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  1. #1051
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    Well, I have to agree with Aragorn, this has become a bit too political for my taste. Can we please keep the topic of conversation around the main theme of collapse (which is the only reason I brought up Bill Maher or the very real danger of a right-wing coup in the US) and leave the partisan mud-slinging to other threads?

    Thanks

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  3. #1052
    Senior Member Chuckie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Chris View Post
    Well, I have to agree with Aragorn, this has become a bit too political for my taste. Can we please keep the topic of conversation around the main theme of collapse (which is the only reason I brought up Bill Maher or the very real danger of a right-wing coup in the US) and leave the partisan mud-slinging to other threads?

    Thanks
    Between you and I, it was taking all the joy out of the discussion from me, mudslinging in my mind denotes 'innuendo, propaganda, silliness, untruth... you won't get any of that from me'
    “To seek self-knowledge is to embark on a journey which ... will always be incomplete" - courtesy of Godel's Incompleteness Theorem

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  5. #1053
    Super Moderator Fred Steeves's Avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Chris View Post
    Well, I have to agree with Aragorn, this has become a bit too political for my taste. Can we please keep the topic of conversation around the main theme of collapse (which is the only reason I brought up Bill Maher or the very real danger of a right-wing coup in the US) and leave the partisan mud-slinging to other threads?

    Thanks
    Well you started it bro. Bill Maher very much so uses U.S. centric current political events as a major basis for his show, and you drug him into this subject matter with your own slant on him. But I'm more than willing to let 'er go, fully agreed it's off topic, and I was part of it as well. Let's move on then.

    Peace
    The unexamined life is not worth living.

    Socrates

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  7. #1054
    Super Moderator United States Dreamtimer's Avatar
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    This is an analysis of the massively advanced civilization we live in and the reasons for its coming collapse. There are four possibilities and the one we (humans) continue to follow is the 'business as usual' model. The outcomes are tracking with the predictions, which is cause for concern.


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  9. #1055
    Super Moderator Wind's Avatar
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    We sure are ahead of schedule, but at least humanity is good in something and that's fucking up things! The most "known" advanced civilization to date we have now, while the likes of Atlantis and such have become ghosts of the past which people hardly anymore even believe in. Back then humanity was in it's childhood yet it had far more superior spiritual knowledge and now things are far worse in that regard, all we have is just technological advancement and intellectual arrogance. It does not bode well for this civilization when everything is in disarray and by that I mean the lives of individuals and societies. Greed and corruption rules, it always leads to stagnation and ultimately to collapse, greed is actually a sickness of the spirit. Perhaps the old has to die so that something new and better can come after it.

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  11. #1056
    Super Moderator United States Dreamtimer's Avatar
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    Those divisions have already existed ever since the USA was created on the blood and bones of the natives whose land was stolen from underneath them at gunpoint, on the blood, sweat and tears of the African slaves that were kidnapped away from their families and their homes only to end up being treated worse than farm animals, and on the sweat of the underpaid and maltreated Chinese railroad laborers that were lured over to America under false promises only to end up being treated only marginally better than the African slaves.
    There's a disturbing (to me) trend of undermining the idea that there even were slaves or slave ships. There are stories being spread of Africans really being indigenous Americans. More soil for division. More salt on wounds.


    I identify as an American because I really couldn't do another thing.

    I lived in Tunisia for two months. I have an intimate and first hand understanding of muslim culture, which has helped protect me from the stupid-shit attitudes which exist here.

    I've spoken enough French in life that I've dreamt in the language a couple times. I've been to several European countries and I know people from all over the world.

    I lived in DC for a couple years. I literally knew people from around the globe.

    My best friend in college was from Jamaica.

    Yeah, I'm American. I could condition myself to believe otherwise, it wouldn't matter. Because anywhere I go, everyone else will identify me as an American. It's not just in my head, you know.

    I have no idea if the bureaucracy of the EU would be better than that of the US. If they were able to create a more even playing field, bring forth sensible regulation, actually represent the desires and needs of regular people, not cowtow to the big money businesses, religions, etc., it probably would be better.

    It sounds utopian. But the EU may very well do a much better job since we've lost the plot over here.

    I just don't see anything being business as usual until our case of the crazy is dealt with.


    All I can actually do is to warn those few thoughtful and well-informed people that might listen and hope that they make the necessary preparations, preferably to leave before it's too late. They probably have until 2024 to get their things in order and get out of there.
    My husband has been wanting to leave the US for years. Ironically, we've now reached a point where he wants to stay. I have no desire to move ever again so I don't think I'll do that.

    Perhaps we will plan travel when the time comes.

    You've called to mind a dream I had several years ago, Chris. I was driving home. All around me neighborhoods were in ruins. Not burned. Broken down. Broken buildings. I became more and more concerned as I drove.

    When I got home, my house was intact and I was still able to live there. But I knew that rebuilding would have to be done.


    I've never seen Bill Maher as a mouthpiece for Democrats. He constantly rags on them. He calls them every name in the playbook. He plays the blame game with the best of them. I'm pretty sure the DNC does not see an ally in Maher.

    Maher's cynicism and negativity is what's relevant here. He spreads anger and resentment just like the others.

    John Stewart did not do that. He was not part of the culture of resentment.

    This culture of resentment is part of the collapse dynamic as it breeds division.

