knowledge

Culture of Ignorance: Part I

Off the keyboard of Jim Quinn

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Published on The Burning Platform on October 27, 2013

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Discuss this article at the Kitchen Sink inside the Diner

“Five percent of the people think;
ten percent of the people think they think;
and the other eighty-five percent would rather die than think.”

– Thomas Edison

The kabuki theater that passes for governance in Washington D.C. reveals the profound level of ignorance shrouding this Empire of Debt in its prolonged death throes. Ignorance of facts; ignorance of math; ignorance of history; ignorance of reality; and ignorance of how ignorant we’ve become as a nation, have set us up for an epic fall. It’s almost as if we relish wallowing in our ignorance like a fat lazy sow in a mud hole. The lords of the manor are able to retain their power, control and huge ill-gotten riches because the government educated serfs are too ignorant to recognize the self-evident contradictions in the propaganda they are inundated with by state controlled media on a daily basis.

 

“Any formal attack on ignorance is bound to fail because the masses are always ready to defend their most precious possession – their ignorance.” Hendrik Willem van Loon

The levels of ignorance are multi-dimensional and diverse, crossing all educational, income, and professional ranks. The stench of ignorance has settled like Chinese toxic smog over our country, as various constituents have chosen comforting ignorance over disconcerting knowledge. The highly educated members, who constitute the ruling class in this country, purposefully ignore facts and truth because the retention and enhancement of their wealth and power are dependent upon them not understanding what they clearly have the knowledge to understand. The underclass wallow in their ignorance as their life choices, absence of concern for marriage or parenting, lack of interest in educating themselves, and hiding behind the cross of victimhood and blaming others for their own failings. Everyone is born ignorant and the path to awareness and knowledge is found in reading books. Rich and poor alike are free to read and educate themselves. The government, union teachers, and a village are not necessary to attain knowledge. It requires hard work and clinging to your willful ignorance to remain stupid.

The youth of the country consume themselves in techno-narcissistic triviality, barely looking up from their iGadgets long enough to make eye contact with other human beings. The toxic combination of government delivered public education, dumbed down socially engineered curriculum, taught by uninspired intellectually average union controlled teachers, to distracted, unmotivated, latchkey kids, has produced a generation of young people ignorant about history, basic mathematical concepts, and the ability or interest to read and write. They have been taught to feel rather than think critically. They have been programmed to believe rather than question and explore. Slogans and memes have replaced knowledge and understanding. They have been lured into inescapable student loan debt serfdom by the very same government that is handing them a $200 trillion entitlement bill and an economy built upon low paying service jobs that don’t require a college education, because the most highly educated members of society realized that outsourcing the higher paying production jobs to slave labor factories in Asia was great for the bottom line, their stock options and bonus pools.

Instead of being outraged and lashing out against this injustice, the medicated, daycare reared youth passively lose themselves in the inconsequentiality and shallowness of social media, reality TV, and the internet, while living in their parents’ basement. They have chosen the ignorance inflicted upon their brains by thousands of hours spent twittering, texting, facebooking, seeking out adorable cat videos on the internet, viewing racist rap singer imbeciles rent out sports stadiums to propose to vacuous big breasted sluts on reality cable TV shows, and sitting zombie-like for days with a controller in hand blowing up cities, killing whores, and murdering policemen using their new PS4 on their 65 inch HDTV, rather than gaining a true understanding of the world by reading Steinbeck, Huxley, and Orwell. Technology has reduced our ability to think and increased our ignorance.

“During my eighty-seven years, I have witnessed a whole succession of technological revolutions. But none of them has done away with the need for character in the individual or the ability to think.” – Bernard M. Baruch

The youth have one thing going for them. They are still young and can awaken from their self-imposed stupor of ignorance. There are over 80 million millenials between the ages of 8 and 30 years old who need to start questioning the paradigm they are inheriting and critically examining the mendacious actions of their elders. The future of the country is in their hands, so I hope they put down those iGadgets and open their eyes before it is too late. We need many more patriots like Edward Snowden and far fewer twerking sluts like Miley Cyrus if we are to overcome the smog of apathy and ignorance blanketing our once sentient nation.

