Reachable Reds

The car is a vile public nuisance. The car as a vile public nuisance. Sentence One is normative, like 2 + 2 = 4, asserting a matter of fact. Sentence Two is interpretive, eliciting discussion about matters of taste. Normative communication about matters of taste, controversial positions, or unsettled questions is a sophomoric meme spat, not an argument. Popular among folks who make a big deal about how conservative they are. Some call such normative efforts “debate”, even claiming that “debate” is well known to be the best way to settle disputes. This attitude is bullshit (see Brandolini’s Law). Charisma trumps content in what is nothing but adversarial mental masturbation, meant not to settle disputes, but to promote perfidy. Trolling.

It is so hard to put together traceable facts and arguments and so easy to spew appealing nonsense. For a fact user to participate in a debate show is to lose the charisma battle in advance. The audience is only there to cheer the witticisms of their hero. Even when the fact user is also a charismatic communicator, there is little to gain unless articulate witticisms can be concocted that might give some of the audience pause. Even so, said charismatic fact user would probably spend their time better communicating in other ways.

The best way to assemble normative communications is to gather reliable, reproducible evidence and ask what kind of declarative statements it supports. Winning in this context entails everybody moving towards consensus, ideology be damned. Datasets, visual elements, written words. If half your audience rejects facts and logic, they won’t listen to anybody who isn’t glib and appalling. But maybe some few ideologues are potentially amenable to change. Perhaps their fascist-adjacency is due to ignorance, unresolved resentments, and exposure to toxic media. Splutteringly certain about who The Devil and The Saints are, but susceptible to a small number of facts, if provided with a spoonfull of sugar or crystal meth.

To respond directly to an ideologue is to submit to seizure of context. To parse the concealed assumptions contained in pretended questions is to succumb to defensiveness. Instead, to carefully contribute to “the debate”, you must go meta. Scan the blather, perhaps via webscraping and voice-to-text followed by word-frequency analysis, to get an impressionist picture of the gendered, racist, and ableist slurs being deployed, the deliberately ignorant and innumerate mockeries of logic, the misogyny, victim-blaming, bigotry. Then develop your piece, not as a response to any specific instance of negative-sum ideolatry, but as a positive editorial that nevertheless demonstrates a knowingness about the fascist wanking.

Seize context rather than interlocute. Aim to forestall eye-rolling. Troll only if you’re another Galileo, who won because facts and logic were on his side, not because he was trolling (note to conservitrolls: comparing yourself to Galileo because you’re trolling is like comparing yourself to Superman because you’re walking around in your underwear; it’s more likely that you are simply an exhibitionist). Note: my “vile public nuisance” example comes from The Glass Plate Game, by Dunbar Aitkins, a local mid-Willamette celebrity whom I and some D&D friends sometimes chatted with in the late 70’s and early 80’s, when we adventured in Corvallis and happened to go to The Beanery or otherwise encountered him. The Glass Plate Game is designed to sponsor open communication, similar in motivation to David Bohm’s idea of Dialog.

Unconscious Power

Many belikeme posts are speculative, but this one is moreso. Imagine scare quotes everywhere to avoid assuming there are definitive hallmarks for what I speak of (see what I did there?, if so you win a belikeme know-prize).

Consciousness is, perhaps, “merely” the activation of existing memories, rather than copying data from long-term to working memory and processing it. Working memory is just that tiny subset of all memory currently being accessed. Activation itself changes the memory, often to reconcile it with memories that share similar information. It is seemingly more important to the brain that memories be reconciled than that they agree with extra-cranial facts. Alas that eyewitness accounts, demonstrably so unreliable, are counted on to convict accused persons.

Possibly, memory formation itself is sensed; if so this may feel different from activation, so that the first time a memory is formed, we sense it twice. Or, memory formation may not be sensed at all, and conscious awareness is wholly the activation of memories previously stored. Memory activation could be the physical basis for the notion that consciousness is “but an illusion”. It also might help erode cognitive traps that prompt so many cognitive scientists to pursue answers to “the hard problem”. It may also be useful in dismissing the evidently highly popular “thought” “experiments” that postulate “zombies” – actual human persons who act just as if they were conscious, but don’t actually experience the feelings that are under scrutiny.

Free will, then, would be the simultaneous activation of memories of both events and preferences, all of which stored previously, with the cloud of that activity producing action potentials coursing out to the neuromuscular junctions of interest. This activity forms new memories of having performed whatever action was “decided” upon, along with revising all the memories originally involved in the total decision-making event. A final lagniappe has the subconscious store a ginned-up memory of the emotion of having decided something via one’s “will”.

