How American Democracy was Strangled in the Crib

March 1, 1781 – Ratification of the Articles of Confederation
This was the first Constitution of the United States, preceding our current constitution by eight years. Provisions included:
-Unicameral legislature with only one house of the Congress.
-No system of national courts or executive branch
-One vote per state irrespective of the size of the state.
-Levying taxes in hands of the state government
-Power to coin and borrow money
-Time limits on holding public office
-No standing army or navy
-No provision for national government interference in commerce and trade – each state could impose tariffs on trade.

This last provision regarding decentralized decision-making on commerce and trade was the pretext for a gathering to “amend” the Articles. Once gathered, the delegates replaced entirely the Articles with an entirely new proposed constitution that was, in many respects, more top-down and favorable to commercial interests.

February 25, 1791 – Creation of the First Bank of the United States
The federal government issued a 20-year charter (very unusual at the time since most corporate charters, or licenses, were issued by states) to create the first national private bank. The bank was given permission to create money as debt. Its paper money was accepted for taxes. Eighty percent of its shares were privately owned, and 75% of those were foreign owned (mostly by the English and Dutch). Alexander Hamilton championed the first national private bank; Jefferson, Madison and others opposed it.

February 24, 1803 – U.S. Supreme Court establishes supreme authority of the U.S. Supreme Court
Marbury v. Madison (5 U.S. 137) established the concept of “judicial review.” The Supreme Court ruled that they were supreme, and Congress did not contest it. This gave them the power to make law. President Jefferson said: “The Constitution, on this hypothesis, is a mere thing of wax in the hands of the judiciary, which they may twist and shape into any form they please.”

A fine article explaining the problems of judicial review is “The Case Against Judicial Review: Building a strong basis for our legal system.”
https://www.poclad.org/BWA/2007/BWA_2007_FALL.html

From:
REAL Democracy History Calendar: February 24 – March 1

Antipsychotics: Effects and Experience

Many people now know how antidepressants are overprescribed. Studies have shown that most taking them receive no benefit at all. Besides that, there are many negative side effects, including suicidality. But what few are aware of is how widely prescribed also are antipsychotics. They aren’t only used for severe cases such as schizophrenia. Often, they are given for treatment of conditions that have nothing to do with psychosis. Depression and personality disorders are other examples. Worse still, it is regularly given to children in foster care to make them more manageable.

That was the case with me, in treating my depression. Along with the antidepressant Paxil, I was put on the antipsychotic Risperdal. I don’t recall being given an explanation at the time and I wasn’t in the mindset back then to interrogate the doctors. Antipsychotics are powerful tranquilizers that shut down the mind and increase sleep. Basically, it’s an attempt to solve the problem by making the individual utterly useless to the world, entirely disconnected, calmed into mindlessness and numbness. That is a rather extreme strategy. Rather than seeking healing, it treats the person suffering as the problem to be solved.

For those on them, they can find themselves sleeping all the time, have a hard time concentrating, and many of them unable to work. It can make them inert and immobile, often gaining weight in the process. But if you try to get off of them, there can be serious withdrawl symptoms. The problems is that prescribers rarely tell patients about the side effects or the long term consequences to antipsychotic use, as seen with what some experience as permanent impairment of mental ability. This is partly because drug companies have suppressed the information on the negatives and promoted them as a miracle drug.

Be highly cautious with any psychiatric medications, including antidepressants but especially antipsychotics. These are potent chemicals only to be used in the most desperate of cases, not to be used so cavalierly as they are now. As with diet, always question a healthcare professional recommending any kind of psychiatric medications for you or a loved one. And most important, research these drugs in immense detail before taking them. Know what you’re dealing with and learn of the experiences of others.

Here is an interesting anecdote. Ketogenic diets have been used to medically treat diverse neurocognitive disorders, originally epileptic seizures, but they are also used to treat weight loss. There was an older lady, maybe in her 70s. She had been diagnosed with schizophrenia since she was a teenager. The long-term use of antipsychotics had caused her to become overweight.

She went to Dr. Eric Westman who trained under Dr. Robert Atkins. She was put on the keto diet and did lose weight but she was surprised to find here schizophrenic symptoms also reduce, to such an extent she was able to stop taking the antipsychotics. So, how many doctors recommend a ketogenic diet before prescribing dangerous drugs? The answer is next to zero. There simply is no incentive for doctors to do so within our present medical system and many incentives to continue with the overprescription of drugs.

No doctor ever suggested to me that I try the keto diet or anything similar, despite the fact that none of the prescribed drugs helped. Yet I too had the odd experience of going on the keto diet to lose weight only to find that I had also lost decades of depression in the process. The depressive funks, irritability and brooding simply disappeared. That is great news for the patient but a bad business model. Drug companies can’t make any profit from diets. And doctors that step out of line with non-standard practices open themselves up to liability and punishment by medical boards, sometimes having their license removed.

So, psychiatric medications continue to be handed out like candy. The young generation right now is on more prescribed drugs than ever before. They are guinea pigs for the drug companies. Who is going to be held accountable when this mass experiment on the public inevitably goes horribly wrong when we discover the long-term consequences on the developing brains and bodies of children and young adults?

* * *

Largest Survey of Antipsychotic Experiences Reveals Negative Results
By Ayurdhi Dhar, PhD

While studies have attributed cognitive decline and stunted recovery to antipsychotic use, less attention has been paid to patients’ first-person experiences on these drugs. In one case where a psychiatrist tried the drugs and documented his experience, he wrote:

“I can’t believe I have patients walking around on 800mg of this stuff. There’s no way in good conscience I could dose this BID (sic) unless a patient consented to 20 hours of sleep a day. I’m sure there’s a niche market for this med though. There has to be a patient population that doesn’t want to feel emotions, work, have sex, take care of their homes, read, drive, go do things, and want to drop their IQ by 100 points.”

Other adverse effects of antipsychotics include poor heart health, brain atrophy, and increased mortality. Only recently have researchers started exploring patient experiences on antipsychotic medication. There is some evidence to suggest that some service users believe that they undermine recovery. However, these first-person reports do not play a significant part in how these drugs are evaluated. […]

Read and Sacia found that only 14.3% reported that their experience on antipsychotics was purely positive, 27.9% of the participants had mixed experiences, and the majority of participants (57.7%) only reported negative results.

Around 22% of participants reported drug effects as more positive than negative on the Overall Antipsychotic Rating scale, with nearly 6% calling their experience “extremely positive.” Most participants had difficulty articulating what was positive about their experience, but around 14 people noted a reduction in symptoms, and 14 others noted it helped them sleep.

Of those who stated they had adverse effects, 65% reported withdrawal symptoms, and 58% reported suicidality. In total, 316 participants complained about adverse effects from the drugs. These included weight gain, akathisia, emotional numbing, cognitive difficulties, and relationship problems. […]

Similar results were reported in a recent review, which found that while some patients reported a reduction in symptoms on antipsychotics, others stated that they caused sedation, emotional blunting, loss of autonomy, and a sense of resignation. Participants in the current survey also complained of the lingering adverse effects of antipsychotics, long after they had discontinued their use.