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  13. #1057
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    Quote Originally posted by Dreamtimer View Post
    There's a disturbing (to me) trend of undermining the idea that there even were slaves or slave ships. There are stories being spread of Africans really being indigenous Americans. More soil for division. More salt on wounds.


    I identify as an American because I really couldn't do another thing.

    I lived in Tunisia for two months. I have an intimate and first hand understanding of muslim culture, which has helped protect me from the stupid-shit attitudes which exist here.

    I've spoken enough French in life that I've dreamt in the language a couple times. I've been to several European countries and I know people from all over the world.

    I lived in DC for a couple years. I literally knew people from around the globe.

    My best friend in college was from Jamaica.

    Yeah, I'm American. I could condition myself to believe otherwise, it wouldn't matter. Because anywhere I go, everyone else will identify me as an American. It's not just in my head, you know.

    I have no idea if the bureaucracy of the EU would be better than that of the US. If they were able to create a more even playing field, bring forth sensible regulation, actually represent the desires and needs of regular people, not cowtow to the big money businesses, religions, etc., it probably would be better.

    It sounds utopian. But the EU may very well do a much better job since we've lost the plot over here.

    I just don't see anything being business as usual until our case of the crazy is dealt with.




    My husband has been wanting to leave the US for years. Ironically, we've now reached a point where he wants to stay. I have no desire to move ever again so I don't think I'll do that.

    Perhaps we will plan travel when the time comes.

    You've called to mind a dream I had several years ago, Chris. I was driving home. All around me neighborhoods were in ruins. Not burned. Broken down. Broken buildings. I became more and more concerned as I drove.

    When I got home, my house was intact and I was still able to live there. But I knew that rebuilding would have to be done.


    I've never seen Bill Maher as a mouthpiece for Democrats. He constantly rags on them. He calls them every name in the playbook. He plays the blame game with the best of them. I'm pretty sure the DNC does not see an ally in Maher.

    Maher's cynicism and negativity is what's relevant here. He spreads anger and resentment just like the others.

    John Stewart did not do that. He was not part of the culture of resentment.

    This culture of resentment is part of the collapse dynamic as it breeds division.
    Good points DT.

    I'm not a huge fan of any of the late night show hosts. I'll make an exception for Graham Norton, who I think is by far the best one out there, not least because he is apolitical and being Irish, he can stay neutral in the general shit show that goes on in the world today. I used to adore Craig Ferguson for the same reason, but he's been replaced by a much weaker host.

    I'm not a fan of the politics of either Maher or Colbert, but as people, they're both rather likeable.

    Regarding the EU, I think it has been a great success, except when it has gone against its own principles of Social Democracy and solidarity, such as during the 2008 recession and the sovereign debt crisis that followed it.

    I'm a great believer in social democracy (which is what Bernie Sanders is advocating for, I just wish he's stop calling it socialism, after the Nazis and the Stalinists, it is such a tainted word), not for any ideological reasons, but because it is demonstrably, empirically proven to be the best way to organise a modern society. Even ultra-capitalist Singapore has started moving in that direction lately. The US has been going in the opposite direction since desegregation (you can't have "coloured" people share in the common good after all), the UK since the Thatcher years, but most precipitately, since the Brexit vote and since the extremist Tory madmen have hijacked what was once one of the shining examples of social democracy in this world. The NHS will be gone in a few short years, American insurance giants are already moving in to buy up whatever remains of it and universal credit has pretty much destroyed the welfare state, which used to be relatively generous until austerity shred it to pieces. Steps are now being taken to destroy the unions (though Thatcher already did much of the work) and to make the UK into a clone of the US, including importing its highly unhealthy and unsafe food, instead of imports from Europe, which is a short hop across the channel.

    Regarding what any of you guys might do in the event of a collapse, it's obviously none of my business, but having lived through a few of these myself, I can tell you that the best strategy is always to get out of there, preferably before the Shit Hits the Fan. Collapses never happen on a global scale at once, there are always localities and parts of the world that fare better than others. If I was in North America, I'd probably head for Canada, though that can be difficult, Alaska also looks like a decent choice for now. I would sure as hell get out of unsurvivable places like Los Angeles or Phoenix. These places are already toast, they just don't know it yet. Some of the Northern states will probably be ok, but the transition will be rough as hell and very unsafe. Much better to ride out the storm somewhere else.

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  15. #1058
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    This really rings true. Sadly, it's not just Britain and the US, unfortunately many other societies are infected with this sort of imbecility (looking at you Brazil, India and South Africa), but it is important to recognise it for what it is, so remedies can be applied.

    https://eand.co/the-rise-of-the-imbecile-d959778da4a9

    The Rise of the Imbecile

    How Imbecility Conquered America and Britain (and Made Them Global Laughingstocks)

    America and Britain have a problem of a strange, special, and unique kind. They have been overrun and conquered by imbeciles. Imecility rules these nations now. It is the sole governing force and organizing principle left — so much so, that it is applauded, cheered, rewarded, and celebrated.

    Hence, a great, fiery tide of imbecility is rolling through Anglo societies, like a pyroclastic flow thundering down a volcano, turning everything in its path to ashes. This wave of imbecility is destroying everything it comes in contact with — democracy, civilization, reason, thought, decency, humanity, the future.

