Saturday, May 20, 2006

Consciousness as a Multidimensional Organ (5.18.08)

While I do not believe in a specious "God of the gaps" to try to account for what we don't know, I do believe that we are immersed in a universe of irreducible mystery, and that this mystery includes several fundamental problems that will never be solved by science. These mysteries represent limits to our cognition, and while we can think about them rationally , we can never arrive at any satisfactory intellectual answer.

For example, science will never comprehend the mystery of existence--that is, why there is an ordered something instead of mere nothing. Science simply assumes this order, for without it, science would be impossible. This mystery is so hopelessly insoluble that we generally stop even asking about it after childhood. Science actually provides no sensible answers to this question at all. Only esoteric religious metaphysics even begins to touch the issue.

Another irreducible mystery is life itself. We all act as if we know what it is, but it would be much more accurate to say that we know what lifelessness is, and that life seems to be a bizarre and unexpected violation of this general rule.

Even more bizarre and problematic is the existence of consciousness. We have this astounding gift of inwardness, and yet, what is it for? Why would the universe evolve into a subjective horizon containing love, beauty, truth, justice, poetry, music....

We can know so much, and yet, we cannot know anything about these fundamental mysteries of existence, life and consciousness--at least not with reason alone. According to the Buddhist scholar B. Alan Wallace, "Despite centuries of modern philosophical and scientific research into the nature of the mind, at present there is no technology that can detect the presence or absence of any kind of consciousness, for scientists to even know what exactly is to be measured. Strictly speaking, at present there is no scientific evidence even for the existence of consciousness!" Another way of saying it is that, if consciousness did not exist, science would have no trouble explaining the fact.

That is, the only evidence we have of consciousness consists of direct, first person accounts of being conscious. And yet, not everyone is conscious in the same way or of the same things. Although we don’t know what consciousness is, we do know that there are degrees of it. Every psychologist navigates through the use of a developmental model of some kind, in which consciousness unfolds and develops through time. But why? Other animals don’t have degrees of consciousness within their own species, but the gulf between certain humans is as great as the gulf between a dog and Beethoven, or between Nagarjuna and the typical One Cosmos reader.

In my view consciousness is an organ, just like any other organ in the body--heart, lungs, kidneys, etc. But those are material organs that exist in three-dimensional space. Consciousness, however, is an immaterial organ that operates in multidimensional space and time. In short, it is the first hyper-dimensional organ of the cosmos.

What is an organ? Two things, mainly. First of all, it is a differentiated structure. In other words, it is not just a blob or an aggregation, but a definable form that has an identifiable structure. Yesterday, during my nuclear treadmill, I got a good look at my heart. Even with a material organ such as the heart, no one can draw a sharp line say "this is where the heart ends and the vascular system begins." And yet, the heart is an obvious structure with valves, chambers and arteries.

The second characteristic of an organ is that it performs a function through cooperative activity. The heart pumps blood. The lungs exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide. The kidneys filter the blood.

By implication, organs have a third characteristic, that is, pathology. If an organ is defined by a function it is supposed to accomplish, then pathology means failure to accomplish that function.

Although no scientist has ever seen consciousness, it nevertheless has a structure and a function. Part of its structure is a reflection of the structure of our brains, but not all of it. For example, the brain has an obvious horizontal structure in the form of a left and right brain with very different functions that, in a healthy individual, will harmonize in a higher dimension.

Likewise, the brain has a clear vertical structure, in the sense that we have what might be called a reptilian brain, over which there is a mammalian brain, and on top of which is the neocortex: our "human brain."

But this three-dimensional physical structure does not exhaust the structure of consciousness, which is hyper-dimensional, meaning that it exists in a space of more than three (or four) dimensions.

This is a thorny problem, because our normal thinking--especially scientific thinking--takes place in three dimensions. We cannot think scientifically or rationally in higher dimensional space. Take, for example, causation. In the three dimensional world, causation is relatively easy to conceptualize: A causes B, B causes, C, C causes D, etc. D cannot cause A, nor can A and D occupy the same space at the same time.

So how does one "think" in higher dimensional space? As a matter of fact, we do it all the time. For example, dreaming is a form of hyper-dimensional thinking freed from the limitations of the outer, three-dimensional world. This is also how we might understand the cliché that "poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world." The genuine poet uses language to express realities that transcend the lower-dimensional world.