Importantly, these negative themes also included negative interactions with prescribers of the medication. Participants reported a lack of information about side-effects and withdrawal effects, lack of support from prescribers, and lack of knowledge around alternatives; some noted that they were misdiagnosed, and the antipsychotics made matters worse.

One participant said: “I was not warned about the permanent/semi-permanent effects of antipsychotics which I got.” Another noted: “Most doctors do not have a clue. They turn their backs on suffering patients, denying the existence of withdrawal damage.”

This is an important finding as previous research has shown that positive relationships with one’s mental health provider are considered essential to recovery by many patients experiencing first-episode psychosis.

Mass Delusion of Mass Tree Planting

Mass tree planting is another example, as with EAT-Lancet and corporate veganism, of how good intentions can get co-opted by bad interests. Planting trees could be beneficial or not so much. It depends on how it is done. Still, even if done well, it would never be as beneficial as protecting and replenishing the forests that already exist as living ecosystems.

But governments and corporations like the idea of planting trees because it is a way of greenwashing the problem and so continuing on with the status quo, continuing with the exploitation of native lands and the destruction of indigenous populations. Just plant more trees, largely as monocrop tree plantations, and pretend the ongoing ecocide does not matter.

My brother is a naturalist who has worked in several states around the country. When I shared the below article with him, he responded that,

“Yep, that’s been a joke among naturalists for a while! It’s kind of like the north woods of MN and WI. What was once an old growth pine forest is now a essentially a tree plantation of nothing but maples and birch grown for paper pulp. Where there are still pines, they are in perfect rows and never more than 30 years old. It’s some of the most depressing “wilderness” I’ve ever seen.”

Holistic, sustainable and regenerative multi-use land management would be far better. That is essentially what hunter-gatherers do with the land they live on. It can also be done with mixed farming such as rotating animals between pastures that might also have trees for production of fruit and nuts while allowing natural habitat for wildlife.

Here is the key question: Does the land have healthy soil that absorbs rainfall and supports a living ecosystem with diverse species? If not, it is not an environmental solution to ecological destruction, collapse, and climate change.

* * *

Planting 1 Trillion Trees Might Not Actually Be A Good Idea
by Justine Calma

“But the science behind the campaign, a study that claims 1 trillion trees can significantly reduce greenhouse gases, is disputed. “People are getting caught up in the wrong solution,” says Forrest Fleischman, who teaches natural resources policy at the University of Minnesota and has spent years studying the effects of tree planting in India. “Instead of that guy from Salesforce saying, ‘I’m going to put money into planting a trillion trees,’ I’d like him to go and say, ‘I’m going to put my money into helping indigenous people in the Amazon defend their lands,’” Fleischman says. “That’s going to have a bigger impact.””

 

The mouth is missing out too…

“Its the usual issue, same as for rest of the body really, fat turns out to be protective in the mouth, all fermentable carbs harmful.”

The Science of Human Potential

Its the usual issue, same as for rest of the body really, fat turns out to be protective in the mouth, all fermentable carbs harmful. Poor dental health is an issue for us, especially our kids.
So we’ve gone about raising this issue. This work was lead by doctoral candidate Sarah Hancock with me, Dr Simon Thornley, and D Caryn Zinn chiming in.
Well done Sarah.Here’s the paper, and some media links TV here, online news here and a short form of the paper (written by Sarah) below.

Nutrition guidelines for dental care vs. the evidence: Is there a disconnect?

Sarah Hancock

Dental caries is the most common chronic childhood disease in New Zealand.[1] The…

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DNC Nomination Rigging Redux

“…clear evidence that Bloomberg, HuffPo, the New York Times, and the Washington Post are two months into a no-holds-barred, all-out narrative assault on the Sanders candidacy.

“This stuff makes a difference. Sanders is not dominating the other Democratic candidates in narrative-world centrality today as much as he was two months ago.”

~Ben Hunt, Stuck in the Middle With You

There is strong evidence, from analysis of media articles, that most major news outlets in corporate media, besides Fox News, suddenly did a simultaneous shift toward negative reporting on the presidential candidate Bernie Sanders in the past months. It appeared to be, one could easily argue, coordinated in preparation for the 2020 Democratic caucuses in Iowa.

This stands out because, in recent years, Sanders has been the most popular candidate in both parties. Last campaign, he received more small donations than any other candidate in United States history. And this campaign, he received even more and has accumulated more total donations than any other candidate. Most of the polls from last time around showed Sanders as the only candidate with any strong chance of defeating Trump, assuming defeating Trump was the priority, rather than keeping the political left out of power and maintaining the Clinton hold on the DNC — a big assumption, we might add.

That is why Clinton Democrats used so many dirty tricks to steal the nomination from Sanders in the previous election. Hillary Clinton was not only the candidate in opposition to Sanders for she also effectively controlled the DNC. She used DNC money to influence key figures and denied Sanders’ campaign access to necessary DNC voter information. Using DNC cronies in the corporate media, they controlled the narrative in news reporting, such as the Washington Post spinning continuous negativity toward Sanders right before a debate, almost an attack piece per hour.

Then at CNN, the insider Donna Brazile slipped Clinton questions before the CNN debate. By the way, the middle man who passed those questions directly onto Clinton was John Podesta who has also been caught red-handed right in the middle of the Ukranian fiasco. Even though he was the right-hand man of the Clintons, his brother’s lobbyist Democratic lobbyist firm was working with Manafort at a Republican lobbyist firm (John Podesta, Clinton Democrats, and Ukraine). The deep state can get messy at times and the ruling elite behind the scenes don’t care much about partisan politics, as can be seen in Donald Trump’s political cronyism that for decades has crossed partisan lines.

And if that wasn’t bad enough, Clinton bought off the superdelegates with DNC money and promises. Some states where Sanders won had the superdelegates go against public will and threw their support for Clinton instead. They didn’t even bother to pretend it was democracy. It was literally a stolen nomination.

The actions of the DNC elite in the previous campaign season was one of the most blatant power grabs I’d seen since Bush stole the 2000 election by fiat of the GOP-controlled Supreme Court, when later analysis showed that Bush actually had lost Florida which meant in a fair election and full count he would not have been elected. But everyone, including Republicans, expect the GOP to be corrupt in being anti-democratic (gerrymandering, voter purges, closing down polling stations in poor neighborhoods, etc) because it is their proudly declared position to be against democracy, often going so far as calling it mobocracy or worse (to the extreme reactionary right-wing, democracy and communism are identical).

It’s theoretically different with Democrats as they give lip service to democratic ideals and processes — after all, their party is named after democracy. That is why it feels like such a sucker punch, these anti-democratic tactics from the Clinton Democrats. And isn’t the media supposed to be the fourth estate? Or is it the fourth pillar of the deep state that extends beyond official governing bodies?

* * *

The above criticism is an appraisal of the situation as an outsider to the two-party system. This post is not an endorsement of a candidate. We have come to the conclusion that the U.S. lacks a functioning democracy. We are one of those supposedly rare Americans who is undecided and independent. We may or may not vote, depending on third party options. But for the time being, we’ve entirely given up on the Democratic Party and the two-party system in general.

