President Trump – A Change to American Politics

Where We Are Now

In what can only be described as the end of American politics, Donald Trump won the presidency of the United States. As a vocal and ardent opponent to the Alt-Right and everything else Trump represents, this is a moment of loss and grief.

Naturally, social media exploded telling every liberal to deal with it and how they were wrong, while all liberals were trying to pacify themselves with these platitudes of comfort. They also had a lot of people trying to bridge the divide that this election has caused, which was nice but so tone deaf.

So, what happened?

The Blind Echo Chamber

Every major poll declared Hillary as the winner back in July.

Some sites even mocked other pollsters for not giving Hillary a 99% chance of winning (1). As a supporter of Hillary, even if not totally, and a person terribly afraid of what a Trump administration would entail, then this sounds delightful. Memes flew every wherever as we all waited for the annoying election from Hell to end.

Then, it went very poorly for the liberal side.Trump won the presidency while losing the popular vote. Here we are.

Memes as a Distraction

Terence McKenna said that memes are “the smallest unit of an idea that still has coherency” (2). What people miss is memes are not conversations or discourse; they are bite-sized snippets to consume and move on. They assume context exists and work as a way of passing on information. In the Internet era, they became a source of jokes where any side can find them amusing.

Take these memes from about Harambe:

harambe1

harambe2

While immensely humorous, Harambe garnered write-in votes in this mega election, though the number is highly exaggerated (3). Because of this rolling joke that pops up every day it seems, a bunch of adults waited in line to vote for a dead gorilla.

This is where memes distract from true discourse. These jokes don’t really address the real issues: humans capturing animals and putting them down when humans fail, and the role of parents being massively depressed. Harambe was shot when a small child entered his enclosure, and like most major primates, he attacked the child. By all accounts, a gorilla really has no right to be in a cage that close to humans. And, this child had to scale a small fence to get into the enclosure. My parents were of the generation that kept hands off kids to allow exploration, but there was never a circumstance, despite every shady zoo I visited, where I was alone long enough to dive into a death pit.

And thus where memes failed this conversation. People who either don’t understand what actually happened to a fucking gorilla re-appropriate the jokes as their own thing, and that’s why a dead gorilla received votes in 2016.

Maybe these voters would have gone Clinton too. Maybe they assumed she was winning, and their votes weren’t needed. They could easily make that mistake if they were avid readers of certain websites.

Politics and the Online Echo Chamber

Polls weren’t the only place where we were misled, but they were majorly wrong. Real Clear Politics had Trump losing for a while (4). FiveThirtyEight had a 70% to 90% chance of Hillary winning presidency (5). It was hard to find anyone with real credibility who put Trump winning.

Then, the son of a bitch did.

Reddit’s /r/politics would have told you this was impossible. Any leads Trump got were just anomalies. They cited references, explained his victories as mistakes or exaggerations, and then, they pushed Hillary Clinton.

What these sources missed were the rural voters (6).

The Rural Vote

In many areas of the country, everything is pretty nice. The economy is a lot better than when Obama took office. Jobs are up. Insurance coverage is great.

However, in rural areas, the opposite is true. Manufacturing and energy jobs are gone. This creates ghost towns with people to have nothing to do. Worse still, oil is depressed, and the oil industry is renowned for overpaying under-skilled workers, leaving them stuck in a permanent loop of relying on the oil industry to employ them, lay them off, and rehire for less money, based on inflation (7).

These people didn’t care. They just wanted change. Hillary was the continuation of Obama’s rule, but Trump was different. Who cares that he literally cannot force dead industries back to areas, or force capitalist companies to not outsource labor and manufacturing. Trump supporters don’t really care about facts and logistics; Trump’s entire campaign was devoid of the minutiae of how to implement anything he declared he’d do (8). They just wanted the rhetoric.

Liberals wanted status quo, and we bet hard on that. We assumed everyone was like us, but when reality hit, we were gutted.

The Way Forward

All of this misunderstanding and misinterpretation, ultimately, do not matter. Trump has won, and the GOP controls all of Congress. Trump represents a complete mystery, and this may have been because he was totally unaware of what the President actually did (9). On both sides of the aisle and those totally unrepresented, Trump is a complete mystery, and he is already starting to pander to both sides.

The Pivots

Since winning a week ago, Trump has begun explaining his policies more. They vary widely. Some include:

 

 

Already debates have begun with the GOP majority, like Mitch McConnell, who has no interest in term limits (13) nor building a wall on the southern border of the US (14). These pivots or softening of previously hard sells shows a president who will quickly alienate the base that elected him. Ann Coulter fell victim to this when right before releasing a book about Trump, wherein she said the only way she could turn on him was if he changed his stances on abortion or illegals, and he did just that (15).

What Trump’s fluid policies say about him is that he’ll waver on issues with any major opposition, or that he was so woefully unaware of what Obama actually did that he said things so far out of school that he is now forced to backtrack. These pivots give a little insight into how Trump will deal with policies, debates, and compromising.

While Trump’s policies seem to be much more varied that Republican party lines, his cabinet will be the most indicative of how he will move forward as President. And, if that’s the case, the answer is utterly chilling.

The Cabinet of Deplorables

For reasons no one will ever understand, Trump surrounded himself with complete lunatics in Alex Jones, Roger Stone, Roger Ailes, Steve Bannon, Rudy Guiliani, and Mike Pence.

Each of these adult humans has made comments or actions that would individually discredit them. Alex Jones, for example, believes Sandy Hook didn’t happen (16). Rudy Guilliani fought the fire fighters before 9/11 on budgets (17), which costs lives, and has basically made the event his personal cape (18). And, Mike Pence, Donald Trump’s personal life insurance policy, caused an HIV epidemic because he believes science isn’t as accurate as the god damn bible (19).

