Likes or GTFO

I don’t know how to make appropriate use of social media.

It is obviously useful for sharing quick updates about yourself to people with whom you do not have regular contact. As someone who loathes speaking on the phone, I do appreciate this feature. I have seen people use it to make idle conversation, seek advice and rally support in times of need. There is something comforting about the idea that you can scan through the people you know and see who is doing well and who might need help of some kind. Perhaps that is just the system admin in me though – I recognize that this type of interaction does not really foster deeper relationships.

It is also a marketing tool that eavesdrops on your every conversation in an effort to neatly categorize you into groups which are likely to buy certain products – effectively reducing you to a product as well. I appreciate this feature less.

Potentially, it could function as an open forum. A virtual Agora – a great churning pool of perspectives into which ideas are cast, to be tested against the logic and insights of others.

In practical application, it largely functions as a place to have every opinion validated. There appears to be some sort of injunction against challenging an idea once it has been presented, lest you be regarded as a bully. Why?

Are we really so insecure that we can’t hear dissenting voices without interpreting it as an attack? Are we such children that any correction must be viewed as abuse or censorship? It is distressing that even a question about the origin of someone’s opinion or the suggestion of alternative explanations must be met with the petulant whine of “You’re just trying to look smarter than me”, or dismissively waved away with the assertion “You just like to argue.”

In fairness, it is difficult to hear something that contradicts a foundational belief. Especially if it is a foundational belief that I just publicly declared in a semi-belligerent sassy tone. When I feel that foundation being undermined, re-evaluating my beliefs is not my first priority, keeping my identity from crumbling is. To this end, my defense mechanisms leap to action, shielding my wounded ego from further injury.

This is a problem that comes about whenever you communicate at all, and is exacerbated by the removal of different aspects of communication that we perhaps take for granted. Face to face, you have so much more than words to convey meaning and intent. You have tone of voice, posture, fidgeting, eye contact. Probably even subtler cues that we do not consciously process, such as scent or complexion. On the phone, you still have tone of voice, but you miss visual cues. Bare text gives nothing away that isn’t stated explicitly. It is a blank slate practically begging someone to imprint emphasis and inflection. If you are far enough removed from person speaking, you can construct an entire personality around a comment. You get to construct the “voice” speaking to you.

And that voice matters. I submit an example:

will_smith_00_web redneck_ws_quote

First picture – that is solid, inspirational advice. I hear it in a smooth baritone that exudes calm self-assurance. He is famous for his work. Successful. The way the image is put together lends a sense of focus as well. Black and white picture with clean text. No unnecessary colors or serifs distracting you from your goals. This is clearly someone with his shit together, and is probably a reliable source of advice.

Second picture – I hear it in a more nasal voice. I think I started truncating the endings of the words as I read it. The text looks like it might have actually been carved into the image with a knife. I just feel like his shit is somewhat less together. I anticipate less success in his future. I’m looking at his setup, the way he presents himself and all the Alabama in that photo, and I’m thinking I shouldn’t listen to his advice1.

The point is that the perceived voice changes assumptions made about the speaker, such as intent, motivation and authority. I can change the understood meaning behind the words based on the sort of person that I imagine the speaker to be. If I can hear an opposing view in the voice of someone who I perceive as ignorant, bitter or just trying to be arbitrarily “mean”, they can be dismissed. If I tell myself that an argument has not been presented in good faith, I may feel less obligation to consider its validity.

I have been mulling this over because I often run afoul of people’s sensibilities with respect to the rules of polemic engagement. I ask questions which seem to get interpreted as judgmental, disrespectful or mean. This is not to imply that I have never been guilty of acts of intentional twattery, I just try not to make it my opening gambit. Most of the time, I intend nothing like that. Most of the time, I am genuinely bewildered or curious. Occasionally I believe I have spotted a discrepancy in logic and would like to understand either my mistake or yours. Sometimes I will call immediate bullshit, but typically I go out of my way to challenge a statement respectfully.

Given that we are susceptible to such influence, you can tweak the presentation of ideas to elicit a more favorable reaction by using a “pre-configured” voice. You consider the tone you wish to convey. Find a person most people would associate with that tone. Overlay their image with text to force your audience to queue up the voice that you feel most appropriately communicates your attitude. Or (to draw inspiration from others) generate a typographical device that performs a similar function.

