“You can go now”

It’s not easy to try to think and write about revolutions in the abstract when one is happening right now. So for now I give up trying to be general purpose. I’ll use daily events that strike me as having important consequences for the long-term, for revolutions in general.

What strikes me yesterday and today are the two videos of the pepper spray incident at UC Davis and the one of the chancellor leaving her office walking down a sidewalk lined by almost totally silent students — the silence of shame.

There is great power in these videos and many others of other police over reactions. Somehow this power must be taken into account. I think of the power of the video of Rodney King being beaten by LA police. That seems so long ago. These videos are powerful and meaningful and transmit and IMPLANT so many memes. They go way beyond written words.

Besides the “chancellor walk” video, the pepper spray video really stirred up my feelings. First the pepper spraying itself:  The students were sprayed as if they were ants and roaches being sprayed with RAID.  Is this how our self-described betters, superiors, masters think of us? The 1%, the mayors, the chancellors, the “leaders” think of us? For many of them we know the answer. They look down on us, they think they are better people than we are, more deserving than us. They believe their wealth proves they are better. We are nuisances, insects to be sprayed into submission.

And all the world can see it now in videos on U tube and on the internet forever. (And securely backed up by the NSA in Utah or wherever).

And then there was displayed for the whole world to see the immense power of the shame meme. “Shame on you. Shame on you. Shame on you, Shame on you. Shame on You. Shame on You. Shame on you.  …” Let every revolutionary note well: This is one of the most powerful ideas we have. Our moral sense. Our feelings of what’s right. Our feelings of fairness and justice. These feelings have been evolved in us because we are social creatures. We live and work together in groups — from loving couples to families, to towns and cities, and corporations, and nations. The 1% believe that all people are always selfish and greedy. They are wrong. Yes some people may be always selfish and greedy. But most people are only sometimes selfish or greedy. The rest of the time they live and work well cooperatively with others. The revolution needs to use this truth, and that is what is happening with all the occupys, all the general assemblies. This meme — that most people most of the time are not selfish and greedy but instead want to cooperate, want to work together, want to help others — this meme must be spread far and wide. The 1%, not recognizing this truth, are destroying their own creations, the corporations, by their encouragement of the selfish greed of the executives and managers. They call it the “agency” problem. It is a lie to say that we cannot live in peace and work together with one another.

You could see it in the faces of some of the police. They were ashamed of what they were doing, of what they had done. This is so powerful. We can defeat them with words. Just words. But powerful words: The universal moral sense of humanity, those fundamental feelings of fairness and generosity, those desires to help and cooperate with others to help make things better for everyone. These are what make us human. Shame them and encourage them to change. Show them how to change. Help them change. Show people by our own examples of how it could be.

“Who’s University? Our University. Who’s University? Our University. … “ I am not an academic, but this got to me. I spent many years studying at and working as a researcher at UCLA. I know why we have Universities. Universities gathered and protected and passed on to us huge amounts of knowledge discovered and produced in antiquity. Euclid, Pythagoras, Aristotle, Plato, Socrates, and many, many more not only Greeks. Universities exist to seek and discover and preserve new truths, new knowledge and pass it all on to succeeding generations of students and to all of humanity. To seek, to work for a University degree should be considered to be one of the most noble things one can do in life. Yet what is our present system doing? It is systematically making it more and more difficult to get a university degree because it can only see a University as one more thing to privatize, one more thing to squeeze out more profits from, and it sees students as potential debt slaves. It is not enough to say education should be free. No, rather, people should be paid, as if it were work, because it is work, to go to school — any school from kindergarten through graduate school — just as researchers and any other people who work are paid. Humanity needs more knowledge about everything. Our societies and cultures need this to continue human progress.

Who’s University? Our University. Humanity’s University.

And our dysfunctional system sprays noxious chemicals on University students as if they were ants and roaches and seeks from them only profits.

We have a lot of work to do. But as the University of California at Davis students said to the police “You can go now.”, we, all of us, the 99% plus the 1%, will someday say to the 1%: “You can go now.”

