Saturday Matinee: Izo

Synopsis from Wikipedia:

IZO is a 2004 Japanese film, directed by Takashi Miike. The main character of the film is Izo Okada (1832–1865), the historical samurai and assassin in 19th century Japan who was tortured and executed by beheading in Tosa.

Izo appeared previously in Hideo Gosha‘s Hitokiri (1969), then played by Shintaro Katsu. However, Miike’s portrayal of the character (or rather his spirit) transcends reality (and time and space) and is more of a surrealist exposé of Izo’s exceedingly bloody yet philosophical encounters in an afterlife heavy on symbolism, occasionally interrupted by stock footage of World War II accompanied by acid-folk singer Kazuki Tomokawa on guitar. Kazuya Nakayama plays Izo and the many characters he encounters on his journey include figures played by Takeshi Kitano and Bob Sapp.

Watch the full film with english subtitles here: http://www1.newasiantv.co/watch/izo.3864.77305.html

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Censoring Alex Jones

By Dmitry Orlov

Source: Club Orlov

Something happened recently that made me feel like a bit of an endangered species. A set of transnational internet companies, including Google, Facebook, Apple and several others, all synchronously removed content belonging to infowars.com, which is run by Alex Jones. Such synchronicity is a sure sign of conspiracy—something that Alex Jones harps on a lot.

I once appeared on a radio show run by Alex Jones, and he did manage to boil down what I had to say to “the USA is going to collapse like the USSR did,” which is pretty good, considering how poorly we managed to connect, having so little in common. He is a conservative and a libertarian whereas I think that conservatives don’t exist in the US. What have they “conserved” lately—other than the right to bear small arms? As far as libertarianism, I consider proper historical libertarianism as a strain of socialism while its American cooptation is just plain funny: these ones remain libertarian only until they need the services of an ambulance or a fire engine, at which point they turn socialist. To boot, American libertarians like Ayn Rand, who to me was a relentlessly bad writer full of faulty thinking. However, I find her useful as a litmus test for mediocre minds.

Moreover, Jones is political while I remain convinced that national politics in the US is a waste of time. It has been statistically proven that the US is not a democracy: popular will has precisely zero effect on public policy. It doesn’t matter who is president; the difference is a matter of style. Trump is a bull in a China shop while Clinton would have been a deer in the headlights. The result is the same: the US is bankrupt and its empire is over.

There is also the mismatch of genre between Jones and me. I am first of all an experimenter and an essayist, and to me personal experience and literary form are vitally important, while Jones is light on research and happy to work with hearsay, and is rather hackneyed and repetitive, but has the right instincts for a rabble-rouser. He harkens from a long American tradition of itinerant preachers spouting jeremiads, thumping the bible and hurling fire and brimstone. His content is secular, but his rhetorical techniques are revivalist. He is preachy, screechy and emotional. There is some carnival cryer in his cultural makeup as well, and he is not above peddling some survivalist/prepper snake oil

That said, we share certain important similarities. Neither of us is part of the official narrative that is endlessly being hammered home by US mass media with increasingly poor results. Thinking Americans are just not gullible enough any more. Jones has exploited this gullibility shortfall in the general public for all it’s worth by going after every conspiracy theory out there, while I am just like you—gullible. Sure, a few Arab tourists armed with box cutters destroyed three steel skyscrapers by flying two aluminum planes into them. Do your own math, but that’s just 2/3 of a plane per skyscraper—ought to be enough, right? Jet fuel, which burns at 800° to 1500°F, melted steel columns. (Steel melts at 2750°F.) Two aluminum cans packed with kerosene, meat and luggage destroyed three steel structures. I find this explanation perfectly satisfactory; do you? If you need to know more, it’s easy to find out, but don’t wait on me because, being so gullible, I am perfectly satisfied.

Jones and I are also different in that he is hugely popular whereas I am popular enough for me and generally lacking in worldly ambition. I enjoy writing, my readers enjoy what I write, and everyone is happy except the kids, because while I am writing I am not playing with them. But Jones is becoming huge—popular enough to displace mass media, which is continuously losing mind share. In part, that is its own fault: how long do they think they can they go on flogging the dead horses of “Russian collusion” and “Russian meddling” before people start shaking their heads and walking away? In part, the verbal diarrhea that we hear on CNN or read on nytimes.com is intended as a smokescreen because the truth has become toxic to the interests of those who are in charge mass media in the US. I will delve into this subject further on Thursday. The political decision to censor Jones was a sign of desperation: the verbal diarrhea is not working, and so it’s time for Plan B, which is simply to scream “Shut up!” as loudly as possible.

Due to his huge and burgeoning popularity (which these latest attacks on him have actually served to enhance) Jones is a huge target, whereas I am but a tiny one. Still, first they came for Alex Jones, and then they may very well come for me, and so the time to start paying attention and pushing back is now. These internet entities—Google, Facebook, Apple, Google Podcast, Spotify, iHeartRadio, MailChimp, Disqus, LinkedIn, Flickr, Pinterest and several others—have no more right to censor him than does your phone company to screen your calls for you or to determine whose number you should be allowed to dial. What was done to Jones was blatantly illegal under both US and international law, and while these companies don’t have much to fear in the US, where they are politically protected, they have a great deal more to fear internationally.

Jones did not, as far as anyone can tell, violate the terms of use of any of these internet services, yet they shut him down. In the public discussions that preceded this event, including in the US Congress, terms such as “hate speech” and “inciting violence” were thrown about. These terms are defined sufficiently vaguely to make them useful for arbitrarily throwing at one’s enemies while one’s friends are granted full immunity, all in an entirely context-free, fact-free manner. For example, two years ago on PBS the following exchange took place between the former acting CIA director Michael Morell and Charlie Rose:

Morell: “We need to make the Russians pay a price in Syria.”
Rose: “We make them pay the price by killing Russians?”
Morell: “Yeah.”

The context and the facts are: the Russians were in Syria by official invitation from the internationally recognized Syrian government to defeat terrorists and foreign mercenaries and to reestablish Syria’s control over its sovereign territory. The US forces weren’t doing much of anything helpful in Syria, but whatever it was, it was illegal: they were an invading force. And here is Morrell proposing that we kill Russian troops who are fighting terrorists, just to send a message. If that’s not “inciting violence,” it is really difficult to imagine what would be. And yet a full two years after this outrage PBS remains on the air; what gives?

Spurious claims of “hate speech” and “inciting violence” aside, what happened is that an order to shut down Jones was issued from Washington, DC. In response an impressively large group of transnational internet companies saluted and marched off to carry out the order, thereby making it perfectly obvious who they work for. And that is likely to become a big problem for them.

First, these transnational companies are allowed to provide services around the world based on international law. Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights defends the right to freedom of opinion and expression: “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.” Jones should sue the US and the companies that censored him in the European Court of Human rights in Strasbourg, France and seek redress both against entities within the US government which issued the illegal order (to be ferreted out in the course of discovery) and against the transnational companies that carried it out.

Second, these transnational companies operate around the world based on local law which in many cases prevents them from acting as agents of foreign governments without first registering as such. If Google and Facebook execute orders issued by the US government, then they are acting not as businesses but as clandestine representatives of a foreign power. Being recognized as such would significantly curtail these companies’ international reach, growth potential and valuations.

And since Google, Facebook and Apple are public companies committed to the pursuit of shareholder value, it would be time for their shareholders to get involved and replace the management teams. After all, what would be more profitable for them: illegally conspiring with the US government while becoming pariahs and losing the world market, or scrupulously maintaining arm’s-length relationships with all governments while working to uphold international law? There is still the opportunity for them to defuse the whole situation: call it a mistake, restore the services, compensate Jones for lost revenue and promise to never do it again.

Posted in censorship, civil liberties, Conspiracy, Corporate Crime, corporate news, culture, Dystopia, freedom of speech, media, Media Literacy, news, propaganda, Psy-ops, Social Control, Social Engineering, society, State Crime, Technology | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Martial Law By Other Means: Corporate Strangulation of Dissent

By Glen Ford

Source: Black Agenda Report

The ‘hate speech’ trick, in practice, rewards Black people’s occupiers and abusers (the police) and renders voices of protest illegitimate and mute.”

The people that rule the United States are in the third year of a frenzy to blame Russia and its “trolls,” “dupes,” and witting or unwitting “colluders” – including a sitting president – for racial conflicts, eroding respect for public institutions and a general social breakdown in the nation. “We are at war!” they scream, incessantly, in a thousand well-placed voices. The relentless barrage of war-talk crowds out all other subjects in the corporate media — the Omnipresent Voice of Oligarchy — including the actual wars waged all across the globe by the U.S. and its shrinking gaggle of allies.

By now, 65 percent of Americans — if asked — tell pollsters they think Russia “interfered” in the 2016 elections. According to an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll  released late last month, 41 percent believe that whatever the Russians did had some effect on the election, and 30 percent think Hillary Clinton would be president if the Russians had not interfered.

“The relentless barrage of war-talk crowds out all other subjects in the corporate media — including the actual wars.”

People don’t volunteer these opinions; the question is presented by the pollsters and respondents select an answer among the multiple choices offered. However, a Gallup poll , taken during the same period, that allowed respondents to offer their own list of problems besetting the nation showed that less than one percent thought “the ongoing situation with Russia was the top issue.” Immigration was the top problem on people’s minds (22 percent), followed by dissatisfaction with the U.S. government (19 percent), and racism (7 percent). Concerns over “unifying the country,” “lack of respect for each other,” “the economy in general,” “health care,” and the catch-all, “ethics/morality/religious/family decline” rank in the even lower single digits – but almost nobody considers Russia to be a top problem.

