tijaco

a view of the world

There is something about addiction that intrigues me. We can get addicted to any number of substances or actions. But are we really addicted to the substance or action itself, or are we just trying to connect with something? Some addictions can be great when maintained. Being addicted to a job that you enjoy. Being addicted to keeping a good sleep schedule. Being addicted to eating healthy food. Being addicted to giving back in your community. We don’t call these addictions because they are good. Addiction has a negative connotation that doesn’t make sense in these contexts. Perhaps this says something about humans’ insistence that things should be better than they are – a kind of growth gene that we all share.

And in this case, is an addiction really some series of mental hooks in the brain or is it simply the sum of our routines? To use an analogy from psychedelics researcher Robin Carhart-Harris, as we create a habit for something it is as if we are sliding down the same ski slope time and again. Over time, we find it more and more difficult to take a different path because we tend to fall back into the same groove. And so, the question should be asked, are the mental hooks that seem apparent in each of these substances real, or simply just a product of our habit being maintained?

Then, there is the connection theory that is offered by Johann Hari in both his books ‘Chasing the Scream’ and ‘Lost Connections’. In these books, examples were offered showing that, in many cases, excessive drug use and even depression and anxiety can be sourced back to a loss of connection in that person’s life. This lack of connection most often came from the lack of a cohesive and supportive community. In an overworked and underpaid society, many of these problems can be traced back to neoliberal policies and a failed political structure.

As is the case with many issues, once we deconstruct addiction, it seems far less complex. And as is with many issues, the solutions revolve around poverty and education.

Should we offer every person a solid start to life, there is no doubt in my mind that addiction would drastically decrease. If we offer people good, critically minded education, they can go on to solve the relevant problems of their world.

It seems fitting to invoke the saying: “If you show a man how to fish, you’ll feed him for a day. If you teach him to fish, you’ll feed him for a lifetime.”

Our society barely shows people how to fish. The society in which I want to live gives people a fishing rod, teaches them how to fish and at the same time makes sure they wouldn’t starve if they fail.

This is a big ol’ block of ranting text. Who needs paragraphs anyway?

There seems to be room for an independent media revolution. I am convinced that people are so disenfranchised with the mainstream media and sick of the lack of substance that they are ready to divert their eyes to more authentic sources. There seems to be a move towards authenticity in our media in general, at least in some parts of the internet. Perhaps rather than a move towards authenticity, instead a platform has been created for authenticity such that now we at least have the option for authentic content. People willing to say things that would never be allowed on mainstream media are being platformed and are growing strongly. At the same time, this creates bubbles throughout the internet, and it creates some diversity of opinion. It is more about the approach that people take to these ideas and whether they hold them as absolutes or instead see them critically, using the merits and discarding the faults. If you hold these new ideas as absolutes, bubbles will be created. If you see these ideas critically and maintain your curiosity, you won’t see these bubbles created. Instead, you will find yourself more informed and able to grapple with these ideas in ways that generations before you never had the opportunity for. In this way, I guess we are at a fork in the road. With the volume and diversity of opinions on the internet, we can either become more concretely divided than we ever have before, or we can become more connected and allow the best ideas to float to the top. I have hope that the latter will come true, but seeing the conversations often had on Twitter, in YouTube comments or on Facebook makes me despair that this future is not possible. And it’s probably not our fault, as a generation. We were never properly taught how to critically think about these things. We were never taught to tease out the good ideas from an argument and to understand the faults of the bad ideas. Instead, we were trained for the environment that we inhabit. We live in a world where the vast majority of jobs, rather than requiring critical thinking and creativity, instead require the ability to follow orders. This is simply the structure of our corporate tyrannies. In this way, it is barely the fault of the educators – they were simply doing their job. There is a real debate to have over whether anyone truly understands how the system works. Perhaps even those at the top were just a product of their environment. Perhaps not even they understand the implications that their massive corporations have on the fabric of our society, the way our schools are run, the way our media works and the way our people work. Regardless of whether there are any competent, evil people at the top who are conscious of the whole system, the solution is the same – independent media. The reality in any empire is that the physical might of the majority could easily overwhelm the power of the minority if it were organised and motivated enough. In order to subjugate the majority, the powerful minority require shared fictions to justify their power. The treatment of the budget like a household is one of these shared fictions. Another is the assumption that corporations need to be operated as effective tyrannies. Yet another is the idea that our media landscape is healthy. While believing in these fictions, it is difficult for the disempowered majority to find the motivation to overwhelm the otherwise unjustified power of the minority. In order to dismantle these fictions and offer some semblance of motivation and organisation to this subjugated majority, we require a healthy independent media landscape that is investigative and critical of the powers that be. Should this be present, the system as we know it collapses. An independent media landscape would dismantle these fictions and communicate how easily a better nation could be created. But so long as the mainstream media maintains control, there is no hope for substantial change. And we must be pragmatic in the intervening period between now and the point at which independent media holds enough control to influence elections. I am as idealistic as anyone, but there is a difference between being idealistic and being absolutist. Being an absolutist is as effective as it is attractive. The bubbles that seem to be created on social media are a stain on our democracy. And yet they are extremely profitable. As with many things, it’s quite easy to see why they are created – money for corporations. Advertisements sold, products sold, everyone winning out except the consumers of the useless products and information. Not to be an absolutist about this subject – there is certainly value in social media when used well. My job is made far easier with the presence of substantiative social media commentary. But this commentary usually requires a search rather than a scroll. More to come.