The ignorance of youth can be chalked up to inexperience, lack of wisdom, and immaturity. There is no excuse for the epic level of ignorance displayed by older generations over the last thirty years. Boomers and Generation X have charted the course of this ship of state for decades. Ship of fools is a more fitting description, as they have stimulated the entitlement mentality that has overwhelmed the fiscal resources of the country. Our welfare/warfare empire, built upon a Himalayan mountain of debt, enabled by a central bank owned by Wall Street, and perpetuated by swarms of corrupt bought off spineless politicians, is the ultimate testament to the seemingly limitless level of ignorance engulfing our civilization. The entitlement mindset permeates our culture from the richest to the poorest. Mega-corporations use their undue influence (bribes disguised as campaign contributions) to elect pliable candidates to office, hire lobbyists to write the laws and tax regulations governing their industries, and collude with the bankers and other titans of industry to harvest maximum profits from the increasingly barren fields of a formerly thriving land of milk and honey. By unleashing a torrent of unbridled greed, ransacking the countryside, and burning down the villages, the ruling class has planted the seeds of their own destruction.

When the underclass observes Wall Street bankers committing the crime of the century with no consequences for their actions, they learn a lesson. When billionaire banker/politicians like Jon Corzine can steal $1.2 billion directly from the accounts of farmers and ranchers and continue to live a life of luxury in one of his six mansions, they get the message. Wall Street bankers are allowed to commit fraud, reaping profits of $25 billion, and when they are caught red handed pay a $5 billion fine while admitting no guilt. No connected bankers have gone to jail for crashing the worldwide financial system, but teenage marijuana dealers are incarcerated for ten years in our corporate prison system. The message has been received loud and clear by the unwashed masses. Committing fraud and gaming the system is OK. Only suckers play by the rules anymore. A culture of lawlessness, greed, fraud, deceit, swindles and scams was fashioned by those in power. Reckless disregard for honesty, truthfulness, fair dealing, and treating others as you would like to be treated, has permeated the beliefs and behavior of our society.

The ever increasing number of people in the SNAP program along with abuses committed by retailers and recipients, the skyrocketing number of people faking their way into the SSDI program, billions of taxpayer dollars lost to Medicare fraud, billions more lost paying out earned income tax credit refunds based on non-existent children, public schools falsifying test scores, students cheating on SAT tests, credit card fraud on a grand scale, failure to report income and falsifying tax returns, and a myriad of other dodges and scams are just a reflection of a moral and cultural collapse. The dog eat dog mentality glorified by the media, with such despicable men as Dimon, Greenspan, Corzine, Clinton, Trump, Rubin, Bernanke and Bloomberg honored as pillars of society, has displaced honesty, compassion, humanity, shared sacrifice, and caring about our descendants. Self-interest, self-indulgence, and a narcissistic focus on what is in it for me today has led to an implosion of trust and an attitude of “who cares” about our fellow man, morality, right or wrong, and the fate of future generations. We ignored the warnings of our last President who displayed courageousness and truthfulness when speaking to the American people.

“As we peer into society’s future, we — you and I, and our government — must avoid the impulse to live only for today, plundering for our own ease and convenience the precious resources of tomorrow. We cannot mortgage the material assets of our grandchildren without risking the loss also of their political and spiritual heritage. We want democracy to survive for all generations to come, not to become the insolvent phantom of tomorrow.” Dwight D. Eisenhower

The Me Generation has devolved into the Me Culture. While the masses have been mesmerized by their iGadgets, zombified by the boob tube, programmed to consume by the Madison Avenue propaganda machines, enslaved in chains of debt by the Wall Street plantation owners, and convinced by their fascist government keepers that phantom terrorists are hiding behind every bush, they surrendered their freedoms, liberties and sense of self-responsibility. There will always be evil men seeking to control and manipulate the ignorant and oblivious. A citizenry armed with knowledge, critical thinking skills, and moral integrity would not passively submit to the will of a corporate fascist oligarchy. Well educated, well informed citizens, capable of critical thinking are dangerous to rich men of evil intent. Obedient, universally ignorant, distracted, fearful, morally depraved slaves are what the owners of this country want. As the light of knowledge flickers and dies, we sink into the darkness of ignorance.