Even Sanders is not overly impressive in the big scheme of things, though he is the best the Democrats have to offer. We don’t trust Sanders because he hasn’t shown he is willing to fight when the going gets tough, such as when after being betrayed by the DNC he threw his support behind Hillary Clinton who has since stabbed him in the back. We definitely don’t endorse any Clinton Democrat, certainly not a member of the Clinton Dynasty, nor will I endorse anyone who has endorsed such a miserable creature.

In our humble opinion, we are inclined to believe it’s best to leave Donald Trump in office. Our reasoning is similar to why we thought the same about Obama. Whatever a president does in the first term creates a mess that they should have to deal with in the second term. That way they can never convincingly deny responsibility by scapegoating the party that inherited the mess. We suspect that, for all the delaying tactics such as tariffs and tax breaks, there is going to be an economic crash in the near future and quite possibly in the next few years.

It would be best for all involved if Trump is in power when that happens. Trump has taken all the bigoted rhetoric, neocon posturing, and capitalist realism that the GOP elite has been pushing for decades and thrown it back in their face. This forces them to take ownership of what they previously had attempted to soft-pedal. Trump is devastating to the country, but he is even more devastating to the RNC and the conservative ruling elite won’t recover for a long time. Also, being forced out into the political desert will give the Democrats an opportunity for soul-searching and give the political left a chance to take over the party while the Clinton Democrats are in a weakened state.

Even more important, it’s an opportunity for third parties to rise up and play a larger role. Maybe one of them will even be able to take out one of the present two main parties. The only relevance Sanders has had is that he has promoted a new narrative framing of public debate about public policy and that in turn has shifted the tide back toward the left again, something not seen in my entire life. That is a good thing and we give him credit where it’s due. If imperfect and falling short of what is needed, his efforts have been honorable. As DC career politicians go, he is far above average.

I actually wish Sanders well. One of my closest friends caucused for him recently. And last election, I too caucused for him. I hope he can make a difference. But I’m personally finished with the Democratic Party. I no longer trust them. What we need now is something far more radical and revolutionary than Sanders or any other Democratic candidate can offer, specifically any that would ever get the nomination.

* * *

How the DNC Thwarted Democracy in Iowa Using 5 Easy Steps
by Veronica Persimmon

Step One: Enact a Plan to Subvert the Progressive Frontrunner
Step Two: Manufacture a Surge
Step Three: Develop a Private App to Report the Results of the Iowa Caucuses
Step Four: Use “Quality Control” in Order to Withhold Data
Step Five: Declare Victory with Zero Precincts Reporting

It appears that Buttigieg is the DNC’s Chosen One. The “Stop Bernie” candidate designed to exhaust and discourage progressives from partaking in the electoral process. The question is, will voters be more determined to fight for their rights, lives, and the future of the planet? Or will progressives put their desire for progress on the back burner in order to replace a dangerous, corrupt demagogue with a dangerous and corrupt candidate hand-chosen by the treacherous DNC?

The Curious Case of Candidate Sanders
by Rusty Guinn

There are two takeaways: first, yes, every outlet appears to have generally increased the extent to which they use language with negative affect to cover the Sanders campaign. For the reasons described above, that shouldn’t be taken as a sign of “bias” per se. But the second takeaway is concerning: four of these key outlets – the New York Times, Washington Post, Reuters and Huffington Post – used dramatically more negative language in their news, feature and opinion coverage of the Sanders campaign in the month of January 2020.

We are always skeptical of relying on sentiment scoring alone; accordingly, we also examined which outlets drove the breakdown in the previously cohesive use of language to describe Bernie Sanders, his policies and his campaign in the media. In other words, which outlets have “gone rogue” from the prevailing Sanders narrative? Are they the outlets who chose to stay “neutral” or at least relatively less negative in December and January? Or can we pin this on the ones who have found a new negative streak in their Bernie coverage? Is there even a relationship between the rapid shift in sentiment by some outlets and the breakdown in narrative structure?

Oh yeah. […]

I think they tell us that the Washington Post and, to a lesser extent, the New York Times experienced a shift in the nature of their coverage, the articles and topics which they included in their mix, and the specific language they used in the months of December and January.

I think they tell us that change was unusual in both magnitude and direction (i.e. sentiment) relative to other major outlets. Their coverage diverged from the pack in language and content.

I think that change was big enough to create the general breakdown in the Sanders that observers have intuitively ‘felt’ when they consume news. […]

Why now? Should we be concerned that a publication which used its editorial page to endorse two candidates suddenly experienced a simultaneous change in tenor of its news coverage?

Not a trick question. Obviously, the answer is yes.

Paradigm Shift: The Importance of the Right Anecdotal Evidence

“As we all know, often it is not what is said but who says it that matters. Nothing is truer than that, as shown by this case. After millions of dollars spent on clinical trials over several years of proving that low carbohydrate diets, especially the ketogenic diet, can reverse T2D, without making any of the success stories into any newsflash, the single anecdotal evidence, that the CEO of the ADA could reverse her T2D using the same way of eating, did make it as a newsflash.”

Clueless Doctors & Scientists

The Power of Anecdotal Evidence by the CEO

Tracey D Brown CEO ADA

As many of you know, I have been writing about nutrition for several years. Usually the story is disappointing because most of the time it’s about debunking a badly formulated peer reviewed academic publication. Well… here you are in for a bit of a surprise!

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How is knowledge spread and made compelling?

Our friend over at the Open Society blog republished one of our pieces. He “edited out some of the bit about right-left brains.” And we were fine with that, as we understood his reasons. He said that, “I think this sort of dichotomy causes more misunderstandings for the average person than it clarifies.” And, “in order to keep this piece accessible to everyone, it’s better not to get into ongoing technical neuroanatomy debates here.”

We have no dispute with his choice of editing. It was just information and we like to share information, but it wasn’t even a part of the central text of what had been written. Still, it was important in a general sense, as background knowledge and explanatory context. In another comment, he brought up scientific illiteracy and the sorry state of (un-)education in this country. And we couldn’t disagree with any of that. But we responded back with some lengthy comments clarifying our position.

It’s not my first instinct to edit myself, as might be apparent to anyone reading my blog. I’m not always known for my concision. The idea of changing what I write based on the presumed level of knowledge of prospective readers isn’t exactly my style, not that I don’t understand the purpose of doing so. It’s not as if I never consider how others might read what I write, something I always try to keep in mind. I do want to communicate well. I’m not here to merely talk to myself. But thinking about it made me more self-aware of what motivates me in wanting to communicate.

We’re talking about not only knowledge but, more importantly, understanding and meaning, what forms our sense of shared reality and informs our sense of shared purpose. It’s an interesting and worthy topic to discuss. By the way, we felt like speaking in the plural for the introduction here, but the comments below are in first-person singular. These are taken from the Open Society blog with some revision. So, we’re republishing our comments to the republishing of our post. It’s almost like a conversation.

Before we get to our comments below, let us share some personal experience. When we were young, we had regular conversations with our father. He would always listen, question, elicit further thoughts, and respond. But what he never did was talk down to us or simplify anything. He treated us as if we were intellectual equals, even though obviously that wasn’t the case. He was a professor who, when younger, had found learning easy and rarely studied. He had obvious proof his intellectual abilities. We, on the other hand, always struggled with a learning disability. Still, our father instilled in us a respect for knowledge and a love of learning.