Apparently, Americans don’t yet believe that anything like a “Pearl Harbor” has occurred, despite the Herculean efforts of the corporate media, the Democratic Party, old school Republicans, and the National Security State (Spookland). Undeterred, these fevered fomenters of hysteria insist that Russia’s “war” against the United States — aided by a “fifth column” composed of left-wing and right-wing web sites — must be answered by putting the nation on martial footing, through further curbs on freedom of speech and association at home, and relentless pursuit of full spectrum military dominance over all potential adversaries and competitors abroad.

Less than one percent thought ‘the ongoing situation with Russia was the top issue.’”

The oligarch-declared state of war requires that there be one set of “truths” and a common worldview to unite the nation at this time of peril — whether the people perceive such a peril, or not. If there is insufficient public resolve to respond to the “threat” from Moscow and their partners in Beijing, then that is blamed on Kremlin-disseminated disinformation designed to confuse Americans or cause them to lose faith in U.S. institutions, and to fight among themselves – to “hate” each other — thus requiring more censorship.

It is the ruling class that is in panic, and using Russia as an all-purpose foil. The U.S. is in terminal decline, and has already been economically surpassed by China, based on “purchasing power parity,” the standard of measurement preferred even by the U.S dominated International Monetary Fund. According to an analysis by business columnist Noah Smith in Bloomberg , “not only is China already the world’s largest economy, the gap between it and the U.S. can be expected to grow even wider.” Dean Baker , co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Studies, says “China’s economy is already 25 percent larger than the U.S. economy and is on a path to be almost twice as large in a decade.”

The era of U.S. economic dominance has already ended, and the Potemkin façade of American economic supremacy is only maintained by the U.S. dollar’s artificial status as the main international reserve currency – from which pedestal it will ultimately be toppled, and the imperial era will be over. But this is an historical verdict that the U.S. rulers cannot accept. Having lost the economic capacity to lord over the planet, they must now rely on their military — a terror machine more expensive than most of the rest of the world’s militaries, combined — in a “generational,” twilight battle to preserve the empire. The Lords of Capital cannot imagine a world in which they are not on top. They have chosen permanent, “infinite” war.

Not only is China already the world’s largest economy, the gap between it and the U.S. can be expected to grow even wider.”

On the home front, the ruling class policy is eternal austerity, dictated by the requirements of capitalism at this stage in its decline. It is a horrifically destructive process of corporate consolidation (the big get bigger, devouring each other and everyone else) and the shrinking of the public sphere, through public sector starvation and privation. The job market is restructured, with more and more workers becoming “casual” or “contracted” — the “gig” economy — and millions of others (especially Blacks) made permanently redundant and disposable.

A regime of permanent war and austerity — the fate that both corporate parties plan for us — requires the manufacture and perpetual maintenance of war hysteria, and the methodical suppression of popular demands for economic rescue of the affected classes. It demands Russiagate and the snuffing out of radical dissent. This is not about Hillary Clinton, although she was the presidential choice of the great bulk of the ruling class because she could be trusted to pursue permanent war and austerity. It’s about preserving and serving the oligarchy under capitalism in terminal decline.

“A regime of permanent war and austerity requires the manufacture and perpetual maintenance of war hysteria, and the methodical suppression of popular demands for economic rescue of the affected classes.”

A similar process is underway in Europe, where the welfare state is besieged by the ruling bankers and corporate chiefs. Some leftish pundits describe the corporate parties’ lashing out at “the left and the right” as an offensive of “the center” — but that’s nonsense. In both the U.S. and Europe, the corporate governments are to the right of the public; they don’t represent some political “center” — they represent only their corporate selves. The corporate leaders of the Democratic Party are positioned way to the right of Democratic voters, and also rightward of the general American pubic on most key economic issues. They are carrying out their corporate duties to preserve and maintain austerity and war.

This compels them to make a spectacle of Russiagate, and to ensure that the show never ends, but takes on new forms of hysteria. And it requires that internet-based dissent be brought to heal, as Hillary would say — even at the cost of billions to one of the top oligarchs, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, who has been mercilessly bludgeoned by his fellow corporatists. Facebook’s political tampering with its algorithms to marginalize left-wing sites like BAR cannot help but suggest that the company also puts its fingers on the scales of the algorithms whose results Facebook sells to advertisers. But Zuckerberg no doubt understands that the purge of “left and right” sites is in the best interest of his class, and has accepted to forgo some profits.

“The corporate leaders of the Democratic Party are positioned way to the right of Democratic voters, and also rightward of the general American pubic on most key economic issues.”

Facebook, Apple, Google, YouTube and Spotify all came down  on right-winger Alex Jones and his Infowars, this week, in what appeared to be a coordinated purge. Although the corporate media have long accused Jones of spreading “disinformation,” he was not purged for telling non-truths. Apple announced that “it does not tolerate hate speech.” Facebook said “false news” was not the issue, but that Jones had violated its policies by “glorifying violence” and “using dehumanizing language to describe people who are transgender, Muslims and immigrants.”

When it comes to “hate,” the high tech oligarchs rely heavily on the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), the Morris Dees – Richard Cohen  legal outfit in Montgomery, Alabama. The Center has a special animus towards Black nationalists, to whom it dedicates a whole page  on its web site. “Most forms of black nationalism are strongly anti-white and anti-Semitic,” the SPLC declares, as if its white, Jewish leadership are expert in the Black American polity. In addition to naming Min. Louis Farrakhan and every Nation of Islam mosque, the site lists a slew of “Black Nationalist Hate Groups,” including book stores, the Black Riders Liberation Party and all its affiliates, various Black Israelites, both halves of the split New Black Panther Party, and the Revolutionary Black Panther Party, as well as the Nuwaubian Nation of Moors. We can assume that these groups’ internet sites and Facebook presence are marked for special attention and future purging.

The Southern Poverty Law Center has a special animus towards Black nationalists.”

But, many more Blacks will be caught up in the “hate speech” net that the high tech monopolists have deployed. Anyone that has gone to protests against killer cops has shouted words that could be deemed hate speech — because we do hate killer cops, and we do hate their armed occupation of our communities, and we have every right to say so among ourselves or to shout it to the world. Black people — and especially Black activists — must be most zealous in defense of free speech, knowing that our speech will be the first to be curtailed and outlawed.

We can expect no defense of Black speech rights from the Black misleadership class, which has always opted to cut off Black lips in order to silence a few white racists’ mouths. In the early Seventies, the Congressional Black Caucus and the Atlanta NAACP tried to get the Federal Communications Commission to ban campaign ads by J.B. Stoner, the arch-racist candidate for one of Georgia’s seats in the U.S. Senate. I argued loudly against attempting to create a “hate speech” standard for the public airwaves, warning that among the first victims of such a standard would be Min. Farrakhan, whose weekly radio program was aired on over 100 Black-oriented radio programs.

“Black people — and especially Black activists — must be most zealous in defense of free speech, knowing that our speech will be the first to be curtailed and outlawed.”

The FCC ruled in J.B. Stoner’s favor in 1972, but it was a good day for Black political speech, too. In the same way, the high tech monopolists’ assault on right-winger Alex Jones under a “hate speech” standard is bad news for Black political speech, and for radical speech. “Hate speech” is a trap. A few months ago, all but eleven members of the Congressional Black Caucus voted to make any assault on police a “hate crime,” thereby giving police the status of a protected class. The “hate speech” trick, in practice, rewards Black people’s occupiers and abusers (the police) and renders voices of protest illegitimate and mute.

We will need every energizing expletive in our vocabularies to mobilize our folks against the racist repression that must accompany the rulers’ plans for permanent austerity and war. We need to hate them very deeply for what they are trying to do to humanity, and to express that hatred at the top of our lungs and in every forum possible.

 

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.

Posted in censorship, civil liberties, Corporate Crime, corporate news, culture, Economics, elites, Empire, freedom of speech, Geopolitics, imperialism, internet freedom, media, Media Literacy, news, police state, propaganda, Psy-ops, Racism, Social Control, Social Engineering, society, Sociology, State Crime, surveillance state, Technology, war | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

When Worse is the Enemy of Bad

By Paul Edwards

Source: CounterPunch.org

There comes a time in the decline of an empire when–in its hubris, its arrogance–it decouples from reason and blindly blunders toward its fate in a ludicrous ugly trance of stupidity.  To paraphrase Walter Cronkite–we are there.

Trump makes his one positive, even useful, gesture as President, and the decayed corpse of the Democratic Party bursts its cerements with a stinking roar of horror.

The claim that all that is wrong with America is due to the malignant machinations of Putin is the most blatantly false, potentially disastrous bucket of bullshit ever inflicted by the matrix on this ignorant, credulous, propagandized people.

The MSM–the PR arm of the War Machine Complex that owns us–has so infected the national mind with the sleazy fiction concocted by the Democrat’s Geezer Politburo–the DNC slugs, Schumer, Pelosi and their geriatric myrmidons–that Trumpophobe Automatons rage at Putin and howl for a war, the horror of which they can’t begin to imagine.

Because hostility, provocation and resultant war is exactly what is comprehended in this national insanity.  Blaming their election loss on Russia, after decades impoverishing working people for the obscene enrichment of the War Machine and its megacorporate monsters, would just be ridiculous if it weren’t so foolishly, desperately dangerous.

As vile, as odious as he is, Democrat honchos know they can’ t beat Trump by shell-gaming Americans for their Wall Street donors any more–hey, it worked fine for ages–so they slime him as a traitor in bed with that monster we’ve been made to fear most: Putin and the Evil Empire Redux.