What these sociopaths represent is a status quo of establishment rule. Reince Priebus, former chairman of the RNC, has become Trump’s Chief of Staff. It seems odd that the man who represented the party that Trump was raging against when he stumbled would not be part of his #DrainTheSwamp rhetoric. Steve Bannon takes the role of Senior Advisor to the President, a role held previously by Karl Rove. Other appointments are forthcoming, but the rumors show a Trump cabinet that is more of the same with people who are already in high positions taking a slightly higher one.

The issue is Trump’s appointments are individuals who are objectively unqualified. And none are more unqualified than Steve Bannon.

Bannon, the most powerful White Supremacist in America

Steve Bannon is best known for chairing the Alt-Right website Breitbart. Breitbart has posted some of the more questionably racist and sexiest articles today. They somehow have a high degree of credibility, even when they post shit like how women just suck at interviews (20). Granted, this article is posted by the gay troll of Milo Yiannopoulos, who has stated that homosexuality was abhorrent (21) and that fat people should starve themselves until they can be less disgusting to go to the gym (22).

Bannon has made comments that show his truer beliefs to be a lot less vague.

On homosexuals and women’s equality (23):

That’s one of the unintended consequences of the women’s liberation movement––that, in fact, the women that would lead this country would be feminine, they would be pro-family, they would have husbands, they would love their children. They wouldn’t be a bunch of dykes that came from the 7 Sisters schools.”

Accusations of antisemetism (though not his own words) (24):

…the biggest problem he had with Archer [School for Girls] is the number of Jews that attend. He said that he doesn’t like Jews and that he doesn’t like the way they raise their kids to be ‘whiney brats’ and that he didn’t want the girls going to school with Jews.”

What this shows is a man who broaches the line of good taste and common respect, with occasional trips over it in a public sense, who is being put into a position where he can influence a great deal of the culture and policies of America. No one really knows how much influence Bannon has had and will have on the Trump administration, but it concerns a lot of people.

Fortunately, a lot of people are waking up to the idea that the system is poisoned.

Stay Woke

It would be unfair to blast memes in the Internet era as totally useless. In a time of light speed communication, they have value.

In the 2000s, the Stay Woke meme started out of various ideas, possibly Erykah Badu’s “Master Teacher” (25). It mostly alluded to staying awake to the world around you.

It became an identifier to the people who stopped pretending there weren’t systematic injustices based on race, especially around the fact George Zimmerman got off after murdering a child. But, we have to look past the racial symptoms and find the actual root cause of all these issues. Race is the most visible target, but we are all disenfranchised from these injustices.

Now, it has slipped into an ironic word, but the concept should still be important. Whether or not your side won the election, it highlights a lot of injustices across the board. James Comey, director of the FBI, released a letter mere days before the election to announce they were reopening the case against Hillary. Nothing came out of it other than polling numbers dropped a lot for Hillary. Both Trump and the Senate GOP won the election without a popular vote. This means that because of archiac concepts of representation, in an era where all our commerce is done digitally, the people who won do not represent the majority. Then, as leaked emails show, the side that was voted by the majority is rife with corruption as the DNC colluded to stonewall Bernie Sanders and prep Hillary Clinton to rush past him.

These events cannot go unaddressed. Americans, especially in the age of instant communication and global discourse, have no ability or defense for not paying attention. We have to accept our world as it is, eyes wide open, or we will continue to spin our wheels and meet the same fate. Trump’s win represents the worst case scenario of defeat. If we don’t change, he’ll be the start of a trend rather than anomaly.

A Brand New Day

Whatever happens next, we will be fine. Humans like to focus on current moments to become the only plausible reality. Trump is scary because of actual things he has said, but that doesn’t mean he will be able to do everything he’s threatened. Congress is made up of career politicans who will always consider their re-election over hard party concepts. The important thing is to stay awake to the political rhetoric.

This election represents a stark change in how politics will be viewed. Those fearing Trump will never scoff a candidate no matter how ridiculous. Those who voted for him will learn how closely a candidate can actually stay to their platform. We no longer can stay passive in political discourse; we have to start questioning everything, what each nuance means, and how it affects us and others.

As such, this election has woken up a great part of America. The protests will eventually ebb, but what will be left is a deeply connected dissatisfaction in our archiac system. That system can only change with people educating themselves and improving it.

I’m hopeful we will achieve that change.

Sources

  1. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/polls-hillary-clinton-win_us_5821074ce4b0e80b02cc2a94
  2. http://www.vice.com/read/terence-mckennas-memes-234
  3. http://www.cnn.com/2016/11/10/us/harambe-votes-trnd/
  4. http://www.realclearpolitics.com/epolls/latest_polls/president/
  5. http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/election-update-how-big-is-hillary-clintons-lead/
  6. http://www.politico.com/story/2016/11/hillary-clinton-rural-voters-trump-231266
  7. http://oilprice.com/Energy/Energy-General/After-350000-Layoffs-Oil-Companies-Now-Face-Worker-Shortages.html
  8. https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/why-facts-dont-matter-to-trumps-supporters/2016/08/04/924ece4a-5a78-11e6-831d-0324760ca856_story.html
  9. http://www.businessinsider.com/trump-obama-meeting-2016-11
  10. https://www.rt.com/usa/366649-trump-interview-obamacare-clinton/
  11. http://www.nbcnews.com/feature/nbc-out/trump-says-he-s-fine-gay-marriage-60-minutes-interview-n683606
  12. http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2016/11/13/501921177/donald-trump-says-hell-deport-2-3-million-people-once-in-office
  13. http://www.gopusa.com/mitch-mcconnell-no-interest-in-term-limits-for-congress/
  14. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/mitch-mcconnell-trump-immigration_us_58238244e4b0aac62488e681
  15. http://money.cnn.com/2016/08/26/media/ann-coulter-book-in-trump-we-trust-immigration
  16. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7c4gMb2UmhA
  17. http://www.nytimes.com/cq/2007/07/12/cq_3065.html
  18. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2007/11/01/giuliani-faces-investigat_n_70709.html
  19. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/mike-pence-indiana-hiv_us_57f53b9be4b002a7312022ef
  20. http://www.breitbart.com/milo/2016/07/01/not-sexism-women-just-suck-interviews/
  21. https://youtu.be/dGL5eRw7rXU?t=2h5m
  22. https://youtu.be/LnH67G7vAu4?t=1h38m
  23. https://www.buzzfeed.com/andrewkaczynski/trump-campaign-ceo-once-blasted-bunch-of-dykes-from-the-seve?utm_term=.gymy0w4nxK#.knJB153yrZ
  24. http://www.nbcnews.com/politics/2016-election/trump-campaign-ceo-steve-bannon-accused-anti-semitic-remarks-ex-n638731
  25. http://fusion.net/story/252567/stay-woke/