    (I think perhaps you already have an inkling of what I mean. “Surrogates” on cable news, Ancient Aliens, reality TV, celebrity fetish, Instagram stars, YouTube algorithmically recommending hate, Facebook pimping out our kids — and us smiling. We Anglos have the dumbest societies in the world, by a very long way. Small kinds of imbecility — superstition, salvationism, degeneracy— have come to rule everyday Anglo life. And so have larger kinds — casual bigotry, aggression, cruelty, rage, the unquenched need for domination, largely by the white men who didn’t end up being the slave-masters and tycoons capitalism promised them they’d be (why were they foolish enough to believe it?)

    But imbecility is a word I mean precisely. It is the belief that something is its opposite. The imbecile believes folly is wisdom, ignorance is enlightenment, and violence is decency, go ahead and take a well-known truth — the imbecile’s main tasks in life are to a) believe its opposite is the truth b) be immovably convinced of it c) in the face of all logic, reason, evidence, or thought d) to proselytize imbecility, to convert thinking people into imbeciles and e) to submit, always, to bigger imbeciles, to worship them like substitute parents and/or deities. Just think of Trumpism and Brexit and ask yourself if they don’t exemplify all the points above, perfectly.

    I want to talk about the three deep forms of imbecility that conquered Anglo societies. Which its leaders exemplify in ways the world finds hilarious and tragic, which are accepted as “debateable” forms of public discourse, which are legitimized by a fatuous public sphere, which have come to hold a kind of iron grip on the mind of a society, rendering it a zombie, incapable of thinking of anything but, as a memorable band once said, an appetite for destruction. In the end, I’ll explain why I think this wave of imbecility more or less means Anglo societies can’t do anything but keep on collapsing — and you can skip to that part if you want.

    The first form of imbecility that has come to dominate Anglo society is that “democracy” is its actually opposite. Now, democracy has many opposites, because democracy is a process, not a state — in the same way that the opposite of a waterfall is the mountain, but there are many mountains. The opposites of democracy are all the following things (and more): authoritarianism, fascism, tribalism.
    And yet vast numbers of Anglos believe — really believe, fervently, whole-heartedly — that these things are democracy. They believe that “the will of the people” is all democracy is, and therefore democracy is reduced to majoritarianism. But majoritarianism is perfectly consistent — in fact a prerequisite for — fascism, authoritarianism, and tribalism.

    Hence, Britain cannot have another Brexit vote. Hence, Trumpism isn’t something profoundly anti-democratic. Both things are the essence of democracy to their true believers.

    Only nobody seems to have taught these true believers what democracy really is. Not majoritarianism, the “will of the people.” But inalienable rights, enshrined in constitutions, which grant certain fundamental liberties and powers, which meet basic human needs — which nobody, not even the majority, can take away. Otherwise, a democracy is nothing at all — it’s simple a place where the majority preys on everyone less powerful than them. A democracy really only exists in the modern context as a set of constitutional rights, consensually granted, but inalienably held.

    And yet it’s precisely this idea — true democracy — which the imbeciles reject. They want the power to take away everyone else’s rights — but never to expand them. “I don’t pay for those dirty black people’s (or Europeans’) healthcare!”, “Build that wall! (No deal Brexit!)” Perhaps you see my point. The imbecile’s idea of democracy is the absence, negation, and undoing of democracy — the erasure of rights and basic liberties, precisely those which have to do with basic human needs.

    (Hence, the American imbecile bellows — “arm the teachers!” Never mind the child’s basic human need…not to be severely traumatized. The British imbecile shouts — “let them pay for their own healthcare!” Not understanding that either everyone has it, or no one has it, because democracy is based on rights, not privileges.)

    The imbecile has come to understand democracy as authoritarianism, as fascism, as tribalism. It is merely an exercise in holding power — not empowering. But democracy cannot ever grow — or even persevere this way. Just think about it. If enough of us are imbeciles, trying to take away each other’s rights and liberties, to have basic human needs met…where is there for democracy to go? Nowhere, except to become a kind of fascism, the German taking the Jew’s home, furniture, job, money.

    The imbecile, therefore, seeks a specific kind of power. The power of predation. That brings me to my second kind of deep imbecility that now rules Anglo society: that violence and harm are beneficial to the recipient.

    You can tell an Anglo imbecile a mile away from the following line — “I have the right to offend you! And if I don’t, civilization itself doesn’t exist!” Really? Civilization depends on…your right to offend me? Let’s think about all that for a moment.
    What the imbecile is really saying is that he craves the power to do violence. After all, there is no clear line between “offense” of the very real kind, the kind which severely harms, and that which doesn’t. Is it merely “offensive” if I call you slurs? How about if I follow your kids around? What if I harass your wife? Perhaps you see my point, which is…

    What the imbecile really wants is the power to do unbridled violence. It begins with the “right to offend.” It escalates into the “right” to demonize. That becomes the right to dehumanize — maybe it’s even enshrined legally, as it was in Nazi Germany, and apartheid America. This is the beginning of true fascism. The right to dehumanize, in turn, becomes the right to expropriate, to dispossess. Ultimately, it becomes the right to annihilate.