Think of it this way: the mystery of the dream is that it is the brain’s attempt to represent in three dimensions a space that actually far exceeds three dimensions--like trying to represent a three-dimensional image on a two-dimensional plane. Imagine, for example, people living on a two dimensional plane--a sheet of typing paper. They know nothing at all about the three dimensional world.

Now imagine if you could pass your three-dimensional hand through the sheet of paper. What would it look like to the people in 2D? First they would see five separate points grow into circles, as the fingers touch the paper and move through it. But then the five circles would disappear and become one larger circle--the wrist. Let's say that these people in 2D are very careful scientific observers of empirical phenomena. No matter how much they study the data, they would have no idea that the disparate phenomena are all actually aspects of a higher dimensional object that they cannot see.

This is how dream consciousness operates. A dream might be thought of as analogous to that hand passing through the sheet of paper. In dreams, various elements are connected in a hyper-dense manner that violates all notions of linear logic. Time is abolished, in the sense that you can be in two different times in your life, or your adult self can be side by side with your child self. But if you don’t know how to read the dream, you will see merely a linear, if somewhat crazy, narrative. You won’t know how to unpack all of the different dimensions. As a matter of fact, human history is just such a "crazy dream," with many subterranean connections that will go undetected by the secular mind.

As I have labored to point out in the past, religious metaphysics, properly understood, represents objective knowledge of reality. But clearly, in order to understand reality objectively, we cannot limit ourselves to its illusory three or four dimensions. Rather, we must somehow learn to think in a hyper-dimensional manner analogous to the dream.

Authentic scripture must be understood in this manner. There is no language known to man that is more hyper-dimensional and dreamlike than scripture (some parts of scripture much more so than others--like dreams, scripture waxes and wanes in its dimensional carrying capacity).

And we might also understand, say, Jesus, in the same way. If we limit ourselves to a naive scientific view in trying to understand Jesus, we will simply generate fundamentalist banality or logical absurdity. But if we assume that Jesus is analogous to that multidimensional hand passing through four-dimensional history, now we’re getting somewhere. For where is the “body of Christ?”

I think I saw it pass this way just a moment ago.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

The Liberal Racial Ghost Dance

I shouldn't say this, but I probably won’t be reading Shelby Steele’s new book, White Guilt: How Blacks and Whites Together Destroyed the Promise of the Civil Rights Era, but only because I rarely read any book where I know ahead of time that I will probably agree with every single word.

The point of the book is so brilliant, so simple and so true. And yet, he will be vilified and treated with contempt by all of the usual liberal suspects, just as, say, Noam Chomsky or Edward Said might be vilified by the right. This is one more reason why I despise the left, because how can you respect people who attack truth and thereby undermine the basis of thinking? Anyone who thinks it is somehow equivalent to dismiss a paranoid, agenda-driven hack such as Chomsky is a deeply lost soul.

It is the same moral confusion that causes someone to equate those who are intentionally murdered by Islamic thugs with those who are accidentally killed in our attempt to liberate them from Islamic thugs, or to equate Israel’s attempt to defend itself from terror with terrorists who wish to destroy Israel, or to maintain that putting murderers to death is the same as murder. During the cold war, the left routinely equated the U.S. and Soviet Union as two equally bad empires. This kind of moral and intellectual confusion pervades the left.

Yesterday we spoke of the existence of defense mechanisms against the upper vertical. Broadly speaking, the upper vertical would be the realm of truth, beauty and morality. We can also apply Bion’s concept of “attacks on linking” to the upper vertical. Understood this way, it would involve a sort of willed stupidity that dismantles the ability to think clearly, not just in the realm of truth, but in the realm of morals as well. For that matter, it would also explain the ugliness and barbarity that now pervades the art world. Apparently, one cannot merely attack the true without also damaging the good and the beautiful, since they are all reflections of one another.

One of the reasons you cannot debate a leftist is that they do not (and perhaps cannot) meet your argument on the plane from which it arises. Instead, they attack that plane and try to drag you down to the level from which their minds operate. This is why they never address the content of your argument, but attack your motivations.

