Hell Of Mirrors

Recently I came across two people discussing the definition of the legal term ‘preponderance of evidence‘. After a bit of back and forth, someone visited the final arbitrator of all disputes these days, Google, to come up with a definitive answer. A further discussion ensued about the interpretation of this definition as well. Much of life’s grey areas are disputed this way between people, in the effort to consign items to their black or white categories, a  state of affairs we tend to be more comfortable with.

Yin Yang symbol on red background
Yin Yang Symbol by Tang Yau Hoong

We tend to put in the most work on items of discussion that won’t fit into our world view easily; if someone questions what we have decided is how things are, we will strive to get them to see why. It seems (from my point of view, anyway) that not as much intellectual effort goes into questioning what we already ‘know’ to be true. Psychology has come up with  primacy/recency theories to examine how we add to our knowledge, to arrive at a unified outlook or point of view about reality.

It’s all relative, as someone once said. The landscape may appear to be whizzing by if you are a passenger on a train admiring the fast-changing  landcape of city and country fields flying past, or it may move only as much as your head turns as you stand on the platform awaiting the 4:15 to Chester.

Click image for movie link. Image courtesy https://justjackie.blog/2016/11/12/book-2-screen-review-the-girl-on-the-train/

If you were someone in a space station admiring the beauty of the blue planet from your orbit  you would have different ideas about what items were moving at what speed than someone on the ground looking up at the sky at night as you hurtled past, describing a slow arc across the night sky from the observer on the ground’s point of view,  and perhaps a sedate pace from the point of view of the astronaut, based on what his senses were telling him, while the display panels in the captain’s cockpit might have some figures on which indicated a speed which might have the cops pulling you over if you considered trying them on your nearest motorway.

Another consideration when one is forming opinions is where you are starting out from. To take a Google example again (and why not, since it seems like Google is the giant spider controlling a huge part of our entangled lives on the web), ask its map app for info on how to get to somewhere, and you will be told ‘well, depends where your starting from’. Ask how long it takes and our googly-eyed friend will need to know what mode of transport we plan to use.

The point I’m making is that theories are all very well, but if you are to get anywhere in a discussion where broadening your mind is at least a possibility, if not a main objective (which is often to broaden the mind of someone else, which, from your viewpoint, may be rather too narrow, since it doesn’t concur with yours), you need to be able to see that different views of the world  and opinions about reality are not so much as the crude saying has it, that ‘opinions are like a*sholes, everyone has one’, but more of a case of ‘where are you now, and where are you trying to get to?’ Many people are not actually trying to get anywhere new, they just want to be able to stay where they are without anyone bothering them by trying to change their mind, or persuade them into something that they don’t currently believe. The cognitive dissonance involved in this building of a bridge between the information which they already possess, and adding new information which might change some aspect of, or all of the beliefs about a topic which they hold dear to their hearts, might break them altogether, in a psychological sense. There are certainly a series of stages that one must pass through on an emotional level before arriving at a drastically new position if a centrally-held belief is being altered. That’s why discussions, or arguments, as they might be called in philosophical terms, can turn so nasty; our emotions and self-identity are so caught up in many items which make up our belief system that we go into ballistic mode if we feel these are being attacked. I guess we’ll just have to agree to disagree, sometimes.

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Resources: Free course on critical thinking skills (for analysis of written subject matter)
Perceptual Experience and Philosophical Justifications. (an essay on theories of experience)
2017 Ben Shapiro Berkeley lecture

2017 Florian Cramer lecture on the internet and Alt-right

Project Veritas Clinton campaign inciting violence covert interview footage

 

 

 

 

What caused the flurry of fury unleashed by Cramer? What on earth did the commenter do before things descended to the nazi name-calling place? Posted a video, it seems, pretty innocuous stuff, unless you get enraged at people having the gall to drop expensive phones that their parents spent so much money on when they bought them for their precious offspring. Or maybe it was something to do with being an Antifa that triggered him, although I would have thought that the dancing cossacks footage in the first few seconds would be considered a real treat in their eyes. So hard to get right, when there are different outlooks meeting up. The only other Cramer (spelled with a K) that I knew predisposed me to smiling when I think of any or all Cramers (primacy theory), but maybe this one will modify my views (recency theory). But that might be just my perspective on it, and I may well be completely wrong. Anyway, happy May 1st, Florian, whoever you are.MonaLisa_vanEyck Emoji

Florian Cramer bio

Operation Mindfix Facebook Ad

What’s So Great About Meditation, Homer?

