the election wins in some areas (Arizona, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, for example) are relatively small, all of these underhanded and illegal efforts combined could easily have made a substantive difference in the final electoral vote distribution.




IS ALL THAT ANGER TRUMP TAPPED INTO JUSTIFIABLE?

Of course it is. It's just been artfully stoked, molded and misdirected away from the real causes of very real problems. At whom - or what - should these folks be directing their ire? Well, let's take a look at what's really going on....

What has caused so much market instability, loss of jobs and a living wage, huge increases in consumer debt, a steadily climbing cost of living, widening wealth inequality, and precipitously declining consumer buying power? Folks, it's not any of the factors being bantered about in the media or expounded upon by most pundits and sages, and it's certainly not anything new (as just one example, real wages have been in decline in the U.S. since about 1968). The underlying problem is kind of like the air we breathe - if we were fish, it would be the ocean we are swimming through; we just can't see it because we are so profoundly reliant upon it. But it's croniest, clientist, commercialist corporate capitalism folks. Really...that's the complete, well-rounded, precise and truthful cause of all these problems. The only things that keep us from seeing this clearly are the fish-in-the-sea/elephant-in-the-room/emperor's clothes phenomenon...artfully reinforced by the carefully crafted propaganda alluded to earlier. But if we are willing to open our eyes to the obvious, this explanation is inescapable.

Let's look take a quick peek at some supportive details.


Capitalism is growth-dependent.


Our current form of capitalism relies on cheap labor, cheap resources and expanding markets to keep growing. Why? Because as standards of living increase, a tipping point is inevitably reached where domestic workers expect to be paid more than companies can afford to pay them and still remain profitable. Why? Because companies are selling products and services to the same workers who are producing them, while at the same time having to pay for other inputs (raw materials, equipment, buildings, taxes, service inputs, etc.), and of course wanting to extract profit from the equation as well. To make matters worse, public owner-shareholders who add zero value to the business itself always want to extract more and more profit for themselves. But you can't have your cake and eat it to. Finally, eventual natural consequences like market saturation, price inelastic demand, and "lower prices are better" consumer expectations add additional restrictions on profit. All of this results in a situation where, once a certain peak standard of living and affluence are reached across a large enough segment of society, there is simply no more room for profit. In this sense, the "middle class" of America is the natural enemy of capitalism, forcing free enterprise to perpetually seek cheaper inputs outside of the United States. This is one reason why the U.S., at only 5% of the Earth's population, has been using close to 30% of global resources to support its standard of living.

So without this growth, profits rapidly diminish and even evaporate. This is a primary reason why globalization has been so critical to the function of capitalism - the desire for inexpensive labor and resources, as well as new populations of consumers, has become increasingly strident. In fact, this growth-dependency can become so urgent and toxic that it causes military conflicts and trade wars in order to secure more low-cost inputs and new market opportunities. And over time, when cheap labor, cheap resources and new markets inevitably become scarce - when there is nowhere else to go - the focus of free enterprise necessarily shifts to increasing various efficiencies. And the first stops on the efficiency train are usually three considerations: labor efficiency, economies of scale, and reducing competition.

1) Labor efficiency. Labor is one of the most expensive inputs to capitalism, and there are a number of strategies to reduce costs once overseas outsourcing reaps diminishing returns. One is automation and computers that permit fewer workers - or cheaper workers with less skill - to create the same output. Another is reducing wages, often by replacing seasoned workers with a younger, lower cost workforce; or by shifting full-time employees to part-time or contract status to avoid paying benefits and taxes; or by breaking and ousting labor unions. Another is increasing the productivity of employees, through expecting longer work hours for the same pay, or restructuring salary to performance-based incentives, or using an intimidating management style of quotas and reprimands.

2) Economies of scale.
Becoming bigger - even to the point of completely monopolizing a given industry on a transnational scale - introduces many potential efficiencies and greater control of all the inputs involved. It also provides greater influence over relationships with suppliers, local governments and distribution channels. The ultimate result is not only a lower cost-per-unit, but more security and leverage over everything from workforce to government regulation. This level of control is very appealing to owner-shareholders who expect consistent profitability.

3) Reducing competition. Here the strategies are also fairly predictable. Either companies will try to position themselves as the only game in town through mergers and hostile buyouts, or they will engage in other anti-competitive business practices that provide a lock on how their products perform in that market. Common anti-competitive practices include things like price fixing, exclusive dealing, dumping products at a loss until competitors have fled the market, and intellectual property protections that guaranty exclusivity or disrupt competition (patenting crops, etc.). There are some very creative and wide-ranging options, though, and I recommend consulting the link above for more examples.

What are the consequences of these practices? Almost always these result in larger and larger monopolies, fewer jobs and lower pay, regulatory and political leverage in governments (sometimes to the point of complete capture of government), and price inelastic demand for an ever-widening array of commodities. At the same time, however, once these approaches are widely and aggressively deployed, the impetus to grow business and profits is still just as urgent...but now the easiest tools have already been used up. The available options have been shrinking. Subsequently, when stagnant or diminishing profits begin to worry investors and frustrate entrepreneurs, the focus has to shift into new territory. This might include:

1) Veblen goods. On the one hand, these luxury items can appeal to a shrinking slice of society with disposable income, who are willing to pay top dollar (read maximum profit) for goods and services with cultural cachet. Innovations in this arena can pay off much more handsomely than a new design for inexpensive mass-produced gadgets.

2) Planned obsolescence, "newer is better" marketing, and meaningless innovation. Ever wonder why everything from dishwashers and vacuum cleaners to housing and cars don't seem to endure as long or perform as well as they once did? Or why there seem to be frenetic updates and upgrades to everything we buy, which a product or service won't work without? Because it doesn't pay to make things that last, or that don't require maintenance, or that can't be upgraded. It's much more lucrative to engineer a rapid turnover of goods, or goods that require constant servicing and enhancement. If consumers can be persuaded to believe that every tiny feature, no matter how trivial or irritating, is a "must have," well then it becomes very foolish to produce anything simple, enduring or fully functional from the get-go...doesn't it?

3) Recurring consumer reliance or addictions. This is a subtler, longer-term strategy that can be very effective. Moving away from single sales to a subscription model, for example. Or medicating the symptoms of chronic conditions with expensive pharmaceuticals, instead of treating the underlying causes. Or pricy "club" memberships that lock consumers into a single source for their purchases, so that they are compelled to recoup their membership fees via that one retailer's "deeply discounted" products. Ironies abound of course. Consider, for example, e-cigarettes marketed to help nicotine addicts wean themselves off of traditional cigarettes, simply trading one addiction for another for equally negative health effects.

However, once again these strategies are only sustainable if there is a large pool of consumers still available with adequate disposable income. But, recalling that labor reduction and impoverishment is one of the prominent efficiency strategies, and that worker-consumer exploitation and dependency have already been in play for some time, existing markets inevitably will contract or become saturated. Add to this the hallmarks of "lowest price!" consumer expectations, owner-shareholder profit expectations, spreading price inelastic demand, and the other pressures we've enumerated so far, and the final straw pretty much breaks the camel's back.

What's left? Where can capitalism go from here...?

Once the easiest efficiencies, marketing strategies and product choices have been exhausted, there is only one thing left to do: abandon production of traditional goods and services altogether. The next step in capitalism's decline is financialization - that is, transitioning to a financial economy. Here profit is sought mainly through speculative investing, elaborate financial instruments, litigious enterprises (patent trolling), increased loan leveraging, and the cultivation of ever-increasing consumer debt. In other words, making money directly from money or through manipulating the law, without the intermediate step of providing an actual service or producing an actual good. And, in keeping with the previously established aims of efficiency, monopoly, dependence and so forth, owner-shareholders become more and more wealthy, while jobs for worker-consumers become fewer and lower-paying, buying power continues to decline, benefits and privileges that were once ubiquitous become more scarce, and debt-slavery replaces wage-slavery as the new norm for the working class. For most people, life gets harder, more stressful and a lot less fair; the American dream of a middle-class lifestyle becomes harder and harder to achieve or sustain. And all of this is happening against a backdrop of promises that each generation would be better off than the last.

Is it any wonder that people are really pissed off?!



But we're not done yet. Eventually, towards the end of this final phase, capitalism flails around for additional labor sources, natural resources, efficiencies, speculations, lending avenues and so forth...but these are increasingly hard to come by. The strategies just aren't working as well anymore, even as owner-shareholders are expecting greater profits, workers are clamoring for more jobs and better pay, consumers are insisting on lower prices, markets are becoming more saturated and less competitive, and more commodities become subject to price inelastic demand. The pressures on the capitalist system only increase. Which is how bubbles are formed, and why crashes occur. Which of course only pisses everyone off that much more.

However, there is one remaining avenue of new inputs, and that is to privatize public goods and anything socially owned. To facilitate this, corporations must aggressively roll back or capture as many regulatory and trade restrictions as possible. And, over the last decades, we've seen all of this playing out not only in the U.S., but globally. In the U.S., we've had the FCC selling off the public broadcast frequency spectrum to corporate bidders; school voucher programs that direct public funds away from public schools; the freezing of EPA enforcement via executive order; the SEC loosening leveraging restrictions; staunch opposition to the ACA and single payer healthcare; vociferous advocacy of privatizing Social Security....It's all clear as day. As for the rest of the world, check out the consequences of the World Bank and IMF's "structural adjustment policies," or who benefited most from our biggest trade deals. At the same time, the capitalist system self-protectively socializes as many risks as possible for its increasingly unreliable experiments, so that it can - like a self-destructive gambling addict - expend a final set of borrowed inputs for a last spasm of profit. Bailouts anyone? Too big to fail? And of course all of the stages I've described generate instability in boom-and-bust cycles along the way, which is exactly what we've been experiencing on a global scale.

Now, rather unfortunately, we are finally and irreversibly arriving at the very end of a death spiral, where capitalism has busily begun consuming itself. There is nowhere else to go. In the next boom-and-bust cycle (or maybe, optimistically, the one after that), there will be nothing left to feed into the world's economic engine. In our current trajectory, stock valuations are a consequence of magical thinking and psychological reactions, with no correlation to anything real. And, like most conditions that are not based in reality, it is totally unsustainable. Yes, it is possible that some new storm of innovations will create a new, temporary ecosystem for profit, and perhaps extend the death rattle for a few more precious months or years. But the end of capitalism is, I think, truly and irrevocably upon us.

So perhaps now it has become clear why people have become so desperate, agitated, angry, and afraid. Not just in the U.S., but all around the globe. Intuitively and experientially, they know the writing is on the wall. Human beings - even the folks who voted for Trump - are not entirely stupid. They sense the game is up, even if they can't admit the underlying causes to themselves. They are witnessing a capitalist system that is no longer generating returns adequate to support civil society - let alone the opulence, excesses and tremendous wastes of U.S. consumerism - and that system is going to take them down with it. And, as the global economy teeters on the edge of the abyss, a rallying cry of the pro-capitalist propagandists gurgles forth: "Just give us one more try! Do if for your country! It's not your fault and it's not our fault...it's the Bogeyman's fault! Just trust us and we will make you great again!" Oh yes, the worker-consumers of the world have every reason to be lividly pissed off - now and for many decades past. But unless we all work together to turn the Titanic, and soon, our suffering will only intensify and the options decrease, until all that is left of capitalism is a set of rotting teeth, gnashing away at nothing in the dark.


WHAT ARE OUR OPTIONS NOW?

As folks have been waking up to the reality that our current capitalist system isn't working, a number of dead-end proposals have been put forth for our consideration. These have included:

1) A return to FDR New Deal style solutions engineered by government. This would undoubtedly soften the blow for those feeling the most economic pain, and perhaps create some temporary, well-paying jobs. Increasing taxes on the wealthy to pay for this expansion would also work - in the short run. This was what Bernie Sanders was championing. And this probably would have ushered in a temporary golden age of flourishing quality-of-life for mainstream America, possibly even expanding the middle class once again. But it still wouldn't have solved the underlying self-destructive currents in capitalism that we've explored in this essay, and so, in the long run, it would not have averted inevitable decline and collapse being witnessed. In fact, it might have even accelerated destabilization - by encouraging capital flight, for example, or by amplifying boom/bust cycles and comorbid inflationary pressures, debt burdens, and so forth. So, not a reliable long-term solution.