None of these notions refute the validity of guiding people’s behaviors, say via punishments for affronts (shunning shitstains, dunning dipshits, incarcerating incorrigibles). The offender’s own memories of punishments incurred, of reading or hearing about other people being punished, of being told about mystical beings who punish offenders, all get called up by the unconscious when planning next moves. The neural network that eventually transmits the action potentials and concocts the fictions of having “decided” on “behaviors” for “reasons” takes much of that stuff into account when creating the new memories and re-aligning the old.

The brain as a (von Neuman) computer is a pretty bad analogy, but perhaps it does not go too far to imagine talking about free will as something that utilizes the equivalent a framework when writing an app. The neophyte can build a product that satisfies specifications, but the savvy developer knows that directly calling into the DLL or whatever, while potentially fraught, provides the greatest flexibility and performance. What cognitive science needs to work out (in this highly speculative rant-context) is the equivalent of the entry points into the innards of the workings. Getting its hands on the steering wheel and pedals rather than pressing the “auto-drive” button.

Go Placidly Amid Your Poison Waste

Ground means real estate, but what’s this sacred? If it involves the blessings of some mystical ([being]s) who [(listen)s] to us and/or cares what we want, the word can’t well be used non-ironically. Sacrality is a feature of material reality. Whether we agree on that or not, I think it possible that we can agree that if anything at all is sacred, one hallmark of its sacrality is its affordance to all the ability to self-actualize, to pursue humanitarian projects (those that are positive sum (i.e. win-win)), or even zero-sum, for all who are averse to the kind of positive sum social outcomes I, and for some we, envision.

One hallmark of the profane, then, is an engendering of the negative sum. Denial or withdrawal of the mentioned affordances. Deprivation of health, healthcare, wealth (hallmarks of non-profane wealth, sensu this post, yea, this blog (perhaps I should start an official glossary-like hallmark compendium), include a maximum, set at a vaguely upper-middle class level), or bodily autonomy (yes, I am talking non-misogyny here). These are thereby profane.

Profane. Sinful. Punishable. A popular sacrality is that of real estate: sacred ground. In my experience said sacrality is usually expressed in terms of mystical concepts, whether abstract or credulous. But considering the prequel, if any ground at all is sacred, then all ground is sacred. Not that pollution is wrong, but laxity in dealing with it is. Profane. Sinful. Punishable. Failure to corral pollution, wanton habitat destruction, deliberate fact denial (agricultural non-sustainability, global heating, rising fascist tendencies with substantial financial support), these are all profane. Sinful. Punishable. Ignoring them, denying them, minimizing them: profane, sinful, punishable.

The sacred requires paying what it takes to safeguard our nuclear and domestic etc. landfills, and all other endpoints of our activities of global living, our rivers, estuaries, reefs, gyres. The whole fucking atmosphere, you fucking fuckers! Fuck you! God fuck you! I am ashamed that I must emphasize that that last sentence was not non-ironic. How hard is it to stop shitting in our own living rooms? It is a shame that I must emphasize that that last sentence was a metaphor. Do you really want another sneering quip? Recycling as much as techno-economically possible, containing the remainder, minimizing pollution’s land use and leakage (solid, liquid, gas). Restoration of degraded land to higher ecological functioning. To maximize sacral land, one possible desideratum: preserve all waste, and maximize its odds for future utility or upgrading. Store ideally all your poison waste….

Some hymns have great chords and cadences, some organists present them awesomely. The ones that require you to sing the least to (or about) some god-person are the better ones. But I cannot sing even the best of them with a straight face (“That Cause Can Neither Be Lost Nor Stayed”, which has excellent chords, cadences, and melodies). In high school I could (I sang Händel and was in musicals), but I lost that ability perhaps the very minute I settled on urbanity as my milieu. On the other hand, I am not averse to the word sacred, as related above. In fact, to the extent that what I mean by the word and that what you mean by the word have a large cognitive intersection, I am totally happy with singing some kind of hymn with you. I am proud to say that that last sentence was metaphysical. Perhaps it is a bizarre elaboration to note that I am a baritone.

Revulsion Guilt

So, I’ve mentioned that I’ve been wondering about different ways to better promote my ambitions webwise. On the Youtube side of things, I thought to search for “how to make youtube videos”. As with many simplistic searches in popular topics, the first returns were many ads, which I ignore, followed by some videos, a few of which I opened and immediately closed as being incompetent or bullshit. In fact, the very first one was just a scruffy looking dude walking into a crappily furnished room (guess that was his signature entrance) and starting to tell his audience how important making good Youtube videos was (with crappy sound), and how by patiently watching through his comprehensive video we would all learn important things so that our important videos blah blah blah. I’m guessing that nowhere in his advice is something to the effect of you have to grab the person’s interest in a few seconds, forget the thirty seconds already allocated by a patient person (me!) to his incompetence.

After three or four crap videos in a row, I did some refining of my searches, and stumbled across one that was obviously a much better produced affair. Equally ambitious in reality as the first, crap, one, and a much better professional-looking instance of the kind of video I might think I would want to produce.