 

“No people will tamely surrender their Liberties, nor can any be easily subdued, when knowledge is diffused and virtue is preserved. On the Contrary, when People are universally ignorant, and debauched in their Manners, they will sink under their own weight without the Aid of foreign Invaders.”Samuel Adams

Cult of Ignorance

“There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that “my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.”Isaac Asimov

  

“While every group has certain economic interests identical with those of all groups, every group has also, as we shall see, interests antagonistic to those of all other groups. While certain public policies would in the long run benefit everybody, other policies would benefit one group only at the expense of all other groups. The group that would benefit by such policies, having such a direct interest in them, will argue for them plausibly and persistently. It will hire the best buyable minds to devote their whole time to presenting its case. And it will finally either convince the general public that its case is sound, or so befuddle it that clear thinking on the subject becomes next to impossible.

In addition to these endless pleadings of self-interest, there is a second main factor that spawns new economic fallacies every day. This is the persistent tendency of man to see only the immediate effects of a given policy, or its effects only on a special group, and to neglect to inquire what the long-run effects of that policy will be not only on that special group but on all groups. It is the fallacy of overlooking secondary consequences.”Henry Hazlitt

America’s cult of ignorance, combined with the selfish interests of various constituencies, the character weakness of the people elected to office, a lack of understanding or interest in basic mathematical concepts, and inability to comprehend the long term and unintended consequences of every piece of legislation, have brought the country to the brink of fiscal disaster. But still, the vast majority of Americans, including the supposed intellectuals and economic “experts”, are basking in their ignorance, as the stock market reaches a new high, the local GM dealer just gave them a 7 year $40,000 auto loan at 0% on that brand new Cadillac Escalade, Bank of America still hasn’t foreclosed on their McMansion two years after making their last mortgage payment, and they just received three pre-approved credit card notices from Capital One, American Express and Citicorp. As long as Bennie has our back printing $1 trillion new greenbacks per year, nothing can possibly go wrong. Our best and brightest economic minds are always right:

“Stocks have reached what looks like a permanently high plateau.” – Irving Fisher, Professor of Economics, Yale University, 1929

“Many of the new financial products that have been created, with financial derivatives being the most notable, contribute economic value by unbundling risks and shifting them in a highly calibrated manner. Although these instruments cannot reduce the risk inherent in real assets, they can redistribute it in a way that induces more investment in real assets and, hence, engenders higher productivity and standards of living.” – Alan Greenspan – March 6, 2000

“We’ve never had a decline in house prices on a nationwide basis. So, what I think what is more likely is that house prices will slow, maybe stabilize, might slow consumption spending a bit. I don’t think it’s gonna drive the economy too far from its full employment path, though.” Ben Bernanke – July 2005

The profound level of ignorance displayed by economists, politicians, business leaders, media personalities, and the average American, regarding the mathematically unsustainable path of our fiscal ship is perplexing to me on so many levels. If the Federal government was a family, the budget ceiling debate would be put into the following terms. Our household earns $28,000 per year, but we spend $38,000 per year and add $10,000 to our credit card balance, which stands at the limit of $170,000. In addition, we owe our neighbors $2 million we don’t have because we promised to pay if they voted for us as Treasurer of our homeowners association. We celebrate our good fortune of getting approved for another credit card with a $30,000 limit by increasing our spending to $39,000 per year. Intellectuals scorn such simplistic analogies by glibly pointing out that the family has a crazy uncle with a printing press in the basement and can pay-off the debt with his freshly printed dollars. And this is where the deliberate and calculated ignorance by the highly educated Ivy Leaguers regarding long term and unintended consequences is revealed. They ignore, manipulate, cover-up and obscure the facts because their wealth, power and influence depend upon them doing so. But ignorance doesn’t change the facts.

“Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.” Aldous Huxley

Nothing exposes the ignorance of various factions within our society better than a debate about budgets, spending, and unfunded liabilities. This is where every party, group, special interest, and voting bloc ignore any and all facts that are contrary to their selfish interest. They only see what they want to see. The fallacies, errors, omissions and mistruths of their positions are inconsequential to people who only care about their short-term self-seeking interests. When I question the out of control spending on entitlements and our impossible to honor level of unfunded liabilities, those of a liberal persuasion lash out with accusations of hating the poor, starving children and throwing granny under the bus. Anyone suggesting we should slow our spending is branded a terrorist by the overwhelmingly liberal legacy media.