More incredibly, they’ve persuaded so-called progressives, who, historically, fiercely defended the Bill of Rights and valiantly battled the house organs of the National Security State, that those goats nests of dishonesty and disease are pure, unsullied repositories of Constitutional rectitude.

After decades of proven baldfaced crime, deceit and the  dirtiest pool at home and abroad, the CIA, FBI, NSA, the Justice Department and the whole foetid nomenklatura of  sociopathic rats, are portrayed as white knights of virtue dispensing verity as holy writ.  And “progressives” buy it.

These are the vermin that gave us Vietnam, the Bay of Pigs, Chile, the Contras, Iraq’s WMD, and along the way managed to miss the falls of the Shah and Communism.

Truly an Orwellian clusterfuck, this.  War Party Dems misleading naive liberal souls sickened by Trump into embracing the dirty, vicious lunacy Hillary peddled to her fans, the bankers, brokers, and CEOs of the War Machine.

Trump is a fool who may yet blunder us into war; the Dems and the Deep State cabal would give us war by design.

Posted in Authoritarianism, corporate news, culture, Dirty Politics, Empire, Geopolitics, imperialism, media, Militarization, news, propaganda, Psy-ops, Social Control, society, State Crime, war | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Two for Tuesday

Ancient Astronauts

Posted in Art, culture, Music Video, Two for Tuesday, Video | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Human Extinction by 2026? A Last Ditch Strategy to Fight for Human Survival

By Robert J. Burrowes

There is almost unanimous agreement among climate scientists and organizations – that is, 97% of over 10,000 climate scientists and the various scientific organizations engaged in climate science research – that human beings have caused a dramatic increase in the amount of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide released into Earth’s atmosphere since the pre-industrial era and that this is driving the climate catastrophe that continues to unfold. For the documentary evidence on this point see, for example, ‘Quantifying the consensus on anthropogenic global warming in the scientific literature’, ‘Consensus on consensus: a synthesis of consensus estimates on human-caused global warming’ and ‘Scientists Agree: Global Warming is Happening and Humans are the Primary Cause’.

However, there is no consensus regarding the timeframe in which this climate catastrophe will cause human extinction. This lack of consensus is primarily due to the global elite controlling the public perception of this timeframe with frequent talk of ‘the end of the century’ designed to allow ongoing profit maximization through ‘business as usual’ for as long as possible. Why has this happened?

When evidence of the climate catastrophe (including the pivotal role of burning fossil fuels) became incontrovertible, which meant that the fossil fuel industry’s long-standing efforts to prevent action on the climate catastrophe had finally ended, the industry shifted its focus to arguing that the timeframe, which it presented as ‘end of the century’, meant that we could defer action (and thus profit-maximization through business as usual could continue indefinitely). Consequently, like the tobacco, sugar and junk food industries, the fossil fuel industry has employed a range of tactics to deflect attention from their primary responsibility for a problem and to delay action on it.

These well-worn tactics include suggesting that the research is incomplete and more research needs to be done, funding ‘research’ to come up with ‘evidence’ to counter the climate science, employing scholars to present this ‘research’, discrediting honest climate scientists, infiltrating regulatory bodies to water down (or reverse) decisions and recommendations that would adversely impact profits, setting up ‘concerned’ groups to act as ‘fronts’ for the industry, making generous political donations to individuals and political parties as well as employing lobbyists.

As a result of its enormous power too, the global elite has been able to control much of the funding available for climate science research and a great deal of the information about it that is made widely available to the public, particularly through its corporate media. For this reason, the elite wields enormous power to shape the dialogue in relation to both the climate science and the timeframe.

Therefore, and despite the overwhelming consensus noted above, many climate scientists are reluctant to be fully truthful about the state of the world’s climate or they are just conservative in their assessments of the climate catastrophe. For example, eminent climate scientist Professor James Hansen referred to ‘scientific reticence’ in his article ‘Scientific reticence and sea level rise’, scientists might be conservative in their research – for example, dependence upon historical records leads to missing about one-fifth of global warming since the 1860s as explained in ‘Reconciled climate response estimates from climate models and the energy budget of Earth’ – and, in some cases, governments muzzle scientists outright. See ‘Scientist silencing continues for federally-funded research’. But many of the forces working against full exposure of the truth are explained in Professor Guy McPherson’s article ‘Climate-Change Summary and Update’.

However, in contrast to the elite-managed mainstream narrative regarding the climate timeframe, there is a group of courageous and prominent climate scientists who offer compelling climate science evidence that human beings, along with millions of other species, will be extinct by 2026 (and perhaps as early as 2021) in response to a projected 10 degree celsius increase in global temperatures above the pre-industrial level by that date. See ‘Will humans be extinct by 2026?’

Before outlining the essence of this article, it is worth noting that the website on which it is posted is ‘Arctic News’ and the editors of this site post vital articles on the world’s climate by highly prominent climate scientists, such as Professor Peter Wadhams (Emeritus Professor of Polar Ocean Physics at Cambridge University and author of A Farewell to Ice: A Report from the Arctic), Dr Andrew Glikson (an Earth and paleoclimate scientist who is a visiting fellow at the Australian National University), Professor Guy McPherson who has written extensively and lectures all over the world on the subject, and ‘Sam Carana’, the pseudonym used by a group of climate scientists concerned to avoid too many adverse impacts on their research, careers and funding by declaring themselves publicly but nevertheless committed to making the truth available for those who seek it.

So, in a few brief points, let me summarize the evidence and argument outlined in the article ‘Will humans be extinct by 2026?’

 

The Climate Science of Destruction of the Biosphere

In the Arctic, there is a vast amount of carbon stored in soils that are now still largely frozen; this frozen soil is called permafrost. But as Arctic temperatures continue to rise and the permafrost thaws, in response to the warming that has occurred already (and is ongoing) by burning fossil fuels and farming animals for human consumption, much of this carbon will be converted into carbon dioxide or methane and released into the atmosphere. There is also a vast amount of methane – in the form of methane hydrates and free gas – stored in sediments under the Arctic Ocean seafloor. As temperatures rise, these sediments are being destabilized and will soon result in massive eruptions of methane from the ocean floor. ‘Due to the abrupt character of such releases and the fact that many seas in the Arctic Ocean are shallow, much of the methane will then enter the atmosphere without getting broken down in the water.’

Adversely impacting this circumstance is that the sea ice continues to retreat as the polar ice cap melts in response to the ongoing temperature increases. Because sea ice reflects sunlight back into Space, as the ice retreats more sunlight hits the (dark-colored) ocean (which absorbs the sunlight) and warms the ocean even more. This causes even more ice melt in what becomes an ongoing self-reinforcing feedback loop that ultimately impacts worldwide, such as triggering huge firestorms in forests and peatlands in North America and Russia.

More importantly, however, without sea ice, storms develop more easily and because they mix warm surface waters with the colder water at the bottom of shallow seas, reaching cracks in sediments filled with ice which acts as a glue holding the sediment together, the ice melt destabilizes the sediments, which are vulnerable to even small differences in temperature and pressure that are triggered by earthquakes, undersea landslides or changes in ocean currents.

As a result, huge amounts of methane can erupt from the seafloor of the Arctic Ocean and once this occurs, it will further raise temperatures, especially over the Arctic, thus acting as another self-reinforcing feedback loop that again makes the situation even worse in the Arctic, with higher temperatures causing even further methane releases, contributing to the vicious cycle that precipitates ‘runaway global warming’.

‘These developments can take place at such a speed that adaptation will be futile. More extreme weather events can hit the same area with a succession of droughts, cold snaps, floods, heat waves and wildfires that follow each other up rapidly. Within just one decade [from 2016], the combined impact of extreme weather, falls in soil quality and air quality, habitat loss and shortages of food, water, shelter and just about all the basic things needed to sustain life can threaten most, if not all life on Earth with extinction.’

The article goes on to outline how the 10 degree increase (above the pre-industrial level) by 2026 is likely to occur. It will involve further carbon dioxide and methane releases from human activity (particularly driving cars and other vehicles, flying in aircraft and eating animal products, as well as military violence), ongoing reduction of snow and ice cover around the world (thus reflecting less sunlight back into Space), an increase in the amount of water vapor (a greenhouse gas) in the atmosphere, a falling away of ‘aerosol masking’ (which has helped reduce the impact of emissions so far) as emissions decline, as well as methane eruptions from the ocean floor. If you would like to read more about this and see the graphs and substantial documentation, you can do so in the article cited above: ‘Will humans be extinct by 2026?’

 

The Ecology of Destruction of the Biosphere

Not that these scientists, who focus on the climate, discuss it but there are other human activities adversely impacting Earth’s biosphere which also threaten near-term extinction for humans, particularly given their synergistic impacts.

For example, recent research has drawn attention to the fact that the ‘alarming loss of insects will likely take down humanity before global warming hits maximum velocity…. The worldwide loss of insects is simply staggering with some reports of 75% up to 90%, happening much faster than the paleoclimate record rate of the past five major extinction events’. Without insects ‘burrowing, forming new soil, aerating soil, pollinating food crops…’ and providing food for many bird species, the biosphere simply collapses. See ‘Insect Decimation Upstages Global Warming’.