Technology Dependency

I am unsure of who the artist is, but the oldest reference I could find was here: https://techcrunch.com/2013/08/15/starting-the-digital-retox/

Preface

The isolation tank/flotation tank is a powerful tool, but it isn’t one that is required for any sort of psychonautical exploration. It just helps you get there with a greater sense of ease. Through this essay, I plan to show how isolating myself reduced my technology dependency and move towards a much more symbiotic relationship with all the tools I have. Feel free to explore with whatever makes you comfortable.

Technology and Infinite Sadness

Louis CK said it best: “Everything’s amazing, and nobodies happy.”

And his point isn’t wrong. Despite having everything that is amazing and makes our lives beyond anything imaginable in the past few decades, we are producing the most depressed generation. There’s a myriad of reasons why Millennials have it pretty bad. We could look at the generations that came before them and consumed at unrestrained rates that left us with very little to even work with, and then, they expect us to take jobs, they would never take. All while doing this, we are saddled with debt that they said we had to take in order to take jobs we either don’t want or have no concept of.

Despite all that, I think the issues we face as a society can be rooted in our reliance on technology. Go back 20 years ago when Internet was rudimentary. We didn’t use it much, if we even had access to it, and it was used as a tool of suspect. Now, try to do your day job without Internet. Try to go to school without it.

Bottling the Genie

This is the nature of technology, whether it was fire, the wheel, Internet, or Smart phones. These objects represent singularities in technology where, once they are known and used, they cannot be unknown. Once they are leveraged, you can’t go back on that knowledge.

I am not a nostalgic person. I think anyone who finds fondness in a lack of broad communication, digital books, and a gaggle of other things that makes our days go well are rather silly; that stuff is important to increase our standing as a society.

Where I start to become suspicious of technology is when we have gaps without it. Take a vacation where Internet isn’t available. The first day may be annoying and frustrating. Depending on the trip, be it the woods or a beach, you adapt pretty fast. By the third or fourth day, you don’t really miss it. By the time you go back to your old life, it feels… a little weird.

This is the experience I had in an isolation tank. For those who haven’t, or can’t, here’s a pretty good video that explains the tank.

After the first 20 minutes or so of unwinding, I was able to completely relax and let my thoughts take over. It was odd as I would slowly relax more and more and lose my sense of the self and my connection with the world.

Refusing to Let Go

At first, I wondered if people whom I was speaking with, had messaged me or called me. This is utterly silly; it’s only a 90-minute session! As I come out of it, insanely well rested and relaxed, I found myself disinterested in using my phone. I popped on a Psychedelic Salon podcast, particularly one on TechnoShamanism as it were, and Michael Garfield, a speaker on the topic, mentioned “we traded [the] Amazon [rainforest] for Amazon[.com].” In my relaxed and detached state, this hit me quite hard.

In that one instance, I found the path that technology allowed us to distract and detach ourselves from the immediate world. In doing this, in trying to show ourselves having experiences rather than having experiences, we are training ourselves to not address issues directly. Instead, we look at it with a detached scope, which allows us to take the position of “what is happening to make me like this,” rather than “what am I doing wrong in my thought process to approach situations with this lens?”

And, unfortunately for us, I don’t think it is totally our fault. We really had no idea what was unleashed on us.

Considering Prometheus

Prometheus was punished by the gods because he gave man fire, which he stole from Mount Olympus.

His act wasn’t one of simple benevolence; he was giving humanity a tool far more powerful than anything they could fully understand. This is why the gods punished him. As gods, they understood the full scope of his deed: fire enabled humans to discover the dark and explore. It enabled us to cook and expand our diets, and it ultimately enabled us to kill.

While Prometheus may have meant well, by introducing this technology without any limitations, he has started the descent of humanity to become reliant on technology.

And maybe that’s the meaning of this parable. That we are unable, as a finite, limited species, to fully understand the ramifications of our actions.

This is where IBM, DAARPA, Apple, Ford, Edward Jenner, Albert Einstein, Robert Oppenheimer, Bill Gates, and Elon Musk, among many others have found themselves. They have given us power and technology that we still don’t fully understand what it does to us.

When Power is Unfettered

Technology, at its core, is awesome. It enables us to do things we couldn’t do previously. We can travel the entire world in under a day. We can experience any triumph or cataclysm, live. We can experience every book, movie, or song on a single device that fits in our hands.

This is the best time to live from that front.

However, as Huxley feared in Brave New World and Bradbury cautioned in Fahrenheit 451 we are losing traction as culture takes over our lives. No longer are we living in the moment; we are capturing the moment for others to experience later. We sacrifice our experiences so others can know we experienced something. We have lost discourse and critical thought in favor of meme culture for shareability so others can pat us on the back with our wittiness.