2) Freeing up the engines of capitalism with laissez faire reforms, reducing government deficit spending, and expanding tax cuts for the wealthy, then attempting to focus beneficial outcomes on the U.S. economy with trade protectionism. This seems to be the solution Donald Trump and Paul Ryan are offering. Unfortunately, not only does this approach fail to address the flaws in the capitalist system itself, it also exacerbates some of the more pronounced factors that undermine overall economic productivity, stability and mobility. In fact, all of these strategies have already been tried in the recent past, and they have just made things worse, and very quickly. Just follow these links or do quick web searches on "trade protectionism," "regressive taxation" and "austerity economics" for relevant disastrous examples and analysis. Oops!

3) Try to maintain a status quo crony capitalist arrangement, with a government just strong enough to facilitate corporate interests, a monetary policy that effectively controls inflation, and taxes just high enough to keep social safety nets from becoming exhausted. This is what Obama did fairly successfully, and I think it is also what Hillary Clinton would likely have done in some variation. It is a strategy that promotes stability, and stretches out the timeline of decline and collapse, likely to its greatest possible limit. If we added Picketty-inspired wealth taxes to this scenario, it might actually stretch things out for decades. But...oh well. The underlying issues we've raised here are still not addressed in any substantive way. We would still be looking at the collapse of capitalism over the longer term.

Okay...if these options would work, what's left to try? Is there a viable escape hatch?

Well that's what I've been thinking about for the past few years. And my unsurprising conclusion is pretty straightforward: we need to replace capitalism with a more egalitarian political economy. Not State socialism - absolutely not. But there are other options, the components of which have actually already been tested and proven in the real world. I provide detailed proposals and supportive information for those on my Level 7 website. But in short, consider thinking of a new political economy as you would a new kind of air to breathe...or a new kind of ocean to swim in...realizing that it will take some time and effort to fully grok all of its dimensions. Then take a steady, considered breath, and dive in.


A LEVEL 7 SOLUTION

I've summarized the basic idea of a Level 7 political economy in the acronym EPIC-SEEDS, which stands for:


E ngaged - Civic engagement and political obligation become fundamental expectations of all citizens, and are tied directly to proportional access to public goods, infrastructure, services and privileges.

P iloted & Precautionary - Starting small, proving the concept, replicating, and measuring the outcomes, impacts and externalities in a multidimensional way.

I ntegrity - Embodying the values, principles and approaches of the desired political economy in all revolutionary activism and successive phases of execution.

C ommons-Centric - Neither privatization nor State ownership, but migrating resource ownership and governance to a user-based, self-organized and self-managed model.


S ubsidiarity - Shifting the center of all decision-making, service provisioning and economic production down to the most local level possible, ideally the community.

E galitarian Efficiency - The aim of both equality of opportunity and equality of outcome for all citizens, in all circumstances.

E volved - Supporting individual and collective moral evolution beyond I/Me/Mine or Us vs. Them, to a more cohesive and compassionate We.

D irect Democracy - At all levels of government, and all levels of free enterprise, in concert with elected or appointed technocrats and managers, while holding representatives and civil servants accountable, and overriding them when necessary.

S ustainable Design - Systems designed to ebb-and-flow in cyclical steady states, without depleting natural resources, destroying cultures or ecosystems, or creating new forms of slavery.



For the full overview of what I think needs to be done - with lots of supportive information and resources on how it all works - please check out http://www.level-7.org. Although the website is becoming fairly comprehensive, the objective was to create a starting point for a more participatory long-term solution. So I hope you will check it out and offer some feedback. We have a long way to go, but the roadmap is clear.



*Footnote regarding the prevalence of anger: It should be noted that the angry voter percentage in the 2016 U.S. elections really wasn't that large in electoral terms. For example, Ronald Reagan won the Electoral College 489 to 49 over Jimmy Carter, whereas Trump only won 306 to 232 over Hillary Clinton. Trump's margin ranks him 46th out of 58 Presidential elections...hardly a decisive win, even when we ignore his record-breaking margin of loss to Clinton in the popular vote.




Is it true that it is possible to cook up a lot of logical arguments on any given topic?

Speaking to what I think is the heart of your question, let me relate a story from my early twenties….

I was trying to do research on something and sought resources at a university library. This was back in the 1980s when most periodicals, research journals and abstracts were put on microfiche for longterm storage. When I asked about available research, I was led down to a very large basement room full of filing cabinets, with a narrow isle down the middle of the room. I explained to my guide (a graduate student working at the library) what I was looking for: some data on the environmental impacts of various common chemicals on wildlife, ecosystems, habitats and so forth. He then asked, without any hint of sarcasm, “What kind of data are you looking for?” I was confused. I said I was trying to understand what the actual impacts were over time. He shrugged and pointed first to one side of the room, then to the other, saying, “On that side of the room you will find all of the government-funded academic research, and on this side of the room you will find all of the privately-funded research.” He began to walk away, and being young and naive, I still didn’t understand what was going on. I laughed nervously and asked, “Why is it set up this way, instead of just by research topic?” The grad student paused on the way back up the steps and said, “If you want research to support one side of the argument, stick to the stacks on one side of the room. Each side will provide different conclusions that…basically contradict each other.” And with that he was off.

In this case, it wasn’t just logical arguments, it was decades of “scientific research” that supported opposing conclusions. How was this possible?

I think that may be what your psychologist was getting at. Once we begin to frame a given topic a certain way, it is very easy to cherry-pick new information to conform with our frame. This is sometimes called post-rationalization or confirmation bias, but it’s really just “wanting to see what we want to see.” And humans are very good at this. So what for one person is a “logical” justification for their beliefs simply doesn’t hold the same sway for someone else; the logic isn’t persuasive. Nevertheless, it is quite easy - and common - for people to accumulate gobs of “logical” arguments to support whatever position they have decided to take, and then resist any “logic” that opposes their position. A close friend to this pattern of self-justification is cognitive dissonance - for which we humans also can have a very high tolerance.

I think this is one reason why the concept of “discernment” was developed over time - to counter what may seem logical at first, but really doesn’t make any sense. Discernment…and ultimately wisdom…combines different modes of perception, intelligence and assessment to reach a tentative conclusion about something that logic alone may not be able to reach. It is a skill that takes time to develop, and is supported by certain innate abilities like empathy, emotional intelligence, self-awareness, somatic intuition, social intelligence, general intelligence, and analytical skills.

My 2 cents.

From Quora: https://www.quora.com/Is-it-true-that-it-is-possible-to-cook-up-a-lot-of-logical-arguments-on-any-given-topic/answer/T-Collins-Logan

What's the most unhealthy thing that society encourages us to do?

A lot of answers on Quora have touched on the symptoms that are unhealthy, without touching on the root cause. Nearly all of the most destructive “unhealthy things” that have been described so far are the product of one thing: a belief that capitalism is the most viable economic system, and our perpetuating and participating in that system unquestioningly. If we want to move away from conspicuous consumption, unhealthy diets, addictive products, self-destructive lifestyles, an obsession with accumulating “stuff,” wanton destruction of the planet and exhausting of its resources, etc., all that we really need to do is transition to a different political economy. One where corporations are not in charge, where we aren’t programmed to solve all our problems through purchasing decisions, and where people actually participate in self-governance through democracy. One where caring about our fellow human beings takes priority over exploiting them. One where wage-slavery, obscenely disparate concentrations of wealth, and fencing off the world into private property are abandoned in favor of a commons-centric, worker-managed, more directly democratic model. One where technologies, innovations and advances are designed primarily to improve the well-being of the greatest number for the greatest duration…instead of just making shareholders happy. One where civic responsibility is mainly about enhancing the public good, rather than just championing childish individualism. There are many ways we could do this, but the primary feature of any new system will be giving up on capitalism altogether. We need fundamental change, not a facelift to hide our mistaken trust in a broken concept.

To that end I have a work-in-progress, which you can view here: Level 7 Overview. This is intended to be a participatory effort, so please feel free to send me your thoughts. Just please take time to look over what’s there first. :-)

My 2 cents.

How conscience and freedom related to knowledge of self?

I think that if we have the freedom to act on the inward-focused impulses of our conscience - that is, our curiosity and trust in a felt reality within ourselves - then we can eventually arrive at genuine self-knowledge. Such freedom is often deprived by tribalism, the emotional manipulations of family, ideological groupthink, and various forms of poverty we allow to be imposed upon us (poverty of spirit, ideas, curiosity…material poverty that perpetuates a crisis mentality, etc.). So conditions that encourage freedom are essential. But so is nurturing that inward-focus, which some people are innately afraid to do. And if we don’t listen to the promptings of our conscience to examine that inward world - promptings that I think are inevitable for all human beings at some point in their life - then we will miss out on opportunities for genuine freedom as well.

My 2 cents.

Is it possible for the State to no longer exist?


Yes. There are a few options:

1. Let corporations take over all of the functions that the State currently provides, offering what amounts to “voluntary” contractual slavery to maintain concentrations of wealth and power in the hands of a few. This is where anarcho-capitalism, laissez-faire objectivism, and Nozick-style minarchism eventually lead, and doesn’t really present much of a difference to traditional Statism in terms of the coercive force of poverty or enforcement of the rule of law. It’s basically just stripping off the facade of political self-determination we have in our crony capitalist “representative” democracy. I find it rather humorous U.S. right-libertarianism is so critical of the “excessive and inefficient police state,” when their solutions would likely enhance corporatocracy’s interferences with liberty even more - especially as monopolies consolidate over time.

2. Maintaining a mixed economy and a welfare State, but introducing more direct democracy into the mix - following Switzerland’s hybrid setup, for example. Then, over time, attenuating the responsibilities and authority of the State, and shifting more and more decision-making and accountability to direct democracy and/or down to the community level. The problem with this approach is that, if corporations aren’t democratized and diffused in the same way, they will still represent huge concentrations of wealth and power that disrupt civil society and usurp or countermand democratic will. So this approach is, at best, a temporary fix.

3. Combine semi-direct democracy with worker ownership of production, and rapidly diffuse political and economic power out to the community level. As direct democracy is increasingly implemented across all civic and commercial institutions, centralized power will likewise become more distributed. All that remains is an examination of accumulations of private property and for-profit activities that sabotage egalitarian conditions for liberty, and gradually migrating those into a commons-centric model. For this shift to be voluntary, however, those who have accumulated much power and wealth will of necessity need to mature far enough along the moral spectrum to “gift” their accumulations back to society. In other words, we’ll all need to grow up a bit and graduate from an “I/Me/Mine” toddler mindset. Personally, I think most people have an intrinsic propensity to act prosocially and collectively for everyone’s best interest, it’s just that capitalism has arrested our natural development by constantly reinforcing materialistic individualism.

My own proposals around how and why humanity should transform its political economies away from capitalism and towards left-libertarianism can be found here: Level 7 Overview (http://level-7.org/).

My 2 cents.

From Quora: https://www.quora.com/Is-it-possible-for-the-State-to-no-longer-exist/answer/T-Collins-Logan

What specific beliefs in a religion would tend to indicate that its other beliefs are misguided?

Interestingly, individual beliefs really aren’t that indicative of anything but the viability of the individual belief itself. Believing that a purple rhinoceros mated with the moon to produce the Earth’s sky doesn’t mean that some other belief is, purely by association, misguided or faulty. That is a bit of a classic “composition fallacy,” and can quickly lead to converse errors. Of more import, IMO, are the values, virtues and resulting ethos that a coherent and cohesive body of beliefs consistently support and inspire. That is, for me it is more about the aims of a hierarchy of beliefs - and whether that hierarchy constructively reinforces and enables those aims.