This is so pervasive that it is hardly worth commenting on: if you are against government enforced racial discrimination, you are a racist; if you are against the redefinition of marriage, you are a “homophobe”; if you are against the Kyoto protocols, you wish to destroy the earth; if you are in favor of tax cuts, you simply want to line the pockets of the wealthy; if you are in favor of the liberation of Iraq, it’s just for the oil; if you want to control your own retirement, you just want to give a boon to mutual fund companies; if you are against inefficient socialized medicine, it’s because you want poor children to be sick; if you want to control the borders, you hate Mexicans; etc. The list is endless.

Steele sees through the leftist lies about race so beautifully that if he weren't black, he would be tarred as a vicious racist. In his book he addresses the “conundrum” of why black progress began to reverse itself only after all of the liberal “Great Society” programs of the 1960’s. He notes that for any group that has been recently freed from oppression, “freedom shows them their undevelopment and their inability to compete as equals.” For many, this realization is too painful to bear, so it is converted to “black rage,” but Steele is astute in pointing out that this kind of infantile rage can only be acted out when the person knows deep down that the object of their rage is benign and won’t lash back in kind. This, by the way, is why there is no “Arab rage” directed at Arab governments, only at irrelevant and benign targets such as Israel and the U.S.

In psychoanalysis, “projective identification” is a term used to describe what happens when one person projects into another and “inducts” them into their psychodrama. Thus we see a dance of mutual projective identification between rage-filled blacks (which, I should emphasize, is undoubtedly a loud minority of blacks) and guilt-ridden white liberals who can spuriously eliminate their guilt by adopting a condescending attitude toward blacks: in short, as Steele puts it, "we'll throw you a bone like affirmative action if you'll just let us reduce you to your race so we can take moral authority for 'helping' you."

It matters not one bit that most of these liberal programs are not only ineffective, but that they actually harm blacks. The point is not to have an impact on external reality, but on internal reality: to purpose is to reduce black rage and mitigate white guilt. In this regard, the left certainly is the “reality based community,” since it is rooted in the very real and enduring internal world of psychological fantasy. In many ways, as any psychoanalyst can tell you, this world might even be less subject to change than the external world, which by comparison is relatively easy to manipulate.

Thus, in this classic liberal ghost dance everybody feels better. Plus, the fact that the programs won’t work guarantees that “black rage” will continue, so that the dance can go on ad infinitum. In this little charade, blacks are supposed to be grateful to their liberal masters. If, like Steele, or Thomas Sowell, or Clarence Thomas, or Ken Blackwell, they are not grateful, then they will be attacked by the left as "Uncle Toms." But as Steele points out, “When they called you a nigger back in the days of segregation, at least they didn’t ask you to be grateful.”


UPDATE-Classic example of leftist educational nonsense that has no interest in truth, only in feelings. It shows how, once you abandon truth as the criteria, raw power comes in to fill the void and determine what is "true," one more reason liberalism is so illiberal: it makes lying to children mandatory by law. HT: Larwyn.

PC textbooks full of skewed history

California has tinkered with the past in a foolish attempt to make students feel good about themselves.
By Diane Ravitch
May 16, 2006


"TWENTY YEARS AGO, I was invited by then-State Superintendent of Public Instruction Bill Honig to join a committee to revise California's history curriculum. Over 18 months, we produced a document that added more time for the study of American and world history and called for the teaching of the dramatic controversies that make historical study engaging and honest.

"Immediately, however, a wide variety of religious, racial and ethnic groups demanded changes in the document to recognize and honor their history. Blacks, Jews, Native Americans, conservative Christians, Arabs, atheists, Armenians, Poles and others lined up to complain at public hearings about references to their groups.

"What made their complaints powerful is that California, unlike any other state, has mandated by law since 1976 that instructional materials used in the schools must provide positive portrayals of specified groups.

"When it comes to males and females, for instance, the Legislature decreed that "equal portrayal must be applied in every instance." That means, among other things, that an equal number of male and female characters must be depicted in "roles in which they are mentally and physically active, being creative, solving problems … " and that male and female characters in textbooks must show a "range of emotions (e.g. fear, anger, tenderness.)"

"California's textbooks and other materials must instill a "sense of pride" in students' heritages and may not include "adverse reflection" on any group. Cultural or lifestyle differences may not be portrayed as "undesirable." Members of minority groups must be shown "in the same range of socioeconomic settings" as those in the majority.

"And it's not just gender and ethnicity that is "protected." Older people, people with disabilities and people who pursue various occupations have been written into the law.