That is how we strive to treat all others. We don’t know if that is a good policy for a blog. Maybe that explains why our readership is so small. One could interpret that as a failure to our approach. If so, we fail on our own terms. But we hope that, in our good intentions, we do manage to reach some people. No doubt we could reach a larger audience by following the example of the Open Society blog. That blog is a much more finished product than the bare-bones text on offer here. So, maybe all my idealism is moot. That is an amusing thought. Then again, Open Society has republished other posts by us. So that is some minor accomplishment. Maybe those edited versions are an improvement. I’ll leave that for others to decide

* * *

Sadly, you’re probably right that science education is so pathetically deficient in this country that discussion of even something so basic as the research on brain hemispheres likely “causes more misunderstandings for the average person than it clarifies.” I wish that weren’t true.

Still, I’d encourage others to look into the science on brain hemispheres. I’d note that the views of Iain McGilchrist (and Julian Jaynes, etc) have nothing to do with the layman’s interpretation. To be honest, there is no way to fully understand what’s going on here without some working knowledge in this area. But the basic idea comes across without any of the brain science. Maybe that is good enough for present purposes.

I’m not entirely opposed to making material more accessible in meeting people where they are at. But hopefully, this kind of knowledge will become more common over time. It is so fundamental that it should be taught in high school science classes. My aspiration for my blog is to inspire people to stretch their minds and learn what might at first seem difficult or strange, not that I always accomplish that feat. Instead, I’m likely to talk over people’s heads or simply bore them.

It can be hard to express to others why something seems so fascinating to me, why it’s important to go to the effort of making sense of it. I realize my mind doesn’t operate normally, to put it mildly. But even with my endless intellectual curiosity, I have to admit to struggling with the science at times (to be honest, a lot of the times). So, I sympathize with those who lose interest or get confused by all the differing and sometimes wrongheaded opinions about brain hemispheres or whatever.

* * *

Scientific illiteracy is a problem in the US. And it’s an open secret. I’ve seen plenty of discussion of it over the years. It would help if there was a better education system and not limited to college. Remember that three quarter of Americans don’t have any college education at all. That is why educational reform would need to start with grade school.

Still, I don’t know what is the main problem. I doubt the average American is quite as ignorant as they get treated, even if they aren’t well educated. For example, most Americans seem to have a basic grasp of the climate crisis and support a stronger government response. It’s not as if we had more science classes that we’d finally get politicians on board. The basic science is already understood, even by those politicians who deny it.

Saying the public is scientifically illiterate doesn’t necessarily tell us much about the problem. I was reading a book about the issue of climate change in one of the Scandinavian countries. They have a much better education system and more scientific literacy. But even there, the author said that it’s hard to have an honest public debate because thinking about it makes most people feel uncomfortable, depressed, and hopeless. So people mostly just don’t talk about it.

Part of it goes back to cognitive dissonance. Even when people have immense knowledge on a topic, there remains the dissociation and splintering. People can know all kinds of things and yet not know. The collective and often self-enforced silencing is powerful, as Derrick Jensen shows. The human mind operates largely on automatic. By the way, the science of brain hemispheres can explain some of why that is the case, a major focus of Jaynes’ work.

What we lack is not so much knowledge about the world as insight and understanding about our own nature. We have enough basic working knowledge already to solve or lessen all of the major problems, if we could only get out of our own way. That said, we can never have too much knowledge and improving education certainly couldn’t hurt. We’re going to need the full human potential of humanity to meet these challenges.

* * *

Here is a thought. What if underestimating the public is a self-fulfilling prophecy? Paralyzing cynicism can come in many forms. And I know I’m often guilty of this. It’s hard to feel hopeful. If anything, hope can even seem naive and wrongheaded. Some argue that we’re long past that point and now it’s time for grieving lost opportunities that are forever gone. But even if we resign ourselves to mere triage, that still requires some basic sense of faith in the future.

I’m not sure what I think or feel about all of this. But what does seem clear to me is that we Americans have never fallen into the problem of overestimating the public. Instead, we have a disempowered and disenfranchised population. What motivation is there for the public to seek further knowledge when the entire system powerfully fucks them and their loved ones over and over again? What would inspire people to seek out becoming better informed through formal education or otherwise?

Knowledge matters. But the larger context to that knowledge matters even more. I don’t know what that means in practical terms. I’m just thinking the public should be given more credit, not so easily let off the hook. Even when public ignorance appears justified based on a failed education system or a successful non-education system, maybe that is all the more reason to hold up a high standard of knowledge, a high ideal of intellectual curiosity, rather than talking down to people and dumbing down discussion.

That isn’t to say we shouldn’t try to communicate well in knowing our audience. On many topics, it’s true that general knowledge, even among the elite, is limited at best and misinformed at worst. But the worst part is how ignorance has been embraced in so many ways, as if one’s truth is simply a matter of belief. What if we stopped tolerating this willful ignorance and all the rationalizations that accompany it. We should look to the potential in people that remains there no matter how little has been expected of them. We should treat people as intellectually capable.

Education is always a work in progress. Still, the American public is more educated today than a century ago. The average IQ measured in the early 1900s would be, by today’s standards of IQ testing, functionally retarded and I mean that literally (increases in IQ largely measure abstract and critical thinking skills). Few Americans even had high school degrees until the Silent Generation. Society has advanced to a great degree in this area, if not as much as it should. I worry that we’ve become so jaded that we see failure as inevitable and so we keep lowering our standards, instead of raising them higher as something to aspire toward.

My grandfather dropped out of high school. You know what was one of his proudest accomplishments? Sending two of his kids to college. Now kids are being told that education doesn’t matter, that college is a waste of money. We stopped valuing education and that symbolizes a dark change to the public mood. To not value education is to denigrate knowledge itself. This isn’t limited to formal education, scientific literacy and otherwise. I failed to get much scientific knowledge in high school and I didn’t get a college degree. Even so, I was taught by my parents to value learning, especially self-directed learning, and to value curiosity. I’ve struggled to educate myself (and to undo my miseducation), but I was inspired to do so because the value of it had been internalized.

The deficiency in education doesn’t by itself explain the cause. It doesn’t explain why we accept it, why we treat mass ignorance as if it were an inevitability. Instead of seeing ignorance as a challenge, as a motivation toward seeking greater knowledge, American society has treated ignorance as the natural state of humanity or at least the natural state of the dirty masses, the permanent underclass within the Social Darwinian (pseudo-)meritocracy. In this worldview, most people don’t merely lack knowledge but lack any potential or worth, some combination of grunt workers and useless eaters. What could shift this toward another way of seeing humanity?

* * *

I was wondering where knowledge is truly lacking, where curiosity about a topic is lacking, and where it matters most. Climate change is one topic where I do think there is basic necessary level of knowledge, most people have a fair amount of interest in it, and it obviously is important. What’s going on with the climate change ‘debate’ has to do with powerful interests controlling the reigns of power. If politicians did what most Americans want, we’d already be investing money and doing research to a far greater degree.

Ignorance is not the problem in that case. But it’s different with other topics. I’ve noticed how lead toxicity and high inequality maybe do more fall victim to ignorance, in that for some reason they don’t get the same kind of attention, as they aren’t looming threats in the way is climate change. In one post, I called lead toxicity a hyperobject to describe its pervasive invisibility. Temperature can be felt and a storm can be watched, but lead in your air, water, and soil comes across as an abstraction since we have no way to concretely perceive it. Even the lead in your child’s brain shows no outward signs, other than the kid being slightly lower IQ and having some behavioral issues.