Building on what has come before.

In the previous few posts, at the end of the list of chunks of new knowledge, I wrote:

Some ideas, some chunks of knowledge, can spread very fast throughout a whole population, especially if the population has been prepared by being supplied with the intermediate knowledge required so that the new or radical idea makes sense. The foundation is already there and when the new idea is heard even once the reaction in the vast majority of people is “Yes!, Yes! That’s exactly right. That is what we must do.”

Can we analyze this? It sounds great. If we could organize the stages of our revolution so that each stage ended with an epiphany, a kind of revelation in a large number of new people, a revelation of some significant revolutionary truths, that would cause them to accept, support, or actively work for the revolution, then it would seem that the revolution would be very well underway. In the previous posts I was trying to analyze chunks of knowledge, information useful for making a revolution. I was asking what would be a good order to spread these chunks of knowledge, these facts, these truths, these opinions to a big chunk of the population.

The revolution might be more or less continuous. That is progress might be more or less steady. Or it could be like Steven Jay Gould’s punctuated equilibrium in biological evolution — periods where nothing much seems to be happening, separated — punctuated — by, very short periods of great change. And we must anticipate periods of reversal, where there are system changes that take us farther away from our goals.

Since the revolution occurs in people’s minds, the revolution can be progressing during periods of apparent stasis and even reversal. And of course the revolution does not have to proceed through punctuated euphoric revelations either. There may be none. But there will probably be some.

If there are any euphoric revelations — where some significant revolutionary idea/s spread almost instantaneously to a large portion of the population — this will generate a lot of enthusiasm for the revolution. We must keep this new enthusiasm focused toward our revolutionary goals and methods. Mass enthusiasm can be dangerous. Charlatans and those not working towards our revolutionary goals might lead people in wrong directions. But this will be less likely if many or most people have previously inoculated themselves against propaganda and self serving authoritarians/leaders through the methods of improving their thinking we discussed in the previous posts.

So, given that the revolution must occur in people’s minds, how do we see any progress, any changes in our systems? The changes in people’s minds precede changes in their behavior. The changes in behavior will affect the operation of the system directly and indirectly. The changes in people’s minds must be translated into changes in the structures of our economic/political systems. This might happen through changes in laws. It might happen through changes in customs if a large enough number of people change their behavior in consistent ways. For example, if enough bankers, traders etc., change their minds, if they realized that arbitrary credit/money creation is the cause of booms and busts, then maybe they would restrain their indefinite creation of credit/money. This seems very unlikely. More likely more laws and rules would have to be made and enforced. If enough people in general realized that running up big debts on credit cards is unwise (or to be very blunt — costly, foolish, crazy, stupid (or maybe it is none of these things if the person knows the banks will never be able to collect since he has no or little money or property)), then maybe more and more people stop using credit cards and they just fade away. There are many ways in which changes in the individual behaviors of enough people will change the system, will change its structure.

The more basic question: How do we stage the revolution? What do we do first? Then what do we do next? It may be ridiculous to try to plan ahead like this. What we do second may be impossible to decide until the first stage is done. So then the question really becomes: At any point in time, what should we do next? Or: What should we do now? Since the revolution is changing people’s minds toward the revolutionary goals and methods, and since any individual person can only build on what they already know at any point in time, different people will need different new knowledge at any point in time. We must send out multiple messages at any one time. Depending on the specific knowledge an individual person has at any time, only some of our messages will make sense to that person. We can try to direct specific knowledge to specific groups such as bankers, traders, economists, the rich, workers, students, scientists, etc. But we can’t be sure that everyone in a specific group gets our message. And some people in other groups will get messages not specifically directed toward them. This is one reason all our messages must be consistent with our goals and methods. Some politicians make the mistake of sending inconsistent messages to different groups. They may say one thing to one group and the opposite to another group. Information leaks, always. So some people at least will see that the politician is lying. We must be as transparent and truthful and consistent and science based as we can be regarding our goals and methods and in all our activities. Consistent messages are easier to accept than inconsistent ones. Consistent messages will spread farther and faster.