"So it's not surprising that in recent months gays and lesbians have stepped forward to demand a place at the state's capacious table. They too want their roles to be portrayed positively in textbooks purchased by the state....

"Just a few months ago, Hindu organizations appeared before the state Board of Education complaining that they were offended by references to their religion in the history textbooks — including descriptions of the caste system and depictions of the treatment of women (one group wanted a reference to the fact that women had "fewer" rights in ancient India changed to say that women had "different" rights). Even though scholars insisted that the historical references were accurate, the organizations objected that their religion had been subjected to an "adverse reflection."

"Because of its social-content guidelines, California will never see an end to these rancorous debates about who wins recognition in the textbooks....

"The state's social-content guidelines should be abolished. They put the state Board of Education into the absurd position of deciding which facts are historically accurate and which should be included or excluded, a responsibility for which it is manifestly unqualified. The guidelines are an open invitation to interest groups to politicize textbooks.

"Telling publishers that their books must instill pride only guarantees a phony version of feel-good history...."

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

The Demon Haunted World of the Spiritually Repressed Left

I am still intrigued by Lee Harris’ essay, in which he highlights the psychologically transformative value of leftist thought. Leftism is romantic to the core, allowing the average nobody to imagine that he is a somebody by participating in the righteous fantasy of socialist revolution. Secularists like to poke fun at the “Left Behind” books, but their own thinking is no less absurd and mythological.

“[T]he revolutionary socialist's life is transformed because he accepts the myth that one day socialism will triumph, and justice for all will prevail. What mattered for [Georges] Sorel... is not the scientific truth or falsity of the myth believed in, but what believing in the myth does to the lives of those who have accepted it, and who refuse to be daunted by the repeated failure of their apocalyptic expectations... the myth of socialism will continue to have power, despite the various failures of socialist experiments, so long as there are revolutionaries who are unwilling to relinquish their great myth.”

Thus, we can see that leftism derives its power quite explicitly from the deep structure of religion. It is simply a displacement of religious impulses onto a horizontal substitute, very similar to a sexual perversion, in which the individual, say, becomes fixated on a shoe or another article of clothing for gratification. In fact, we might think of leftism as a religious perversion--an immature and inappropriate form of spiritual gratification. Noam Chomsky's obsessive mental masturbation comes immediately to mind.

This is an idea I have had in the past (I may even have mentioned it in the book), but have never completely fleshed out. That is, if the vertical extends up (into the suprasensible domains addressed by art, religion, and morality) and down (into the personal “Freudian” unconscious), then there must be ego defense mechanisms operating in both directions. The ego is just a little point in between these vast spaces above and below.

We are well acquainted with the psychological defense mechanisms that keep the lower vertical at bay--repression, splitting, denial, projection, sublimation, etc. But I’m not sure if anyone has ever applied the same notion to the upper vertical, and suggested that it is equally possible (and sometimes necessary for developmental reasons) to defend ourselves from “the above.”

To cite just one obvious example, what would happen if a person were to “repress” their impulse for transcendence? Just like the sexual impulse, it doesn’t go away. Rather, it attaches itself to another object, a substitute. Of course, it doesn’t have to necessarily be leftism. It could also be rampant materialism, a desire to accumulate wealth in a completely absurd and meaningless way--as if one could somehow be “saved” by having enough money. This might explain what would drive a billionaire to gamble his billion to acquire another billion that he will never need. When you are dealing with a displaced metaphysical problem, you will never be able to get enough of what you don’t really need. You will have created a disguised religious compulsion that will be entirely absurcular.

The mechanism of projection also takes place in the upper vertical. Projection occurs when qualities, feelings, wishes and objects that a person refuses to recognize, or rejects in himself, are “expelled” and located in another person or thing. What is there in the upper vertical that can be projected? In other words, what is the “content” of the upper vertical? A number of things, depending on the degree of being. But at the very least, there is Brahman (the formless God beyond God), the idea of God, the divine intellect (nous), the conscience (that which knows right from wrong in an objective way that is not culturally conditioned), archetypes, and even angels.

Thus, the secular existentialist who regards reality as ultimately meaningless is engaging in a sort of bizarre projection of Brahman, which is beyond name and form. It is a paradox, for this projection causes the existentialist to convert the relative world into an absolute--absolute meaninglessness. In other words, the idea of the absolute is retained, but projected onto the relative, or the phenomenal world of maya.