But first, why are coherence and cohesion important? Only in that, over time, if the belief and values hierarchies are rife with contradictions, inaccuracies, fallacies, etc. we can observe this will likely encourage an authoritative, dogmatic orthodoxy - one that seeks to remedy an otherwise ever-enlarging cognitive dissonance, and often becomes institutionalized. In other words, in response to an inherent instability in those hierarchies, its proponents can become more and more rigid, legalistic and controlling of each other, and in increasingly harmful ways. It is an understandable human reflex - though not a particularly attractive one - to avoid questioning if those questions can quickly undress core beliefs or undermine the structure and interdependence of a given set of values - especially if this then destabilizes social cohesion or personal status.

Also, the issue of emphasis is important. I’ve used the term hierarchy to specifically call this out. There are core values and core beliefs that are often intimately related, and tend to be grounded in human relationships and interdependence. For example, if I love my father and observe that - in our family at least - his role is to protect my family and materially provide for them, then it is much easier to cultivate a core belief that he is somehow deserving of that role, and that a “father” is in fact defined by these responsibilities. In this way values and virtues like loyalty, respect, obedience, self-sacrifice and so forth can quickly fall into place as consequences of those core assumptions and experiences. Once this is then observed and agreed upon within a community, supportive beliefs and values - and their cohesive and coherent hierarchy - can become generalized and self-perpetuating.

But what if, at some point, I ask my father where the sky came from, and he tells me about the purple rhino? If I accept the story, it is incorporated into my belief hierarchy…but far down the chain. It’s veracity is dependent on a very large tree of branching beliefs that are rooted in my love for my father and acceptance of his role in my life. Believing in the purple rhino - misguided as it may be - in no way dilutes the importance and operational basis of all the beliefs that came before it. It would only become problematic if I then inverted the belief and values hierarchy, and placed ritual and dogma regarding the purple rhino (or some other core belief or value not grounded in relationship) above my love for my father. This inversion is warned against in most religions. For example, that is the essence of the teaching in 1 John 4 “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.” And of course warnings against dogmatic inversions is a central theme of the New Testament narrative as a whole. More importantly, if a given belief or value isn’t facilitative of a given core set, it’s going to become vestigial or be entirely discarded…eventually. We might call this “pruning the belief tree.”

Circling back to the central question, then, I would recast it in the terms I’ve just described. Are the hierarchies consistent and coherent? Do they align with subjective and observed experiences? Do they facilitate core beliefs and values that have arisen from - and are intrinsic to - human relationship? Viewed as a whole, does a given belief and values system actualize and sustain itself, synthesizing outcomes that reinforce and amplify core beliefs and core values in its final ethos? If not, then there will be “misguided” consequences.

My 2 cents.

From Quora: https://www.quora.com/What-specific-beliefs-in-a-religion-would-tend-to-indicate-that-its-other-beliefs-are-misguided/answer/T-Collins-Logan

San Diego's Dirty, Not-So-Little Secret

[Please note: this article was updated on Jan 12, 2017 with new and corrected information]

San Diego Smog circa 1974 - Photo Credit Don Taylor, Creative Commons License 2.0


Really Bad Air

Did you know that San Diegans breathe some of the most polluted air in the country? And that the closer you live to one of our many highways, the worse your health risks will be?

Anyone who has lived in San Diego over the last decade has probably experienced this more than once: Waking up at 3:00 a.m. to an acrid, eye-watering, lung-burning stench; coughing and wheezing while rushing around to close all the windows in the vain attempt to keep the bad air outside; then burrowing back under the blankets in an equally vain attempt to escape the worst effects. Since I moved to San Diego in 2002, the frequency of these pollution events seems to be increasing. Of course, it also depends on where in San Diego you happen to live. When I had an apartment in Pacific Beach, the bad air was present almost every morning on weekdays, but quickly dissipated with the rising sun. Now, living in East County, the "home invasion" of wicked smells occurs just once or twice a week, usually in the middle of the night. Again, though, the frequency does seem to be increasing...and the intensity of the stench is getting worse.

So what is going on? Is this just a natural consequence of living in a single-driver car-addicted society? That has been a frequent criticism of neighboring Los Angeles and its surrounds, where smog events and air quality health alerts are much more prevalent. And there is data to back up the assertion that most of the smog comes from cars - along with plentiful jokes and anecdotes about Angelinos driving two blocks from their house to purchase a bottle of water. And although there are similar statistics for San Diego's increasing traffic, I think the "car culture" argument is really a massive red herring.

And here's why. Anyone who grew up in the U.S. will remember the days before emission standards, testing and control technologies. That high, almost fruity and acidic aroma from the back of a running vehicle was just a fact of life in the fifties and sixties. Cars stank. So let's call that "classic old exhaust" - or C.O.E. for short. Then, in the 1970s, health concerns prompted Clean Air legislation, and catalytic converters were required in U.S. passenger vehicles. Over time, as older cars aged out of what was driving on our streets, car exhaust smells began to change. Occasionally we would encounter the rotten egg plume of a failing catalytic converter, and there might still be an occasional 1960s VW Bug or restored Mustang that would blast us with a reminder of the good old days, but for the most part the worst offenders were being removed from the roads.

Or so I thought.

After I moved to San Diego and was assaulted by high concentrations of pre-1970s C.O.E., I just didn't understand what was happening. In Seattle I had lived right next to two major highways for years, and never had to breathe air this acrid and toxic. What was was causing this? I wrote emails to different researchers at universities in San Diego, asking what they thought the reason could be. I received no response. I called them and left messages. Still no response. I then emailed the San Diego Air Pollution Control District with the same question. I received no response. I called the San Diego APCD and left messages - twice. No response.

So I began to speculate. What could be the source of all this nasty air? Were there a growing number of cars on the road that were somehow evading emission controls? As if to confirm this suspicion, I began to notice that, while driving behind certain newer vehicles in slow traffic, I picked up on the pre-1970s C.O.E. odor. I would then look at the plates of these newer vehicles to see where the cars were from, and discovered that, most of the time, they had Baja plates from Mexico. Most of the time...but not always. Sometimes the vehicles had current California registrations. When I asked around regarding these observations, San Diego natives confirmed that not only did most Mexico vehicles not require the same emission controls as here in the U.S. (not even catalytic converters), but that many people would buy the cheaper Mexico models, bring them into the U.S., and then work out various ways to get around emissions testing and other requirements when they registered them in California. It was also not unheard of, they said, for vehicles made in the U.S. to be sold across the border, only to have their catalytic converters removed and emissions controls deactivated before being driven back into the U.S. The converters weren't needed in Mexico, after all, and were worth upwards of $100 each.

What? Seriously? Was this really that common...? And as if in answer to my incredulity, within the next couple of months I witnessed the San Diego Police Department performing "spot checks" of vehicle emissions on the side of the road. These looked like the setups police use to funnel potential DUIs into a checkpoint - with the cones, flashing lights and multiple police cars. But instead of having drivers take a breathalyzer, the police tested the exhaust. Here is more on these random "Mobile Smog Checks:"

http://www.mercurynews.com/2013/05/10/surprise-bay-area-drivers-have-cars-examined-at-random-smog-checkpoints/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BoTCSRgvPaM

http://www.policestateusa.com/2013/routine-smog-checkpoints-impede-california-roads/

Apparently, these random checks could become more sophisticated and widespread in the near future:

http://www.smogtips.com/remote_sensing.cfm

According to a California Highway Patrol contact that I spoke with, the mobile smog checkpoints the CHP facilitates are an effort of the California DMV and BAR to ensure that local Smog Check stations and technicians are not circumventing good practices for emissions testing. As such, the mobile testing stations are a potential source of revenue for the State, as expanded by AB 2289 (see https://smogcheck.ca.gov/pdf/Citations_Penalties_AB2289_2_13_13.pdf). In addition, one vehicle testing resource I spoke with also indicated that some mobile stations are set up specifically in areas where local communities have expressed concern about potential violators. In both cases, the ongoing investment in technology and human resources makes it clear that uncorrected emissions violations and re-failures of corrected issues are a real problem. Here are some charts from the BAR's 2016 Smog Check Performance Report that use this roadside data to illustrate the long-term and ongoing problem:





That said, I didn't think much more about this until a few more years had passed, and the C.O.E. events became worse and more frequent. Eventually, after my wife Mollie began to suffer serious health effects from the bad night air - and I myself was getting headaches and interrupted sleep when the stench woke me up - I filed a formal complaint with e APCD. At long last I received a call from an inspector at that agency. And you know what he said? Unless I could pinpoint the source of the pollution, and the exact times it regularly occurred, his agency could do nothing. I explained that I thought it was from cars without emission controls, and was the most extreme around 3 a.m., though at irregular intervals of days or weeks. Apologizing, he indicated that "general vehicle traffic" was not under his agency's jurisdiction. He apologized, but said there was nothing he could do.

I then contacted the Ombudsman's office of the California Air Resources Board, where I was invited to make public comment at a Sacramento Board meeting. As I live in San Diego that's not something I can easily do, so I was then referred to an emissions researcher at a private company. He was extremely helpful, and clarified many of the moving parts involved in regulating emissions here in California. His recommendation was that I contact the Bureau of Automotive Repairs, as they are the agency who would be most involved with end-user violations here in San Diego County. I then filed a complaint with the BAR, so...we shall see how that pans out. However, BAR can't do anything about polluting vehicles with Mexican registrations that are driving across the border....


So, apart from moving away from the horrific San Diego air for the sake of our health, what are the options?

First, here are some points of research to consider:

1) According to https://transborder.bts.gov, as of July 2016 a combined total of about 100,000 trucks and 2.5 Million passenger vehicles were entering California from Mexico every month on average, and these numbers remained fairly constant throughout the previous year as well. From the known profile of commuting and commercial activity between U.S. and Mexico, we can also be fairly certain that the majority of these vehicles do not meet U.S. vehicle emission standards, and that many if not most do not have catalytic converters.

2) The only substantive consideration of pollution impacts from Mexico's vehicles was triggered by some NAFTA-related laws and court rulings about truck transport - and only truck transport. These allowed more trucks to enter the U.S. - and travel further into the U.S. - without complying with U.S. emissions standards (see https://www.arb.ca.gov/enf/hdvip/bip/naftamextrk.pdf). At one point, the EPA stepped in to provide Mexican truck-drivers at some border crossings with upgrade grants for their vehicles to bring them up U.S. standards (see http://archive.azcentral.com/news/articles/2011/04/11/20110411arizona-mexico-truck-pollution-regulation.html). In a somewhat ironic development, however, Mexico then loosened restrictions on pre-2007 U.S. truck sales in Mexico, so that any U.S. fleets that weren't compliant with 2007 emissions standards could be unloaded by U.S. companies there. This, in combination with the NAFTA-related increase in Mexican manufacturing and exports, meant that a large number of pre-2007 trucks were snapped up by Mexican transporters...and driven right back across the border to either pollute U.S. air...or receive taxpayer-funded EPA upgrades (see http://www.logisticsmgmt.com/article/nafta_blowback_fueling_used_truck_boom_south_of_border_in_mexico). Again, however, this is only attempting to address commercial trucking, not passenger vehicles.

4) According to the EPA, transportation is responsible for some 50% of nitrogen oxide, 30% of VOCs, and 20% of particulate pollution (see https://www.epa.gov/air-pollution-transportation). Although non-road sources (trains, boats, planes, etc.) do contribute to these numbers, the most acutely felt impacts of pollution in urban areas are from on-road vehicles (cars, trucks, etc.). And the denser the traffic and closer the proximity of residences to major traffic routes, the greater the health risk to those residents (see http://now.tufts.edu/articles/big-road-blues-pollution-highways).

5) The American Lung Association has consistently rated air quality in San Diego with an "F," their worst rating. This is mainly the result of ozone pollution, which is of course a consequence of fuel combustion - roughly half of which can be linked to on-road transportation for most of the year. However, historically and currently, nearly all other pollutants (particulates, CO, NO2, etc.) have also sustained higher averages in San Diego and the rest of Southern California (see http://www.usa.com/san-diego-ca-air-quality.htm).