So what I need to do is frame contentious observations with the image of someone who does not elicit defensiveness. Someone sort of egoless and eminently well-meaning.

datamark

Perfect.

You claim membership in a religion which instructs you to model your own behavior after that of a man who preached love, charity, humility and compassionate understanding of human frailties. However, you have expressed views both political and personal that seem to run contrary to your stated guiding principles. Would you explain this contradiction?

You have pinned your identity on membership in a particular subculture as a protest of the rules and restrictions present in mainstream society. However, in doing so you reject anything that does not conform to that subculture. Does this not make you just as insular and judgmental as the society from which you sought to distance yourself?

You claim that a public contradiction of your publicly expressed views constitutes censorship – an infringement upon your freedom of speech. However, challenging an opinion is not synonymous with suppressing that opinion, and so cannot rightly be called censorship. In fact, the concept of ‘freedom of speech’ was established largely to ensure that dissenting opinions and criticism could be freely expressed. In light of this, does it not seem that an attempt to exempt yourself from criticism is simply an attempt to censor your critics?

1I do not intend to disparage the intellectual capabilities of your average redneck engineer. It’s more the foresight and planning that is lacking. I have seen a number of ad hoc wonders come out of rural workshops. I have also seen electrocutions, explosions, burns and finger loss come out of same.
http://www.collegehumor.com/post/6872071/8-new-and-necessary-punctuation-marks”
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Areopagitica
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Politeness_theory
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agora
http://www.softpanorama.org/Social/Toxic_managers/Communication/negative_politeness.shtml

It’s a problem when you consider it a problem that I might not die in a car accident.

** EDIT **
I believe I misread the article, and as such this reaction was not really warranted. Next time I will try to wake up a bit more and have a cup of coffee before I begin my internet blathering.

Leaving it up as a note to self: I am not to be trusted.
** END EDIT **

If driverless cars save lives, where will we get organs?

You won’t get them.

By all means, work on the 3d printing thing. Bust out the stem cells. Figure out how to make mechanical replacements. Throw money and science and whatever else at the problem to get it solved. But don’t hold off on technology that will actually keep people from dying.

Isn’t this basically just saying we value the lives of people who need organs over the lives of people that the organs come from? Or is it just saying we’re already used to the problem as it is. We’re used to shrugging and saying “Car accidents, man. What’re you gonna do?”

We do this a lot. Where we have made our peace with a problem, grown comfortable with it and even found ways to benefit from it, we do not want interference. Because there’s a system in place now. If we change it, then we have to start working to figure out a different problem.

Problems are hard, and I had other shit planned to do today, you know?

It’s like when people say, “We can’t have solar and wind energy, it will put so many coal miner out of a job.” And then suddenly the push to have a safer way of obtaining energy and clean up our environment so we can continue living on the planet is a War on Coal.

Or, “We can’t legalize cannabis or end the War on Drugs in general because we’d have to fire some police, and departments would get less funding and there would be fewer prisoners to use as cheap labor, and . . .and stuff. Really important stuff would be . . . different.”

When you depend on the existence of a problem, you don’t want that problem solved. It’s one thing to try to make the best of a bad situation. But to deliberately prolong the bad situation so you can continue to derive the benefit is another thing altogether.

** WARNING: DIGRESSION IMMINENT **

While we’re on the topic, driverless cars won’t just affect people waiting for organs. It will affect insurance companies – fewer accidents and no way to place responsibility on any driver involved if one does occur. It will affect car manufacturing, because cars will be required to hold to totally different standards. Also, they might be the ones shouldering the insurance burden, if accidents would only happen because something in the car failed.

It will also affect police – fewer speeding tickets for one. Fewer reasons to stop people for another. Oh the car was driving erratically? Guess I’d better hang out and call AAA or whatever, thanks for the heads up, officer. No reason to pull me out and have me walk a line. No reason to have a look around in my car. Whatever was failing was not a result of my actions.

** Digression has passed. Please resume. **

Anyway, if we are so gung ho about holding off on life-saving technologies in an effort to save lives, what’s up with all these lazy assholes just laying around hospitals on life support. That’s basically an organ garden.

If these humans are animals, what stripped them of their humanity?