How are we going to spread our revolutionary messages? Now in developed countries there are mass media on the one hand and everything else on the other. The everything else includes person to person conversation unmediated — the people communicating are physically close enough to each other that they can hear and see each other directly. Each can hear the words and see the facial and bodily expressions of the other. There are cell phones. There is the internet with typed words and some videos. Different individuals select different methods of getting information about the society and cuilture, the operations of the political and economic systems. Some watch TV, some listen to the radio, some read newspapers, some read books, some read internet blogs. Individuals select their sources of information.

Some blogs are already more or less dedicated to spreading revolutionary ideas, although they may not see it that way. These are critique blogs. They comment on particular areas of our society — politics, economics, banking, the law, civil rights, particular ideologies, etc. In so far as they point out deficiencies in their area of concern, they are spreading maybe the first revolutionary idea — namely that things are so bad, so out of whack, so dysfunctional, so harmful that drastic changes are needed; a revolution is needed.

So our challenge is to determine which of these methods of communication to use where and when to develop and spread our revolutionary ideas.

It is very interesting that direct person to person communication — the most complete form of human to human communication — unmediated communication — is being used by OWS (Occupy Wall Street) and the other Occupys in their general assemblies. And the repetition instead of electric amplification reinforces the information, the messages, into the minds of those hearing and repeating the messages. This is amazing. Obviously it can’t scale directly to a group of thousands or hundreds of thousands of people. Rather it seems to be scaling like bacterial colonies as new Occupys spring up in other cities like a new bacterial colony can start from a single bacterium wafted through the air.

Within any one Occupy the direct person to person communication with repetition may be a very good way to reach strong consensus. And if the different Occupys have essentially the same goals for changing our systems — towards social justice — there may be little difference in their resulting actions. There may be differences as to what to do first. But maybe that doesn’t matter too much. Try something. Try many different things. Keep trying. This may be a good strategy. Notice I don’t say “the best” strategy because we can waste much time and energy about what the best strategy is when there are many possibilities that as far as we can tell now are likely to be more or less equally good.

Maybe the same applies to our question of which revolutionary knowledge to send out to which people when. Maybe a good strategy is to just send it all out to as many people as possible whatever their class or role in our culture through as many communication channels as we can. For every person we should have revolutionary information that will make sense to them and all our messages must be true and consistent with our goals and methods, with social justice — a fair distribution of the products and services we make from the earth’s limited resources, sustainably, non-violently.

How to Spread Revolutionary Knowledge

There isn’t any one right order. There are many that will work very well. In a complex evolving culture we can spread our revolutionary concepts, knowledge, information in many possible ways. We can’t know for sure how well any particular way will work. We can only rely on general principles — about how ideas and information spread through a culture.

So let’s go back to the original list and first put related chunks of information together.

There are a number of these chunks related to cooperation. Let’s group them under the heading of Cooperation:

It is natural for people to cooperate in almost all situations.

Cooperation can be taught.

Conflict and competition are not the same.

Competition is a form of cooperation.

Conflicts exist but they can be limited.

Next let’s group things having to do with fear and anger:

The specific things we fear have been learned and therefore can be unlearned.

We can learn to control anger and many people can learn to eliminate anger from their lives.

Thinking with too much fear, anger, or hatred can lead to wars.

Fear, anger, hatred, disgust are effective propaganda tools.

Learning:

Almost everybody can learn new things at any age.

Altruism can be taught. Generosity is taught. Excessive selfishness is taught.

We learn and create only by building on the knowledge, the work, of others.

Thinking:

Thinking requires feelings.

Excessive amounts of feelings degrade thinking.

Depression is dangerous, even deadly and anyone with even a little depression should seek professional help.

Mania is dangerous.

Authority is dangerous.

Ideologies can be, and probably most are, traps.

Limiting your thinking is limiting yourself

Force and threats are counter productive.

Some big statements:

Human nature is not fixed.