Now comes the revulsion, and it may be all on me, a knee-jerk reaction without the knee perhaps. As the host of the nicely produced video was explaining his motivation, he used the term “purpose driven”. To me, this is a reference to a book by some famous Christianist guy, whose name I forget and don’t want to remember, perhaps of the Big Box Church variety. The “prosperity gospel” where they deliberately ignore or distort almost everything ascribed to Joshua ben Joseph about how to get into heaven. Conservative (USA-style) Christianity, as nazi-adjacent as they can get while still stringing along the hopeful, forgiving, naïve, not-quite-aware-they-are-nazi-adjacent folk in their congregation. Note that my mention here of heaven and mystical beings should not be taken to mean that I have devoted my life to, or even countenance, an illusory world view based on half-remembered ghost stories.

Disturbed that I could have such a visceral disgust reflex based upon a few simple words, I started paying a bit more attention. The host had what I call a neo-nazi haircut, very short on the sides and becoming slightly fuller on top. I’ve heard it, or something like it, called a “high and tight”. I’m not very familiar with words or phrases from the fashion and personal grooming industries. Eventually I realized that the host was pushing expensive and quite desirable high-end gear, the kind of stuff I might think about considering if I was already an active video producer, and closed the video. I did some desultory searching on the guy’s name, and found that there are a lot of self-identified Christianists gloating about what a man-of-god the fellow is.

Possibly, I will return to the video. Just because it originates from a person who appears at a first, admittedly tipsy, glance to be a vile shitstain, vile shitstains often seem to be gifted at the kind of symbolic self-promotion that sweeps up vast tranches of otherwise perfectly ordinary folk who just want to get along. Look at Leni Riefenstahl or Fox News [sic]. And perhaps I’ve gotten him wrong. Not all deluded god-botherers are wrong about everything.

Mask Rage

A US-centric post. Once we figured out how to protect ourselves from COVID, i.e. vaccination, masking, and distancing, we brought the virus way down. In mid-July of 2021 the infection rate was the lowest it had been since the plague started peaking, with fewer than three quarters of a million testing positive. If and only if US-ians are not collectively stupid, the current infection rate would have been even lower than that in mid-July of 2022, but in fact it was nearly four million, soon surpassing even that number. Alas, there is a yokelish tendency to stop using antibiotics early, to accelerate towards red lights in case they turn green, to cherry pick half-remembered anecdotes instead of applying knowledge and reason. This super-quitting (I’ll post about that later; you get the idea) led the royal us (not the good folk who vax, mask and distance) back to walking around killing people (WAKP) just as soon as we almost stopped killing them. While selecting for ever more infectious strains.

What is wrong with these Red Qs and Q-like Blues? The Qs I “understand” – they interpret knowledge as damage and rout around it. Perhaps they suffer constitutive low-level poisoning, from lead, ag chemicals, over-processed foods, or perhaps their cultural memetics would be similarly negative-sum even if imposed upon the neurologically non-pathological. The Q-like Blues blithely joining in on the WAKP I can’t understand, but perhaps this phenomenon is similar to the trend within the mainstream Democratic Party to present as right-wing to attract campaign funding, rather than adopt and encourage the non-fascist factions. I’m guessing there is some form of denialism going on; certainly denialism arises in all quarters. Also sloth – sick out of sight, sick out of mind? Actual honesty about not giving a shit? Peer pressure surely figures into the phenomenon.

Here’s how I have to shop now. First, I go into the local megamart around 3:00 pm. That seems to be when the least number of people are there. Mask up and take a deep breath before entering through the double-automatic door tunnel, usually between two DLMBs (doorknob-licking mouth-breather, courtesy Charlie Stross), while slowly exhaling; once inside try to find a position six feet (n.b. US-centric) from others before having to inhale again. Instead of visiting each station needed to select product, I end up circling the store several times, looking for temporary opportunities to dash in and grab what I need. Often, someone will barge in right beside me; I back away and either go on to another station to return later, or pause in case it looks like they will be quick. If a lane I want to go down is blocked, aim for a different station and try again on my second time around. Fuck the self-checkout superspreader cluster. Fuck the cashier lanes with MBDL cashiers and customers. Fuck almost everybody. I try to get in and out within 15 minutes. Fuck these people.

To manage my doodling-while-drinking-four-espresso-shots habit (technically, this is actually work), I show up (masked) at my local coffeeshop just after the morning rush, go in and order, go out and wait, go back in (masked) to pick up when the drink is ready, then go back outside to sit and doodle. When inclement weather sets in, I will have to stop visiting the coffeeshop regularly.

I will dine out if it can be managed the way I drink my espresso. When outside dining becomes impractical, I will stop doing it until next Spring.