The Political Ratchet is a Political Racket

In the United States: Antifa, as a label, refers to no existing organization. And anti-fascism, as an ideology, is linked to no known acts of terrorism. These have become primary targets of bipartisan state oppression, as rationalization to oppress populist protest movements and to eliminate leftist critics of authoritarianism, social dominance, and psychopathy. This is how democratic self-governance is suppressed, how a banana republic is maintained. This is how lesser evil voting ratchets up greater evil politics.

“On September 9, the news came out that a whistleblower within the Department of Homeland Security had filed a complaint about the department’s Trump-appointed leadership instructing him to downplay the threat represented by white supremacists and play up the dangers posed by anarchists and anti-fascists. Yet it has largely escaped notice how Joe Biden and other Democrats have embraced Donald Trump’s talking points about anarchists and anti-fascists. It is convenient for centrist Democrats that they can pose as Trump’s moderate critics while appropriating his talking points about protesters, letting him do the dirty work of establishing the narratives that justify state repression.”

The insidious workings of the political ratchet
from CrimethInc.

To Stand In Place

A strong gust blew through the forest. The house sparrow chirped and fluttered his wings, as he bobbed up and down on the branch he perched upon. In nervousness of being a guest in someone else’s space, he tried to make small talk.

“So, you grew up around here, right?” The white oak, standing there firmly in the ground, simply said, “Yeah.” An awkward silence followed. Not knowing what interests a tree, the bird puffed up it’s feathers and cocked it’s head. The tree remained without expression.

The little bird knew that the tree’s family lived nearby. So trying to coax more out of him, he queried further about his childhood and schooling, but was unable to garner any enthusiasm about the tree’s own life. He decided to take a more direct tack.

“Do you have many happy memories?” Then quickly added, “Or unhappy?” There still was little response. All the white oak would say was that he didn’t care about the place he lived. One place is same as another, he explained, solidly rooted to the spot.

After a short visit, the anxious sparrow was glad to leave. He caught a breeze and darted away into the sky.

We Are All Liberals, and Always Have Been

Jonathan Haidt’s moral foundations theory gained traction some years back. His ideas aren’t brilliant or entirely original, but he is a catchy popularizer of social science. Still, there is some merit to his theory, if there is plenty to criticize, as we have done previously. It is lacking and misleading in certain ways. For example, in talking about the individualizing moral foundations, Haidt has zero discussion of the personality trait openness.

That is the defining feature of liberal-mindedness. Openness is core to the liberal values of intellectuality, critical thinking, curiosity, truth-seeking, systems thinking, cognitive complexity, cognitive empathy, tolerance of ambiguity, tolerance of differences, etc. As an attitude, in combination with the individualizing moral foundations of fairness/reciprocity and harm/care, openness also powerfully informs major aspects of the liberal sense of egalitarianism and justice underlying social and political liberalism.

Openness represents everything that is unique in opposition to the binding moral foundations: ingroup/loyalty, authority/respect, and purity/sanctity. Those other moral foundations, in being everything that openness is not, are what define conservatism, specifically social conservatism, and arguably are what makes conservatives prone to authoritarianism. One can think of authoritarianism as simply the binding moral foundations pushed to an extreme, such that the openness personality trait and the individualizing moral foundations are suppressed.

This is important for how the framing of the topic has been politicized. Haidt is a supposed ‘liberal’ who, in being conservative-minded, has made a name for himself by ‘courageously’ attacking liberalism and punching left, an old American tradition among pseudo-liberal elites. There has been an argument, originated by Haidt, that liberals are somehow deficient because of lacking conservative-minded values. But that is inaccurate for a number of reasons. The unwillingness to conform, submit, and fear-monger is in itself a liberal value, not merely a lack of conservative values.

Anyway, maybe not all values are equal in the first place. One study indicates, instead, that the binding moral foundations are not necessarily inherent to human nature and so not on the same level. The so-called but misnamed individualizing moral foundations are what everyone is born with. That is to say no one is born a conservative or an authoritarian. Instead, we are all come into this world with a liberal-minded sense of openness, fairness, and care. That very well might be the psychological baseline of the human species.

Yes, other research shows that stressful conditions (parasite load, real or imagined pathogen exposure, etc) increase both social conservatism and authoritarianism. But the evidence doesn’t indicate that chronic stress, as exists in the modern world, is the normal state of the human species. Would a well-functioning community with great public health, low inequality, a strong culture of trust, etc show much expression of conservative-mindedness at all? One suspects not. Certainly, traditional tribes like the Piraha don’t. Maybe physical health, psychological health, and moral health are inseparable.

In one sense, liberalism is a hothouse flower. It does require optimal conditions to thrive and bloom. But those optimal conditions are simply the conditions under which human nature evolved under most of the time. We have a threat system that takes over under less-than-optimal conditions. If temporary, it won’t elicit authoritarianism. That only happens when stressors never can be resolved, lessened, or escaped; and so trauma sets in. One might speculate that is not the normal state of humanity. It may be true that we, in the modern West, are all liberals now. But maybe, under it all, we always were.

* * *

We Are All White Liberals Now
We Are All Egalitarians, and Always Have Been
We Are All Bleeding Heart Liberals Now

The role of cognitive resources in determining our moral intuitions:
Are we all liberals at heart?

by Jennifer Cole Wright and Galen Baril

The role of cognitive resources in determining our moral intuitions:
Are we all liberals at heart?

by Caroline Minott

Some researchers suspect that the differences in liberal and conservative moral foundations are a byproduct of Enlightenment philosophers “narrowing” the focus of morality down to harm and fairness. In this view, liberals still have binding foundation intuitions but actively override them. The current study asks the question: are the differences between liberals’ and conservatives’ moral foundations due to an unconscious cognitive overriding of binding foundation intuitions, or are they due to an enhancement of them? Since both of these conditions takes effort, the researchers used self-regulation depletion/cognitive load tasks to get at participants’ automatic moral responses. […]

When cognitive resources were compromised, participants only responded strongly to the individualizing foundations (harm/fairness), with both liberals and conservatives deprioritizing the binding foundations (authority/in-group/purity). In other words, automatic moral reactions of conservatives turned out to be more like those of liberals. These findings suggest that harm and fairness could be core components of morality – for both liberals and conservatives. While many believed in an innate five-foundation moral code, in which liberals would narrow their foundations down to two, we may actually begin life with a two-foundation moral foundation. From here, conservatives emerge by way of expanding upon these two-foundations (adding authority/ingroup/purity).

Containment of Freedom

Human constructed physical structures, from roads and channeled rivers to walls and buildings, are the templates of social and psychic structures. This is the foundation of social construction and constructivism, upon which superstructures are built. Julian Jaynes suggested this operates linguistically by way of metaphors, helping to create analog structures (e.g., inner mind-space). Whatever the mechanism, the underlying theory is that we can tell a lot about a society by the kinds of structures they use, inhabit, and speak about.

For Jaynes, he seems to have limited his speculations in this area to that of the container metaphor. That makes sense. It’s not only that actual containers (pouches, jugs, jars, barrels, boxes, etc) became more common as civilization developed, beginning with the agricultural revolution and later increasing with surplus yields and wide-scale trade. All structures, from temples to houses to granaries, became more enclosed and hence more containing.

In contrast, there is the example of the Piraha with their animistic mentality (the term offered by Paul Otteson). At first, Marcel Kuijsten, the editor of many collections of Jaynesian scholarship, suggested that animistic mentality was a subset of bicameral mentality; but he clarified that his suggestion was tentative. We weren’t certain at first and we’re now leaning more toward distinguishing the two. The reason precisely has to do with the container metaphor.

The Piraha don’t seem to make or use containers. They rarely store food, except occasionally smoking some fish for trade. Even their shelters are as simple as possible. The few objects they trade for (e.g., metal axes) are treated with little sense of value and no sense of possession, just left lying around for anyone to use; or else simply to be forgotten. It’s unsurprising they have an extremely uncontained sense of self, not to mention an unstructured social order.

To be accurate, it’s not that the extreme end of non-WEIRD mentality is actually unstructured. Rather, it is structured more according to the natural world. Hunter-gatherers often have a sense of self that is shaped by the immediate environment and sensory field. For the Piraha, they live on a river and so maybe it’s unsurprising their very conception of reality is one that flows and shifts, that appears and disappears as if going around a bend.

The Australian Aborigines offer a middle position, as they already had basic agriculture, including granaries. Like many tribal people, they had highly structured the world around them, though early Westerners couldn’t see it. The whole world was a garden to be tended. The Aborigines managed water, fire, and animals; similar to Native Americans. Aboriginal Songlines were a geographic mapping of psyche, based on landscape markings, seasonal patterns, ecosystems, and ancient trails.

So, in reality, human experience is always structured. But maybe that isn’t quite right. Structure implies a struction, something that was constructed. Not all societies spend much time constructing, if there is no society that doesn’t construct something. Even the Piraha make basic things as needed, albeit on a limited scale, heavy emphasis on the latter point. The Piraha go to the extreme of not bothering to make jewelry or ornamented clothing. Neither do they construct stories, in having no storytelling tradition, although they’ll sometimes repeat the stories they’ve heard outsiders tell.

Still, the Piraha do build things, such as shelters, bows and arrows, etc. But there is something unique about building containers, an object of little use to the Piraha. The archaic bicameral mentality, according to Jaynes, likewise wasn’t modeled according to the container metaphor. Yet the structures that had developed by the time of the Bronze Age were much more containing, in the proliferation of enclosed spaces. And containers proper were becoming more commonly used.