The Obfuscation of Experience

By allowing technology to dominate the experience instead of proliferating or enhancing the experience, we have lost the reason for experience. For example, augmented reality is a very fascinating tool. It allows you to expand content without harming the story or meaning, and providing fuller context. In a pure sense, this is using technology to expand culture and art and experience. For example, the Kindle reader allows you to define every single word as you go. Previously, you’d have to read a tougher book with a dictionary or Google. This would break the experience. With having a dictionary (and even Wikipedia) on a single touch, you can understand and appreciate more without breaking your immersion. This also enables you to engage in tougher texts without fear of missing the meanings of the content.

The alternative to this is Snapchat and Instagram. Go to any concert, and you’ll see people filming individual songs and posting it to the different platforms. However, they are concerned with framing, stability, and ensuring the audio is good. They are losing the meaning of the concert venue: to celebrate the artist who created something. They are sharing it with the world for people who may never go to a concert in real life, and they are experiencing this real life event through the small, LED screen.

The reason is they want to keep their social currency in the black, and the only way to do that is to share experiences and let people appreciate the life they pretend to lead.

In this case, technology is using them to proliferate. Just like how a virus does.

Technology as a Virus

Artificial Intelligence aside, technology is stupid. It can only do a finite amount of things, and it must be designed. Just like a virus. A virus is a simple organism that isn’t considered to be a living thing. It simply proliferates itself through other mechanisms. An infection of a virus will use the host body to reproduce and spread.

Humanity is the host body in this case, and technology, through our perceived love and desire of it, rides these rails with ferocity. Moore’s Law states states “that, over the history of computing hardware, the number of transistors in a dense integrated circuit has doubled approximately every two years.” In essence, technology is growing exponentially, and this can be observed in consumer culture.

A Look Back

A decade ago, the iPhone wasn’t out. It was officially announced in January 2007, and it hit the stores in June 2007 (Today is the 9th anniversary). During its announcement, it was met with positive reactions though a lot of hesitance(http://www.charleshudson.net/initial-reaction-to-the-iphone-mildly-skeptical-but-impressed). I recall a lot of people just saw no value, and they often joked that it couldn’t make calls.

Here we are in 2016, text messaging, usually via social networks, are more prevalent than phone calls, and our devices are more powerful that computers were a few years ago. I recall buying a laptop with blazing fast 4GB of ram, and now, there’s a phone with 6GB.

This is just in the consumer electronics space too. In the government sector, we are light years ahead of this capability.

We Reproduce for Technology

This line of thinking reminds of when Kevin Kelly stated that “Humans are the reproductive organs of technology.” This phrase is so perfectly apt that it actually makes really good visual sense.

We push the boundaries of technology to keep growing, and according to Moore’s Law, we will keep growing exponentially. What this means is eventually, just by rate of growth, technology could reach sentience, or at the very least, keep us bound to it.

Right now, I challenge everyone to smash all their electronic devices without a second’s thought.

You cannot because your life is spread out through all of them. My writings are saved on hard drives and cloud storages. My games are on a computer. I don’t actually know a single phone number, other than the ones I learned before the advent of smart devices that never changed.

In a very real sense, we need technology to survive and be productive. But do we need technology to survive?

I fear the answer may be yes.

Symbiosis

Since the 90s, cell phones went from a thing no one really needed to something we cannot survive without.

Try navigating to a new place. In fact, try to find the address of that place. Your first bet will be to use Google to find the business, then switch over to Maps. Or to straight up ask Siri, if you are young enough.

This isn’t a bad thing necessarily. Humans are creatures of adaptation and evolution. We have have adapted to mutations throughout our existence. Technology, though synthetic, could be the next thing we adapt to our beings.

Technology as Boon

As technology increases, and our reliance on it does too, we could see a world where medical needs are filled by technology. My first novel actually addresses this really ham-fisted and directly by saying such technology would be leveraged to cure all illnesses, injury, hunger, thirst, and all other needs. The cool thing is this isn’t totally made up science fiction, but it’s something that is coming.

So, does my society have a parasitic relationship with technology or is it more symbiotic relationship where technology advances with humanity?

Technology is a Tool-a dumb, immensely useful tool

Therein lies the crux of all of this discourse: technology, whether as a construct itself or a virus replicating through humanity, isn’t good or bad; it is simply a tool. However, if we become a slave to this tool without rational thought or consideration, then we lose the point of technology itself: to enable us to be more productive.

Take the Kindle device. My Kindle has over 100 books on it. I can without question read every day for the rest of my life using just that device and the easy/free to get books, thanks to Amazon, the library, and other sites. As a tool to encourage children in poorer areas to read, the Kindle cannot be touched. As a device, it doesn’t offer a lot either; you simply read on it.

Convertible tablets function the same way. You achieve a great deal of productivity in a manner that was only dreamt up in science fiction. However, with the power of these devices, distractions are prevalent and powerful. Facebook and other social networks load in a full web view, allowing mobility to mix with maximum exposure. And that’s where I believe we’ll see a demarcation. Devices that get TOO powerful will enable us to do too much, and they will end up wiping out rival technology.

By working with the tools that enable us to do what we want in a manner that is conducive to the truest self, we are able to face ourselves without much distractions.

Conclusions and Moving Forward

I am not the first nor the last to write about the concept of cultural ensnarement. The beautiful thing about “truth” is that it is universal, and anyone can rediscover it with their own interpretation.

I encourage everyone to approach topics with new lenses. When something makes you innately comfortable, question that, and try to find a new perspective. I am a technophile and a tech advocate, but by taking a step back, I have a better understanding of how technology has hampered me from exploring my mind and surroundings in honest ways.