When I accuse Wall Street bankers of criminal fraud and ongoing manipulation of the financial markets, the CNBC loving apologists for these felons bellow about the market always being right. When I rail about the military industrial complex and our un-Constitutional invasions of other countries, the neo-cons come out in force blathering about the war on terror and imminent threats. When I point out the horrific results of our government run educational system and how mediocre union teachers are bankrupting our states and municipalities with their gold plated health and pension plans, I’m met with howls of outrage about the poor children. The common thread is that facts are ignored because each of their agendas requires ignorance on the part of their team’s fans.

The following chart of truth portrays an unsustainable path. Ignoring the facts will not change them. This isn’t a Republican problem or a Democrat problem. It’s an American problem.

 

“There are men regarded today as brilliant economists, who deprecate saving and recommend squandering on a national scale as the way of economic salvation; and when anyone points to what the consequences of these policies will be in the long run, they reply flippantly, as might the prodigal son of a warning father: “In the long run we are all dead.” And such shallow wisecracks pass as devastating epigrams and the ripest wisdom.” Henry Hazlitt

Henry Hazlitt may have written these words six decades ago, but they aptly describe Paul Krugman and the legions of Keynesian apostles whose bastardized interpretation of Keynes’ theory has led us to this fiscal cliff. How anyone can truly believe that borrowing to consume foreign produced goods versus saving and making job creating capital investments is a rational and sustainable economic policy is the height of ignorance. One look at this chart exposes the political party system as a sham. When it comes to the fiscal train wreck, set in motion thirty years ago, the ignorant media pundits peddle a narrative about politicians failing to compromise as the culprit in this derailment. Nothing could be further from the truth. Compromise is what has gotten us to this point. The Republicans compromised and allowed the Democrats to create a welfare state. The Democrats compromised and allowed the Republicans to create a warfare state. The Federal Reserve compromised their mandate of stable prices and preventing financial calamities by inflating away 95% of the dollar’s purchasing power in 100 years, while creating bubbles every five or so years, like clockwork. There are a myriad of facts related to the chart above that cannot be ignored:

  • It took 192 years for the country to accumulate $1 trillion in debt. It has taken us 30 years to accumulate the next $16 trillion of debt. We now add $1 trillion of debt per year.
  • If the Federal government was required to use GAAP accounting, the annual deficit would amount to $6.7 trillion per year.
  • The fiscal gap of unfunded future liabilities for Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and government pensions is $200 trillion.
  • Using realistic growth assumptions adds another $6 trillion of state and local government unfunded pension benefits to the equation.
  • The Federal government has increased their annual spending from $1.8 trillion during Bill Clinton’s last year in office to $3.8 trillion today, a 110% increase. The population has increased by 12% over that same time frame, and real GDP has advanced by 25% since 2000.
  • Defense spending has increased from $358 billion in 2000 to $831 billion today, despite the fact that no country on earth can challenge us militarily.
  • The average Baby Boomer will receive $300,000 more than they contributed to Social Security and Medicare over their lifetime. Over 10,000 Boomers per day will turn 65 for the next 17 years.
  • The Social Security lockbox is filled with IOUs. The funds collected from paychecks over the last 80 years were spent by Congress on wars of choice, bridges to nowhere, and thousands of other vote buying ventures.
  • A normalization of interest rates to long-term averages would double or triple the interest on the national debt and increase our annual deficits by at least 30%.
  • Obamacare and the unintended consequences of Obamacare will add tens of trillions to our national debt. The initial budget projections for Medicare and Medicaid showed only a modest financial impact on the financial situation of the country. How did that work out?
  • Entitlement spending in 2003 was $1.3 trillion. Entitlement spending in 2008 was $1.7 trillion. Entitlement spending in 2013 was $2.2 trillion. Entitlement spending in 2018 will be $2.8 trillion, as these programs are on automatic pilot.

When you consider the facts in a rational manner, without vitriolic denials, bitter accusations, acrimonious blame, and rejection of the entire premise, you come to the conclusion that we’ve passed the point of no return. Decades of bad choices, bad leadership, bad men in important positions, bad education, bad governance, and bad citizenship have led to bad times. But very few people, across all socio-economic classes, have any interest in understanding the facts or making the tough choices required to save future generations from a life of squalor. We willfully choose to ignore the facts.