    There is a very good reason European countries (and Canada) have laws against hate speech, hate in general, belonging to organized hate groups. Not a single time in human history has the cycle above failed to lead to atrocity. We saw it in the Rwandan genocide, we saw it in the Balkans, we saw it in Soviet Russia, we saw it in Nazi Germany. Intelligent societies therefore understand that the risks of the cycle of violence above are very, very real — and far greater than its benefits.

    What are those “benefits”, anyways? Are there really any benefits to me being able to “offend” you? Perhaps if I was Galileo, and you were the Pope. But we don’t live in authoritarian systems, do we? We live in…wait for it…democracies. Nobody is going to be put in prison or tortured for saying something that challenges established notions of truth — like a scientific theory, or an artwork. Those things exist every night, everywhere, on every cable TV channel. Ancient Aliens is getting rich — not being put in a dungeon.

    (So the threat the imbecile dreams up is paranoid, nonexistent, backwards. And imagining this threat, the imbecile turns democracy into authoritarianism. You see, the imbecile has history completely backwards. The ones who have always wanted the right to “offend” are not Galileo and Darwin. They just wanted the right to speak the truth — and were profoundly uncomfortable with the “offense” it caused, because they were thinking people. The right to “offend”, on the other hand, has been claimed by every demagogue in history, from Mussolini to Hitler. The authoritarian is the one who seeks the right to “offend” — precisely because without it, he has not power to bully, intimidate, and punish at all.)

    What the imbecile seeks is really just the power of violence — the power to bully, to harass, to intimidate, to hector. The power to prey upon the weaker. And yet the right to “offend”, in a democracy, is precisely the one that must come last, if it comes at all, because, as we’ve discussed, democracy is first the process of inalienable rights being expanded to meet everyone’s basic human needs. What it isn’t is the cycle of violence that marks fascism and authoritarianism — but the prevention thereof.

    If we are all busy “offending” one another…where exactly will society go? If I say that you deserve to be poor and a nobody, for example, and you say that my children deserve the camps? You don’t to look too far: just glimpse America and Britain. Society will go backwards, because the age-old cycle of violence that begins with “offense”, and ends with self-destruction, will kick off, as it has in these foolish and backwards places.

    That brings me to my third form of imbecility. The Anglo imbecile thinks that civilization is barbarism. And nobody — certainly not you nor I — can convince him otherwise. He believes this as deeply as an bottomless abyss. Where did he learn it? Where didn’t he learn it?
    Everywhere, the Anglo is surrounded by one lesson. Violence and stupidity and deceit pay. Be the most violent one — perhaps dress in a fine suit is all — and be the most ruthless, cunning, selfish, abusive, greedy one, the liar, the cheater, the crook — and you will get everything that you want, fastest and best.

    But wait — what is it that the Anglo is told to want, anyways? Women with plastic boobs. A bulging bank account. A tacky McMansion. Perfect abs, perfect hair, perfect life. Instagram envy. In short, the Anglo is taught to want a certain set of things, a very precise set of things. Objects which represent his dominance, power, savagery, his ability to do violence — and to get away with it. A small time crook, in the jaws of addiction and trauma, wears a battered leather jacket — but a truly violent man wears a suit. The Anglo is taught to symbolise his power to do violence.

    What that means, in concrete terms, is that the Anglo imbecile is taught to want to buy all the things which matter in life. He is told that if only he gets rich enough, powerful enough, strong enough, he will worth being admired and loved and respected, finally. So there he is — reduced to being a cog in a capitalist machine, which is the very machine of his own self-destruction.

    What the Angloimbecile has never really understood is that the very idea of civilization is that we cannot have the things that truly matter through violence (which means we can never buy them, either). That is its pure essence. Let me give you a few examples. All of the things that we consider “civilized” — the few of us left who are intelligent and thinking people among Anglos, anyways — share something in common. A town square. Aqueducts. A great book. A historic idea. A great equation, artwork, poem. None of these things attempt to take anything from anyone else — and especially not through violence. They attempt to give people things. The truest things of all: knowledge, insight, relationships, meaning, purpose, happiness.

    When we have more of those things, then and only then are we liberated. If we have less of those things, I think you will agree, we are subjugated. So we are only more free when we give one another the things which matter most. We cannot ever take them from one another through violence. That is what civilization really is.

    If it sounds obvious— you are very wrong, my friend. It is a genuinely transformative idea. Because for the vast majority of human history, nobody much understood this, except maybe Jesus, maybe Buddha. Human history was one long endless cycle of violent men trying to take the things that mattered most from one another — respect, admiration, self-worth, love, meaning, purpose. Through war. Kings made armies and knighted soldiers as noble for just this reason. Human history is the story of violence — and only recently have we even begun to pick up the pen to write the next chapter.

    But the imbecile thinks that violence and injury itself is civilization, because it benefits the one unfortunate enough to receive it. When he says “I have the right to offend you!”, he is really expressing a much larger system of thought. Only the strong should survive. If you cannot survive my attacks, my hostility, my aggression, my rage — then you are weak, and I am strong. We have established, therefore, who the fittest is.

    Do you see this logic of Social Darwinism at work in the subtext of what the imbeciles say and do — everywhere? In Trump’s bullying, in the Brexiteer’s incandescent anger, in the gamer’s desperate infantile rage when a gay character is made, in the internet shitposter’s fury when his joke isn’t quite mean-spirited enough, in the way that bullying and intimidation have come to rule our societies wholesale? I do. All this barbarism, my friends. It is the precise opposite of civilization, in pure and perfect form, just the same as if we held swords to each other’s throats, which is what we’re effectively doing.

