An Ill Wind Blows

Posted a while back, but even more relevant now:

We ought to be able to run a moldy orange against him and win by a landslide, but parts of this country are in fully embracing their ugly underbelly. It’s feeling like the 1960s again.

About Wyrd Smythe

The canonical fool on the hill watching the sunset and the rotation of the planet and thinking what he imagines are large thoughts. View all posts by Wyrd Smythe

18 responses to “An Ill Wind Blows

  • Wyrd Smythe

    (The title of the previous three posts? Not a coincidence.)

    • Wyrd Smythe

      Speaking of an ill wind…

      Friday afternoon: 91 temp, 84 dew point, 79% humidity. It was like being in an oven. At midnight it only dropped to 77 with a 74 degree dew point (89% humidity), so not much relief.

      Big rainstorm Saturday morning dropped temps to 61 (with a dew point of 59 and 94% humidity).

      Sunday the temps were a lovely 76 with a dew point of 58 and only 54% humidity. Sweet relief at last.

      I would so like for the 2020 election to be like that. Big rainstorm to wash away all that muggy heat and brain sweet relief.

      But predicting the weather often leads to tears.

  • SelfAwarePatterns

    The sad fact I read about today is that he still enjoys a substantial electoral college advantage. He might still win reelection there even while losing the popular vote by 5 points or more.
    https://politicalwire.com/2019/07/19/trumps-biggest-advantage-is-the-electoral-college/

    • Wyrd Smythe

      Fantasy, I suppose, but I really would like to see the Electoral College ended. Let’s have a real democracy. And while I’m fantasizing, let’s also force our elected representatives to actually, you know, represent us.

      Ever since high school I’ve been ranting and railing about the “Death of a Liberal Arts Education” (for all the good it’s done), and it’s no joy at all that my perceptions and fears turned out pretty much exactly right.

      “I told you so,” loses its luster when society seems to be turning its back on the most crucial fundamentals I hold dear.

      To quote Vonnegut, “So it goes.”

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        I’m with you on the Electoral College. Unfortunately the chances of a constitutional amendment getting the necessary 2/3 votes in congress and ratification by 3/4 of the states, due to the perceived interests of the small states, is virtually nil.

        But there’s actually a movement underway to do an end run around the process. The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact is to have state legislatures pass laws to award their electoral votes to the winner of the popular vote. The laws only kick in once enough states amassing 270 votes have joined in. Right now they’re at 196.
        https://www.nationalpopularvote.com/

        Of course, getting those last 74 will be very hard. And unless they get substantially past 270, the compact may not be stable. What can be passed by a state government can be revoked by it.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        And probably a good thing, since some of those states are going after Roe v. Wade.

        Something I’ve been saying for decades is that the USA is just too big to be governed as a single entity. There’s just too much diversity in the 50 states. If anything, it seems to be getting worse.

        I really am starting to wonder if we’re headed for another decade of outright race war.

  • Lee Roetcisoender

    “To speak of certain government and establishment institutions as “the system” is to speak correctly, since these organizations are founded upon the same structural relationships as a motorcycle. They are sustained by structural relationships even when they have lost all other meaning and purpose. People arrive at a factory and perform a totally meaningless task from eight to five without questions because the structure demands that it be that way. There’s no villain, no “mean guy” who wants them to live meaningless lives, it’s just that the structure, the system demands it and no one is willing to take on the formidable task of changing the structure because it is meaningless. But to tear down a factory or to revolt against a government our to avoid repair of a motorcycle because it is a system is to attack the effects rather than the cause; and as long as the attack is upon the effects only, no change is possible. The true system, the real system, is our present construction of systematic thought itself, rationality itself, and if a factory is torn down but the rationality which produced it is left standing, then that rationality will simply produce another factory. If a revolution destroys a systematic government, but the systematic patterns of thought that produced that government are left intact, then those patterns will repeat themselves in the succeeding government.”

    Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

    • Wyrd Smythe

      “The true system, the real system, is our present construction of systematic thought itself, rationality itself, and if a factory is torn down but the rationality which produced it is left standing, then that rationality will simply produce another factory.”

      This, perhaps, is where we most diverge. I’ve long upheld rational thought as what elevates us above the animals and as the only hope of civilization. Our current problems, to my eyes, come from ignorance, fear, greed, and highly irrational behavior (tribalism, nationalism, etc).

      If not a system based on rational thought, then what?

  • Lee Roetcisoender

    Personally, I wouldn’t call doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result rational. Nevertheless, by it’s very definition it is rational, so is tribalism and nationalism. It’s like Pirsig said, no one is willing to take on the task of challenging the very architecture which is responsible for our conundrum and find out what’s at its core.