Moreover, apart from ongoing destruction of other vital components of Earth’s life support system such as the rainforests – currently being destroyed at the rate of 80,000 acres each day: see ‘Measuring the Daily Destruction of the World’s Rainforests’ – and oceans – see ‘The state of our oceans in 2018 (It’s not looking good!)’ – which is generating an extinction rate of 200 species (plants, birds, animals, fish, amphibians, insects and reptiles) each day with another 26,000 species already identified as ‘under threat’ – see ‘Red list research finds 26,000 global species under extinction threat’ – some prominent scholars have explained how even these figures mask a vital component of the rapidly accelerating catastrophe of species extinctions: the demise of local populations of a species. See ‘Biological annihilation via the ongoing sixth mass extinction signaled by vertebrate population losses and declines’.

In addition, relying on our ignorance and our complicity, elites kill vast areas of Earth’s biosphere through war and other military violence – see, for example, the Toxic Remnants of War Project and the film ‘Scarred Lands & Wounded Lives’ – subject it to uncontrolled releases of radioactive contamination – see Fukushima Radiation Has Contaminated The Entire Pacific Ocean And It’s Going To Get Worse’ – and use geoengineering to wage war on Earth’s climate, environment and ultimately ourselves. See, for example, ‘Engineered Climate Cataclysm: Hurricane Harvey’ and ‘The Ultimate Weapon of Mass Destruction: “Owning the Weather” for Military Use’.

Separately from all of this, we live under the unending threat of nuclear war.

This is because insane political and corporate elites are still authorizing and manufacturing more of these highly profitable weapons rather than dismantling them all (as well as conventional weapons) and redirecting the vast resources devoted to ongoing military killing (US$1.7 trillion annually: see ‘Global military spending remains high at $1.7 trillion’) to environmental restoration and programs of social uplift.

By the way, if you think the risk of nuclear war can be ignored, you might find this recent observation sobering. In a review of (former US nuclear war planner) Daniel Ellsberg’s recent book The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner, Earth and paleoclimate scientist Dr Andrew Glikson summarized the book as follows: ‘This, then, is the doomsday machine. Not simply the existence of fission weapons or unspeakably destructive hydrogen bombs, but the whole network rigged together: thousands of them on hair-trigger alert, command and control equipment built in the 1970s and ’80s, millions of lines of antique code sitting on reels of magnetic tape or shuffled around on floppy discs even now. An architecture tended by fallible and deeply institutionalized human beings.’ See ‘Two Minutes To Mid-Night: The Global Nuclear Suicide Machine’.

So, irrespective of whether elites or their agents or even we acknowledge it, Earth’s biosphere is under siege on many fronts and, very soon now, Earth will not support life. Any honest news source routinely reports one or another aspect of the way in which humans are destroying the Earth and perhaps suggests courses of action to respond powerfully to it. This, of course, does not include the insane global elite’s corporate media, which functions to distract us from any semblance of the truth.

 

How did all this happen?

How did human beings end up in a situation that human extinction is likely to occur within eight years (even assuming we can avert nuclear war)? And is there any prospect of doing enough about it now to avert this extinction?

To answer the first question briefly: We arrived at this juncture in our history because of a long sequence of decisions, essentially made by elites to expand their profit, power and privilege, and which they then imposed on us and which we did not resist powerfully enough. For a fuller explanation, see ‘Strategy and Conscience: Subverting Elite Power So We End Human Violence’.

In any case, the key questions now are simply these: Is it too late to avert our own extinction? And, if not, what must we do?

Well, I am not going to dwell on it but some scientists believe it is too late: we have already passed the point of no return. Professor Guy McPherson is one of these scientists, with a comprehensive explanation and a great deal of evidence to support it in his long and heavily documented article ‘Climate-Change Summary and Update’.

So, the fundamental question is this: If we assume (highly problematically I acknowledge) that it is possible to avert our own extinction by 2026, what must we do?

Because we need to address, in a strategic manner, the interrelated underlying causes that are driving the rush to extinction, let me first identify one important symptom of these underlying causes and then the underlying structural and behavioral causes themselves. Finally, let me invite your participation in (one or more aspects of) a comprehensive strategy designed to address all of this.

As in the past, at least initially, the vast bulk of the human population is not going to respond to this crisis in any way. We need to be aware of this but not let it get in our way. There is a straightforward explanation for it.

Fear or, far more accurately, unconscious terror will ensure that the bulk of the human population will not investigate or seriously consider the scientific evidence in relation to the ongoing climate catastrophe, despite its implications for them personally and humanity generally (not to mention other species and the biosphere). Moreover, given that climate science is not an easy subject with which to grapple, elite control of most media in relation to it (including, most of the time, by simply excluding mention of key learning from the climate scientists) ensures that public awareness, while reasonably high, is not matched by knowledge, which is negligible.

As a result, most people will fearfully, unintelligently and powerlessly accept the delusions, distractions and denial that are promulgated by the insane global elite through its various propaganda channels including the corporate media, public relations and entertainment industries, as well as educational institutions. This propaganda always includes the implicit message that people can’t (and shouldn’t) do anything in response to the climate catastrophe (invariably and inaccurately, benignly described as ‘climate change’).

A primary way in which the corporate media reports the issue but frames it for a powerless response is to simply distribute ‘news’ about each climate-related event without connecting it either with other climate-related events or even mentioning it as yet another symptom of the climate catastrophe. Even if they do mention these connections, they reliably mention distant dates for phenomena like ‘heatwaves’ repeating themselves and an overall ‘end of century’ timeframe to preclude the likelihood that any sense of urgency will arise.

The net outcome of all this, as I stated above, is that the bulk of the human population will not respond to the crisis in the short term (as it hasn’t so far) with most of what limited response there is confined to powerlessly lobbying elite-controlled governments.

However, as long as you consider responding – and by responding, I mean responding strategically – and then do respond, you become a powerful agent of change, including by recruiting others through your example.

But before I present the strategy, let me identify the major structural and behavioral causes that are driving the climate catastrophe and destruction of the biosphere, and explain why some key elements of this strategy are focused on tackling these underlying causes.

 

The Political Economy of Destruction of the Biosphere

The global elite ensures that it has political control of the biosphere as well as Space by using various systems, structures and processes that it largely created (over the past few centuries) and now controls, including the major institutions of governance in the world such as national governments and key international organizations like the United Nations. For further information, see ‘Strategy and Conscience: Subverting Elite Power So We End Human Violence’.

It does this, for example, so that it can economically utilize, via the exploitative mechanisms of capitalism and its corporations (which the elite also created), domains of the biosphere rich in resources, particularly fossil fuels, strategic minerals and fresh water. The elite will use any means – including psychological manipulation, propaganda issued by its corporate media, national educational institutions, legal systems and extraordinary military violence – to achieve this outcome whatever the cost to life on Earth. See ‘Profit Maximization Is Easy: Invest In Violence’.

In short, the global elite is so insane that its members believe that killing and exploiting fellow human beings and destroying the biosphere are simply good ways to make a profit. Of course, they do not perceive us as fellow human beings; they perceive and treat us as a great deal less. This is why, for example, the elite routinely uses its military forces to attack impoverished and militarily primitive countries so that they can steal their resources. See ‘The Global Elite is Insane Revisited’.

But they are happy to steal from those of us living in western economies too, with Professor Barbara G. Ellis issuing the latest warning about yet another way this could easily happen. See Depositors – Not Taxpayers – Will Take the Hit for the Next “2008” Crash Because Major Banks May Use the “Bail-In” System’.

Anyway, because of elite control of governments, it is a waste of time lobbying politicians if we want action on virtually all issues that concern us, particularly the ‘big issues’ that threaten extinction, such as the climate catastrophe, environmental destruction and war (especially the threat of nuclear war). While in very limited (and usually social) contexts (such as issues in relation to the right of women to abortions or rights for the LGBTQIA communities), when it doesn’t significantly adversely impact elite priorities, gains are sometimes made (at least temporarily) by mobilizing sufficient people to pressure politicians. This has two beneficial outcomes for elites: it keeps many people busy on ‘secondary issues’ (from the elite perspective) that do not impact elite profit, power and privilege; and it reinforces the delusion that democracy ‘works’.

However, in the contexts that directly impact elite concerns (such as their unbridled exploitation of the biosphere for profit), politicians serve their elite masters, even to the extent that any laws that might appear to have been designed to impede elite excesses (such as pollution generated by their activities) are readily ignored if necessary, with legal penalties too insignificant to deter phenomenally wealthy corporations. See ‘The Rule of Law: Unjust and Violent’.

Of course, if any government does not obey elite directives, it is overthrown. Just ask any independently-minded government over the past century. For a list of governments overthrown by the global elite using its military and ‘intelligence’ agencies since World War II, see William Blum’s book Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II or, for just the list, see ‘Overthrowing other people’s governments: The Master List’.

How does the elite maintain this control over political, economic, military, legal and social structures and processes?

 

The Sociology of Destruction of the Biosphere

As explained in the literature on the sociology of knowledge, reality is socially constructed. See the classic work The Social Construction of Reality: A Treatise in the Sociology of Knowledge. That is, if an individual is born or introduced into a society in which particular institutions are in control and behaviors such as chronic over-consumption, unlimited profit-making, rampant exploitation of the environment and grotesque violence against (at least some) people are practiced, then the typical individual will accept the existence of these institutions and adopt the behaviors of the people around them even though the institutions and behaviors are dysfunctional and violent.

But while the sociology of knowledge literature recognizes that children ‘must be “taught to behave” and, once taught, must be “kept in line”’ to maintain the institutional order, this literature clearly has no understanding of the nature and extent of the violence to which each child is actually subjected in order to achieve the desired ‘socialization’. This terrorization, as I label it, is so comprehensive that the typical child quickly becomes incapable of using their own intellectual and emotional capacities, including conscience and courage, to actually evaluate any institution or behavior before accepting/adopting it themselves. Obviously then, they quickly become too terrified to overtly challenge dysfunctional institutions and behaviors as well.