    What Anglo societies share today a shattering rejection of the fundamental principle of civilization, which is that only through cooperative nonviolence can human progress really be achieved. Think of all the things that cooperative nonviolence has accomplished, my friends — and you will outline every single one of what we generally accept as civilization’s great advances. Towns and cities. The written word. The scientific method. Public healthcare. From prehistory to modernity — it is cooperative nonviolence which defines the word “civilization.”

    But the Anglo imbecile believes precisely the opposite. He will not cooperate with anyone, because he is too busy seeking to be above everyone. He wants to be above everyone so that he has power over them. Power of a very specific kind — the power to harm and hurt them. With that power, he can control them — by threatening to humiliate, shame, injure, or abuse.
    None of that is compatible with democracy.

    Democracy is not me seeking to control you. Democracy is me seeking to liberate you.
    Remember our definition of liberation? You are freer when your happiness, meaning, purpose, relationships, longevity, etc — you can add to the list as you see fit — expand, grow, develop, mature.

    But the Anglo imbecile does not want any of these things for anyone else. He wants to take away their healthcare, their education, their retirement, their pension. Which are also their happiness, their peace of mind, their security, their knowledge, their intelligence. The Anglo imbecile does not even want any of that for himself. What he wants is to do violence — even if doing violence makes him less free.
    He is perfectly willing to be less free, like the Brexiter or the Trumpist, as long as he can have the pleasure and thrill and satisfaction of power, of aggression, of hostility, the rush of violence. As long as he has control, in the end, of everyone else, through the power to harm and injure them. He will happily chop off his own nose to spite his face — because as long as he stands on top of the battlefield, he doesn’t care how badly he’s hurt. He just wants to be the last man standing.

    But — let me say it again — democracy is not me seeking to control you. With violence, injury, offense, harm, trauma, shame, humilation. It is me seeking to liberate you from all those things, so that you can have greater happiness, meaning, purpose, life, love, truth.

    We can’t blame the Anglo imbecile for not understanding any of that, though — for confusing civilization with barbarism, democracy with fascism and tribalism, freedom for subjubation.

    That is what he has been told all his stupid, backwards life. Patriarchy has taught him that it’s OK to be hit — as long as you hit back harder. Capitalism has taught him that the “weak” are “liabilities”, and only the strong should survive. And supremacy has taught him that if he cannot do violence, he is not anyone at all, because the uberman must be above all the others, who are not even human at all.
    Capitalism, patriarchy, and supremacy intertwined to produce the Anglo imbecile. He is a kind of person that is destroying Anglo society now. With the smile of a deranged idiot. The glee of a fool burning down his own home. The insatiable appetite of a zombie, chewing through his own children.

    The Anglo imbecile is the future of America and Britain. These societies have nowhere to go but collapse — because the imbecile outnumber the non-imbeciles now, and they are far more ardent, vicious, and determined, too. The rest of us, though, might want to learn something. When imbecbility comes to be celebrated, applauded, cheered, and rewarded, my friends — a society is writing the book of it’s own self-destruction, because it is stupidly, spectacularly, astonishingly, taking all the great gifts of civilization, freedom, and democracy — and burning them right down to ashes. And that, my friends, is the story of how the imbecile conquered America and Britain.

    Umair
    March 2019

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  17. #1059
    Senior Member Chuckie's Avatar
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    Well, we all need to learn. For example, I learned recently that Nietzsche was a madman. A fitting master to the Anglo imbecile.
    Last edited by Wind, 2nd December 2021 at 13:36. Reason: Excess quoting once again!
    “To seek self-knowledge is to embark on a journey which ... will always be incomplete" - courtesy of Godel's Incompleteness Theorem

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    How to Overcome Tribalism, the Shouty Minority and Facebook Toxicity
    The social psychologist Jonathan Haidt offers some prescriptions to soothe society.


    Mark Zuckerberg testifies before a combined Senate Judiciary and Commerce committee hearing on April 10, 2018. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
    Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies before a combined Senate Judiciary and Commerce committee hearing on Capitol Hill in April 2018 in Washington. | Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

    By MARK BROLIN

    Mark Brolin is the author of Healing Broken Democracies: All You Need to Know About Populism, which includes a version of the interview below.

    Have modern politics become irredeemably tribal? In September, Thomas Friedman decried the “virus of tribalism” infecting the United States and other democracies. “Politics in the United States continues to feel increasingly tribal and divisive,” noted CNN’s Christiane Amanpour in 2018. If there’s one thing pundits have agreed on over the last few years — particularly in the Trump era — it’s that tribalism in politics is on the rise, and that’s a problem.

    Or maybe it’s not that new — and the underlying problem lies inside us.

    For my recent book, I spent months in conversation with a handful of thinkers who wrestle with the big questions driving populist politics today. One of them was Jonathan Haidt, whose 2013 book, Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion, astutely presaged the current conversation about tribal politics. He puts the blame not at the feet of Facebook or either party, but on humans’ basic need to define teams and camps, and belong to one of them. Throughout the history of the world, elaborate Hero-versus-Villain narratives have regularly been spun to glorify one political camp and demonize another. Who’s in charge never really matters.