In this context, voice-hearing also seems to have become more structured, as opposed to the egalitarian and non-hierarchical voice-speaking (i.e., spirit ‘possession’) of the Piraha. The first permanent structures were not houses to be lived in, granaries to store food, or any such thing. They apparently were ritual sites, that is to say houses for the gods, god-kings, and ancestors. The mummified bodies or skulls were literally housed there, presumably because they were maintained as an aid in hearing the voices of the dead or of hearing the voices that spoke through the dead.

Animistic tribes like the Piraha don’t do any such thing. There is no individual who permanently possesses or is possessed by archaic authorization. Spirits and the dead can speak through any number of people, as there are no authority figures of any sort, no shamans, healers, chiefs, or council of elders. As such, when any given person dies, it’s no more relevant than any other death. Access to the voices isn’t threatened because they are free-floating identities — one might consider them communal theories of mind.

All of that changed with the agricultural revolution, and so that is what begins an important distinction. Bicameral mentality not only with temples and later urbanization but increasingly with their walled city-states and emerging empires was more contained than animistic mentality, if far less contained than Jaynesian consciousness. The difference was communal-containment versus self-containment, but still a containment of sorts in either case, as contrasted to animistic uncontainment.

Both the bicameral-minded and the consciousness-minded had hierarchies, separating them both from the extreme opposite end of animistic-minded laissez-faire egalitarianism. Since the Piraha don’t have any authority figures at all, hierarchical or otherwise, there is no one in a position to monopolize and control voice authorization. Hence, no enforced authoritarianism, although plenty of tribalistic conventionalism and conformism that is maintained merely through shared identity.

We could speculate that authoritarianism had already appeared, if barely, among the earliest bicameral-minded societies, following the agricultural revolution, since that was the beginning of new forms of extreme stress: overcrowding, resource competition, malnutrition, famine, infectious disease, etc — indeed, research shows that such large-scalle stressors are precisely the conditions of authoritarianism. Whenever it first appeared, we certainly can safely assert that full-on authoritarianism was taking hold by the end of the Bronze Age.

We lean in the direction of the initial wave of bicameral-minded societies only having been partly and temporarily authoritarian, as conditions changed. But is partial and temporary authoritarianism actually authoritarian? We sense that it is not or at least not in how we understand it. Humans can collectively respond to threats, sometimes in oppressive ways, but without forming permanent authoritarian social orders. The threat response is built into the human psyche, as it’s an evolved survival instinct. Authoritarianism isn’t merely the threat response under normal conditions for it only appears when stressors continue indefinitely without the option of resolution or escape — it becomes stuck in the on position and so takes exaggerated form.

The entrenchment of authoritarianism as overwhelming and pervasive stress, in inducing mass anxiety and trauma, might be the very thing that was undermining bicameral mentality by the end of the Bronze Age. Maybe bicameral mentality required the lingering traces of the non-authoritarian animistic mentality. The problem was that bicameral mentality required the control of animistic mentality in order to control ever larger and unwieldy populations, but this kind of social control is anathema to animistic communalism and egalitarianism.

If we accept that view, we could interpret bicameral mentality as a very long transitional phase from animistic mentality to Jaynesian consciousness. In a sense, it was never a stable order because it was built on an internal conflict. Over time, it demanded more and more authoritarianism, which undermined the very voice-hearing that held the society together. The bicameral-minded societies were the earliest attempts at making agriculture a sustainable social order. It was an experiment and no one knew what they were doing.

The container metaphor might offer us a central insight. To contain something is to control it. Hunter-gatherers often have little need for control, depending on how much or how little stress they are under. But once agricultural settlements become permanent, control becomes necessary for continued survival. Farmers can’t simply move on and go their separate ways. That was ever more true as urbanization increased, food systems complexified, and trade became interdependent. There was no second option. When drought or famine occurred, most of the population simply died. The containing structure of civilization sometimes became a death trap.

That could be what also distinguishes early bicameral mentality from late bicameral mentality. The earliest structures were apparently ritual sites that were visited, not places of settlements. And even the first settlements were typically temporary affairs. It took many millennia for permanent settlements to have become more common, as large populations became dependent on agricultural foods. There was no turning back, in the way that was previously possible with small city-states that regularly dissolved back to herder and forager tribes.

Maybe what we mean by Jaynesian consciousness is simply civilization finally hitting a tipping point, the ending of the transitional phase of bicameral mentality. The pre-agricultural practices and cultures had finally and fully been forgotten from living memory or somehow no longer valid and applicable to altered conditions. When the Bronze Age collapse happened, this was a crisis since there was no other option remaining, no option of a return to animistic mentality. Large urban and farming populations can’t easily transition back to tribes of any sort.

That was a period of catastrophe, as the great empires fell like dominoes when hit by a series of natural disasters (volcanoes, earthquakes, tidal waves, wildfires, climatic changes, etc) that led to famines, refugees, and marauders. Vast numbers were suddenly forced out of their settled, stable, and secure lifestyles. What little they brought with them were containers of goods. It was the one structure they could rely on when all other structures had been destroyed, lost, or left behind. It was an obvious step for the container metaphor to become psychologically potent.

Self-containment was something entirely new, but it was built on the psychic structures of the prior age. It meant the final and complete suppression of the animistic mentality as a social order. Yes, the bicameral-minded social order, as a transitional phase, was over; albeit the animistic mentality could never be completely eliminated, however suppressed and distorted it became. This is maybe why some associate modern authoritarianism with a return of the repressed bicameral-minded impulses with its late stage authoritarianism: stratified hierarchies, centralized power, expansionary imperialism, standing armies, long-distance warfare, brutal oppression, genocidal slaughter, mass enslavement, written laws, court systems, moralistic norms, etc.

We were thinking about this in reading an interview with Brian J. McVeigh, a student of Julian Jaynes, in the collection recently put out, Conversations on Consciousness and the Bicameral Mind edited by Marcel Kuijsten. He was talking of the need to increase self-control to stabilize and optimize consciousness. We’ve come across him talking similarly in an earlier talk he had with Jaynes, from Discussions with Julian Jaynes. That meeting with Jaynes took place on June 5, 1991. So, this is a longstanding view of McVeigh, going back more than three decades, spanning his entire professional career, since that was the same year he got his doctorate.

This commitment to a control-orientation was probably something he picked up from Jaynes himself, as the two seemed in agreement. That perspective is understandable. As a society, we’ve become committed to Jaynesian consciousness. Our entire society is ordered in terms of it and so, at this point, it might be pathway dependence. The only way might seem to be forward. But one might wonder if there is an inherent contradiction to Jaynesian consciousness, as happened before with bicameral mentality, an intrinsic and irresolvable conflict that will worsen over time until it becomes an existential crisis.

The success of Jaynesian consciousness might end up being its doom, specifically as complexity leads to stress, anxiety, and trauma that would elicit increasing threat responses. To contain means to control, initially at a communal level, and that is precisely what predisposed bicameral mentality over time to worsening authoritarianism. That then made empires possible, if empires ultimately can’t operate according to bicameral mentality. It was an impossible situation that made collapse near inevitable.

Out of the wreckage, Jaynesian consciousness created a new order of control, but it came at a high price. Over the millennia, civilization has been on a boom and bust cycle with some of the busts being doozies. So, what if we are in a similar situation or else will get to that situation sometime in the future? We think of self-containment as self-control in making autonomy and independence possible. But maybe this is more of a perception than a reality. Only the controlled would imagine freedom as yet more control.

As a side note, the etymology of ‘freedom’ originated among German tribes, probably when they still were animistic. This word is cognate with ‘friend’. To be free, in this sense, meant to belong to a free people, uncontrolled and uncontained for the identity was shared and not enforced. It’s all about relationship, not individualism. So far, humans have never found a way to have individualism without authoritarianism for individuals act individually and hence need to be controlled for social order, collective action, and public good. This is made clear in how Germanic ‘freedom’ is opposite of Latin ‘liberty’ that, under the Roman Empire, simply meant not being being legally enslaved in a slave-based society.

This is the reason Southern slaveholders fought for liberty, not for freedom. They could make statements like, “Give me liberty, or give me death!” Liberty only applied to those who owned themselves. Then again, all the way back at least to the Stoics, there was the beginning of a concept of self-ownership that even slaves could claim, as no one else could own one’s soul. This sense of individualism was in compliance with authoritarianism, as the liberty of self-identity didn’t require liberty of the body. This remains true with modern wage slavery. Unlike animistic and egalitarian tribes, modern humans have little freedom to do what they will, as we live under the constant threat of hunger and homelessness if we don’t comply with and submit to the system of control.

Do we really control ourselves at all? Benjamin Libet’s research would indicate otherwise, as we apparently only become conscious of our actions after they are initiated. Control is a narrative that we tell ourselves for comfort. Self-ownership of the propertied self, what a strange thing — as if the individual could be removed from the public sector and made into a private corporation. We know that the self can never be made into an actual object separate from enmeshment in the world and relationships. Yet self-ownership clothed in the Burkean moral imagination is ideological realism at the highest level. It’s so compelling, a hypnotic trance.

But one might suspect it’s a cognitive trap, a dead end. Isn’t this a metaphorical internalization and ideological interpellation where the ego-self is made into a tyrant and slaveholder of the psychic realm, a demiurgic and archonic overlord? It seems to be an odd self-enforced authoritarianism, where one part of the psyche comes to rule over the rest; or else merely made to appear so, in acting as a puppet dictator who rationalizes the forces actually outside of his control. Exactly who is owning and controlling? Who is being owned and controlled?

Is inner authoritarianism an improvement over external authoritarianism? Or are they mirroring each other? Aren’t they ultimately of the same cloth? Is this why so many authoritarian regimes, from the Nazis to the Stalinists, rhetorically praised the individual soldier, worker, etc? Is there ever the light of individualism without the shadow of authoritarianism? How is one free when inside a container one cannot get out of? If we truly seek freedom, we might want to consider a new metaphor, and that would require new structures from which to form new identities. But it’s unclear, at this point, that we are capable of transformation without collapse.