As Jesus said, “the Kingdom of Heaven is within you.” But not if you are a leftist. Rather, heaven will be projected onto this world, in what the philosopher Eric Voegelin called “immamentizing the eschaton.” This is why the leftist must always attack religion, because the idea of a “sugar candy mountain” after death infringes on the leftist’s desire to make it happen now. For the leftist, Sugar Candy Mountain is Sweden... or Cuba... or even projected backwards to the good old days of Bill Clinton, when there were no terrorists and everyone loved us. There was also no homelessness, no hurricanes, no global warming, no people who refuse to purchase health insurance....

Speaking of which, you cannot have a religion without a conception of ontological evil. Being of a religious nature, I recognize ontological evil when I see it--Zarqawi, Saddam Hussein, Islamism, Yasser Arafat, Hamas. Being of a bizarro-religious nature, the leftist also recognizes ontological evil: President Bush, Karl Rove, Haliburton, Diebold, Samuel Alito, Fox, Rush Limbaugh, the internal combustion engine, oil companies, and so many more.

That’s the problem with leftism as a religion. Since they deny and split off the upper vertical, they are left with a projected world of imaginary demons haunting an accidental landscape of ultimate meaninglessness. Rage is its "gift of the spirit," envy its unholy Eucharist (or dyscharist).

Oh well. At least it keeps them off the street. Oh, wait a minute... that's another difference--those outdoor revival meetings called "demonstrations."

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

The Economic Mythol-Gap

Capitalism is too important and complex a subject to be left to the economists...” --Jerry Muller

Yesterday we were discussing Lee Harris’ important piece on Why Socialism Isn't Dead. In it he makes the key point that socialism’s irrationality is its greatest strength. Since it isn’t operating in the realm of logic, it is therefore impervious to being logically disproved. Although it fails time and again, its failure proves nothing, as failure is simply transformed into a step along the way to inevitable success.

This leads to the startling conclusion that “the whole point of the socialist revolution is not that human societies will be transformed in the distant future, but that the individuals who dedicate their lives to this myth will be transformed... in the present” [emphasis mine]. Paradoxically, the purpose of socialism is not to achieve socialism; rather, “the myth of socialism is a useful illusion that turns ordinary men into comrades and revolutionaries united in a common struggle...”

As I have written before, one cannot transcend religion, for religion embodies objective metaphysical truth. Therefore, if one tries to sidestep it, it will simply return in the form of sub-religious magical thinking, such as scientism or socialism. Just as religion is the most fruitful way to “think about ultimate reality,” capitalism is the most fruitful way to think about economics.

But just as the person who rejects revealed religion falls back on “natural religion” (i.e., what can be revealed by the senses and perceptions), the socialist falls back on what might be called “natural economics,” that is, a flawed way of thinking about the creation and distribution of wealth that is more or less hardwired into our genes.

Remember, only a tiny, insignificant fraction of mankind’s evolution has taken place under modern circumstances. Rather, 99% of our human evolution took place in what is called the “archaic environment.” Where you situate the archaic environment is somewhat arbitrary, but let’s just go back to the emergence of archaic homo sapiens, which was half a million years ago. It is presumed by evolutionary psychologists that our human traits emerged and were selected during this period of time. Included among these traits would be our “natural” way of looking at the accumulation and distribution of goods.

So if we delve into the archaic environment, what can we learn about Economic Man? Certainly he wasn’t a capitalist. One of the most fascinating economics books I have ever read is The Mind and the Market, by Jerry Muller. What makes it so fascinating is that the book is not a history of economics per se, but a history of what people have thought about economics, which is mostly flat wrong, if not plain absurd. In this regard, it is similar to a history of medicine that looks at all of the crazy beliefs human beings have had about sickness and health. Until about a hundred years ago, you were lucky if most medical procedures didn’t actually harm you.

It is the same with economics. Until Adam Smith in the late 18th century, there was no understanding at all of how wealth was created. Hard to believe, but we are still fighting the same battle Adam Smith was, in that we cannot overcome something deeply irrational in the heart of man when it comes to thinking about wealth. By actually developing a true economic discipline, separate from all of the magical thinking that had previously pervaded the subject, Smith unwittingly detached the subject from its deeper irrational roots--as if he literally developed a “conscious economics” split off from “unconscious economics.” But this doesn’t mean that “unconscious economics” will disappear. To the contrary--like the Freudian unconscious, it will simply come back with a vengeance.