Moreover, as a result of this ongoing terrorization, inflicted by the significant adults (and particularly the parents) in the child’s life, the child soon becomes too (unconsciously) afraid to resist the behavioral violence that is inflicted on them personally in many forms, as outlined briefly in the next section, so that they are ‘taught to behave’ and are ‘kept in line’.

In response to elite-driven imperatives then, such as ‘you are what you own’ to encourage very profitable over-consumption, most people are delusionarily ‘happy’ while utterly trapped behaving exactly as elites manipulate them – they are devoid of the psychological capacity to critique and resist – and the elite-preferred behavior quickly acquires the status of being ‘the only and the right way to behave’, irrespective of its dysfunctionality.

In essence: virtually all humans fearfully adopt dysfunctional social behaviors such as over-consumption and profit-making at the expense of the biosphere, rather than intelligently, conscientiously and courageously analyzing the total situation (including the moral and ecological dimensions of it) and behaving appropriately in the context.

Given the pervasiveness and power of elite institutions, ranging from those mentioned above to the corporate media and psychiatry – see ‘Defeating the Violence of Psychiatry’ – resistance to violent socialization (of both children and adults) requires considerable awareness, not to mention courage.

And so our fear makes virtually all of us succumb to the socialization pressure (that is, violence) to accept existing institutions and participate in widespread social behaviors (such as over-consumption) that are dysfunctional and violent.

 

The Psychology of Destruction of the Biosphere

This happens because each child, from birth, is terrorized (again: what we like to call ‘socialized’) until they become a slave willing to work and, in industrialized countries at least, to over-consume as directed.

Under an unrelenting regime of ‘visible’, ‘invisible’ and ‘utterly invisible’ violence, each child unconsciously surrenders their search in pursuit of their own unique and powerful destiny and succumbs to the obedience that every adult demands. Why do adults demand this? Because the idea of a powerful child who courageously follows their own Self-will terrifies adults. So how does this happen?

Unfortunately, far too easily and, strange though it may seem, it is not just the ‘visible’ violence (such as hitting, screaming at and sexually abusing) that we normally label ‘violence’ that causes the main damage, although this is extremely damaging. The largest component of damage arises from the ‘invisible’ and ‘utterly invisible’ violence that we adults unconsciously inflict on children during the ordinary course of the day. Tragically, the bulk of this violence occurs in the family home and at school. See ‘Why Violence?’ and Fearless Psychology and Fearful Psychology: Principles and Practice.

So what is ‘invisible’ violence? It is the ‘little things’ we do every day, partly because we are just ‘too busy’. For example, when we do not allow time to listen to, and value, a child’s thoughts and feelings, the child learns to not listen to themSelf thus destroying their internal communication system. When we do not let a child say what they want (or ignore them when they do), the child develops communication and behavioral dysfunctionalities as they keep trying to meet their own needs (which, as a basic survival strategy, they are genetically programmed to do).

When we blame, condemn, insult, mock, embarrass, shame, humiliate, taunt, goad, guilt-trip, deceive, lie to, bribe, blackmail, moralize with and/or judge a child, we both undermine their sense of Self-worth and teach them to blame, condemn, insult, mock, embarrass, shame, humiliate, taunt, goad, guilt-trip, deceive, lie, bribe, blackmail, moralize and/or judge.

The fundamental outcome of being bombarded throughout their childhood by this ‘invisible’ violence is that the child is utterly overwhelmed by feelings of fear, pain, anger and sadness (among many others). However, mothers, fathers, teachers, religious figures and other adults also actively interfere with the expression of these feelings and the behavioral responses that are naturally generated by them and it is this ‘utterly invisible’ violence that explains why the dysfunctional behavioral outcomes actually occur.

For example, by ignoring a child when they express their feelings, by comforting, reassuring or distracting a child when they express their feelings, by laughing at or ridiculing their feelings, by terrorizing a child into not expressing their feelings (for instance, by screaming at them when they cry or get angry), and/or by violently controlling a behavior that is generated by their feelings (for example, by hitting them, restraining them or locking them into a room), the child has no choice but to unconsciously suppress their awareness of these feelings.

However, once a child has been terrorized into suppressing their awareness of their feelings (rather than being allowed to have their feelings and to act on them) the child has also unconsciously suppressed their awareness of the reality that caused these feelings. This has many outcomes that are disastrous for the individual, for society and for the biosphere because the individual will now easily suppress their awareness of the feelings that would tell them how to act most functionally in any given circumstance and they will progressively acquire a phenomenal variety of dysfunctional behaviors, including some that are violent towards themself, others and/or the Earth.

Moreover, terrorizing the child has many flow-on effects. For example, once you terrorise a child into accepting certain information about themself, other people or the state of the world, the child becomes unconsciously fearful of dealing with new information, especially if this information is contradictory to what they have been terrorized into believing. As a result, the child will unconsciously dismiss new information out of hand.

In short, the child has been terrorized in such a way that they are no longer capable of learning (or their learning capacity is seriously diminished by excluding any information that is not a simple extension of what they already ‘know’). This is one important explanation why some people are ‘climate deniers’ and most others do nothing in response to the climate catastrophe. See ‘The Psychology of Denial’.

Consequently, under this onslaught of terror and violence, the child surrenders their own unique Self and takes on their socially constructed delusional identity which gives them relief from being terrorized while securing the approval they crave to survive.

So if we want to end violence against the biosphere, we must tackle this fundamental cause. Primarily, this means giving everyone, child and adult alike, all of the space they need to feel, deeply, what they want to do, and to then let them do it (or to have the emotional responses they naturally have if they are prevented from doing so).

For some insight into the critical role that school plays in reducing virtually all children to wage slaves for employment in some menial or ‘professional’ role or as ‘cannon fodder’ for the military, while stripping them of the capacity to ask penetrating questions about the very nature of society and their own role in it, see ‘Do We Want School or Education?’

In summary, given that human society is so dysfunctional, beginning with the fact that human beings do not know how to parent or educate their children to nurture their unique and extraordinary potential, humans face a monumental challenge, in an incredibly short timeframe, to have any chance of survival.

And we are going to have to fix a lot more things than just our destruction of the biosphere if we are to succeed, given that ecologically destructive behavior and institutions have their origin in dysfunctional psychology, societies and political economy.

To reiterate however, it is our (often unconscious) fear that underpins every problem. Whether it is the fear getting in the way of our capacity to intelligently analyze the various structures and behaviors that generate the interrelated crises in which we now find ourselves or the fear undermining our courage to act powerfully in response to these crises, acknowledging and dealing with our fear is the core of any strategy for survival.

 

So what’s the plan?

Let’s start with you. If you consider the evidence in relation to destruction of our biosphere, essentially one of two things will happen. Either you will be powerful enough, both emotionally and intellectually, to grapple with this evidence and you will take strategic action that has ongoing positive impact on the crisis or your (unconscious) fear will simply use one of its lifelong mechanisms to remove awareness of what you have just read from your mind or otherwise delude you, such as by making you believe you are powerless to act differently or that you are ‘doing enough already’. This immobilizing fear, whether or not you experience it consciously, is a primary outcome of the terrorization to which you were subjected as a child.

So, if you sense that improving your own functionality – so that you can fully access your emotional responses, conscience and courage – is a priority, try ‘Putting Feelings First’.

If you already feel able to act powerfully in response to this multi-faceted crisis, in a way that will have strategic impact, you are invited to consider joining those participating in The Flame Tree Project to Save Life on Earth, which outlines a simple plan for people to systematically reduce their consumption, by at least 80%, involving both energy and resources of every kind – water, household energy, transport fuels, metals, meat, paper and plastic – while dramatically expanding their individual and community self-reliance in 16 areas, so that all environmental concerns are effectively addressed. You might also consider signing the online pledge of ‘The People’s Charter to Create a Nonviolent World’.

If you are interested in nurturing children to live by their conscience and to gain the courage necessary to resist elite violence fearlessly, while living sustainably despite the entreaties of capitalism to over-consume, then you are welcome to make ‘My Promise to Children’. To reiterate: capitalism and other dysfunctional political, economic, military, legal and social structures only thrive because our dysfunctional parenting robs children of their conscience and courage, among many other qualities, while actively teaching them to over-consume as compensation for having vital emotional needs denied. See ‘Love Denied: The Psychology of Materialism, Violence and War’.

If you are interested in conducting or participating in a campaign to halt our destruction of the biosphere (or any other manifestation of violence for that matter) you are welcome to consider acting strategically in the way that the extraordinary activist Mohandas K. Gandhi did. Whether you are engaged in a peace, climate, environment or social justice campaign, the 12-point strategic framework and principles are the same. See Nonviolent Campaign Strategy.

The two strategic aims and a core list of strategic goals to end war and to end the climate catastrophe, for example, are identified in Campaign Strategic Aims’ and, using these examples, it is a straightforward task to identify an appropriate set of strategic goals for your local environment campaign. As an aside, the strategic framework to defend against a foreign invading power or a political/military coup, to liberate your country from a dictatorship or a foreign occupation, or to defeat a genocidal assault is explained in Nonviolent Defense/Liberation Strategy.

If you would like a straightforward explanation of ‘Nonviolent Action: Why and How it Works’ and an introduction to what it means to think strategically, try reading about the difference between ‘The Political Objective and Strategic Goal of Nonviolent Actions’.