I don’t say all this to dissuade the use of technology. I believe this is the error of cultural creation. We can create our own podcasts, TV networks, book platforms, and other things that strongly interest us, and we should. Terence McKenna said it best, as I often quote, “We have to stop consuming our culture. We have to create culture.”

And while that’s important, I think consuming art and experiences is important to humanity, but the crux of it all is to actually experience it in real time. Share ideas with your friends and family that interest you. Stop allowing the architects of culture to have a free monologue with you. Make everything a dialog. Find something that’ll inspire you to create. Several of my writing projects started simply because I was so excited by something else, I had to channel it into a creative outlet.

Once you own your experience and boot out everything that tries to live rent free in your head, then you are ready to take control of what is really yours:

Yourself

Further Consumption

  1. Psychedelic Salon: Episode 508 – Technoshamanism – https://psychedelicsalon.com/podcast-508-techno-shamanism/
  2. /r/Psychonaut – http://www.reddit.com/r/psychonaut
  3. Branded – https://play.google.com/store/movies/details/Branded_2010?id=vGZ8F_t7XxY
  4. Dreamviews – http://www.dreamviews.com

Sources

  • https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/392909-humans-are-the-reproductive-organs-of-technology
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Jenner
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prometheus#Myths_and_legends
  • http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/are-viruses-alive-2004/
  • https://www.google.com/search?q=moore%27s+law&oq=moore%27s+law&aqs=chrome..69i57j0l5.1329j0j7&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IPhone

Mental Illness Plague

Another week and another mass shooting. This one, however, seems to be far, far more political than a lone gunman at a Planned Parenthood facility.

It’s all over the news, and details are becoming more and more sad. The point of interest for me is how many people were hoping the shooter was a group of white Christian males. A lot of people have sort of whitewashed this as some workplace violence rather than a potential act of domestic Islamic terrorism. While it can’t be ruled out that this could be a random act of workplace violence, there is the troubling detail that the shooter left the party to get his wife, arm up, get bombs, and don body armor. That doesn’t seem like a spur of the moment rage attack. Especially, when you consider the FBI found his IED Factory.

And that’s ultimately the problem. Rather than evaluating these shootings as a great part of a whole, we are looking for the exploitable story in each of them, in and of themselves. The guy in South Carolina who murdered some black folks was a racist. The guy who shot three people at Planned Parenthood was a right-wing fanatic who believed he was untouchable because he believed in God. This couple is actually just people who happen to Muslim, and there was a workplace dispute. That’s all!

The problem is this isn’t fitting the evidence. In the case of the shooting in San Bernardino, the primary shooter had recently visited Saudi Arabia to marry a woman he met online. Another suspect was allegedly from Qatar, but he was deemed a hoax, as the media grabs for straws. The narrative being portrayed is that the man, who is a US citizen and was at the job for five years was radicalized after traveling to Saudi Arabia, maybe via his arranged marriage.

This creates a commonality with mass shootings: radical fanaticism.

Beliefs are fine. People should believe in something be it atheism, Christianity, or whatever, so long as it doesn’t infringe on someone else’s right to do so. However, fanaticism is a mental disorder. It allows a person to completely disregard logic and the well being of others for the sake of pushing their own agenda. With mentally ill, the frustrations they feel through their untreated delusions will quickly be filled with a fanatical focus. It doesn’t matter what that focus is, but it allows them to grasp at something with their entire self, invest in it, and die for it.

That’s where I get frustrated with mass shootings. If the shooters are right-winged and white, the narrative becomes that we should disarm everyone, that political rhetoric is killing, and that Christians are hypocrites. If the shooter is Muslim or foreign, we get A LOT of vaguely racist talk, isolationism against refugees, and talk of one religion being more violent than another. It all creates a very tense conversation where extreme sides are chosen, while moderates are left to their own devices. Then, it passes, and we move on.

This all adds static to the real problem that, even in 2015, we refuse to address: mass, widespread mental illness. Until we are ready to address the fact that adjusted people don’t think of killing others, so that means these outliers are actually mentally ill and not just “evil” we will be stuck in this cycle of violence.

But that part about evil is critical. As mentally healthy individuals, we have to believe the idea that people who can act with great violence aren’t like us. They are evil monsters who are nothing like us.

The far scarier truth is that they are like us, but they are pushed to the fringes without any treatment for their unsaid conditions. Banning guns won’t stop them nor will arming everyone. We must, holistically, look at the mental health crisis in this country, and drop the bullshit illusion that there’s us and there are them. Otherwise, we will see these happen again and again, like they have.

And, in the end, all we get is more death and pain.

Altered States of Consciousness

Every now and then, I like to create projects to create a focus for my blog. Here’s one.

I study altered states of consciousness a lot for my own entertainment. Something about the notion that the only thing separating us from utter insanity is our access to “sobriety.” The problem with the notion of sobriety is that it isn’t made equal across the board. For schizophrenics, for example, have trace amounts of dimethyltryptamine in their urine. So, taking no substances that change their perception, is “sobriety” really sober? This is question is why I propose using the term baseline, which varies from individual to individual.

For this blog experiment, I am going to try various forms of legal altered states of consciousness and document my results. When doing this sort of research, I am often frustrated with the lack of quality information out there. It seems like it is far easier to find how to change yourself with illegal means, but nothing really detailed with holotrophic breathing, for example.

I am going to change that. My goal is to attempt various methods over a span of time and document my results.

For my first experiment, I am going straight to baseline.

I am a coffee drinker, and I do the ketogenic diet. My goal for my first experiment is to eliminate the first while performing the second. This will likely be painful, as I have been off the rails since December. I will also likely have headaches from the lack of caffeine, which is risky since I am prone to migraines.