* * *

As an additional thought, we have doubts that Jaynes’ emphasis on metaphor is sufficient. That is the point of why we pontificate on actual structures. All metaphors begin in the physical world. But we are still left with explaining why some structures become common metaphors and why some common metaphors become internalized. To this extent, we were building upon Jaynes’ own theorizing. And we could refer back to other thoughts we’ve had along these lines. It’s not only that structures of buildings and containers potentially shape the psyche. The most major factor might be how a key component of the civilizational project is the reshaping of the landscape, particularly in light of how central landscape has always been, such as with the earliest mnemonic systems of oral cultures.

This brings us to agriculture, as control of the earth itself (Enclosure of the Mind). But that is not how it began, in the earliest glimmers of the agricultural revolution. Even many millennia later into the post-bicameral dark age, agriculture remained a rough and primitive endeavor. The cultivation of grains, at the time, wouldn’t necessarily have looked much different from wild grasslands. It took the Axial Age to bring on systematization of farmland and farming practice (e.g., weed and ergot control) that would eventually make possible large and dependable surplus yields. Land reform, during modernity, took this to the next level. Every aspect of the landscape fell under greater control, from the plutocratic enclosure movement to technocratic land and water management. Nothing was left to remain uncontained and uncontrolled. Even ‘wilderness’ was to be carefully managed as part of bureaucratic park systems and national territories.

As external control has increased, so have the demands of internal self-control. Authoritarianism is ever more introjected. We can’t escape the oppression because it’s infected us, to such an extent we’ve become identified with the parasite. We can’t imagine anything else because our imagination is also contained, in having spent our entire lives within contained landscapes, especially with mass urbanization and city planning. It is near perfect epistemic closure; an all-encompassing ideological realism; a totalitarian interpellation. For all that tells us about our predicament, it’s still left to be determined what made it all possible, what motivated it in the first place, and what continually compelled humanity across millennia. The rarely discussed component is not just agriculture as a system and social order but what it produced.

This is seen right from the beginning of agriculture when the state of health plummeted, under the pressure of malnutrition and pestilence. The complete alteration of the human diet with farming, in particular, was one of the most profound changes humanity has ever experienced, maybe only equal to the megafauna die-off that immediately preceded it in causing the initial loss of nutrient density that turned humanity toward increased intake of plant foods. But it wasn’t only what was lost. In grains and dairy, there were no substances that had not previously been a central part of what humans ate. Some of these substances appear to be addictive, along with affecting neurocognitive development (The Agricultural Mind). On top of that, it was what was being replaced

Taurine is a common, if often unrecognized, deficiency.

Taurine is not technically an essential nutrient, but many argue it should be labeled as such (see Harry Serpanos). It’s not unusual for people, specifically as they age, to not endogenously produce enough. As an osmolyte, taurine is one of the master regulator’s of the body. The health problems caused by deficiency of it are numerous because the purposes it serves are numerous.

One of the main areas taurine is involved in is digestion. It ensures proper pH levels for protein digestion, proper bile availability for fat digestion, and such. Another main areas is in homeostatically maintaining mineral levels, from iron to the electrolytes (sodium, potassium, and magnesium); as related to it also regulating fluids.

The last function helps explain part of what has gone wrong on the Standard American Diet (SAD). When carbohydrate intake is high, insulin is constantly being spiked. This causes fluid retention and hence excess electrolytes. This is why it’s generally recommended to lower sodium intake, as it increases blood pressure.

However, this is only a problem on a high-carb diet. Go to the opposite extreme of a keto diet, there is the opposite extreme of a problem. Without constant insulin response, the body excretes unnecessary water from the cells. That would be fine by itself, but it ends up also excreting the electrolytes in the process.

Keto dieters don’t have to worry about high blood pressure, even if they were heavily salting their food. The body will simply keep on eliminating it. The issue with that is something else entirely. Low electrolyte levels can cause havoc in the body: cramps, tiredness, hormonal imbalances, blood clotting impairment, etc.

Of course, this is simple to solve. Many people in regular ketosis just supplement electrolytes and then they feel perfectly fine. But why do they need to supplement? Hunter-gatherers don’t supplement. The thing is the official keto diet, as originally used for medical purposes, restricts protein for concern of gluconeogenesis (i.e., conversion to glucose; the reason one doesn’t need to eat carbs).

It is true that a large bolus of protein — as a large meal of meat, fish eggs, soy, seitan, etc — will boost insulin and knock one out of ketosis. It only does this briefly, as opposed to what happens on a high-carb diet, but those seeking ketosis for health reasons want to maintain it constantly. There are medical conditions, such as epileptic seizures, where this is necessary.

For most people, though, they don’t need to be in constant ketosis. Restricting protein inevitably means restricting taurine in the diet. That potentially can make it harder for the body even to make use of the protein that is consumed, which can cause one to not get enough anabolic growth, repair, and healing; such as not being able to build muscle.

Such a problem isn’t limited to keto dieters, of course. The average American only gets around 12% of their calories from protein, as opposed to something like 40% of calories from seed oils, the latter being bane of the alternative diet world. We’ve been told by health experts to reduce meat intake and most Americans have complied. So, down goes taurine levels in the general public.

There are still other complications for why taurine can be hard to get, despite theoretically being so plentiful in certain animal foods. First off, the highest sources of taurine is seafood, not something most Americans eat all the time. Even American beef consumption dropped quite a bit over the past century, if recently there has been a slight uptick.

Though ruminant meat is the second great source of taurine, there are two factors that can reduce the content in the meat that ends up on plates and between buns. Taurine is found in the liquid. Beef is often hung in a storage locker for months, sometimes a year and a half. This is the tender aged beef that we prefer, as we evolved to be scavengers.

As such, most of the meat we buy has already lost it’s supply of taurine before we even get it home. Then we are likely to overcook it and hence even more of the taurine-filled juices drip away. Few people catch the juices and consume them. That is easy to do with a slow-cooker, and you will notice the tremendous amount of liquid that sometimes comes out.

If one is to grill a steak, make sure to sear it at high temperatures on both sides. That will seal in the juices. Hamburgers are more problematic. The beef could’ve been ground much earlier and there is nothing to hold in the taurine. One solution is, if you have a butcher nearby, have them freshly grind up beef when you need it.

This knowledge is typically moot on a traditional diet, in particular among hunter-gatherers, since taurine is found in animal foods. They possibly are getting plenty of fish or at least plenty of fresh meat, often from ruminants. Dairy and eggs also have a fair amount of taurine, if not as high.

A related topic is the sodium issue for different populations. On a taurine-rich and/or low-carb diet, over-salting one’s food is a non-issue. Nonetheless, it’s interesting that, when looking at hunter-gatherers like the Hadza, it appears they don’t use salt (Ancestry Foundation, L. Amber O’hearn – Blood, sweat, and tears: how much salt do we really need? (AHS22)). The thing is there actually are plenty of minerals, including sodium, in animal foods.

If taurine is sufficient, as would be the case for the Hadza and others, the body will hold onto what minerals it gets. With homoeostatic regulation, there will be no problem of excess sodium nor deficient electrolytes. Just eat fish and fresh meat. Then you probably will be fine in this area of health.

There are additional explanations for why this is the case. There are two things the body needs extra salt for. One is to balance out potassium. And the other is to eliminate toxins. Both potassium and toxins are more often found in plant foods. Hunter-gatherers solve this problem by prioritizing animal foods, when possible.

Hunter-gatherers can seem amazing in how they have managed to solve health problems like this with no scientific knowledge. That is because they didn’t actually solve the problem. They simply prevented it in the first place by eating as hominids have done for millions of years.

Yet to the modern perspective, it sometimes can seem amazing. It’s not only that hunter-gatherers seemingly don’t bother much with salt. The nutritionist Mary Ruddick, in talks with Harry Serpanos, discussed her time spent with the Hadza. She observed they drank very little water.

On persistence hunts lasting hours in the heat of the midday, they’d carry no water and would not stop for water. They wouldn’t even take a break to get some honey from the hives they kept passing. All they wanted was the meat. Serpanos noted, in another video, that Inuit will drink the taurine-filled fluids from a fresh kill.

Those fluids, of course, contain water. And the taurine would help with maintaining low levels of thirst in keeping everything in balance. But also the blood would be low in deuterium, as the animals already eliminated it. The more deuterium one gets the more one needs water to eliminate the deuterium (see Harry Serpanos). That means less thirst and less need for water.

Serpanos suggested that this is why the Hadza will expend such effort in digging up, cooking, and chewing on tough, fibrous wild tubers that lack much in the way of nutrition, not even carbs. What they might be seeking is the deuterium-depleted water that is made available. This might be the same reason they’ll suck on certain kinds of leaves.

For all these reasons, hunter-gatherers could accomplish physical feats that seem impossible to an outside observer. Consider the Apache, on foot, who could outpace the United States cavalry while carrying no water or food, sometimes while crossing deserts and dry grasslands. Part of this is from being in ketosis that burns body fat for energy. Ketones are a superfuel.

The other thing is that the body will produce metabolic water from burning fat as well. And guess what? Metabolic water is deuterium-depleted. So, on a diet that is very low-carb or includes plenty of fasting, humans will be fat-adapted in allowing easy access to energy and water as needed, just as long as the body has a fat reserve.

Also, as long as the diet is animal-based, the necessary minerals such as electrolytes will be maintained. Unlike a modern athlete guzzling carbs non-stop, the hunter-gatherer can easily go on for hours with no intake of food or water, much less carbs. It’s simply not necessary. Humans were evolved for persistence hunting and for going long periods in between meals (Human Adaptability and Health).