Cop Calls Ferguson Protesters ‘Fucking Animals’

People need to understand that we are all animals. We are domesticated, well trained animals that have (for the most part) learned to depend on and trust one another for the best chance at survival. This is a bargain we strike with each other, and it helps us quell the impulses that brought our more primitive ancestors success.

If you want me to keep to this bargain, you must also subdue your impulses. You cannot allow your fear of what I *might* do cause you to preemptively attack or restrict me. You must treat me as an equal. Through all the conditioning and socialization, I must still be able to find the path that sees at least my most basic needs met. I must not be abused. I must not live in fear. Otherwise I am cornered. And cornered animals tend to forget their training. They tend to snap and bite.

I’m not saying it’s right, I’m saying it’s what you can expect to happen.

This is not about R. Kelly

But let’s talk about R. Kelly for a minute.

Columbus is hosting a ‘thing’ called the Fashion Meets Music Festival (FMMF). The headliner for this event was meant to be R. Kelly. This did not sit well with several people in Columbus, so they became very . . . present in the lives of the people organizing, sponsoring, attending or otherwise involved with the event.

Bret Adams (who handled the booking) said there was no issue with R. Kelly as the headliner. Why? Not because he was acquitted – that was not the crux of Adams’ argument. Not because he believes in R. Kelly’s innocence. He saw no issue because it presented a good opportunity. Because, fame. Because, money.

Look at the things he says – the things he emphasizes. He is telling you exactly what he thinks is important.

Adams, a Columbus lawyer and sports/entertainment agent, didn’t see a problem in the booking of Kelly, acquitted in 2008 for child-pornography charges — and who last week made headlines for an unreleased music video with Lady Gaga whose racy storyline appeared to condone rape.

“This is one of the biggest R&B guys in the country,” Adams said. “The guy headlined Bonnaroo.” 1

“I don’t even think [Kelly’s inclusion] was a debate. We don’t have a national R&B act, and we wanted to fill that void, and he’s one of the best-selling artists of all time. Why wouldn’t we?” said FMMF cofounder Bret Adams. “He’s good national press for us and Columbus. He’s a nationally known name. He was not convicted of anything. He was acquitted. If we wanted to limit our artists to people who never had brushes with the law or were not good people, then you can eliminate quite a few across the board. We’re running a festival to help brand the city of Columbus. We’re not the morality police.”2

And then he starts telling you who he thinks is important.

“[If] somebody from O.A.R. or Michelle Williams — who just retweeted all our stuff — or any of our headliners had an issue with it, then I may take a look at it,” Adams said. “Every artist is entitled to their opinion about performers [on the bill]. We feel differently about it. He was a great catch for a first year festival that had no track record, and we’re going to put him in Nationwide Arena.”2

So what he is saying is essentially that the guy is too famous to pass up. The fact that he fucks young girls and pisses on them for sexual gratification is irrelevant. But just in case the details of his past are bothersome to you, remember that he was acquitted (despite the giant pile of evidence), so technically, it’s ok.

He attempts to validate his reprehensible opinion with the fact that some celebrities retweet information about the festival, and he’s not changing his mind until someone that matters (hint: not you) takes issue.

This guy represents way too much of humanity.

As a society, we let the rich and famous slide. People who are well known and have a lot of money do not go to jail – they pay fines and settlements. Why?

Well, in the case of entertainers, imprisonment means someone is losing money – record labels, publishers and studios are motivated to keep their meal tickets out of trouble. Maybe we do that too. It could be that we are considering them not in terms of a person with accountability, but rather in terms of their value to us. If a celebrity goes to jail, they are not amusing me, and I might miss that.

But I think a part of it is that there is some understanding – we all want something that is inappropriate to want. Unfulfilled desire is the nourishment of fantasy. And though we might not act on those desires, most people don’t really ever let them go, either. Nor admit to them. Instead, we quietly imagine scenarios in which we get everything just as we wish. We fantasize about what it would be like to exist with no rules.

I think we like believing that there is some situation that lets us us have that. Some measure of accomplishment or power or status that exempts us from the rules, that lays out all the world before us like a buffet and says Here, enjoy without restriction. It’s what you worked for, and you have arrived. You have earned this. The average person typically feels exceptional anyway.