If you anticipate violent repression by a ruthless opponent, consider planning and implementing any nonviolent action according to the explanation in ‘Nonviolent Action: Minimizing the Risk of Violent Repression’.

Finally, if you are going to do nothing in response to this crisis, make it a conscious decision to do nothing. This is far preferable to unconsciously and powerlessly doing nothing by never even considering the evidence or by simply deluding yourself. It also allows you to consciously revise your decision at some point in future if you so wish.

 

Conclusion

The evidence in relation to destruction of the Earth’s biosphere, leading to ongoing and rapid degradation of all ecosystems and their services, is readily available and overwhelming. The many and varied forms of destruction are having synergistic impact. An insignificant amount of the vast evidence in relation to this destruction is sampled above.

There is a notable group of prominent climate scientists who present compelling evidence that human extinction will occur by 2026 as a result of a projected 10 degree celsius increase in global temperatures above the pre-industrial level by this date. The primary document for this is noted above and this document, together with the evidence it cites, is readily available to be read and analyzed by anyone.

Largely separately from the climate catastrophe (although now increasingly complicated by it), Earth’s sixth mass extinction is already advancing rapidly as we destroy habitat and, on our current trajectory, all species will soon enter the fossil record.

Why? Because we live in a world in which the political, economic, military, legal and social structures and processes of human society are utterly incapable of producing either functional human beings or governance mechanisms that take into account, and respect, the ecological realities of Earth’s biosphere.

So, to reiterate: We are on the fast-track to extinction. On the current trajectory, assuming we can avert nuclear war, some time between 2021 and 2026 the last human will take their final breath.

Our only prospect of survival, and it still has only a remote chance of succeeding, is that a great number of us respond powerfully now and keep mobilizing more people to do so.

If you do absolutely nothing else, consider rearranging your life to exclude all meat from your diet, stop traveling by car and aircraft, substantially reduce your water consumption by scaling down your ownership of electronic devices (which require massive amounts of water to manufacture), and only eat biodynamically or organically grown whole food.

And tell people why you are doing so.

This might give those of us who fight strategically, which can include you if you so choose, a little more time to overturn the structural and remaining behavioral drivers of extinction which will require a profound change in the very nature of human society, including all of its major political, economic, military, legal and social institutions and processes (most of which will need to be abolished).

If this sounds ‘radical’, remember that they are about to vanish anyway. Our strategy must be to replace them with functional equivalents, all of which are readily available (with some briefly outlined in the various documents mentioned in the plan above).

‘It won’t happen’, you might say? And, to be candid, I sincerely believe that you are highly probably right. I have spent a lifetime observing, analyzing, writing about and acting to heal dysfunctional and violent human behavior and, for that reason, I am not going to delude myself that anything less than what I have outlined above will achieve the outcome that I seek: to avert human extinction. But I am realistic.

The insane individuals who control the institutions that are driving extinction will never act to avert it. If they were sane enough to do so, they would have been directing and coordinating these institutions in taking action for the past 40 years. This is why we must resist them strategically. Moreover, I am only too well aware that the bulk of the human population has been terrorized into powerlessness and won’t even act. But our best chance lies in offering them our personal example, and giving them simple and various options for responding effectively.

It is going to be a tough fight for human survival, particularly this late in the ‘game’. Nevertheless, I intend to fight until my last breath. I hope that you will too.

 

Biodata: Robert J. Burrowes has a lifetime commitment to understanding and ending human violence. He has done extensive research since 1966 in an effort to understand why human beings are violent and has been a nonviolent activist since 1981. He is the author of ‘Why Violence?’ http://tinyurl.com/whyviolence His email address is flametree@riseup.net and his website is here. http://robertjburrowes.wordpress.com

Robert J. Burrowes
P.O. Box 68
Daylesford, Victoria 3460
Australia

Email: flametree@riseup.net

Websites:
Nonviolence Charter
Flame Tree Project to Save Life on Earth
‘Why Violence?’
Feelings First
Nonviolent Campaign Strategy
Nonviolent Defense/Liberation Strategy
Anita: Songs of Nonviolence
Robert Burrowes
Global Nonviolence Network

Posted in Authoritarianism, conditioning, consciousness, corporate news, culture, Dystopia, elites, Environment, Philosophy, Psychology, Science, Social Control, Social Engineering, society, Sociology | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Alex Jones and the Rise of Corporate Censorship

By Brendan O’Neill

Source: Strategic Culture Foundation

So we’re now trusting the capitalist class, massive, unaccountable corporations, to decide on our behalf what we may listen to and talk about? This is the take-home message, the terrible take-home message, of the expulsion of Alex Jones’ Infowars network from Apple, Facebook and Spotify and of the wild whoops of delight that this summary banning generated among so-called liberals: that people are now okay with allowing global capitalism to govern the public sphere and to decree what is sayable and what is unsayable. Corporate censorship, liberals’ new favourite thing – how bizarre.

We live in strange times. On one hand it is fashionable to hate capitalism these days. No middle-class home is complete without a Naomi Klein tome; making memes of Marx is every twentysomething Corbynistas’ favourite pastime. But on the other hand we seem content to trust Silicon Valley, the new frontier in corporate power, to make moral judgements about what kind of content people should be able to see online. Radicals and liberals declared themselves ‘very glad’ that these business elites enforced censorship against Jones and Infowars. We should be ‘celebrating the move’, said Vox, because ‘it represents a crucial step forward in the fight against fake news’. Liberals for capitalist censorship! The world just got that bit odder, and less free.

Over the past 24 hours, Jones and much of his Infowars channel has been ‘summarily banned’ – in the excitable words of Vox – from Apple, Facebook, Spotify and YouTube. Initially, Facebook and YouTube had taken only selective measures against Jones. In response to a Twitterstorm about his presence on these platforms, they took down some of his videos. But then Apple decided to ban Jones entirely – removing all episodes of his podcast from its platform – and the other online giants followed suit. Or as the thrilled liberal commentary put it: ‘The dominoes started to fall.’ Despite having millions of subscribers, despite there being a public interest in what he has to say, Jones has been cast out of the world of social media, which is essentially the public square of the 21st century, on the basis that what he says is wicked.

This is censorship. There will of course be apologists for the corporate control of speech, on both the left and right, who will say, ‘It’s only censorship when the government does it!’. They are so wrong. When enormous companies that have arguably become the facilitators of public debate expel someone and his ideas because they find them morally repugnant, that is censorship. Powerful people have deprived an individual and his network of a key space in which they might propagate their beliefs. Aka censorship.

It doesn’t matter what you think of Jones. It doesn’t matter if you think he is mad, eccentric, and given to embracing crackpot theories about school shootings being faked. You should still be worried about what has happened to him because it confirms we have moved into a new era of outsourced censorship. It shows that what was once done by the state is now done by corporations. The illiberal, intolerant cleansing from public life of ideas judged to be offensive or dangerous has shifted from being the state’s thing to being the business elite’s thing. Witness how many campaigners for censorship now seek to marshal capitalist power to the end of erasing voices they don’t like – from the Dump Farage campaign that wants corporations to withdraw their advertising from LBC until it dumps Nigel Farage as a presenter to the calling on Silicon Valley to deprive the oxygen of publicity to offensive broadcasters.

In essence, so-called liberals and sections of the political class now want corporations to do their dirty work for them. They want the capitalist elites to do what it has become somewhat unfashionable for the state to do: ban controversial political speech. What an extraordinary folly this is. To empower global capitalism to act as judge, jury and executioner on what may be said on social-media platforms, in the new public square, is to sign the death warrant of freedom of speech. What if these bosses decide next that Marxist speech is unacceptable? Or that Zionist speech is dangerous? In green-lighting the censorship of Jones, we grant corporate suits the moral authority to censor pretty much anything else, too.

People on both the liberal left and the libertarian right argue that what has been done to Jones is acceptable because this is simply a case of businesses deciding freely who they should associate with or provide platforms to. This is disingenuous. This was not a clean, independent business decision – it was a rash act of silencing carried out under pressure from a moralised mob that insisted Jones’ words are too wicked for public life. This isn’t the free market in action – it’s the bending of capitalist power to the end of enforcing moral controls on speech. There is one very interesting thing that will spring from this incident: we will witness the severe limitations of right-wing libertarianism. Libertarians’ obsession with the state, their belief that things are only bad if the state does them, means they are incapable of arguing against capitalist authoritarianism, and in fact even support it on the basis that this is the free market being the free market (even though it isn’t). Libertarianism is devastatingly ill-prepared for the new authoritarianism, for tackling the rise of outsourced censorship and informal intolerance.

For good or ill, the social-media sphere is the new public sphere. The expulsion of people from these platforms is to 2018 what a state ban on the publication or sale of certain books was to 1618. How can we convince the owners of social media to permit the freest speech possible and to trust their users to negotiate the world of ideas for themselves? This is the question we should be asking ourselves, rather than concocting more ways to encourage these corporate overlords to censor and blacklist.

Posted in censorship, civil liberties, Conspiracy, corporate news, culture, Dystopia, freedom of speech, internet freedom, media, Media Literacy, Social Control, Social Engineering, society, Technology | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

9 Things You Don’t Know about Yourself

By Steve Ayan

Source: Waking Times

Your “self” lies before you like an open book. Just peer inside and read: who you are, your likes and dislikes, your hopes and fears; they are all there, ready to be understood. This notion is popular but is probably completely false! Psychological research shows that we do not have privileged access to who we are. When we try to assess ourselves accurately, we are really poking around in a fog.