There are some things that I study that almost make me feel like I am going insane. The propaganda in the West is far stronger than I had ever thought. This shines through with the issue of China. The Western media is so strong with the narrative that China is an evil, expansionist force that treats its citizens with disdain. This is as Orwellian as it gets. Not only is there no evidence that it is evil or expansionist, there is plenty of evidence that China treats its citizens far better than the West treats its own. But this story could not be told in the Western media. Not only can anything positive about China be expressed on Western media, but there is no opportunity for a balanced view. This is one of a few areas in which I explore and come to realise that there really are some strong forces at play, keeping the public from understanding the truth. If I am some unemployed dude with a laptop and I can figure this out, it is a wonder that more people haven’t. It’s a wonder that the propaganda model is so effective. It’s incredible.

The other point in time that I came to this realisation that there are strong forces at play, keeping the masses from understanding the truth was when I learned about how the economy really works for a country with a sovereign currency. By reading The Deficit Myth by Stephanie Kelton, I began to realise that, if a country with a sovereign currency like Australia wanted to run at optimum productivity, there is nothing stopping it. Any competent economic manager, given enough power, could turn Australia into a productivity powerhouse compared to how it now operates. This would be fantastic for Australia’s working class. In this situation, they would all have a job and they would all receive a decent wage with a decent amount of disposable income. In this way, the economy would improve drastically. But who wouldn’t this ideal scenario be good for in the short-term? Those in power.

There are these forces that keep the working class from finding out the truth – the main two being the education system and the media. I do believe that if enough people were to properly understand how these things worked, the status quo simply wouldn’t be allowed to operate. The incompetent leaders would be voted out at the next election or would never have been elected in the first place.

We wouldn’t have essential industries like aged care privatised and subject to the free market. We wouldn’t have mining, oil and gas cartels exploiting our natural resources. We would have a population that could think critically, that could see through all of the distractions that corporations provide us with.

With a critically thinking population, there would be far more opportunity for unions to gain power in corporations. Eventually, given that everyone is critically educated, I am convinced that cooperatives would be formed rather than corporations. Democracy would finally come to the workplace.

The media wouldn’t be as incompetent as it is today. It would look incredibly different. Rather than being subject to the forces of the biggest corporations, lobby groups and government bodies, the media could finally be independent. Laws would soon be passed such that the legacy methods of providing the news would be long gone.

All of this is idealistic. All of this seems an extremely long way away. But the purpose of this piece was to discuss why we can’t have all of these things. And the reason for that is these corporations. These corporate tyrannies are incentivised to keep the population stupid, obedient and distracted. And they are succeeding. They are succeeding to an alarming extent. It’s at a point now where I am not sure that even the leaders themselves are aware of what is going on. Perhaps they are just products of the system. If this was the case, rather than their being willing agents, you would think it easier to change things. But the system is self-insulating. The one who questions the narrative is automatically an outcast, a traitor or a crazy conspiracy theorist.

And so, I am brought back to the case of China. In particular, the case of Xinjiang. With seemingly the entire Western world convinced that China is evil, that a cultural genocide is taking place, and I am really not convinced. I guess I will keep searching for evidence, and try to prove to myself that the West hasn’t gone completely insane.

could I have chosen three more varied topics?

On my walks today, there were many different thoughts that came across my mind. I am going to discuss each of them quickly.