The moral of the story: Eat a species-appropriate diet. Or else make sure to carefully supplement and hope for the best.

Beating the Bounds

It was the holidays. Family was gathered. They were clumped together in small groups in adjoining rooms. Where the father stood with his eldest son in the kitchen, the view was open into the main areas of the upstairs. The rest of the family milled about or were seated, many of them in conversations that overlapped across the open space. The mood was appropriately festive.

Everything seemed fine. There was laughter and smiles. Looking into the living room, the father saw his young granddaughter using pens and markers to draw a picture. The paper was sitting on an expensive ornamental rug. Having warned about this previously, he made a critical comment to his son, the father of the girl. That is how it began. The son didn’t respond, but the daughter-in-law did.

The daughter-in-law, who always heard everything anyone else said, typically became defensive of her daughter. The father, who usually avoided confrontation, didn’t back off this time. It wasn’t long before she was yelling. The granddaughter, sitting on the floor at her mother’s feet, was apparently oblivious to all that was happening; or else used to ignoring her mother’s tirades.

The child’s appearance of equanimity would not last long. The mother was now fuming mad. Glaring at her father-in-law, she grabbed her daughter by the wrist, yanked her up, and screamed, “You’re traumatizing her!” The girl, indeed, began crying. If she was not traumatized then, she would over her childhood learn to be traumatized. It was an important lesson to be internalized. It was a rite of passage into adulthood.

As the child’s head is hit at each boundary marker in the feudal custom of beating the bounds, egoic individuality also has to be imprinted through pain and suffering, abuse and fear. The most important point is not only that the boundaries of self must not be forgotten but that they must be associated with the earliest experiences of being hurt by those who are supposed to protect and care for the child.

Self-consciousness is defined by betrayal. The first demarcation to be established between self and other is the separation between child and mother. Then the child too can become an individual, if at first with the help of a favorite blankie or teddy bear. Then the proper social order will be ensured, the social order where everyone is alone, even when together. The greatest threat to society is the child who grows up never learning this. But this child did learn.

Now the holidays can continue. The incident will slip away, just something that happened. To keep the peace, a covenant of silence will seal the shared memory. Later in life, the child won’t recall what happened and no one will tell her about it. All she will have is a gnawing sense of anxiety, of mistrust. To help her fit into this society of other damaged individuals, she will go to therapy, take her meds, and keep her head down. Buried in the unconscious, a child still sits on the rug lost in drawing.

Literalist Fundamentalism Requires Murdering Children

“As the stag pants after the waterbrooks, So pants my mind after you, O gods! My mind thirsts for gods! for living gods! When shall I come face to face with gods?”
~ Psalm 42

From the perspective of egoic individualism, what Julian Jaynes simply referred to as ‘consciousness’, there is a sense of loss and longing for the archaic authorization of the voices and visions from gods, spirits, and ancestors. But there is simultaneously a fear and denial of this archaic authorization that can undermine and usurp the walled position defended as the demiurgic ego’s domain.

The takeover of Jaynesian consciousness didn’t happen naturally, easily, and quickly. It was a slow process of suppressing and eliminating the voice-hearing bicameral mind, including the regular killing and sometimes wholesale slaughter of the remaining bicameral humans. This is attested to in the Old Testament where even voice-hearing children were not to be spared by their own parents who were commanded to murder them.

“And it shall come to pass, that when any shall yet prophesy, then his father and his mother that begat him shall say unto him, Thou shalt not live; for thou speakest lies in the name of the Lord: and his father and his mother that begat him shall thrust him through when he prophesieth.”
~ Zechariah 13;3

* * *

There is a present and practical implication to these thoughts. Literalist fundies like to claim they follow all of the Bible without any personal interpretation or cultural bias, treating it as the actual voice of God whose meaning and intention are simply known to the Elect of God’s People. But that is obviously bull shit. Our grandfather, a minister, stated that anyone could find a Biblical verse to support anything they wanted to believe. Such self-serving delusion does not make one a good Christian.

The stories, histories, traditions, teachings, moralities, commandments, laws, etc accumulated from dozens of separate cultures and populations before finally being written down in the Tanakh during the Axial Age. There is no consistent and coherent theology that can be found, as the monotheist authoritarian priestly class that wrote it down was drawing upon the prior paganism, polytheism, and henotheism; the traces of which remain in the texts they recorded and rewrote, edited and interpolated.

One would literally be insane, dangerous, and criminal if attempting to apply everything in the Bible to modern life and society. The Tanakh is a holy text not only to the Jews but also to Christians, Muslims, and Bahai. Could you imagine all of the monotheistic fundies all over the world suddenly doing every batshit thing the Old Testament commanded, even killing their own children when they claimed to hear voices, even the voice of God?

Then there is the additional problem that so much of what is in the New Testament contradicts and opposes what is found in the Old Testament. In fact, that is why the New Testament canon was created by Marcion, specifically to show and prove that the loving God of Jesus was not and could not be the same as the bloodthirsty, tyrannical, and demiurgic Yahweh. Jesus’ teachings and example are dramatically different from everything that came before in the Jewish tradition.

In challenging the commandment to execute wrongdoers, Jesus confronted the righteous Jews ready to stone someone to death by saying that anyone without sin could cast the first stone. Yet no where in the Old Testament does it ever state or suggest that being free of all sin is a requirement for punishing other sinners. For Jesus to say that was a complete defiance and overturning of Jewish tradition, law, and practice.

Indeed, that was the whole point. Jesus stated in no uncertain terms that he came to fulfill the law, that is to say the old laws no longer applied — not abolished but simply irrelevant and moot, no longer applicable. He brought a new revelation, not anti-authoritarian revolt that reacts against the old but non-authoritarian love that manifests the radically new. Love was all that one needed to understand, as it always had been the one and only truth, so claimed Jesus.

Based on everything we know from the Gospels, Jesus would’ve condemned any parent who murdered or attempted to murder their child for hearing voices. When he was brought to a man possessed by demons, he didn’t declare the man must be punished, banished, or killed. No, instead, he healed the man of what was possessing him. Anyone who believes that they should fully and literally follow the Old Testament, even to the point of murdering children, whatever they might be they for certain are not a Christian or at least not a follower of Jesus.

* * *

As supposedly described by the Hebrew prophet Zechariah and, below that, as explained by Julian Jaynes:

King James Bible
Zechariah 13

1 In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness.

2 And it shall come to pass in that day, saith the Lord of hosts, that I will cut off the names of the idols out of the land, and they shall no more be remembered: and also I will cause the prophets and the unclean spirit to pass out of the land.

3 And it shall come to pass, that when any shall yet prophesy, then his father and his mother that begat him shall say unto him, Thou shalt not live; for thou speakest lies in the name of the Lord: and his father and his mother that begat him shall thrust him through when he prophesieth.

4 And it shall come to pass in that day, that the prophets shall be ashamed every one of his vision, when he hath prophesied; neither shall they wear a rough garment to deceive:

5 But he shall say, I am no prophet, I am an husbandman; for man taught me to keep cattle from my youth.

6 And one shall say unto him, What are these wounds in thine hands? Then he shall answer, Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends.

7 Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, and against the man that is my fellow, saith the Lord of hosts: smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered: and I will turn mine hand upon the little ones.

8 And it shall come to pass, that in all the land, saith the Lord, two parts therein shall be cut off and die; but the third shall be left therein.

9 And I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried: they shall call on my name, and I will hear them: I will say, It is my people: and they shall say, The Lord is my God.

The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind
by Julian Jaynes
pp. 310-312

A further vestige from the bicameral era is the word ob, often translated as a “familiar spirit.” “A man also or woman that have an ob . . . shall surely be put to death,” says Leviticus (20:27). And similarly Saul drives out from Israel all those that had an ob (I Samuel 28:3). Even though an ob is something that one consults with (Deuteronomy, 18:11), it probably had no physical embodiment. It is always bracketed with wizards or witches, and thus probably refers to some bicameral voice that was not recognized by the Old Testament writers as religious. This word has so puzzled translators that when they found it in Job 32:19, they translated it absurdly as “bottle,” when clearly the context is that of the young frustrated Elihu, who feels as if he had a bicameral voice about to burst forth into impatient speech like an overfull wineskin.

The Last of the Nabiim

We began this chapter with a consideration of the refugee situation in the Near East around the latter part of the second millennium B.C., and of the roving tribes uprooted from their lands by various catastrophes, some of them certainly bicameral and unable to move toward subjective consciousness. Probably in the editing of the historical books of the Old Testament, and the fitting of it together into one story in the sixth or fifth century B.C., a great deal has been suppressed. And among such items of information that we would like is a clear account of what happened to these last communities of bicameral men. Here and there through the Old Testament, they appear like sudden glimpses of a strange other world during these periods which historians have paid too little attention to.

Groups of bicameral men certainly persisted until the downfall of the Judean monarchy, but whether in association with other tribes or with any organization to their hallucinated voices in the form of gods, we don’t know. They are often referred to as the “sons of nabiim,” indicating that there was probably a strong genetic basis for this type of remaining bicamerality. It is, I think, the same genetic basis that remains with us as part of the etiology of schizophrenia.

Edgy kings consulted them. Ahab, king of Israel in 835 B.C., rounded up 400 of them like cattle to listen to their hue and clamor (I Kings 22:6). Later, in all his robes, he and the king of Judah sit on thrones just outside the gates of Samaria, and have hundreds of these poor bicameral men herded up to them, raving and copying each other even as schizophrenics in a back ward (I Kings 22:10).