I’m sure you’ve got at least one friend like mine, the type that gazes off into space when you are talking, then says ‘What?’ when you get to the end of your sentence. I have an acquaintance who does this constantly, and odder still, forgets whole conversations we have had previously. She worries that she might have Alzheimer’s, or some other progressive brain disease, which is robbing her of her powers of concentration and her memory. A little further investigation revealed the fact that she was off somewhere else in her thoughts while the conversation was going on.

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I admit, I’m not the most interesting person you could be stuck in a room with, but this habit of being off somewhere else while someone is talking is a thing most of us do; maybe we even get caught out once in a while nodding in agreement when while our friend looks at us expectantly, waiting to know whether we would like to order pasta from the menu, or go with the chef’s special?

It’s very human of us to be constantly thinking ahead, indeed it’s a strategizing tool the mind is equipped with to help us with survival. We also spend a lot of time living in the past in our heads, because we have a mental schema or map that we need to fit together, and when we get a new piece we have to find where its place is in the jigsaw that comprises our outlook of the world and our individual take on reality.

Homer simpson thinking

We use heuristics, mental rules of thumb we have developed from past experience, to help us deal with new situations; they are a kind of mental short-cut we can take to save us from taking all day over every decision. A schema can be described as the script we follow when in a particular recurring situation. The result of using some of these useful tools in our mental toolbox can be helpful, undoubtedly, as problem-solvers. The side-effect of our efficiency as problem-solvers, however, is that we may miss what’s going on right now, because we are either thinking ahead, or looking back, in order to sort and file our experiences into a coherent reality. The implication of this failure to stay in the moment, and experience fully what is happening right now, can result in a feeling of unreality or dullness of experience which robs us of  some of our joy in living. Further down the scale of spending too much time in the present or the past lies the depressive outlook, in which distorted ideas based on the stories we tell ourselves about what reality consists of, result in our capacity for logical thought as well as our joy in living to become so eroded that it is difficult for the person to function well at a mental, and often physical, level at all.

Kenzo ad girl

The mental and physical realms are connected; science is now confirming what many traditions have asserted, as for example, in Chinese ideas about ‘Chi‘, that the body has an intelligence or brain, as important to our health and vitality as the ‘mainframe’ brain in our head.

One way to get the mental and physical aspects of our bodies hooked up to reality is to do a little meditation on a regular basis. Meditation can take many forms; we have had a look at a popular form of meditation,  exercises the body as well as getting the ‘chi’ flowing in a mind-awareness sense, in an earlier post over here. Another popular type of meditation which beginners might like to try out is known as ‘mindfulness‘ meditation. This is a very easy one to get into, because the idea behind it is very simple. Put plainly, this technique makes use of paying attention to one’s breathing in order to access the mind’s ability to stay in the present moment.

That’s basically it, but if you fancy reading a whole book about the concept, you won’t do better than Eckhart Tolle’s ‘The Power Of Now‘, which is a beautifully written book about what a wonderful thing it is to be noticing everything your body and mind is experiencing right now, rather than being off with the fairies thinking about the future, the past or even comparing what’s going on now with either of these. Eckhart’s book became an even bigger success after he appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show, but don’t let that put you off har har!

When you get a bit further into meditation, there are all sorts of meditations you can do, all of which are designed to expose how you think, and by exposing it, iron out some of the flaws and traps in thinking that we all tend to get ensnared and entangled by, opening up new vistas where you might surprise yourself in a million ways. Meditation is different for different individuals, but most people find it can be like a wonderful voyage of self-discovery and also a discovery of some of the jewels of living that we all possess as our birthright, and which some of us may have dropped here and there on our way to adulthood. And it’s all right there on front of us, just waiting to be noticed!

If you liked this post, you might want to read my  post on ‘Meditation: A Crazy Wisdom’.

 

Truth Or Dare?

Edward Bernays book cover

A previous post examined how logic could be used to arrive at the truth. Journalism can be used to investigate what is true, just as it can be used to spin the facts to suit the narrative that governments want their populations to believe.

Edward Bernays book cover

All wars depend on gaining at least some measure of support from general opinion, and it is with this end in mind that we often encounter situations where it is possible to wonder whether the narrative has been managed to reflect the version of reality that is most convenient when particular ends are desired. It’s a daring manoeuvre, given that the truth may be exposed, as many independent investigators claimed was the case in the case of this CNN newscast, which was presented by CNN news at the time as a live broadcast from a hotel roof during the Gulf war, while a missile attack was in progress. The footage has not yet been proven to everyone’s satisfaction to have been faked with the use of a ‘green screen’ in CNN’s news studios, and the debate continues.