First is based on the neglect of the aged care sector, and ultimately the elderly themselves. Our response to this COVID-19 pandemic has been nothing short of extraordinary. As a society, we have cooperated extremely well to attempt to mitigate the spread of this virus. For the most part, we were not doing it for ourselves. Instead, we were doing it for the elderly. We have stopped our entire economy because of a virus which might wipe out up to 20% of the elderly. This is completely necessary, and I am not criticising it at all. But it is curious that we are willing to bring our entire economy to a halt for COVID-19, while at the same time neglecting those people that we are supposedly doing it for. In terms of community cooperation, why has there been no movement towards fixing the aged care sector such that the aged aren’t tortured in these facilities? There’s a strong argument that it is causing far more suffering to far more of the aged than COVID-19 ever could have. Looking into the goings on of the aged care sector has to be one of the most confronting things I have ever researched, and I just wish it was treated with the same urgency than a virus.

Next, I had a thought relating to the book I am reading at the moment called ‘Why Him? Why Her’ by Helen Fisher. It is a relationship psychology book in which she categorises people in two four separate categories based on the dominance of the neurochemicals dopamine, serotonin, testosterone and estrogen. She labels these personalities as explorers, builders, directors and negotiators respectively. She then surmises that explorers are best matched with other explorers, builders with other builders and directors with negotiators. But upon reflection, I thought about how this was a kind of oedipal process in that my reading of this book will make me search for people who are negotiators (I am predominately a director). It is a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy once you have the knowledge. This doesn’t denigrate the research that Fisher has done – the point is to be able to predict these things without the subjects previously having the knowledge. But it does speak to the power of belief. And this connects to countless self-help concepts which are based on the same concept – that you can almost always believe something into being. For example, if I believe that I will be a famed writer by the age of 25, I far more likely to take actions that propel me to fulfil that prophecy.

The final thought that I will discuss here is one about psychedelics. I attempted to explain my experience to a friend the other day, and my efforts proved mostly futile. Today, I found a far better way to conceptualise it. It’s similar to the analogy of skiing down ski slopes with a new coat of powder, but it seems to be more than that. The way I conceptualise it now is to think about how the brain likes to take shortcuts for efficiency. For example, you don’t really think about how you tie your shoes anymore. Each morning, you just do it and it is automatic. This is the same with taking a walk in a very familiar neighbourhood. You don’t notice things because you have seen them before. Even in an unfamiliar neighbourhood, there are things that you won’t notice because your brain has noted them as irrelevant. Things like the reflection of a tree in the window of a house. The way that the sun hits the side of a building. The colour of a pink fence and how it matches the wall of a building three houses down the road. These are things that the brain has taken shortcuts around and as such you don’t notice them in your everyday life. But taking psychedelics seems to, as if given a fresh coat of powder on the slopes, allow you to notice them again. But it is not as if you are seeing the world for the first time, because your memory isn’t affected in any way. Instead, there is just some shortcuts that no longer get taken, which allows you to notice seemingly irrelevant things that you wouldn’t have noticed before. Whether or not it is a valuable thing is whatever you make of it. But it doesn’t seem to go away. It’s been weeks since my experience, and just today I started experiencing this renewed sense of awareness of things I wouldn’t otherwise notice. I don’t experience it every day, but it is enough to notice.

Anyway, those were my three main thoughts today. I also was trying to wrap my head around the situation in Xinjiang, but I am sure I’ll write on that soon.

Note: This rant got crazy, especially talking about private banks and why they exist. I fully reserve the right to go back on these comments completely and provide a more nuanced understanding of how our economy works lol.

I went for a walk today and was thinking about economics. I have read two books recently that have really got me thinking about economics and how best to run an economy. It is always good to have ideas of what your ideal world would look like so that you can shift the world incrementally towards that picture. Some of the ideas I thought about would require huge structural changes to the way we think about society, and I appreciate that there is no changing everything all at once even in a revolution, but these are some of the ideas that I think would be present in my ideal society.

This began with some thinking about banks. I was reading Talking to My Daughter by Yanis Varoufakis, and he explained that banks, whether they be a market bank like Commonwealth or the state bank like the Reserve Bank of Australia, virtually create money out of thin air. The way that private banks operate is that they are supposed to keep a certain level of real reserves in their vaults, but so long as they are banking responsibly, they can loan someone any amount of money and create that money by pressing keys on a keyboard in the bank. This is a jarring idea – at least, it was for me – and while I had heard it before, it got me thinking about money really is and what value really is.

My train of thinking was a little weird, but my first thought was: if banks can conjure money out of thin air and loan it to people, why don’t they just do that for their bankers’ wages and never charge their customers any interest? See, it seems that one of the biggest ‘real’ money makers for banks is the interest that its customers pays on their loans. That interest can then be used by the bank to pay its bankers’ wages. In this way, the customer is effectively paying the banker to loan money from him. This makes sense – the customer is paying the banker for a service. But if banks can conjure money out of thin air, loan the money to the customer and collect interest, what really is the point of a private bank, and why on earth do we have to pay interest?