Nonetheless, I’m not sure that is a problem of knowledge. Would teaching about lead toxicity actually make it more viscerally real? Maybe not. That’s a tough one. If you asked most people, they probably already know about the dangers of lead toxicity in a general sense and they already know about specific places where there are high rates, but they probably don’t grasp how widespread this is in so many communities, especially toxicity in general such as with toxic dumps. I don’t know what would make it seem more real.

Lead, as tiny particles, doesn’t only hide in the environment but hides in the body where it wreaks havoc but slowly and in many small ways. Your kid gets into a fight and has trouble at school. The first thought most parents have is simple concern for treating the behavior and the hurt the child is expressing. It doesn’t usually occur that there might be something damaging their child’s brain, nervous system, etc. All the parent sees is the result of changes in their child’s behavior. Knowledge, on the personal level, may or may not help that parent. Lead toxicity is often a larger environmental problem. What is really needed is a change of public policy. That would require not only knowledge, as politicians probably already know of this problem, but some other force of political will in the larger society. But since it’s mostly poor people harmed, nothing is done.

It’s hard to know how knowledge by itself makes a difference. It’s not as if there haven’t been major pieces on lead toxicity published in the mainstream media, some of them quite in depth. But the reporting on this comes and goes. It’s quickly forgotten again, as if it were just some minor, isolated problem of no greater concern. There definitely is no moral panic about it. Other than a few parents in poor communities that live with most severe consequences, it isn’t even seen as a moral issue at all.

That is what seems lacking, a sense of moral outrage and moral responsibility. I guess that is where, in my own thinking, self-understanding comes in. Morality is a deeper issue. Some of these thinkers on the mind and brain (McGilchrist, Jaynes, etc) are directly touching upon what makes the heart of morality beat. It’s not about something like brain hemispheres understood in isolation but how that relates to consciousness and identity, relates to the voices we listen to and the authority they hold. And, yes, this requires understanding a bit of science. So, how do we make this knowledge accessible and compelling, how do we translate it into common experience?

Take the other example. What about high inequality? In a way, it’s a hot topic and has grabbed public attention with Thomas Picketty, Kate Pickett, and Richard Wilkinson. Everyone knows it’s a problem. Even those on the political right are increasingly acknowledging it, such as the recent book Alienated America by the conservative Timothy Carney who works for a right-wing think tank. The knowledge is sort of there and yet not really. Americans, in theory, have little tolerance for high inequality. The problem is that, as the data shows, most Americans simply don’t realize how bad it’s gotten. Our present inequality is magnitudes beyond what the majority thinks should be allowable. Yet we go on allowing it. More knowledge, in that case, definitely would matter. But without the moral imperative, the sense of value of that knowledge remains elusive.

As for brain hemispheres, I suppose that seems esoteric to the average person. Even most well-educated people don’t likely take it seriously. Should they? I don’t know. It seems important to me, but I’m biased as this is an area of personal interest. I can make an argument that this kind of thing might be among the most important knowledge, since it cuts to the core of every other problem. Understanding how our brain-mind works underlies understanding anything and everything else, and it would help to explain what is going so wrong with the world in general. Knowledge of the brain-mind is knowledge about what makes knowledge possible at all, in any area. I suspect that, as long as our self-knowledge is lacking, to that degree any attempt at solving problems will be impotent or at least severely crippled.

Would discussing more about brain hemispheres and related info in the public sphere help with the situation? Maybe or maybe not. But it seems like the type of thing we should be doing, in raising the level of discussion in general. Brain research might not be a good place to start with our priorities. If so, then we need to find how to promote greater psychological and neurocognitive understanding in some other way. This is why I’m always going on about Jaynes, even though he seems like an obscure thinker. In my opinion, he may be one of the most important thinkers in the 20th century and his theories might hold the key to the revolution of the mind that we so sorely need. Then again, I could be giving him too much praise. It’s just that I doubt the world would be worse off for having more knowledge of this variety, not just knowledge but profound insight.

All in all, it’s a tough situation. Even if Jaynes’ book was made required reading in every school, I don’t know that would translate to anything beneficial. It would have to be part of a larger public debate going on in society. Before that can happen, we will probably need to hit a crisis that reaches the level of catastrophe. Then moral panic will follow and, assuming we avoid the disaster of authoritarianism, we might finally be able to have some serious discussion across society about what matters most. I guess that goes back to the context of knowledge, that which transmutes mere info into meaning.

* * *

Here is an interesting question. How does knowledge become common knowledge? That relates to what I mentioned in another comment. How does knowledge become meaning? Or to put it another way: How does the abstract become concretely, viscerally, and personally real? A lot of knowledge has made this shift. So much of the kind of elite education that once would have been limited to aristocracy and monks has now become increasingly common. Not that long ago, most Americans were illiterate and had next to no education. Or consider, as I pointed out, how the skills of abstract and critical thinking (fluid intelligence) has increased drastically.

We can see this in practical ways. People in general have more basic knowledge about the world around them. When Japan attacked, most Americans had little concept of where Japan was. We like to think American’s grasp of geography is bad and it may be, but it used to be far worse. Now most people have enough knowledge to, with some comprehension, follow a talk or read an article on genetics, solar flares, ocean currents, etc. We’ve become a scientific-minded society where there is a basic familiarity. It comes naturally to think about the world in scientific terms, to such extent that we now worry about scientific reductionism. No one worried about society being overtaken by scientific reductionism centuries ago.

Along with this, modern people have become more psychologically-minded. We think in terms of consciousness and unconsciousness, motives and behavior, cognitive biases and mental illnesses, personality traits and functions, and on and on. We have so internalized psychological knowledge that we simply take it for reality now. It’s similar with sociology. The idea of race as a social construction was limited to the rarified work of a few anthropologists, but now this is a common understanding that is publicly debated. Even something as simple as socioeconomic classes was largely unknown in the past, as it wasn’t how most people thought. My mother didn’t realize she was part of a socioeconomic class until she went to college and was taught about it in a sociology class.

That is what I’m hoping for, in terms of brain research and consciousness studies. This kind of knowledge needs to get over the hurdle of academia and spread out into the public mind. This is already happening. Jaynes’ ideas influenced Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials which has been made into an HBO show. His ideas were directly discussed in another HBO show, Westworld, and caused a flurry of articles in the popular media. He also influenced Neal Stephenson in writing Snow Crash, also being made into a show, originally planned by Netflix but now picked up by HBO. I might take the superficial view of brain hemispheres as a positive sign. It means the knowledge is slowly spreading out into the general public. It’s an imperfect process and initially involves some misinformation, but that is how all knowledge spreads. It’s nothing new. For all the misinformation, the general public is far less ignorant about brain hemispheres than they were 50 years ago or a hundred years ago.

Along with the misinformation, genuine information is also becoming more common. This will eventually contribute to changing understandings and attitudes. Give it a generation or two and I’m willing to bet much of what McGilchrist is talking about will have made that transition into common knowledge in being incorporated into the average person’s general worldview. But it’s a process. And we can only promote that process by talking about it. That means confronting misinformation as it shows up, not avoiding the topic for fear of misinformation. Does that make sense?