6) Health impacts from this level of pollution are severe. Many researchers have made the comparison between living beside a highway and smoking. And even living in a town with moderate vehicle pollution levels can effect health over time - in particular, ozone and particulates increase risks for cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, as well as risks for cancer, reproductive harm, developmental harm and premature death (see https://www.niehs.nih.gov/health/topics/agents/air-pollution/ and http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs313/en/).

7) Catalytic converters reduce emissions of CO, hydrocarbons, VOCs and NOx, which in combination with sunlight create ozone. ("Ozone formation is driven by two major classes of directly emitted precursors: nitrogen oxides (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOC). The relation between O3, NOx and VOC is driven by complex nonlinear photochemistry" - see http://www-personal.umich.edu/~sillman/ozone.htm). In combination with other, now standard emission control technologies in U.S. vehicles, catalytic converters reduce these emissions by up to 90%.


The 72% Solution

Taken altogether, where does all of this data lead us? Well, we have a good approximation of how many vehicles are crossing the California border each day, to drive through and around San Diego County without catalytic converters. We don't have exact figures on how many vehicles registered on this side of the border are trying to cheat on smog tests, but from my informal records of the routine assaults on my olfactory I've experienced while driving in San Diego over the past decade, I think that number would have to be at least 10%. Without exact numbers or AADT data that is user-friendly from California DOT, can we come up with a rough guestimate of what percentage of vehicles are driving around San Diego County each day that might be categorized as "gross emitters," or contributing directly to unhealthy levels of pollution? Sure. Just using AADT for I-5, I-8 and I-15 to propose a baseline (from http://www.interstate-guide.com/), then subtracting the in-bound cross-border traffic from Mexico in combination with an estimate of local smog-cheaters, how about:

(87,000 + 65,000 [10% of 739K-87K]) of 739,000 total vehicles = 20.57%

If we then adjust for trucks (which average just 3.7% of total traffic, but contribute 11% of on-road emission volumes), we arrive at a possible number of 22.83% of total vehicles on the road daily. But that isn't an accurate percentage of the pollutants those vehicles contribute, since we haven't adjusted for the lack of catalytic converters. Being generous, we could say that this 22.83% actually contributes eight times the ozone precursor pollution (per vehicle) compared to vehicles with catalyzed emissions. Which is how we can arrive at roughly 72% of the ozone-precursor pollution from on-road vehicles being produced by vehicles without catalytic converters. If my guestimates are correct, then just over half of these are vehicles driving legally across the border, and just under half are being operated illegally by folks who circumvent smog checks.

72%. And we wonder why, despite such rigorous smog enforcements on California drivers, Southern California has such crappy air....

Even if these numbers aren't exact, we're still talking about an enormous volume of PREVENTABLE pollution here. If I'm only half-right, addressing vehicular polluters from Mexico - and intercepting smog cheaters and re-fails of smog-checked vehicles that reside in San Diego County - would have a huge impact on quality of life and health in San Diego.

It would sure be nifty if this unhealthy problem could be addressed soon - before my wife and I are compelled to leave San Diego for good.



For more info:

U.S. Air Pollution Wiki:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Air_pollution_in_the_United_States

California Traffic Census:
http://dot.ca.gov/trafficops/census/

San Diego GHG Emission Data for On-Road Vehicles:
http://catcher.sandiego.edu/items/epic/GHG-On-Road1.pdf.pdf

In what sense the acts of conscience related to intersubjectivity?

Thanks for the A2A. I think this is an interesting question. Intersubjectivity means different things in different contexts, but here are some possible correlations within various domains:

- If you subscribe to the multilevel selection theory of evolutionary biology, the prosocial genetic programming that enables our ability to experience a personal “conscience” may itself have been a consequence of group selection. The implication here is that development and fitness are facilitated by socially productive relationships, which, in turn, are facilitated and reinforced by that conscience. Here we see active adaptation at work over time, though not with same personal, conscious engagement identified in other domains.

- What is considered appropriate and efficacious as an “act of conscience” is learned via interpersonal relationships, family-of-origin modeling, and cultural conditioning. Our personal felt experience of “conscience” may still be a consequence of the prosocial genetic programming just described, but our actualization of conscientiousness in the day-to-day is almost certainly guided by our emotional, social and psychological interdependencies, which define the milieux and desired outcomes of how our conscience operates in the world. In a psychosocial sense, then, application of conscience undergoes intersubjectivity through our interaction with others and with our environment. And in this case it might be viewed as an active adaptation or conscious learning curve.

- In a philosophical or theory-of-mind sense, intersubjectivity is also key to developing and exercising conscience. In this instance, however, the very substance of what constitutes both “a conscience” and “an act of conscience” would be created through our particular thought community. That is, as a more passively received inculcation, memetic propagation or manifestation of reflexive groupthink - rather than an active adaptation or consequence of social navigation. This could be viewed as a substantially unconscious process.

- In a spiritual context, intersubjectivity is one way of elaborating the interplay between ground of being, spiritual awareness and knowledge, a felt intuition of what is right or good, and the mental processes that integrate these input streams into discernment. “Conscience” in this domain becomes more active and reflective, leading through its application-in-action to skillfulness and wisdom, so that “acts of conscience” may embody agape.

In this way we can see intersubjectivity playing out across four distinct domains: consciously active adaptation; unconscious, multi-generational genetic adaptation; unconscious group acceptance as reflexive conformance; or the active interplay between being, spirit, intuition and mind.

My 2 cents.

From Quora: https://www.quora.com/In-what-sense-the-acts-of-conscience-related-to-intersubjectivity/answer/T-Collins-Logan

Can you demonstrate that gratitude is a basic, universal moral obligation?

I would tease this question out into four separate parts:

1. Is the response of gratitude a collectively useful, prosocial trait or cultivated habit? Absolutely. I think the more grateful people can be for all aspects of their existence (indeed, even suffering if it is instructive), the more happiness they are likely to experience consistently, and the more harmonious and cooperative civil society will be.

2. Does a gratitude response automatically invoke direct reciprocity? This is a bit of a stumbling block for me. Some people will be inspired to reciprocate, but it seems burdensome to make this an automatic “rule.” Reciprocity may be expected as a more generalized social guideline (for example, “do unto others as you would have done unto you), but immediate payback seems both awkward and forced; it seems more legalistic than constructively relational. Also, the desire to reciprocate may be expressed towards others (i.e. “give it forward”), towards that person’s conception of their group (their family, community, culture, nation, etc.), or towards that person’s conception of the Divine. So I think the answer here is a qualified “no.”

3. Is direct reciprocity a reasonable moral expectation? Indirect reciprocity, as a more generalized societal expectation of normalized behavior, sure. Direct reciprocity, as an interpersonal rule, again no.

4. Where should either gratitude or reciprocity originate? For me this is the crux of the matter. If my gratitude - and any attempts at reciprocity - aren’t an authentic expression of who I am and how I genuinely feel, then I am thinking, feeling and acting artificially. At the same time, I also believe that gratitude and a desire to reciprocate should be prominent aspects of my character; they should be virtues that I cultivate.

In practice, then, my primary obligation will be to have integrity with my own character and the virtues I esteem. And complying with that obligation is its own primary reward. Concurrently, because I am a social creature and dependent on my community and relationships for every aspect of my existence (including the inculcation of the very virtues that I value), I will actively aim to engage all of society - inclusive of strangers, enemies, friends and family - with an equivalent quality of gratitude and reciprocation. As an operational ideal, I would not want to reprioritize how my own character was expressed according to who saved my life, or how much money I owe someone, or how attractive I find someone, or how long they’ve been my friend, or what bad things they’ve done to me in the past. Why? Because that would mean I am adapting who and how I fundamentally am to every situation in a chameleon-like way…and that smacks of insincerity and, frankly, duplicity. Either I am living according to my values, or I’m not. In day-to-day decisions, of course, I will most likely shift the intensity and duration of this self-expression, connection and relating according to the type of relationship and level of intimacy I have with a given person. But, specifically in terms of lending money, I would still be guided more by the level of need, the immediacy of crisis, the efficacy of what I am being asked to give vs. other ways I could help, etc. than by some previous event that implies indebtedness.

My 2 cents.

From Quora question: https://www.quora.com/Can-you-demonstrate-that-gratitude-is-a-basic-universal-moral-obligation/answer/T-Collins-Logan

Which is more useful for society to believe in, free will or determinism?

Thanks for the A2A Robert.

Historically speaking, the answer to this question has generally depended on what utility is being sought, and by whom. For example:

- Theological determinism and religious fatalism have been quite helpful in pacifying followers within many different religions over time. So from the perspective of the religious elite who are interested in the conformance of followers, it has been quite a useful tool.

- In the same way the Divine Right of Kings - which has a similar flavor to theological determinism - helped stabilize the right of succession and pacify the unruly masses. So again, for Kings and Queens it was extremely useful.

- In any form of democracy, if the people believe that they have “free will,” this can provide a similar pacifying utility when the democracy doesn’t really represent the will of the people. Here again, it is quite useful for anyone in an elected position of power - and for the folks who bankrolled their campaign - to encourage this belief among the electorate in order to maintain an oligarchic status quo.

- It is also quite handy for owners of corporate monopolies when consumers believe they have “freedom of choice” - that market competition is providing better products at lower prices, whether or not that is actually the case.

- In the U.S., we routinely see the enhancement of free will promoted in competing political ideologies. Quite often, however, the outcome of persuading voters that one ideology is better at promoting or providing free will than another is usually increased oppression and exploitation of those same voters. In other words, just as with the previous examples, the “belief in free will” is most useful for the hucksters trying to establish or maintain their own influence.

Now, lest anyone think I am being overly pessimistic, I personally think it is vitally important in a democracy for the electorate to both believe in and insist on free will. Because whenever voters become fatalistic or begin to think their vote doesn’t really matter, they tend to abdicate their civic responsibility and obligations, and disengage. The greatest corrosive force to democracy is apathy - which is essentially letting other forces determine outcomes, instead of actively participating to shape an outcome. The challenge, however, is to protect and educate democracy sufficiently for the voice of the people to be artfully expressed using their own judgment…instead of their just being conned by snake oil salesmen.

My 2 cents.

From Quora: https://www.quora.com/Which-is-more-useful-for-society-to-believe-in-free-will-or-determinism/answer/T-Collins-Logan

As a liberal, what annoys you about some other liberals/progressives?

Well I’m definitely liberal. Here are some beefs I have with my left-leaning cohorts:

Hypocrisy. Say they love the planet but consume conspicuously and drive all over town to find just the right organic produce. Say they advocate worker’s rights but won’t boycott a company who uses slave labor but makes a product they want. Say they are anti-bankster but don’t use a credit union. Say they are tolerant but reflexively criticize or villainize certain groups (evangelical Christians, for example). Say they care about the poor but won’t open their homes or hearts to them. Say they despise the greed of Wall Street while working hard to increase their personal wealth and diversify their stock portfolios.

Blind - or numb - to the causal chain that underlies most issues liberals care about. At the root of nearly every problem that liberals want to solve are crony capitalism, individualism, materialism, coopting of democracy by corporations, and the worshipful enshrinement of private property. But instead of addressing these issues head-on, liberals tend to promote bandaids that may temporarily ease the pain of a fundamentally destructive system, but never really change it.

Confusing what sounds or feels like a caring action (but is actually codependent or enabling) with what is effectively compassionate and constructive. Usually this is expressed by abstracting personal and civic responsibility. For example, middle class whites giving money to civil rights organizations instead of making close friendships with people of color and actually sharing social capital. Or liberals only engaging politically by voting for a candidate or initiative every few years that is only superficially pandering to them, while ignoring day-to-day interaction with their community or local governments that could really make a difference. Or giving money to a homeless person instead of spending time with them, sharing a meal, and getting to know their situation.

Apathy, Ignorance, Smugness, or Childish Immaturity? In this last election 7 Million Dems who voted in 2008 didn’t vote. And according to a recent PEW study, nearly half of the folks who didn’t vote in 2016 are content with that fact. Even if they didn’t vote “on principle,” not finding Hillary Clinton “likable” or “trustworthy” is a pathetic excuse for allowing an insane, narcissistic, erratic, ignorant, foolish, intellectually crippled blowhard to become POTUS. It boggles the mind.