I haven’t explained that well, but my main point is also coming from the book The Deficit Myth by Stephanie Kelton. In this book, Kelton explains how the central bank of a country with a sovereign currency works. She explains that what the media commentators and many economic analysts call the ‘debt’ or the ‘deficit’ is the wrong way to look at the economy. Because the central bank is the currency issuer (that is, it can create money out of thin air), it can never go bankrupt. In this same way, so long as the government’s central bank guarantees that a private bank never runs out of cash (this can be done by guaranteeing people’s savings), then why do private banks exist? Again, I am not explaining this nascent thought nearly well enough.

What I am proposing is that rather than having private banks that give loans and charge interest on those loans, what would be stopping the central bank from offering that same service to the consumer, except without charging the interest? The bank would simply pay its bankers with a government defined sum of money that ultimately comes from the central bank itself. I don’t see an economic reason, other than the mammoth interests which exist in the banking sector currently, that this would not work. Then, people would be able to loan money from the central bank and never pay any interest on it.

Come to think of it, what does the private bank need the interest for anyway? The private bank didn’t take money out of its vault to give to the loanee. They just conjured that shit from thin air. So, as you’re paying your loan back, why do they need that extra bit? It’s almost an optical illusion, making us think that they need the interest to pay their bills. But they conjured it out of thin air, and they aren’t putting it all into their reserves (banks only operate with like 10% reserves), so everything that we pay them is profit. Why not just pay your bills with the money we give you?

If I have fundamentally misunderstood how this system works, then this writing will come off as the writings of a paranoid idiot. I may look back on this piece of writing and correct the flaws in my own thinking, but at this point I really don’t understand why private banks exist and why they charge interest.

The point of this piece was to show the fact that value isn’t taken from money but rather from what value you can bring other people. I was going to use this point to show that many professions, for example stock market traders, bankers and landlords do not bring any value to the economy and therefore should not exist in those roles. Instead, they should add value to the economy in whatever they can and make money from those value-adding actions.

The Deficit Myth is what really got me thinking about money in this way. From the central bank’s perspective, they can inject money into the economy in any which way they would like to. They can incentivise whichever behaviour they want to. From this perspective, you can see how the ideal objective should be to make the economy as productive as possible.

Full employment would be the first policy in this path. Once you have full employment, you can really look at increasing the quality of the employment and shifting the workforce to produce the results that we want as a society. If we want a society that cares for our elderly and our children, for example, we would put money into these areas. If we want a society that is highly educated and creates new things, we would put money into education and the arts.

This puts a whole new perspective on economics. And this is only the start of my research. There are a lot of things I thought about today around land reform and the stock market that I haven’t written here, but I have no doubt that I will write about them in the future.

There is something about fictional stories and art that is magical. I was listening to Jordan Peterson podcast last weekend and he spoke about fictional stories being not only true, but more than true. This is a concept that has been on my mind all week in some form or another.

First, I will explain my take on what Jordan Peterson is saying here. Fictional stories are made up in that the characters don’t exist in the real world and the things that the characters do might not be possible in the real world. Take something like Harry Potter – wizards and witches clearly don’t exist, nor can people fly on broomsticks. Jordan Peterson notes that the fact we just accept these things is kind of bizarre, even for a story. But we do accept them, and it’s not because of the bizarre nature of the characters and their actions, but instead because of the truth of their actions and how they can demonstrate some lesson or moral in real life. In that sense, these fictional stories, while fictional and often bizarre, represent something even truer than life itself. These messages that are held within these stories are a distilling of the essence of life, of some very potent message, such that we can communicate it to each other. Peterson also talked about the hierarchies of value that each of us hold. For some reason, as a society, we value these stories because they are so true.

The concept of hierarchies of value is something that really stuck with me. It seems that everyone has hierarchies of value and they are all different. But it does seem that for most people, what is valuable is that they themselves are happy, safe, secure. There are some very rare people whose value structures are based around the wellbeing of others, but it seems to be an exception rather than a rule. For this reason, it is relatively easy to explain most people’s behaviour – they are simply doing what is in their own perceived self-interest. This idea applies in all walks of life from the bankers who justify their horrible practices because they can provide for their family to the climate change protestor who wouldn’t have been there if it wasn’t for the social pressures that pushed them. Those two people, for the great difference between their actions and how they have impacted others, are essentially the same. They were only doing what benefited them at the time. Had their upbringing and environment been different, they may well have acted differently. But does this idea rob people of their agency? If I begin to make arguments that the banker is the same as the climate protestor, is that dismissing the fact that both the banker and the protestor have free will in each of the moments that led them to that point? Maybe. But if what was motivating them at their core was self-interest rather than being concentrated on something greater than themselves, they rob themselves of agency.