    Haidt, a social psychologist, suggested in his book — and still believes — this inclination might have an evolutionary background: Clans and villages that were bad at cooperating were often conquered by their less divided neighbors. This might have wired us to appreciate tribal kinship. It also may have wired us to prefer defending our reputations rather than defending the truth — another aspect of politics that infuriates journalists and pundits but appears to be built into the system. (Haidt reveals in his book that his eureka moment, in this respect, occurred when his wife asked why he had failed to do the dishes. Only afterwards did he grasp that his mind automatically invented an elaborate, and false, defense story that even he believed at first).

    But he also thinks the problem has gotten far worse in the past decade, with social media creating a kind of outrage machine that feeds on, even amplifies these tendencies.

    Jonathan Haidt, author of The Righteous Mind, during a TED talk in 2012. | Photo by James Duncan Davidson/TED via Flickr

    So the real challenge isn’t how to get tribalism out of politics. It’s how to design a system that pays heed to our inherent shortcomings. In a recent interview with Haidt, he zeroed in on two critical ingredients: political reform and social media reform. “The worst number of political parties to have in a country is one,” he says. “But the second worst number is two.”

    Two political tribes, equally convinced they possess the moral high-ground, might seek to rule through open confrontation with the aim to subjugate. On the other hand, three political tribes or more can be more incentivized to seek alliances. But with the country’s two-party system unlikely to go anywhere any time soon, Haidt suggests steps to rein in the power of the extremes on both sides.

    One idea: requiring open primaries for all elections so people don’t have to be a member of a certain party to vote. Another is detoxifying the public square through a serious social media overhaul, an idea gaining more currency after the revelations of Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen.

    The following transcript of our conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

    In just about every way that counts, we are living during the most prosperous era ever. Yet, paradoxically, numerous politicians and voters are fighting tooth and nail while seemingly set on identifying mainly problems and differences. It is easy to see that, while the intellectual debate is so sensitive, it must be a very challenging climate not least for a social psychologist. Then again, from an analytical perspective, is it also an especially fascinating time?

    Oh yes. This is the best time to be a social scientist since the 1960s or the 1930s. Those are the three great times of political, social and moral upheaval. There are a number of cycles in history. Cultures go up such as for example ancient Greece or during the days of Ibn Khaldun in the 14th century. Then follows a period of decay and dissolution before going up again. I think Peter Turchin correctly predicted, back in 2010, that we were due for a cycle change around 2020. He got that exactly right. So this is a time of enormous change which necessarily feels like decay and destruction. If history is a guide, this period will last several more years. We could experience a substantial rise in violence. But in five or 10 years, probably, things will begin to get better and more stable. We will have a new equilibrium with a variety of new society settings.

    I also find it intriguing that when people have been tribal and angry before, during say the past five decades, there has usually been a clear for-or-against issue. Such as the Vietnam war, the battle for civil rights, the battle for or against Reaganesque deregulation or for or against the Iraq War. Today, however, many are emotional and tribal even though it is actually really hard, often, to say over what specifically. So my question is this: When grown-up politicians are now offering little more than emotional school ground mudslinging, is the functional purpose — at least partly — to conceal that policy differences might not be so large after all?

    I would say that we are in a fundamentally new era — since 2012 — which makes it difficult to use history as a guide. As I see it as there is a before time, which is before 2009, and there is an after time, which is after 2012. What changed in between those years is that Facebook added the like button and Twitter added the retweet button. Thereby social media became far more engaging. Millions of people flooded on. All journalists flooded on to Twitter. I talk in my book about how societies create a Moral Matrix. Between 2009 and 2012 social media essentially knocked over the Tower of Babel. In the biblical story of Babel, God thinks humans are getting too powerful. So he says “Let us go down and confound their language so that they may not understand one another.” That is what happened to us between 2009 and 2012. Before 2009 there was some semblance of sanity, there was some vague connection between the Moral Matrix and some underlying physical reality. By 2012-2013, that connection had been severed. So now any set of beliefs can be fostered in a community completely separate from any objective reality. This is especially happening to the extremes. The far-right has always had conspiracy theories — that it is very clear in the United States at least — but never before have we had one that drew in the majority of Republicans. Crazy conspiracy theories that draw in most of the two major parties. On the far left we have a woke ideology which has an unbroken track record of failure and destruction when entering institutions. Yet institutions keep adopting it. So, while I pointed to cycles of history before, this one really could be different because the means of knowledge production are now broken. It is not clear how we fix them.

    Do you also think that the populist camps and the establishment camps are mutually dependent when locking horns? What I mean is, do the most tribal angry populists need liberal wokery to have something tangible to protest against? Whereas the tribal liberals might need the shoutiness of many key populists in order to come across as more balanced even when they take things too far?

    Absolutely. The major dynamic here is called the polarization cycle. Not all conflicts are polarization cycles, but you get such cycles when you have two groups at either extremes, groups that each believe they are in an existential struggle for survival. Especially when you also have a media environment that feeds the worst statements and actions of the other side instead of the average statements and actions. So each side is then driven towards more and more passion by all the anecdotes and stories that supposedly confirm the radicalism of the other side. Both sides also believe the end justifies the means so neither side will care about due process and law. Victory must be had at all cost. Then, yes, you get a polarization cycle that can easily lead to violence. In America we are absolutely experiencing a polarization cycle.