My 2 cents.

From Quora: https://www.quora.com/As-a-liberal-what-annoys-you-about-some-other-liberals-progressives/answer/T-Collins-Logan

Winter Solstice Poems: Unloading and Rebooting

Midnight in Joshua Tree


Preamble

dark black wave rising high overhead
    towering wall of obsidian
bitter with hate, icy cold and slick
    terrible with terror
heavier than the hand of God
hovering in brutal threat
    to slap humanity
         in the face
            hard


1. Waiting

my mother, frail but stubborn
shivers by an unlit fire
in unkempt layers
    of unwashed clothes
soon, she will lose her house
more quickly than her mind
    ravished as it has been
        by strokes
        and diabetes
        and years of fearful, angry voices
more quickly than the money
    she gave to scammers on the phone
    and the con artists
        who kept arriving at her door
she sits, and waits
because she wants to die there
    where she was raised
    where she raised my brother
    where she is surrounded
        by antiques, baubles and art
        memories and feelings
        she has carefully collected
            then lost
she wants to die there
    alone in the cold
    but still able to cling
        to the last of herself
"I miss you," she says when I call
the first time she has ever
    said this
    in the forty years
    we have lived apart
and again, "I miss you"
because she has forgotten
that she said it
    a moment before

she has her TV shows
    westerns, mom likes those
for company
and daily card games
    at the senior center
    where she wins sometimes
and her poetry group
    and her cat
but mom
stays far away
    from the retirement facilities
    full of strangers
where we tried to arrange
    a room for her
"no space on the walls
    for my paintings," she says
far away
from nurses and helpers
we sent to take care of her
whom she hastily chased
    out her kitchen door
far away
from the few friends she has left
    the ones who understand
    that accusations, venom and wrath
        will pass
far away
from the neighbors, who try to help
when mom walks into their house
    uninvited
    during dinner
all of these fiercely pushed back
because, well, my mother is afraid
    and alone
    and they are stealing the things
        she misplaced long ago
because they will not give her
        what she is asking for

"I love you," she says to me
my mother...
    I thought I was immune
    with so much hurt
    for so long
        so much mistrust
can still break my heart
even as she waits
    and accuses
    and scorns
    and worries
sobbing like a child
    before she swats her cat
"I love you too, mom," I say
    "I'll call again soon."
and I hang up the phone
shake my head
    overwhelmed
    by helpless frustration
and cry
    quietly


2. WTF?

Of all the people I care about
All around the country and the world
I try to think of someone still whole
After this astoundingly shitty year.

Almost losing a struggle
    with depression.
Thinking they were losing their mind
    after six months on bad meds
    an idiot MD needlessly prescribed.
A teenage child being arrested and jailed.
Unstable, schizophrenic lovers
    who keep violently assaulting.
Gracefully trying to face
    the end of a long and fruitful life.
Having to sell their house
    to pay off debts a mentally ill business partner
    incurred without disclosing.
Abruptly getting laid off
    from a job they held for a decade.
Giving up a lucrative career
    for a new business opportunity
    only to discover
    the backer's checks don't clear.
Accidently uncovering
    that a parent is having an affair.
Not finding any help or relief
    from persistent and debilitating back problems.
Being victimized by pernicious financial scams.
Someone, once thoughtful and smart
    suddenly embracing Infowars conspiracy propaganda
    and voting for Donald Trump.
Finally, not to be left out
    my own health has been a rollercoaster ride.

There must be some explanation.
Solar flares?
Some chemical, not yet detected
    leaching into our water?
The end of an age?
Alien mind control?
A military experiment gone awry?
Many of these disasters
have been decades in the making.
Some were clearly a consequence
    of poor decisions.
Others seemed arbitrary
    and statistically improbable.
A few cases were clearly a consequence
    of malicious intent
    or someone else's failings.
But the lines of responsibility
    and accountability can be fuzzy.
There is just one constant:
    Pain.
So many shades of pain.

So as Winter Solstice eve approaches
I welcome the returning Sun
Casting my hope after New Life
    the healing warmth of Spring
    and mercies of a loving God
"Just for Today
May Love and Light Arise
In All We Are
and All We Are
Arise In Love and Light."
In this new cycle of the year
may all of us
    be whole again.

But really, 2016
    what the fuck...?


3. Burn It Up

angry, small-minded men
rage against a storm of change
abusing technologies they do not comprehend
repeating ideologies they do not understand
pounding their chests with ape-like conviction
about imagined wrongs
and the righteousness of their delusions
when along comes a carnival barker
with the smooth assurance
of a TV evangelist
to woo and inflame their every fear
lifting them up
on wings of false promise
to the top of a very high mountain

"Behold the splendor of the world
and all its glorious kingdoms!
It is yours! Yours to own and exploit!
Yours to dominate and annihilate!
Yours! Yours! Yours!
If only you will bow down
and worship me!"

and all the angry, small-minded men
roar with delight
chanting: "Kill the beast!
Cut its throat!
Spill its blood!"
and bow down before
that grinning carnival barker
parting their pale white cheeks
to welcome him in
"Yes! Yes! Yes!"
they cry out
inviting their shiny new Master
to have his way with them
and with the Earth
and all the trees and oceans
and every living thing
until a slow, slick dark roils forth
from endless depths
to consume the Light
and vanquish our last vestiges of Eden
until all agony and grief
is silenced by the Night
and every small-minded
angry little man
succumbs by willful choice
to the poison he has eaten.


To what extent is the intrusion on our privacy for the sake of the society's security ethically justifiable?

This is a great question.

First I would ask: what are we trying to protect with security measures that invade privacy?

If it’s about identifying threats to the existential safety of citizenry, the most effective way to do this is likely not through surveillance, but through strengthening interpersonal relationships, interculturalism, community engagement and dialogue, other methods to encourage social and cultural interdependence and communication, and education about what developing threats look like and how to diffuse them. There is a recent video that highlights how a shift in social awareness could be key to helping someone who is at risk of perpetrating radical violence:



At the other extreme, there is a reliable history of governments making errors in both identification and punishment of people suspected of destructive threat. In fact you could say that the track record there leans strongly in the direction of oppression: false imprisonment, religious persecution, targeting political opponents, irrational fear-mongering, enforcing lockstep ideological groupthink, disenfranchisement of non-conformists, etc. Which is what the 1st, 3rd, 4th, 9th and (more broadly) 14th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution were written to counter. (Along these lines, for those interested in the subtleties of how a “right to privacy” has played out in U.S. history specifically - and how it is has been viewed from a legal and Constitutional perspective - I recommend reading this brief but concise overview: Is it Protected by the Constitution?)

There is also an increasing body of evidence that identifies the root causes of violent extremism around the world - things like poverty; lack of education; suffering under oppressive regimes; disinformation and propaganda that demonizes “the other” to deflect blame away from the actual causes of shared suffering; lack of personal hope 0r economic mobility; and so on. I should think investing in addressing these underlying issues would go a long way towards attenuating conditions that lead to violent extremism, and thereby remedy threats.

So if you are trying to prevent catastrophic violence, there are probably much better ways to go about it that spying on people - and most of them seem like a much better approach in terms of “bang-for-buck” as well.

In addition, if intrusions to privacy are intended to protect or ensure individual and collective liberty, then I think there is an ironic contradiction there. What is liberty if not an ample degree of personal sovereignty; control over one’s own destiny; the same opportunity to improve one’s lot in life that everyone else has; freedom to think and say one’s own thoughts; freedom to travel everywhere; freedom to associate and assemble with others, regardless of their views; freedom from persecution, bullying, violence or hate speech simply because of personal beliefs, skin color, gender, social status or nationality; freedom to feel safe from unjustified intrusion when inside one’s own home, or from invasive searches while walking around or driving in public; and so on? Once we begin sacrificing some of these liberties for the sole purpose of allowing ourselves to “feel safer” from any boogeyman the government identifies on our behalf…well, where does it end? How much freedom are we willing to sacrifice to receive such uncertain (and often unsubstantiated) benefits…?

This speaks to a basic cost/benefit calculation. Consider a law that mandates, while driving on public roads, we wear a seatbelt “for our own safety.” This came into being from many years of statistics that showed not wearing a seatbelt clearly and indisputably increased injury and death from car accidents. Of course, there were still many people who refused to wear a seatbelt because they thought such a law was too invasive - it infringed on their personal sovereignty, and they didn’t want a “Nanny State” reaching that far into their personal habits or choices. There are a few of these rugged individualists still around, to be sure. But in this instance the cost/benefit calculation is very clear, in terms of being supported by a wealth of data: a small personal sacrifice in freedom - and one that has little impact on one’s driving ability - creates substantial benefit. Add to this that car accidents - both serious and small - have a high frequency and nearly universal probability, and the decision becomes a no-brainer.

But what are the cost/benefit variables for intrusive surveillance? How much freedom is being sacrificed, and for how much substantive gain in safety? The odds are infinitesimally small that any individual will be harmed by acts of terrorism…and yet every individual is expected to sacrifice their expectation of privacy “for their own safety?” It is a bit like insisting every person who gets onto a plane provides a DNA sample to the Airline and takes out an expensive life insurance policy - after all, the plane could crash, investigators often have difficulty identifying crash remains, and airlines can be held financially liable for damages. Wouldn’t that seem a bit extreme? Sure, because not that many airplanes crash…in fact, it’s extremely rare and is the safest form of travel. Still…it’s a lot riskier to fly on a plane than to expect to be killed or injured in a terrorist attack. So why isn’t the same logic considered around national security? Why are greater sacrifices expected for low-probability events, and for less provable benefit? I think these questions are at the heart of the balance between individual freedoms and individual responsibilities regarding collective security - this is how civil society is constructed after all.

There are many subtleties to the question of what liberty is and how to promote and protect it, and for those interested in that discussion I would offer my essay: The Goldilocks Zone of Integral Liberty. At the end of the essay, there are the beginnings of an evaluation method for freedom using the variables, metrics and principles outlined in the essay - I think this is the (eventual) approach we need to take to evaluate various cost/benefit arrangements throughout civil society regarding liberty.

My 2 cents.

(From Quora question: https://www.quora.com/To-what-extent-is-the-intrusion-on-our-privacy-for-the-sake-of-the-societys-security-ethically-justifiable)

What could St Thomas Aquinas have seen in his mystical experience?

Some possibilities….

“mihi videtur ut palea” or roughly “to me it seems as chaff”

If these were really Aquinas’ words in answer to Reginald’s question, then in the Christian tradition those words say it all: Aquinas didn’t just believe that he had wasted his time in his writing and philosophizing, he believed he had done evil in the eyes of his God. “Chaff” would have been a metaphor for all that was despicable, self-centered, prideful, deceitful, worldly and vain. It would have elicited a gasp from anyone who esteemed Aquinas’ work and heard him utter those words, you can be sure.

To illustrate, here are some excerpts (emphasis added):

From Job 21:

“How often is it that the lamp of the wicked is put out? That their calamity comes upon them? That God distributes pains in his anger? That they are like straw before the wind,
and like chaff that the storm carries away? You say, ‘God stores up their iniquity for their children.’ Let him pay it out to them, that they may know it.”

From Psalms 1:

Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law he meditates day and night.

He is like a tree
planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.
The wicked are not so,
but are like chaff that the wind drives away.


From Jeremiah 23 (paraphrased):

“So declares the Lord: Am I a God at hand, and not a God far away? Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him? Do I not fill heaven and earth? I have heard what the prophets have said who prophesy lies in my name, saying, ‘I have dreamed, I have dreamed!’ How long shall there be lies in the heart of the prophets who prophesy lies, and who prophesy the deceit of their own heart, who think to make my people forget my name by their dreams that they tell one another, even as their fathers forgot my name for Baal? Let the prophet who has a dream tell the dream, but let him who has my word speak my word faithfully. What has chaff in common with wheat? Is not my word like fire, and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces? Therefore, behold, I am against the prophets, who steal my words from one another. Behold, I am against the prophets, who use their tongues and declare, ‘declares the LORD.’ Behold, I am against those who prophesy lying dreams, and who tell them and lead my people astray by their lies and their recklessness, when I did not send them or charge them.”