So, what is the alternative? To be concentrated on something greater than yourself, or to at least be conscious of your motives. There is a large part for consciousness to play here. Someone can be conscious that they act in self-interested ways. In the same vein, someone can be unconscious that they are acting with a focus on something higher than themselves. As with many of these conversations, I always find it far more useful and far less dangerous to be conscious of what you are doing rather than unconscious. I feel that if you are conscious that you are self-interested, you at least have the ability to change that in the moment and work towards shifting your value structure. If you are unconscious that you are acting for something greater, that is similarly dangerous to someone unconscious of being self-interested. So long as you are unconscious to the world, you are not in control. Instead, you are like a log floating down a river without an awareness of the direction or the destination. This is a great way to live for periods of your life – it is freeing to let go of control. But there is always a time where the direction and the destination need to be at least sketchily defined.

This comes back to goal setting and visualising a better future, whether it is only for you or for the greater community. If you at least have an idea of where you want to go, you can have some agency in which direction you are travelling in. Most of the time, your idea of the ideal destination will change many times throughout the journey. But if you are at least trying to outline the destination at the outset, you can have a direction in which to go rather than being unconscious to the world and letting it take you wherever it does.

But as with everything, there is also advantages to letting the world take you and relaxing your ideals. There is merit to staying in the moment rather than getting your ‘narrating self’, or your ego, involved.

As with many of these pieces, I end up contradicting myself wildly by the end and finding holes in my own narratives. But that is part of life. There are all of these contradictory ideas, one of which will be important at one moment and the other which will be important in another. There seems to be a skill to being able to hold these seemingly contrary ideas in your mind and finding the value in each of them.

This got a really long way from what Jordan Peterson was talking about in that podcast. Whoops.

There is something deafening about the sound of silence for some people. We live in a world filled with distractions. We are addicted to these distractions in a stronger way than we ever seem to realise. They are what fills our time, what numbs our pain and what holds our attention. This is the new world economy.

With all of these distractions connecting us to our screens in the most intimate of ways, it only becomes more and more difficult to stop and think. For many people, it isn’t until they sit down and try to focus on a singular task that the challenge becomes apparent. We are constantly multitasking, somehow convinced that if we do more, we will be taking advantage of the time better. Quality is often forgotten.

It pains me to think of how many people have lost the memory of hearing their neighbourhood birds chirp, of hearing the wind rustling through the trees overhead, of hearing the splatter of rain on the footpath. Instead, we seem to be on a mission to consume as much as we possibly can. Is it that we don’t want to waste a moment, or that we are fearful of the boring reality of the world?

It’s as if we are trying to drown out the world. We know that it will always be there, so we take it for granted. It’s as if we are trying to fill up a space. The content we consume isn’t necessarily useless. Music certainly has value. As do many podcasts. As do many videos. But are we really taking the value out of these pieces of content if we are simultaneously distracted doing something else, even as simple as walking through a neighbourhood?

The reason I am exploring this subject is because I am not convinced myself. I have for years been on the side of the so-called distracted. My arguments would be simple: so long as I was conscious about the content that I am consuming, it is simply a choice to replace one valuable thing (e.g. hearing birds chirp) with another (e.g. some educational podcast or piece of music). There is merit to this argument, but I am unsure just how conscious these decisions are in the general case.

For people working jobs they don’t particularly enjoy, there is certainly an element of pure escapism that comes with listening to music or podcasts all day. I should know. That was my life for a couple of years. But is this escapism necessarily a bad thing? Does escapism have value? It does, but I would say its value is only apparent when it is practiced consciously. Even this statement lays on shaky ground. It might have value in all cases – inherent value.

I should first define what I mean by unconscious and conscious escapism. By unconscious escapism, I mean escapism that is just routine and not much thought is put into the decision. Examples include listening to random music throughout your day at work and taking drugs to forget said shitty job routinely each weekend. By conscious escapism, I mean escapism that is thought through and considered. In this way, you might be using music, games, drugs or whatever else to ‘escape’ the world, but you have considered why you’re doing it. There is clearly a grey area there, but this is the general idea.