What I am suggesting is that in order to understand leftist economics, we must go all the way back to cave man economics, because that’s where it starts. And what do cave men believe? The default setting of mankind seems to be that wealth is fixed, so that it is a matter of fighting over one’s share--one persons gain is another person’s loss. People still struggle with the idea that the creation of wealth is unlimited, and that both parties of a transaction may benefit from it (such as in free trade).

In my opinion, the psychological mechanism of envy was evolved in the archaic environment as an expression of primitive economics. Remember, human beings are fundamentally social animals that evolved in small, face to face bands of only 20 or 30 individuals. Evolution actually selected these small human groups more than individual humans. Therefore, anything that facilitated the survival of these small groups was likely to be selected by evolution.

I believe envy was one of these factors, because envy is in fact a primitive form of socialist egalitarianism that helps to promote social solidarity. Remember, social solidarity is the purpose underlying what might be called the “envy theory” of primordial socialist economics, not the production of wealth. Indeed some (that is, I) might go so far as to say that nothing has changed in this regard: that the contemporary left is an expression of our primordial envy, which cannot help noticing that some members of the group possess more than others. Therefore, those with more must be attacked under the guise of equality.

Just as in the case of our primitive furbears, the purpose of the attack is not to create the conditions that advance the material circumstances of everyone, but to undo the psychologically uncomfortable conditions that make one feel envious. As Helmut Schoeck pointed out in his book Envy (listed in sidebar), the economically successful society must function as if the envious individual does not exist. It must learn to recognize him in his many guises, and ignore him.

Of course, we try our best to do that, and the United States has been the most successful country in trying to ignore its envious citizens, which is why the U.S. is such an economic powerhouse. But in America the enviers have formed their own party that revolves around the expression of their primordial envy. And in Europe the enviers have taken over, which is why European governments work so hard to appease primordial envy--and which is why their economic systems become weaker and weaker (which ends up creating even more envy, as in the rioting in France).

It is fascinating to read Muller’s history of beliefs about wealth, because it is as if the left has learned nothing. Prior to Adam Smith, it was firmly believed that only a shared, top-down vision of the public good would hold society together. The idea that a much more robust order could be achieved by each person pursuing his private interests was literally inconceivable.

You may think that we have transcended cave man economics, but just look at the furor over gas prices. The push for a windfall profits tax is the expression of pure irrational envy. Economically, it would be entirely counterproductive and self-defeating. In the long run, it would actually create more envy. But that is beside the point. Leftist ideas are not rooted in external reality but internal reality. What is important is the emotional satisfaction that can be derived from them, not their actual consequences.

You know this is true because gas prices, adjusted for inflation, aren’t even that high--comparable to 1981. Nor are gas company profits out of line with other industries. Nor, needless to say, is there any furor over all of the thousands of commodities commodities and consumer goods that have come down in price--which they inevitably do--because of the incredible efficiency of our capitalist economy.

In other words, envious man only sees that which provokes his primordial envy. The rest of economic reality goes undetected.

Out of time again. To be continued.

Monday, May 15, 2006

The Left-Hand Path to God: The Mythological Appeal of Socialism

Dr. Sanity is in the midst of an important post about the societal impact of pathological narcissism. In it she touches on something I have been thinking about, which is the deep emotional structure of socialism, and why it is almost impossible to eradicate this meme from the collective psyche.

Dr. Sanity quotes Lee Harris of TCS Daily, who is one of the deepest thinkers in the blogosphere. His piece is entitled Why Isn’t Socialism Dead?:

“When Hernando de Soto asserts that capitalism is the only rational alternative left to mankind, he is maintaining that capitalism is the alternative that human beings ought to take because it is the rational thing to do. But what human beings ought to do and what they actually do are often two quite different things. For human beings frequently act quite irrationally, and without the least consideration of what economist called their ‘enlightened self-interest.' And it is in this light that we must approach the problem, 'Why isn't socialism dead?’

“.... It may well be that socialism isn't dead because socialism cannot die. As Sorel argued, the revolutionary myth may, like religion, continue to thrive in ‘the profounder regions of our mental life,’ in those realms unreachable by mere reason and argument, where even a hundred proofs of failure are insufficient to wean us from those primordial illusions that we so badly wish to be true. Who doesn't want to see the wicked and the arrogant put in their place? Who among the downtrodden and the dispossessed can fail to be stirred by the promise of a world in which all men are equal, and each has what he needs?