Noam Chomsky (2): On the Lesser of Two Evils

Noam Chomsky: “So let’s go to the Bible. That’s–you can find the model that Trump is following in the Bible. It’s King Ahab, the evil king, the epitome of evil in the Bible; he called the prophet Elijah to him, and condemned the prophet Elijah because he doesn’t love Israel enough. In fact, he’s a hater of Israel, the proof he was condemning the acts of the evil king. So loving a country, from Trump’s point of view, is follow its policies; whatever its policies are, you got to support them. That’s loving a country. So Trump and Ahab, the evil king, agree on that. The prophet Elijah and the ones who Linfield is attacking, they agree, no, you don’t support the policies. What you do is if you care about a country, it’s like caring about a friend. If you have a friend who’s doing something to harm himself, and to severely harm others, you don’t say, Great! I support you all the way. You try to change what the friend is doing.

“And in the case of a state, you first have to dismantle the cloud of propaganda and myth that every state constructs to justify what it’s doing. And when you do that, then what do you find? You go back to the early seventies, which actually is the point she emphasizes. At that point, Israel had a fateful decision. Namely, is it going to pursue expansion or security? That was very clear. On the table, there were very clear options for negotiation and political settlement.

“Linfield, incidentally, lies about this like a trooper. I actually described it with exact precision, and she claims I made it up by the clever technique of avoiding every single thing I said about it, OK, which happened to be exactly accurate. What happens is this. First of all, in 1971, Gunnar Jarring, international mediator, presented proposals to Egypt and Israel for a political settlement, pretty much in line with the international consensus. Egypt accepted it; Israel rejected it. In 1976 the Security Council debated a resolution calling for a political settlement, two-state settlement, on the international border with guarantees for the rights of each state, Israel and a Palestinian state, to live in peace and security within secure and recognized borders.

“It was vetoed by the United States; Israel was hysterical. The Israeli ambassador Chaim Herzog, later president, claimed that the PLO had written this as a device to destroy Israel, which of course was complete nonsense. The PLO kind of tacitly supported it, but certainly didn’t write it. The resolution, crucially, was supported by the three Arab confrontation states: Egypt, Jordan, and Syria. That was ’76. That’s a tough one for people like Linfield who support Israeli policies, so what she does is just lie about it, OK, in the way that I mentioned. But it was real, and there were other options, and it continues like this.

“Now, if you care about Israel, what you tell them is you’re sacrificing security for expansion. And it’s going to have a consequence. It’s going to lead to moral deterioration internally, and decline in status internationally, which is exactly what happened. You mentioned that people who used to be one or another form of Zionist are now very critical of Israel. It’s much more general than that. You go back to the 1970s, Israel was one of the most admired states in the world. Young people from Sweden were going to Israel to see the wonderful social democracy, and so on. Now it’s a pariah state. What’s happened? It’s not–the same that’s happened in the United States. Support for Israel used to be based in basically liberal democrats; that was support for Israel. No longer. Most of them support the Palestinians. Support for Israel now is in the Christian evangelical community and ultranationalists.

“That reflects the changes that have taken place. Is this good for Israel? I don’t think so. It’s turned Israel into, as I said, a pariah state which is declining–internally, morally–and it’s horrible for the Palestinians. So I think the ones who were following the path of Elijah were correct. You don’t love a state and follow its policies. You criticize what’s wrong, try to change the policies, expose them; criticize it, change it. And exactly what was predicted in the seventies has happened.”

O Society

Robert Scheer interviews Noam Chomsky (part 2) edited by O Society Jan 18, 2020

Robert Scheer: 

They all started out as kind of sympathetic to some notion of Zionism. And a lot of it informed by the Holocaust, the tragedy that had occurred for Jews, and the feeling maybe there could not be assimilation, or a place for Jews in the world. We know those arguments.

The people attacked in this book, From Hannah Arendt to Noam Chomsky: Did the Left Get Zionism and Israel Totally Wrong?, are all attacked for daring to raise questions about the performance of this state and the Zionist experiment, particularly in its relation to the Palestinians and notions many of us, myself included, who are Jewish thought were built into a kind of universalism of the Jewish experience, and a concern for the other, and so forth.

And we are at a moment…

View original post 5,246 more words

The Madness of Drugs

There is always a question of what is making the world so crazy. And it’s not exactly a new question. “Cancer, like insanity,” Stanislou Tanochou wrote in 1843, “seems to increase with the progress of civilization.” Or go back earlier to 1809, the year Thomas Paine died and Abraham Lincoln was born, when John Haslam explained how common had become this concern of civilization going off the rails: “The alarming increase in Insanity, as might naturally be expected, has incited many persons to an investigation of this disease.” (For background, see: The Crisis of Identity.)

Was it changes of diet with the introduction of sugar, the first surplus yields of wheat, and a high-carb diet in general? If not the food itself, could it be the food additives such as glutamate and propionate? Was it the pollution from industrialization such as the chemicals in our food supply from industrial agriculture and industrial production, the pollution in the air we breathe and water we drink, and the spikes of toxic exposure with lead having been introduced to new products? Was it urbanization with 97% of the world’s population still in rural areas at the beginning of the 19th century followed by the majority of Westerners having moved to the cities a few generations later? Or was it the consequence of urbanization and industrialization as seen with increasing inequality of wealth, resources, and power that put the entire society under strain?

I’ve entertained all those possibilities over the years. And I’m of the opinion that they’re all contributing factors. Strong evidence can be shown for each one. But modernity saw another change as well. It was the era of science and that shaped medicine, especially drugs. In general, drugs became more common, whether medicinally or recreationally, even some thing so simple as the colonial trade of sugar and tobacco. Then later there were hardcore drugs like opium and cocaine that became increasingly common over the 19th century.

The 20th century, of course, pushed this to a whole new level. Drugs were everywhere. Consider the keto diet that, in the 1920s, showed a promising treatment or even cure for epileptic seizures, but shortly after that the drug companies came up with medications and the keto research dried up, even though those medications never came close to being as effective and some of them caused permanent harm to the patient, something rarely admitted by doctors (see the story of Charlie Abrams, son of the Hollywood produce Jim Abrams). Drugs seemed more scientific and modern humanity had fallen under the thrall of scientism. Ascie Dupont’s advertising slogan went, “Better Living Through Chemistry”.

It was irrelevant that most of the drugs never lived up to the hype, as the hype was endless. As research has shown, the placebo effect makes each new pharmaceutical seemingly effective, until shortly later the drug companies invent another drug and unsurprisingly the old drug stops showing the same benefits it did previously. Our hopes and fantasies are projected onto the next equivalent of a sugar pill and the placebo effect just goes on and on, as does the profit industry.

That isn’t to dismiss the actual advancements of science. But we now know that even the drugs that are beneficial to some people, from antidepressants to statins, are overprescribed and may be harming more people than they are helping. Part of this is because our scientific knowledge has been lacking, sometimes actively suppressed. It turns out that depression is not a neurotransmitter deficiency nor that cholesterol is bad for the body. Drugs that mess with the body in fundamental ways often have severe side effects and the drug companies have gone to extreme lengths to hide the consequences, as their profit model depends upon an ignorant and unquestioning population of citizen-consumers.