“Most ignorance is vincible ignorance. We don’t know because we don’t want to know.” Aldous Huxley

Our degraded and ignorant society is incapable of comprehending their dire circumstances or acting for the common good of the country. We are a nation on the take. Greed really is good. Everyone needs to play the game. From the top floor corporate CEO suite to the decaying urban wastelands, we have chosen comforting ignorance to uncomfortable knowledge. Our warped form of democracy enriches the few at the top, while dispensing enough subsistence payments to the lower classes to keep them from revolting, while enslaving the middle class in debt and convincing them it’s really wealth. Mencken understood the pathetic impulses of the American populace decades before we reached our point of no return.

“Democracy is a pathetic belief in the collective wisdom of individual ignorance.” – H.L. Mencken

The only way a democracy can survive is if the population is knowledgeable, vigilant, skeptical, educated, individually responsible, self-reliant, moral, capable of critical thinking and willing to accept the consequences of their actions. A nation of takers, fakers and blamers will not last long. We’ve degenerated into a nation of knowledge hating book burners. Our culture of ignorance will lead to the destruction of our culture and the ignorant masses will wonder what happened.

 

“But you can’t make people listen. They have to come round in their own time, wondering what happened and why the world blew up around them. It can’t last.”Ray Bradbury – Fahrenheit 451

In Part Two of this examination about our culture of ignorance I’ll explore the roles of technology, family breakdown, government, and propaganda in creating the ignorance that is consuming our system like a mutant parasite. If you are seeking a happy ending, I suggest looking elsewhere.

How do we know what we know?

 Comment on this article in the Spirituality and mysticism section of the Diner Forum.

We often place things here at the Doomstead Diner into discussion based on fact, experience or belief. How do we know what we know? Why do we gather here in the shimmering blue light of this digital campfire?

“When you observe the world you see people, you see houses, you see the sky, you see tangible objects; but when you observe yourself within, you see moving images–a world of images, generally known as fantasies. Yet these fantasies are facts. You see, it is a fact that the man has such and such a fantasy, and it is such a tangible fact, for instance, that when a man has a certain fantasy, another man may lose his life, or a bridge is built–these houses were all fantasies. Everything you do here, all of the houses, everything, was fantasy to begin with, and fantasy has a proper reality. That is not to be forgotten; fantasy is not nothing. It is, of course, not a tangible object, but it is a fact, nevertheless. It is, you see, a form of energy, despite the fact that we can’t measure it. It is a manifestation of something, and that is a reality. That is just a reality. As for instance, the peace treaty of Versailles, or something like that. It is no more–you can’t show it, but it has been a fact. And so psychical events are facts, are realities; and when you observe the stream of images within, you observe an aspect of the world, of the world within.” – Carl Jung.

 How do we know what we know? Why do we think we know what we know? These are the questions I have been wrestling with, on and off, for the last month. Regular Diners will recall RE’s “Orkin Man” wherein he advances the premise that predatory capitalism is so far gone and the organs of justice so utterly corrupt, that the only thing we can do to ensure justice is to employ the good works of the Orkin man to exterminate the Illuminati like so many bugs. My response, running to many thousands of words, was to assert that there is a reason that the good book says, ”Vengeance is Mine,” is that for any individual to assert the godlike power of life and death over others was to invoke a kind of madness, well documented in both fact and fiction.

     

I used Pol Pot as an example, citing his well-publicized attempts to remake Cambodian society according to his own vision, and in the process, causing the deaths of many thousands of Cambodians. Or so I thought. Later on, Re: posted an article by one Israel Shamir (http://www.globalresearch.ca/the-history-of-cambodia-pol-pot-revisited/5308998), which asserted that, on a recent visit to Cambodia, Shamir had the opportunity to speak with many ordinary Cambodians who remembered Pol Pot with fondness.

A much quoted American professor, RJ Rummel, wrote that “out of a 1970 population of probably near 7,100,000 …almost 3,300,000 men, women, and children were murdered …most of these… were murdered by the communist Khmer Rouge”. Every second person was killed, according to his estimate.