Rejecting transgressors, telling them that they are bad and wrong, and that there are limits to what wealth can get you out of is also telling ourselves that there are limits. We don’t want hard limits. Even if we rationally know we’ll never have that kind of wealth, it may simply be too painful to openly admit that some things shouldn’t be reduced to a monetary value.

To exist with other people, you must always consider the rights of other people. End of story. You will literally never have a break from it. This fact frustrates your id to no end, and it desperately searches for loopholes and exceptions. It hates being told no. However, the more advanced parts of the brain (aka super-ego) are usually able to convince it that compromise is the way to go – so long as everything is fair. It is easier to quiet your urges when you look around and see equality. When you have a comfortable life coupled with a solid understanding that those comforts are provided by mutual compromise, things can be stable. Any discrepancy, however, demands an explanation. Once the id has been told that there is a path that sets it free, it is done with compromise. It applies all the pressure it can muster to bring the whole mind into its service.

And that is what wealth does. It promises a place above everyone else. It says “You could have a little more, if only you were a little better.”

There are a couple of issues with this. The first is that it leads to thinking “Since I have more, I must be better. However I came by this wealth, it must mean that I am better.” Not lucky. Not selfish. Better.

Wealth is alienating because it sets you above everyone else. Looking around and finding no other like yourself, it seems unreasonable that their rules should also apply to you. That would imply that they are the same as you, which is clearly not possible. If they were your equals, they would have found a way to become wealthy too. You can’t really be blamed for taking more if you yourself are . . . more.

The second is that, given a limited pool of resources, one person having a little more usually means someone else must have a little less. No matter how well the entire group does, demanding a larger piece for me also demands a smaller one for everyone else. If the wealth of a few people grows unchecked, eventually, they don’t leave enough for everyone to survive. So now everyone else is scrambling to make ends meet. And some will. But because there isn’t really enough to go around now, some people are impoverished.

Poverty puts people in survival mode. It makes us desperate. To those who are making ends meet, desperation is unsettling. Desperation makes pride a luxury. It makes people discard politeness and actually ask – or even beg – for help. But the class of not quite poor, but not quite rich folks – let’s call them the middle class – are comparing themselves to the rich, so they feel poor too. Everyone is now clinging a little more tightly to what they have.

Poverty, like wealth, is alienating. Looking around, you find so many with advantages (not being poor) that you lack. You don’t really see a way out of your situation or how you got into it, but you know everyone thinks you are poor because you are lazy drug addict or a welfare queen. Wealthy and middle class alike see you as a little bit less – perhaps you begin to internalize this and see yourself that way too.

People who have great need and a lowered opinion of themselves become a little more pliable than a person who lives in comfort and has a higher sense of self worth. A middle class person with comfort and a fear of losing it is a little more pliable than a comfortable person with no fear.

Here we see what wealth is. It is not just having plenty. It is having control. The point of wealth is to remove the word ‘no’ from the vocabulary of others. To bring other human beings into your service. To make their effort and sacrifice count more toward your indulgence than toward their survival.

So we say it is ok to let a celebrity rape and then offer a settlement rather than be made to face the same penalty a poor person would. And when we do that, we confirm that they are better than us. They must be, if even those beneath them will acknowledge that it is so. As far as he is concerned, he faced no penalty. Paying a million dollars for fucking a thirteen year old girl is not a penalty to him. It is a transaction.

These are the people we celebrate in America, while raging at the poor for feeling so entitled.

1http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/life_and_entertainment/2014/06/25/Music-Fashion-fest.html
2http://www.columbusalive.com/content/blogs/thelatest/2014/06/fashion-meets-music-headliners-announced.html

http://www.billboard.com/articles/news/75529/r-kelly-indicted-on-child-pornography-charges
http://blogs.villagevoice.com/music/2013/12/read_the_stomac.php
http://www.slate.com/blogs/xx_factor/2013/12/16/sexual_assault_allegations_against_r_kelly_now_online_thanks_to_jim_derogatis.html
http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/culturebox/2008/06/long_live_the_little_man_defense.html
http://abcnews.go.com/TheLaw/story?id=5065392
http://www.businessinsider.com/r-kelly-sexual-assault-details-2013-12
http://www.mtv.com/bands/r/r_kelly/news_feature_051304/
http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/local/2014/07/28/kelly-canceled.html
http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/bering-in-mind/2010/08/17/oedipus-complex-2-0-like-it-or-not-parents-shape-their-childrens-sexual-preferences/
http://aspe.hhs.gov/hsp/11/adolescentsexualactivity/newmedialitrev/index.shtml
http://www.avert.org/age-sexual-consent.htm

I don’t have all day to feel good.