What happened to them? From time to time, they were hunted down and exterminated like unwanted animals. Such a massacre in the ninth century B.C. seems to be referred to in I Kings 18:4, where out of some unknown, much larger number, Obadiah took a hundred nabiim and hid them in caves, and brought them bread and water until the massacre was over. Another such massacre is organized by Elijah a few years later (I Kings 18:40).

We hear no more of these bicameral groups thereafter. What remained for a few centuries more are the individual nabiim, men whose voices do not need the group support of other hallucinating men, men who can be partly subjective and yet still hear the bicameral voice. These are the famous nabiim whose bicameral messages we have already selectively touched upon: Amos, the gatherer of sycamore fruit, Jeremiah, staggering under his yoke from village to village, Ezekiel with his visions of lofty thrones on wheels moving through the clouds, the several nabiim whose religious agonies are ascribed to Isaiah. These of course merely represent the handful of that much larger number whose bicameral voices seemed to be most consistent with Deuteronomy. And then the voices are as a rule no longer actually heard.

In their place is the considered subjective thought of moral teachers. Men still dreamed visions and heard dark speech per-haps. But Ecclesiastes and Ezra seek wisdom, not a god. They study the law. They do not roam out into the wilderness “inquiring of Yahweh.” By 400 B.C., bicameral prophecy is dead. “The nabiim shall be ashamed everyone of his visions.” If parents catch their children naba-ing or in dialogue with bicameral voices, they are to kill them on the spot (Zechariah 13, 3-4).That is a severe injunction. If it was carried out, it is an evolutionary selection which helped move the gene pool of humanity toward subjectivity.

Reactionaries Seeking Reaction

The reactionary mind, to a large degree, is simply another way of speaking of conservatism; at least in Anglo-American society. That is separate from speaking of this being a reactionary age. Anyone can be pulled into reaction, but not everyone gets stuck in reaction. It’s the latter that is what it means to be a reactionary as an identity, rather than a passing state.

Yet we can narrow it down further. The most reactionary of reactionaries help us to understand what exactly is the modus operandi of the reactionary mind. As the name suggests, a reactionary is one who easily reacts and so is constantly in a reactive pose. This coincides, of course, with regressive politics; but it’s important to remember that reactionaries aren’t ideologically consistent.

It all depends on what they are reacting to. They don’t define themselves but are defined by their reaction. They are the shadow of liberalism, progressivism, and leftism; not to mention the denial and suppression of all that is traditional. There is no ultimate substance to the reactionary mind, much less a principled position. Like chameleons, they change with conditions.

Even that doesn’t fully get at what is going on. It’s not only that they react to anything and everything. That reaction is both their mindset and their entire worldview. They only understand reaction and so they also want to elicit reaction in others. They try to instigate reaction in general, to create a total shit-fest of reaction, because that pulls others into reaction where the reactionaries have the advantage.

Conservatives, on average, are more likely to be misinformed and spread misinformation; as compared to liberals. Yet it is not found evenly across all conservatives. There is a specific sub-type of conservative with a need for chaos. This is the reactionary extreme that is the most likely, in particular, to share fake news; along with a motivation to spread hostile political rumors and support negative behaviors toward politicians. They know it’s fake. That is the whole point. It is intentional disinformation, but not necessarily as propaganda.

The causal distinction appears to be conscientiousness. Those sharing fake news tend to be low in conscientiousness, a direct correlate to the need for chaos. But high conscientious conservatives are no more prone to this behavior than liberals. Interestingly, liberals in general are lower in conscientiousness and yet their liberal-mindedness seems to offer a protection against this reactionary behavior. Liberals, whether low or high conscientiousness, were not more likely to share fake news.

So, the defining feature of the reactionary mind is both their own reaction and the seeking of reaction in others. This goes to the old saying about wrestling with a pig. Both of you will get muddy, but only the pig will be happy. In the end, reactionaries are like the disobedient little boy who has come to believe that any attention is good attention. Maybe they didn’t get enough love as children.

* * *

All that said, these chaos-loving conservatives are a bit perplexing, in making sense what is the reactionary mind. Conservatives, on average, have higher measures of conscientiousness. So, what does it mean for a conservative to be low conscientiousness? Conscientiousness is what makes conservatives love social order, what makes them good, submissive, and obedient workers, religious adherents, Nazis, etc. This relates to the conservative-minded need for closure, which in turn makes one “prone to embrace competitive conflict schemas” (Margarita Krochik & John T. Jost, Ideological Conflict and Polarization: A Social Psychological Perspective).

High conscientiousness not only predicts conservatism but also authoritarianism (Eric W. Dolan, Personality traits predict authoritarian tendencies, study finds). Both are also linked to extraversion and agreeableness, with the one trait they diverge on is neuroticism. In some ways, an authoritarianism is just the extreme expression of a social conservatism under stress; and one might expect that neuroticism rates increase with conservatives when under stress. For an example of stress, pathogen exposure and parasite load are correlated to both authoritarianism and social conservatism, probably mediated by the disgust response.

If it’s true that stress might increase neuroticism, it might also suppress conscientiousness and so unleash a need for chaos; or what from a liberal perspective seems like chaos. Social conservatives are people who are vulnerable to stress and so easily overwhelmed by it. But under less stressful conditions, they are able to manage stress and actually have a great talent for doing so. Their need for order, control, and predictability serves this purpose; up to the point it stops working. Potential authoritarianism as personality can quickly become manifest authoritarianism as behavior, as political action, power, and oppression.

Under chronic stress, everyone can have greater psychological reaction, social dysfunction, aggression, divisiveness, fantasy-proneness, magical thinking, odd beliefs, paranoia, xenophobia, stereotypical-mindedness, and mentally illness. The strongest form of this that can really mess up a society is high inequality that induces collective madness (Keith Payne, The Broken Ladder). But simpler factors can have an affect, even if only temporarily. Get liberals somewhat inebriated and, with their neurocognitive functioning compromised, they’ll fall back on speaking in the kinds of stereotypical thinking that is more common among conservatives.

The need for chaos is linked to social dominance orientation (SDO) and dark personality (psychopathy, narcissism, Machiavellianism, sadism). And all of these certainly increase with severe and chronic stress, particularly high inequality. That is what we’ve been seeing in recent years, although the conditions have been worsening for decades. It’s been gasoline and a match throw on dry grass during a drought.

There also would be a strong resonance between the need for chaos and conspiracy-mindedness. This isn’t only a general mistrust and suspiciousness (Beth Ellwood, People with a higher conspiracy mentality have a general tendency to judge others as untrustworthy; Marius Frenken & Roland Imhoff, Don’t trust anybody: Conspiracy mentality and the detection of facial trustworthiness cues) but also a tendency to act conspiratorially (Karen M. Douglas & Robbie M. Sutton, Does it take one to know one? Endorsement of conspiracy theories is influenced by personal willingness to conspire). Those who are untrustworthy project onto others, in assuming everyone is like themselves.

And all of that has everything to do with dark personality and SDO (Evita March & Jordan Springer, Belief in conspiracy theories: The predictive role of schizotypy, Machiavellianism, and primary psychopathy; Beth Ellwood, Machiavellian and psychopathic personality traits linked to belief in conspiracy theories). It is all mixed up. These are all the various derangements of the mind that crop up in a deranged society.

Like those spreading fake news having lower conscientiousness, those spreading conspiracy theories tend to be lower in agreeableness (Tim Christie, Study: Disagreeable people more prone to conspiracy theories). It’s the socially conservative mind switching to its reactionary dark mode, as defensive posture against perceived extreme uncertainty and potential threat. The willingness to share fake news might be caused by a total breakdown of reality discernment, specifically trust in authorities to discern reality. That makes perceived reality a free-for-all where every claim is equally plausible and it simply becomes a matter of confirmation bias.

What is fascinating is that the need for chaos is a corollary to the need for order. To the conservative mind, the only two options are order or chaos. It’s a black-and-white mentality. What conservatives fear more than anything is the breakdown of social order as, to their mind, it’s a breakdown of moral order. It’s an existential crisis of their very sense of reality, their sense of meaning. When desperate enough, they will do anything to reaffirm meaning, even if it’s invoking chaos. It’s related to the conservative proneness to fantasizing about violence, particularly redemptive violence; from overthrowing the government to hoping for the End Times (Violent Fantasy of Reactionary Intellectuals).

Some have theorized that totalitarianism, what generally means authoritarianism, is caused by social isolation, loneliness, and anomie. These are common features of modern society with mass urbanization and industrialization, as exacerbated by high inequality and as results in social breakdown. Loneliness, by the way, is a predictor of the need for chaos (Camara Burleson, Need for Chaos and Predicting Radical Behavior in a Political Setting). Such conditions increase social conservatism in the population, even on the ‘left’, and this pushes social conservatism to extremes. Liberal-mindedness simply can’t function well when the conditions of health disappear.