Perfection is an illusion.

Utility theory is grossly simplistic.

Most economic talk and theorizing is total bullshit.

Propaganda:

Repetition is very effective.

Propaganda works.

Truth has an advantage.

Sense of Justice:

People have a strong sense of, a feeling for, justice, fairness which can be increased or decreased by learning.

Influence and Control:

The superrich run things, or think they do.

No one controls anything.

At most we can have some influence.

Information leaks always.

Individuality:

Most people are not stupid.

We must take care of ourselves.

From the day you are born till you ride in the hearse there is nothing so bad that it couldn’t be worse.

Sociality:

Not everyone is greedy all the time.

Altruism exists.

In everything we do we are helped by others.

We are almost never alone.

Complex Systems:

Complex systems must be changed very carefully one step at a time.

Complex systems can sometimes do very unexpected things.

There are almost always unintended consequences when a change is made to a complex system.

Evolution:

Everything evolves, only faster or slower.

Some knowledge speeds up the evolution, the changes, in a society or culture.

Freedom of speech should speed up the evolution of a culture.

Freedom of behavior consistent with nonviolence should speed up cultural evolution.

Both of these allow for increased spreading of new knowledge.

Secrecy limits cultural evolution.

There are many chunks of knowledge that if spread to enough people could significantly speed up the changing of our present system to a socially just system.

Big changes can occur quickly.

Some ideas, some chunks of knowledge, can spread very fast throughout a whole population, especially if the population has been prepared by being supplied with the intermediate knowledge required so that the new or radical ideas make sense.

OK, so we have somewhat chunked the items on the list. Next we want to put these bigger chunks in some pragmatic teaching/learning order. It would seem that chunks like Thinking and Learning should come earlier on the list. Economics is mostly BS should come later, along with the other “Big Statements” since they require an understanding of Evolution. So should complex Systems and Evolution. Cooperation should occur near the middle. Fear and Anger should be near Thinking, probably before it. Propaganda should come just after Thinking.

There are other considerations besides ease of learning that must be considered in trying to determine a good strategic order for spreading our revolutionary ideas. For example the Economics is mostly BS meme maybe should be spread early because there is already a huge amount of information circulating in the population to that effect. We must remember that not everyone needs to understand all the details supporting the validity of some chunk of knowledge in order to accept and use that chunk of knowledge. You may not need to know and understand all the neurological details of how excessive fear and anger degrades your thinking in order to learn to influence your use of fear and anger. You don’t need to know all the details of how a car works in order to drive one.

Maybe the “Occupy” movements will prepare a large chunk of the population for learning about how propaganda works, or how our democracy does not presently work well, or how the powers that be can corrupt and co-opt popular movements. So then the population has been prepared for different revolutionary knowledge to go on top of what they have just learned from these Occupy movements.

So for now, I’ll leave the subject of the strategic spreading of our revolutionary knowledge. 

Strategic Knowledge part 5

We finish with our list.

In everything we do we are helped by others. We learn and create only by building on the knowledge, the work, of others. We learn our language from our mother and other people. We learn how to interact with other people. We learn almost everything we know from other people. On rare occasions we may discover something new. We may create original art or music. In every case we are building on what we have already learned from others. We are immersed in our cultures and can only combine, rearrange, add to, make implications from things, ideas, knowledge, and information already in our cultures. Very little of what any individual does throughout life is original to her or him. Almost everything we do has been done before by others. Issac Newton, who gave an excellent explanation of gravity and the motions of the planets around the sun, said “I stand on the shoulders of giants”. We all do. We depend on the knowledge and the creations of all those who came before us and we depend on the knowledge and creations of the rest of humanity living today. We freely inherit and use the things built by previous generations — the buildings, the roads, the power plants, the dams, the factories, the cleared land, the irrigation systems, the art, the music, the literature, the sciences, the engineering and on and on —- we get all this for free because of the cooperative work of billions of other people, living and dead.