Sometimes I read something that provokes the “Yes, THIS. This exactly.” response.

Today’s example: This Is Why Poor People’s Bad Decisions Make Perfect Sense

For the record, this is not about removing accountability from people. People must know the consequences of their actions, if for no other reason than feedback makes it possible to learn from a mistake. Experiencing the fallout of a bad decision is part of what helps me grow as a person – to be less selfish, and better able to deal with less than ideal conditions. Indeed, some people cannot cope with what most would consider mild stressors because they have never been permitted to own the responsibility for or consequences of their actions.

However, I also can’t learn from my mistakes if I have no time to mentally regroup and reflect. And what good is it to learn from my mistakes if I can see no other options? I think we cling so hard to this notion of “deserve”, because it makes us feel more comfortable when confronted with the suffering of another person.

Excessive stress makes it harder to make good decisions.
Under stress, I might make decisions which benefit me, but negatively impact everyone else. In this case, people might assume that I am not a very good person. Under stress, I might make decisions that are good for me in the moment, but extremely detrimental to me in the long run. In this case, people might assume that I am not a very smart person. Neither of these things is necessarily true. A person that is under extreme stress often cannot connect their actions to impact. They are overloaded with things constantly pulling their attention to the present moment.

The brain is a machine with limited resources.
The resources in your brain are limited, but also very flexible. In a given time period, you can use those resources to think about a few things deeply, or many more things shallowly.

In times of low stress, most of your resources are available to think through individual actions, and understand the long-reaching impact of your decisions. You can think about a candidate solution to a problem, consider how thoroughly it solves the problem and then consider the potential side-effects of that solution. Having considered the side effects, you can make a judgement call as to whether or not the consequences are acceptable. You can double check for another solution. If there are no better solutions, you can make a plan for how to handle the negative consequences. You can prepare.

In times of extreme stress – when you have many immediate things that are pressing for your attention with the same effective urgency – your brain draws back from its focused approach and begins a more breadth oriented approach. You alleviate the most pressing problems in the way that most immediately presents itself. Since you know that there are maybe a dozen other things that must be dealt with now, you can probably only account for obvious, short term consequences. You can’t really consider the consequences of any one action more than a couple of steps out, because you have already started reacting to the next thing that is happening now.

The brain is a machine that prioritizes based on immediacy.
The brain wants to deal with now first. It would actually prefer to only ever deal with now, but it contains a sophisticated modeling system called the imagination that generates “what if?” scenarios. Under ideal circumstances, this allows us to examine in detail every decision’s potential outcome before taking any action.

The main problem with this is that it only works when you don’t have something of a higher perceived immediacy to deal with.

For example, suppose you need to conserve water for some reason. You start making a schedule for how much you can use per day for what purpose. You feel a little thirsty, but you just had a ration, so you know you are fine and you do not act on the impulse to drink. You are very disciplined – right up until the point you notice your hands are on fire. In this case, your brain starts checking over its prioritization rules and sending the message “I know we don’t want to die of thirst, but it also seems kind of important to not be on fire. Executive decision time.” And before you even realize what you are doing, you have upended a container of precious potable fluid onto your now steaming meat stumps.

The brain does not like to go looking for trouble.
If I have found an action that reduces my stress now, and that action does not present any obvious problems, my brain is going to react like the lazy asshole it is, and say “Whoa, whoa, whoa. Stop. Right. There. We got the solution, why are you still mulling this over? If you keep thinking about this, then we have to . . . keep thinking about this. You are trying to figure out how your actions will impact tomorrow? What is that even? Is it code for ‘not my fucking problem’? Because that’s what it sounds like from in here.”

Your brain means well. It just wants to protect you. Only you. Specifically, only what it understands as you – and until it understands different, all that means is you, in your current state, right at this moment. Not the world. Not your family. Not your immediate surroundings. Not your future. You.

But if your brain can’t be bothered to look two goddamn minutes into the future for the sake of your continued well-being, what is it actually protecting?

It all comes down to feelings.
Strictly speaking, what your brain is protecting is your sense of well-being. Which is to say, how you feel about your situation, rather than the reality of it. Ideally, the two would be in sync, but for most of us, most of the time, it is not.

Why does it work this way? Because sometimes reality leaves you not feeling so good, and your brain is trying to maintain at least a balance between good and bad feelings. It is trying to reconcile all the data it has stored up in such a way that you are left feeling as good as possible. It likes pointing you to simple pleasures whenever it can – those go-to, low effort actions that promise to give a brief but certain good feeling. They don’t require work or stress or patience or any of that not-feeling-good bullshit that you are trying to get out from under. Simple pleasures get the job done.

Your brain can be convinced to put off feeling good for a little while – so long as it con be reasonably confident of a payoff, and isn’t made to feel too bad in the interim. But as soon as things start going south, it retreats back to the safety of what it knows and files the whole “delayed gratification” notion under “things which are probably bullshit”.

As your stress level rises – as the problems pile on and you become more and more uncertain as to what you need to do to fix them (or even what should be addressed first), you become less able to cope with any one thing. Those quick fixes become crucial – a last ditch coping strategy.

The problem with this though, is that those simple pleasures can become a crutch, and you may get locked into behavior that is ultimately detrimental over the long term. You get used to it. Which makes it hurt all the more when someone tries to take it away from you by indicating that you should stop. This is why I think it is so important to at least offer understanding. Which is not to say that you need to tell them that everything they are doing is fine and they have no reason to change. It can be as simple as letting them vent without immediately leaping to judge. Humans derive a degree of benefit from the knowledge that someone cares about their situation – that they are not simply disappearing.

This won’t necessarily work for everyone or every situation, I am fully aware of that. But it does seem a little more constructive than simply tossing out “It’s your own fault.” Honestly, I can’t believe that’s ever intended to do more than bolster the ego of the person saying it.

http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/mining/UserFiles/works/pdfs/jadmus.pdf
http://healthland.time.com/2012/03/05/decision-making-under-stress-the-brain-remembers-rewards-forgets-punishments/
http://www.forensicmag.com/articles/2013/10/stress-and-decision-making-avoid-expensive-mistakes#.UpN8B8SkqJk

Even the son of god cannot withstand the debilitating effects of low blood sugar.

If at any time you begin to feel that the perfection of Jesus makes him difficult to identify with on a human level, you should remember that one time he had a hunger induced mood swing that was so bad he started yelling at a tree in front of his disciples.

18 Now in the morning as he returned into the city, he hungered. 19 And when he saw a fig tree in the way, he came to it, and found nothing thereon, but leaves only, and said unto it, Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward for ever. And presently the fig tree withered away.
– Matthew 21:18-19 (King James Version)

** EDIT – relevant**
httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A9vTUTPmQbs

We are made of parts.

A “self” or “soul” is simply the name we give to the point of attention which reflects upon our environment. It is one example of a thing that comes to exist only when things of a particular type come together as a unified whole.

We can understand this idea to an extent by looking at structures and machines. However, many people dislike the comparison to a common physical thing, because it violates the sense that there must be something else involved . . . some intangible “more” that we require when considering ourselves. I mean, certainly we understand a house is a different thing than a pile of construction materials, but I think what we’re after is the more elusive notion of home that often accompanies the physical structure.

So it seems reasonable to attempt to understand this idea by considering similarly intangible things that arise from component parts – like organizational affiliations. Or even individual relationships. Whenever multiple people with some understanding between them exist together, there arises a new sort of . . thing that is not present when you have only the component parts. It is an abstract, ethereal thing, but people acknowledge its presence nontheless. It alters perception and changes behaviour. Consider a military force. Or Anonymous. Or Microsoft. Or this:

“For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”
– Matthew 18:20, 1769 Oxford King James Bible “Authorized Version”

Any organized group exists as an active entity only so long as there exist members of said group who perceive through the filter of that group’s motivation and act in its name. When these factors are in place, that group could be said to have agency1 – it can take an intentional action to effect change in its environment. It can also internalize feedback from its environment to alter itself – in this sense, a degree of reflexivity is also present. When those things fall away, the entity which emerged in their union is dissolved.