* * *

Don’t Cry for QAnon
by Daniel Cubias

Chaos Theory
by Amanada Darrach

The “Need for Chaos” and Motivations to Share Hostile Political Rumors
by Michael Bang Petersen, Mathias Osmundsen, & Kevin Arceneaux

Personality Type, as well as Politics, Predicts Who Shares Fake News
by Asher Lawson & Hemant Kakkar

Study finds conservatives with a need for chaos are more likely to share fake news
by Eric W. Dolan

Of Pandemics, Politics, and Personality: The Role of Conscientiousness and Political Ideology in Sharing of Fake News
by M. Asher Lawson & Hemant Kakkar

Low Conscientiousness Conservatives and the Desire for Chaos We further contend that behavior of low conscientiousness conservatives is motivated not only by vehemently promoting the interests of their group, but also by denigrating other rival groups. Such a staunch inclination to elevate one’s group at the expense of other political outgroups is an act of negative partisanship — a reality that has become increasingly common due to the exponential rise of intense political polarization since the start of the 21st Century (Abramowitz & Webster, 2016; Van den Bos et al., 2007; Westwood et al., 2018). As
conservatives generally score higher on social dominance orientation – a set of beliefs that acknowledges and supports hierarchical differences in society (Kugler et al., 2014) – they may be more likely to criticize other groups to defend their own (Jost et al., 2003). Conservatives in comparison to liberals are also more vigilant in perceiving social threats to their group (van Leeuwen & Park, 2009), which can further increase their tendency to actively denounce other groups and outgroup members. This desire to promote the status of one’s group at the expense of other groups and outgroup members can lead to a generally hostile mindset, labelled a “need for chaos” (Arceneaux et al., 2021). The need for chaos is described as a drive to disrupt and destroy the existing order or established institutions in an attempt to secure the superiority of one’s own group over others. Such a mindset is especially salient when dominance-oriented individuals feel they are being marginalized and rejected by the broader cultural environment (Arceneaux et al., 2021; Krizan & Johar, 2015; Twenge & Campbell, 2003).

Given the lack of orderliness, diligence, and self-control associated with low conscientiousness individuals, coupled with the high social dominance orientation and group loyalty among conservatives, we contend that low conscientiousness conservatives will be more likely to entertain beliefs and engage in behaviors that seek to cause chaos, as a means to defend their group. Indeed, existing research has shown that people are more willing to believe and share outlandish conspiracy theories when it helps them to achieve a positive image of their group, its dominance, and its existence (Douglas et al., 2019; Roberts et al., 2009). Likewise, the desire to cause chaos also leads to less support for outgroups such as immigrants, and a greater desire to increase one’s social status and alter the current power structure, especially when political polarization is rampant (Arceneaux et al., 2021; Van Bavel & Pereira, 2018). Consequently, we predict that the interaction effect of conservative political ideology and conscientiousness on sharing of fake news will be mediated by this desire for chaos.

Furthermore, recent research has highlighted that the dissemination of fake news is largely driven by people’s inattention to accuracy. Once accuracy beliefs are primed either implicitly or explicitly, individuals are relatively more judicious when it comes to the sharing of fake news (Pennycook, McPhetres, Zhang, & Rand, 2020; Pennycook et al., 2021). However, our proposed effect, where low conscientiousness conservatives share fake news due to an elevated desire for chaos, is indicative of a motivated process. Specifically, when low conscientiousness conservatives perceive fake news as a means of furthering their social goals (Douglas et al., 2017) and sowing seeds of destruction (Arceneaux et al., 2021), the accuracy of news stories should play a smaller role in determining their intentions to share such stories. In other words, people who pursue general destruction to defend their ingroup should indicate higher subjective assessments of the accuracy of fake news, as long as it serves the agenda of their group, which in turn will predict the sharing of such news. Thus, when motivated to believe false information as accurate, priming individuals with accuracy beliefs might not be enough to deter the spread of misinformation. Rather, such motivated individuals will perceive false news as subjectively more accurate and hence share falsehoods at a higher rate regardless of accuracy
primes.

The Un-Silent Generation

It’s funny that one of the oldest living, yet still quite relevant, generations is called the Silents (1928-1945). That is such an amazing misnomer when one looks at the individuals who have defined that generation. Consider the single greatest religious right mastermind in recent American politics, Paul Weyrich, who was the leading figure behind the culture wars, Moral Majority foundation, and the right-wing Shadow Network. He may not have been out in the public limelight, but he was never silent and his voice carried in the halls of power. Still other Silents like the plutocrats Rupert Murdoch and Charles Koch continue to have an outsized influence over the American mind and society, as never before seen.

Yes, the Silents have often been overshadowed by the media and political narratives spun around the generations immediately preceding and following them, the Greatest Generation (or G.I. Generation) and the Boomer Generation. It’s true that the main conflict they fought in, the Korean War, never received much attention; in the way did World War II and the Vietnam War, although many Silents were among the military and political leadership during the latter. Yet even as they haven’t had one of their own elected president until Joe Biden, he is our current president and the oldest ever to assume office. Likewise, although they lost majority in Congress some years back, Silents nonetheless maintain key positions of power not only with the presidency but also with several major political elites like John Kerry, Nancy Pelosi, Anthony Fauci, and Bernie Sanders; and that is only to list the Democrats (The Dying Donkey). Both parties are held captive by the elderly.

Some Silents like Weyrich operated more in the background, but plenty were out in the open and hard to ignore, for good or ill. Far from being silent or silenced, they possibly have been the loudest generation, not to mention maybe the most powerful and influential (as many are still among the ruling elite). Also, despite being portrayed as moderate and modest, their generational cohort includes plenty who were far left radicals and far right extremists, along with some who were downright demented and dangerous. More importantly, they are the single longest ruling generation in American history, a title that is often wrongly given to Boomers. The Silents’ collective voice is still with us and regularly heard in the corporate media and coming out of Washington, D.C. That’s impressive for a demographic consisting mostly of people in their 80s and 90s.

It goes far beyond political and corporate control. Don’t forget that much of the music that defined the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s was produced not by Boomers but by Silents. They comprise some of the greatest Rock ‘n Roll legends of all time, people who back in the day disturbed their elder’s peace of mind in being a part of the soundtrack of youthful rebellion and revolt, not to mention Elvis Presley’s provocatively gyrating hips that shocked a nation — people were easily shocked in the good ol’ days. It’s similar to how many of the cultural and activist leaders of of that era, from Martin Luther King Jr. to Timothy Leary, were also of that not so silent generation. The Sixties that gets blamed on Boomers would not have happened without the so-called Silents’ widespread influence and inspiration. Many of them were radical voices of protest, critique, and demand during one of the most tumultuous periods in American history. That isn’t even to discuss the great writers and artists that came out of that generation, some of them with wild and crazy imaginations or else intellectual and psychological insight, social critique and commentary; not to mention diverse public intellectuals.

There is a diversity of Silents who were famous or infamous icons, terrorists, activists, leaders, politicians, public intellectuals, influencers, writers, musicians, artists, and stars. Besides those already mentioned, here is a small selection:

  • Che Guevara (if not American), Jim Jones, Charles Manson, Ted Kaczynski, and Sirhan Sirhan;
  • Bernie Madoff, Jack Welch, Sheldon Adelson, Colin Powell, Ross Perot, Norman Schwarzkopf, Oliver North, Bob Woodward, Jim Bakker, Dick Cheney, Newt Gingrich, Mitch McConnell, and John McCain;
  • Warren Buffett, George Soros, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Walter Mondale, Madeleine Albright, Ted Kennedy, Harry Reid, Harvey Milk, Ralph Nader, and Noam Chomsky;
  • Jack Kevorkian, Larry Flynt, Gloria Steinem, Carl Sagan, Richard Dawkins, Stephen Jay Gould, Maya Angelou, Alice Walker, Ken Kesey, Tom Wolfe, Flannery O’Connor, J. G. Ballard, Margaret Atwood, Philip K. Dick, Ursula K. Le Guin, Jim Henson, Fred Rogers, Muhammad Ali, Louis Farrakhan, and Wavy Gravy;
  • Jane Goodall, Andy Warhol, Barbara Streissand, Jane Fonda, Joan Baez, Elvis Presley, John Lennon, Jimi Hendrix, Bob Marley, Jim Morrison, Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin, Jerry Garcia, Bill Cosby, Patrick Stewart, George Takei, Barbara Walters, Joan Rivers, Jerry Springer, and Geraldo Rivera;
  • Et cetera.

Many others were born on the cusp at either side of the somewhat arbitrary generational bracket, some right at the edge and even more a few years shy — some definitions of the Silent Generation put the starting point at 1925, which would include the likes of Malcolm X and Gore Vidal. For a more recent example, if President Donald Trump had been born 6 months earlier, he would be labeled a Silent. And Hillary Clinton is just slightly over a year past the generational demarcation. Among the most represented in power are more than a few first wave Boomers who basically had the same life experience as Silents in having had grown up in the stultifying Fifties and reached adulthood before to the Sixties heated up (e.g., Hillary Clinton began her political aspirations as an Eisenhower Republican). So, combined with the Biden presidency (along with the continuing influence of Murdoch, Koch, Soros, Gingrich, Cheney, McConnell, Pelosi, Fauci, Sanders, etc), the most recent years of political rule has been largely dominated by the Silent Generation and their age adjacent peers, with the younger generations having a hard time breaking into power or gaining representation.

Rather than having been silent all these decades, one wonders when they’ll finally become silent. They are maintaining significant control during this transformative period of the Fourth Turning (Neil Howe and William Strauss), from which will follow a new generational cycle (approximately 80 years) and the establishment of the hold on the sociopolitical order, handing over the reigns of power in determining who will be their ideological heirs (e.g., in having helped to pick the present crop of Supreme Court ‘Justices’). That means they’ll have disproportionate influence in shaping society for the rest of this century. No one is against old people from having a voice, but it is a problem when they silence the youth voice. The main problem, of course, is not that they are senior citizens; rather, how reactionary that generation has become over time. For too many Silents, their position for a long time has simply been a defense of their power and the benefits they’ve accrued, at the cost and sacrifice of the rest of society.

The Ground of Our Being Touches Us

“The foot feels the foot when the foot feels the ground.”

That quote by Ernest Wood is often misattributed to the Buddha. And it does express a Buddhist-like thought. Take the notion of co-touching from the Samyukta Nikaya:

“Who touches not is not touched. Touching he is touched.”

That being “touched by touch” (Thag vs.783) is a part of dependent co-arising and the bundle theory of mind, both central tenets of Buddhism (Robert Alvarado, The Foot Feels the Foot When It Feels the Ground). The separate, autonomous, and self-willed egoic-consciousness is not fundamentally real.

