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Category: Humans

Unauthorized
I’ve been engaging in a political thought experiment recently. My findings are still incomplete, but I thought I’d reach out for some peer review before I get too far into this thing.

The experiment deals with the “authoritarian mind.” You may have read about this idea over the last year; it’s gotten a lot of attention as a part of the many tortured attempts to explain the rise of Drump within a free, enlightened society. The term authoritarian here does not refer control freakish behavior of authoritarians themselves, but rather to the willingness of their followers to submit to such behavior.

The authoritarian mind is evidenced by a desire to be told what to think and do and a willingness to cede all personal responsibility to a strong leader. “I’ll take care of everything,” says the leader. The follower, seizing his chance to be let off the hook, replies “You’ve got my vote. Do whatever you have to!” — and the authoritarian relationship is officially established.

These relationships occur outside of politics, of course. Religion uses them to great effect. Most scams, both large and small, depend on the mark’s eagerness to give up personal control of their life or money and hand it over to someone who will promise to make everything better.

So here is my experiment: what would our world be like if all of these authoritarian minded people disappeared? Never mind why or how. If it makes you feel more comfortable, perhaps they’ve all been transported to heaven in the Rapture. Whatever. They’re gone — maybe 40% of humanity — and only those people who are willing (most of the time) to confront facts are left behind. Since you haven’t stopped reading this out of disgust, that group includes you, me, and everyone who tries to lead an evidence-based life.

Would the world be a better place without authoritarians? Would there be peace? Would reason finally triumph? Would the Age of Aquarius dawn at last?

Or would some fundamental element of humanity be lost? Would civilization stall and finally crumble to dust without the participation of true believers? Can our species survive without a blind faith that is impervious to facts? Who is to say that, with these people gone, some of us wouldn’t rush to fill the void of credulity and obedience? Movements need such people. So do armies. Maybe, as a species, we all do.

I prefer to think not. I prefer to think that an evidence-based life will lead me toward meaning and understanding and happiness. If I can maintain vigilance that is. I know that we all have an authoritarian inside us, urging us to give in to promises of simplicity and certainty. Who wouldn’t daydream of finding an easy way out of the daily drudgery of figuring out what to do in life? That drudgery can be a total pain.

Or maybe I’m wrong. Maybe, to be truly human, we must be gullible. Happy sheep waiting to be fleeced by the Controlling Class. Ba-a-a?

I don't think so. For me, the correct answer is “Bah!” That blissful certitude sounds even worse than the total pain option. Even though there will be lapses into gullibility, at least there’s the hope that I’ll snap out of it. I’m voting for endless doubt over contented ignorance.

I guess I’ll just have to miss out on the Rapture.
Señor Moment
Oh I still got it, pal
And I handle it
With flair

Brandish it and wield it
With the same old devil-
May-care

Yes I still got it, pal
And it’s still all covered
With hair

But I put it down a sec ago
And I can’t remember
Where
Genuine Fake
As life goes on
I can’t deny
The bullshit begins
To solidfy

What used to be
A silly pose
Is now as certain
As my nose

With each new
Posture that I chose
I tried it on
Like a suit of clothes

And now it fits me
Like a glove
The affectation
Has turned to love

And soon the bullshit
Will harden to stone
Live on without me
And stand on its own

It will serve
As my memorial
And no one will know
If it’s faux or real
What Is True?
I caught a little of the PBS special about the human brain yesterday. The brain is a big topic for any TV program, so it left a lot of questions unanswered. In fact, I’m still sorting through the ramifications of one claim that was made on the show. It concerned the nature of reality. What is real, brain scientists suggest, is strictly a product of our own minds.

What they meant was that we digest what our senses take in and reconstruct it later to form our own personal version of what happened. To do that, we use our memory of events coupled with some kind of subconscious, base-level analysis. That’s the straightforward scientific take on this phenomenon, and it wasn’t intended to have any larger philosophical implications. Even so, I find it a little unsettling that each of us is cooking up his own distinct version of reality…second to second, day to day, year in and year out. It raises the possibility that there is no objective truth at all — only billions of these separate, very personal concoctions made up of wishful thinking and emotional imperatives.

There must be something real out there, though. We manage to function and survive within the world outside our minds (or so it appears), so we must have some kind of handle on that world and how it works. We get up, we go to our jobs, we eat, we continue to exist. We don’t die. Whatever version of reality we have constructed seems to be working on some level. That tells me that we have a hold on some kind of truth.

And maybe that’s all we can hope for…some kind of truth. You might even argue that that is enough. As long as we can stumble along using trial-and-error and the advice of others, why worry? Does it really matter if we get a few things wrong? The all-star professional basketballer Kyrie Irving, for instance, believes that the earth is flat. He is absolutely convinced that this truth — his truth — is the true truth. Kyrie’s a multimillionaire. He’s famous, he’s admired (at least up until now). What’s the diff if his truth is actually false?

It’s certainly easier not to care. The truth is simply what you overheard on the bus. Or what somebody said on TV. No need to check it or think about it or question it at all. Just swallow it whole and move on. The alternative is to remain constantly on guard, trusting no one, fact-checking everything. You might spend all kinds of time digging for an answer — with no guarantee of actually finding it. It’s a complete hassle.

And what is true, anyway? If reality is being pieced together in our separate subconsciouses, as those brain scientists say, maybe we can never be sure.

Even so, I’m going to take the controversial position of being pro-truth. In the long run it’s just more reliable than untruth. And as my ultimate success story, I will point to science itself. It built our modern world based on the tested, verifiable truths gleaned through the scientific method (Kyrie Irving notwithstanding). And all of that came from asking the simple question, What is true?

If it’s good enough for science and engineering, it’s good enough for every other field, including politics. So I say keep asking that question. Over and over again. And trust no one, including me.
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No "new normal" for me, this shit ain't normal.
~ MS, Truckee