This is not a minor issue. The evidence points to statins making some people irritable to the point of violence and there is a statistically significant increase of violent death among statin users. That is on top of an increase of neurocognitive decline in general, as the brain requires cholesterol to function normally. Or consider how some painkillers might also be disrupting the physiological mechanisms underlying empathy and so, heavy regular usage, might contribute to sociopathy. It’s unsurprising that psychiatric medications can change behavior and personality, but no one expects such dire consequences when going to the drugstore to pick up their medication for asthma or whatever.

We are living in an era when patients, in many cases, can’t trust their own doctors. There is no financial incentive to honestly inform patients so that they can make rational choices based on balancing the benefits and harms. We know the immense influence drug companies have over doctors that happens through legal forms of bribery, from paid vacations to free meals and supplies. It’s related to not only why patients are kept in the dark but so are most doctors. It just so happens that drug company funding of medical school curriculum and continuing education for doctors doesn’t include education for effective dietary and lifestyle changes that are inexpensive or even free (i.e., no profit). This is why most doctors fail a basic test of nutritional knowledge. That needs to change.

This problem is just one among many. As I pointed out, there are many factors that are throwing gasoline on the fire. Whatever are the causes, the diseases of civilization, including but not limited to mental illness, is worsening with every generation and this is a centuries-old trend. It’s interesting that this has happened simultaneous with the rise of science. It was the hubris of the scientific mindset (and related technological industrialization) that has caused much of the harm, but it is also because of science that we are beginning to understand the harm we’ve done and what exactly are the causal mechanisms behind it. We must demand that science be turned into a tool not of private interest but of public good.

* * *

The medications that change who we are
by Zaria Gorvett

They’ve been linked to road rage, pathological gambling, and complicated acts of fraud. Some make us less neurotic, and others may even shape our social relationships. It turns out many ordinary medications don’t just affect our bodies – they affect our brains. Why? And should there be warnings on packets? […]

According to Golomb, this is typical – in her experience, most patients struggle to recognise their own behavioural changes, let alone connect them to their medication. In some instances, the realisation comes too late: the researcher was contacted by the families of a number of people, including an internationally renowned scientist and a former editor of a legal publication, who took their own lives.

We’re all familiar with the mind-bending properties of psychedelic drugs – but it turns out ordinary medications can be just as potent. From paracetamol (known as acetaminophen in the US) to antihistamines, statins, asthma medications and antidepressants, there’s emerging evidence that they can make us impulsive, angry, or restless, diminish our empathy for strangers, and even manipulate fundamental aspects of our personalities, such as how neurotic we are.

In most people, these changes are extremely subtle. But in some they can also be dramatic. […]

But Golomb’s most unsettling discovery isn’t so much the impact that ordinary drugs can have on who we are – it’s the lack of interest in uncovering it. “There’s much more of an emphasis on things that doctors can easily measure,” she says, explaining that, for a long time, research into the side-effects of statins was all focused on the muscles and liver, because any problems in these organs can be detected using standard blood tests.

This is something that Dominik Mischkowski, a pain researcher from Ohio University, has also noticed. “There is a remarkable gap in the research actually, when it comes to the effects of medication on personality and behaviour,” he says. “We know a lot about the physiological effects of these drugs – whether they have physical side effects or not, you know. But we don’t understand how they influence human behaviour.” […]

In fact, DeRubeis, Golomb and Mischkowski are all of the opinion that the drugs they’re studying will continue to be used, regardless of their potential psychological side-effects. “We are human beings, you know,” says Mischkowski. “We take a lot of stuff that is not necessarily always good in every circumstance. I always use the example of alcohol, because it’s also a painkiller, like paracetamol. We take it because we feel that it has a benefit for us, and it’s OK as long as you take it in the right circumstances and you don’t consume too much.”.

But in order to minimise any undesirable effects and get the most out of the staggering quantities of medications that we all take each day, Mischkowski reiterates that we need to know more. Because at the moment, he says, how they are affecting the behaviour of individuals – and even entire societies – is largely a mystery.

The Link Between Individualism and Collectivism

Individualism and collectivism. Autonomy and authoritarianism. These are opposites, right? Maybe not.

Julian Jaynes argued that humans, in the earliest small city-states, lived in a state he called the bicameral mind. It was a shared sense of identity where ‘thoughts’ were more publicly experienced as voices that were culturally inherited across generations. He observed that the rise of egoic consciousness as the isolated and independent self was simultaneous with a shift in culture and social order.

What was seen was a new kind of authoritarianism, much more brutally oppressive, much more centralized, hierarchical, and systematic. As the communal societies of the bicameral mind entered their end phase heading toward the collapse of the Bronze Age, there was the emergence of written laws, court systems, and standing armies. Criminals, enemy soldiers, and captives were treated much more harshly with mass killings like never before seen. Social order was no longer an organic community but required top-down enforcement.

One evidence of this new mentality was the sudden appearance of pornographic imagery. For thousands of years, humans created art, but never overtly sexual in nature. Then humans apparently became self-conscious of sexuality and also became obsessed with it. This was also a time when written laws and norms about sexuality became common. With sexual prurience came demands of sexual purity.

Repression was the other side of rigid egoic consciousness, as to maintain social control the new individualized self had to be controlled by society. The organic sense of communal identity could no longer be taken for granted and relied upon. The individual was cut off from the moral force of voice-hearing and so moral transgression as sin became an issue. This was the ‘Fall of Man’.

What is at stake is not merely an understanding of the past. We are defined by this past for it lives on within us. We are the heirs of millennia of psycho-cultural transformation. But our historical amnesia and our splintered consciousness leaves us adrift forces that we don’t understand or recognize. We are confused why, as we move toward greater individualism, we feel anxious about the looming threat of ever worse authoritarianism. There is a link between the two that is built into Jaynesian consciousness. But this is not fatalism, as if we are doomed to be ripped apart by diametric forces.

If we accept our situation and face the dilemma, we might be able to seek a point of balance. This is seen in Scandinavian countries where it is precisely a strong collective identity, culture of trust, and social democracy, even some democratic socialism, that makes possible a more stable and less fearful sense of genuine individuality (Anu Partanen, The Nordic Theory of Everything; & Nordic Theory of Love and Individualism). What is counter-intuitive to the American sensibility — or rather American madness — is that this doesn’t require greater legal regulations, such as how there is less red tape in starting a business in Scandinavia than the United States.

A book worth reading is Timothy Carney’s Alienated America. The author comes from the political right, but he is not a radical right-winger. His emphasis is on social conservatism, although the points he is making is dependent on the liberal viewpoint of social science. Look past some of the conservative biases of interpretation and there is much here that liberals, progressives, and even left-wingers could agree with.

He falls into the anti-government rhetoric of pseudo-libertarianism which causes him to be blind to how Scandinavian countries can have big governments that can rely more on culture of trust, rather than regulations, to enforce social norms. What Scandinavians would likely find odd is this American right-wing belief that government is separate from society, even when society isn’t outright denied as did Margaret Thatcher.