Everything that exists does so not as a ‘thing’ but as a feeling, a process, a movement, and a relationship. The self or any part of the self (e.g., the foot) emerges in awareness through interaction with the experienced world and perceived other. This is the sensory and social world as the ground of our being.

One theory in social science suggests that humans develop a theory of mind about others first before internalizing it as a self concept. So, the self is the introjected other. It’s similar to Lev Vygotsky’s private speech or self-talk, as a precursor to inner speech, that is the child’s imitation of adults talking to the child (Speaking Is Hearing).

We all begin life by first talking to ourselves as an other. And we carry this into adulthood. When you talk to yourself, who are you talking to and who is doing the talking? The other forever defines us, as if if the ground were to leave a print on our foot.

To the mind, the developing mind most of all, the world around us provides affordances (James J. Gibson) for actions and other behavior (The Embodied Spider; & “…just order themselves.”). These are known more for what they make possible and allow than for what they supposedly are, their socially constructed thingness.

We never know the world except as our experience of the world, since there is no self to know or experience without the world. The world is the primal self. The self is in and of the world. There is nowhere else to be.

That is why there is no foot in and of itself within awareness, no Platonic ideal of a ‘foot’, not without the ground that affords the foot the capacity to express it’s instinctual nature of footness. If one were to be so cruel as to completely bind an infant’s foot so that it could never move, it would shrivel up into crippled paralysis with little if any sensation.

The very sense of self would be constrained and the lesser for it. To emphasize this point, consider that the infant that is not touched at all simply dies. A foot is the touch and movement of the foot in relation to the ground. We aren’t separate from the world, not outside it, but immersed in it and an extension of it.

We need touch. We are touch. We touch by being touched.

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There are two ways you can demonstrate such truths to yourself. The first method is to practice meditation and mindfulness for years, preferably under the guidance of a religious or spiritual teacher, guru, etc. That is arguably worth the effort. But it does require commitment, effort, and sacrifice; and, admittedly, most of us feel too lazy to try.

If you just want to get a small taste of it, sit or stand completely still while softly and unblinkingly gazing at an unchanging visual field (e.g., an indoor wall). Give it a minute or so and your entire vision will go blank, not even go black but simply to disappear as an experience. Sensory perception is dependent on movement and change, either in the environment or from our bodies.

There is another self-experiment one can do. The above quote about the foot feeling the ground can be taken literally. Take your shoes off and actually feel the ground. Walk around your lawn. Maybe even go for a jog, if you have somewhere nice and safe for your tender feet. Try that for a few weeks or a few months. Being barefoot is the normal state of humanity, quite likely what Ernest Wood was doing when he had the above thought.

Feel what it’s like to not have your feet bound and numbed in tight shoes, thick soles, and synthetic materials. Feel what it’s like to be electromagnetically grounded, physically connected, and sensorily in relationship to the earth. The affordance of the earth is far different than the affordance (or rather unaffordance) of modern footwear.

Each will elicit different ways of inhabiting one’s body, moving in the world, and perceiving reality; maybe even altering one’s very sense of identity. Then contemplate all the thousands of other ways we are disconnected, distracted, and numbed from direct sensory experience of the natural world. That is how the isolated self is socially constructed, supported, and maintained. These rigid boundaries of self are the defensive walls of egoic consciousness.

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It’s interesting to consider the fact that Buddhism arose in an environment where most people in the past walked around barefoot, since is its a warmer clime and industrialization took hold much more slowly. That is true of other religious traditions, like Hinduism and animism, that question or refute or simply never acknowledge the ego-self. Would the bundle theory of mind even occur in a society where everyone had worn shoes for centuries or millennia?

Even Western philosophers like David Hume who have written about the bundle theory of mind, as some argue, likely learned of it from Christian missionaries having returned from the East. These were ideas that apparently never originated in the West or, if they did, it was so long ago they were forgotten; maybe back when Europe was still tribal and animistic, back when footwear would’ve been more akin to a moccasin that doesn’t desensitize the foot.

Shoes are only needed in needed in colder regions, such as  Europe and North America; and only needed on rough ground, such as plowed fields. Maybe that is a causal or contributing factor to such a strong tradition of egoic individualism developing there. The European and American traditions of Christianity fear and disparage connection to nature. Maybe a long history of wearing shoes has predisposed people to that experience and worldview, identity and way of being.

That reminds one of the WEIRD cultural bias (Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, Democratic) that correlates to a unique profile of personality traits and social behaviors. One researcher and writer on the topic, Joseph Henrich (The WEIRDest People in the World), argues for various causes for this development in the modern West, from Catholic marriage laws to literacy rates. But maybe footwear should be added to this list.

Written laws and written texts are examples of media that are made possible by media technology (e.g., bound books and moveable type printing presses). Footwear likewise mediates our sensory experience of reality and hence footwear could be considered a media technology. It shapes not only the foot but also the foot-mind-eye axis, as a core dynamic function within the body-mind-world axis — proprioception and perception.

Besides Joseph Henrich, numerous others have theorized about mediated reality: Marshall McLuhan, E. R. Dodds, Bruno Snell, Julian Jaynes, Eric Havelock, etc. But the main focus has been on language, specifically written language. That is important in a literary culture with high rates of literacy. Nonetheless, footwear have been more central and earlier introduced to Western culture. And it’s the modern thick, bulky, and constraining shoe that has become so common over the past few centuries, in relation to our altering the environment so that such protective footwear is needed.

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This post is another ripple in a river of thought. We’ve been slowly building upon a theory about the physical aspects of social constructivism: the infrastructure and apparatuses and systems that shape and confine us, the lifeway patterns and pathway dependencies that predetermine and preclude our individual and collective behaviors, the ideological interpellation that hails us with voices of authority and authorization, the metonymic and metaphorical framings that came with changes in media technology.

This involves agricultural system, food laws, and dietary ideology; land reform as moral reform and substance control as social control. One can show an increasing shift, across recent millennia (particularly starting in the axial Age but speeding up in modernity), from non-addictive psychedelics and evolutionarily-consistent foods to addictive sedatives, stimulants, and high-carb foods (alcohol, opium, cocaine, tea, coffee, sugar cane, grains, etc).

All of these things, it can be argued, rigidified psychological and social boundaries. Yet no single factor alone would likely have made possible and probable the emergence of the post-bicameral, post-axial, and post-traditional hyper-individualistic Jaynesian egoic consciousness of the body-mind as isolated-subject and container-object. It was also the continuing development along each technological line that forced the transformation.

Footwear has been around for millennia, whereas more recent is the invention of shoes that are highly-restrictive, thick-soled, and synthetically non-conductive.  Similarly, language existed for millennia prior to writing, bound books, printing presses, e-books, email, texting, etc. Even written language operated far back in the archaic world but only in a minimalistic fashion, primarily as bureaucratic accounting, before it ever developed into literacy as we know it. There are still other tools of identity formation like transitional objects (teddy bears, pacifiers, etc) that were or are not common in premodern or non-WEIRD societies.

The development and accrual of changes formed slowly, if the results sometimes only fully erupted following a triggering point (e.g., Bronze Age collapse). Those eruptions allowed for a destabilizing or destruction of some former pathway dependencies, in order to lay down new foundations, but always using the material of what came before. Still, some pathway dependencies were so entrenched they remained; if reshaped, restructured, and repurposed (e.g., written text).

This area of study also overlaps with with issues of physical health, mental health, and public health. Specifically, there is an interesting history of how dietary systems and food laws (e.g., Christianized Galenic humoralism) were used to enforce identity, culture, and social order. There has been an ongoing change in what is eaten that during modernity has led to disease epidemics, health crises, and moral panics. The relationship between diet and identity might’ve been more well appreciated in the past.

These contemplations are also mixed up with the study of archaic and ancient societies, along with the anthropological literature on animistic tribes. This particularly focuses on the transitional period from the late Bronze Age and it’s collapse to the Axial Age and the resultant post-Axial world. During the Bronze Age, there was what Julian Jaynes called the bicameral mind, a type of bundled mind, with voice-hearing traditions. Growth of size and complexity of the Mediterranean empires in the late Bronze Age is what caused their collapse, as overwhelmed by decades of natural disasters, refugee crises, and marauders.

That is what cleared the board to make way for the Axial Age, although the changes had already begun in the Bronze Age (e.g., written laws). One of the changes that didn’t happen until the Axial Age was the systematization of agriculture where former weedy farm fields became the focus of more intensive and controlled farming. This increased dependable surplus yields and so provided more agricultural foods in the diet, but it also meant better pest control, including eliminating most of the ergot that would take over unmanaged fields.

Ergot, as a psychedelic, was inevitably consumed on a more regular basis prior to this ancient agricultural reform, often unintentionally but sometimes on purpose as part of rituals. Interestingly, coinciding with lessening it in the food supply was also the appearance of cultivars of addictive substances like opium, sugar cane, etc. In Europe, there was a ‘regression’ after the fall of the Roman Empire. Some knowledge and practice of agricultural management was forgotten, as fields returned to being weedy again. Following that was what appears to have been regular mass ergot intoxications and sometimes deadly dancing manias, what is called ergotism or St. Anthony’s Fire.

Later agricultural reforms eliminated ergot again. Yet other psychedelics persisted in European culture. Medieval church imagery often portrays fly agaric ‘magic’ mushrooms. Such imagery continued into early modernity, as seen in Christmas cards.