Escapism surely has value, but its value is more probable when it is practiced consciously. This is a statement that has a more solid basis in my mind. Escapism practiced unconsciously, as in listening to podcasts while doing a job you don’t particularly enjoy or routinely taking drugs throughout the weekend, can provide value. It can give people new perspectives; it can allow them to learn things and it can make the world a better place in that way. But this isn’t guaranteed or even probable in my opinion.

Escapism when practiced consciously, e.g. taking drugs with a particular purpose in mind or choosing music which might ‘transport’ you somewhere else, seems to have a higher likelihood of providing value. Conscious escapism almost sounds like a paradoxical and nonsensical phrase. If you are being conscious about your escapism, then is it really escapism? Isn’t the definition of escapism to somehow escape the conscious mind? That might be true, but I do think you can be conscious before and after the period of escapism. Therefore, you can make decisions about the purpose of how you are escaping and from what you are escaping.

Being conscious about escapism can provide huge value. You can alter your consciousness, be transported into a fantasy world through movie or novel, hear a song or an album that truly takes you to some place visual or experiential. This is valuable. It provides a way for artists to communicate ideas in a new way. This allows ideas that couldn’t otherwise be communicated to be communicated.

This allows truth to be told in a more concentrated form. It goes some way into solving the problem that all words and images are symbols, representations of reality rather than being reality itself. This is what is so magical about art.

There is a kind of resigned acceptance that comes over me nowadays when I find out about some other part of the world that is shrouded in lies. Most recently it was the workings of the aged care sector and the lobbyists that profit off of the suffering of our society’s most vulnerable. Before that, was the realities of China on several fronts and how misled the public is on those issues. There always seems to be an incentive for the people who commit these actions and fall into spreading these lies. But it is rare to see people who are very conscious of it, or even someone who wants to be conscious of it.

I guess this is our world. We are shrouded in lies to the point where we don’t even want to know what is true. That would take too much effort. Instead, we follow the path of least resistance. We take the paths outlined for us and are led down these paths the direction of which we never question and the destination of which we never consider. If this really is how our world operates, it should be easier to predict the future, in a Hari Seldon sense (read Foundation by Isaac Asimov).

This follows from the idea that we do not have free will on a micro level, but now it is applied to the macro level. If we have limited free will, on what basis can we lay claim to free will on the macro. Of course, this is a simplistic way of looking at things. In the moment, rather than in the ‘narrating self’ which is detached from the moment, we do have choices. But they are fleeting and mostly predictable. Those with instilled values in one direction will generally behave in that singular direction.

This means that self-serving lies only perpetuate themselves. We lie that the West isn’t under the influence of its own propaganda (read Manufacturing Consent by Noam Chomsky) to keep people from questioning the narrative. We lie that our economy operates like a household (read The Deficit Myth by Stephanie Kelton) in order to keep the public from creating a more empowered future. We lie that workplaces must be operated in a top-down power structure in order to function (read Democracy at Work by Richard D. Wolff) in order to conserve the powerful and monied interests.

These lies among countless others allow us to maintain our social cohesion. But this isn’t to say that these particular lies are necessary for social cohesion. There are many different fictions that would serve the same purpose (read Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari). Science is in some sense becoming the new socially cohesive factor, although it seems to remove the fiction and just admit that we don’t know. The social cohesion gained from everyone having trust in this singular concept that is ‘science’ is gaining momentum. But in an era of post-truth and alternative facts, we need to maintain the critical thinking that goes to the core of this science.

There is a strange paradox that comes with reading a lot of books and dedicating my waking life to learning about the world. On one hand, the more I read the more I want to engage with the world, to learn more and more so that I have far less topics on which I am ignorant. On the other hand, there is a part of me that, the more I read, becomes disenfranchised with the world. There is less and less with which I can connect because I realise just how little of the world is based on reality and facts.

There are comical parts at which I laugh at how stupid some of the most educated experts must be on some topics. And there are other parts where I dismay at how backward our world really is and how difficult it is to change it for the better. After a period of rest, there is always a renewed hunger for more and a renewed sense that there are things that have the ability to change, however small.

Lying seems at the core of these challenges. Truth seems to be the peak of good. If the world is more truthful, or more scientific, or more honest, however you would like to phrase it, the world will be a better place. That is my theory. There are plenty of potential win-win situations that are currently set to lose-lose. With truth, honesty and the dispelling of lies, there solutions will not only be obvious to all, but will be implemented.

That brings me to the other value that I hold so dear – democracy. While many Westerners would posit that we already have democracy and that it is far better than authoritarianism, I would disagree on both fronts. By my definition, we don’t have democracy until our workplaces are democratic. And by the current definition, democracy hasn’t enough evidence to prove itself better than authoritarianism. A quick comparison of poverty rates between China and the United States provides plenty enough evidence to the contrary.

I believe that democracy, along with truth, is the key. The two seem almost to be tied like the chicken and the egg. If there were democracy, we would be more truthful. If we were truthful with each other, we would decide on democracy. Both these words are overused, and their meanings distorted regularly. So long as they are properly defined and applied in all aspects of life, it seems that the world would be a better place.

This piece will be an amalgamation of unrelated thoughts, as are most of the posts on this platform.

STAGE 4 LOCKDOWN.

Walking around my area tonight was eerie. Where there were people scattered through the park yesterday afternoon there is now a desolate silence. Walking through the neighbourhood, it felt as if you could hear a conversation several streets away. This is the sound of the strictest lockdown yet.

Dogs have seemingly become an escape route, a valid excuse to get some air. Running, even if only faster than a brisk walk, has become the only solace for those wanting a mask-free outdoor adventure. What a strange time we live in.

There are so many different ways to take these challenges. We can focus on ourselves and our own predicaments. On just how annoying wearing a mask is. On how we want to go outside. On how we want to see our friends and family. If we focus on these things, we will inevitably become frustrated.

If instead we see this as an opportunity and we focus on the things we take out of this time, we will inevitably gain far more from it and make it go faster. We can walk around in awe of how eerie it is and listen to the sounds of the neighbourhood that we wouldn’t otherwise hear in more regular circumstances. We can use this time to connect with an interest that we had always been interested in but never had the time to pursue. There are countless ways to gain from this time.

But I don’t want to spend this whole piece focused on this corny shit.

CONTRADICTORY IDEAS.

We all want to find some cohesive theory of how the world works. My whole life is dedicated to finding such theories. But the reality is that there is no unified theory of everything. Instead, there are many different ideas that might contradict each other but need to be held in the mind simultaneously.

The idea we need to have goals in order to have any hope of doing anything substantial. The idea that we should abandon goals, since they are simply efforts to avoid suffering and become suffering in themselves. We should live in the moment and yet paint a picture of a better world. Which is it? Both simultaneously. Just like we have many parts of our mind pulling us in all different directions, we can have many ideas in our minds pulling us in different directions. In the end, it’s all about finding a balance. Finding when one idea might be useful in constructing a better world and finding when another might be more useful.

The idea of a flow state and being absorbed in your fast thinking. The idea of slow thinking and being thoughtful, planning out each move. The idea that we have no free will and that life is the product of cause and effect patterns. The idea that free will is all that we have, for without it what would we be? All have their place. We seek a centralised point at which we can control these patterns, but it seems that no such place exists. We are simply creatures of contradiction.

GENERATION TENSE AND TIRED.

I wish people in our generation were less tense. It seems that people are rarely willing to offend and take risks, myself included. Aren’t our 20s supposed to be reserved for such belligerency? Instead of watching our language and being careful not to offend, shouldn’t we be giving far less of a fuck than the generation of our parents? Why are we so tense?

There are all of these tones of tiredness. Post Malone – always tired. This has become a meme of our generation. What are we tired of? Our lives are only just beginning. It is tiring growing up in a world wary of what you say – a land of freedom without such freedoms.

We’ve grown up in a world where the paths are outlined from the beginning, and none of them are very appetizing. There must be something more, and yet no one is presenting the alternative. As humans, we are meant to strive for something greater than ourselves – it seems in our nature. Without this vision, our society becomes complacent. We focus on ourselves rather than on others, on the community, on the vision. With this complacency comes self-centredness and narcissism. With this self-centredness comes ego, the ‘narrating self’ focusing on our past digressions (depression) or our future fears (anxiety). This ‘narrating self’ is what tires us.

Getting back to the idea of a new media company (about which I haven’t written here) – it needs to embody the reactions that I have outlined here. It shouldn’t be explicitly aimed at Generation Z, but the message will attract that generation most. The belligerency that Gen Z was never inspired to manifest.

It’s almost as if Gen Z never had anything to rebel against. What were we supposed to rebel against? Generation X are so jaded and so meek. Generation Y are so misguidedly smug. Growing up with screens in our skulls we never felt a need to rebel. Instead, we are just tired. We see millennials rebelling in the weirdest sense, but never felt connected to that.

We’re sick of this self-obsessed culture. We will abscond the identity politics with substance. We will paint an image of a better world and strive towards it, even if it kills us.

COMPLACENCY.