However, Cambodia’s population was not halved but more than doubled since 1970, despite alleged multiple genocides. Apparently, the genocidaires were inept, or their achievements have been greatly exaggerated.
The Pol Pot the Cambodians remember was not a tyrant, but a great patriot and nationalist, a lover of native culture and native way of life. . . He felt compassion for the ordinary village people who were ripped off on a daily basis by the city folk, the comprador parasites. He built an army to defend the countryside from these power-wielding robbers. Pol Pot, a monkish man of simple needs, did not seek wealth, fame or power for himself. He had one great ambition: to terminate the failing colonial capitalism in Cambodia, return to village tradition, and from there, to build a new country from scratch.

His vision was very different from the Soviet one. The Soviets built their industry by bleeding the peasantry; Pol Pot wanted to rebuild the village first, and only afterwards build industry to meet the villagers’ needs. . . But what he hated most was acquisitiveness, greed, the desire to own things. St Francis and Leo Tolstoy would have understood him.

The Cambodians I spoke to pooh-poohed the dreadful stories of Communist Holocaust as a western invention. They reminded me of what went on: their brief history of troubles began in 1970, when the Americans chased away their legitimate ruler, Prince Sihanouk, and replaced him with their proxy military dictator Lon Nol. Lon Nol’s middle name was Corruption, and his followers stole everything they could, transferred their ill-gotten gains abroad then moved to the US. On top of this came US bombing raids. The peasants ran to the forest guerrillas of Khmer Rouge, which was led by a few Sorbonne graduates, and eventually succeeded in kicking out Lon Nol and his American supporters.

In 1975, Pol Pot took over the country, devastated by a US bombing campaign of Dresden ferocity, and saved it, they say. Indeed, the US planes dropped more bombs on this poor country than they had on the Nazi Germany, and spread their mines all over the rest of it. If the Cambodians are pressed to name their great destroyer (and they are not keen about burrowing back into the past), it is Professor Henry Kissinger they name, not Comrade Pol Pot.

http://www.globalresearch.ca/the-history-of-cambodia-pol-pot-revisited/5308998

 

***

This is, of course, the story very different from that retailed in our public prints and official histories. My immediate reaction was, that it would not be the first time that the agencies of government employed various media propaganda points of view at odds with facts. So then I attempted to look up what I could find about Israel Shamir. That too was a murky journey with no determinate conclusion. Apparently he is also known by the names Jöran Jermas, and Adam Ermash, is a Swedish writer and journalist by way of Siberia and Israel, looks very middle-eastern, and travels between Moscow and Stockholm.

One Norman Finkelstein is quoted by Tablet magazine as saying of Shamir, “He has invented his entire personal history. Nothing he says about himself is true.” So how do we know what we know? History is indeed written by the winners. Or by those scribbling on their behalf. Hell, how do we know anything?

***

A Diner Epistemology

Epistemology is the branch of philosophy concerned with the nature of knowledge, “How do we acquire it?”, “What do we know?”, “How do we know it?”.

Now to blow decades of accumulated dust from old memories. I recall being greatly struck by studying Plato’s dialogues as a freshman and sophomore in college. Of particular note was the study of Plato’s Forms. (http://www.niu.edu/~jdye/forms.html ) Main takeaways seemed to be that Opinions are not a good source of truth, or beauty. There must be some a priori standard with which we are acquainted– Knowledge of ‘the beautiful itself’ is a prerequisite for knowing whether ‘A is beautiful’ or ‘B is beautiful’ are true statements. Nor can we know whether that or any other statement is true unless we understood what such a statement means. What then is the status of the vast majority of our assertions which we make before we have established a clear understanding of the terms they contain? Plato would say that they must only be opinions, since they clearly cannot be instances of knowledge.

Because they are the patterns or ideal models to which we compare individual things or actions in order to determine how beautiful, just, or whatever, they are, he also refers to them as ‘Forms’ or ‘Ideas.’ For this reason, Plato’s view has been called idealism. Evidence of the senses, in Plato’s view, is not entirely to be trusted. But if that which is sensible is not most real, but only the forms are “real,” then what is? Plato asserts that sensible objects could not possibly be real; they could at best be “copies” or “images” of underlying realities which can be thought about but which cannot be perceived. In short, what we usually call “the real world” is not that at all, but is rather just a world of appearance or seeming. This of course summons what we know today about quantum mechanics and particle physics (in my case is a thimbleful). Yet the echoes of Plato remain in today’s science reporting: the presence of the observer affects the outcome of the experiment; that all of what we experience as “matter” is actually energy fields separated by a vast space; that out thoughts, being energy, create a version of reality.