From Amos 8:

“Hear this, you who trample on the needy
and bring the poor of the land to an end,
saying, “When will the new moon be over,
that we may sell grain?
And the Sabbath,
that we may offer wheat for sale,
that we may make the ephah small and the shekel great
and deal deceitfully with false balances,
that we may buy the poor for silver
and the needy for a pair of sandals
and sell the chaff of the wheat?”

From Luke 3:

“As the people were in expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Christ, John answered them all, saying, “I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

So what event had occurred that would inspire such repudiation and rejection of his life’s work? Others have speculated it was a mystical insight, a sense of disappointment or exasperation, a stroke that disabled him - and certainly any of these could be the case. However, I suspect the answer could be much simpler: it might just be spiritual maturity. Perhaps Aquinas was simply growing up and seeing his own intellectual musings for what they were: a distraction from the holy of holies; a noisy gong or clanging cymbal; an intellectualization of the Divine. Not that they weren’t a useful exercise in themselves - for both Aquinas and those who later appreciated his writings - but they were a stage of development he suddenly felt compelled to leave behind.

As Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes: “The words of the wise are like goads, and like nails firmly fixed are the collected sayings; they are given by one Shepherd. My son, beware of anything beyond these. Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh. The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.”

I suspect that Aquinas simply (though intensely and abruptly) realized what these words meant…it seems in an enduring and meaningful way.

My 2 cents.

(From Quora question: https://www.quora.com/What-could-St-Thomas-Aquinas-have-seen-in-his-mystical-experience)

Open Letter: Apology from U.S. to the World for Electing Trump


Hi Folks. We’re sorry about Trump - for a number of reasons.

On the one hand, we’re sorry that nearly half the U.S. electorate:

• Is unable to think critically or separate fact from falsehood.

• Could not see Mr. Trump for the erratic, narcissistic, blowhard demagogue that he is.

• Is swayed by conspiracy theories, irrational fear-mongering, neoliberal propaganda, yellow journalism and false advertising.

• Confuses gambling of inherited wealth with business acumen.

• Has the mistaken impression that voting once every four years is the only political obligation necessary to support civil society.

• Allowed entertainment value to override wisdom and common sense.

• Actually believed that Trump would follow through on his campaign pledges.


You might wonder why so many people fell under the spell of this mass-hysteria. Here are some likely contributing conditions:

• Poor diets and insufficient exercise, which negatively impact brain development and function.

• Tribal conformance and groupthink brought on by insular and homogenous communities.

• Frustration, anger and mental illness, brought about in part by the multigenerational stresses of waning social status and economic immobility.

• The immaturity and entitlement induced by commercialistic habits, compulsions and dependencies.

• Economic insecurity resulting from globalization and the boom/bust cycles of growth-dependent capitalism, along with the ever-enlarging wealth inequality created by monopolization, cronyism and clientism.

• Rapid cultural and technological change, which were also accelerated by growth-dependent capitalism.

• Below-average analytical and emotional intelligence, which interfere with the capacity to comprehend or navigate complexity.

• Willful ignorance as a lazy, amoral choice.


We are sorry about these conditions, too, because they are a consequence of our ongoing committment as Americans to invest in conspicuous consumption, atomistic individualism and greedy materialism as our guiding lights, while at the same time decimating our public education system, news media integrity, and cultural truth metrics. We have also routinely abdicated our political obligations to corporations and individuals with huge concentrations of wealth, allowing them make more and more of our decisions for us – and take over more and more of our government and civic institutions – and we’re sorry for that, too.

On the other hand, those who appreciate complexity, want to champion progressive values, and believe in a more participatory, informed and egalitarian future are also sorry. Because we didn’t make our case to the American people, or effectively counter the ridiculous spectacle of Donald Trump…or in many cases even go out and vote. Shame on us.

So for all of this…and for the inevitable suffering of so many millions of people that will result from a morally and mentally crippled Trump administration…we are also truly and deeply contrite. In our confusion and pain, we the people of the United States of America have allowed an impulsive, feckless idiot to become our leader. Intuitively, most of us knew this was a bad idea, and that “making America great again” was really just a last-ditch attempt for poor and middle-class white people to feel like their penises mattered (or feel like their father's, husband's or son's penises mattered, as the case may be). But, like tantruming children, too few wanted to face the reality of that shrinking decline…or have much compassion for it...so a lot of folks lashed out.

Again, so sorry.


What is needed to improve the amount and quality of civic engagement in the United States?

I think there are several issues in play, and we will need to address all of them for civic engagement and a sense of responsibility to be fostered. This means removing barriers as well as inspiring participation - and also holding folks accountable to some degree. Mainly I think we need to return governance more directly to the people - and in a more distributed and localized way - so that citizens have “skin in the game” as it were. Currently, our elected officials and their work are too far abstracted from the day-to-day concerns of average citizens, and this creates a “consume and forget” model of electoral abdication.

To address this I think we first and foremost require more frequent and direct forms of democracy, and some of my ideas about that are discussed here: Direct Democracy. Also for the long term, I would offer proposals around community involvement (see: Community Engagement) that emphasize non-governmental as well as governmental institutions and processes - many of which are well-tested in the real world. I also envision a system of social credits for utilizing essential infrastructure and services that is tied directly to civic participation (see: Social Credits System).

At the same time, we will also need to remove substantive barriers to folks even wanting to be involved - and ensure they have enough accurate information to do so skillfully and meaningfully. Regarding the former, I discuss the some of the primary concerns here: The Spectacle; Commercialist Distortions; Neoliberalism; Oppression of Women; and The Tyranny of Private Ownership. Regarding the latter, I would promote major revisions to education, the press and public information management that depart from today’s coopted and corrupted practices (see: Education).

Of course not all of this can happen at once. But if we don’t address all of these issues to a radical degree, I just don’t see change happening. The systemic failures and opposing forces are just to great. In terms of first steps, I discuss some of those here: L7 Action

My 2 cents.

(From Quora question: https://www.quora.com/What-is-needed-to-improve-the-amount-and-quality-of-civic-engagement-in-the-United-States)

December 3, 2016 Thought-of-the-Day

"The global complexity and interdependence of our current era has vastly exceeded the average ape's grokking capacity. This is one reason why the Right has so easily hoodwinked its rank-and-file, and the Left finds it so challenging to convey the criticality of its agenda. In everything from quantitative easing to carbon cycle feedbacks to perverse incentives in for-profit healthcare, ignorance and complexity create a fertile space for rampant propaganda. Add to this a consumer mindset that externalizes all authority and problem-solving, and a media environment that perpetuates gnat-like attention spans, and consumption of that propaganda quickly attains religious intensity. The resulting ideological lockstep on the Right, and the muddled insecurity on the Left, are not the natural state of human beings, but ones that have been carefully engineered and marketed to mimic tribal conformance at one extreme, and untrustworthy outsider status at the other. The irony, of course, is that the "untrustworthy outsiders" have an intuitive grasp of the truth, and are actually in the majority. They are just demoralized because they can't explain their position in pedantic sound bytes."

-T.Collins Logan

Why do the top 1% of people in the world have half of the world's wealth?

Setting the statistical details of your question aside, and focusing on the underlying observation of extraordinary wealth inequality, I believe there are a combination of factors. Here are the most significant ones (in no particular order):

1. Capitalism. It is the nature of capitalism to concentrate wealth by rewarding owner-shareholders while exploiting worker-consumers and capturing everyone and everything else (i.e. environments, governments, technologies, etc.) that can be placed in service to profit.

2. Consumer Mindset and Addiction. This is a bit more subtle, but essentially imagine a world where everyone is convinced (individually, socially, culturally) that happiness, well-being and success are all externally consumed, and that the self-actualization principle with the highest efficacy is conspicuous consumption. Further, imagine that the products and services being offered are habit forming in nature, so that the pressures to consume create a snowball effect, thereby infantilizing the public and making people perpetually dependent. Why perpetually? Well because those products and services don’t actually deliver happiness, well-being or success…so the cycle continues.

3. Cronyism and Clientism. Through regulatory capture, revolving door self-empowerment, corruption of democratic institutions (corporate personhood, SuperPACs, the Hastert rule, gerrymandering, etc.), authoring legislation (A.L.E.C., etc.), quid-pro-quo political dealings and so forth so that the wealthy maintain de facto control over any government that is supposed to counter their overreach…thus expanding plutocratic wealth and power.

4. Financialization and Speculation. A nasty runaway train that often involves socialization of risk, extensive leveraging, and huge amounts of debt…all in order to enrich the captains of banking and industry who are already wealthy enough to play such high stakes games.

5. Monopoly. Consolidation of production, assets and influence in every industry - and often across multiple sectors - that concentrates economic controls and wealth production in the hands of fewer and fewer people.

6. Clever Propaganda. I think Milton Friedman was the first to really champion neoliberal delusions for the common person, persuading them that government, taxes and “socialist” policies would sabotage their well-being and the American success story, and that all challenges could be solved by a “free” market. It was of course a fabricated narrative without any basis in fact, but it has sold well. So now we have everyone from the Tea Party to Trump supporters voting against their own best interests, and blindly throwing their energy into this perpetual hoodwink.

7. The Spectacle. This is a complex idea that I elaborate on in the link provided, but essentially think of an elaborate, self-perpetuating engine of panem et circenses, executed via mass media and mass consumption, that anesthetizes the masses into complacency. Just enough affluence and entertainment to make them forget that their votes don’t really count for much, their “freedom” is becoming much more limited, and their real wages have been stagnant or declining since 1968.

I explore many of these topics and more on this website: Level 7

My 2 cents.

(From Quora question: https://www.quora.com/Why-do-the-top-1-of-people-in-the-world-have-half-of-the-worlds-wealth)

Are there any libertarians that are critical of the Non-Aggression Principle?

This is a bit of a hot potato IMO. In the U.S., there is a somewhat myopically individualistic and self-referential version of libertarianism that not only embraces the NAP, but expands it (via Murray Rothbard) into all property, treating individual ownership as an extension of one’s person. This is a pretty extreme distortion that imposes a tyranny of private property equally on all, thereby depriving all of significant liberty. So, in this context, the answer to your question would be a resounding “most libertarians;” meaning most libertarians outside of the U.S. (and indeed most throughout the history of libertarian and anarchistic thought) would reject the application of the NAP to property as U.S. Libertarians tend to do. Of course, there are also left-libertarians (libertarian socialists) in the U.S. who also take exception to the…er…aggressive application of the NAP to property by right-libertarians. As I said…a bit of a hot potato.

As for the underlying sentiment of non-aggression, I think that is more widely shared by anarchists and libertarians of most persuasions. But even here what precisely constitutes “aggression” (or coercion, compulsion, etc.) is widely debated. Where right-libertarians seem to see all actions of the State (and sometimes even community-level government) as executed “under the threat of force,” a minarchist libertarian socialist would defer to collective agreement around a given issue to assert its persuasive legitimacy, and not view it as coercive or oppressive in the same way. In other words, for a right-libertarian individual sovereignty tends to be the central compass for defining non-interference (negative liberty), while the left-libertarian views collective cooperation as a preferred standard for facilitating liberty for all.

I think all of this orbits around the question of political obligation, and I write more about that here: http://www.tcollinslogan.com/resources/IntegralLiberty.pdf

(From Quora question: https://www.quora.com/Are-there-any-libertarians-that-are-critical-of-the-Non-Aggression-Principle)

Is applied loss of memory a way to rehabilitate human beings?