Similarly when the required components for consciousness fall away, so too does the capacity for experience and change on behalf of the unified entity to which we refer as a person.

The nature of what I consider “me” resides at the intersection of my biology and my experiences2. I am a composition of these things, which form a sort of lens through which my “point of attention” continues to perceive. That lens is tinted a particular shade that filters the “unnecessary” and highlights the “interesting”. It has a curvature which distorts the shape of reality into an image that makes sense to me. It provides a working view of the environment, but has inherent limitations based on material and design.

My biology and experiences working in concert determine my perception of the world and the direction my thoughts will take. I perceive and interpret. I connect concepts together. I build a model of the world in my mind. I run simulations. I understand. I use that understanding to interpret my next set of experiences.

If my accumulated experiences were somehow separated from my body – if the pattern representing my current understanding of the world could be taken as a snapshot and extracted (erased) from my mind – the entity that I am would cease to be. I would not exist in the body, which no longer contains any echo of my life. Neither would I exist in the extracted pattern3, as it lacks a substrate on which any further processing can occur.

Caution: A wild speculation appears!

Emergent consciousness is not really conducive to embracing the most commonly understood notions about life after death. However, I must concede that it doesn’t strictly rule out the idea that you might sort of . . . re-emerge into existence. If there were a new consciousness that came into being whose initial state synced with your final conscious state, it might be a bit like picking up where you left off. Just without all the memories cluttering everything up.

As I understand it, that is pretty much what happens when we sleep anyway, except our memories are still there when we wake. I imagine this is what provokes the feeling of continuity when considering your own existence, even though technically speaking you are a slightly different person because you have been re-wiring your brain all night. You are not exactly who you were the night before, but you are close enough that the brain has little trouble reconciling the two “snapshots” into one consistent image.

I think this is essentially how object permanence and categorization are possible. The brain doesn’t bother with exactness, and that gives us the ability to establish sameness between things based on a couple of key criteria, rather than needing them to match precisely.

And this is maybe why we can understand things via metaphor too?



1Is it conscious? I don’t know really, because whatever that new entity is, it isn’t the same as [my understanding of] a person, it just has analogous properties.
2Though technically speaking, I suppose you could view all of your biology as representing the experiences of your ancestors – in which case you could say that everything that you are is accumulated experience. However, you could also acknowledge that everything you experience is ultimately goverened by your biological reactions to external events. Your personality began to form on the basis of your initial impressions, which are rooted in physical reactions. In which case you are a biological byproduct.
3At least no more than I would exist as an image in a photograph, or a recording of my voice.

We understand outward.

A few months ago, we were watching a documentary called Moog – about the guy that created Moog synthesizers.

At one point the guy is talking about golf and wonders how someone gets to the point where something like a golf club is felt as an extension of the golfer’s own arm. It struck me that it must happen in the same way that a person comes to understand their arm is a part of their own body. They simply develop an awareness of it in terms of relationship to the body, sensation and intent.

Again comes down to self/environment dichotomy rather than body/environment dichotomy. Body is just very localized environment. It is the first thing perceived, and so is the first layer of “self”. Since it develops so early on, it becomes rather intimately linked with my notion of what *I* am.

Whore’s Uniform

This is not about all men. This is about men given to a particular kind of attitude toward women.

I think this is something that stuck with me, because the first time I saw it, I thought he had a point. Because I thought it was a good point, I shared it with others. In the process of doing that, I realized how stupid it is.



Yes, I realize this was a bit of standup comedy, and maybe I shouldn’t take it so seriously. However, part of what makes comedy good is the commentary it provides – a keen sense of the difference between the way society tends to understand things and the way things actually are. It is a way of understanding things from a different perspective. In this case, it seems like a perspective that makes a very comfortable transition to the one held by this guy – The Death of Pretty.

The whole concept of a “whore’s uniform” is basically bullshit, because the definition of whore’s uniform is dependent on factors ranging from the overall existing standard to the personal tastes of the individual making an evaluation. Now, I think what these two men are trying to describe is something along these lines:

wu04

But maybe they meant this:

wu06

So the problem is essentially this:

If the standard is a skirt that just hits the top of your knees, a miniskirt marks you as a whore.
If the standard is ankle length skirts, a skirt that stops at mid-calf marks you as a whore.
If the standard is a burqa . . . well, you can probably see where I’m going with this by now.