 

As I write these lines, millions of neurons fire in my brain; thoughts emerge and are expressed as words, typed herein. Something is in charge, an entity we loosely call “mind.” Cognitive neuroscience teaches us that our perception of the world is organized within different regions of the brain. What we call reality results from the integrated sum of countless stimuli collected through five senses. Cognition, the awareness of being here now, is a fabrication of countless chemical reactions flowing through myriad synaptic connections between my neurons.

So by one definition, we are a self-sustaining electrochemical network enacted across a web of biological cells.
“The theater of the self happens in the brain and the brain is an assembly of interacting neurons firing nonstop like a Christmas tree.” However our perception of reality, that upon which we base our sense of self, is severely incomplete.

 Only the Forms really exist, according to Plato. Forms are the “causes”or archetypes of whatever we discern by our senses. This was brought to light for me in one of the most durable images from my education, Plato’s Allegory of the Cave.

Plato’s allegory of the cave is concerned with different stages of knowledge. I could recount my limited understanding of this, but in sniffing around, I found this guy, who does it better, and with more irreverence, than I could possibly summon:

http://www.philosophybro.com/2010/12/platos-allegory-of-cave-summary.html

Plato’s “The Allegory of the Cave”: A Summary
Socrates: “Why do people think philosophy is bullshit? Let me put it this way – imagine you’re in a cave, all chained up so you can’t turn your body at all, and all you get to look at is this one wall. Some assholes behind you are making shadow puppets using the light from a fire and making echo noises and that’s all you or anyone else chained up has seen or heard all your life. Sounds terrible, right? Except it’s all you’ve ever known, shadows and echoes, and that’s your whole world – there’s no way you could know that, really, you’re watching a slightly-improved M. Night Shyamalan film.

“In fact, you get pretty good at understanding how the patterns in the show work, and everyone else chained up is like, ‘Holy shit bro, how did you know that that tree was going to fall on that guy?’ and you’re like, ‘It’s because I fucking pay attention and I’m smart as shit.’ You’re the smartest of the chained, and they all revere you.”

Glaucon: “But Socrates, a tree didn’t really hit a guy. It’s all shadows.”

Socrates: “No shit, Glaucon, but you don’t know that. You think the shadows are real things. Everyone does. Now shut up and let me finish.

“So eventually, someone comes and unchains you and drags you out of the cave. At first you’d say, ‘Seriously, what the fuck is going on?!’ Well, actually, at first you’d say, ‘HOLY SHIT MY EYES’ and you’d want to go back to the safe, familiar shadows. But even once your eyes worked you wouldn’t believe them, because everything you ever thought was real is gone. You’d look at a tree, and say ‘That’s not a tree. I know trees. And you, sir, are no tree. THAT DOWN THERE is a tree.’ But you’re wrong. Down there is a shadow of a tree.

“Slowly, as your eyes got better, you’d see more and more shit. Eventually, you’d see the sun, and realize that it’s the source of all light. You can’t see shit without the sun. And eventually, you’d figure it out. Something would click in your brain: ‘oh, shit, that IS a tree. Fuck me. So… nothing in the cave was real? I feel like such an asshole.’ But it’s not your fault, so don’t be so hard on yourself.

“Finally you’d want to go down and tell everyone about everything you’ve discovered. Except, and here’s the hilarious part, they think you’ve gone fucking crazy. You’d say, ‘Guys, real trees are green!’ and they’d say, ‘What the fuck is green? THAT is a tree over there.’ And you’d squint and look at the wall, but you know you’re fucked because now you’re used to having sunlight, and now you can’t see shit. So they’d laugh at you, and agree that wherever it was that you went, no one should go there because it turns people into dickheads.

“Philosophy, same thing. The soul ascends and apprehends the forms, the nature of everything, and eventually the very Idea of Good that gives light to everything else. And then the philosopher has to go back to the cave and try to explain it to people who don’t even know what Green is, to say nothing of the Good. But the philosopher didn’t make up the Good, it was always there, and the only way to really make sense of it is to uncover it for yourself. You can’t force knowledge into a dumbass any more than you can force sight into a blind man.