In my book, Memory : Self (a online searchable copy of which can be previewed via this link: Integral Lifework - Memory:Self), I describe a method called “Active Memory Reorganization” or AMR. This is a way of re-contextualizing memories to reinvent self-concept and modify compensating behaviors that can often be unproductive or self-destructive. It could certainly be utilized during rehabilitation. A key component of this process, however, is that the client actively participates - they are in conscious control of the process. In most Person-centered therapy this is a vital consideration, because it empowers a client to have agency regarding their own healing and well-being. From this perspective, any therapeutic actions “perpetrated upon” a client are usually deemed destructive at worst, and counterproductive at best. This is why highly confrontational or directive therapies, therapies that rely exclusively on psychoactive drugs, or therapies where a client is more passive (such as hypnotherapy), are not considered to be “person-centered” approaches. In the case of rehabilitation for those who have been convicted of serious crimes, it is especially important that they be supported in their own self-healing empowerment, rather than controlled and manipulated, since such obliterations of agency throughout their life likely contributed to their antisocial behaviors.

As a separate consideration, there may be structural issues (excessive testosterone production, inadequate or impaired prefrontal myelination, etc.) that are contributing to antisocial ideation and behavior, which neither AMR nor the kind of “memory wipe” you suggest would adequately address. In these cases, acute intervention - and indeed procedures that are imposed against someone’s will - may be necessary to stabilize a person so that they can begin a more self-aware and self-directed healing process. Our current metric for such intervention, however, is usually whether a person is likely to harm themselves or someone else, and incarcerated people have protections against punitive measures beyond the fairly narrow scope of their physical confinement (i.e. nothing “cruel or unusual”). This is why - in some places in the U.S. - it is not legal to use chemical castration against an inmate’s will. However, the metrics that inform rehabilitative efficacy are trends like recidivism, radicalization, and criminalization among prison populations - and clearly our approaches to rehabilitation need to align with measuring these outcomes.

My 2 cents.

(From Quora question: https://www.quora.com/Is-applied-loss-of-memory-a-way-to-rehabilitate-human-beings)

Do non-college educated, financially disadvantaged people think they know more about economics than educated white-collar professionals do?

I’ll try to answer this question by describing what I see going on underneath it. In this instance, several forces are at work that undermine “educated” assessments of any kind:

1. The human-created economic realities-on-the-ground have become much more complex - and globally interdependent - than perhaps any time in human history.

2. At the same time, consumers have been trained through commercialism and advanced communications technology to pay only a vague amount of attention to reductionist, hyper-simplistic sound bytes offered by mainstream media - and often ones crafted by supposed “experts” - that generally ignore complexity or nuance in favor of truncated, black-and-white quasi-facts.

3. Those whom the media selects - or who have self-selected - to become representatives of the “expert” class are often not all that bright, and not all that educated, but simply have the drive and/or language skills to become valued sound byte wizards.

4. In order to package lockstep ideologies for mass conformance, politicians and political propagandists further muddy the waters with deliberate distortions of reality-on-the-ground that frame their POV in the most favorable light, further disrupting their adherents’ grip on what is really going on.

5. Add to this the psychological stresses of modern society, poor diets, lack of exercise, lots of neurologically and biologically active chemicals introduced by human industry, and a seeming increase in the incidence of mental illness.

Now when you take all of these elements, stir them into a big cauldron of fascist populist sentiment, then superheat that concoction with the flames of authentically felt economic pressure (shareholder impatience, job insecurity, stagnant wages, resource scarcity, growing income inequality, exploding financialization and debt, boom-bust volatility, price-inelastic demand, monopolization, narrowing profit margins, etc.) the result is fairly predictable: poor choices in an increasingly nonfunctional democracy.

So I would say it has little to do with education or class, and a lot more to do with the pathologies, anxiety, economic insecurity and societal tensions created by capitalism itself.

My 2 cents.

(From Quora question: https://www.quora.com/Do-non-college-educated-financially-disadvantaged-people-think-they-know-more-about-economics-than-educated-white-collar-professionals-do)

Book Excerpt from Essential Mysticism



CHAPTER 1: CULTIVATING A NEW WAY OF SEEING

Mysticism asserts that there is a seldom-used faculty available to all of us, one that some might consider independent of ordinary senses, emotions and rational thought. It is an expansive type of perception-cognition, evidenced in nearly every spiritual tradition, which provides holistic and dynamic insight into personal and Universal truths. Sounds pretty heady, doesn’t it? To further complicate things, because the information we receive through this faculty is often paradoxical, inexpressible, and inaccessible by any other means, it has sometimes been labeled esoteric, magickal or otherworldly. But it is nonetheless available to most everyone through conscious effort. Different belief systems describe this mystical awareness in different ways: “penetrating the veil of illusion,” “experiencing an ultimate reality,” “tasting the divine,” “submerging ourselves in non-being,” “wordless rapture,” “entering perfect stillness,” and so on. And although each of these could be a distinctly separate experience, our imperfect language has trouble nailing any of them down succinctly. So here I have grouped all types of mystical awareness under a broad umbrella of spiritual cognizance – perhaps because I tend to spiritualize the language of mysticism, but also because this type of perception-cognition has been fairly resistant to categorization.

There are a number of different methods to stimulate spiritual cognizance, each uniquely suited to diverse personalities, cultural values and life experiences. These mystic activators may fall into different categories, but all of them are designed with one end in mind: to suspend habitual thought processes – and the constant stream of input our physical senses provide – in order to induce spiritually receptive being. Through modes of practice apposite to our personal tendencies and current phase of development, we can free our minds and hearts and nurture ourselves on many levels. Some mystic activators reform consciousness with rigorous concentration or repetition. Others are a deliberate supersaturation or overstimulation of our psyche to trigger alternative states that transcend self-absorption. Still other techniques gradually reduce or order the content of our thoughts and feelings until a quiescent stillness blossoms. All of these methods require explicit qualities of self-discipline and deliberate intention.

What awaits us at the end of these differing paths? A mystical union; a dissolving of Self in All; a vulnerable intimacy with the Sacred; a direct experience of infinite interconnectedness; a nondual consciousness we could call a gnosis of the Absolute. I use the term gnosis because I view this process as a sort of intuitive apprehension of All That Is, including nothingness. And although there are many intermediate experiences full of colorful and compelling content – many transitions into that ultimate intuition – the end state is completely empty of any constructs, differentiation, sensory input, emotional intensity or self-referential cognition. It is, rather, a state of awareness without an observer and without an object, while at the same time rich with meaning and import for our own well-being and the evolution of the Whole. In one way, it is a re-creation of the non-being from which all things originate, and from which we can create infinite possibilities. For me, gnosis has defined what it means to be “spiritual.”

What about meditation? It is frequently a part of mystical practice, but it is a misunderstanding to equate the two. Meditation is one avenue of mental training, but what is so vitally important in all schools of mysticism is an ability to channel internal and external stimuli – however that can be achieved. If we are forever being overwhelmed by reactive emotions, by physical urges and appetites, by the obsessive cycling of our own thoughts, or by anything peripheral to inner quietude, we will have trouble remaining sensitive to subtler input. Being preoccupied with the random, we will seldom encounter our most extraordinary capacities and precious inner wisdom. Being attached to the illusion of our individuality and its sensorial experience of the moment, we will not experience the unity of All Things.

For most of us, our corporeal form, with all its complex chemistries and vast capacity for receiving and generating all kinds of information, tends to hold our immediate interest, always clamoring for our attention. And we often reinforce and amplify this clamoring by seeking to gratify our desires without a thought for the broader context of our existence or the meaning of our lives. Mystical practice is not about suppressing, coercing or forcing what is happening inside or outside, but it recognizes that we are the source of our own perception-cognition and of every want or whim that demands our consideration. We are a fount of endless desires. We can either shape this process actively or allow our environment and habitual propensities to shape it for us. Mysticism encourages us to remain perpetually conscious and awake, instead of relying on impulse, momentum or conditioning. The mystic’s way consists of fully appreciating who we truly are, what we are doing here, and why we make the choices we make.

The following are the four main categories of mystic activators found among major mystical traditions. Each approach tends to resonate with different people – or with the same person in different stages of being – and is often designed to support a particular underlying belief system.


Subtractive Meditation

Detaching from emotions, thoughts, and sensory experience in order to restructure consciousness and make room for mystical awareness. Often this is achieved through a systematic disassociation of subject and object – Self from other, mind from body, unconscious process from conscious process, being from doing, this from that – which sets our consciousness free. Sometimes, detachment is merely a byproduct of singular focus or a merging of subject and object. Expanded perception-cognition tends to be more incremental as a subtractive practice deepens, though epiphanies can also be surprisingly sudden.

Ecstatic Induction

Seeking to arouse a highly energized or blissful state that actuates mystical insight. This is frequently devotional in nature and usually employs physiological means of accelerating the letting go of habituated consciousness. Ecstatic induction can also result in what the ancient Greeks called mania, “possession by deity,” a form of trance where self-awareness is greatly or entirely attenuated. Supersensory experiences tend to be more sudden and extreme than with other techniques.

Symbolic and Synchronistic Ritual

Procedures that are esoteric or symbolically abstracted, sometimes associated with devotional worship and sometimes not, which purposely invoke natural, energetic and/or spiritual forces. Mystical awareness can be an unintentional byproduct of these practices, or the goal. A key difference between this and other activators is that such rituals usually invite external agents or forces – which may or may not coincide with a particular quality of internal effort – to help generate transpersonal experience.


The Perfection of Love

A refinement and intensity of love that reforms our awareness. Once again, mystical perception-cognition is sometimes an intended goal, and sometimes a side effect of the central journey. The object and expression of love may vary: a deep compassion for the suffering of others; or fervent devotion to a transcendent presence; or intimate worship of deity. But the nearly universal outcomes are a surrendering of personal ego, new certainties and convictions (often imbued with a sense of holiness or awe), an aligning of personal will with the object of love, and a passionate desire to translate conviction into action. A transformative union with the Sacred, however that is defined by the tradition, is usually the primary objective of this path.


As varied as these methods – and our subjective perceptions of them – may be, they all attempt to cultivate the same result: a letting go of ordinary perception-cognition, and inviting an inner stillness that makes room for spiritual cognizance. A new way of seeing. Increasingly, my own mystic activator preference combines the perfection of love with subtractive meditation. However, I believe it is important to stimulate and nourish different aspects of Self through ongoing exploration, and I fully expect that, over time, other approaches will be better suited to different objectives or new phases of my growth. We must all find our own way. Examples of assorted mystic activators will follow each chapter, and a comparison chart of activators found among various traditions is available in the Appendix.


Transitions Through Gnosis

There is a commonly occurring sequence of sudden shifts in awareness brought about by mystical practice. These transitions through gnosis have three distinct traits, which are perhaps the primary features of all spiritual cognizance: a riveting absorption in, and appreciation of, the present moment; increasing clarity about personal purpose and Universal truths; and a radical departure from previous understanding. A predictable progression of these transitions suggests a peeling away of abstractions and a gradual freeing of the mind from its attachment to aesthetic and reasonable appearances – especially regarding what initially seems to be incredible or incomprehensible data. At first we might encounter the mystical through emotions, as imagery, or even as physical sensations. But eventually we experience an unmediated contact that reforms all of our previous constructs or removes them altogether. This progression is not rigid, and we should be careful not to evaluate the quality of our mystical awareness as an indication of spiritual achievement. In fact, the more sincere our effort, the less meaning all comparison will hold for us. Nevertheless, unless our practice culminates in a gnosis of the Absolute, we have not reached even the beginning of the end of our mystical journey.
Here are some of the transitions through gnosis commonly experienced by mystics of many different traditions:

Transporting Perceptions

- Journeying outside of the body in the physical realm or to other planes of existence

- Communicating directly with other spiritual intelligences

- Prophetic visions, inspirational voices, automatic writing and other forms of revelatory knowledge


Merging of Self with Divine

- Complete openness and seamless union with a Sacred Presence or Vital Continuum, often coinciding with a fathomless embrace of transcendent love

- Pervasive joy beyond comprehension; a bliss exceeding our capacity to contain it; an awakening of agape love-consciousness, where unconditional adoration and compassion for All Things consumes our being and directs our will

- Direct, unmitigated contact with the Divine Spark within us – our transcendent nature, our True Self


Dissolution of Self


- Infinite awareness, expanding inward and outward, incomprehensibly encompassing all time and space, transfixed by a unity of existence that has no discrete components or differentiating characteristics

- An awe-inspiring – and sometimes terrifying – submersion in emptiness, nothingness, or a state of unknowing free of all concepts, emotions or sensations, and ultimately devoid of any self-conscious awareness

- A complete, unconditional surrender of Self to these unitive states


If we remain watchful, mindful and aware, diligently applying all that we learn through mystical practice with intentions informed by a broader purpose, we will eventually arrive at a holistic gnosis of raw, unadorned reality and all its numinous truths. Then the most dramatic transformations can begin, with irrefutable benefits to ourselves and the world in which we live. If we resist applying what we come to know, or otherwise avoid accountability to our newly discovered inner Light, our mystical journey will be of little benefit to anyone and we will become forgetful tourists in the land of Self. So both intentionality and follow-through are crucial to viable mysticism. But what might “spiritually profitable intentions” look like? And what is a proposed broader purpose for the mystic? That is what we will discuss in the following chapter.