Princeton University psychologist Emily Pronin, who specializes in human self-perception and decision making, calls the mistaken belief in privileged access the “introspection illusion.” The way we view ourselves is distorted, but we do not realize it. As a result, our self-image has surprisingly little to do with our actions. For example, we may be absolutely convinced that we are empathetic and generous but still walk right past a homeless person on a cold day.

The reason for this distorted view is quite simple, according to Pronin. Because we do not want to be stingy, arrogant, or self-righteous, we assume that we are not any of those things. As evidence, she points to our divergent views of ourselves and others. We have no trouble recognizing how prejudiced or unfair our office colleague acts toward another person. But we do not consider that we could behave in much the same way: Because we intend to be morally good, it never occurs to us that we, too, might be prejudiced.

Pronin assessed her thesis in a number of experiments. Among other things, she had her study participants complete a test involving matching faces with personal statements that would supposedly assess their social intelligence. Afterward, some of them were told that they had failed and were asked to name weaknesses in the testing procedure. Although the opinions of the subjects were almost certainly biased (not only had they supposedly failed the test, they were also being asked to critique it), most of the participants said their evaluations were completely objective. It was much the same in judging works of art, although subjects who used a biased strategy for assessing the quality of paintings nonetheless believed that their own judgment was balanced. Pronin argues that we are primed to mask our own biases.

Is the word “introspection” merely a nice metaphor? Could it be that we are not really looking into ourselves, as the Latin root of the word suggests, but producing a flattering self-image that denies the failings that we all have? The research on self-knowledge has yielded much evidence for this conclusion. Although we think we are observing ourselves clearly, our self-image is affected by processes that remain unconscious.

1. Your motives are often a complete mystery to you

How well do people know themselves? In answering this question, researchers encounter the following problem: to assess a person’s self-image, one would have to know who that person really is. Investigators use a variety of techniques to tackle such questions. For example, they compare the self-assessments of test subjects with the subjects’ behavior in laboratory situations or in everyday life. They may ask other people, such as relatives or friends, to assess subjects, as well. And they probe unconscious inclinations using special methods.

To measure unconscious inclinations, psychologists can apply a method known as the implicit association test (IAT), developed in the 1990s by Anthony Greenwald of the University of Washington and his colleagues, to uncover hidden attitudes. Since then, numerous variants have been devised to examine anxiety, impulsiveness, and sociability, among other features. The approach assumes that instantaneous reactions require no reflection; as a result, unconscious parts of the personality come to the fore.

Notably, experimenters seek to determine how closely words that are relevant to a person are linked to certain concepts. For example, participants in a study were asked to press a key as quickly as possible when a word that described a characteristic such as extroversion (say, “talkative” or “energetic”) appeared on a screen. They were also asked to press the same key as soon as they saw a word on the screen that related to themselves (such as their own name). They were to press a different key as soon as an introverted characteristic (say, “quiet” or “withdrawn”) appeared or when the word involved someone else. Of course, the words and key combinations were switched over the course of many test runs. If a reaction was quicker when a word associated with the participant followed “extroverted,” for instance, it was assumed that extroversion was probably integral to that person’s self-image.

“When we try to assess ourselves accurately, we are really poking around in a fog.” ~Steve Ayan

Such “implicit” self-concepts generally correspond only weakly to assessments of the self that are obtained through questionnaires. The image that people convey in surveys has little to do with their lightning-fast reactions to emotionally laden words. And a person’s implicit self-image is often quite predictive of his or her actual behavior, especially when nervousness or sociability is involved. On the other hand, questionnaires yield better information about such traits as conscientiousness or openness to new experiences. Psychologist Mitja Back of the University of Münster in Germany explains that methods designed to elicit automatic reactions reflect the spontaneous or habitual components of our personality. Conscientiousness and curiosity, on the other hand, require a certain degree of thought and can therefore be assessed more easily through self-reflection.

2. Outward appearances tell people a lot about you

Much research indicates that our nearest and dearest often see us better than we see ourselves. As psychologist Simine Vazire of the University of California, Davis, has shown, two conditions in particular may enable others to recognize who we really are most readily: First, when they are able to “read” a trait from outward characteristics and, second, when a trait has a clear positive or negative valence (intelligence and creativity are obviously desirable, for instance; dishonesty and egocentricity are not). Our assessments of ourselves most closely match assessments by others when it comes to more neutral characteristics.

The characteristics generally most readable by others are those that strongly affect our behavior. For example, people who are naturally sociable typically like to talk and seek out company; insecurity often manifests in behaviors such as hand-wringing or averting one’s gaze. In contrast, brooding is generally internal, unspooling within the confines of one’s mind.

We are frequently blind to the effect we have on others because we simply do not see our own facial expressions, gestures, and body language. I am hardly aware that my blinking eyes indicate stress or that the slump in my posture betrays how heavily something weighs on me. Because it is so difficult to observe ourselves, we must rely on the observations of others, especially those who know us well. It is hard to know who we are unless others let us know how we affect them.

3. Gaining some distance can help you know yourself better

Keeping a diary, pausing for self-reflection, and having probing conversations with others have a long tradition, but whether these methods enable us to know ourselves is hard to tell. In fact, sometimes doing the opposite—such as letting go—is more helpful because it provides some distance. In 2013, Erika Carlson, now at the University of Toronto, reviewed the literature on whether and how mindfulness meditation improves one’s self-knowledge. It helps, she noted, by overcoming two big hurdles: distorted thinking and ego protection. The practice of mindfulness teaches us to allow our thoughts to simply drift by and to identify with them as little as possible. Thoughts, after all, are “only thoughts” and not the absolute truth. Frequently, stepping out of oneself in this way and simply observing what the mind does fosters clarity.

4. We too often think we are better at something than we are

Gaining insight into our unconscious motives can enhance emotional well-being. Oliver C. Schultheiss of Friedrich-Alexander University of Erlangen-Nürnberg in Germany has shown that our sense of well-being tends to grow as our conscious goals and unconscious motives become more aligned or congruent. For example, we should not slave away at a career that gives us money and power if these goals are of little importance to us. But how do we achieve such harmony? By imagining, for example. Try to imagine, as vividly and in as much detail as possible, how things would be if your most fervent wish came true. Would it really make you happier? Often we succumb to the temptation to aim excessively high without taking into account all of the steps and effort necessary to achieve ambitious goals.

Are you familiar with the Dunning-Kruger effect? It holds that the more incompetent people are, the less they are aware of their incompetence. The effect is named after David Dunning of the University of Michigan and Justin Kruger of New York University.

Dunning and Kruger gave their test subjects a series of cognitive tasks and asked them to estimate how well they did. At best, 25 percent of the participants viewed their performance more or less realistically; only some people underestimated themselves. The quarter of subjects who scored worst on the tests really missed the mark, wildly exaggerating their cognitive abilities. Is it possible that boasting and failing are two sides of the same coin?

As the researchers emphasize, their work highlights a general feature of self-perception: Each of us tends to overlook our cognitive deficiencies. According to psychologist Adrian Furnham of University College London, the statistical correlation between perceived and actual IQ is, on average, only 0.16—a pretty poor showing, to put it mildly. By comparison, the correlation between height and sex is about 0.7.

So why is the chasm between would-be and actual performance so gaping? Don’t we all have an interest in assessing ourselves realistically? It surely would spare us a great deal of wasted effort and perhaps a few embarrassments. The answer, it seems, is that a moderate inflation of self-esteem has certain benefits. According to a review by psychologists Shelley Taylor of the University of California, Los Angeles, and Jonathon Brown of the University of Washington, rose-colored glasses tend to increase our sense of well-being and our performance. People afflicted by depression, on the other hand, are inclined to be brutally realistic in their self-assessments. An embellished self-image seems to help us weather the ups and downs of daily life.

5. People who tear themselves down experience setbacks more frequently

Although most of our contemporaries harbor excessively positive views of their honesty or intelligence, some people suffer from the opposite distortion: They belittle themselves and their efforts. Experiencing contempt and belittlement in childhood, often associated with violence and abuse, can trigger this kind of negativity—which, in turn, can limit what people can accomplish, leading to distrust, despair, and even suicidal thoughts.

It might seem logical to think that people with a negative self-image would be just the ones who would want to overcompensate. Yet as psychologists working with William Swann of the University of Texas at Austin discovered, many individuals racked with self-doubt seek confirmation of their distorted self-perception. Swann described this phenomenon in a study on contentment in marriage. He asked couples about their own strengths and weaknesses, the ways they felt supported and valued by their partner, and how content they were in the marriage. As expected, those who had a more positive attitude toward themselves found greater satisfaction in their relationship the more they received praise and recognition from their other half. But those who habitually picked at themselves felt safer in their marriage when their partner reflected their negative image back to them. They did not ask for respect or appreciation. On the contrary, they wanted to hear exactly their own view of themselves: “You’re incompetent.”

Swann based his theory of self-verification on these findings. The theory holds that we want others to see us the way we see ourselves. In some cases, people actually provoke others to respond negatively to them so as to prove how worthless they are. This behavior is not necessarily masochism. It is symptomatic of the desire for coherence: If others respond to us in a way that confirms our self-image, then the world is as it should be.

Likewise, people who consider themselves failures will go out of their way not to succeed, contributing actively to their own undoing. They will miss meetings, habitually neglect doing assigned work, and get into hot water with the boss. Swann’s approach contradicts Dunning and Kruger’s theory of overestimation. But both camps are probably right: hyperinflated egos are certainly common, but negative self-images are not uncommon.