“So if you want to learn, be prepared for a difficult journey, and be prepared to make some mistakes. That’s okay, it’s all part of the process. True knowledge must be obtained the hard way, and some people just don’t want to see the light.”

Had someone taught philosophy in this manner when I was an undergrad, I might have pursued a different career.

***

All of us deal with others who do not want to see the light. To confront the reality of the evidence of our lives. It does not take great leaps of inference to imagine what happens when cheap oil runs out. When the conduits stop flowing. When the grid goes dark. Those of us who like to have faith in our fellow citizens need look only to the spectacle of Black Friday near–riots to see what others will do in the pursuit of low low prices and black Friday deals. What, indeed, will people do when the shelves at their beloved Walmart are empty?

***

Last month I went walkabout from the Diner for a bit. Some of the disagreements here weighed on me heavily. Found myself also dealing with family illnesses and frailties of one sort or another. It is a matter of personal choice about how we handle disagreements here, or anywhere. It is often governed by how we feel, as as Plato might have observed, that ain’t good enough. At the end of the day, we all have to address the question of “Why are we here?” I like to think that, as we confront the very existential issues of collapse, we are as the many blind men, gathered around an elephant.

 

Once upon a time, there lived six blind men in a village. One day the villagers told them, “Hey, there is an elephant in the village today.”

They had no idea what an elephant is. They decided, “Even though we would not be able to see it, let us go and feel it anyway.”

All of them went where the elephant was. Everyone of them touched the elephant.

 


”Hey, the elephant is a pillar,” said the first man who touched his leg.



”Oh, no! it is like a rope,” said the second man who touched the tail.



“Oh, no! it is like a thick branch of a tree,” said the third man who touched the trunk of the elephant.



“It is like a big hand fan” said the fourth man who touched the ear of the elephant.



”It is like a huge wall,” said the fifth man who touched the belly of the elephant.



“It is like a solid pipe,” Said the sixth man who touched the tusk of the elephant.



They began to argue about the elephant and everyone of them insisted that he was right. It looked like they were getting agitated. A wise man was passing by and he saw this. He stopped and asked them, “What is the matter?”

They said, “We cannot agree to what the elephant is like.” Each one of them told what he thought the elephant was like. The wise man calmly explained to them, “All of you are right. The reason every one of you is telling it differently because each one of you touched the different part of the elephant. So, actually the elephant has all those features what you all said.”



“Oh!” everyone said. There was no more fight. They felt happy that they were all right.

The moral of the story is that there may be some truth to what another says, even when we find it disagreeable, even when we do not agree with their premises.
All of us have different perspectives about what “collapse”, or “doom” will look like. By which vector it will ensue. Whether it will be “lite” or “full” or “uber” in character and completeness.

What brings me here each day, and makes me a willing participant, if not as indefatigable as I once was, is RE’s motto, “Save as many as you can.” Not every post leverages that. But I have to think that this site, as a body of work, ranging from spirituality to survivalism to economics to psychopathology, edges us to a better sense of well being as a result of our work as a group. If you show up every day and read, and participate, you end up knowing things you may not have known before.

And of all the tools that protect us against the Great Uncertainty looming, knowledge shared is probably the best vector to enable us to “Save as many as you can.”

Perhaps what we do here is like pointillism. A Seurat painting, or one of those photos made up of thousands of images.

We all contribute, according to our lights, experiences, expertise, even outrageous opinions.

We’re told that Solomon sought wisdom above all else. So perhaps we seek wisdom here, discounting the immediate, distrusting all mainstream media accounts, and trying to win for some version of reality from the different points of light that accumulate here. After all, what is the “wisdom” conferred from experience aside from the aggregated lessons of life for which we have already paid retail?

 

Sources:

http://www.globalresearch.ca/the-history-of-cambodia-pol-pot-revisited/5308998

http://www.doomsteaddiner.net/forum/index.php?topic=984.msg10428#msg10428

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reality

http://www.philosophybro.com/2010/12/platos-allegory-of-cave-summary.html

http://www.niu.edu/~jdye/forms.html

http://www.npr.org/blogs/13.7/2011/11/09/142128705/can-our-brains-tell-us-what-is-real

 

 

 

 

 

Knarf plays the Doomer Blues

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