    “As a consequence of deconstruction, rationality itself then comes into question. Rationality has long been prized by Western culture, the chief virtue of the modernistic world view, the crowning jewel of achievement. Derrida’s writings undermine this cultural investment in human rationality, calling into question every technique used to craft an intellectual construct.
    There are two major premises to consider when seeking a consensus for an articulation leading to understanding. The first premise suggests; that rational arguments bring about massive suppression of meanings. This is implied to represent, that when one is convinced by a rational argument one does not know more, but one knows less. Therefore, before one is convinced by a rational argument of any kind, one must be compelled to ask what is being suppressed, what is the cost of that persuasive argument, and who or what pays the price for this particular conclusion. The second premise suggests; that put under the scrutiny of analysis all rational arguments will collapse. This rationale strongly suggests that rationality is not a foundation for anything, and all of our good reasons are in the end both suppressive and empty, leading to absurdity.”

    The Immortal Principle: A Reference Point

    • Wyrd Smythe

      “Personally, I wouldn’t call doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result rational.”

      Every musician and every athlete would disagree. On some level, every skill is the result of practice, which is exactly doing the same thing over and over in order to get results.

      That aphorism equating repeating something with insanity comes from 12-step programs and refers explicitly (and only) to the repetition many addicts go through in thinking they can beat the addiction on their own. Most can’t.

      “The first premise suggests; that rational arguments bring about massive suppression of meanings.”

      I couldn’t disagree more!

      “The second premise suggests; that put under the scrutiny of analysis all rational arguments will collapse.”

      Again, disagree completely.

      Rather than quote stuff at me, if you believe these principles, give me some examples that show them in action and show me the better alternative path.

      I ask again: If not a system based on rational thought, then what?

  • Lee Roetcisoender

    “Every musician and every athlete would disagree. On some level, every skill is the result of practice, which is exactly doing the same thing over and over in order to get results.”

    I couldn’t agree more, but does the above principle apply to our democratic republic as well? Keep doing it until we get it right, even though it can be definitively demonstrated that a democratic republic is a “blue print” for corruption and abuse of power? If so, isn’t that rationale similar to a violinist expecting the strings on a violin to sound like a woodwind? Or is the intellectual conundrum we encounter within the architecture of our political system equivalent to an addict’s situation and subsequent rationale?

    Rationality is merely a tool, and fundamentally, there is nothing wrong with the tool: The carpenter builds the house, not the hammer. This is my assessment of the real problem Wyrd: We are all addicts (myself included). We are addicted to rationality because of the control it imparts, and the substance of our abuse is “power”. Even though I know you will vehemently disagree, it’s that simple. Control is the singular, targeted objective of power, not some of the time, but every time. And why? Control is integral to the solipsistic self-model, because without at least a sensation of control, there is no sensation of self. As qualitative properties of any given discrete system, power and control are coextensive as one and cannot be divided.

    Is there a better way you ask? That path was outlined by a comment I posted on James Cross’ blog in response to an idealist’s authoritative claim of understanding. Honor and respect the double negation architecture of the tetra lemma by acknowledging that: “I don’t know”. I don’t know is the immortal principle; a reference point that will never mislead into error, which means in practice, that all truths are provisional, merely useful until something better comes along. That’s as good as it gets and it places the objective of control as secondary, not primary. It adds a degree of humility to our own quest for understanding, a humility that is needed to overcome the all too often virulent ideologies which divide us…

    • Wyrd Smythe

      “…even though it can be definitively demonstrated that a democratic republic is a ‘blue print’ for corruption and abuse of power?”

      But what don’t humans corrupt and abuse? I think you’re blaming what is quintessential human behavior on the thing. (It’s like people blaming trump. He’s not the source; he’s a symptom. But he’s also a clear and visible target for the offense.)

      “If so, isn’t that rationale similar to a violinist expecting the strings on a violin to sound like a woodwind?”

      Well that would be an irrational thing to think. 😛

      Trying to get something right, if it seems to deliver at least some good results, isn’t irrational. Given a tool that’s clearly better, generally people will, per an old saying, beat a path to your door. What’s that saying about democracy being the “least worst” system we’ve found?

      “Rationality is merely a tool,”

      Indeed. And a very good one. It gives us refrigerators, medicine, engines to drive all sorts of things, flying machines, and robots that visit Pluto.

      In the form of the dialectic, it also offers what I see as the only way any civilization can hope to navigate its way.

      “We are addicted to rationality…”

      To me, that’s like saying we’re addicted to air or water. We’re human beings with minds. Rational thought is what we do. It’s why we’re not animals. It’s not an “addiction” I have the slightest interest in “kicking” (any more than I want to “kick” food, air, or water).

      As for abusing “control,” of course we do. We abuse everything we get our monkey hands on. You’re focusing too much on the tool. As you say, the carpenter builds the dog house.

      “…all truths are provisional, merely useful until something better comes along.”

      Which is exactly what science and rational thought hold as fundamental. The whole “black swan” thing.

      And modulo, of course, the social and human aspects. The beauty of science is — due to rational thought — science manages to proceed despite scientists.