How did Donald Trump win the 2016 Presidential Election?

In no particular order, Trump won by:

- Conning vulnerable, gullible people into thinking he was on their side.

- Exploiting a U.S. consumer mentality that allows itself to be “sold” a product because of the exaggerations and overconfidence of the salesperson instead of actual facts.

- Targeting an ideological class that is emotionally invested in tribal, lockstep groupthink, and has proven itself highly susceptible to manipulations that amplify fear, and capitalize on ignorance.

- Repackaging the inflammatory rhetoric of conservative talk shows of the past decades - almost verbatim - while branding it as his own “straight talk.”

- Exploding the complacent overreach of a progressive-minded media which celebrated rapid social change, even as those changes alarmed and angered roughly half of the U.S. electorate.

- Appealing to nostalgia around the glory days of white male privilege, then molding it into nationalistic sentiments.

- Lying with conviction, and repeating those lies so often that folks who either had low IQs, or were desperately rationalizing, began to accept them as true.

- Boasting about grabbing women’s pussies without their permission.

- Having an opponent lacking enough in charisma and inspirational vision that nearly half of the registered voters in her party stayed home.

- Unabashedly amplifying unprecedented, underhanded, and in some cases illegal tactics of third parties that were very likely coordinated with his campaign (Russian hackers, FBI disclosures, conspiracy-mongering, etc.)

- Demonizing everyone in opposition, thereby creating the illusion of independence and strength.

- Being a gifted extemporaneous stump speaker.

- Having a broadly recognizable celebrity brand (in the U.S. we say our celebrities are the closest thing we have to royalty).

- Prioritizing winning at all costs.

- Being at the right place, at the right time in history.

My 2 cents.

(From Quora question: https://www.quora.com/How-did-Donald-Trump-win-the-2016-Presidential-Election)

What is kundalini awakening?

Hi Pete - thanks for the A2A.

I only know you through your posts and questions here on Quora, so I’ll assume you want some substance here, and not just something formulaic or trite. That said, I appreciate what both Achintya Idam and Alex Zendo have written, as there posts resonate with my own experiences. Here’s what I would add:

As I mentioned in my post here T Collins Logan's answer to What is the real power of pranayama and meditation?, we should take special care with physiologically-enhanced approaches to state changes. For some people, there can be real damage done if we are not careful, disciplined, diligent and informed.

I would describe “awakening” in this context as an ongoing process with many components (a continuous series of “awakenings”), rather than a single event. Yes, there are occurrences that have a more lasting impact or a greater sense of breakthrough, but I sincerely wonder whether we should give more attention to any of those. Each expansion of (inward-outward) awareness has its own value and edification, and informs us regarding a specific plane of relating (mind-to-body, self-to-other, ego-to-Self, Self-to-Universe, etc.). Also, to be aware in such depth and breadth is not always a blessing; sometimes it is a burden. Again, this is yet another reason to exercise care and patience - though this is equally true of any form of meditation.

As with all processes of spiritual consciousness and peak experience, knowledge makes arrogant, but love edifies. If we do not rapidly and persistently translate the consequences of rising kundalini into love-conscious action in all of our relationships, goals and planning, then we are basically engaging in a form of spiritual masturbation. For some practitioners (and indeed even some traditions) this is an okay state of affairs. In my view, it is akin to alleviating one’s own suffering and not caring about the suffering of others - it is essentially endorsing a selfish and petty spiritual practice.

The energization of higher-order spiritual consciousness (in this context, the kundalini rising through the sahasrara/crown chakra) is a turning point which cannot be reversed. This is a critical concept to appreciate IMO. Once this energization has taken place, there is no turning back without willful denial and a consequent, often persisting experience of cognitive dissonance. Now it is also true that without adequate preparation, the experience may be misunderstood (and either trivialized or exaggerated), but with care, discipline and diligence it can be transformative.

Lastly I wanted to speak to gratitude. A kundalini awakening evokes powerful emotions, insights and understanding that are essentially ineffable. Our human tendency is to then contextualize those within a) our personal knowledge base; b) the teachings of the tradition within which we practice; c) neurophysiological explanations that appeal to our analytical mind; or d) some other equally ill-fitting window dressing. If we can resist this impulse, and allow ourselves to endure the unknowable without such supports and security, then I believe both we as practitioners will benefit immensely and in unanticipated ways, and those around us will also benefit to a greater degree. I think of this as akin to feeling perpetual gratitude without a specific locus; a praying-without-ceasing as a substantive felt connection without a reflexively or dogmatically confined object.

My 2 cents.

(From Quora question: https://www.quora.com/What-is-the-real-power-of-pranayama-and-meditation/answer/T-Collins-Logan)

The Unseen Tragedy of a Trump Presidency…and Our Collective Responsibility

Between A Rock and A Hard Place


Like many other progressively-minded folks, I am in still in shock over what happened last night, and likely will be for some time. I have an image burned into my memory of a team of seasoned journalists finally conceding to what the voting results meant, sitting around the table in stunned silence, staring at their hands. Fifteen seconds of dead air said it all. And now those same pundits are attempting to explain away the errors in their predictions, pointing to a much deeper and larger pool of angry white folks than anyone imagined as a primary factor for Trump’s victory. So I wanted to speak to that group, along with my more like-minded progressive friends, in exploring exactly what this election means for the United States of America.

The real tragedy in this election will not be the thousands of young women who, once Roe v. Wade is overturned, are either forced to obtain illegal abortions, or to live in poverty without support as they struggle to raise an unwanted child. The real tragedy also won’t be the millions of Americans who lose their health insurance, are unable to obtain adequate coverage for chronic conditions, or can’t afford healthcare once the Affordable Care Act is repealed. It also won’t be the immigrants whose families are ripped apart by accelerated deportations, or the millions of businesses – including the farming backbone of America’s food supply – that close down because they can’t find workers for entry level jobs at subsistence wages. And it won't be a runaway train of "Trump effect" bullying against the LGBT community, people of color, nerds, disabled folks, social outcasts and the other traditional objects of fear and hatred by ignorant white people. The real tragedy will also not be those billions among our next generations who, because of the U.S. abandoning global climate agreements and strategies, will have to navigate a chaotic weather, rising sea levels and an explosion of tropical diseases. All of these may be predictable outcomes of a Republican majority under Trump’s leadership, and they might be very unpleasant for Americans to suffer through, but they are not the most extreme travesty now in the works.

What is really the most tragic and distressing consequence of this election actually pertains to all those angry white folks who voted for Trump. Why? Because he promised he could help them. But here’s the rub regarding that, folks: Trump can’t help you. The demographics of the U.S. are still going to shift to a white minority population, even if all immigration were to be cut off. All those people of color who are U.S. citizens are still going to have families, and the population trends will remain basically the same. Good jobs are still not going to be available to U.S. workers, because no industry can afford to pay U.S. workers a decent wage and still produce a profit for goods sold either in the U.S. or on the global market – it has been true for some time that U.S. companies depend on cheap labor and resources sourced outside of the U.S. to maintain the growth and affordability of their products. This is one reason real wages have been in decline for many decades. In fact, you could say that the economic isolationism championed by Trump is about the most effective way to destroy any chance of jobs or a living wage in the U.S. And because Trump’s tax policies will focus on benefiting the most wealthy Americans, and will do absolutely nothing beneficial for the middle and lower classes (possibly even raising taxes on those groups - see Batchelder), this whole combination of tactics is almost guaranteed to make the plight of most white, middle class, blue collar Americans already struggling to make ends meet a hell-of-a-lot worse. Trump’s strategies will also burden Americans with increasing amounts of debt, as we must of necessity plunge further and further down the rabbit hole of financialization. A ballooning national deficit will merely be the tip of this spear.

In terms of international relations, jihadi terrorism, friendliness with Russia and so forth, the prospects for improvement are equally dire. But of course the U.S. isn’t the only player on the world stage, so who knows: maybe these issues will resolve themselves despite any poor choices we make in terms of U.S. trade or foreign policy. But my main point – and the one that I hope will evoke some empathy and compassion for angry white America from my progressive friends – is that all those folks who voted for Trump are now truly and resoundingly fucked. Because of their blindness and resentment regarding the inexorable realities of the modern world, they have chosen a government that will make things much, much worse for themselves over the short and long term. Americans voting against their own best interests has happened before – most recently with the eight years of a Cheney-Rumsfeld-Wolfowitz debacle – but this hard lesson hasn’t yet been fully learned by the American electorate. Perhaps it never will be. Perhaps we humans are just prone to making irrational choices when we are fearful and distressed, and the consistent Republican investment in amplifying such fear and distress in order to win elections is now reaping its just rewards.

But, for our dear angry white Americans: remember those “elite” you have blamed for taking away your liberties, eroding Christian values, creating terrorism, ruining the U.S. economy and threatening your way of life…? Well, you just elected more of them into office. Gingrich, Juliani, Trump, Pence and their ilk are not your champions or your friends, they are a potent team of self-obsessed, arrogant, power-hungry sociopaths who will take America deep out into the woods, bend her over a log of lies and delusion, and violently ravish her – economically, politically, socially and spiritually – very much against her will. All the while they can of course invoke Randian, Libertarian or neoliberal propaganda that rationalizes such actions as “American exceptionalism,” further empowering corporate oligarchy at the expense of U.S. citizens. But you will likely be too busy trying to survive to fully appreciate how you have been duped. This is what you’ve done…to yourselves. And so this is why I sincerely feel progressives should go beyond patience, beyond endurance and tolerance, beyond kindness and sympathy, and reach out to console and, yes, help Trump voters as best they can in the coming months and years. Those who understand what the outcome of this election really means must overcome our disappointment and grief, and arm ourselves with agape. Because when the Trump Administration is done raping and pillaging its very own supporters, those fellow Americans will not just feel doubly betrayed and doubly hurt, they will feel cold and alone in those haunting woods, with copious amounts of patriotic blood streaming endlessly from their…wherevers. And they will need our help.

So to explore longer term and more realistic solutions to our current dilemma – as well as what activism we can engage in to move us toward those solutions – I would encourage folks to visit my latest website: http://www.level-7.org, and in particular the Action Guide. What we are now facing may indeed be a chaotic transition of sorts (take a look at my friend David MacLeod’s thoughts on this topic at his Integral Permaculture blog), but if we can shift our focus away from damage control to a new, truly workable vision for tomorrow, we just might emerge from the next few years with a chance of healing and hope. This is our collective responsibility. We can no longer be passive consumers of domestic politics, trusting the advertising claims of the product we are being sold during the election season, then disengaging from civic responsibility the rest of the time. To fuel our optimism, we also know that left-leaning folks are the real majority in the U.S. - it's just that half of us didn't vote in this election. So we all need to be more conscious, informed and proactive purveyors of our democracy persistently and perpetually. Together, we must fully understand what is happening in our country and around the world, and make thoughtful decisions about how to proceed. And if we can care enough about each other to recognize the real pain we all share – and how to remedy the conditions that caused it through our own cooperative efforts – then our vision for a more harmonious and mutually supportive future could actually become real.

My 2 cents.