As a “pre-trip” report, I will say I am very hungry all the time thanks to sugars, and my mood is very neutral to negative. My attention to the situation and awareness in life is very lacking as well. I have a good deal of energy, but I am prone to laziness.

I’ll report back after two full days of purging carbs and coffee.

On a general front, I am hoping to have an update regarding my novel and other writing related things pretty soon. I hate to be the type to do the “new year, new me” thing, but it sort of worked out that way.

Until next time.

A Dream Journey

Dreaming has existed in humans since we became sentient. There’s plenty of studies about how and why we dream, but the true origin of it has always fascinated me. When we look at the beginnings of humans, it paints a fascinating story as to what and why we dream. I cannot truly answer “why do humans dream?” I do not have the skills or knowledge to do so. Instead, I can paint a fascinating story that I hope interests everyone to this secret world.

The Urge to Dream

Looking at why we dream, there are a few hypotheses regarding the benefits of sleeping and dreaming. One notion of why we sleep is that it helps us retain information and learn from our daily lives (Nixon, 2010). Per that article, by simply napping AND dreaming after learning a difficult task, we are more inclined to internalize something than someone who learns and doesn’t dream of the same activity and someone who learns a topic but doesn’t sleep. This paints an interesting evolutionary scenario. Did our ancestors evolve dreaming based on their prowess or did dreaming evolve sentience as the learned skills through the dream plane. Going further, one theory is that the diet of humans, as well as increased sleep quality, helped evolve the australopithecus into the Homo genus (Coolidge & Wynn, 2013). One fascinating aspect of sleep is that it is separated into essentially two phases, deep Non-REM sleep and REM sleep, the period in which we dream . Evolutionary speaking, the former just sucks. We are completely unable to move in any way (though this is truer in REM sleep), we take a while to wake up, and we often awaken in a confused state. What the hell, brain? With all this seemingly working against us, these tools helped humans grow and innovate. The previously mentioned article in the last paragraph mentions that tool creation may have been spurred by dreaming. That start to touch on where my topic started. Were dreams used by our ancestors to create a playground of life where they tried new things in the dream then replicated them in real-life? Imagine finding a tool in a dream that allows you to chop down trees for wood to create fire. This tool would change the way you lived your day to day life if your only tools previously were hands. What’s even more fascinating is the idea that humans could have even been lucid dreaming while creating these tools. Crazy! These early humans were likely taking the environment and their dreams were created as a practice for the world around them. They’d likely wake up, baffled as to how whatever predator that killed them in the dream didn’t actually kill them. The dream rehearsal, while jarring at first, would have given early man a place to practice how to hunt animals that they have only watched or how to evade predators that threatened them. Rachael Rettner reminds us that Sigmund Freud had a theory on why humans dreamed. “Sigmund Freud proposed dreams exist to fulfill our wishes. But such gratification in an imaginary world would do little to help us adapt our instincts to the physical world, which is one key point of evolution, Barrett said”(Rettner 2010). She proposes that dreaming is more likely a side effect of the sleep cycle that evolved through the years. Through further study and brain evaluation, we may one day cement the exact source of dreaming in the brain. Since early man didn’t have the distractions we do, they could have focus on sleeping when tired, regardless of time, and sleeping until rested or roused by danger. Modern humans have created a false sense of sleeping being at night, for 8 hours straight. Instead, humans are used to sleeping about 4 hours, waking, doing something, then going back to sleep (Hegarty, 2012 I am l). For the lucid dreamers out there, this is how a Wake-Back-To-Bed works. So, humans were predispositioned towards dreaming, and probably, lucid dreaming. In recent years, we’ve lost all respect and revere of our dreams. Because of that, we have lost a large portion our lives.

The Lost Quarter Century

We spend nearly 26 years of our lives sleeping (based on the calculation of 8 hours a night for 75 years) (Nixon 2010). Of those 8 hours, we spend roughly 1 to 2 hours in REM, which is where we dream. That translates to about 6 years of dream time for an average life-time. Using lucid dreaming, or at least paying attention to dreaming in general, can reclaim some of this lost time. A fascinating thing to try is to record your dreams nightly. After about a week, your dreams will become more vibrant and real, and you will start to recall more dreams than seemingly possible. I have filled two or three pages with single nights of dreaming. Even if you aren’t lucid dreaming, having a record of these trips at night are amazing to reflect upon, either creatively or for the sake of it being fun. As Nixon pointed out, dreams work to organize our day and the experiences in them. By keeping a solid record of these dreams, we can see how they actually work themselves out. Through various belief structures over the ages, dreaming has become viewed as a useless endeavor to a sign of possession. Watch this video: Sleep Paralysis, Demons My Story

While I feel sorry for someone to be tormented through their lack of education, his comments show no desire to learn at all that what he experienced is a natural phenomenon that can be broken. Instead, he propagates the notion that the experience is a demonic attack. By continuing this stupid notion, he is causing other people to fear dreaming and the normal aspects of sleep. Education will stop this perpetuation of fear, and once that is done, we will see progress in dreaming across the board.

Going Forward

Dreams are a natural part of our lives, and while there are a myriad of ideas about why we dream, it’s impossible to hammer down the exact reason without further dream research. Thanks to a lot of fringe groups grabbing on to lucid dreaming, and dreams in general, they are lost to the aether as useless and silly ideas that are more of a nuance or even dangerous. Through practice and exploration we can learn what dreams really do for us. Lucid dreaming is clearly the key to exploring the world of dreaming. We will never truly understand “what did Cavemen dream about?” without some revelation of records of their dreaming. Instead, we need to focus on making sure we are, and our dream materials, aren’t lost to time. Sharing dreams with friends or just recording your dreams for appreciate later will allow us to have a real record of how and why we dream for future generations. At the absolute very least, it’ll make our lives a bit more full rather than sleeping through a third of our lives.