      All real scientists, indeed all real thinkers, know exactly how true “I don’t know,” is. Many thinkers, from Aristotle to Einstein, have expressed the opinion, but perhaps you’ll appreciate how the great philosopher Don Henley said it: “The more I know, the less I understand.”

      The whole point is trying to shine a light into that darkness, and the only tool that’s proven at all effective is rational thought.

      But, yeah, it’s always been hard for humans to get out of their own way.

  • Lee Roetcisoender

    The discrete binary system of rationality is identical to the discrete binary system of the immune system, a system which contrasts what it currently knows against what it does not know, such as an unknown foreign invader like a virus per se. The immune system attempts to come up with a pattern match which can then be used to destroy the invading pathogen. The immune system is a discrete binary system which uses a process of randomly creating, selecting, and testing patterns based upon verifiable, observation results. It is a process which eerily resembles our own experience of consciousness.

    I’m trying to create a visual here, because the immune system doesn’t settle for half-measures. The immune system doesn’t arbitrarily decide on its own that a particular pattern provides at least “some” good results which then contrasted against no results. The entire biological organism relies upon the immune system for exact results, simply because its existence is dependent upon getting it right.

    Like the immune system, rationality if fine tuned to our environment, and rationality has the capacity to deliver on its promise. But unlike the immune system, rationality is subordinate to the solipsistic self-model which unfortunately has its own agenda. I liken the solipsistic self-model to an invading bacterium which uses the host of a biological organism for its own self interest, unaware that the waste products of its own reproductive processes end up killing the host, therefore destroying itself. It’s a reasonable analogue I think?

    There’s no point to this Wyrd, I’m just musing out load…….

    • Wyrd Smythe

      The first thing that strikes me about the immune system and rational thinking is that I wouldn’t want to live in a world that lacked either. As you point out, they are crucial to our survival.

      The second thing is the binary choice you describe for the immune system. (I presume you are comparing such choices to logic and mathematics, which are part of rational thinking?) In terms of your analogy, such choices defend us from Bad Things that can harm us.

      So both sound like a Really Good Thing.

      “Like the immune system, rationality [is?] fine tuned to our environment, and rationality has the capacity to deliver on its promise.”

      Has delivered on its promise time and again.

      However, there is a crucial difference between the evolved immune system and rational thinking. Presumably evolution could have found myriad other solutions to a biological problem. Rational thinking is grounded, ultimately, in logic and mathematics, so is far more abstract. It’s designed by intelligence, not evolved.

      Put another way, the immune system is somewhat “accidental,” but rational thinking is the direct product of intelligence.

      “But unlike the immune system, rationality is subordinate to the solipsistic self-model which unfortunately has its own agenda.”

      I have no idea what that means, but as I said before, humans manage to misuse everything. Good craftsmen don’t blame their tools. If there is any fault here, the fault lies within ourselves.

      How do we work our way out of such mental errors? Rational thinking is the only way I know.

      If not through logic, analysis, and comparison of ideas, then what?

      • Lee Roetcisoender

        Speaking of comparing ideas: I’ve determined (using rationality of course) that “power” is the wild card of both consciousness and causation. What fascinates me about “all” of the discussions on consciousness is that no one addresses the subject of power itself. I don’t think one can have a coherent conversation on consciousness and/or causation without at least addressing the phenomenon of power. I’m not talking about the joule when I say power, I’m talking about power being a “thing-in-itself”. Now, if one chooses to reject the notion that power may very well indeed be a “thing-in-itself”, then we need to drop the idiom from our everyday vocabulary unless we are talking about electricity.

        Searching the internet, I’ve found that there is very little research that has been done on the subject of power. If you are interested, I found one essay written by Arthur Berndtson titled: “The Meaning of Power”: Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, vol. 31. No. 1 (Sept. 1970), pg 73-84. The essay is on the jstor.org website. The essay is pretty intense, so I don’t know if that sort of thing is your cup of tea, but I thought it was worth mentioning.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        “I’ve determined (using rationality of course) that ‘power’ is the wild card of both consciousness and causation.”

        What was the analysis that led to the conclusion?

        “What fascinates me about ‘all’ of the discussions on consciousness is that no one addresses the subject of power itself.”

        Perhaps it’s not perceived as relevant. I can’t say I see a connection.

        FWIW, in my experience, it’s not uncommon for people to focus on a single aspect they view as central to everything, but it’s also my experience that most things are more holistic. There’s no One Tree in the forest.

  • Lee Roetcisoender

    “Perhaps it’s not perceived as relevant. I can’t say I see a connection.”

    Exactly! So in conclusion, my rationale is predicated upon the anti-thesis to the above statement. Which in practice means: If power is what makes shit happen within the architecture of causation and/or consciousness, and yet power is not relevant, which means there is no connection… I’m going to stop there to avoid reductio ad absurdum.

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