    In Europe as well.

    I would say ours is worse because we have two parties. The worst number of political parties to have in a country is one. But the second worst number is two.

    Are we in public debate, collectively, attaching too much weight to the angry and loud people? Since the angry people will almost per definition be ever present and stir things up for example on social media? Whereas the real moderates — including the real grown-ups — might stay away from all such destructive engagements? You argue in your book that we, going forward, should stress similarities much more. By stressing similarities rather than differences, do we bring out the better side of angry people while also making it easier for the less aggressive voter and politicians to step forward? Including perhaps those shyer and calmer?

    It has always been the case that the extremes are louder. What happened between 2009 and 2012 is that American tech companies created an outrage machine. This outrage machine greatly amplified the power of the extremes. The extremes got nastier and nastier so that people in the middle — the middle make up about 80 or 90 percent — now feel so intimidated they largely keep quiet. That, again, is why I say everything changed between 2009 or 2012. The social dynamic now is really different from anything that ever existed before 2009. So all of our understanding of society and politics before 2009 must be questioned. Some previous findings are still valid, and some are not. We do not know which parts are still valid.

    Like no one else you also describe in your book that morality binds and blinds. You argue that liberals often insist on looking upon conservatives as relics from the past whereas conservatives often insist on looking upon liberals as obsessed with tearing down the very fabric that holds society together. Then again, you also suggest that it does not have to be like this if we acknowledge the much underdiscussed similarities and also that liberals and conservatives — when they do differ — also often complement one another. What can we do, in practice, to encourage the live-and-let live approach? Stop voting until at least somebody starts offering real bipartisanship rather than empty promises of such bipartisanship? Or something else?

    It is almost impossible to change society. You have to look institution by institution. In the U.S. Congress there is so much we could do. If we simply eliminated closed party primaries and required all states and all elections to have open primaries, then elections would not be decided just by extremes. So that is one of the most important things, that is one of the big factors explaining why Congress became so polarized in the 1990s. There are all kinds of rule changes in the U.S. Congress that would incentivize those working within to work together rather than do everything they can to make the other side fail. So in Congress there really is a lot we could do by changing voting practices and rules.

    Also on social media there is a lot we could do. What I would like most is add two dials. I would like Facebook and Twitter to give me two dials. One allows me to set a filter — a minimum bar for integrated complexity or nuance. So I can filter out people who never show integrated complexity or nuance. They disappear from my social world and I disappear from theirs. They cannot see me, I cannot see them. With the other dial I want to be able to set a maximum level of aggression. I could very easily code people. The point is that content moderation is hopeless. It can never work well. User ratings on the other hand would have a gigantic impact and is easy to do. So if we simply had those two dials on social media it would greatly dampen the power of the extremes. Since people would know that the consequences would be negative, personally, if out of line. Right now people are instead trained or reinforced to say outrageous, angry and disruptive things. The platforms really do reinforce such behavior. If we change the reinforcement pattern — so that the more disruptive you are the fewer people you reach — then Twitter will change in a month. So we have to look institution by institution, company by company, platform by platform — and distinguish between what is empowering the extremes and what is giving voice to the majority in the middle.

    You are also arguing in The Righteous Mind that we need to work more proactively to turn into star listeners. We need to learn how to listen to what the other side is really saying — instead of simply trying to make the other side adopt our outlook. How do we go about this?

    It is very hard to do directly. What I now think about, that I did not talk about in The Righteous Mind, is that the human mind has two basic patterns: Approach and Avoid. Approach circuits are located at the front left of the brain and these deal with positive emotions. Avoid is at the front right cortex and deal mostly with negative emotions. When people are in explore mode, they see opportunity and are curious and want to learn. When people are in defend mode, they see only threats and are not open to learning. They cling to their team and want to defeat the other team. You cannot just make people listen unless [you] first put them in explore mode. This is very hard to do in the public square. But if you again go institution by institution, we might be able to make a difference. Take the university. Right now in American universities, we are reinforcing the idea that everything is racist, sexist and homophobic. We also encourage students to identify themselves as marginalized. Even though we are talking about the most anti-racist and pro-gay institutions in the world. By still putting our students in defend mode they become angry activists. They do not listen much and they do not learn much. What we should have in university are policies that as much as possible seek to put everyone in explore mode. People would then be more curious and also listen more. As a social psychologist I usually recommend indirect approaches or social approaches. These are the powerful levers. Trying to directly convince people to do something or think differently is very difficult.

    I take it this is why you have also stressed many times that it is impossible to hate and learn at the same time. You have also said you are a centrist of sorts and are not really choosing between liberalism and conservatism. But you still highlight that we betray our student generations when exposing them mainly to the liberal outlook. By now many others within the academic sphere appear to think so as well as evident by the Heterodox Academy which now, according to the website, links together around 5,000 people. Do you feel that your battle for more opinion diversity is finally gaining momentum?