6. You deceive yourself without realizing it

According to one influential theory, our tendency for self-deception stems from our desire to impress others. To appear convincing, we ourselves must be convinced of our capabilities and truthfulness. Supporting this theory is the observation that successful manipulators are often quite full of themselves. Good salespeople, for example, exude an enthusiasm that is contagious; conversely, those who doubt themselves generally are not good at sweet talking. Lab research is supportive as well. In one study, participants were offered money if, in an interview, they could convincingly claim to have aced an IQ test. The more effort the candidates put into their performance, the more they themselves came to believe that they had a high IQ, even though their actual scores were more or less average.

Our self-deceptions have been shown to be quite changeable. Often we adapt them flexibly to new situations. This adaptability was demonstrated by Steven A. Sloman of Brown University and his colleagues. Their subjects were asked to move a cursor to a dot on a computer screen as quickly as possible. If the participants were told that above-average skill in this task reflected high intelligence, they immediately concentrated on the task and did better. They did not actually seem to think that they had exerted more effort—which the researchers interpret as evidence of a successful self-deception. On the other hand, if the test subjects were convinced that only dimwits performed well on such stupid tasks, their performance tanked precipitously.

But is self-deception even possible? Can we know something about ourselves on some level without being conscious of it? Absolutely! The experimental evidence involves the following research design: Subjects are played audiotapes of human voices, including their own, and are asked to signal whether they hear themselves. The recognition rate fluctuates depending on the clarity of the audiotapes and the loudness of the background noise. If brain waves are measured at the same time, particular signals in the reading indicate with certainty whether the participants heard their own voice.

Most people are somewhat embarrassed to hear their own voice. In a classic study, Ruben Gur of the University of Pennsylvania and Harold Sackeim of Columbia University made use of this reticence, comparing the statements of test subjects with their brain activity. Lo and behold, the activity frequently signaled, “That’s me!” without subjects’ having overtly identified a voice as their own. Moreover, if the investigators threatened the participants’ self-image—say, by telling them that they had scored miserably on another (irrelevant) test—they were even less apt to recognize their voice. Either way, their brain waves told the real story.

In a more recent study, researchers evaluated performances on a practice test meant to help students assess their own knowledge so that they could fill in gaps. Here, subjects were asked to complete as many tasks as possible within a set time limit. Given that the purpose of the practice test was to provide students with information they needed, it made little sense for them to cheat; on the contrary, artificially pumped-up scores could have led them to let their studies slide. Those who tried to improve their scores by using time beyond the allotted completion period would just be hurting themselves.

But many of the volunteers did precisely that. Unconsciously, they simply wanted to look good. Thus, the cheaters explained their running over time by claiming to have been distracted and wanting to make up for lost seconds. Or they said that their fudged outcomes were closer to their “true potential.” Such explanations, according to the researchers, confuse cause and effect, with people incorrectly thinking, “Intelligent people usually do better on tests. So if I manipulate my test score by simply taking a little more time than allowed, I’m one of the smart ones, too.” Conversely, people performed less diligently if they were told that doing well indicated a higher risk for developing schizophrenia. Researchers call this phenomenon diagnostic self-deception.

7. The “true self” is good for you

Most people believe that they have a solid essential core, a true self. Who they truly are is evinced primarily in their moral values and is relatively stable; other preferences may change, but the true self remains the same. Rebecca Schlegel and Joshua Hicks, both at Texas A&M University, and their colleagues have examined how people’s view of their true self affects their satisfaction with themselves. The researchers asked test subjects to keep a diary about their everyday life. The participants turned out to feel most alienated from themselves when they had done something morally questionable: They felt especially unsure of who they actually were when they had been dishonest or selfish. Experiments have also confirmed an association between the self and morality. When test subjects are reminded of earlier wrongdoing, their surety about themselves takes a hit.

Another study by Newman and Knobe involved “Mark,” a devout Christian who was nonetheless attracted to other men. The researchers sought to understand how the participants viewed Mark’s dilemma. For conservative test subjects, Mark’s “true self” was not gay; they recommended that he resist such temptations. Those with a more liberal outlook thought he should come out of the closet. Yet if Mark was presented as a secular humanist who thought being homosexual was fine but had negative feelings when thinking about same-sex couples, the conservatives quickly identified this reluctance as evidence of Mark’s true self; liberals viewed it as evidence of a lack of insight or sophistication. In other words, what we claim to be the core of another person’s personality is in fact rooted in the values that we ourselves hold most dear. The “true self” turns out to be a moral yardstick.George Newman and Joshua Knobe, both at Yale University, have found that people typically think humans harbor a true self that is virtuous. They presented subjects with case studies of dishonest people, racists, and the like. Participants generally attributed the behavior in the case studies to environmental factors such as a difficult childhood—the real essence of these people must surely have been different. This work shows our tendency to think that, in their heart of hearts, people pull for what is moral and good.

The belief that the true self is moral probably explains why people connect personal improvements more than personal deficiencies to their “true self.” Apparently we do so actively to enhance appraisals of ourselves. Anne E. Wilson of Wilfrid Laurier University in Ontario and Michael Ross of the University of Waterloo in Ontario have demonstrated in several studies that we tend to ascribe more negative traits to the person we were in the past—which makes us look better in the here and now. According to Wilson and Ross, the further back people go, the more negative their characterization becomes. Although improvement and change are part of the normal maturation process, it feels good to believe that over time, one has become “who one really is.”

Assuming that we have a solid core identity reduces the complexity of a world that is constantly in flux. The people around us play many different roles, acting inconsistently and at the same time continuing to develop. It is reassuring to think that our friends Tom and Sarah will be precisely the same tomorrow as they are today and that they are basically good people—regardless of whether that perception is correct.

Is life without belief in a true self even imaginable? Researchers have examined this question by comparing different cultures. The belief in a true self is widespread in most parts of the world. One exception is Buddhism, which preaches the nonexistence of a stable self. Prospective Buddhist monks are taught to see through the illusionary character of the ego—it is always in flux and completely malleable.

Nina Strohminger of the University of Pennsylvania and her colleagues wanted to know how this perspective affects the fear of death of those who hold it. They gave a series of questionnaires and scenarios to about 200 lay Tibetans and 60 Buddhist monks. They compared the results with those of Christians and nonreligious people in the U.S., as well as with those of Hindus (who, much like Christians, believe that a core of the soul, or atman, gives human beings their identity). The common image of Buddhists is that they are deeply relaxed, completely “selfless” people. Yet the less that the Tibetan monks believed in a stable inner essence, the more likely they were to fear death. In addition, they were significantly more selfish in a hypothetical scenario in which forgoing a particular medication could prolong the life of another person. Nearly three out of four monks decided against that fictitious option, far more than the Americans or Hindus. Self-serving, fearful Buddhists? In another paper, Strohminger and her colleagues called the idea of the true self a “hopeful phantasm,” albeit a possibly useful one. It is, in any case, one that is hard to shake.

8. Insecure people tend to behave more morally

Insecurity is generally thought of as a drawback, but it is not entirely bad. People who feel insecure about whether they have some positive trait tend to try to prove that they do have it. Those who are unsure of their generosity, for example, are more likely to donate money to a good cause. This behavior can be elicited experimentally by giving subjects negative feedback—for instance, “According to our tests, you are less helpful and cooperative than average.” People dislike hearing such judgments and end up feeding the donation box.

Drazen Prelec, a psychologist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, explains such findings with his theory of self-signaling: What a particular action says about me is often more important than the action’s actual objective. More than a few people have stuck with a diet because they did not want to appearweak-willed. Conversely, it has been empirically established that those who are sure that they are generous, intelligent, or sociable make less effort to prove it. Too much self-assurance makes people complacent and increases the chasm between the self that they imagine and the self that is real. Therefore, those who think they know themselves well are particularly apt to know themselves less well than they think.

9. If you think of yourself as flexible, you will do much better

People’s own theories about who they are influence how they behave. One’s self-image can therefore easily become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Carol Dweck of Stanford University has spent much time researching such effects. Her takeaway: If we view a characteristic as mutable, we are inclined to work on it more. On the other hand, if we view a trait such as IQ or willpower as largely unchangeable and inherent, we will do little to improve it.

In Dweck’s studies of students, men and women, parents and teachers, she gleaned a basic principle: People with a rigid sense of self take failure badly. They see it as evidence of their limitations and fear it; fear of failure, meanwhile, can itself cause failure. In contrast, those who understand that a particular talent can be developed accept setbacks as an invitation to do better next time. Dweck thus recommends an attitude aimed at personal growth. When in doubt, we should assume that we have something more to learn and that we can improve and develop.

But even people who have a rigid sense of self are not fixed in all aspects of their personality. According to psychologist Andreas Steimer of the University of Heidelberg in Germany, even when people describe their strengths as completely stable, they tend to believe that they will outgrow their weaknesses sooner or later. If we try to imagine how our personality will look in several years, we lean toward views such as: “Level-headedness and clear focus will still be part and parcel of who I am, and I’ll probably have fewer self-doubts.”

Overall, we tend to view our character as more static than it is, presumably because this assessment offers security and direction. We want to recognize our particular traits and preferences so that we can act accordingly. In the final analysis, the image that we create of ourselves is a kind of safe haven in an ever-changing world.

And the moral of the story? According to researchers, self-knowledge is even more difficult to attain than has been thought. Contemporary psychology has fundamentally questioned the notion that we can know ourselves objectively and with finality. It has made it clear that the self is not a “thing” but rather a process of continual adaptation to changing circumstances. And the fact that we so often see ourselves as more competent, moral, and stable than we actually are serves our ability to adapt.

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