Narcissism and self-centredness are not a result of wealth but rather complacency. For this reason, there shouldn’t just be a solution of the economic problems, but a vision implemented for the people to strive towards – the analogy of the cathedral and the generational bricklayer is brought to mind. Ideas like healthy nationalism among other shared fictions are ideal for this cohesion.

There’s something to momentum. You can build momentum in so many different directions, and yet its results seem to dominate our lives somehow. I guess momentum means that we are no longer conscious of our actions. These actions are transferred from slow thinking to fast thinking, from conscious decision to habits. Once we lose consciousness of what it is, it can morph without our knowing, or affect other things in our lives without our making the conscious connection.

I am being vague in my phrasing and content, but this is another nascent idea that I am developing.

At some point in time, we are in a state. In this state, at this instantaneous point in time, our brain is wired in a particular way. Our pathways are defined, some more strongly than others, and those defined and undefined pathways are what makes us who we are. They are what has given us our habits, our feelings, our thoughts. But not many of us are thinking about this fact. Not many take the step of being conscious of our consciousness.

What is the value in being conscious of our consciousness? Is it a good thing to be more self-aware in that way? Defining ‘good’ has always been a problem. And if we define the word, there is always going to be conditions. It always depends on how we use this consciousness of consciousness. It always goes deeper than our definitions of what is ‘good’. Why do we each have our definition of ‘good’? Where do these definitions come from?

Having conversations with a theologian challenges this question. There is often the debate of where an atheist finds his sense of good and bad without gaining it from God. My standard answer has been that we all experience suffering, and from that suffering we understand ‘bad’. Conversely, we understand pleasure, in both the short and long term – from this, we can understand ‘good’.

A more evolutionary answer would be that we understand what is ‘good’ in how we evolved. It has always been useful in prolonging the human race to understand when we, and those in our community, are suffering. If we suffer too much, in a physical sense, we will die. If we just let ourselves and our communities suffer, the human race would likely cease to exist. Or, more likely, those with these empathetic and suffering-reducing tendencies will prosper, leaving those less empathetic to die out and fail to pass on their genetics.

I have gone down a path and found myself far away from consciousness. But there does seem to be a path back.

Consciousness itself lends itself to empathy. It is difficult to be empathetic without being conscious. There are certainly examples of empathy which are automatic and aren’t thought about a great deal. But even those examples are likely a result of having built a habit, or at least a value system, which stemmed from conscious thought.

My point is that consciousness is evolutionarily positive. Empathy is a big part of the reason for this. If we can empathise with people and understand when they are suffering, we can work to reduce that suffering. On a mass scale, this has clearly worked well for us as a species.

But it doesn’t stop with empathy. Consciousness is important for many different things. I guess you could trace consciousness back to the cognitive revolution at which point our past stopped being purely biological and started being history. We were no longer apes with a very limited consciousness but rather humans with vast expanses of awareness.

There is a strong argument that, in the decades to come, a revolution will take place that is equivalent to that of the cognitive revolution. What our lives would be like on the other side of this revolution would be inconceivable. Trying to understand it now, even if we knew what it looked like, would be like trying to explain agriculture to a monkey. They simply won’t understand. This is what I find so engaging about the subject of technology.

But for now, we have this relationship with technology that is sickening. Instead of making us more conscious, in many ways it is making us less conscious. We are now cyborgs, with the world’s information at our fingertips, ready to be consumed and utilised in as diverse a way as our imaginations can muster. And yet the vast majority are trapped in a cycle of scrolling and wasted time.

This content has served a purpose of dividing us into groups and making us so well-defined as thinkers that we no longer think. Instead, our groups think for us. Nuance is destroyed. Critical thinking a thing of the past. Technological tribalism rears its ugly head. The internet has offered us the easiest way to remove ourselves from this tribal trap, and yet the ‘powers that be’ seem to have used it to trap us even further.

But we are still conscious. There is still room for critical thought. There is still time to save ourselves. There is still time for nuance. There are plenty of people who see through the bullshit. Our conscious minds are adept at such skills. So many have become disenfranchised with politics and the media. So many want something of substance, something better than what they have now.

This doesn’t seem to be something which is articulated well. It is something which is very difficult to communicate. But unless we try, we fail and get slightly better each time, there is no way of stopping the tribalism that has seen the end of empires through the millennia.

Now that we are a global society with the capability for ending civilisation, the extension of this environment wouldn’t simply be a setback of decades or even centuries. It would be the end. That would be ultimate evolutionary fail. Some see it as inevitable, asking the question of why we haven’t encountered any similar life if life could move past this point. It’s a good question, and only time will tell.

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