“Here we have the problem facing those who... believe that capitalism is the only rational alternative left after the disastrous collapse of so many socialist experiments. Yes, capitalism is the only rational method of proceeding; but is the mere appeal to reason sufficient to make the mass of men and women, especially among the poor and the rejected, shut their ears to those who promise them the socialist apocalypse, especially when the men who are making these promises possess charisma and glamour, and are willing to stand up, in revolutionary defiance, to their oppressors?

The Florentine statesman and thinker, Guicciardini, once remarked, “‘Never fight against religion... this concept has too much empire over the minds of men.’ And to the extent that socialism is a religion, then those who wish to fight it with mere reason and argument may well be in for a losing battle. Furthermore, as populism spreads, it is inevitable that the myth of socialism will gain in strength among the people who have the least cause to be happy with their place in the capitalist world-order, and who will naturally be overjoyed to put their faith in those who promise them a quick fix to their poverty and an end to their suffering.

“Thus, in the coming century, those who are advocates of capitalism may well find themselves confronted with ‘a myth gap.’ Those who, like Chavez, Morales, and Castro, are preaching the old time religion of socialism may well be able to tap into something deeper and more primordial than mere reason and argument, while those who advocate the more rational path of capitalism may find that they have few listeners among those they most need to reach -- namely, the People. Worse, in a populist democracy, the People have historically demonstrated a knack of picking as their leaders those know the best and most efficient way to by-pass their reason -- demagogues who can reach deep down to their primordial and, alas, often utterly irrational instincts. This, after all, has been the genius of every great populist leader of the past, as it is proving to be the genius of those populist leaders who are now springing up around the world, from Bolivia to Iran.”

Lee’s insight here is so profound that it is well worth pondering. It explains so much, and yet, gives us no guidance for how to solve the problem. This will presumably be Dr. Sanity’s job, as she continues her piece.

Let’s look at some of Harris’ premises:

--Capitalism is the only rational alternative left to mankind.

--What human beings ought to do and what they actually do are often two quite different things (which is at the heart of both psychoanalysis [i.e., unconscious motivations] and religion [i.e., the conscience]).

--Socialism partakes of a pre-logical unconscious, mythological power, which is the real reason it cannot die. A beautiful and appealing idea is no match for an unpleasant truth we wish to deny.

--You cannot eradicate religion with mere reason.

--Socialism has an innate mythological/emotional appeal that capitalism lacks.

The disturbing conclusion suggested by Harris is that capitalism, not socialism, is doomed if it cannot somehow bridge the “myth gap” between it and socialism.

As an aside, let me point out that for many months I had been inexplicably waking up at 4:00 or 4:30AM, allowing me to complete my posts before having to get ready for work in the morning. For whatever reason, that hasn’t been happening in the last few weeks. Instead, I’ve been sleeping until around 6:00, leaving much less time to devote to my posts.

Being that my body is the senior partner in our little enterprise, I always defer to its wishes. Back when I was in high school I didn’t have many goals, but one of them was to never, ever, under any circumstances, use an alarm clock. Amazingly, this dream has largely come true for me. If my body is not interested in blogging at the moment, I’m not going to force the issue.

So I'm almost out of time. To cut to the chase, I believe that Harris is on to an absolutely critical idea. It reminds me of how confused the modern world has become about sexuality. Men and women are clearly built very differently--cognitively, emotionally, even spiritually. To me, this is an utterly banal observation. But that is not what is taught in our institutes of higher learning. Rather, they teach the superstitious and mythological nonsense that men and women are identical. As such, this inevitably leads to misunderstanding and frustration.

So in order to change reality, we must first accept reality for what it is, whether we are talking about sexuality or about economics. And if, in the deep structure of our soul, we have very powerful socialistic motivations, then that is something we had better take very seriously, or else it is going to come back and bite us, just as we are going to run into relationship problems if we do not appreciate the differences between men and women.

Well, that’s all the time I have for this morning. I hope to flesh out my ideas about this dilemma in the next couple of days, if the flesh is willing. However, it appears that Dr. Sanity is being drawn into the orbit of the identical mental attractor I am, in which case my own efforts may be unnecessary. Like mankind, I can just remain asleep.

Theme Song

Theme Song