Resources

  1. Nixon, R. (2010, April 22). Naps and dreams boost learning, study finds. Retrieved from http://www.livescience.com/9874-naps-dreams-boost-learning-study-finds.html
  2. Coolidge, F. L., & Wynn, T. (2013, October 14). How dreaming changed human evolution. Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/how-think-neandertal/201310/how-dreaming-changed-human-evolution
  3. Hegarty, S. (2012, February 22). The myth of the eight-hour sleep. Retrieved from http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-16964783
  4. Rettner, R. (2010, June 27). Why we dream: Real reasons revealed. Retrieved from http://www.livescience.com/8373-dream-real-reasons-revealed.html

“Friday Night”

Every now and then, I will find a REALLY terrible, shitty song.  Enter The Millionaires. If you mix 90s entitlement issues with presumably rich kids with no real problems and then add a dash of drugs and alcohol, you get The Millionaires.

Their sound is like hitting a feedbacking speaker playing 80s synth with a baseball bat. The worst part about this vapid, useless people is they performed one song that was REALLY catchy while being utterly inane.

“Alcohol” is about partying. There’s no soliloquy on the downtrodden worker or making a backhanded praise of alcohol to show the damage it does to the alcoholic. No, this song is JUST about partying by some pretentious girls who think they are really attractive.

For partying and being stupid, it works really well. The line “Friday Night, It’s time to Party” opens the song as if it was meant to be nailed to your spine, always ready to be tapped into when you least desire it. When someone would exclaim “Friday Night!” without hesitation, I would parrot back “It’s time to party.” Realizing I have been infected, I would retreat to a Tibetan cave until I lose the concept of speech for my transgression against humanity for proliferating this virus.

As if a common phrase like “Friday Night” isn’t ruined, the party anthem “Let’s get fucked up” is also ruined for double points.

If you hate yourself, listen to it. It’s pretty humorous.

The full music video with better audio quality.

Embedded with lower quality but the Falkner-esque lyrics:

“Love Me” – Ruined Phrases

The Cardigans wrote a song called “Lovefool” that is a verbal brain parasite. The chorus has a cheery, poppy girl singing “Love Me, Love Me, Say That You Love Me./Fool Me, Fool Me, Go On and Fool Me” that gets stuck in my head for days when I hear the phrase.

The fascinating structure of the chorus has the first two words of each line repeated three times, with the third time fitting into the sentence that elaborates on the line “Love Me, Love Me, Say That You Love Me.”

The problem with the song is that its so simple and the ruined phrase is so commonly heard in that cadence that it gets embedded in your brain like a hungry deer tick. The song isn’t bad, but it is definitely that poppy 90s sound that really hasn’t been emulated yet.

In the interest of making this easier, I’ll do two today, and two tomorrow to play catch up.

In Your Head

This phrase comes up depressing a lot when talking to people. I say depressingly because of how ingrained this phrase is with the song by The Cranberries “Zombie.”

The chorus of the song is a repetition of “In your he-ad. In your he-e-e-e-ad. Zomb-ay Zomb-ay Zomb-ay-ay-ay.” Because of this repetition, anytime someone asks “Is is your head?” or some other variation, I am automatically stuck on a loop of “Zombie.”

More often than not, the phrase is a hand grenade my wife throws at me. She will wait until I am not expecting it, then boom, just say “In your head” knowing it will torture me until I hear the song or lobotomize myself. Since the latter is a bit final, I listen to the song to get it out of my head (Drink!), and that refreshes its home in my subconscious.

The fascinating thing about the song is its haunting, heavy tone while this woman has a very light voice to it and sings with a thick melancholy that fits the tone too perfectly as she sings about a revolution. It’s a poppy sounding song with a depressing message and melody. Thanks to that perfect storm of variables, it will be a song that really transcends generations. Some may never hear it until today (sorry, but it will be in your head [Drink!] now), and some began singing it when they saw the title “In Your Head” (Drink!) of this post.

UPDATE: It seems that instead of pressing submit, I pressed draft. I’ll have to revise a few things, but this was for Friday.  I’ll publish the other three tomorrow. Damn life getting in the way…

Ruined Phrase – Seven Day Project

We use thousands of different words every day. Maybe even hundreds of thousands. However, every year or so, one phrase is so utterly tied to an idea that that phrase is always going to be associated with that idea for the rest of its modern lifespan. For example, the phrase “set of skills” will always find a spot in American lingo thanks to the film Taken. Others are far more specific to the point that their association only is obvious when you hear the phrase. Try to ask someone if they are talking to you without reverting to a DeNiro voice, for example.

For the next week, I’ll update daily with seven phrases that are ruined for me. I know I tend to pick up projects well outside my scope here, and they prove to be too much. For example, I had tried to write a story a week for a year. The problem with that was, aside from having less and less time to devote to purely writing for a website, was I began creating bad stories for the sake of meeting my goal of 52 stories. From this attempt, a story emerged that is interconnected. Every story posted for that project was related somehow, which at the start was unintentional. To make that project worthwhile and make it less of a babble exercise, I am going to write a fewer stories with the idea that they are all connected tightly. I already have a larger novella length story to connect all the characters together in mind. This allows me to focus on important/interesting stories rather than writing anything and everything. More on that later.

Hope you enjoy the following posts. I think it may be time for a revision to this website. The purpose of it was to serve as a portfolio, but I think now I want it to serve exclusively to my creative and technical writing pursuits.

Until next time.  