If you didn’t find that very useful, I made this non-intuitive graphic to help.

HOOOOOOOERS

The brain is (in part at least) a comparison engine. It is tuned for noticing differences. When something is different – when it stands out against a backdrop of uniformity, we want to examine it. We want to know what the significance of that difference is. We want to know what it means.

Meaning is important to us – it is how we learn to interpret and navigate the world. It is also how we reconcile our impulses with the world.

You are born into the world wanting things. The world abruptly begins to tell you which wants are ok, and where and when it is permissible to satisfy them. This is important to us, because we are conditioned to be social creatures. We look for social cues from others of our own kind to let us understand how to satisfy our urges without stepping on someone else’s toes and getting banished from the village.

However, the impulses we have do not self-regulate. The old wyrm coiled at the center of your brain does not want its fair share. It just wants. Forever. So you reign it in most of the time, while keeping an eye out for when it it’s ok to  . . . indulge.  We are always looking for the special occasion – the little mini-vacation from dealing with the stress of considering others. When is ok to eat or drink to satiety? When is it ok sleep in? When is it ok to not work? When is it ok to express the fullness of my emotional state?

What situation makes it ok to see to my urges without bothering about how other people feel about it?

Sexual urges are no different – except in this case, you are not merely using up resources, such that another person cannot use them. You are not merely burdening someone else with an unfair share of work. You are using a person directly as the resource which satisfies your urges.

I get the impression that the difficulty some men have with women is inability to reconcile then notion of a woman as a person with rights, and the feeling of a woman as a resource capable of satisfying an urge1. If a man has strong sexual urges towards women, and also understands that you must generally respect the wishes of other people, then he is likely to try to find the situation where a woman can be considered not in terms of her person-nature, but in terms of her resource-nature. When is she saying that she is not to be respected as a person? What signal can I look for that tells me I am free to indulge.

Restrictive dress standards do not exist to protect women from objectification. They exist to protect the right of men to objectify some women.

Suppose you are an average male who is attracted to women. Let’s suppose also, that you have something in your system of beliefs that causes you to have a negative attitude about sex. Like you think sex is really bad, or something terrible will happen to you for wanting it or thinking about it. You are still subject to these desires even though you also feel that it is bad. You may feel a twinge of anger directed at the perceived source of your frustrations. Around that same time, your mind is furiously working out a way to relieve the stress your body is under in a way that won’t provoke so much cognitive dissonance that your mind breaks. You probably begin to see all the little ways in which females must be intentionally trying to manipulate you into feeling this way. And what right does she have to make you feel this way, after all, without expecting anything to happen to her? Why should she be so powerful?

Designating someone else as not deserving of respect is a psychological get out of jail free card for people like this. It is a way to carve out a place in both the mind and society where it is safe and acceptable to feel what they are feeling without the negative emotional state that occurs when you have the sense that you have done something wrong. The more restrictive the standard, the greater freedom there is for a man to interpret a garment (or lack thereof) as an invitation to use her as a resource, rather than respect her as a person. It makes it feel like the woman has given consent simply by not adhering to the standard. Or it removes a man’s sense of guilt because he was provoked into a reaction that “couldn’t be helped”2.

And if you feel that all of the above is reasonable, again, do be aware that interpretations vary on what slutty is.



 
 

 

 

1I also get the very strong impression that, when these sorts of men say that women have too much power, they are referring at least in part to resource control. As in, women (people) have too much control over women (resource).
2This probably also explains a lot of the homophobia that seems prevalent within the same demographic. Not just the dudes who hate the object of their own closeted desires either. Some straight dudes just have a very violent reaction to being evaluated (sexually speaking) by another dude. I suspect that the reason may lay in their own understanding of the weight of the male gaze. There is an implicit moral judgement within it. As if a gay man is saying “I am looking at you because you have done something wrong, and because it’s your own fault, I can use you.”
But honestly, wtf do I know. I have a vagina.
I obviously pulled a bunch of pictures and shit from the internet, so I don’t want to claim them as my own. However, I forget where I got most of them, so I will just credit Internet.