As Bernays understood, it could be worth the gamble for a government to fake an event, since the desired outcome has been achieved by the time the lie is discovered, and a public outcry diverted before the action has been taken. Such propaganda is quite convincing at the time; as the old adage goes ‘seeing is believing‘. We tend to rely on the evidence before our eyes, and mainstream media would hardly lie to us, would they? Take a look at alternative media sources and the outlook is very different. Anything and everything is up for question, the American ‘Truth Movement’ was established the idea that everything the state did was up for question, as the American government had perpetrated many ‘false flag‘ operations even before the events on November 11th, 2001 in New York, which were watched with horror by people all around the world. Part of the American Dream died on that day, but for some people it became the starting point of a new consciousness of the nature of reality, and a discussion ensued that has persisted with the growth of alternative news sources, a conversation about how digital realities and the physical world intersect, and how it is possible to manipulate one in order to manage the other.

Syrian president Bashar Assad was not the only person questioning the reality of news stories emerging from Syria.

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The boy in the back of the van narrative came in for examination, again, not by the mainstream, but by independent journalists wanting to know if the photos were staged in order to win public sympathy. The public, it seems, are not totally heartless when it comes to children’s suffering, which touches us even more deeply than that of adults, perhaps because of the responsibility adults have of protecting children from harm. Few ever got to hear about the Nayirah al-Sabah testimony, or rather the retraction of the story which was run prominently in the mainstream news media, but you can read about how fake the testimony turned out to be in a variety of so-called ‘fake’ news media. With the growth of alternative media, and the financial, and resulting ideological independence of these outlets from mainstream influences, it is no surprise that so many people are now questioning so much of the truth as we have been given it by the media to date.

An independent reporter on the ground, known as Syrian Girl, presents a theory on where the people used in the Syrian gas attack set-up came from.

One thing’s for sure, reality is very weird, and facts can be difficult to establish. Often the alternative media reflects this in ways that the mainstream just can’t manage to fit into a coherent narrative. Alt media loves the incoherence of it all, as it thrives on disassembling the narratives presented to the public. Sometimes this results in a disjointed genius, and we all know that truth is stranger than fiction. Just take the case of Nasim Aghdam, the YouTube shooter who was disgruntled about her YouTube channel being demonitised and decided to let YouTube know how she felt. A few of the strange events in the week that was are mixed in the clip from LTV shown below.

Syria update: From LTV’s show 4th May 2018

A Good Scrap

Ever get in an argument? I bet you have; they are pretty hard to avoid in life. Unless you are Colm McGregor, you may have been able to avoid having many of the physical sort. The other sort are harder to avoid. They can also be hard to get anywhere with, since all parties in an argument tend to be very interested in the idea of winning, especially when the egos of the participants are involved, as they usually are (a human and their ego are rarely separated for long).

Often, conceding a point to another person in an argument is considered to be some kind of climb-down from the original position, an admission that one has been completely wrong about all one’s opinions in relation to the topic. This isn’t true, from a logical perspective, as it is as likely that you could still be right about a few things, while getting a few things quite wrong.

Let’s take the logic thing a bit further, by looking at how it’s used in arguments. We’ll need to get our terms right to know what it is we are talking about when we say the word ‘argument’, as it has a particular definition in philosophy that is narrower than in ordinary speech. There are also several parts of an argument, such as the starting point(s), or premise(s). This video explains the parts of an argument, the phases an argument passes through, as well as the two main types of argument. Hopefully it won’t  come as a complete surprise that an argument can be conducted without the boxing gloves coming out.

How can you get yourself unhooked enough from your ego to even want to enter into a logical argument with someone? It probably helps if you realise that the other person, even if they don’t agree with you, might still have something interesting to say that could add to your knowledge. Lots of times people fail miserably to even get this far, and never get into the discussion, or argument as we are calling it here, that leads to further understanding, perhaps just of the other person’s perspective, or even of expanding their own knowledge about a topic. Socrates was a big fan of starting out from the beginning point of an argument saying to himself that the one thing he was wiser in than other men, was knowing that he knew nothing. The Dalai Lama‘s starting point is to start out from a position of doubting everything. Both mindsets are a way of removing oneself from one’s high-horse at the outset, so that the ego won’t kick up a stink and spoil the whole show, creating a situation where being right is more important than even hearing what the other person has to say.

Socrates had a good sense of humour, by all accounts, and was pretty equatable in the temper department, both assets in an argument, when unhooking emotionally enough to ensure that the intellect is fully engaged without being biased too much for logic to co-exist with it. Sad to say,  emotionality often looms large in many arguments, at the expense of logic. Just think of political debates you may have had with friends, or strangers, with differing political outlooks, and you can see how over-emotionality can quickly shut down discussion.