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Related to dietary practices and the food system, there is another connection that could be made. There were also agricultural differences between East and West. One study sought to discern agricultural differences as linked to socio-cultural and socio-cognitive differences. Yes, it’s true that Westerners grow more wheat and Easterners more rice; and it’s true that these agricultural systems require different relational patterns and practices. Wheat farming can be done by a single man with a plow, but rice farming requires numerous people working together and is more labor intensive in requiring twice as many hours of work. Furthermore, rice-growing communities have to collectively build and cooperatively maintain infrastructure (dikes and canals) for water management and irrigation.

Some have speculated that this constructs, encourages, and enforces divergent cultural identities and ways of thinking. This might be what underlies the stereotypical contrast between Eastern and Western thought. The former focuses more holistically, interdependently, and concretely on environment, background, and relationships; and the latter focuses more analytically, atomistically, and abstractly on the individual, foreground, and action. Also, descendants of rice-growers are more loyal to friends and family; while descendants of wheat-growers have more successful patents for new inventions. The thing is we don’t need to stop there with a simple hypothesis of causal link, since we can control some of the potential confounders by making a comparison within a single country, though still other confounders remained uncontrolled.

Wheat and other cereal crops (e.g., millet) are also grown in parts of Asia, specifically in northern China; while southern Chinese are rice farmers. Multiple studies have been done in comparing and contrasting the personalities, cultures, social practices, etc of these two agricultural populations. Even in the East, wheat farmers are more individualistic and rice farmers more communal. But also the same divide is seen in thinking styles with the Asian wheat farmers, as with European wheat farmers, in being more likely to use linear thought in focusing on isolated objects and subjects in the foreground while not noticing much about the overall context.

To return to the topic at hand, it might be useful to look at other aspects of what differentiates the two. Are Chinese wheat farmers more likely than Chinese rice farmers to wear shoes or boots more often and to wear shoes or boots with thicker soles and narrow enclosed toe boxes, as opposed to wearing thin, open-toed sandals or going barefoot? One suspects that would be the case.

It wouldn’t only be that the dirt clods of wheat fields are harder on the feet than the soft mud of rice patties. The colder climate of northern China would require wearing thicker shoes for a large part of the year for protection against coldness, discomfort, and frostbite. Interestingly, a similar pattern is seen in Europe as well with the concentration of wheat farming countries in the north with their long history of Protestant-style individualism, as contrasted to southern European Catholicism and communalism. A better and more comparable example is the United States.

Wheat-farming, of course, has been practiced in the northern states for a long time; but also rice-farming has been common in a large swath of the Deep South, what is called the Rice Belt. Similar to southern China, “even when the correlations were examined only within the Deep and Peripheral South, the correlations of collectivism with cotton and rice production remained strong” (Dov Cohen, Patterns of Individualism and Collectivism Across the United States). That is strong supporting evidence. To link it back to the main topic, for most of Southern history in the US, going barefoot was far more common. That has contributed to greater hookworm rates, as this parasite tends to enter through the sole of the foot from infested soil. Also, note that wheat-farming and industrialization has been concentrated in the northern states, as was the case in northern Europe. Industrialization, by the way, is the letter ‘I’ in the WEIRD acronym; and maybe the letter ‘W’ for Western could equally represent wheat-farming.

When we think of farming cultures and practices as affecting identity, personality, and mentality, we rarely think about what people are physically wearing as being causally significant or even relevant. But consider that the person in a colder climate is not only more likely to have restrictive, binding, and thick footwear but also restrictive, binding, and thick clothing and outdoor gear. Maybe it’s no mere coincidence that, for example, many animistic tribes with their extremes of a bundled mind tend to go barefoot entirely and often to barely wear any clothing at all, other than maybe a breech cloth (e.g., Piraha). Even among farming societies, some where heavy, cumbersome clothing and others lighter and looser (e.g., the sarong common in the East).

It is interesting how much our society, particularly among intellectuals and scholars (i.e., the literary elite), is obsessed with language and, most of all, written language. We have the most literary culture that has ever existed since language was invented. And it’s precisely populations with high rates of literacy that are the most WEIRD, to the extent that brain scans shows it alters the development of brain structure and neurocognition (see Joseph Henrich).

As such, we Weirdos see everything through language and text (e.g., this post here), and so that is the primary lens through which we understand the world and humanity. There is an obsession with the study of language, from text to new media: philology, postmodernism, linguistic relativity, metaphor theory, etc. So, language and the media of language gets disproportionate credit and blame for much of the changes, problems, and advancements in society. The differences between the cultures and mentalities of East and West are often placed within a linguistic frame.

But even when language isn’t the focus, what we emphasize is often something else that is equally less tangible. When farming is studied, what researchers tend to isolate out as causal are how people relate and act within different agricultural systems, the kind of thing that is harder to measure objectively. Oddly, it almost never occurs to them to think about the most basic and concrete factors like what is grown and eaten in affecting the body-mind, despite the vast knowledge we’ve accrued in nutrition studies. Diets determine nutritional profiles and biological functioning, one of the most powerful affects on neurocognitive development.

Or consider how one of the most transformative changes in all of human existence was the agricultural revolution in general, no matter if wheat or rice or whatever else. It increased size and concentration of human populations, increased size and concentration of domesticated animal populations, and increased contact between humans and animals. It also increased pathogen exposure and parasite load, both of which research shows to raise the measures of social conservatism and authoritarianism, insularity and collectivism, which are not only correlated to social behaviors but also altered personality traits (low openness, high conscientiousness, etc) and brain structure (e.g., larger amygdala).

Pathogen and parasite levels do follow a regional pattern as well, more near the Equator and less the further away; although this can’t entirely explain the agricultural differences. Thomas “Talhelm’s study found that Chinese students who lived just south or just north of the rice-wheat divide were as different from each other as students from the far south and the far north. And he noted rice-producing Japan scores uniformly high on the collectivist scale, even though the country is cooler and wealthier than most of China” (Bryan Walsh, In China, Personality Could Come Down to Rice Versus Wheat). Even rice-growing islands in the north fall in line with the southern pattern of behavior and personality (X. Dong, T. Talhelm, & X. Ren, Teens in Rice County Are More Interdependent and Think More Holistically Than Nearby Wheat County). Do people in all Chinese rice-growing populations, whether south or north, have similar footwear?

On the other hand, Walsh writes, “The rice theory isn’t foolproof. It’s almost certain that none of the young Chinese college students participating in Talhelm’s study have any direct experience with wheat or rice farming, which raises the question of how these psychological values are transmitted.” Maybe it’s not entirely about who is growing which crop and how it is grown, as part of a socio-cultural order. Instead, it’s possible that more important is who is eating which crop. Chinese, in general, are less individualistic than Westerners, no matter which region they live in. The simplest explanation could be that, as part of a national food system, all Chinese on average eat more rice and less wheat than Westerners. It might be about nutritional differences in each crop (e.g., gluten).

Then again, it could be something else not directly related to the crop or diet. Different kinds of farming in different environments and climates will incur different public health conditions and hence different physical health of individuals. The contrast between rice and wheat farmers goes far beyond merely how people socially organize within an agricultural system or what they eat within a food system. After all, what kind of footwear one wears or does not wear depends entirely on the agricultural system and all that is involved with it, such as infrastructure, housing, etc. Enclosed footwear, for example, could be protective against parasites and pathogens when the ground is covered in human and animal feces. So, it would depend also on the animal side of the farming equation.

None of the studies that we’ve seen, however, have ever been concerned with or curious about these kinds of confounding factors. This is a vast cultural blind spot. We forget that we are embodied minds that are co-extensive with the physical world around us, not to mention bundled minds in a bundled world. It rarely, if ever, occurs to us to think about something so simple as what we are wearing. Yet footwear, like a thousand other unrecognized factors, potentially has immense impact on us.

Spend some time observing people with modern synthetic shoes. Most of them walk stiffly, awkwardly, and often flat-footed; not to mention demonstrating an unbalanced and ungrounded way of physically holding themselves. Obviously, many people aren’t comfortable in their own bodies, absolute the opposite of barefoot indigenous people. Maybe simple things like footwear affect us far more profoundly than we are aware of, to the point of affecting our ability to grasp the Buddhist truth that to touch is to be touched.

Also, the combination of other unacknowledged factors could create a greater influence than any single factor alone. It would be a cumulative effect over a lifetime. So, yes, shoes will stunt and distort the bone and soft tissue development of the feet. There would be a lack of musculature and mobility that would make one prone to injury, not only in the feet but also from the stress caused in how it would throw off the movement of other joints, particularly the knees and hips. The feet are the foundation of the body, the contact and connecting point between body and world, and hence the mediating point in the sense of the embodied and enworlded self.

Diet and nutrition could exacerbate problems related to the feet and everything influenced by it. Dr. Weston A. Price, for example, observed that populations with deficiencies in fat-soluble vitamins had worse bone development: thin bones, asymmetrical features, narrow shoulders, narrow chests, caved-in chests, narrow jaws, crowded teeth, etc. But this also affected the bones in the feet: pigeon toes, flat feet, etc. This probably would make the feet narrower like all the rest.

Combine that with further squishing the feet even narrower into confining shoes. Most modern people are being crippled from a young age. We modern Westerners feel morally superior than the premodern Chinese who bound the feet of girls, and yet we also bind the feet of not only girls but also boys and then continue to do so into adulthood. No doubt, the premodern Chinese bound girls feet precisely because it alters behavior and is used for the social constructivism of particular personality traits and social roles, maybe not unlike hobbling a horse to make it more calm and controllable.

What might our own practice of foot-binding have on the entire population? When we personally observe or scientifically study our fellow humans, we tend to look to their faces, heads, arms, and upper bodies; in terms of their gaze, expression, tone of voice, gestures, etc. That is what we think most as defining who a person is, whereas their lower body of hips, legs, and feet is secondary as almost a mere extension of the upper body. We might be wiser to spend more time looking down to the literal ground of our being.

Wheat versus Rice: