Category Archives: Science/Technology

Active Shooter in the Brain

Oh, the act of deactivating, the process of disconnecting, the very process of uncluttering the brain — bye-bye Facebook — Emancipation!

Pin on Funny Bone

Some might say we are caught in a fun-house . . . or caught in a psych ward. I have more and more people in my sphere — work, friends, email world, Facebook world, family — who are not only showing signs of insanity, but also lobotomy, or massive electro-shock therapy (sic-sick). They actually buy into that Matrix shit, that we are part of a sophisticated code god, a program that creates the “reality” we are in. A Super Duper Mario Brothers Hollywood style. Really, and then the ancient astronauts and those aliens that had to help build Chichén Itzá and the great Pyramids of Gaza.

Conversations about this new normal sort of circle the drain, and in so many instance, the putrid politics of “never Trump” come spewing from the mouths of these people, unsolicited. And as a frame of reference, this “Trump is Gone Now — Hurray for Harris and Biden” (sigh of relief, smiles, giddy chortles) — I am back in the back of the back of the intellectual and political bus. You see, many of us know, through study, travel, experience, rebuff — that the system both Biden and Trump adore is the shooter in the brain. Active Shooter in the House. Active Shooter in the Books they Read (not many). Active Shooter in their Consumer Choices. Active Shooter in the Work Places. Active Shooter in the State Capitals. These Active Shooters are everywhere, and have been since the founding of the Active Shooter Society that is called United (hahaha) States (really?) of America (a map maker, man!).

Pin on Greeting Cards and Party Supply. Home and Garden

Just the way the Kingdom of Puritans and Kingdom of Capital laid the groundwork for this sick-in-the-head, sick-in-the-heart, sick-in-the-spirit, sick-in-the-body, sick-in-the-spirit, sick-in-the-commercial-culture has galvanized all those parts to the Active Shooter scenario and Active Shooter response to everything.

A Good Indian is a Dead Indian. There Will be Blood. Atonement for their Savagery. Beat the Dickens Out of their Native Soil/Soil/Spiritual Being. It’s that Collective Psychological Response to the Active Shooter White Patriarchal Rapist/Land Stealer/Murderer Government working out of the White House vis-à-vis all those houses of ill repute, from the CIA, to Pentagon, from NASA, to Every University, from the New York Times to Netflix, from Bank of America to BlackRock, from Jerusalem, to Geneva. Here a few other things these presidents said —

In 1936, President Franklin D. Roosevelt promoted putting “dangerous or undesirable aliens or citizens” in “concentration camps.” During World War II, Roosevelt signed an executive order that led hundreds of thousands of people of Japanese descent––including 80,000 U.S. citizens––to be incarcerated in concentration camps on the West Coast of the U.S. The U.S. was in a war against Japan at the time. It was also fighting Italy and Germany, but did not broadly incarcerate people in the U.S. of Italian and German descent.

  • In 1954, President Dwight D. Eisenhower told Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren white Southerners “are not bad people. All they are concerned about is to see that their sweet little girls are not required to sit in school alongside some big overgrown Negroes” while discussing the desegregation of schools.
  • Johnson is often credited as one of the most consequential presidents with respect to civil rights, having signed the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act. But for much of his political career, Johnson opposed civil rights legislation. According to a Pulitzer Prize-winning biography on Johnson, during the two decades he served in the U.S. Senate he would use the phrase “nigger bill.” Johnson also reportedly defended appointing Thurgood Marshall to the Supreme Court––the court’s first black justice in U.S. history––by stating, “Son, when I appoint a nigger to the court, I want everyone to know he’s a nigger.”
  • Recorded conversations of Nixon’s time in the Oval Office reveal extremely bigoted views of black people, among other groups. In one conversation, Nixon said, “We’re going to [put] more of these little Negro bastards on the welfare rolls at $2,400 a family—let people like [New York Sen.] Pat Moynihan … believe in all that crap. But I don’t believe in it. Work, work—throw ’em off the rolls. That’s the key.”
  • Nixon added, “I have the greatest affection for [blacks], but I know they’re not going to make it for 500 years. They aren’t. You know it, too. The Mexicans are a different cup of tea. They have a heritage. At the present time they steal, they’re dishonest, but they do have some concept of family life. They don’t live like a bunch of dogs, which the Negroes do live like.” On Jewish people, Nixon said, “The Jews are just a very aggressive and abrasive and obnoxious personality.”

And then, butter-for-brains Vice President Joe Biden, with more and more of his racist toes and feet in his mouth — “The way Trump deals with people based on the color of their skin, their national origin, where they’re from, is absolutely sickening,” Biden said. “No sitting president has ever done this, never, never, never. No Republican president has done this, this no Democratic president,” he continued. “We’ve had racists and they’ve existed, they’ve tried to get elected president but he’s the first one that has. And the way he pits people against one another is all designed to divide the country, divide people, not pull them together.”

Shall I say more about the absurdity of the presidential election/selection? I’d end up in the poor house if I gave a reader a penny for each racist thought-or-statement written by or yammered by USA politicos, media mavens, Holly-Dirters, authors, celebrities, Fortune 1000-ers, et al!

With the continual panic and lockdown mentality and genuflection to authority, this society pre-and post-Trump has been the bum’s rush for me and my ilk. When we put this society through the settler-colonial lens, we are lambasted on both sides of the political manure pile. “You know, the Indians were not all these noble savages. You know, they came here using the Land Bridge. You know, progress means adaptation.” These people have always believed in American exceptionalism, believed in the red and white and blue. Always believed those alabaster statues of Lincoln or Jefferson or even Martin Luther King. That Active Shooter in the House is what creates that Collective Stockholm Syndrome. It can be collective in rarified forms — the Stockholm Syndrome of Branch Davidians or MAGA or QAnon. The Stockholm Syndrome of Greta/350.org/David Attenborough. The Stockholm Syndrome of K-Street. Stockholm Syndrome of the Military Police State. Stockholm Syndrome of Techies and Bezos Types. That Syndrome is the result of the Active Shooter Mindset.

Siberian eatery is ideal spot for a Putin fan | Reuters

Until we end up here, in Lockdown, in a society where stores are boarded up. Streets are empty. Barricades of the mind and spirit erected from sea to shining sea. Incomes frozen. Assets Hacked. Lives Set Inside that Funhouse, or to use non-PC lingo, Madhouse. That Active Shooter rules of engagement also include not speaking out and not moving too quickly, or use anything in reach to subdue and escape, or to crawl and stop and hide. Lights out, doors locked, no sounds, no whispering, nothing, just crouch and hold still until, what? Whirling Blackhawks and Rumbling SWAT Armored Vehicles with Machine Gun Turrets?

The perceptions from the individual and collective Stockholm Syndrome, and the intellectual actions and inactions in this Active Shooter Lockdown Abide by All Leaders’ Laws/Regulations/Rules/ Fines/Admonishments/ Recommendations/Edicts/Penalties/Crimes/Offenses/Dictates, well, that certainly has constructed a very mean and very ostrich like society, and the see-hear-speak no evil and head in the sand and the lashing out and the hyper propaganda and the hyper-knee jerking, and, well, with it all facilitated by unsocial media, we are in the super minority if we dare question the question and the responses and the answers. We dare to go up against any of the narratives, and alas, we then become the pariah and the Scarlet-ed Letter “A” for Anarchist or Anachronistic or Abnormal or Ambiguous or Antagonistic or Adversarial or Asymptomatic or Argumentative or even the letter “A” for Anticlockwise.

“All forms of perception are “subjective” in the sense that they represent only those aspects and properties of the world that can be detected by an organism’s sensory transducers. Hence all perception is subjective in the sense of being partial. Moreover, once organisms reach a stage of cognitive complexity where they start to encode some sort of model of the surrounding world through their sensory contact with it, then the result is subjective in an even deeper sense. For what is represented will only comprise those aspects of the world that potentially matter to the organism (whether this is explicitly represented in the organism’s values, or implicit in the lifestyle that has been selected for it by evolution).”

— Peter Carruthers, from Human and Animal Minds: The Consciousness Questions Laid to Rest ( Oxford University Press, Jan 5, 2020;  p. 68)

Imagine that, the very act of just shutting it off, that Fuck You Book, that social ingratiation book, that rotting of the brain book. I was on it only because I had to set up an account for the nonprofit that was/is Gig Economizing me to work on their rather bombastic project of getting billionaires and millionaires and governments and philanthropies to put in “cash” transfers to poor people during, before and after (there will be no after) the Plan-demic Covid-19, SARS-CoV2, corona virus thing. Then, with the multitasking aplomb of wanting to take a break from this or that writing project, alas, I ended up messing with the Paul Haeder Facebook page, and then “befriending” a thousand or so, and then letting loose the philosophical and political tirades of our age. I did end up exposing folk to left of left stuff, to things that are pretty mainstream to me like Black Agenda Report, and groups like the Black Alliance for Peace. Discourse around why Trump or Trump-lite or Pence or GOP-lite, or DNC, or AOC or Biden-Obama-Hillary lite, and the hard stuff brewed by Empire of the Capitalists, that it’s all the same to revolutionaries or those with the Scarlet Letter “A” emblazoned on our t-shirts. Pure addictive and mind-blowing shit, this country is, and that is the unholy alliance of a country tis of me based on torture, raping, burning, immolating, murdering, beheading, pollution, animal slaughter, and air and soil and water destruction, all in the name of toilet paper for the masses, and kingdoms of jewels, banks, homes, mansions, castles for the Capitalists in Power. The ethanol brain rot of Capitalism a la North America.

I would throw out bombs on why Biden and Trump come from the same patriarchal DNA, how the Democratic Party Machine is as Bad and Corrupt as the Republican Party Machine. How the Machine is greased with Capital, and the Machine is not of, for, by, with, entwinned to the People, US, but for the banks. The techno-fascists, and brothers and sister of the Military Industrial Complex of Another and Another and Another Mother/Mothership.

United Snakes of America. United States of BlackRock. Un-united States of Capitalism, what have you, in variations on the theme, well, those stars on that other Banner, tell the story, and the story shifts with the logos, and those stores are indeed just banners, hiding the real sophisticated thugs of Transnational, Transhuman, Transcultural, Transhumane capital.

Corporate Logo Flags (US Flag) from Reclaim Democracy

In that abortion of Facebook just days ago, I find myself less distracted, though I have always worked as a writer, done my time in the world of nature, walks, paddles, bike riding, and now another gig for the 63-going-on-64-white (self-loathing, sort of)-communist-male-who-has-to-in-polite (mixed up)-company-call-himself-socialist. This one, well, full-time, with benefits, and back in the slog of things, working with adults with developmental and intellectual (and psychological and physical) disabilities. As a counselor, in this case all-around job-employment counselor, developers, what have you. Back to getting my expired certificates re-upped, and then all the vocational rehabilitation and department of human services and department of developmental disabilities courses and trainings. Deja vu, and well, in the beach life of the Central Oregon Coast, my spouse and I have to work, even though it feels fluttering around here that half the people are retired and enjoying high lifestyle, or at least solid retired middle class, and then, there are those who service this place, and many of them are struggling big time. In Oregon with the Nanny Governor and the schizophrenia of Red-Neck and Blue-Neck, the pain of businesses shuttering and main streets depopulating, well, this makes for a very hard time for the clientele I work with — how to get a job for someone who has to usually work 20 hours or less to keep the SSI under wraps. People who are not “normally” those we see in the workplace (the highest unemployment rate for any demographic is adults with developmental disabilities — think 83 percent). Getting creative in Plan-Demic times, well, I am up for the challenge, but alas, working that 40-hour a week schedule, and then doing my own thing as a journalist and novelist and such, well, I have to utilize as much brain-space and keyboard and mouse time as possible for MY work.

Facebook was a kick for a while, then for many of those nanoseconds (they do add up to minutes and then an hour is wasted on Fucker-Berg’s Mind Manipulation Tool, I was put on 24 hour and then three-day and then one week suspension. Expelled from posting and commenting. Then, to make matters even more hilarious (sad, too) those dyed in the wool exceptionalists, those with the Democratic Party diarrhea dreams dream, I just had to call it quits. They are the worse of the worse, the same as Christian MAGA and Conservative MAGA and Military MAGA and Retiree MAGA and Female MAGA, and the like. Total cognitive dissonance, and the Active Shooter mind-scape, well, that got the best of me (not really). Endless stupid dead-end posts and mini-discussions about why Trump is in and why Biden is bad, and, then, just coming from this angle as a communist, err, in Active Shooter land, a “socialist,” the arguments are back on the table about how great it is to have that first person of color in as VP-soon-to-be-Prez . . . (1928-’32, Charles Curtis, Herbert Hoover’s Vice President, was a member of the Kaw Nation).

Endless stupidity about the lesser of two evils, about the evils of two lessers, about how a Biden win will allow for pressure on the left side of things to move the party and the country leftier . . . . Right! Bankers, bombers, baggers, bottom-feeders, bombasts, buccaneers, bag men/women, broadcasters, botulism boys, and the like, already lined up for the Harris-Biden Kill Show. Active Shooters show. Then, the Trump All Encompassing Digital and Cable Network . . . . all the while the offense industrialists (elites in and out of the military industrial complex) will bilk the nation, the globe, the resources until a future is this below, the fighting orangutan’s, a la Homo Psychopithecus!

Alternate text

PETITION TARGETCambodian Ambassador to the United States Chum Sounry

The Phnom Penh Safari zoo in Cambodia showcases disturbing orangutan boxing matches, forcing innocent apes to fight each other in a boxing ring. The animals are also made to ride bikes, hula-hoop, and wear degrading outfits, as shown in numerous TripAdvisor photos.

Orangutans aren’t the only animals abused at this zoo: tigers jump through flaming hoops and cower in fear of trainers’ electric prods; crocodiles are hit with sticks and have their mouths taped shut for selfie opportunities; and elephants are controlled with bullhooks.

The animals appear neglected, too. The tigers are declawed and extremely thinaccording to EARS Asia. And the drinking water is filthy, according to a Khmer Times article that has since been deleted.

Animals do not exist for human amusement. They deserve natural habitats and loving caretakers, not cruel zoos where they’re forced to perform for park-goers.

The abuse must stop. Sign this petition urging Cambodian Ambassador to the United States Chum Sounry to call for an end to all cruel animal performances at the zoo and push for a thorough investigation into the animals’ treatment.

The abusive husband in this loveless marriage of capitalists ruling the roost, writing the narrative, spinning the malignant history, fears the loss of her/his master because that abusive system has turned him/her into a clinging hopey-dopey thing who believes all those decades of oppression will somehow be redefined to allow this shattered individual and collective to lose all self-esteem to the point that we are no longer capable of imagining a life without our parasitic master.

We are collectively servants of those masters who have for centuries plotted and prodded populations into fearing agency, revolution and radical transformation. We are that Disney-fied and Disney-fed collective, and those elites especially, yammering and yammering about the LGBTQA+ minority’s play (Lin-Manuel Miranda), “Hamilton,” being so wonderous and so emblematic of the good of this nation, well, not a one would question the slaver’s role in America — a slaver, new documents do show that not only was Alexander Hamilton a slave trader for his in-law family, the Schuyler’s, his own account books demonstrate that Hamilton bought, sold and personally owned slaves. But try and have that conversation about Miranda and the elite’s bullshit love of this bullshit play on Fuck-You-Book, or in person (of course, masked up and at least six feet of separation, please, and no more than 8 gathered in an open space, please or else!!!).

I would have expected a few of the people on Fuck-You-And-The-Horse-You-Rode-Into-Town-On BOOK, to nuance the Biden-Harris gig, the bullshit nature of GOP and DNC, and the trillions thrown at the sex addicts and money changers in the billionaire class, while mom and pop, sister and brother, downtrodden and almost-to-be-downtrodden, get shit from Pelosi and Mitch, but instead, the Collective Stockholm Syndrome of the liberal lite kind has just plummeted our 2021 into the new normal of following more anti-civil rights and anti-free speech and anti-freedom of movement laws backed by thousand-dollar fines, the fuzz with their assault rifles and, well, the GIANT Scarlet Letter A for, well, fill in the blank of anti- as prefix. You get expelled from Zoom Doom school, get cut from the team, get sacked, get ostracized, and get kicked to the curb if you dare question narratives of the ruling class. Dare to question this science (sic) versus that science. You know, that is the mob mentality of America, whether it is in the village square burning heretics, or on the greasy grass mowing down dancers and drummers. We are in a Little Bighorn, and the Big-Small-wannabe Eichmann’s are there, mostly, in places of “authority,” the elites, the nanny governors and their cadre of pencil neck followers, the compliant ones, the ones who follow order, those who say LGBTQA+, but are hope-dopey Stockholm Syndrome sufferers of the major kind, creating dictate after dictate.

You can’t even talk about small businesses closing. Can’t talk about the renter and mortgage class (sic) sticking it and sticking it and resticking it to the masses. Imagine this fucked up Corona World, where stupidity and no-deep questioning rule. Can you imagine scum bucket governors from red and blue states, yammering and yammering.

There is no plan for the resettling in and after Plan-demic. But there is that Fourth Industrial Revolution, the big plans by big tech, and the Google world and the economies of scale of the Amazon-kind variety and the satellites launched at sunset and the Elon Musks and the entire shit-show that is Forbes and Rockefeller and Council on Foreign Affairs, the Aspen Institute, the Federalist Society, the Family, the TED Talk crews, all of them, from QAnon to the Tweets, and everything in between, it is the world of the ACTIVE Shooter, and duck and cover, the name of one generation’s game, and now, the slave master will say, “All Money, All Movements, All Things” will and must be on a digital platform. Passports from Hell to Enter a New Hell. No Travel Unless Eyes Are Scanned and Vaccination Record Checked.

Somehow, that has been the pathway of the elites, from Holly-Dirt, to the schools, to the drone programs at two-bit community colleges, to the food purveyors. We have colonized each generation, and the baselines of old hopes — agency, real food, real relationships with people-land-planet, real debate, real learning, real arguing, real water, real air, real art, real feelings, real history, real enfranchisement, real conversations — that too has been put on Red Flag Active Shooter hold. Deep Sixed.

Conversations and philosophical constructions and deconstructions are put on hold as the majority of people in the United Snakes of BlackRock, well, they talk about “things” as bifurcated nonsense, politics, histrionics, heliographs, shit shows and PT Barnum One-Upping Scams of the Mind and of the Culture.

I love what John Steppling has to say in the front of his essay, The Mechanical Soul:

One of the reasons I keep writing about AI is that the entire construct of an artificial intelligence has become both a symbol and metaphor for contemporary thought, and, is part of this ongoing reshaping of human consciousness.

I admit I am surprised how many people believe in the entire project of AI. Clearly it holds something very appealing that people WANT to believe in. And a key element in this is the idea of predictability. And predicting means controlling. So, in one sense, there is nothing new in this desire to foretell the future.

Now the first problem when discussing “consciousness” is that finding a definition for that word is nearly impossible.

“Moreover, the explicit dualistic beliefs of children in Western cultures get less strong with age (Bering 2006). This suggests that dualism is the default setting of the folk-psychological system, which gets weakened by cultural input in scientific cultures—at least at the level of explicit verbal expression—rather than depending on such input (Riekki et al.2013;Willard & Norenzayan 2013; Forstmann & Burgmer 2015). Indeed, dualist intuitions are prevalent in both children and adults, even in cultures whose norms discourage overt attention to mental states, albeit becoming weaker as a function of exposure to Western education (Chudek et al.2018).” –Peter Carruthers (Human and Animal Minds)

With Facebook and Twitter and even consumption of the low art of Netflix and everything on the Internet, that is, almost all of it on the Web, we are losing the race for dualistic beliefs, of holding many counter-arguments in our brains, and even just considering counter-intuitive things. But, the news, the real news, should send shudders down any human’s spine — Bend, Oregon, on the frigid east side of the Cascade Range, is currently without a warming shelter, largely due to complaints by rich residents about a location. Early Tuesday morning, the body of Dave Melvin Savory, 57, a homeless double amputee, was found slumped against a dumpster outside a Rite Aid pharmacy.

Finally, of course, any real leftist would be cheering the defeat and dethroning of any ruler of the empire. Christ, just watching both sides of the sewer pond is what a revolutionary would hope for. Trump defeated and his slim-balls and himself slipping and sliding in their own shit, that is a good day to be a human being. And, the end of Biden and Harris and all the hit men he and she are hiring on for the Biden-Harris Empire Shit Show, that too will be a very good day for humanity.

Something About Heads on Pikes and All Chained up in the Docks? Banned on Facebook.

America’s Active Shooters!!!

One-time rival Senator Kamala Harris backs Joe Biden for president | amNewYork
Oh Say Can You See by the Dawn’s Early Covid Lockdown…
Pope Francis offers prayers for President Trump - The Dialog
… and Christian Bombs Bursting in Air while laughing all the way to the bank!

Final Note — Imagine this shit show America, and this blog, and the few things I wrote in it, enough to toss me to the curb. Big Brother and Big Sister, they are all watching. Just this recent new job, I was told by a person in the nonprofit involved in hiring me that “I Googled you . . . I had to really get beyond that to think, ‘there is more to this guy than all that.'” Hmm. Is this the proverbial digital straw that broke the human being’s back?

The post Active Shooter in the Brain first appeared on Dissident Voice.

The Conspiracy Against Nuclear Energy: How Big Oil Built the Ecology Movement to Demonize Nuclear Energy Competition

Some skeptical questions

Is nuclear energy safe? What can we do about the waste? What about Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, Fukushima – don’t they prove that we can’t rely on nuclear reactors? Won’t a tiny amount of radiation kill you? Why are reactors so expensive to build with so many delays? Why don’t we just use renewables? Why don’t we just abandon dirty, wasteful industry and go back to the land?

These are some of the skeptical questions on the minds of progressives and even socialists. In this article I will try to answer them and make the case for a global program to replace fossil fuels with nuclear fuels in the interest of climate change mitigation and human well-being.

A promising start

Until the 1970s nuclear energy was generally recognized as the energy source of the future. Many industrial countries had started installing cheap, clean nuclear power plants to produce electricity. Although only 2% of electricity in the US was produced by nuclear power plants in 1970, they were already seen as an important alternative to the fossil fuel plants that dominated the market. In 1974, the far-sighted French government launched a program to diminish France’s reliance on imported petroleum by constructing nuclear power plants that today account for 75% of France’s electricity production. In the United States, President Eisenhower had in 1956 threatened King Saud of Saudi Arabia with disruption of oil markets by sharing nuclear technology with European countries.

STRANGE BEDFELLOWS: BIG OIL CREATES FRIENDS OF THE EARTH

The oil industry quickly acted to protect its market share. In 1969 Robert O. Anderson, CEO and founder of Atlantic Richfield Oil, made a gift of $200,000 (half a million today) to David Brower to create Friends of the Earth, which became the leading voice internationally in creating opposition to nuclear energy and spreading inaccurate information about it. Soon the Council on Foreign Relations and the mass media, both of which have ties to the petroleum industry, jumped on the band wagon. Rapidly, a propaganda campaign that exists to this day was put together to denigrate nuclear energy to Big Oil’s benefit. Even Hollywood helped out at a critical moment with the film “China Syndrome”.

The lesson from this bit of history is that we have been had by the same capitalists whose propaganda machine leads us into war, tells us every day that there is no alternative to their insanely anarchic economy, and lies systematically about all the socialist countries. Everything that you think you know about the dangers of nuclear energy is wrong. It is simply the outcome of an advertising campaign that trashes the competition.

WHAT DO NUCLEAR REACTORS DO BETTER THAN FOSSIL-FUELED POWER PLANTS?

Nuclear reactors provide clean electricity at a reasonable price. They do not pump pollutants into the air that kill millions of people every year. They do not produce greenhouse gases that aggravate climate change.

By replacing fossil-fueled electrical plants with nuclear, we can eliminate 27% of current US greenhouse gases. As I will explain later, we can’t do that with solar and wind, which require fossil-fueled or nuclear backup plants to cover their down times.

By converting to all electric vehicles, we can eliminate an additional 28% of US greenhouse gases.

By converting to all electric residential and commercial heat we can eliminate most of the 12% of US greenhouse gases from that source.

By satisfying industrial energy needs with nuclear-generated electricity we can eliminate a significant portion of the industry’s 22% contribution to US greenhouse gases.

HOW CAN WE MAKE THIS CONVERSION HAPPEN?

Capitalism cannot do the job

A conversion project of the magnitude described above is beyond the capabilities of the global capitalist economy in its current state of decay. A cut in petroleum product consumption in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic pushed the price of oil negative for a while, and it is currently selling below $40/barrel less than production costs for many producers. The first large victim of this relatively minor disturbance has been ExxonMobil, which Dow Jones no longer lists. Imagine the effect on the oil industry, in particular, and capitalist economies in general were a decision to replace petroleum with uranium to become policy. Every oil company would have to write down the value of its assets, oil in the ground and equipment, and rapidly declare bankruptcy. It would be necessary to artificially maintain oil production during the interim period until it is no longer needed.

Not only is private capitalist finance manifestly incapable of supporting projects on this scale, but nor do capitalist priorities – putting return on investment before all else – sufficiently value human well-being to put it before the scramble for profit. Although the US government was once able to launch a program to land a man on the moon, it is politically impossible to launch a similar program to massively convert to nuclear energy as the levers of power are completely compromised by the petroleum industry and the economy would face near certain ruin.

Nuclear power under socialism

However, a socialist economy has massively different priorities and is impervious to the capitalist drive for profits. The first and essential priority of a socialist economy is the betterment of living conditions for all humans. In practice, this means:

  • the elimination of poverty;
  • provide adequate food;
  • clothing;
  • shelter;
  • education;
  • healthcare;
  • transportation; and,
  • safety.

In a planned economy, the active population deliberates on what it needs to accomplish with the material and intellectual resources at hand. We have plenty of examples of this from socialist history.

From its beginning, the Soviet Union created a national healthcare system where none had previously existed. At the same time, its leadership recognized early on that it would be attacked and obliterated by the capitalist powers unless it could create a modern industrial economy and build the weaponry of modern warfare in time. As we know it made the necessary decisions and destroyed the invading German army in WWII.

Early after the revolution, poverty-stricken Cuba decided that literacy was a priority and with the help of its school children virtually eliminated illiteracy in the adult population. Cuba also made it a priority to create a first-class healthcare complex, not only for Cubans, but for any people in the world who need its help. We know what Cuba’s success in this area has done for the world during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In about 1980 the Chinese Communist Party decided to eliminate absolute poverty. Since then 800 million Chinese have been lifted from the lowest internationally recognized category of poverty, and the last few Chinese citizens will be raised from absolute poverty in 2020. Current projects that the Chinese people are working tt to include achieving carbon neutrality by 2060 and evolving toward a totally socialist economy in 2049, the centenary of the Chinese Revolution. Nuclear energy looms large in the plan to achieve carbon neutrality. The current plan is to increase nuclear electricity production to six times the current level by 2050 – from about 70GW to 400GW.

Never, to my knowledge, has a capitalist economy been able to plan for national goals, nor achieve them, except in war. The best capitalists can do is to plan for individual enterprises, or perhaps even a few related enterprises. Even in a country like Germany, which was well on the way to conversion to full nuclear-generated electricity, opposition capitalists were able to sabotage the plan. Now, German nuclear installations are being shut down and replaced with coal-fired plants.

LET’S REFUTE SOME FALSE CLAIMS ABOUT NUCLEAR ENERGY

What is ?

Radioactivity is the emission, spontaneous or induced, of particles from decaying atomic nuclei. The particles can be electrons, protons, neutrons, ionized light atoms such as helium, photons, neutrinos, or antineutrinos. All these decay products together are called radiation. Some of them are ionizing radiation, since they carry enough energy to knock electrons off atoms as they pass near them. The neutrinos, however, can traverse the entire earth and touch nothing.

Radioactivity is not harmful in small doses

There is a lot of mystery, misunderstanding, and outright obfuscation about radiation. Let us be clear. Radiation, like many other things we encounter in nature — snakes, cyanide, some mushrooms and plants, lions, tigers, and bears (oh my!) – can kill. This is a good thing. Radiation therapy kills cancers and saves the patient. It can also kill microbes and sterilize surfaces and foods. In large doses it can kill human beings. In small doses it is harmless.

In fact, you are being continuously bombarded with cosmic radiation and you are totally unaware of it. Radiation doses are measured in Sieverts (Sv). At sea level, you absorb about 0.1 micro Sv every hour of every day. At higher altitudes and during air travel, doses can be significantly higher — 2, 4, or even 9 micro Sv/hour. Cosmic rays account for about one tenth of the radiation that you absorb from nature. The rest enter your body from things you breathe in or eat, or things just around where you are. For example, by entering Grand Central Station in New York City, which is made of granite, you increase your radiation dose from the naturally decaying materials in the granite.

In our evolutionary history we have built up a certain degree of immunity

So, why haven’t you already died from radiation poisoning? Every living thing since the beginning of life on Earth has been subjected to all this natural background radiation. Every living species has ancestors who evolved mechanisms to repair radiation damage. Those species that didn’t don’t exist. Our species did. Congratulations to us. As a gift from our evolutionary forebears, we have natural immunity to a certain level of radiation.

How does a nuclear reactor work?

Nuclear reactors cause atomic nuclei to split in a controlled environment. When the nuclei split, they release energy in the form of moving atomic particles (atomic nuclei, protons, neutrons, electrons, etc.). Some of the neutrons go on to induce other nuclei to split. This is called a chain reaction. The other particles dissipate their energy, generating heat as they ionize atoms in the reactor. This heat is used to produce steam to turn electrical turbines. In the future, reactors still in the design stage may be able to perform other tasks such as generating hydrogen, producing reactor fuel, and neutralizing nuclear reactor waste products.

Why nuclear waste is not an uncontrollable danger

The simple truth is that nuclear reactors do not produce very much waste. After some months of operation, the fuel in a reactor is consumed. In order to sustain the reaction, uranium, for example, must be treated so that its fissile isotope, U-235, is concentrated (usually to 3-5%) to provide a sufficient number of targets to sustain the chain reaction.

An isotope is a nucleus with a specific number of neutrons. For example, U-235 has 92 protons, like all the different isotopes of uranium, but has 235-92 or 143 neutrons. Saying that the fuel is consumed means that the concentration of U-235 has fallen below the level necessary to maintain a chain reaction. There are still significant quantities of U-235 in the spent fuel, just not enough to do the job.

Fortunately, the spent rods can be recycled as raw material to produce new fuel rods. Another one of the byproducts of nuclear fission is the element plutonium, which can also be used as fuel in a reactor. At present the United States does not recycle spent nuclear fuel. However, France, the UK, Russia, Japan, and India do. In fact, France recycles waste for several European countries in its facility at La Hague on the Normandy coast. There is a very informative film about the La Hague facility here.

Other byproducts are just waste at our current level of technology. At some future time, they may turn out to be useful. If not, there may one day be reactors that can break them down into harmless material. In the meantime, these byproducts are embedded in glass pellets and stored.

What about nuclear accidents?

Well, there was the accident in 1979 at Three Mile Island near Harrisburg, PA. A minor malfunction led, through a series of operator errors, to the partial meltdown of the nuclear core. At one time during the recovery process a small amount of radioactivity, well within the range of background radiation in the region, was released. During 17 years of monitoring, the Pennsylvania Department of Health found no deleterious effects on the health of the 30,000 people who lived near the reactor at the time of the accident. A lot of money was spent cleaning up the damaged reactor, while the other one on the site is in operation, certified until 2034. There is a detailed description of the accident and the aftermath here.

Fukushima: On March 11, 2011, a tsunami damaged three of five nuclear reactors at Fukushima, Japan. The three damaged reactors are a write-off. High levels of radioactivity were released to the environs at the time of the accident, but only insignificant amounts have been released subsequently. The local population was immediately evacuated and has suffered no deleterious effects from the radioactivity. Currently, some residents are being allowed to return. No deaths or injuries occurred due to the accident. A detailed report can be found here.

A great deal of radioactive water, used to cool the damaged reactor cores, has accumulated since the accident. It is stored on site after radioactive contaminants have been removed. One contaminant, tritium, an isotope of hydrogen, remains in the water. the Japanese government plans to dump the water into the ocean at the site. This decision has led to a great deal of adverse press, largely due to ignorance about what the contaminated water contains and the significance of the contaminant.

As tritium spontaneously decays into helium-3, a stable isotope, it emits a low energy electron. This particle can barely penetrate matter, so its ability to ionize, for example, human tissues is nearly negligible. However, in concentrated doses, it can be dangerous. No concentrated doses of tritium are stored at Fukushima. When the water is eventually dumped into the ocean, the tritium will be diluted to the point that the radioactivity will be hardly detectable at exit from the plant’s harbor. Here is an article about the current situation.

Chernobyl: In 1986 a reactor with a flawed design suffered a steam explosion. The accident was exacerbated by the presence of poorly trained staff. Twenty-eight people working at the plant died of acute radiation syndrome (ARS). Nobody off site suffered from ARS; however, some thyroid cancer deaths in people who were children at the time may have occurred.

In the area around Chernobyl 350,000 people were evacuated. Resettlement is ongoing, and it is possible to make tourist visits to the reactor site. A detailed report of the accident and the aftermath can be found here. As a condition for entering the European Union a number of countries have closed their Chernobyl-style reactors.

Nuclear construction projects so often incur cost overruns and delays in the US and Europe, but not everywhere

It is true that nuclear reactor construction in the United States has been plagued for years with cost overruns and long delays. Until recently, I thought that this problem was primarily political. Anti-nuclear activists, I thought, had thrown enough impediments, legal and regulatory, in the way that utilities were hamstrung in their efforts to build new nuclear capacity.

I recently discovered, to my surprise, in an article from Forbes Magazine that my assumption is wrong. It turns out that delays and costs are a problem in the US and Europe, but not in Asia and the Middle East. The article indicates that, according to a MIT study, the problem stems from poor project management:

  • Construction is begun before site design is complete;
  • Insufficiently committed management teams cannot adapt to changing conditions; and,
  • Supplies are unreliable and trained workers are lacking.

This last problem is a direct result of western lack of commitment to installing nuclear power plants in recent decades.

Why regressing to pre-industrial times will not work

What are we trying to achieve as we abandon fossil fuels? Clearly, we want to halt the climate change associated with increasing levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide. That said, what kind of society do we want once we no longer depend on fossil fuels?

In advocating in favor of nuclear energy over several decades, I have been struck by a remarkably naïve line of argument. Radical environmentalists sometimes claim that humans are a blight or a cancer on the planet. Our industrial society, they say, is nothing but an assault on Nature, and we must return to a more natural, simple agrarian economy.

This cannot occur, and here is why. At the beginning of the Industrial Revolution around 1800, world population is estimated to have been between 800 million and 1.1 billion. Current world population is about 7.8 billion.

That increase in population is due, among other major achievements, to our success in defeating disease and hunger, increasing crop yields, providing safe drinking water, making possible moderately livable urban environments, creating a global division of labor, and neutralizing religious rejection of science and education. By continuing in this direction, world population will soon peak, and before the end of the century it will decrease to about 8.8 billion.

Were we to return to a pre-industrial life, the world population would have to decrease to a billion or fewer people. We cannot do that in a humane way. Furthermore, why would we want to?

Pre-industrial societies suffered from high infant mortality, for example. We would not be able to provide the energy-intense health environment to maintain current low infant mortality rates. We would not be able to maintain highly energy-intensive production of medications for otherwise mortal diseases for people of all ages. Life expectancy would severely decline. We would not be able to produce fertilizers and pesticides that protect crops and increase their quantity and quality. Famine would become commonplace, as it always has been in pre-industrial societies. We would have to abandon the use of electricity production, which depends on energy-intensive materials such as steel for both generation and transmission equipment. In any real and politically acceptable sense, there is no way to go back to a not so idyllic pre-industrial past. That leaves us the imperative to work out the political and technical means to achieve a sustainable industrial future.

Why wind and solar energy are not enough

In fact, there is not a single solar, wind, biomass or other “renewable” energy source capable of matching the power density that nuclear reactors provide. That means that any of these “green” options gobble up vast amounts of the earth’s surface simply for energy production, leaving less space available for, say, agriculture or natural habitats. What are the numbers? The best we can hope for is desert solar photovoltaic farms, which can produce electricity at the rate of up to 20W/m². By contrast, both nuclear and fossil fueled plants achieve outputs in excess of 1000W/m² — at least 50 times more power density than the best-case green solution. In practice, this means that some countries like Germany and the UK would need to cover half their area in wind turbines to supply energy at current consumption rates. Other industrial countries, Japan and South Korea, are too small to supply their own electricity needs. Both nuclear and fossil fuels can easily meet the density constraint, and nuclear energy meets it without greenhouse gas emissions.

There is no need to invoke the effects on the environment of massive electricity generation from low intensity solar and wind farms. Nor need we critique the short mean time between failures of these technologies, their short life span or the significant pollution problems caused by disposal of failed equipment.

CONCLUSION

In this article, I focus on the energy needs for a sustainable industrial future. Two criteria suffice to determine how to go forward:

  • We will need to be able to guarantee stable base-line electricity production for both home and industrial/commercial needs; and,
  • We will need to provide high temperature process heat for industry.

Today baseline electricity comes from a mix of fossil fueled generators (coal, oil, natural gas), hydroelectric facilities, and nuclear fueled reactors. To achieve sustainability, we will need to remove fossil fuels from this mix. Electricity generated by direct solar and wind energy cannot fill that gap. Quite simply, they are, and always will be, unreliable. When the sun goes down or the wind stops blowing, electricity production stops.

Process heat is today provided both by fossil fuels and electricity. For example, iron and steel production require high temperatures to purify and manipulate the final product. Both glass and ceramics require high temperature ovens. Production often continues around the clock and furnaces can be damaged or destroyed if the internal temperature drops. Because neither solar nor wind powered generators can meet this constraint, they are unsuitable.

In some cases, furnaces heated with fossil fuels can be replaced with electrical furnaces. Nuclear reactors are currently used as well. For information about this technology see this article.  In short, nuclear energy can replace fossil fuels both generating reliable base-line electricity and producing industrial process heat.

The upshot of our history of nuclear accidents is that they are uncommon, but can cost the utility owner a lot of money, and they rarely cause radiation injuries. The more we use nuclear reactors, learn from mistakes, and improve them, the fewer accidents will occur and the less significant they will be. That is the general history of the development of any technology. Consider, for example, what has occurred with automobiles and airplanes.

Remember Ford’s Model T? Probably not. You would likely have been terrified to ride in one. There were no seat belts or air bags. The windows were not shatter proof. There were hardly any paved roads. The steering wheel and front axle were held on with cotter pins! To complete the picture of how vehicle safety has improved as the technology evolved, look at the chart “Deaths and MV rates” here. The point is that for any technology, the same thing happens. As it is introduced, innovations make it work better with less danger to people who depend on it.

One word about airplane evolution: Charles Lindberg crossed the Atlantic with no navigation system other than the seat of his pants.

People often fear novelty and are easily manipulated to reject it. When I see the fear-mongering that the anti-nuclear movement carries out, I am reminded of an editorial in the New York Times. At the time of the debate about electrification in New York City, the Times ran a fear-mongering editorial claiming that power lines would collapse in the first storm, leaving electrocuted horses in the streets. No comment.

REFUTING FRIENDS OF THE EARTH PROPAGANDA ABOUT NUCLEAR ENERGY  

Now that we have explained what nuclear energy is all about, let’s see what Friends of the Earth says today, half a century after it was created to crush the nuclear power industry.

After 60 years, despite massive subsidies, the nuclear industry is dying of its own accord.

— Not true. It is flourishing in Asia and provides much of the electricity in Western Europe.

Because it’s too expensive, too dangerous and dirty, and takes too long to deploy. 

— Not true. If you have read this article diligently, you can refute Friends of the Earth and their friends.

Reactors are closing across the country, and major corporations have declared bankruptcy.

— Misleading. Despite efforts of the petroleum industry and its allies like Friends of the Earth who have done everything they could to sabotage the nuclear power industry, nuclear reactors have supplied about 20% of US electricity since the late 80s. In order to do so, more reactors have had to come online to maintain that level as electricity demand has increased. Without The petroleum industry’s sabotage, nuclear reactors would probably provide an even greater proportion electricity today.

Nuclear power simply cannot compete against safer, cleaner and cheaper renewable energy.

— Not true. Nuclear power doesn’t need a backup energy source for when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine. In fact, nuclear energy provides the backup, when it isn’t a fossil fuel burning plant.

Nuclear power is also expensive.

— Not true. Whole countries depend on nuclear energy to supply their electricity. Some even sell their excess electricity to their neighbors at competitive prices.

Nuclear’s subsidies have been buried in hundreds of spending bills, it’s [sic] costs externalized to the environment and future generations, and its bills literally unpaid, defaulted on or passed to taxpayers. Conservative estimates suggest that the nuclear industry has received more than $85 billion in subsidies. A centrist estimate might double that.

— So what? Go find out how much the petroleum industry receives in subsidies.  Spoiler alert: Lots. This is a feature of a capitalist economy that applies to every industry, even pork.

For 60 years, nuclear power has posed a serious risk to people and our planet.

— Not true. Friends of the Earth is confusing nuclear with the fossil fuel industries, whose pollution kills millions of people every year. Review the discussion of nuclear accidents.

It will be the same for the next 10,000 years. Our children and generations of their children will be forced to endure the radioactive pollution and fallout from devastating accidents like 3 Mile Island, Fukashima [sic] and Chernobyl, and the permanent waste that no one can safely store.

— Not true. Review the section on nuclear waste storage and recycling of nuclear fuel. Then take a guided tour to Chernobyl.

The risks of nuclear proliferation and the spread of dangerous weapons and technology only adds to this.

Partially true. Nuclear proliferation is a byproduct of capitalist warfare. Nuclear fuel cannot be used for nuclear weapons since the concentration of radioactive material is far too low. If capitalist nations want to build atomic bombs, they won’t use reactor fuel; they will directly enrich the materials they need.

This whole screed from the Friends of the Earth website reminds me of advertising. One soap manufacturer insinuates that his competitor’s product leaves a ring around your collar. If you are naïve enough to fall for it, you buy his product. At the beginning of this article, we reviewed the role of Robert O. Anderson, CEO of Atlantic Richfield Oil, in providing the money to create Friends of the Earth. He gave about half a million current dollars for this advertising campaign in 1969. Boy, has he gotten his money’s worth!

• First published in Planning Beyond Capitalism

The post The Conspiracy Against Nuclear Energy: How Big Oil Built the Ecology Movement to Demonize Nuclear Energy Competition first appeared on Dissident Voice.

The Curse of Game Theory

Game theory, the mathematical theory of games of strategy, was developed by John von Neumann in several successive stages in 1928 and 1940-41, according to his book Theory of Games and Economic Behaviour which he co-authored with Oskar Morgenstern.

The crux of the theory is that an individuals’ behaviour will always be motivated towards achieving an optimal outcome, which is determined by self-interest. An assumption made is that the players in such a game are rational, which translates to, “will strive to maximize their payoffs in the game”. In other words, it is assumed they are motivated by selfish self-interests.

Over the years, other contributors such as John Nash (Nash equilibrium) and John Maynard Smith (evolutionary stable strategy) have added to the theory and we are now at a point where it is considered by many to be an essential tool when modelling economic, political, sociological or military behaviours and outcomes, and is taught as such in many prestigious universities as something pretty much set in stone.

But what if we have made a terrible mistake?

After all, it is acknowledged by the theorists themselves that the entire functioning of their model relies upon the assumption that we are governed by rational selfish behaviour, and that they feel confident about this assumption since reality has apparently confirmed this fact to them. But what if this game is not objectively mirroring a truthful depiction of us? What if this game has rather, been used as a conditioning tool, a self-fulfilling prophecy, a positive feedback loop?

How can we know what is true? How can we know what kind of a person we truly are and not what we have been conditioned to think of ourselves as?

Theory of Games and Economic Behaviour

Before we can answer such a question, we need to look at the forms of simplification and assumptions that were used by von Neumann when formulating the philosophy to the game theory model. This may be counter-intuitive to some, but the “philosophy” or “hypothesis” must always precede the actual model. The variables you choose to use, the variables you discount for, how you define the variables, how you define the relationship between the variables are not being defined by the model, but rather the creator of the model. Once the model is created it can now, theoretically, add to that beginning structure and mimic a simplified version of reality.

However, we should keep in mind that a model that has been created on a false hypothesis could still “function,” if the variables are not too much in contradiction to the other variables’ operations. Such a model is not “aware” that it is not a representation of “reality,” and cannot indicate so to its creator. Thus, a model can be a representation of a simplified reality or it can represent a completely artificial reality.

At the beginning of von Neumann’s book, he goes through several disclaimers which are highly problematic towards the relevance of his theory, one of them being the acknowledgement that “there exists, at present, no satisfactory treatment of the question of rational behavior. There may, for example, exist several ways by which to reach the optimum position; they may depend upon the knowledge and understanding which the individual has and upon the paths of action open to them, because they imply, as must be evident, quantitative relationships.”

As becomes rapidly evident, von Neumann makes endless assertions such as these, as if they were obvious and thus need not be examined at all. The assumption that an under-defined “rational” selfish behaviour is merely quantifiable and nothing more, and does not account for qualitative change (a mathematician’s worst nightmare), is taking great liberty in over-simplifying human behaviour to conveniently fit the limited parameters of his model. In other words, it is cheating. You are manipulating the definitions and interactions of your variables to fit an artificial reality of your model.

Let me give you an example.

In Euclid’s fifth postulate, it is considered a “rule” that two parallel lines will never intersect. Euclid was alive around the time of the mid-4th century BCE, before Eratosthenes (276-194 BCE) made his beautifully elegant discovery that the Earth was indeed curved and also made a pretty accurate first measurement of the size of Earth.

That is, Euclid assumed a linear geometric space upon which the real universe was expected to “fit”. While it is true that two parallel lines will never meet on a two-dimensional plane, they can meet on a three-dimensional plane.

As is now understood, line A and line G, can be measured as 90 degrees from the equator line and thus are parallel lines, and yet they can eventually interface with each other if the surface is curved [see image].

The problem with assumptions such Euclid’s is that they are ultimately only true in an artificial situation and are not reflective of how such things will interact in reality. Also, there is no way to predict from Euclid’s fifth law, how two parallel lines would interact in a three dimensional space, let alone in n dimensional space as described by the physicist Bernard Riemann.

Ironically, in his book, von Neumann likens his “pioneering” work in the field of game theory to that of what physicists have been doing for centuries, that is, mathematical formulations that represent, albeit simplified, the “laws of nature,” concerning matter and energy. However, von Neumann again showcases that he has no comprehension as to what constitutes the foundation for such “laws of nature.”

In his Hypotheses that Lie at the Foundation of Geometry and other works, Riemann rigorously developed the notion of an anti-Euclidean physical space time shaped not by linear dimensions of an “x,y,z grid”, but rather dimensions defined by an ever growing array of discovered physical principles such as magnetism, light, heat, gravity, sound, etc. — each organizing principle being ironically characterized by both a finiteness and unboundedness with quantized least-action pathways discoverable therein.

According to Euclid’s logic, you never “see” two parallel lines intersecting and thus it is unfathomable that they ever could intersect. His “rule” was based off of shared assumptions of what we “think” we are observing in such phenomena, however, this is not necessarily reality and it certainly does not translate to a “rule” that governs all.

By von Neumann acknowledging that he himself is heavily relying on his so-called “self-evident” truths in simplifying human behaviour, he is asserting an outcome, he is not proving the outcome’s natural occurrence.

The Robinson Crusoe example in Monetarist Economic Theory

According to von Neumann, the Robinson Crusoe example was used by the Austrian economic school to model an individual’s behaviour towards maximizing pay-off in an environment (in this case an island) where the resources available to you are set and limited.

There are many problems with this, but the most unforgivable one is the assumption of a set, limited and unchanging reserve of resources available to the individual. In other words, the Austrian school of economy and von Neumann with them, consider Crusoe’s deserted island as the perfect case study for a limited resource, zero-sum game scenario.

Ironically, this assertion is entirely missing the point of what actually occurs in Daniel Defoe’s story of Robinson Crusoe, and causes one to wonder whether these theorists ever read the book or rather read a two line cliff’s notes synopsis.

Henry C. Carey, Lincoln’s economic advisor, would say in his book Unity of Law (1872):

Crusoe having made a bow, had thus acquired wealth; that wealth exhibiting itself in the power obtained over certain natural properties of wood and muscular fibre, thereby enabling him to secure increased supplies of food with greatly diminished expenditure of labor. Having made a canoe, he found his wealth much increased, his new machine enabling him to obtain still further increase of food, and of the raw materials of clothing, at still decreased cost of personal effort. Erecting a pole on his canoe, he now commands the services of wind, and with each and every step in this direction finds himself advancing, with constantly accelerated rapidity, toward becoming master of nature, and a being of real wealth and power.

Does that sound like the description of a “limited resource,” “zero-sum game” scenario? In other words, where is the “set” limit? The limit is constantly being readjusted to what the individual creates which changes his/her relationship to the “utility” of the resource.

For example, the resource wood, depending on the individual’s innovation can be used to keep one warm and dry, cook food, create weapons, create shelter, create a ship for travel etc. etc.

The existence of yet-to-be-created potential thus offsets the entire system of von Neumann because his system has no way of predicting potential, i.e. qualitative transformations, nor how it will affect behaviour.

If you cannot predict future qualitative change, which is ongoing, such as the discovery of electricity or the creation of man-made Plutonium and other transuranic elements, or the potential waiting to be unlocked by the very feasible fusion plasma torch that can turn landfills into resource mines, how can you assume a defined set limit or even a defined zero-sum game as a “self-evident” truth when you cannot even predict what is the limit?

The Supposed Paradox of “The Greatest Good for the Greatest Possible Number”

In von Neumann’s book he refers to “the greatest good for the greatest possible number” as a contradiction, because according to von Neumann you cannot maximize two or more functions at once, that in a social economy, all maxima are desired at once by various players.

That is, there is no concept that it is possible to cooperate and share an optimal outcome, without it coming out of “your” share so to speak, that comes at a cost of having less instead of more. This is a very basic understanding of economy, and again does not account for how cooperation and creative potential can work to transform the “goods” of an outcome.

For instance, country A is militarily stronger than country B, which is rich in many raw resources. Country A is also stronger politically than country B in that, there are no other countries that will likely intervene against country A’s actions if it chooses to invade country B. What course of action will yield the greatest return to country A?

Well, there is a very obvious answer to that question; however, contrary to popular thought it will not yield the greatest optimal outcome. The greatest optimal outcome is rather to cooperate.

It is in both country A and country B’s best interest to share knowledge, even if country A has much more knowledge, such that country B develops the capability to refine its raw resources. By doing so, country B will yield a greater return in trade over the long-term to country A, and country A does not have to worry about a future retaliation from country B. By developing a more advanced economy the wealth of trade is increased for both countries. By cooperation, the optimal outcome is transformed and offers a greater return.

This is exactly the model that is being used by China presently in their philosophy of “win-win cooperation,” and it has proven itself most effective despite all attempts to villainize it as something nefarious. Rather than fight over resources, there is a cooperation to share technology, increase resource yield and share a greater boon than originally existed.

John von Neumann goes on to state in his book, that the more players in the model, the easier it is to predict the outcome, since the use of statistics and probability are increasingly better indicators of behaviour and performance. As he states:

When the number of participants becomes really great, some hope emerges that the influence of every particular participant will become negligible and that the above difficulties may recede and a more conventional theory become possible. These are, of course, the classical conditions of ‘free competition’.

He goes on to use the example of our solar system, with its nine major bodies, as being much harder to model than 10^25 freely moving gas particles, as per gas theory, simply due to the sheer number of objects you are dealing with.

This is truly a remarkably absurd statement, where von Neumann is asserting that if the solar system had more major bodies orbiting within it, it would thus be easier to model based off of probability.

Every planet in our solar system is a different size and weight, with a different number of moons. Every planet revolves around the sun in imperfect elliptical orbits that change slowly overtime, the planets travel along these orbits in a non-uniform way that is observable through planetary retrograde motions. The fact is that our solar system is not some perfectly closed system that is uniform and consistent in its actions, there are cyclical changes but there are also non-cyclical changes that are occurring. This is due to our solar system orbiting around a galactic center of the Milky Way which is itself moving in yet-to-be discovered ways within a larger cluster of galaxies.

Therefore, you cannot use any theory of probability because the system is in a state of ongoing non-linear change. The more bodies you add to such a system the more complex it becomes, not the more negligible.

For example, there exists no straightforward formula to identify all prime numbers, though there are an infinite number of prime numbers. Prime numbers are a reflection of a non-linear process of change.

Such an oversimplification of nature shows the audacity behind the assumptions that make up such formulations like game theory. You are nothing more than a virtual avatar in their synthetic world with programmed limits to what you can and cannot do in the game they have created for you.

Game theory does not represent the motivations behind human nature, but rather imposes such limitations since, as they acknowledge themselves, it is easier to predict and control your chosen selfish behaviours which are encouraged and rewarded with “incentives.”

It is a system of enslavement that encourages its slaves to fight each other for “table scraps” and never question the hand that withholds, the system that creates false scarcity and promotes antagonism over artificial stressors.

We are taught never to question the rules given to us in these game theory scenarios, but to react accordingly to what has been defined to us as a limited set of options in an artificial scenario.

Perhaps the best indicator to this is, ironically, the very creator of the prisoner’s dilemma, John Nash. Nash had won the Nobel Prize for Economics in 1994 for his “landmark” work beginning in the 1950s on game theory. Although it is not clear whether he was suffering with paranoid schizophrenia when he developed the Nash Equilibrium, starting in 1959, Nash would go in and out of mental hospitals for over nine years.

In 2007, he was interviewed while still working at Princeton. Here is his very unselfish offering of his “enlightenment” (his words) on game theory after over 50 years of work in the field. Keep in mind he is using the definition of rational behaviour according to game theory, which is defined as a selfish self-interest:

I have had some trouble myself on the psychological level; I’ve been in mental hospitals…I realise that what I had said at some time may have overemphasized rationality…And I don’t want to overemphasize rational thinking on the part of humans… Human beings are much more complicated, the human being as a businessman… Human behaviour is not entirely motivated by self-interest of each human…game theory works in terms of self-interest, but… some game theory concepts could be unsound. There is over-dependence on rationality. That is my enlightenment.

The post The Curse of Game Theory first appeared on Dissident Voice.

The End of Reality?

In 1888,  the year before he went insane, Friedrich Nietzsche wrote the following in Twilight of the Idols:

We have got rid of the real world: what world is left?  The apparent world perhaps? … But no!  Along with the real world we’ve done away with the apparent world as well.

So, if you feel you also may be going insane in the present climate of digital screen life, where real is unreal but realer than real, the apparent is cryptic, and up is down, true is false, and what you see you don’t, it has a history.  One hundred and thirty-two years ago, Nietzsche added that “something extraordinarily nasty and evil is about to make its debut.”  We know it did, and the bloody butcher’s bench known as the twentieth century was the result. Nihilism stepped onto center stage and has been the star of the show ever since, straight through to 2020.  Roberto Calasso puts it this way in Literature and the Gods:

Here we are, announces Nietzsche, and it would be hard not to hear a mocking ring in his voice.  We thought we were living in a world where the fog had lifted, a disenchanted, ascertainable, verifiable world.  And instead everything has gone back to being a ‘fable’ again.  How are we to get our bearings … This is the paralysis, the peculiar uncertainty of modern times, a paralysis that all since have experienced.

Obviously, we haven’t gotten our bearings.  We are far more adrift today on a stormy electronic sea where the analogical circle of life has been replaced by the digital, and “truths” like numbers click into place continuously to lead us in wrong, algorithm-controlled directions. The trap is almost closed.

Of course, Nietzsche did not have the Internet, but he lived at the dawn of the electric era, when space-time transformations were occurring at a rapid pace.  Inventions such as photography, the phonograph, the telephone, electricity, etc. were contracting space and time and a disembodied “reality” was being born.  With today’s Internet and digital screen life, the baby is full-grown and completely disembodied.  It does nothing but look at its image that is looking back into a lifeless void, whose lost gaze can’t figure out what it’s seeing.

Take, for example, the phonograph, invented by Thomas Edison in 1878.  If you could record a person’s voice, and if that person died, were you then listening to the voice of a living person or one who was dead?  If the person whose voice was recorded was alive and was miles away, you had also compressed earthly space. The phonograph suppressed absence, conjured ghosts, and seemed to overcome time and death as it captured the flow of time in sound.  It allowed a disembodied human voice to inhabit a machine, an early example of downloading.

“Two ruling ambitions in modern technology,” writes John Durham Peters in his wonderful book, Speaking into the Air, “appear in the phonograph: the creation of artificial life and the conjuring of the dead.”

Many people started to hear voices, and these people were not called deluded. Soon, with the arrival of cinema, they would see ghosts as well.  Today, speaking ghosts are everywhere, hiding in hand-held devices. It’s Halloween all year round as we are surrounded by electronic zombies in a screen culture.

This technological annihilation of space and time that was happening at a frenetic pace was the material background to Nietzsche’s thought.  His philosophical and epistemological analyses emerged from German intellectual life of his time as well, where theologians and philosophers were discovering that knowledge was relative and had to be understood in situ, i.e., within its historical and social place or context.

Without going into abstruse philosophical issues here, suffice it to say, Nietzsche was suggesting that not only was God dead because people killed him, but that knowledge was a fiction that changed over time and was a human construction.  All knowledge, not just science, had to be taken “as if” it were true.  This was a consoling mental trick but falsely reassuring, for most people could not accept this, since “knowledge” was a protection racket from pain and insanity. It still is. In other words, not only had people murdered God, but they had slain absolutes as well. This left them in the lurch, not knowing if what they knew and believed were really true, or sort of true – maybe, perhaps. The worm of uncertainty had entered modern thought through modern thought.

While the average person did not delve into these revolutionary ideas, they did, through the inventions that were entering their lives, and the news about Darwin, science, religion, etc., realize, however vaguely, that something very strange and dramatic was under way. Life was passing from substance to shadow because of human ingenuity.

It is similar to what so many feel today: that reality and truth are moving beyond their grasp as technological forces that they voluntarily embrace push everyday life towards some spectral denouement.  An inhuman, trans-human, on-line electronic life where everything is a parody of everything that preceded it, like an Andy Warhol copy of a copy of a Campbell’s soup can with a canned mocking laugh track that keeps repeating itself.  All this follows from the nineteenth century relativization of knowledge, or what at least was taken as such, for to say all knowledge is relative is an absolute statement.  That contradiction goes to the heart of our present dilemma.

This old feeling of lostness is perhaps best summarized in a few lines from Mathew Arnold’s 19th century poem, “Dover Beach”:

The Sea of Faith
Was once, too, at the full, and round earth’s shore
Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furled.
But now I only hear
Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,
Retreating, to the breath
Of the night-wind, down the vast edges drear
And naked shingles of the world.

But that was then.  Today, the Joker’s sardonic laughter would suffice.

*****

I am sitting outside as I write, sipping a glass of wine before dinner.  Although New England fall weather is approaching, a nasty mosquito is buzzing around my head.  I hear it.  I am in killer mode since these bastards love to bite me.  This is real life.  If I went into the house and connected to the Internet on the computer screen – news, social media, anything – I would be entering another dimension.  Screen life, not real life. The society of the spectacle. No real mosquitoes, no wine, no trees swaying in the evening breeze.

In his novel, The Sun Also Rises, written between Nietzsche’s time and now, Ernest Hemingway, a man who surely lived in the physical world, writes of how Robert Cohn, the boxing champion from Princeton University, wants Jake Barnes, the book’s protagonist, to take a trip with him to South America.  As they sit and talk in Paris, Barnes says no, and tells Cohn, “All countries look just like the moving pictures.”

Whether Hemingway was being ironic or not, or simply visionary, I don’t know.  For in the 1920s, before passports and widespread tourism, there were many places you could only see if you traveled to them and they would never appear in moving pictures, while today there is almost no place that is not available to view beforehand on the internet or television.  So why go anywhere if you’ve already seen it all on a screen? Why travel to nowhere or to where you have already been?  Déjà vu all over again, as Yogi Berra put it and everyone laughed.  Now the laugh is on us.

*****

This is neither an argument nor a story.  It’s real.  I am trying to get my bearings in a disorienting situation. Call it a compass, a weather-vane, a prayer.  You can call me Al or Ishmael.  Call me crazy.  Perhaps this writing is just an “as if.”

*****

About fifteen years ago, I was teaching at a college where most communication was done via email.  I was, as they say, out of the loop since I didn’t do email. I was often asked why I didn’t, and I would repeatedly reply, like Melville’s Bartleby, because “I prefer not to.”  Finally, in order to keep my job, I succumbed and with the laptop computer they provided me, I went “on-line.”  There were 6,954.7 emails in my in-box from the past three years.  In those three years, I had performed all my duties scrupulously and hadn’t missed a beat.  Someone showed me how to delete the emails, which I did without reading any, but I had entered the labyrinth. I went electronic.  My reality changed. I am still searching for Ariadne’s thread.

*****

But I am not yet a machine and refuse the invitation to become one.  It’s a very insistent invitation, almost an order.  Neil Postman (Oh such a rich surname!) sums it up well in Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology:

The fundamental metaphorical message of the computer, in short, is that we are machines – thinking machines, to be sure, but machines nonetheless.  It is for this reason that the computer is the quintessential, incomparable, near perfect machine for Technopoly.  It subordinates the claims of our nature, our biology, our emotions, our spirituality.  The computer claims sovereignty over the whole range of human experience, and supports its claim by showing that it ‘thinks’ better than we can…John McCarthy, the inventor of the term ‘artificial intelligence’…claims that ‘even machines as simple as thermostats can be said to have beliefs…What is significant about this response is that it has redefined the meaning of the word ‘belief’ … rejects the view that humans have internal states of mind that are the foundation of belief and argues instead that ‘belief’ means only what someone or something does … rejects the idea that the mind is a biological phenomenon … In other words, what we have here is a case of metaphor gone mad.

Postman wrote that in 1992, before the computer and the internet became ubiquitous and longer before on-line living had become de rigueur – before it was being shoved down our throats as it is today under the cover of COVID-19.

There is little doubt that we are being pushed to embrace what Klaus Schwab, the Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum (WEF), calls COVID-19:The Great Reset, that involves a total acceptance of the electronic, on-line life.  On-line learning, on-line news, on-line everything – only an idiot (from Greek, idiotes, a private person who pays not attention to public affairs) would fail to see what is being promoted.  And who controls the electronic life and internet?  Not you, not I, but the powers that be, the intelligence agencies and the power elites. Goodbye  body, goodbye blood – “I don’t think we should ever shake hands ever again, to be honest with you,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) in support of human estrangement.

Peter Koenig, one of the most astute investigators of this propaganda effort, puts it this way:

The panacea of the future will be crowned by the Pearl of the Fourth Industrialization – Artificial intelligence (AI). It will be made possible by a 5G electromagnetic field, allowing the Internet of Things (IoT). Schwab and Malleret [Schwab’s co-author] won’t say, beware, there is opposition. 5G could still be blocked. The 5G existence and further development is necessary for surveillance and control of humanity, by digitizing everything, including human identity and money.

It will be so simple, no more cash, just electronic, digital money – that is way beyond the control of the owner, the truthful earner of the money, as it can be accessed by the Global Government and withheld and/or used for pressuring misbehaving citizens into obeying the norms imposed from above. You don’t behave according to our norms, no money to buy food, shelter and health services, we let you starve. No more travel. No more attending public events. You’ll be put gradually in your own solitary confinement. The dictatorial and tyrannical global commandeering by digital control of everything is the essence of the 4th Age of Industrialization – highly promoted by the WEF’s Great Reset.

*****

Like everything, of course, this push to place life under the aegis of cyberspace has a history, one that deifies the machine and attempts to convince people that they too are machines without existential freedom.  Thus the ongoing meme pumped out for the past three decades has been that we are controlled by our brains and that the brain is a computer and vice versa. Brain research has received massive government funding. Drugs have been offered as the solution to every human problem. So-called diseases and disorders have been created through the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of  Mental Disorders (DSM) and matched to pharmaceutical drugs (or the revers) for scandalous profits. And the mind has been reduced to a figment of deluded  imaginations. People are machines; that’s the story, marvelous machines.  They have no freedom.

If one wishes an example of techno-fascism, there is one from the art world. Back in the 1920s and 1930s there was an art movement known as Futurism.  Its leader proponent was an Italian Fascist, friend of Mussolini, Filippo Tommaso Marinetti.  The futurists claimed that all life revolves around the machine, that the machine was god, that it was beyond human control and had to be obeyed.  They extolled war and speed and claimed that humans were no more significant than stones.  Patriotism, militarism, strength, method, and the kingdom of experts were their blueprint for a corporate fascist state.  The human eye and mind would be re-educated to automatically obey the machine’s dictates.

Now we have cyberspace, digital machines, and the internet, an exponential extension of the machine world of the 1930s and the rise of Mussolini, Fascism, and Hitler.  That this online world is being pushed as the new and future normal by trans-national elite forces should not be surprising.  If human communication becomes primarily digitally controlled on-line and on screens, those who control the machines will have achieved the most powerful means of mind control ever invented. That will be MKULTRA on a vast scale.  Surveillance will be complete.

Yes, there are places on the internet where truth is and will be told, such as this site where you are reading this; but as we can see from today’s growing censorship across the web, those power elites and intelligence forces who  control the companies that do their bidding will narrow the options for dissenting voices. Such censorship starts slowly, and then when one looks again, it is a fait accompli. The frog in the pan of slowly heating cold water never realizes it is being killed until it is too late. Free speech is now being strangled. Censorship is widespread.

The purpose of so much internet propaganda is to confuse, obsess, depress, and then repress the population. The overlords accomplish this by the “peculiar linking together of opposites – knowledge with ignorance, cynicism with fanaticism – [which] is one of the chief distinguishing marks of Oceanic society,” writes Orwell in Nineteen Eighty-Four.  “The official ideology abounds with contradictions even where there is no practical reason for them.”  One look into one’s life will suffice to see how the overlords have set people against each other.  It’s a classic tactic.  Divide and conquer. Trump vs. Biden, Democrats vs. Republicans, whites vs. blacks, liberals vs. conservatives. Pure mind games. Contradictions every day to create social disorientation.  Orwell describes Doublethink as follows:

Doublethink means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them.  The Party intellectual knows in which direction his memories must be altered; he therefore knows he is playing tricks with reality; but by the exercise of doublethink he also satisfies himself that reality is not violated.  The process has to be conscious, or it would not be carried out with sufficient precision, but it also has to be unconscious, or it would bring with it a feeling of falsity and hence of guilt…To tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient, and then, when it becomes necessary again, to draw it back from oblivion for just as long as it is needed, to deny the existence of objective reality and all the while to take account of the reality which one denies – all this is indispensably necessary…If one is to rule, and to continue ruling, one must be able to dislocate the sense of reality. [author’s emphasis]

Nietzsche said that along with the real world we have done away with the apparent as well.  Digital online life has accomplished that.  It has allowed the rulers – through the media who are the magicians who serve them – to create counterfeit news and doctored videos at will, to present diametrically opposed points of view within the same paragraph, and to push breaking news items so fast that no one half-way sane could keep up with their magic shows. Nietzsche obviously didn’t foresee this technology, but he sensed the madness that the relativity of knowledge and the technology of his day would usher in.

*****

The popular 1990s term “Information Superhighway,” meaning the internet and all digital telecommunications, was the perfect term to describe this lunacy. Get on that highway and go as fast as you can while trying to catch the meaning of all the information flashing past you as you speed to nowhere.  For not only does censorship, propaganda, disinformation, mixed messages, and contradictions line the road you are traveling, but contextless information overload is so heavy that even if you were stopped in a traffic jam, there is too much information to comprehend.  And if you think this Superhighway is a freeway, think again, for the cost is high. No one puts out their hand and asks you to pay up; but the more you travel down this road you’ll notice you are missing a bit of flesh here and some blood there.  And without a speed pass, you are considered road kill.

To make matters much worse, they say we need 5G to go much faster.

Paul Virilio, who has devoted himself to the study of speed (dromology), puts it this way in Open Sky:

The speed of the new optoelectronic and electroacoustic milieu becomes the final void (the void of the quick), a vacuum that no longer depends on the interval between places or things and so on the world’s very extension, but on the interface of an instantaneous transmission of remote appearances, on a geographic and geometric retention in which all volume, all relief vanishes.

*****

And yet I don’t have a simple answer to the internet dilemma. You are reading it on-line and I am posting it there.  It is very convenient and quick. And yet…and yet….

Can we just walk away from it?  Maybe.  Perhaps like those few who, in Ursula K. Le Guin’s excruciating story, “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas,” we may decide the price for our conveniences and so-called happiness is too high and that there are hidden victims that this techno-scientific “progress” creates beneath its veneer of efficiency.  Others, us, our children, all children, who are reaching out not for speed and machines, but for the human touch that the on-line propagandists hope to destroy.  In Le Guin’s story, the price nearly all the citizens of Omelas are willing to pay for their happiness and comfort is the imprisonment of a single child.  Perhaps we should consider what we are doing to all the world’s children and their futures.

My friend Gary recently sent me this letter.  I believe it sums up what many people feel. There is a vast hunger for reality and truth. The analog life. How to live it – the question hangs in the air as the artificial intelligence/digital controllers try to reduce us to machines.

Although apparently it isn’t clear if Twain ever said this, it’s still a great quote:  (“If you don’t read the newspaper, you’re uninformed.  If you do, you’re misinformed.”)  To which “amen” is the only appropriate response.

I continue to daily stay abreast of events through the web, and these days much of what passed for “progressive media” simply regurgitates the covid madness as if it had been delivered on stone tablets – rather than by the same MSM that lie to us daily about literally ANYTHING of any importance.

There are days I wonder “why” I continue to bother to follow the unfolding madness as if it made some “difference.”  I could certainly play guitar more, and I might even get it together to write a few pieces on the nature of our collective madness, for which I have studiously assembled copious notes.  I really don’t need any more information or examples – I think I have things covered on that front.

Instead I find myself daily doing the little dance we’re all familiar with – uncomfortable with being “uninformed” – yet at almost every turn finding myself being routinely – “misinformed” – and so having to sift through the endless debris to have any chance at developing any coherent understanding of the world.

So yes, I totally get the draw of just saying to hell with the internet.  After years of shifting through the endless propaganda operations our generation has been subject too, I have no doubt you and I see through most the nonsense for what it is before we even have the proof in hand.  Once the rose-colored glasses of ‘American exceptionalism’ are off, one can almost sense and see through the lies in real time even as they are being uttered.

Reading Gary’s words reminded me of those of the Trappist monk Thomas Merton’s definition of the Unspeakable:

It is the void that contradicts everything that is spoken even before the words are said, the void that gets into the language of public and official declarations at the very moment when they are pronounced, and makes them ring dead with the hollowness of the abyss.  It is the void out of which Eichmann drew the punctilious exactitude of his obedience…

Yes, real time, real life – as we do our little dances.

Can we do our little dances and preserve reality?  I’m not sure.

The post The End of Reality? first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Wise People Know That Winning a War Is No Better Than Losing One

Liu Bolin (China), Guernica, 2016
Liu Bolin (China), Guernica, 2016

Dedicated to Soni Prashad, 1929-2020, who spent her life looking for a better world.

US President Donald Trump and his ‘war council’ – led by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo – have amplified their aggression against China. What began as a trade dispute in the 1990s has now escalated into the United States making an existential challenge against China.

The threat against China is made not for irrational reasons, but for perfectly rational ones, which are laid out below in our Red Alert no. 9 (also available as a separate download from our website). These have to do with the emergence of China as a major economic and technological power. What most rankles the US ruling class is that the various hybrid war techniques to weaken or overthrow the government are simply not available. The only means at the disposal of the United States to hold on to its power – chillingly – is armed force.

Red Alert no. 9. The US-Imposed Hybrid War on China

Is the United States trying to impose a war on China?

For the past several decades, the US has conducted a trade war against China. There are two key issues that worry the United States: first, a trade imbalance that benefits China, and, second, the growth of the Chinese technology sector. Techniques that the US has used against China include: pressuring China to revalue its currency against the dollar, pressuring China to prevent ‘piracy’ on intellectual property in order to slow down its domestic intellectual property developments, and pressuring China to slow down or cease its Belt and Road Initiative.

The US has now begun a war against the Chinese economy. The attempt to isolate Huawei and ZTE from their suppliers and their markets will have a debilitating impact on the growth potential of the Chinese economy. The US has sanctioned roughly 152 companies that make chips and other products for Huawei and ZTE. Increased bans – through the US government’s Clean Network initiative – would prevent US companies from using Chinese cloud services and undersea cables, and it would ban Chinese apps from appearing on app stores. The US government has increased pressure on other countries to join in this campaign.

The US government has increased its military pressure along the eastern rim of China. This includes the 2017 revival of the Quad (Australia, India, Japan, and the US), the creation of the US’ Indo-Pacific Strategy (its key document from 2020 is called ‘Regain the Advantage’), and the development of a range of new weaponry, including cyberweapons. This military power has come alongside hostile rhetoric against China, with attention focused on Hong Kong, Xinjiang, and Taiwan, and the depiction of the coronavirus pandemic as a ‘China virus’. Evidence is not as important here as the use of older racist and anti-Communist ideas to demonise China.

Liu Xiaodong (China), Wedding Party, 1992.
Liu Xiaodong (China), Wedding Party, 1992

Why is the US increasing its pressure against China?

China’s technological advances could result in a generational advantage over the West. China’s scientific and technological developments came because of the country’s investment in higher education and in its ability to transfer technology from firms that entered the country to manufacture goods. In 2018, Chinese scholars for the first time published more scientific articles than their colleagues in the US, and Chinese firms filed more patent applications than US firms. Chinese tech firms have now produced products that appear to be ahead of US, European, and Japanese products. Examples for this include 5G, BeiDou (a better mapping technology than GPS), high-speed trains, and robots.

Faced with US pressure, China has crafted an independent trade and development agenda. Since the world financial crisis, China began diversifying its economy from reliance upon the US and European markets to build up its own internal market and to increase engagement with the Global South. The immediate projects that developed included the Belt and Road Initiative, the String of Pearls Initiative, the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, and the China-Community of Latin American and Caribbean States Forum. The Chinese government has also begun to pay more attention to the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN). These moves come alongside a remarkable poverty eradication programme.

Currently, China is highly dependent on imported energy – such as gas from ASEAN nations, Australia, and Qatar. The China-Russia 6000kms ‘Power of Siberia’ pipeline will bring 38 billion cubic metres of natural gas, a substantial increase to meet the demands for the 90 billion cubic meters consumed by China. In 2014, Russia’s multinational energy corporation Gazprom and the China National Petroleum Corporation signed a $400 billion for a thirty-year deal.

Increasingly, China has attempted to build institutions outside of Western-controlled trade and development architecture, including the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (founded in 2014). As part of this, China has committed to de-dollarisation; China has proposed to hold its reserves and to conduct trade in currencies other than the US dollar. This is a long-term but inevitable development, and one that threatens the overall role of the Wall Street-Dollar complex. China’s cooperation with Russia is most advanced in this arena, with about 50% of Russia-China trade conducted in roubles and yuan (Russia owns about 25% of the global yuan reserves). Both Russia and China are divesting themselves of their dollar reserves. In January 2020, Russia sold $101 billion, or 50%, of its dollar reserves and moved $44 billion into Euros and $44 billion into yuan. The yuan, however, represents only 2% of global currency reserves.

Against the eastward expansion of NATO and the emergence of the Quad, China and Russia have crafted a military and diplomatic Eurasian security bloc. This is evident in the arms deals and the military exercises, but also in diplomatic coordination. For example, Russian and Chinese foreign ministry spokespersons Maria Zakharova and Hua

Chunying said in late July that they would join efforts in combatting the information war against China and Russia. Chinese diplomats have taken a more forthright attitude in their statements; they have been dubbed the ‘wolf warrior diplomats’, an allusion to a popular film where a Chinese soldier from an elite Wolf Warrior troop defeats a group of terrorists led by an ex-US Navy Seal.

Clearly, the US has found that Chinese leadership has been unwilling to go the Gorbachev road – namely, to surrender the Chinese model to the will of the United States. There is no possibility that the Communist Party of China will dissolve itself. The Chinese middle class – possible fodder for a ‘colour revolution’ – does not have any appetite to overthrow the government. It is content with the direction of the government and sees that its government has improved living standards and has been able – unlike Western governments – to tackle the Coronavirus pandemic (as we write about in a series on ‘CoronaShock’). A Harvard University study shows that the government led by the Communist Party of China has increased its approval from 2003 to 2016, largely because of the social welfare programmes and the fight against corruption pushed by both the Communist Party of China and by the Chinese government. The overall approval stands at 93%.

Zhong Biao (China), Paradise, 2007.
Zhong Biao (China), Paradise, 2007

What contradictions does the US war project face?

Chinese economic developments – such as the country’s capacity to outspend the US in development aid to outbid Western firms in trade deals – has produced alliances between China and key capitalist sectors in countries that have otherwise been secure US allies. Examples of this are amongst sections of the capitalist class in the Philippines and Sri Lanka, where Chinese investment has been welcomed.

The Chinese state has intensified its intervention in the tech sector inside China, with a $14 billion private and public fund to support tech developments. Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation (SMIC) – China’s top chip company – had an initial public offering (IPO) in Shanghai which netted $7. 5 billion. As a consequence of such funds and its own scientific developments, China will soon be able to bypass the US chip firms.

China’s economic capacity continues to exert pressure on fragments of capital in different countries. For instance, Australian mining companies rely upon China to buy iron ore from Australia. These companies lobby Canberra not to take too hostile a position against China. Roughly one third of Australia’s total exports go to China; these include soy, barley, meat, fruits, gas, and the raw minerals. The Australian government is forced to acknowledge these concerns, even though it has a longer-term perspective than the short-term profit concerns of the mining conglomerates. China has already hedged its bets, increasing purchases of soy and meat from Argentina and Brazil, and it will likely buy more mined goods from Brazil (Brazil’s Vale is using massive ships to carry mined goods to China).

The US military is stretched thin between the conflicts in Venezuela and Iran, and now in China. The US Navy has had four secretaries in a year, part of the chaos in the Trump administration. As a consequence, the US Navy has complained about the lack of ability to handle so many theatres of war at the same time. China has developed sophisticated defence mechanisms, such as cyber warfare techniques that have the ability to shut down US communications, starting with their satellites, and such as their Dongfeng missiles, which are capable of hitting the US navy ships that are in the South China Sea.

The eighth century Chinese poet Li Bai wrote of the ugliness of war; as far as war is concerned, nothing has changed over the centuries.

Soldiers smear their blood on the dry grass
While generals map the next campaign.

Wise people know winning a war
Is no better than losing one.

To break the embargo on factual news on China, please subscribe to receive News on China from the Dong Feng Collective; these weekly digests are the best way to remain informed about developments inside the country.

The post Wise People Know That Winning a War Is No Better Than Losing One first appeared on Dissident Voice.

If you are reading this, you might be a Conspiracy Theorist

…a permanent modern scenario: apocalypse looms . . . and it doesn’t occur.
— Susan Sontag, AIDs and its Metaphors, 1989

I should not misuse this opportunity to give you a lecture about, say, logic. I call this a misuse, for to explain a scientific matter to you it would need a course of lectures and not an hour’s paper. Another alternative would have been to give you what’s called a popular scientific lecture, that is a lecture intended to make you believe that you understand a thing which actually you don’t understand, and to gratify what I believe to be one of the lowest desires of modern people, namely the superficial curiosity about the latest discoveries of science. I rejected these alternatives.
— Ludwig Wittgenstein, A Lecture on Ethics, 1929

If you’re reading this, then you’ve probably been called a conspiracy theorist. Also you’ve been derided and shamed for questioning the “science” of the Covid debacle.

The idea of science is now a badly corrupted idea. In a nation, today, (the USA) which in educational terms ranks 25th globally in science skills and reading, and well below that in math, all one hears is a clarion call to science. In reading skills the U.S. placed below Malta, Portugal, and right about the same as Kazakhstan. But in a nation that no longer reads, and *can* no longer read, it is not surprising that knowledge is absorbed via the new hieroglyphics of gifs (interestingly the creator of gifs wanted it pronounced with a soft g the more to sound like a peanut butter brand) and memes. So called ‘response memes’ are the new version of conversation, and most register and communicate (sic) confusion. As beer ad marketers know, the state of your brain after consuming a six pack is pretty much the standard target ideal for advertising. And it relays a message that six pack confusion is actually a good and perhaps even sexy state in which to find oneself. Education is for those with money, those who can afford the proper foundational skills to get into Harvard, MIT, Cal Tech and the Stanford. For everyone else science is Star Trek.

But I digress. The point is that most Americans imagine that they revere science, and they ridicule anyone they think of as unscientific. But they think of it in cult terms, really. It’s a religion of sorts. The only people who don’t are those ‘real’ religious zealots, Dominionist and Charismatic christians (like Mike Pompeo, Mike Pence, Rick Perry, Betsy DeVos et al) who hold positions of enormous power in the U.S. government under the least scientific president in history. The Christian right doesn’t like any science, ANY science. But for most of that target demographic (the educated mostly white 30%), the cry is to “trust the science”…even the great Greta says to “trust the science”. The problem is, science is not neutral.  It’s as politicized as media and news and the pronouncements of celebrities.

In May 2020, The Lancet published an article revisiting the 1957 and 1968 Influenza pandemics.

The 1957 outbreak was not caused by a coronavirus—the first human coronavirus would not be discovered until 1965—but by an influenza virus. However, in 1957, no one could be sure that the virus that had been isolated in Hong Kong was a new pandemic strain or simply a descendant of the previous 1918–19 pandemic influenza virus.

The result was that as the UK’s weekly death count mounted, peaking at about 600 in the week ending Oct 17, 1957, there were few hysterical tabloid newspaper headlines and no calls for social distancing. Instead, the news cycle was dominated by the Soviet Union’s launch of Sputnik and the aftermath of the fire at the Windscale nuclear reactor in the UK. By the time this influenza pandemic—known colloquially at the time as “Asian flu”—had concluded the following April, an estimated 20 000 people in the UK and 80 000 citizens in the USA were dead. Worldwide, the pandemic, sparked by a new H2N2 influenza subtype, would result in more than 1 million deaths.

To date, Covid 19 has not reached the million death marker in the U.S. And yet we are seeing the most draconian lockdowns in modern history, the total suspension of democratic process and a level of hysteria (especially in the U.S. and UK) unprecedented. I wrote about some aspects of this on my blog here, mostly touching on the cultural effects.

Allow me to quote The Lancet again:

The subsequent 1968 influenza pandemic—or “Hong Kong flu” or “Mao flu” as some western tabloids dubbed it—would have an even more dramatic impact, killing more than 30 000 individuals in the UK and 100 000 people in the USA, with half the deaths among individuals younger than 65 years—the reverse of COVID-19 deaths in the current pandemic. Yet, while at the height of the outbreak in December, 1968, The New York Times described the pandemic as “one of the worst in the nation’s history”, there were few school closures and businesses, for the most, continued to operate as normal.

I remember the 68 Hong Kong flu. I was in my last year of high school. The summer after was Woodstock, the ‘summer of love’. Not a lot of social distancing going on. But we are past numbers and statistics having any real meaning. The Covid narrative is now in the realm of allegory.

The media perspective is utterly predictable. Liberal outlets that have the inside track to government are seen to be reinforcing the mainstream story (VOX, Slate, Huff Post, The Guardian and Washington Post). In a recent VOX article the message was only a sociopath would NOT wear a mask and that the ‘science’ was unanimous. Of course, it’s no such thing. But the message of sites like VOX, or Daily Beast, or Wa Po or the truly reprehensible Guardian, are always going to  hammer away ‘on message’. The same is true for what passes for moderate news organs like the NY Times, ABC news, The Hill, and BBC. There has been virtually no dissenting opinions expressed in these rags. All these news outlets are given clear messages by the spin doctors in government, by the White House, and by contacts within the State Department and Pentagon. And by the advertising firms employed by the state (such as Ruder Finn).

Ad agencies are not in the business of doing science.
— Dr. Arnold S. Relman, “Madison Ave. Has Growing Role In the Business of Drug Research“, New York Times, 2002

The WHO, the CDC, and most every other NGO or government agency of any size hires advertising firms. The WHO, which is tied to the United Nations, is a reasonably sinister organization, actually. Just picking up a random publication from the WHO, on what they call ‘the tobacco epidemic’ and you find on page 33 the following chapter heading Objective: Effective surveillance, monitoring and evaluation systems in place to monitor tobacco use.” Reading further and all this is really saying is that the populace of any country is best put under surveillance. It’s for their own good, you see.

But back to the science. Here is a small trip down memory lane….

Institutions of medicine, global and national possess no more integrity than your average NGO (Amnesty International, Médecins Sans Frontières, Oxfam et al). And that means not very much.

To understand the nature of institutional corruption one must understand Imperialism. The institutions of Imperialist nations are going to further Imperialist ideology. (see Antonio Gramsci, ideological hegemony). The U.S. is not in the business of helping Americans.

Modern monopoly forms better reflect that scientific knowledge, and its advanced application to production, are concentrated, ultimately, not in physical objects but in human beings and human interaction with those objects. It is monopoly of the labour power of the most highly educated workers, by both imperialist states and Multi National Corporations, that forms the ultimate and most stable base of imperialist reproduction.

— Sam King (Lenin’s theory of imperialism: a defence of its relevance in the 21st century, MLR)

http://www.wrongkindofgreen.org/2020/04/15/vaccination-most-deceptive-tool-of-imperialism/

The idea of super-exploitation needs to be conceptually generalised at the necessary level of abstraction and incorporated in the theory of imperialism. Super-exploitation is a specific condition within the capitalist mode of production … the hidden common essence defining imperialism. The working class of the oppressed nations/Third World/Global South is systematically paid below the value of labour power of the working class of the oppressor nations/First World/Global North. This is not because the Southern working class produces less value, but because it is more oppressed and more exploited.
— Andy Higginbottom, Structure and Essence in Capital 1, quoted by John Smith Imperialism in the Twenty-First Century

The U.S. jobless rate just hit 2.1 million. Officially. Making the total something over forty million. It’s much higher in reality. Nobody has work. There is no work and we are at the start of a period of massive evictions, foreclosures, and delinquencies — and the homeless population will soon reach Biblical proportions (in some cities, such as Los Angeles, it’s already Biblical). Will be simply of a magnitude never before seen. Hence the authoritarian policing of lockdowns in, for example, New Zealand, suggests something like a practice run. The ruling class in western nations knows full well this is coming. And one wonders if it’s not, in fact, a part of the plan (oh here is where someone says conspiracy theory…probably Louis Proyect). Yes, it’s a fucking conspiracy theory. It is a theory based on evidence, however. Why is the U.S. and UK and a host of other countries deliberately insuring a massive depression? Because they care about your health? They are worried we all might catch the flu? Has the U.S. ever demonstrated a concern with your health and well being before? Remember how many discretionary tax dollars go to health care and how much to defense. Conspiracies do occur. The denial of that fact seems to be hallmark of the pseudo or false left. Does the suspension of democratic process not cause this soft left any problems at all? Look at Sweden, at Belarus…no lockdown and no problem.

It should be noted that there are a great many terrific doctors in the U.S. Dedicated and brilliant, often. But they are not the system. The system is run for profit.

With about three-fourths of Americans under lockdown, the unintended consequences will be vast. There has been a notable decrease in the number of heart attack and stroke patients arriving at hospitals, presumably because they are afraid of catching the coronavirus or of not finding a hospital bed. As the economy spirals downward, we can also expect an increase in mental health crises, domestic violence and suicides. While lockdown supporters say that to have a functioning economy, we must have good public health, the reverse is also true: To have good public health, we must have a functioning economy.
— Alex Berezow, PhD, Geopolitical Futures, 2020

Alfred Willener wrote an interesting book in 1970, analysing May 68 in France. He analyses the answers students gave to various questionnaires they responded to. The section regarding science is worth quoting.

The scandalous fact is that, for all the means that science has put at our disposal, most people live not much better than in the Middle Ages’ . The system benefits from science in the following way: through the atom bomb, through ‘the power of statistical research’ , through computers, through the chemical industry being ‘in the hands of the state’, through space research. ‘In the end, you realize’, concludes one reasonably logical reply, ‘that technological progress, which makes economic growth possible, does not satisfy the fundamental needs of man and is used above all to maintain and strengthen the system’. Lastly, I should like to quote one quite unexpected reply, which forms the extreme point of pessimism: ‘ Everyone is oppressed by science.’
— Alfred Willener, The Action-Image of Society on Cultural Politicization

I doubt seriously one would get such responses today in any European or North American country. The contemporary indoctrination regards science is acute. And the media abounds in junk science. Click bait science. And this is where most people have their opinions formed for them.

There is a paper put out by one of the founders of the World Economic Forum, Klaus Schwab, called The Great Reset. The conclusion of the book reads …

…at a global level, if viewed in terms of the global population affected, the corona crisis is (so far) one of the least deadly pandemics the world has experienced over the last 2000 years.

In other words, a mortality of .06% is simply not commensurate with the extreme measures the governments of the world (the West in particular) are taking. There is no question, none, that those measures, the lockdown, the masks, the distancing, and the attending *diseases of despair*, will kill more people by a factor of ten than the virus itself. This is not even to begin discussing the psychological harm done, in particular to children. And not just harm to children, but severe harm to the most vulnerable.

What is being internalized by children is three fold. One, there is something inherently sick and contagious about ME. Two, everyone MIGHT be a threat to my health. And three, obey authority, because you don’t want to end up like those smelly homeless people we are trying to hard to avoid. Children take things personally. They tend to blame themselves. Even in the comparative sanity of Norway, where I reside, children are increasingly anxious about the world. How could they not be? All this for a health risk of .06%.

But it is more than just the decimation of the economy in the U.S. and UK. It is a dismantling of the culture. One in three museums closed because of Covid will not re-open. Ever. Where does all that art go? Just a guess but probably very wealthy collectors will gobble it up at wholesale prices. The predictable outcome of these lockdowns, certainly in the U.S., is a guaranteed minimum income. Very minimum. Restrictions on travel, all freedom of movement, in fact, will not soon return to normal. Various forms of surveillance and tracking, as well as health certifications, are the goal of the state. Also, if this pandemic succeeded so well, with so little resistance, why not have another? And there is another aspect to the SWAT mask police, and that is that western society is becoming alarmingly hypochondriacal. Children are kept out of school for runny noses. If all kids with snotty noses were kept out of class, nobody would get an education. There is a dire future of two or three generations now developing and maturing with very weak immune systems. So that if a natural mutation takes place one day, from a Corona virus or any other, a genuinely serious pandemic could kill tens of millions.

It is not a speculation that there are people who prosper and even benefit during an economic crisis—as smaller business owners struggle, large corporations and banks benefit from huge government subsidies, giving them more power to buy failing small businesses, for example. And it is a fact that many of those people have enormous economic power to shape the policies that can benefit themselves. It is not a speculation that they would appreciate having strict measures of control against the people by limiting their freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, and freedom to travel, or by installing means of surveillance, check points and official certifications for activities that might give freedom to the people beyond the capitalist framework. It is not a speculation that they would benefit from moving our social interactions to the digital realm, which can commodify our activities as marketable data for the advertising industry, insurance industry and any other moneyed social institutions Including education, political institution, legal institution, and financial institution. Such matters should be seen within the context of the western history being shaped by unelected capitalists with their enormous networks of social institutions.
— Hiroyuki Hamada, Wrong Kind of Green, April 2020

The collapse of retail is accelerating. This is emerging as a monopolization of retail. Few shops will remain, in fact, except luxury stores in select gated areas. The rest will be online and probably rudimentary. The culture and the economy are being strip mined and recreated for a select clientele. The collapse of the economy means the collapse of the bottom 90% or so. The very richest men and corporations on the planet are making huge profits. And yet, there are precious few voices of dissent to the master narrative in the U.S.. In Norway, the lockdown was about five weeks. But it’s a sparsely populated country and one hardly noticed it save for the kids being home and not in school. But schools reopened and the Prime Minister actually made a speech apologizing, in effect, for an *unnecessary* lockdown. She had been frightened. But now, with a mild uptick in positive cases the country is considering stricter limitations on travel. Why? There is no uptick in deaths, only in positive test results. The fact remains the virus attacks the aged and the already sick. But this is very telling, I think. The Norwegian government doesn’t want to be seen as disobedient. They don’t want to not follow the grand plan provided by western agencies and experts. Even if they seemingly don’t really believe it. (The saddest aspect is the voice of Dr. Mads Gilbert, a known advocate for Palestinian rights, who has weighed in on the side of fear. Why? I have no idea. But it is worth noting his predictions from March 2020 were staggeringly wrong.) But clearly the group think pressure is powerful and small nations do not want to be singled out for bucking the *science*. There are economic coercion threatened, tacitly, as well. The pressure to conform is huge and it takes a Herculean effort — both individually and as a nation, to resist. And *experts* seem to have a hard time admitting they were wrong.

The science has been consistently wrong from day one.

As I say, this is now allegory. Or fable. There is nothing reasonable or rational in the lockdown measures of the U.S. and UK and NZ. Or anywhere. And this is not even to touch upon the criminality of the Gates Foundation and Bill Gates buying public influence and visibility. Not trained in any medical discipline, Gates has somehow made himself one of the faces of the pandemic. And to deconstruct Gates’ language is to find a disturbing quality of authoritarian hubris. Gates utters declarations as if he were God speaking to his flock. All from a man who has done little save steal from his partners and exploit the poor of India and Africa. One of the most striking aspects of this whole last few months has been the enormous and coordinated effort the Gates machine has put into rehabilitating his image. If you google “Crimes of the Gates Foundation”, for example, you will get ten different fact checkers officially denying any crimes and another half dozen articles ridiculing those who question Gates’ motives, his profit from vaccine, or even his alignment with eugenicists (de population adherents)– all are derided as, yes, conspiracy theorists. If you dare to question the rushing of an untested vaccine, you are called an anti vaxxer. My children are vaccinated. I just don’t like the idea of a hurried untested vaccine produced for a virus that needs no vaccine. And one promoted by a creepy jillionaire. But clearly the Gates charm offensive is in overdrive. The pastel cardigan is everywhere. And yet, his favorable rating in recent surveys is around 56%. That is actually not very high given the amount of self promotion involved. It’s better than Mark Zuckerberg and Joe Biden, though. Gates is not likeable. No amount of spin can change that.

The final factor to note is the Trump effect. Many liberals would literally rather see dead in the street if it meant discrediting Trump. It is no longer quite a zero sum game, though. But overall the hatred of Trump is now at a religious level, too. And behold, the opposition is Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. If you want a window in the black heart of Biden, watch and/or listen to his testimony around the Waco inferno. The inherent sadism and lack of humanity is glaringly apparent. As for Kamala Harris….

As a San Francisco social worker, I sat on the school district committee that met with families of chronically truant students. Once, when we asked a student why he didn’t go to school, he said there was too much police tape and shootings at his school bus stop. Harris, as CA Attorney General, was putting parents/caregivers in jail if their child was chronically truant. Also as Attorney General, she denied a DNA test to Kevin Cooper, a very likely innocent man who came within hours of execution in 2004.

— Riva Enteen (Counterpunch Aug. 2020)

These are the servants of capital.

The left should be emphasising the economic aspect of lockdown because it is the working class who are the principal victims of lockdown.
— Phil Shannon, Lockdown Skeptics, June 2020

A Downing street tweet today….We’re putting tougher measures in place to target serious breaches of coronavirus restrictions. Fines for not wearing a face covering will double for repeat offences, up to £3,200.

This is a class-based assault. The wealthy will not be fined for not wearing a face covering on their private beaches, or dinner parties at the yacht club.

The Political Economy of Preternatural Parapsychology: From ESP to Extraterrestrial Civilizations

Man’s longing for the marvelous: the underground of the human psyche finds its counterpart in the meanderings of a mythical labyrinth, the subterranean meetings by candlelight, secret passages hidden within the double walls of castles, treasures concealed in gullies.

—  The Chemical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreutz by Johann Valentin Andreae, Joscelyn Godwin (Translator), and Adam McLean (Contributor)

Orientation

In my two-part article on neoliberal psychology, I named three orientations to the self. The first was realistic neoliberal psychology which is mainstream and results in the development of an “entrepreneurial self”. Then I discussed two types of rebellious romantic psychology that developed in the 1970s through the 1990s. The first type came out of the human potential movement and gave birth to what I called the “expressive self”. Then in the early 1980s, as part of a conservative reaction against the 1960s movement, an upper-middle and upper-class form of psychology coalesced around the work of Carl Jung, Mircea Eliade and Joseph Campbell. This resulted in what I call a “mystical self”.

But what was also a big part of a romantic reaction against neoliberalism was an interest in the paranormal or parapsychology, which straddled the boundary between psychology and the occult. For example, where does reading other people’s minds (telepathy) fit within neoliberalism? What about those who claim to see into the future (clairvoyance)? What about psychics who claim to move external objects with the power of their minds (psychokinesis)? What about those who claim to have astral bodies which exist outside the physical body? How do we make sense of an increased interest in ghosts who inhabit haunted houses?

What about paranormal phenomena whose advocates claim that alien spaceships have landed on earth? Or authors who claim that extraterrestrial civilizations built the Egyptian pyramids? Or Hoagland’s “Face on Mars” claim? I call the interest in parapsychology or paranormal events the preoccupations of an “adventurous self”. The purpose of this article is neither to debunk parapsychological or paranormal claims nor to attack the individuals who believe in them. Rather it is to ask:

  1. Why do these beliefs continue to exist despite being dismissed by scientific methodology time and again?
  2. What political and economic conditions might have existed in the United States between 1970 and 1990 that might make these beliefs especially appealing?

Natural, supernatural and preternatural

In Western history, according to Lorraine Daston and Katharine Park in their book Wonders and the Order of Nature, St. Thomas distinguished between three kinds of physical occurrence. The first is events in nature which are predictable and subject to natural laws. These natural laws are formulated and studied by scientists. At the other extreme, there are physical events which are deemed “supernatural” or miraculous, divine events caused by God, without physical intermediaries. But in between these poles are “preternatural” events such as marvels or wonders which are anomalies within nature and science and might be subject to control through intermediary forms. The intermediaries are claimed to be either humans performing magic or demons thought to control nature through physical intermediaries such as the elements or vapors.

While natural events are predictable, supernatural or preternatural events are not, but for different reasons. Further, those events which are subject to natural law occur frequently and are part of everyday life. Both preternatural and supernatural events are rare and, in some way, they occur beyond the world of everyday life. Copernicus’ description of the relation between sun and planets is part of a natural law. The claim by Catholics of God’s intervention at the healing sites of Our Lady of Fatima are considered miracles. Claims for ESP or telepathy are considered to be natural wonders. Medical diagnoses based on astrology and the use of correspondences are examples of preternatural events.

Paranormal and parapsychology fall under the category of preternatural. While supernatural religion appeals to some kind of divine intervention that keeps us passive and awe-stricken, interest in the paranormal requires actively probing an unseen world using our supposedly unexpected powers which come out of a sense of wonder. This is why I call people who have an interest in the paranormal or parapsychological processes “adventurous selves.”

Who believes in paranormal phenomena and parapsychology?

In their book, How to Think About Weird Things, authors Theodore Schick and Lewis Vaughn give the following statistics about people in the United States:

  • 55% believe in psychic or spiritual healing.
  • 41% believe in ESP.
  • 32% believe that ghosts or spirits of dead people come back in certain places and situations.
  • 31% believe in telepathy or communication between minds without using the traditional five senses.
  • 24% believe that extraterrestrial beings have visited earth at some time in the past.
  • 26% believe in clairvoyance, or the power of the mind to know the past and predict the future.
  • 21% believe that people can hear from or communicate mentally with someone who has died.
  • 25% believe in astrology, or that the position of the stars and planets can affect people’s lives.
  • 21% believe in witches.
  • 20% believe in reincarnation, that is the rebirth of the soul in a new body after birth.

The right-wing political and economic setting mid 1970s to 1990s

When social life is relatively prosperous and the economy is expanding, people in the middle and upper-middle classes tend to gravitate to the moderate or liberal spectrum of their religion. However, in the hard economic times beginning in the 1970s and to the 1990s, when the economy is contracting and there is some kind of ecological and/or political crisis, the traditional religions are implicated, the center does not hold and people are scattered into the left or right wings of fundamentalist religion, cults or parapsychology.  There are at least four possible reactions:

  1. The working-class joined a more fundamentalist religion as happened in the Christian churches in late 1970s.
  2. The upper-class and the upper middle-class who were established professionals were drawn to the conservative psychology of Carl Jung, the esoteric religion of Eliade or the mythology of Joseph Campbell. The results of these involvements culminate in what I’ve called a “mystical” self.
  3. Those in the middle-class and upper middle-class who have not found a satisfactory professional position or have been by-passed in their professional life, those who have status anxiety, often strike out on their own and become interested in parapsychology and paranormal phenomenon. These folks maintain their individualism by not attaching themselves to traditional religious or scientific organizations. They may even start their own organization.
  4. Those middle-class and upper middle-class people who are hypercritical thinkers and who criticize all the world’s religions are drawn to social spiritual movements that want to create a revolutionary life on earth. These people have been burned by organized religion, think in terms of conspiracies but want to be part of a new spiritual community. They will likely be drawn to cults.

Adventurous vs the mystical self

Like the mystical self of the Jungians, the adventurous self has an anti-modern view of life. Those who believe in parapsychology often imagine that modern life has dulled their natural psychic abilities and they imagine that people in tribal or ancient civilizations were able to read minds or move objects without touching them. The Jungians are more straightforward about being anti-science. Jung never tried to make his concepts like the collective unconscious, or his archetypes scientifically verifiable. Followers of ESP and psychokinetics, however, do make attempts to test their participant’s ability by using scientific methods. As we shall see, parapsychologists do a very bad job of it, but they do try. Both Jungians and parapsychologists are opposed to organized religion. Jungians explicitly reject patriarchal religions for pre-Christian, pagan traditions. Those who investigate parapsychology are more individualistic and critical of all religions. Many see any kind of spirituality as attempts to repress the exploratory powers of human beings.

By why are Jungians and those who are interested in the paranormal not able to appeal to a more popular audience? Some smug Jungians claim that their knowledge is esoteric and is not fit for popular consumption. However, those interested in the paranormal are not just critical of organized religion. They tend to believe that political and scientific elites intentionally get in the way of cultivating paranormal skills. After all, if people could produce altered states of consciousness themselves the religious authorities would be out of work. In the case of UFO enthusiasts imagine that the US government is hiding secrets of UFO visitations. Both Jungians and parapsychologists are anti-intellectual and trust their intuition more than their reason, although parapsychologists make some attempts to use rationality in their attempts to set up experiments.

People interested in paranormal phenomenon will rely on groups, attend conferences and form clubs for emotional support. These groups will often support and even create collective experiences through UFO conferences as people in attendance may even report seeing UFOs if these conferences are held in the open air. The class origins of the two groups are different. The Jungians consist of upper middle-class and upper-class people who have established themselves professionally and are looking for a worldview that simply supports their achievements and gives them serenity. Those interested in parapsychology are usually young, and as Zusne and Jones say in their book Anomalistic Psychology, have either not established themselves in a profession or have been rejected professionally in a particular field. They are attempting to find a place for themselves in a new field with fewer professional demands. For example, Madame Blavatsky’s followers and the followers of the Society for Psychic Research were disproportionately upper-class women looking for activities to fill their time.

Jungians and their followers tend to be very well educated and have at least master’s degrees. Followers of parapsychology tend to be self-educated and get their reading lists from occult bookstores located in large cities. The leaders of parapsychology may or may not have their degrees in psychology and have found their way to parapsychology by doing their own reading. It is not possible to receive advanced degrees in parapsychology in the US. The major players in archetypal psychology are Carl Jung, Mircea Eliade and Joseph Campbell. In parapsychology the leaders have been Charles Tart, Stanley Krippner, and Uri Geller, and for alien abduction, the psychiatrist John Mack. Their historical influences have been Mesmer, Madame Blavatsky and William James. Please see Table C for a fuller contrast between the mystical and the adventurous self.Limitations of parapsychology in using the scientific method

There are many, many reasons why parapsychology does not measure up to scientific standards. First, we will examine why they don’t and then we’ll discuss why people continue to believe in parapsychology and paranormal phenomenon anyway. To begin, the evidence given for paranormal experience is not statistical nor have double-bind tests been undertaken. Instead, anecdotal evidence is offered such as case studies, testimonials and celebrity endorsements. Parapsychologists take advantage of the evolutionary biases for stories over statistics to sway people.

Secondly, the quality of sense data is usually nebulous. Imagining seeing a UFO or a face on Mars usually occurs when visual conditions are cloudy. In good science, the sense data is crystal clear and is verifiable.

Thirdly, in parapsychology, different types of data are thrown together eclectically without the recognition that some data might contradict others. Good science dialectically criticizes and eliminates contradictions within the data so all the evidence is logically connected. Another problem with parapsychology is that it violates the principle of conservatism. In providing a theory which explains one thing, parapsychological theory, it throws into question what is already known. This means that you solve one problem but you’ve created new problems. Science at its best has theories which explain new phenomenon while keeping in place all the knowledge about the past.

In good science, one of its major expectations is that you state the conditions under which you will admit that you are wrong. This is called falsifiability. A scientific theory that is proven wrong is better than a theory that is not provable because failures allow science the opportunity to eliminate one theory from the field. With parapsychology, what is being measured does not usually lend itself to quantification so that it cannot be proven right or wrong.

In order for a scientific theory to be testable, it has to be able to be replicated in order for other scientists to test the phenomenon and see for themselves. In parapsychology, phenomenon often happen spontaneously or under conditions not likely to be replicated. This means the theory cannot be solidified and stabilized by other scientists. Another vital characteristic of a scientific theory is that it keeps its assumptions realistic and close to the surface of the data. Too often in parapsychology, their theories are so complex that you would have to provide more empirical data to support all the assumptions in between the surface data. So, for example, if you believe that there really is a face on Mars instead of just weird topographic sand configurations, then you have to explain what kind of civilization did this, what tools they used and for what purpose. Weird sand configurations are far more down to earth.

In parapsychology it is very common for experts in one field to use their expertise in one field to claim authority over a field in which they have no special knowledge. For example, imagine a medical doctor using their position to speak authoritatively about the relationship between quantum physics and consciousness. In legitimate science an expert in one field sticks to their field and doesn’t claim expertise in another field.

Typically, before a scientist publishes a book, the manuscript goes through peer review. Because parapsychologists mix together many fields, a peer review of their work is not easy to come by. Unfortunately, cultivating scientific generalists is not supported by corporations or federal governments. In any event, those claiming unusual theories, instead of finding peers to evaluate their work, go directly to the media in the hopes of directly reaching the public. Because parapsychology theory is exotic and not too technical, it has mass media and public appeal. This is what happened with Velikovsky’s book Worlds in Collision, published in 1950. The problem then, is that skeptical scientists are left wasting their time doing control damage and refuting theories with no scientific foundations.

There are pros and cons to being affiliated with an organization. For one thing, a scientist’s real research interests might not have trouble being funded. But at the same time, working for an organization requires that people keep their feet on the ground because the reputation of the institution is on the line. Unconventionality is looked on with suspicion. Parapsychologists are most often not affiliated with a respectable, established organization. Some parapsychologists who are wealthy or know how to tap wealthy donors may start up their own institutions. If not, in classical romantic style they call themselves “independent researchers”. This is a sign they are free-floating. They also present themselves as “heroic mavericks” whom no institution could contain.

Another tendency of parapsychologists is to imagine established scientists as stodgy old people set in their ways who feel threatened by parapsychologists’ “revolutionary findings”. This is a very unfair characterization. Most working scientists have a mixture of creativity and prudence.  There is a field of psychology called “anomalous psychology” which explains extraordinary happenings by known psychological causes. In the best of all possible worlds, parapsychologists would be familiar with all the current anomalous psychological explanations before coming up with a new theory.

Often times, for example, UFO buffs are not familiar with the various accounts by scientists as to why people see UFOs. In other words, UFO enthusiasts should exhaust all scientific explanations before introducing a parapsychological explanation. Most often these enthusiasts don’t know what the range of scientific explanations are.

In addition, parapsychologists imagine that the authorities are out to get them. They can only imagine it is because their discovery would threaten the “powers that be”. They don’t consider the reason their theory is not paid attention to is they haven’t played by the rules of the scientific method. Unconventionality is not always a virtue. More times than not, it be a sign of incompetence.

Parapsychologists often have a romantic notion that scientists are lonely geniuses who struggle in isolation apart from everyone. But working scientists participate in a community of scientists where peer review doesn’t hold them back, but rather it actually improves their work. Because parapsychologists often don’t have institutions to answer to, there is little at stake if their theory doesn’t hold up. For practicing scientists, they have invested a great deal of their careers developing or protecting a theory. It is natural that they would have more to lose if they were wrong. It makes sense why they would be slow to incorporate a new theory, especially if it played fast and loose with the scientific method.

Parapsychologists are often anti-modern. They like to refer to the “ancient wisdom” of tribal or agricultural civilizations as if something that’s old assumes something inherently good about it. In critical thinking, parapsychologists commit the fallacy of “appeal to tradition”.

Most working scientists are modernists and think that modern science has made advances based on what people in the ancient world developed.

If you notice the claims and tones of parapsychologists, they are usually dramatic, quick, simple and painless cures for our problems. Scientists, on the other hand, are very careful about making promises. They proceed by trial-and-error, working slowly and claiming no more than probability for their hypothesis. Parapsychologists usually do not use neutral language. Their language is loaded with virtue words like “holistic, balanced, right-brain and intuitive”. Vice words are “mechanistic, dualistic, left-brain, linear and intellectual”. The problem is this vocabulary does not make it easy to be objective and to weigh things in such a way that the language doesn’t give away which side you are on.  Lastly, parapsychologists see themselves as open while scientists are depicted as closed, smug and cynical. Scientists usually see themselves as Carl Sagan did, combining skepticism and wonder. They see parapsychologists as gullible and sensationalistic.

But all these criticisms of parapsychology don’t seem to stop people from flocking to the latest book party, movie or media event of a parapsychologist.  In the next section we turn to the political, social and psychological reasons why interest in paranormal events and parapsychology persists.

Decline of living standards in Yankeedom: parapsychology as a psychology of reactance

“Reactance theory” is a psychological response to a perceived loss of freedom to act and to think. The discoveries of modern science can appear to be either deterministic constraints on individuals or the individuals are thought to be subject to chance probabilities. Neither of these theories support a notion of individual freedom so dear to Yankees.  Becoming interested in preternatural phenomenon or using parapsychology to find out about it is seen as adventurous and restores the individual’s sense of freedom.

Economic, political and ecological life in the United States seems to be falling apart and it is difficult for people to understand why.

 As a socialist, I have an explanation for why things are falling apart but most people do not have the will and the patience to really study systems analytically in order to make sense of them. Yet people don’t want to give up. Believing in the existence of ESP or clairvoyance gives people hope and an escape from difficult material circumstances. The paranormal world restores a mystery to life that has been lost by the commercialization of ritual and myths. Paranormal psychology, with its foundation in a psycho-physical unity, gives people a structured explanation of why things are as they are. At its worst, parapsychology is running away to other worlds instead of facing and dealing with the real world and its problems.

Though most people interested in parapsychology are upper-middle and middle-class who are represented by both political parties, there is a sense that the political system has nothing to do with what they were taught about democracy. They believe that the world is run by people behind the scenes.

This leads to a sense that appearances can be deceiving. If the state can lie about what is going on in politics, it can also lie about what it knows about paranormal UFOs.  Generally, there is a consensus among parapsychologists that what’s on the surface can be deceiving and the official authorities cannot be trusted on any level. This leads to a paranoid, conspiratorial mindset. At its worst, everything the authorities do is a conspiracy and there is no room for coincidences or ruling class incompetence.

Science has not delivered on its promise to make a better life for all.

Because most people do not understand the capitalist nature of science, those interested in the paranormal see science as a separate field which they judge negatively. Instead of criticizing the capitalists’ use of science, paranormal proponents blame science as a field for the failure to make a “better living through GE.” This leads among those interested in the paranormal to an anti-science romanticism. According to this way of thinking, science is mechanistic, cold, mathematic and too hard to understand. A mystical occult framework is hopeful, emotional and has definite answers (rather than probability) to the big questions. They fail to notice that science in the 20th century from quantum physics to relativity theory, from General Systems theory to complexity theory is anything but mechanical and dead.

There is an increasing sense of our personal lives being out of control with an unpredictable work-life and growing debt.

This leads to a completely understandable sense of wanting to have control over our personal lives. Some paranormal philosophies suggest that we “create our own reality”. Our mind can heal our physical problems and we can travel to other times and places through past life experience or astral projection. These are compensations for a perception that our lives are not in our control.

Cross-cultural surveys of happiness show people in the United States are not very happy.

Especially since most people interested in the paranormal are economically comfortable, if not wealthy, there is a sense that resources and money are not the only things in life. This drives them into parapsychology. It is common to hear testimonials of people who are “born-again” CEOs renouncing their former materialism and seeking to find meaning in ghost-hunting, extraterrestrial conspiracies or talking to their dead relatives.

Lack of security and unity in personal life and with the family.

It is no secret that Yankee family life is in shambles. The demands of work scatter families all over the country and leave scant time for connecting. Even before children mature and move out, family life is characterized by lack of quality time together, overwork, school debts and drugs to cope with anxiety and depression. It is no accident that stories of people talking to the dead have the same scenario. Who doesn’t want to hear from a psychic that their dead family members are happy on the other side and waiting for them with open arms? Funny how no psychic reports that the other side is about the same as this one or, even worse, as they find out your family is still upset with them for marrying who they married. It’s very clear and sad that people have to imagine another world in order to have conversations with their family that they couldn’t have in this one.

Difficulty finding adventure and mystery in current work life.

People want adventure and mystery in everyday life and want to have fun. Because they don’t understand that the scientific process of discovery is full of wonder and adventure, they seek it in other worlds. ESP, telepathy, clairvoyance and ghosts give some sense of mystery and hope that is missing from work that is either meaningless or, if it is meaningful, is dulled by the difficulty of working in a corporate culture. It makes complete sense that the popularity of Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter is partly due to the championing of  rebellion against the muggles and their deadening life.

People in the US seem so passive compared to people in other countries and are willing to put up with anything.

The box office blockbuster, The Hunger Games shows how rebellion is not far from people’s minds. Today of course, there is a current uprising of the Black Lives Matter movement, so rebellion is on the table. But during the 80s and 90s rebellion was hard to imagine. Feeling they are part of a secret society, a UFO organization or a spiritual organization helps people to feel they are not passive automatons. They know what is going on and they are active in doing something about it, if not in the political economy, at least in their private lives.

Fear of death, clinging to life.

People interested in paranormal phenomenon or in developing parapsychological skills want answers to the big questions. If we believe in past lives and reincarnation the belief is that we will never have to face dying. Unsatisfied with the answers religion gives about life after death, those interested in parapsychology want to find out for themselves. Is there life on other planets? Not satisfied with science’s answer of “no, not yet”, they wonder if the state and the scientists would tell us if they had gotten an extraterrestrial signal? Maybe extraterrestrials have already come here?

Personal troubles don’t seem to have a single cause. Multiple causations and chance are unsatisfying answers.

All the movies referred to (Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, the Hunger Games) have characters that are clearly malevolent and help to explain the main character’s difficulties. As strange as this may seem, having malevolent characters is better, imagining that chance might be operating. At least you can see the contending forces fighting and at the end you will know who won, who lost and why. Unlike personal life, where there are too many variables to track, imagining your life like these movies can be a relief. Scapegoating, believing in ghost possession, believing in sorcery for good or bad and conspiracy theories gives life drama, hope, and clarity.

Lack of universal health insurance makes hospital care brief and gives doctors scant time to visit with patients.

In the light of the pharmaceutical industrial complex, it is understandable that people are drawn to alternative medicine such as homeopathy or acupuncture.

Both these alternatives seem to bypass the hospital bureaucracy, the impersonal switching of doctors and medication where the side effects are often worse than the illness. Hospitals are divided into specialists, many of whom do not consult with other specialists so that the patient feels like no one is driving. The benefit of holistic medicine, apart from whether it works or not, is the fact that whoever you work with seems to have the big picture in mind and you can understand the general principles of what they are trying to achieve just from reading a book or two.

Conclusion

There are many psychopathological reasons why people might believe in parapsychology. My purpose is not to tear people apart, but rather to try to explain the logical reasons why people are drawn to parapsychology. Their motives are expressions of the deep unhappiness that people feel about life under declining capitalist societies during the 1980s and 1990s.

The bottom line is this. Good science develops slowly, accumulates information by trial-and-error, is very careful in its claims, its evidence and its method for proving hypothesis. It makes no promises for happy endings, continuous adventures and razzle-dazzle. Its best claims are matters of probabilities. Scientists will happily admit when they don’t know something, often being able to suspend judgements for the present. But for those living in economically unstable times, governed by decadent political parties, in debt, with insecure professional job prospects, a fractured family life, and a chaotic health care system, the promise of science is weak medicine. These people need something dramatic, hopeful, mysterious, quick, comforting and thrilling. Paranormal phenomenon and parapsychological claims fit the bill and are a stronger remedy in darkening times.

• First published at Planning Beyond Capitalism

Robot as a Teacher

Beware of digital education! COVID-19 may be used as a ruse to centralize power and control minds by technological elites.

Schools were created when books were not available, at least not at the mass scale as it is now. Nevertheless, they are still organized as if they responded to the conditions and circumstances from 200 years ago. The recent advancements in education seem to update the learning process to the technological capabilities of our times. However, they may bring a flattening of the old model using computers to enhance the intake of knowledge. This would imply a regress in understanding what education is for this. Potential digitalization of education also bears some dangers.

It is urgent to discuss the purpose and ethics of education in times of imposed pressure to turn to digital tools in organizing teaching. Naomi Klein warned about strengthening the economic power of digital giants as a result of bringing classroom to online realm, which she calls a Screen New Deal. Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt and Bill Gates have been appointed by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to advise on a scenario for post-pandemic reforms, including remote learning and telehealth. Bill Gates’ task was to help rethink public schools’ organization for the next fall. In 2014, Cuomo was criticized for including Schmidt in the advisory panel of Smart Schools Commission because of the potential conflict of interest. His Alt School failed in 2015 but coronavirus promises new opportunities.

Current crisis may be seized as an opening towards more control over minds of the younger generations. The Millennials are already being formed by digital media. All the hours spent on YouTube and online social media make them absorb information and shape their cognitive and interpersonal predispositions. Zeynep Tufekci warned that the algorithms aiming at maintaining people’ interest in YouTube content may bring more radicalization and polarization in the society. Television was influencing precedent generations but in a less intrusive way. Since the television did not have an algorithm hooking people into being exposed to the same topic or way of thinking as social media do by creating bubbles of like-minded “friends” and groups, learning process was less effective. YouTube further boosts learning effect by proposing to watch more and more extreme movies once the viewer showed interest in a topic. Furthermore, television did not engage people in interaction. So they may have wanted to discuss what they saw with others. In contrast, online media give a substitute of a debate. When we think about learning, we tend to associate effective learning with a desirable result. However, learning can also cause damage and it is important to think of the opportunities of unlearning and being exposed to opposite interpretations as part of education.

Introducing robotized education may impose similar disadvantages for the development of young people. Innovators familiar with neuroscience may propose gamification of learning process. Online games stimulating dopamine secretion may lead to addictive behavior, especially, amongst socially and emotionally neglected children. It would turn the old model of learning into memorization on steroids. The pleasurable experience may create an inner subconscious attachment to the knowledge absorbed this way. As a consequence, the activity of learning, which suggests engaging with the subjects, is obsolete in this model. It would be replaced by programming with subliminal messages. Such a model contrasts with contextual learning model of transacting knowledge. Research has demonstrated that being exposed to the same word or information through spaced repetition imprints it in long-term memory. These “truths” may be difficult to question because any opposite information may be dismissed by cognitive dissonance. This gives an enormous power to whomever holds it. And this may be engineers and technological giants that will grab it.

One could argue that this subliminal learning is already happening in schools. Professor Peter McLaren pointed to the reproduction of class stratification and the hidden curriculum in the way schooling is organized. The danger of the scenario I am predicting here lurks in the centralization of learning. Decentralized schooling, as we know it, gives more leeway to the teachers. They can organize in unions and subvert the system in their classrooms depending on their level of awareness and non-conformism. It would be more difficult to convince a high number of educators to perform repetitive teaching with well-calculated chunks and intervals, especially if it were serving narrow economic interests. It is easier to corrupt a couple of specialists instead.

Current shortage of over 100,000 teaching staff in the US and the reliance on migrant teachers (mainly from Philippines), who stay on short-term job contracts, may pave the way to digitalized and robotized education. Amidst the urgency to protect the health of families having school-age children, we need to be cautious about reforms that “Corona-crisis” may enable to be sneaked in.

Contemplating Human Extinction Terrifies Most People: A Strategy for Survival

Any serious study of the relevant scholarly literature reveals at least four possible paths to imminent human extinction, that is, human extinction within five years: nuclear war, the climate catastrophe, the deployment of 5G, and biodiversity collapse.

Moreover, as I have documented previously, under cover of the non-existent ‘virus’ labeled COVID-19, the global elite is conducting a coup against humanity. That is, by bombarding us with fear-mongering propaganda to focus our attention on the ‘virus’, the capacity of virtually all people, including activists, to devote attention to the coup, and to resist it, has been effectively eliminated.

Unfortunately, it has also meant that, despite the extensively documented evidence of the four paths to imminent human extinction, it is even more difficult than usual to get people to focus on this point. This means that engaging people to consider the evidence for themselves is extremely difficult: it is easier to live in delusion, reassured by elite-driven narratives promulgated through education systems and the corporate media which effectively convey the message that there is either no serious cause for concern (yet) or, perhaps, that the time frame allows for an adequate official response in due course. In either case we, as individuals or groups, do not really need to do anything differently; going along with the elite-driven narrative, including time frame, will ensure our survival.

Of course, as those paying attention to the evidence already know, being obedient to the elite-driven narrative is a recipe for extinction. We have already exceeded 2°C above the pre-industrial temperature, the ongoing and rapid deployment of 5G will be catastrophic, biodiversity is already collapsing (and will be seriously accelerated by the rising temperature and deployment of 5G) – for just the latest in the ongoing stream of disasters, hundreds of elephants have recently died in Botswana’s Okavango Delta – and, according to the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, nuclear war is now a greater possibility than at any previous time in human history. For summaries of the evidence and further documentation in each case, see ‘The Elite’s COVID-19 Coup to Destroy Humanity that is also Fast-Tracking Four Paths to Human Extinction‘.

In this article I would like to explain why people are so terrified of the truth and what we can do about it so that an effective response to each of these threats can be implemented (assuming, problematically, that there is enough time).

Why are Most Human Beings so Terrified?

Virtually all human beings are terrified and they are terrified for the same reason: the child-raising process that sociologists like to label ‘socialization’ should be more accurately labeled ‘terrorization’. Why? Because from the moment of a child’s birth, parents, teachers, religious leaders and adults generally regard themselves as responsible for terrorizing the child into obedience of the commands, rules, conventions and laws that define the nature of permissible behaviour in their society.

This means that provided the child responds obediently to parental (or other adult) commands, obeys any rules imposed (by the parents, teachers and religious figures in the child’s life), learns all relevant social conventions for their society and, ultimately, obeys the law, they are allowed to live, recognized as compliant citizens, in their society.

Unfortunately, from society’s viewpoint, evolutionary pressures over vast time scales have led to each human individual being given Self-will to seek out and fulfill their own unique destiny: evolutionary pressures do not predispose any individual to obey the will of another for the simple reason that obedience has no evolutionary functionality.

Consequently, it takes enormous terrorization during childhood to ensure that the child surrenders their Self-will at the altar of obedience. To achieve this outcome and largely unknowingly, parents use a large range of behaviours from the three categories of violence that I have labeled ‘visible’ violence, ‘invisible’ violence and ‘utterly invisible’ violence.

A common element of this terrorization is that the child is frequently threatened with, and/or actually suffers, violence for being ‘disobedient’. Of course, this violence, assuming it is even recognized as such (given that ‘invisible’ and ‘utterly invisible’ violence are just that to virtually everyone), is invariably labeled ‘punishment‘ so that we can delude ourselves that our violence is not harmful.

This means that virtually every single individual has been successfully terrorized into being submissively obedient. And, fundamentally, this obedience includes accepting the elite-driven narrative delivered by education systems and the corporate media in relation to issues crucial to human survival.

So despite our preference for believing otherwise, those individuals in our societies who survive the education system capable of thinking for themselves, or even of ‘clear thinking’, are rare. And then they must also survive (preferably by refusing to access it) the propaganda (that is, lies) presented as ‘news’ by the corporate media. Given that another outcome of being terrorized throughout childhood means that most people are very gullible, perceiving lies is a huge challenge in itself.

Of course, this powerless imperative to believe the lies we are told and to behave obediently in response is always reinforced by the fear of violence (‘punishment’), including the fear of social ostracism for resisting elite narratives, but it is also reinforced by other fears: for example, the fear that makes people feel powerless to respond in any meaningful way, the fear of changing their behaviour, and the fear of feeling out of control of their own destiny. After all, if extinction is imminent and we are to avert it, we will need to do some fundamental things – including thinking and behaving – very differently. But we are not allowed to think or behave differently, are we? That would be disobedient.

This can be readily illustrated. When a young child does not get what they need, the child will have an emotional reaction. This will always include fear, it will probably include anger and it will probably include sadness, among other feelings. However, almost invariably, parents behave in a manner intended to prevent the child from having their emotional response (and using this information in formulating the appropriate behavioural response in the circumstance). They do not listen to the child while they express their feelings. Instead, they act to make the child suppress awareness of their feelings.

At its simplest and apparently most benign, the parent might comfort the child in the misguided belief that this is helpful. But it is not, unless you want a submissively obedient child.

Another simple and common way in which we suppress the emotional awareness and, hence, capacity for emotional expression of a child is by giving them food or a toy to distract them from how they feel. The fundamental outcome of this act is that we unconsciously ‘teach’ the child to seek food and/or material items as substitutes for feeling and acting on how they feel. But this is absolutely disastrous.

The net result of this behaviour is that virtually all people in industrialized societies have become addicted to material consumption, and the direct (including military), structural and ecological violence that makes excessive consumption in these societies possible. All so that we can suppress how we really feel.

And, therefore, the very notion of substantially reducing consumption – a central part of any strategy for human survival by reducing greenhouse gas emissions from industrial production and transport, checking the collapse of biodiversity by halting the destruction of habitat such as rainforests, denying financial incentive to deploy technology for 5G, ending wars (and the threat of nuclear war) for resources – becomes ‘unthinkable’.

Because the fundamental imperative of materialist societies is ‘Consume!’ (so that corporations can profit). And we do not have the emotional power to disobey that imperative because deep in our unconscious remains the childhood terror of resisting the offered food or toy and insisting on expressing how we feel and behaving powerfully in accord with that. It is far simpler to just put something more in our mouth or use one of our ‘toys’. Who wants to feel scared, sad or angry instead?

In essence, the individual who has been terrorized into obedience is no longer capable of thinking for themself and then behaving in accord with their own Self-will. This means that imperatives of the global elite – mediated through its agents such as governments, education systems and the corporate media and enforced by legal systems, the police and prison cells – are readily obeyed by the vast bulk of the human population.

And because the global elite is insane, this obedience means that we are submitting to the elite coup and complying with its imperatives that are fast-tracking humanity to extinction on four separate paths, as noted above.

To reiterate: At this most critical moment in human history, when a coup is being conducted against us and four separate threats to human existence and all life on Earth require our engaged attention and powerful response, it is almost impossible to get people to even acknowledge these threats, let alone to consider the evidence and act strategically in response.

Which means that profoundly altering our approaches to parenting and education, so that we produce powerful individuals, is critical to any strategy to fight for human survival.

So what can we do?

Well, if you would like to fight for human survival, it would be useful to start by giving yourself time to focus on feeling your emotional responses – fear, anger, sadness, dread…. – to the elite coup and the four most imminent threats.

If you do not do this, you are unlikely to be able to engage meaningfully and strategically in the effort. You will, most likely and unconsciously, simply put your attention elsewhere and go back to what you were doing.

So once you have a clearer sense of your emotional reactions to this knowledge and have allowed yourself time to focus on feeling these feelings, you will be in a far more powerful position to consider your response to the situation. And, depending on your interests and circumstances, there is a range of possible responses that will each make an important difference.

Fundamentally, you might consider making ‘My Promise to Children‘ which will include considering what an education for your children means to you, particularly if you want powerful individuals who can resist violence.

You might consider supporting others to become more powerful.

If you wish to strategically resist the elite coup against humanity, you can read about nonviolent strategy, including strategic goals for doing so, from here: Strategic Aims.

If you wish to powerfully resist the primary threats to human existence – nuclear war, the deployment of 5G, the collapse of biodiversity and/or the climate catastrophe – you can read about nonviolent strategy, including strategic goals to focus your campaigns, from here: Strategic Aims.

You might also consider joining those who are powerful enough to recognize the critical importance of reduced consumption and greater self-reliance as essential elements of these strategies by participating in ‘The Flame Tree Project to Save Life on Earth‘.

In addition, you are welcome to consider signing the online pledge of ‘The People’s Charter to Create a Nonviolent World‘.

Or, if you want something simpler, consider committing to:

The Earth Pledge

Out of love for the Earth and all of its creatures, and my respect for their needs, from this day onwards I pledge that:

  1. I will listen deeply to children. See Nisteling: The Art of Deep Listening‘.
  2. I will not travel by plane
  3. I will not travel by car
  4. I will not eat meat and fish
  5. I will only eat organically/biodynamically grown food
  6. I will minimize the amount of fresh water I use, including by minimizing my ownership and use of electronic devices
  7. I will not own or use a mobile (cell) phone
  8. I will not buy rainforest timber
  9. I will not buy or use single-use plastic, such as bags, bottles, containers, cups and straws
  10. I will not use banks, superannuation (pension) funds or insurance companies that provide any service to corporations involved in fossil fuels, nuclear power and/or weapons
  11. I will not accept employment from, or invest in, any organization that supports or participates in the exploitation of fellow human beings or profits from killing and/or destruction of the biosphere
  12. I will not get news from the corporate media (mainstream newspapers, television, radio, Google, Facebook, Twitter…)
  13. I will make the effort to learn a skill, such as food gardening or sewing, that makes me more self-reliant
  14. I will gently encourage my family and friends to consider signing this pledge.

Conclusion

Given that submissive obedience is the primary behavioural characteristic of all ‘good citizens’, it is going to take a monumental effort to defeat the elite coup and avert the now imminent extinction of Homo Sapiens. This is because most common human behaviours – from parenting to consumption habits – have been shaped to serve elite interests, and it is these behaviours that must change.

Of course, this is also why lobbying elite agents – such as governments and corporations – cannot work. Apart from the fact that they exist to serve elite interests and obey elite directives accordingly (rather than respond to grassroots pressure which they function superbly to dissipate), governments and corporations cannot meaningfully impact the crises that confront us.

That power is ours but we must use it, and deploy it strategically.

The Unmasking of Science and Ethics

Media Lens (ML) provides a first-rate critical eye on the media, especially the British mediascape, as well as sundry events in the world. In a recent piece, ML pointed to the science as supporting the effectiveness of wearing face masks against respiratory viral infections. In addition to citing science to buttress their support of mask wearing, ML attempted to dismiss those with opposing views as conspiracy theorists.1 If that and the science was not persuasive, the fallback was to appeal to one’s sense of ethics.

ML critiqued a tweet by Mail on Sunday columnist Peter Hitchens on the use of face masks:

the primary purpose of enforced muzzle wearing in public spaces (which protects nobody against anything) is to humiliate the wearer and make him or her accustomed to unquestioning obedience to authority.

ML commented, “This was indeed a conspiracy theory – literally, and also, in our opinion, in the deranged and dangerous sense commonly used by journalists.”

I with ML that this lone statement by Hitchens comes across as conspiratorial because there was no evidence offered in support of it. I do not concur that the statement per se is either deranged or dangerous.

ML then switched its focus to a comment in Off-Guardian by Iain Davis:

Face masks work well for surgeons who want to avoid dribbling or sneezing into their patients, but are useless when it comes to stopping viral infections. In terms of preventing the spread of COVID 19 there is no evidence that they achieve anything at all.

ML chided both Hitchens and Off-Guardian: “Hitchens and OffGuardian had better be right. If they are not, they are handing out advice that is encouraging people to take risks that could cost lives.”

Two points, 1) the logic that derives from the ML writers is that people ought to accept some information at face value, without solid evidence, even from those same authorities, e.g., the UK government, known to be steeped in prevarication; 2) ML’s criticism did not extend to or mention that other authorities, such as Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in the US, had in March also said there was no need to wear a mask. Nor did ML mention that the World Health Organization (WHO) had said there was no need for healthy people to wear face masks.

Moreover, ML failed to mention a pertinent sentence in the Off-Guardian article: “If there are health risks associated with wearing face masks, and there are, this notion of protection rapidly becomes a nonsense.”

ML’s accusation of possibly putting people take risk, skimmed past Davis’s charge that wearing masks has known risks. What readers are left with is a choice between a possible risk versus known risks. Albeit the COVID-19 risk can be quite lethal and contagious.

ML noted the Off-Guardian’s focus was not on coronaviruses but on “research mostly relating to influenza and influenza-like illness.” To buttress their argument, ML pointed to a study by Cheng et al. (2020) who said:

Previous research on the use of masks in non-health-care settings had predominantly focused on the protection of the wearers and was related to influenza or influenza-like illness. These studies were not designed to evaluate mass masking in whole communities.2

First, I’d say the focus of Davis’s Off-Guardian article was on anti-authoritarianism and conflicting UK government guidance about whether wearing face masks protects against Covid-19. Second, given that SARS-CoV-2 was believed to be a recent type of respiratory-infecting coronavirus, it seems quite reasonable to compare it to the data on other respiratory-disease causing viruses.

Cheng et al. concluded, “An evidence review and analysis have supported mass masking in this pandemic.”

If one checks the studies cited to by Cheng et al., one finds the “evidence review” by Howard et al. (2020) is supportive:

The preponderance of evidence indicates that mask wearing reduces the transmissibility per contact by reducing transmission of infected droplets in both laboratory and clinical contexts.3

However, when one reads the Greenhalgh et al. (2020) “analysis” cited by Cheng et al., stated is,

The evidence base on the efficacy and acceptability of the different types of face mask in preventing respiratory infections during epidemics is sparse and contested.4

Even though the evidence for the efficacy of face mask usage was absent, the authors still encouraged the wearing the masks.

This raises an ethical question: should policy makers apply the precautionary principle now and encourage people to wear face masks on the grounds that we have little to lose and potentially something to gain from this measure? We believe they should.4

It is a case of the science being shunted aside. In his paper pointing out that the scientific evidence does not support the prophylaxis of masks, Denis Rancourt argued that the precautionary principle does not apply in this case:

In light of the medical research, therefore, it is difficult to understand why public-health authorities are not consistently adamant about this established scientific result, since the distributed psychological, economic and environmental harm from a broad recommendation to wear masks is significant, not to mention the unknown potential harm from concentration and distribution of pathogens on and from used masks. In this case, public authorities would be turning the precautionary principle on its head.5

Greenhalgh et al. did raise a caution, saying:

External validity relates to a different question: whether findings of primary studies done in a different population with a different disease or risk state are relevant to the current policy question. We argue that there should be a greater focus on external validity in evaluation of masks.

The Lancet article also admits and explains,

Research has also not been done during a pandemic when mass masking compliance is high enough for its effectiveness to be assessed. But absence of evidence of effectiveness from clinical trials on mass masking should not be equated with evidence of ineffectiveness.2

Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. This is true, but it is not rigorous science. Scientific rigor demands that when the null hypothesis (what researchers predict will happen before carrying out an experiment) fails to reach statistical significance that the hypothesis be rejected and the theory from which it derived also be rejected. Ergo, the Lancet is recommending measures from an admitted epistemological lacuna. Science never claims truth or proof. Science tests hypotheses that are falsifiable.6

ML quoted Richard Stutt, lead author of a Cambridge University study:

If widespread facemask use by the public is combined with physical distancing and some lockdown, it may offer an acceptable way of managing the pandemic and reopening economic activity long before there is a working vaccine.

Is a combination required for effective protection? Obviously, if you are in a lockdown or sufficiently physically distant from other humans or creatures that can transmit the virus, then there should be no need for a mask, so mask usage would only apply when one is out in public. But absent a randomized controlled trial (RCT) supporting the prophylaxis of face mask usage, we are unable to pronounce on the efficacy of wearing face masks.

Renata Retkute, coauthor and Cambridge team member said, “We have little to lose from the widespread adoption of facemasks, but the gains could be significant.” [emphasis added] Rancourt has already addressed the “little to lose” assertion for this something that “could be.”5

ML noted an American Thoracic Society report by the Chinese University of Hong Kong on “how public interest in face masks may have affected the severity of COVID-19 epidemics and potentially contained the outbreak in 42 countries in 6 continents.”

Sunny Wong, one of the study’s authors, commented:

One classic example is seen in Hong Kong. Despite [Hong Kong’s] proximity to mainland China, its infection rate of COVID-19 is generally modest with only 1,110 cases to-date. This correlates with an almost ubiquitous use of face masks in the city (up to 98.8 percent by respondents in a survey). Similar patterns are seen in other Asian areas, such as Taiwan, Thailand and Malaysia. To date, there are more than two million cases in the U.S. and more than one million cases in Brazil.

Wong stated that this is correlational. He ascribes no causation.

A sentence ML did not mention from the article is: “While, the authors acknowledge that face masks are seen as important in slowing the rise of COVID-19 infections, it is difficult to assess whether it is more effective than handwashing or social distancing alone.” [emphasis added]

Next, ML looks at a study by Virginia Commonwealth University on coronavirus death rates in 198 countries to gain insight into why some countries had very high death rates and others very low. Lead author Christopher Leffler commented:

What we found was that of the big variables that you can control which influence mortality, one was wearing masks.

It wasn’t just by a few per cent, it was up to a hundred times less mortality. The countries that introduced masks from the very beginning of their outbreak have had hardly any deaths. [ML emphasis]

Well, this was a news channels report. The study cited was Leffler et al. (2020) in ResearchGate.7 ResearchGate is an online site for science papers. It had originally published a paper by Denis Rancourt that masks don’t work5 and later retracted it. Yes, censorship is alive and kicking in science.8

Leffler et al. concluded,

These results support the universal wearing of masks by the public to suppress the spread of the coronavirus. Given the low levels of coronavirus mortality seen in the Asian countries which adopted widespread public mask usage early in the outbreak, it seems highly unlikely that masks are harmful. [emphasis added]

Saying masks are not harmful9 is different from saying masks are protective. Again this is not a RCT. Rancourt looked at meta-analyses of RCT studies on the efficacy of face masks and his article was published, received 400,000 views, and was then censored. Subsequently, a post hoc study was published at ResearchGate with a conclusion that coincides with status quo approval of the Establishment.

In their article, Leffler et al. pointed to a study by Xiao et al. (2020) who concluded:

Although mechanistic studies support the potential effect of hand hygiene or face masks, evidence from 14 randomized controlled trials of these measures did not support a substantial effect on transmission of laboratory-confirmed influenza.10 [emphasis added]

Leffler et al. still pointing to the Xiao et al study nonetheless sought support for face mask use:

Much of the randomized controlled data on the effect of mask-wearing on the spread of respiratory viruses relates to influenza. One recent meta-analysis of 10 trials in families, students, or religious pilgrims found that the relative risk for influenza with the use of face masks was 0.78, a 22% reduction, though the findings were not statistically significant.11 [emphasis added]

Leffler et al. further speculated, “Even if one accepts that masks would only reduce transmissions by 22%, then after 10 cycles of the infection, mask-wearing would reduce the level of infection in the population by 91.7%, as compared with a non-mask wearing population…”12

However, Leffler et al. was referring to a paper cited within in the Xiao et al. study, namely Balaban et al. (2012) who gathered data on Muslims making a pilgramage to Mecca that produced results in contradiction to how Leffler et al. reported the findings. Balaban et al. stated:

Compared with other protective behaviors, wearing face masks during Hajj seemed to have little protective effect. Wearing a face mask was actually associated with greater likelihood of respiratory illness. This finding is consistent with previous findings that face masks either offered no significant protection or were associated with sore throat and with longer duration of sore throat and fever symptoms among Hajj pilgrims.13

Balaban et al.’s finding was damning for any protection from viral infiltration by mask wearing. Furthermore, the authors found mask wearing to be associated “with greater likelihood of respiratory illness.” Thus, it appears Leffler et al. were lax in their literature review and engaged in cherry-picking information, giving the appearance of a confirmation bias.

Leffler et al. did note several concerns about what the data examined pertain for the verisimilitude of their conclusions.14 Among these were:

  1. “One major limitation is that evidence concerning the actual prevalence of mask-wearing by the public is unavailable for most countries.”
  1. “Some countries which used masks were better able to maintain or resume normal business and educational activities.
  1. “Limits on international travel were significantly associated with lower per-capita mortality from coronavirus. As compared with no restrictions, complete shutdown of the border throughout the outbreak was independently associated with 86% lower per-capita mortality.”
  1. “The adoption of numerous public health policies at the same time can make it difficult to tease out the relative importance of each.”
  1. “We also acknowledge that country-wide analyses are subject to the ecologic fallacy.”

ML refer to a “dramatic verdict” in the Proceedings of the US National Academy of Sciences:

Our analysis reveals that the difference with and without mandated face covering represents the determinant in shaping the trends of the pandemic worldwide. We conclude that wearing of face masks in public corresponds to the most effective means to prevent interhuman transmission, and this inexpensive practice, in conjunction with extensive testing, quarantine, and contact tracking, poses the most probable fighting opportunity to stop the COVID-19 pandemic, prior to the development of a vaccine. [ML emphasis]15

It flies in the face of logic that wearing face masks would be more effective than a quarantine or isolation.

The PNAS researchers, Zhang et al., cautioned,

It is also important to emphasize that sound science should be effectively communicated to policy makers and should constitute the prime foundation in decision-making amid this pandemic. Implementing policies without a scientific basis could lead to catastrophic consequences, particularly in light of attempts to reopen the economy in many countries.16

For science purists, post hoc analysis of data is not considered sound science. It is too tempting to take existing data and shape them to a preconceived outcome — the confirmation bias. I submit that the proper scientific course for Zhang et al. would be after going through the data, to then formulate a hypothesis, set up and implement an experiment, gather the data, and carry out tests for statistical significance.

The Lancet study had reached similar conclusions:

We encourage consideration of mass masking during the coming phases of the COVID-19 pandemic, which are expected to occur in the absence of an effective COVID-19 vaccine… Mass masking for source control is in our view a useful and low-cost adjunct to social distancing and hand hygiene during the COVID-19 pandemic.2

The Lancet paper made the distinction that face masks protect other people from the wearer, not vice versa: “People often wear masks to protect themselves, but we suggest a stronger public health rationale is source control to protect others from respiratory droplets.”

ML turned to Rich Davis, Clinical Microbiology Laboratory director at Providence Sacred Heart Hospital in the US. Davis has published photographs showing how face masks block respiratory droplets coming from the mouth and throat. However, Davis used bacteria which he acknowledged to be “incredibly different from viruses!” He reasoned:

But since we expect respiratory droplets to be what primarily spreads #COVID19, I exploit the presence of (easily to grow and visualize) bacteria in respiratory droplets, to show where they go.

First, there exists confusion about the terms droplets and aerosols. In general, a droplet is considered to be a water particle that submits to gravity; therefore, it is less likely to be inhaled. Aerosols are tinier and tend to remain suspended for a much longer duration than droplets. The aerosols containing SARS-CoV-2 virions were found to remain infectious longer and reach deeper into the lungs than droplets.17 Second, The problem with this comparison is that bacteria are much larger (100+ times larger) than viruses, especially compared to the minuscule SARS-CoV-2 virus. Masks may be dense enough to block bacteria, but they are porous to coronaviruses that are tiny enough to pass through the mesh of masks and even respirators.

The Paucity of Scientific Evidence for Face Mask Prophylaxis

ML argue that the compulsory wearing of face masks “in a fast-moving field, where some kind of overview is needed promptly, it is the most reasonable approach, bearing in mind the usual caveats that the work has not gone through a thorough process of vetting and checking as part of the normal academic peer-review process. This nevertheless remains highly credible evidence.”

The evidence that ML present in their article, for this writer, is far from highly credible. In fact, the evidence is contrary to what ML claim. So this writer wonders given the paucity of scientific support for facemask wearing, why did ML even pursue the scientific route which is strongly against what ML assert?

But ML had another card in their backpocket should the science not be convincing for face mask wearing. ML pulled out the ethics card.

Some honesty is necessary in this debate. The evidence supporting face mask usage as protecting against being infected with COVID-19 is extremely weak. For example, at least 3387 healthcare workers in China contracted COVID-19, and 23 died.18 Supposedly, these healthcare workers had access to N95 respirators and PPE.

SARS-CoV-2 is a novel coronavirus. We are still learning much about it.19 Much of the information disseminated is contradictory, even self-contradictory; it is evolving, and with that our understanding is evolving. There is no solid scientific evidence in support of wearing face masks; consequently, the theory that face masks will filter out viruses must be discarded.

The Right Thing to Do?

Nonetheless, I will not state with 100% certainty that face masks are totally useless. Science does not state with a 100% certainty. Maybe tomorrow the sun will appear to rise in the West, and then the knowledge about the sunrise20 will be amended to integrate the new information with what is now understood.

Most of us live together in a society. We ought also to make our decisions based on living with and among others and not just on the state of scientific knowledge at a given period in time. It is preferable that we come across as caring and not arrogant or righteous in our knowledge of facts and evidence. Those who eschew mask wearing can try to avoid it as much as possible through isolation. But maybe one has to travel by bus one day. Here is the question I suggest posing to oneself: Is it better to maintain fidelity to one’s convictions and risk incurring ill will among other passengers by not wearing a mask on bus trips?21

Essentially, a steely knowledge of the science will not be enough to smooth the ruffled feathers among some science skeptics.

A preferred perspective to viewing oneself, and others, as submitting to false dictates by the State (despite being secure in one’s knowledge that such dictates are not based in rigorous scientific evidence), is to view oneself as instead choosing a path of least resistance to get along with others. When one comes across as pleasant and respectful, it is easier to engage in dialogue with fellow citizens on whether mask wearing is essential or not.

The Ontario Civil Liberties Association took a position. It wrote a letter to the director general of the WHO, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, asking for a retraction of the WHO’s recommendation favoring the use of face masks as preventative of COVID-19 transmission. Two excerpts from the letter:

… the WHO cannot collect and rely on potentially biased studies to make recommendations that can have devastating effects (see below) on the lives of literally billions. Rather, the WHO must apply a stringent standards threshold, and accept only randomized controlled trials with verified outcomes. In this application, the mere fact that several such quality studies have not ever confirmed the positive effects reported in bias-susceptible reports should be a red flag.

and

It is an unjustified authoritarian imposition, and a fundamental indignity, to have the State impose its evaluation of risk on the individual, one which has no basis in science, and which is smaller than a multitude of risks that are both common and often created or condoned by the State.

ML posed an ethical hypothetical: “Given that [certainty that face masks are worthless is highly questionable], should we not all err on the side of caution by using face masks, particularly when interacting with the old and infirm who are at most risk from Covid-19?” [ML emphasis]

It is all too easy to pose a leading ethical hypothetical. E.g., what if acquiescing to the directives of the Establishment to wear face masks causes predictable harm to people? What if the 1%-ers take advantage of the docilized citizenry to consolidate control over the working class and cut social services and healthcare, leading to greater penury, ill health, and a shortened life span?

Different situations will evoke different moral responses among humans. Humans have different origins, different upbringings, different challenges, different ways of thinking, and different experiences that will influence a person’s concept of what is right or wrong. A moral basis would call upon each person to recognize that morality is not always a unanimously clear-cut concept for all people.

To Wear or not Wear a Mask

Dissident Voice editor Angie Tibbs’s email provides a perspective for consideration on the fear evoked by media reports of COVID-19 and whether to wear or not wear a mask:

Well, science aside, what about health issues?  The taxi driver who brought me home from my ill-fated visit to the hospital on Friday morning has asthma, and she refuses to wear a mask because it creates a worse problem than she would normally have.  Are the respiratory problems of people taken into consideration with respect to mask wearing?

In my case, I’ve only worn one when I visited the hospital because I had to. I am extremely claustrophobic at the best or times, and wearing a mask only increases that. As well, on the three occasions I’ve worn one I was constantly pulling the damn thing down from my eyes. On Friday past at the hospital  every time I moved my head the mask moved, hitting off my eyes.  I ended up at home later having to spend most of the day and night away from my computer and editing DV submissions.  If masks are provided in hospitals and you’re ordered to wear one (or else leave) the least one can expect is a mask that is not in an attack mode!

I go to the market in a cab, sitting in the rear seat with a screen between myself and the driver. At the market I wipe the cart and my hands with the sanitizer provided, put on plastic or rubber gloves and follow the floor markings to where I need to go. I’m in and out of there as quickly as possible. If others want to wear masks, they can. If others don’t, they don’t have to. If someone is ill, they ought not be out amongst the public at all. I spent the first month of this virus (from March 23 to April 18) refusing to step outside the door, not because I was sick but because I was scared, scared because I foolishly listened to the fearmongering of the media. I wouldn’t even go to the market. Instead I had a friend pick up my groceries and paid her. How f***ing insane is that? On April 18 I went off early to the grocery store for the first time in weeks and found I wasn’t allowed to carry in my shopping bags. I had to leave them, pick up my groceries in plastic bags, and head down again to get my shopping bags – only to find out the idiot guard or whoever had “thrown them out”.   On Saturday past at this same grocery store, the checkout clerk asked: “Did you bring your shopping bags?”  I was surprised.  “No, we’re not allowed to do that here.”  To which he replied “You will have to bring them in the future”.  Hell!!  Talk about changing the rules!

Regarding how to deal with and protect oneself and others from contracting COVID-19, I do not claim scientific certainty. I do not claim moral certainty. What I do realize is that many of us are learning through this experience, and many of us reach our own conclusions and act in the belief that we are doing what is right.

  1. I was very disappointed by ML, who have always seemed a cut above, in resorting to ad hominem.
  2. Kar Keung Cheng, Tai Hing Lam, Chi Chiu Leung, Wearing face masks in the community during the COVID-19 pandemic: altruism and solidarity, Lancet, April 16, 2020. DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(20)30918-1
  3. Jeremy Howard, Austin Huang, Zhiyuan Li, Zeynep Tufekci, Vladimir Zdimal,Helene-Mari van der Westhuizen, Arne von Delft, Amy Price, Lex Fridmand, Lei-Han Tang, Viola Tang, Gregory L. Watson, Christina E. Bax, Reshama Shaikh, Frederik Questier, Danny Hernandez, Larry F.Chun, Christina M. Ramirez,and Anne W. Rimoin, Face Masks Against COVID-19:An Evidence Review, (available as pdf) Preprints, 12 April 2020.
  4. Greenhalgh Trisha, Schmid Manuel B, Czypionka Thomas, Bassler Dirk, Gruer Laurence. Face masks for the public during the covid-19 crisis, BMJ, 2020; 369 :m1435
  5. Denis Rancourt, Masks Don’t Work: A review of science relevant to COVID-19 social policy, ResearchGate, April 2020.
  6. See Karl Popper, The Logic of Scientific Discovery (New York: Routledge Classics, 2005): 18-20.
  7. Leffler, Christopher; Ing, Edsel; Lykins, Joseph; Hogan, Matthew; McKeown, Craig; and Grzybowski, Andrzej. (2020). Association of country-wide coronavirus mortality with demographics, testing, lockdowns, and public wearing of masks (Update July 2, 2020). ResearchGate.
  8. See Denis Rancourt, “COVID censorship at ResearchGate: Things scientists cannot say,” Activist Teacher, 5 June 2020.
  9. This is disputed. “There are significant anticipated harms from the widespread use of masks in the general population, which both the World Health Organization (WHO) and the OCLA have described in detail. [ http://ocla.ca/ocla-letter-who/ ]” See “OCLA Recommends Civil Disobedience Against Mandatory Masking,” Ontario Civil Liberties Association, 30 June 2020. Disclosure: Denis Rancourt is a researcher with OCLA.
  10. Xiao J, Shiu EY, Gao H, Wong JY, Fong MW, Ryu S, Cowling BJ. Nonpharmaceutical Measures for Pandemic Influenza in Nonhealthcare Settings- Personal Protective and Environmental Measures. Emerging Infectious Diseases. 2020; 26(5): 967-75. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32027586/
  11. Leffler et al., p 27.
  12. Leffler et al., p 28.
  13. Victor Balaban, William M. Stauffer, Adnan Hammad, Mohamud Afgarshe, Mohamed Abd‐Alla, Qanta Ahmed, Ziad A. Memish, Janan Saba, Elizabeth Harton, Gabriel Palumbo, Nina Marano, Protective Practices and Respiratory Illness Among US Travelers to the 2009 Hajj, Journal of Travel Medicine, 19(3), 1 May 2012: 163–168.
  14. Leffler et al., p 29.
  15. Renyi Zhang, Yixin Li, Annie L. Zhang, Yuan Wang, Mario J. Molina. Identifying airborne transmission as the dominant route for the spread of COVID-19. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, June 2020, 117(26) 14857-14863; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2009637117
  16. Zhang et al., p 7.
  17. Matthew Meselson, Droplets and Aerosols in the Transmission of SARS-CoV-2. N Engl J Med, April 15, 2020, 382:2063. DOI: 10.1056/NEJMc2009324. Meselson, “suggests the advisability of wearing a suitable mask whenever it is thought that infected persons may be nearby and of providing adequate ventilation of enclosed spaces where such persons are known to be or may recently have been.”
  18. Mingkun Zhan, Yaxun Qin, Xiang Xue, & Shuaijun Zhu, Death from Covid-19 of 23 Health Care Workers in China. N Engl J Med, April 15, 2020, 382: 2267-2268. About those who died, Zhan et al. speculated, “The infections in these patients may have resulted from inadequate precautions and insufficient protection in the early stages of the epidemic.”
  19. For example, rather than a respiratory infection, COVID-19 is now considered to be a vascular infection causing blood clots. Catherine Matacic, “Blood vessel attack could trigger coronavirus’ fatal ‘second phase’,” Science, 2 June 2020.
  20. Strictly speaking, the sun is actually not rising; it is the motion of the Earth that gives the appearance of the Sun rising above the horizon.
  21. Granted: “In some areas of the United States, you’re more likely to be harassed for wearing a mask rather than not wearing one.” Amit Katwala, “The rise of mask shaming reveals the tricky science of social change,” Wired, 27 June 2020.