January - February, 2008

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January 12. I'm totally on board with some of the most out-there "conspiracy theories," but I've never bought the Master Narrative, that the secret rulers are omnipotent, that whatever happened in the past or will happen in the future, it's exactly what 'they' planned. If you look at history, you don't see a master plan -- you see a mess! The plans of the most powerful people in the world repeatedly come to ruin. Enormous plot twists come out of nowhere. The only thing you can be sure of is that empires will fall and resistance movements will become the new dominators. Of course there are powerful insiders who want to build a green police state, steal even more resources, and smoothly manage everyone else for their own benefit. They will fail. History is like a wild horse that nobody can stay on top of for more than a few seconds. The awful truth is that no one is in control, not even the forces of evil.

Josiah comments:

It's kind of like someone who jumps from the (correct) assumption that top predators will kill smaller prey whenever they can to the (incorrect) assumption that top predators determine everything that happens in an ecosystem. Top predators will tend to win head-on confrontations, even during a forest fire or blizzard, but they are as tightly constrained within their structural niches as the smallest plants and herbivores. The difference seems to be that human elites consistently practice predation unsustainably, killing not only what they and their pack need to survive, but hyperaccumulating and destroying their resource base. They are reckless and over-exuberant, not all-powerful.

January 17. Last summer on the radio, I heard a Green Day cover of an old John Lennon song, "Working Class Hero". The chorus is "A working class hero is something to be," but I heard it as "A working class zero is something to fear." When the system can no longer buy us off and string us along, we become powerful and dangerous.

January 19. The current scientific consensus is that dogs are domesticated wolves, but there is good evidence that they're not. Here's a great summary of the issue, Controversial origins of the domestic dog, and a PDF of a scientific paper, The Origin of the Dog Revisited:

Canis familiaris is a distinct species with its own independent history. Prior to domestication, it presumably existed as a relatively small, generalized canid that voluntarily adopted the commensal pariah niche still occupied by many dog populations today. This is supported by the morphological and molecular distinctiveness of domestic dogs, by the anatomy and behaviour of primitive domestic dog breeds, and by the archaeological and fossil record.

If this is true then the truly wild ancestors of modern domestic dogs are extinct... [This] is not unprecedented nor unusual: Dromedaries Camelus, for example, only exist in the wild today in feral form, and are otherwise entirely domesticated, and the wild ancestors of modern domestic horses and cattle are entirely extinct. In fact the eradication of the wild ancestors of a domestic form is thought by some to be one of the key historical events that occurs during the domestication process.

January 25. Harper's article on George Bush's favorite painting and why he doesn't understand it. As you can see, it shows a guy who looks just like Bush charging on a horse with people running behind him. But according to Robert G.L. Waite's book The Psychopathic God, and this page about Hitler and Franz von Stuck, Hitler also loved a painting of a guy who looked like him charging on a horse with people running behind him! Here's the painting, The Wild Chase.

February 20. Why We Banned Legos Basically, some teachers at an incredibly enlightened school noticed that the kids were slipping into authoritarian patterns in their lego play, and led them through exercises until they understood how bad power relations can be built into systems, and how to build a new set of lego rules that led to cooperation and equality.

What I'm wondering is, where are our teachers? Doesn't it seem unfair that kids playing with pieces of plastic get guidance, and in this more real world, with so much more at stake, we are completely on our own to blunder through bad rules again and again for thousands of years, repeatedly focusing on the people at the top and not the system itself? What larger story can explain what we're doing in such a fucked up world? I really hope this all turns out to be a big simulation, so we can avoid the same mistakes when the simulation ends and we go back to some more real world.

February 25. Great bit from an Alan Moore interview in Steampunk magazine #3:

It seems to me that at this juncture of the 21st century we are more aware of ourselves -- we are more aware of our past -- than culture has ever been before. Because of the internet, because of our tremendous archives that we've accrued, the culture of the past is open to us. And as we look at it, we can see that it's a fabulous junkyard of ideas that may have been incredibly beautiful -- and may have had an awful lot of life left in them -- that have been discarded by the relentless forward rolling of culture and our insistence upon new things every day. I think that we're now in a position where we can look back at the wonderful, glorious remains of our previous cultures -- our previous mindsets -- and we can use elements from that treasure trove to actually craft things that are appropriate to our future.

February 27-28. This article, The Truth About Autism, makes a good argument for an idea that's been on the fringe for years: that autism is best viewed not as a condition to be cured, but as a valuable addition to the human potential. And this article, Government Concedes Vaccine-Autism Case, throws in a twist. It's possible that the condition caused by vaccinations is something else that is being misdiagnosed as autism. Andrew, whose son has autism, comments:

Autism is a big catchall. There are nine symptoms in the diagnostic criteria, and you only have to show five in order to get the diagnosis. So two people who have been labeled autistic might only share one symptom. What we're really dealing with is a class of something, and each thing in that class would have it's own causes, symptoms, and appropriate treatments. But the state of the art isn't good enough to notice the difference between all these things yet.

I think that autism is both a disorder and a valid different way of thinking. It's a disorder because it hampers everyday living. But it's a blessing as well because the different ways of thinking can show us new and interesting things. I think the greatest strength of community and caring for each other is that it allows those of use who are capable of everyday survival to care for those who aren't, but whose other skills can contribute to everyone's quality of life. This type of relationship between people is why humans succeed as a species.

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