    Well, yes, the viewpoint for opinion diversity is gaining momentum. However, the insanity, the wokeness, the authoritarianism, the craziness is also accelerating faster. So things are getting worse and so are the opposing forces. In 2015, when I started Heterodox Academy, most professors said: “Come on, you are exaggerating, these are just a few anecdotes, a few random stories from university. This is not a real thing.” By 2017 very few were saying that. By 2017 most professors had seen it. Now everybody sees it not just in universities but in companies, in high schools, in the media. There is a madness, there is a stupidity — and certainly also a fear — that is growing and spreading.

    So if connecting what you just said with your outlook going forward; are we reaching a point when people are tiring of both liberals if constantly woke and of populists if constantly angry? Since the academic sphere is a wokery stronghold, perhaps it is not so representative of the rest of society?

    The polling shows that the majority of almost every group — Black, white, liberal, conservative — dislikes political correctness. I do not know what the polling says about the right-wing extremity; I think that depends on what the Republicans think so I do not know what people think about the far right. But a fundamental law of our times is that the average does not matter. So even if 80 percent of people are fed up, it does not matter since after 2012 the dynamics are different. In the old times 80 percent was bigger than the 20 percent — or at least as big as 20 percent. Now 80 percent is not nearly as big as the 20 percent. So, yes, most people are fed up but it does not mean things will change.

    Final question. If you would suddenly transform into the president of the United States, what would be the first one or two things you would do to depolarize society?

    I would convene a panel of political leaders and constitutional lawyers to do whatever we could to change voting processes and congressional rules. To depolarize the U.S. Congress and also the state legislatures. We have to get our government working. Right now we have what we call a deliberative democracy and yet we have no deliberation and only minimal democracy. So we cannot expect young people to believe that democracy is great when they have never seen it work. So political reform is the first thing I would do. The second thing I would do is to reform social media. No, actually, that is maybe the first thing I would do since, because of the shape of social media since 2012, you really cannot do anything. So the very first thing I would do is to realize social media reform. In the United States, the First Amendment places restrictions on what government can do regarding speech but I think there is a compelling national interest to detoxify the public square. If Twitter and Facebook are now key parts of the public square — and they are dangerous, dirty places that make citizens afraid to speak — I think there really is a compelling national interest to make these sites less toxic. It can easily be done. During experiments they have done it themselves, but while also reducing engagement they do not make it happen for real. So these are the two things. If you get social media reform and congressional reform right then we are still in bad shape but, crucially, at least it becomes possible to start doing something about it. Right now we really cannot do anything.

    Just one other thing. You said something about centrism. I am a centrist but my centrism is all about process. It is not about categorically avoiding the extremes. Truth is a process and because of our flaws, our confirmation bias and our social motives, we are not well designed to find the truth. In the physical world we are good at finding the fastest way to get from point A to point B; but we are not able to identify the truth about social and political matters that affect our identity or our teams. The amazing discovery in Europe, in the 1600s, was the development of communities of men who gathered in coffee shops and talked about ideas and findings. This was the beginning of the scientific revolution. The process was key, not suddenly smarter scientists. A community was created in which people with different ideas checked each other. This was crucial since we cannot overcome our confirmation bias ourselves. As a consequence we need people to check us. So, my sense is not that we all need to be centrists, that would not work. My centrism is based on the notion that we are all flawed, we are all irrational but amazing things happen in the right way given norms that promote engagement rather than attack. So if you have the U.S. Congress, or the Houses of Parliament, or a jury, or a classroom — and people who feel they will be together for a long time and need to accomplish things together and moreover will not be rewarded for attacking and destroying — then you have the means by which the truth can emerge from imperfect non-truth seeking individuals. So that is my centrism and that is why I created the Heterodox Academy and Open Mind. Because I see us losing it in universities.

    I am sure 95 percent of people would appreciate if their environments were to function in exactly that way. Even if this means continuously coming across people with different opinions.

    That is right and right now 95 is not larger than 5, but once we get social media reform I think 95 really can be larger than 5.
    “To seek self-knowledge is to embark on a journey which ... will always be incomplete" - courtesy of Godel's Incompleteness Theorem

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    Dirty hi-tech which works to do in all of us. I can only imagine what mother earth has in store for this sort of abuse...

    This stuff is quite depressing.


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    Quote Originally posted by Dreamtimer View Post
    Dirty hi-tech which works to do in all of us. I can only imagine what mother earth has in store for this sort of abuse...

    This stuff is quite depressing.

    Hi DT, what is this guy's name ... I looked earlier but didn't pull it up. I don't trust him ...
    “To seek self-knowledge is to embark on a journey which ... will always be incomplete" - courtesy of Godel's Incompleteness Theorem

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    Chris, you pointed out something, "(you can't have "coloured" people share in the common good after all)".

    This is something I've been learning more and more about recently. From community pools which were filled in to repeated rejections of health care programs because 'the blacks will get it," I see that we will cut off our noses to spite our faces.

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    Quote Originally posted by BeastOfBologna View Post
    Hi DT, what is this guy's name ... I looked earlier but didn't pull it up. I don't trust him ...
    I've watched his videos for a few years, he is reliable and I've never seen any nonsense from him. He is Winston Sterzel aka SerpentZa, he's originally South African, then he lived in China for 14 years until he got into problems and now he lives in LA with his Chinese wife.

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    I listened to several of his videos. He has one about how Chinese intelligence services work to get folks to post videos on their channels. He has one about how he got detained by the Chinese police. He talks about the inability to speak freely. The videos are quite interesting.

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