Brain Candy: Creating Doubt That Anyone Exists

Like most people, when I get tired, my brain’s filter is dulled significantly. During these late hours, I like to delve into ideas that I would be more skeptical of or less receptive to if I were more well rested. In a computer driven world where eye candy means pictures of attractive images (be it people or whatever), I have dubbed these esoteric ideas as “brain candy.” I am unsure if this is a common term or a term used for something unrelated, but that is what I will use. These late night blogs, which I will push myself to make every Friday at night, will work at forcing myself to think outside of a normal box. I think mental exercises allow the brain to expand and avoid lethargy.

As evidenced in my opening paragraph, these will be a bit rambling pieces, again due to fatigue. I will avoid critiquing and editing them beyond spelling and grammar in order to make this as much of a free-writing exercise as possible.

The first topic that I came across was something related to another topic. The article was title “The Death Delusion” by Bard Canning. In this meaty article, Canning deduces that since death is an experience devoid of sensations and senses, it cannot be experienced by us. He words things a lot better than I can, and he repeats himself in a manner that reinforces his ideas a bit.

This sort of reminds me of the teachings of the Tibetan Dream Yogis who surmised that we dream to gain consciousness and awareness in order to practice for the “Great Sleep,” death. If we fail to become aware in death, then we are reincarnated, I believe, they argued. If we are successful, then we pass over without so much as a break in our consciousness.

Understanding consciousness is a scary thing. Take for example your five main senses. Though we probably have 10 senses, focus on sight, smell, taste, hearing, and touch. For the next five minutes, attempt to remain completely aware of all five senses. This will be quite difficult to maintain for even 30 seconds. If you break down this task, you will probably be able to focus your consciousness on one sense, but when you add in a second one, it becomes a bit more difficult.

This exercise does one major thing; it shows you that you are unconscious, in some way, constantly. For example, I am wearing clothes now, but unless I turn my focus to feeling, I cannot feel my clothes. I can hear a plane outside right now, but when I turn my focus towards my hearing, I can hear a much wider range of sounds that went unnoticed in the background.

So, in your roughly 16 hour day, you are unaware of large portions. Take for example your daily drives. Often, you will be aware of other drivers, the radio, your mirrors, your speed, etc., but after a period of repetition, your route will become habitual and automatic. If you focus all of your consciousness on your actual route, you will lose focus on things like driver distance, your speed, or the idle noises.

With this explanation of unconsciousness in mind, we still maintain, despite periods of blankness, at least a sense or two consciously. With death, as Canning postulates, we don’t even have those two. Death is a period of no senses, consciousness, or awareness. It is like sleep without dreaming.

Canning takes the notion a bit further with this section:

It is a common assertion that we are sentient individuals because of the ordered complexity of our minds. Yet, it would be absurd to suggest that we would become more real or more sentient if our brains were increased in size or complexity. You are real now, and you would be real if someone removed half your brain. You might lose some of your capabilities, but you would still be a real, sentient individual. There are tumour patients who have had half of their brains removed. It would be absurd to consider them to be half as real or half an individual. The same is true if the order of your brain was to be eroded completely. You might become significantly less intelligent but you would still exist as microscopic flashes of intelligence appearing throughout the universe. Except by then you would have lost the division between yourself and other minds because your thoughts would have spread out and merged with the general intelligence “fog”.

When your physical body dies your consciousness does not disappear, it merely becomes disorganized and less constrained by the linear concepts of time and space. Some people consider this to be rejoining the “God Consciousness”.

Essentially, as we grow older, our consciousness is fading in and out of this experience as it joins a conglomeration of consciousness. I think of it as sleeping mid-thought. You are here and in the present, but your mind is dreaming and racing on its own. It cannot keep up with your sleeping body. As our biological body decays and loses its anchor to reality, the consciousness “sleeps” longer. Eventually, it cannot find a way back to the anchor because the anchor has decayed to dust, so it continues onward.

At this point, I start to build off of the Simulation Argument, which says:

[a paper on simulation argument says] at least one of the following propositions is true: (1) the human species is very likely to go extinct before reaching a “posthuman” stage; (2) any posthuman civilization is extremely unlikely to run a significant number of simulations of their evolutionary history (or variations thereof); (3) we are almost certainly living in a computer simulation.

To put it simply, either humans never reached this so-called posthuman stage, humans did reach this stage, but they only run a set number of simulations, or we are living in a computer simulation right now.

I have heard a few prominent philosophers argue that simulations are run all the time. We have The Sims for consumers, but well before that, simulations were used to predict results in research settings. If a civilization reaches a point where it’s possible to replicate a human experience, it isn’t much of a leap to assume they would continue to run simulations that are deeper and richer. Also, experience don’t happen outside the body but in the brain. You don’t see with your eyes, your brain formulates the imagery. If one could, as Canning says, recreate the chemicals for an experience in a petri dish, your brain wouldn’t be any wiser at knowing it was a fake experience.

I offer a bit of supporting evidence for this notion which uses the parameters that a real person is one that originates thoughts and your own thoughts are original: we cannot ever prove anyone but ourselves exist. I am aware my thoughts are my own, but I cannot prove that everyone I interact with is not a fragment of my own consciousness or that every thing isn’t part of a complex delusion for me. Now, this notion is extremely egotistical assuming that I, or whomever is questioning this idea, is the center of creation, but I don’t think it is that far outside of the box. Often, I find myself deducing bits of information and facts that sync perfectly with people I have just met, or I find myself finding connections to people through unexpected methods. Since I am no scientist, I just hold this argument as part of my brain candy concept: something to toy around with.

In closing, I think nothing offered or discussed in this post should be viewed as discrediting the value and wonder of life. If death is a myth or the final end of our human existence, it is still a point of change. If the Tibetan Dream Yogis are correct, then this life can either never end or restart perpetually. The point is coasting is squandering your existence. Question, wonder, and admire everything you experience. Maybe you’ll find the Konami Code hidden away for magic powers.