It’s because of this confusion that his other insights are all the more impressive. He is struggling against his own ideological chains. It shows how, even as the rhetoric maintains power over the mind, certain truths are beginning to shine through the weakening points of ideological fracture.

Even so, he ultimately fails to escape the gravity of right-wing ideological realism in coming to the opposite conclusion of Anu Partanen who understands that it is precisely the individual’s relationship to the state that allows for individual freedom. Carney, instead, wants to throw out both ‘collectivism’ and ‘hyper-individualism’. He expresses the still potent longing for the bicameral mind and its archaic authorization to compel social order.

What he misses is that this longing itself is part of the post-bicameral trap of Jaynesian consciousness, as the more one seeks to escape the dynamic the more tightly wound one becomes within its vice grip. It is only in holding lightly one’s place within the dynamic that one can steer a pathway through the narrow gap between the distorted extremes of false polarization and forced choice. This is exaggerated specifically by high inequality, not only of wealth but more importantly of resources and opportunities, power and privilege.

High inequality is correlated with mental illness, conflict, aggressive behavior, status anxiety, social breakdown, loss of social trust, political corruption, crony capitalism, etc. Collectivism and individualism may only express as authoritarianism and hyper-individualism under high inequality conditions. For some reason, many conservatives and right-wingers not only seem blind to the harm of inequality but, if anything, embrace it as a moral good expressing a social Darwinian vision of capitalist realism that must not be questioned.

Carney points to the greater social and economic outcomes of Scandinavian countries. But he can’t quite comprehend why such a collectivist society doesn’t have the problems he ascribes to collectivism. He comes so close to such an important truth, only to veer again back into the safety of right-wing ideology. Still, just the fact that, as a social conservative concerned for the public good, he feels morally compelled to acknowledge the kinds of things left-wingers have been talking about for generations shows that maybe we are finally coming to a point of reckoning.

Also, it is more than relevant that this is treading into the territory of Jaynesian thought, although the author has no clue how deep and dark are the woods once he leaves the well-beaten path. Even the briefest of forays shows how much has been left unexplored.

* * *

Alienated America:
Why Some Places Thrive While Others Collapse
by Timothy P. Carney

Two Sides of the Same Coin

“Collectivism and atomism are not opposite ends of the political spectrum,” Yuval Levin wrote in Fractured Republic, “but rather two sides of one coin. They are closely related tendencies, and they often coexist and reinforce one another—each making the other possible.” 32

“The Life of Julia” is clearly a story of atomization, but it is one made possible by the story of centralization: The growth of the central state in this story makes irrelevant—and actually difficult—the existence of any other organizations. Julia doesn’t need to belong to anything because central government, “the one thing we all belong to” (the Democratic Party’s mantra in that election), 33 took care of her needs.

This is the tendency of a large central state: When you strengthen the vertical bonds between the state and the individual, you tend to weaken the horizontal bonds between individuals. What’s left is a whole that by some measures is more cohesive, but individuals who are individually all less connected to one another.

Tocqueville foresaw this, thanks to the egalitarianism built into our democracy: “As in centuries of equality no one is obliged to lend his force to those like him and no one has the right to expect great support from those like him, each is at once independent and weak.

“His independence fills him with confidence and pride among his equals, and his debility makes him feel, from time to time, the need of the outside help that he cannot expect from any of them, since they are all impotent and cold.”

Tocqueville concludes, “In this extremity he naturally turns his regard to the immense being that rises alone in the midst of universal debasement.” 34

The centralizing state is the first step in this. The atomized individual is the end result: There’s a government agency to feed the hungry. Why should I do that? A progressive social philosophy, aimed at liberating individuals by means of a central state that provides their basic needs, can actually lead to a hyper-individualism.

According to some lines of thought, if you tell a man he has an individual duty to his actual neighbor, you are enslaving that man. It’s better, this viewpoint holds, to have the state carry out our collective duty to all men, and so no individual has to call on any other individual for what he needs. You’re freed of both debt to your neighbor (the state is taking care of it) and need (the state is taking care of it).

When Bernie Sanders says he doesn’t believe in charity, and his partymates say “government is the name for the things we do together,” the latter can sound almost like an aspiration —that the common things, and our duties to others, ought to be subsumed into government. The impersonality is part of the appeal, because everyone alike is receiving aid from the nameless bureaucrats and is thus spared the indignity of asking or relying on neighbors or colleagues or coparishioners for help.

And when we see the state crowding out charity and pushing religious organizations back into the corner, it’s easy to see how a more ambitious state leaves little oxygen for the middle institutions, thus suffocating everything between the state and the individual.

In these ways, collectivism begets atomization.

Christopher Lasch, the leftist philosopher, put it in the terms of narcissism. Paternalism, and the transfer of responsibility from the individual to a bureaucracy of experts, fosters a narcissism among individuals, Lasch argued. 35 Children are inherently narcissistic, and a society that deprives adults of responsibility will keep them more childlike, and thus more self-obsessed.

It’s also true that hyper-individualism begets collectivism. Hyper-individualism doesn’t work as a way of life. Man is a political animal and is meant for society. He needs durable bonds to others, such as those formed in institutions like a parish, a sports club, or a school community. Families need these bonds to other families as well, regardless of what Pa in Little House on the Prairie seemed to think at times.

The little platoons of community provide role models, advice, and a safety net, and everyone needs these things. An individual who doesn’t join these organizations soon finds himself deeply in need. The more people in need who aren’t cared for by their community, the more demand there is for a large central state to provide the safety net, the guidance, and the hand-holding.

Social scientists have repeatedly come across a finding along these lines. “[G]overnment regulation is strongly negatively correlated with measures of trust,” four economists wrote in MIT’s Quarterly Journal of Economics . The study relied on an international survey in which people were asked, “Generally speaking, would you say that most people can be trusted or that you need to be very careful in dealing with people?” The authors also looked at answers to the question “Do you have a lot of confidence, quite a lot of confidence, not very much confidence, no confidence at all in the following: Major companies? Civil servants?”

They found, among other examples:

High-trusting countries such as Nordic and Anglo-Saxon countries impose very few controls on opening a business, whereas low-trusting countries, typically Mediterranean, Latin-American, and African countries, impose heavy regulations. 36

The causality here goes both ways. In less trusting societies, people demand more regulation, and in more regulated societies, people trust each other less. This is the analogy of the Industrial Revolution’s vicious circle between Big Business and Big Labor: The less trust in humanity there is, the more rules crop up. And the more rules, the less people treat one another like humans, and so on.

Centralization of the state weakens the ties between individuals, leaving individuals more isolated, and that isolation yields more centralization.

The MIT paper, using economist-speak, concludes there are “two equilibria” here. That is, a society is headed toward a state of either total regulation and low trust, or low regulation and high trust. While both destinations might fit the definition of equilibrium, the one where regulation replaces interpersonal trust is not a fitting environment for human happiness.

On a deeper level, without a community that exists on a human level—somewhere where everyone knows your name, to borrow a phrase—a human can’t be fully human. To bring back the language of Aristotle for a moment, we actualize our potential only inside a human-scaled community.

And if you want to know what happens to individuals left without a community in which to live most fully as human, where men and women are abandoned, left without small communities in which to flourish, we should visit Trump Country.