Some of Socrates arguments were a bit sneaky, to say the least, and when they reach their conclusion we can see that something went wrong somewhere along the way, though it can be hard to disentangle it enough to figure out at what stage it went so horribly wrong. Arguing well isn’t an easy thing to do; an argument can turn out to have more logical traps than the hunger games has ways to bump the players off.

The ultimate no-no and power-user tip for engaging in a decent argument, is to only use an ad hominum argument when you have already been talking to someone for a while, and are getting so little from the experience that you wish to tick them off to the nth degree. This will quickly send the whole logical structure of the argument off the rails, and reduce the argument to a shouty ego-driven, who can pee the highest mess, which might give you three seconds of relief before you start feeling thoroughly ashamed of how primitive and reptilian-brained you really are, beneath the civilised veneer. Not to worry; you’ll live to fight another day.

Homework: Watch the video and read the lesson transcript over here. (If you don’t want to do it, you can always say the dog ate it). More on the Socratic Method here.

Masked Comedians Of Discordia and the QAnon Phenomenon

book coverBy now, if you are American, and spend a lot of time on the interwebs, you will be asking yourself, as I have, is the QAnon phenomenon (kindof rolls off the tongue nicely, that) a big spoof, a bit of light-hearted fnordic ludibrium with some unfortunate side-effects.
Fnordic humour is a big part of the Discordian outlook. Taking yourself, or the world around you too seriously would just kill the joke. The other thing is, not everyone gets to be in on the joke, some folks are busy being serious and don’t have time to joke around about reality, and that’s just fine. In fact, it often makes the joke even funnier for those in on it, as it did in the case of the Q phenomenon, for those who maintained that Q were a group of hackers LARPing about, at everyone else’s expense. When Donald Trump decided to do something very serious, on Friday 13th April, involving Syria, a disputed chemical attack, and a bombing mission, the joke turned very sour, as his most loyal supporters, dubbed the ‘deplorables‘ by his election opponent Hillary Clinton, reeled in shock from the departure from the promises he had made in campaigns. They were no longer in the mood for the triumphalist joking about that gave birth to some truly epic memes such as Pepe the Frog.

Not all Discordians have a sense of humour unfortunately. There are some people who are right full of themselves there, as there are in all organisations, no matter how loosely organised they say their structure is. Take Cramer Florian, for example, who got quite irate over a PewDiePie video that was posted on the Discordian ‘Neoists‘ page on Facebook.

His anger seemed a bit over the top, until he admitted that himself and many of his pals are affiliated with the Antifa political organisation, which has recently been designated an internal terrorist group by the US government, after a series of particularly violent clashes with ‘alt-right‘ groups at protests. Eric Clanton, anyone? Mr. college professor, Don-a-balaclava then attack people with a bike lock in order to fight to make social conditions better for the proletariat.

Or ‘Moldy-locks, Antifa’s pin-up gal, who thought she could throw Molotov cocktails with the best of them, until someone shut her down with a swift punch to the forehead, proving that it is not always wrong to hit a girl. In fact, I have to admit, I laughed a little.

 

Other posts featuring angry people over here, and here.
Other posts on Discordians over here. and here.

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Cuckoo’s Calling

It’s Friday night, and tonight’s big movie is ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’, a brilliant movie, which was also an amazing book by that Merry Prankster Ken Kesey. Comedy and tragedy mingle in this wonderful commentary on society. The whole movie is streamed free on this link, but be quick to shut down all the pesky pop-up windows to watch it, and a minute or so’s effort is required to get to the play button.  It’s well worth it, as it’s pure genius.

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http://www2.0123movies.com/movies-one-flew-over-the-cuckoos-nest-1975-0123movies.html 

Here’s an interesting analysis of the movie. People have written papers and stuff about it and everything.

Parallels could be drawn between this movie/book and psychological experiments that have been done on the nature of violence and institutionalised living, such as the Stanford Prison Experiment, which pretty much showed that people are willing to go along with all sorts of evil behaviour. It also demonstrates that evil can be shut down quickly, as Philip Zimbardo’s future wife did with the experiment, when she pointed out to him how cruel he was being in continuing with it when it turned ugly. Heartening stuff, and proof that the world of good and evil can interact and influence one another.

I am inclined to think that maternal deprivation is at the core of Nurse Rached’s hatred of people. I have included a video showing an experiment on this, which I remember seeing as a child. It disturbed me very much at the time, and I have to warn you that if you love animals this will probably have you in tears in no time. Come to think of it, the Cuckoo’s Nest movie will probably do the same.