And some managers of large corporations and some government officials have the arrogance to claim that their contributions to society are so great, so valuable, so important that they should have incomes hundreds and hundreds of times the incomes of the people who actually work to produce useful and necessary physical things or who work to discover and create new knowledge and information for the benefit of all of us.

Considering the interconnectedness, the interdependencies of the activities of all seven billion living people, the contribution of any one individual are almost always insignificant. Maybe J. S. Bach, maybe Michael Jackson, maybe Philip Glass, maybe Albert Einstein, maybe Kurt Godel, maybe Gandhi, —  (feel free to nominate a few others) — have as individuals made significant contributions. But no bankers, no corporate leaders, no government leaders should be on any list of significant contributors to the well-being of humanity.

We are almost never alone. Conflict and competition are not the same. Competition is a form of cooperation. Conflicts exist but they can be limited. Each of these has been discussed in the analysis of cooperation in the post Strategic Knowledge for a Good Revolution.

Thinking with too much fear, anger, or hatred can lead to wars. This has been discussed in the analysis of thinking and feelings and in the analysis of emotions in the post Strategic Knowledge part 2.

 Everything evolves. Everything changes only slower or faster. Every human starts as a single cell. That cell develops if all goes well into a healthy baby in about nine months. That development is a step by step process. That first cel divides into two cells; they divide; and so on. As the cell divisions continues the cells differentiate; they are set to perform different functions. The development proceeds as an interaction between the cells with their genetic instructions and their environment, the mother’s womb. The dividing and differentiating cells get nutrients and energy from this environment. Development continues after birth. The baby learns its mother’s language (almost always). It learns how to interact with other people. The baby, then child, then adolescent, then adult absorbs, learns more and more knowledge and information from the culture it is raised in. This development process is a kind of evolution: each stage can only be built on the previous stages, on what has already been built. The development can always go in various directions depending on the interaction between the individual and the individual’s environment. Societies evolve, cultures evolve. Cultures accumulate things and knowledge and information that was created or discovered in earlier stages, and can only build upon, discover, or create based on what has come before. So they also can go in various directions depending on their interactions with their environments. The earth evolves, planets evolve, stars evolve, the universe is evolving. Even a rock evolves, only usually very slowly compared to us, unless the rock is broken up by us or maybe an earthquake.

One consequence of this is that it is silly for economists to try to find static theories or even equilibrium theories. Any realistic theory must account for change, possibly drastic change, i.e., it must be dynamic; and it must take account of the fact that our societies and cultures and political systems are evolving. The discovery of new knowledge, new methods for doing old things better, brings productivity improvements. Huge productivity improvements have been occurring for more than 200 years, yet there is no or very little place for productivity improvements in economic theories. It is very important to understand that our cultures evolve, our real economic and political systems evolve. To ignore these facts is to ignore large chunks of reality.

We can influence social change. The 99% can and do surely influence social change. We (the 99%) accept and use their (the 1%) money/credit/banking system which is the root cause of business cycles — the booms and busts that have been occurring for the past 200 years (or 5000 years if you read David Graeber’s book “Debt: The First 5000 Years.) The money/credit/banking system is also the scheme which allows the 1% to get richer and richer while the 99% get poorer and poorer. We (the 99%) do not have to use this crooked system. See also previous posts on Control and Influence in the post Strategic Knowledge part 3..

From the day you are born till you ride in the hearse there is nothing so bad that it couldn’t be worse (or better). Depression is dangerous, even deadly and anyone with even a little depression should seek professional help. Mania is dangerous. Authority is dangerous. Mental health is good and valuable and important if we want to make a revolution. Mental health means thinking better. It means not thinking with fear, anger, hatred, violence. It means not thinking in terms of caricatures of other people. (Read “Feeling Good” by David D. Burns, M. D.) It is important for revolutionaries to think better and it is important for the process of changing people’s minds, so that they accept the goals and methods of the revolution, since if we teach them how to think better first, then they will be less susceptible to the propaganda of neo-liberalism, they will be less susceptible to the propaganda for wars and violence, they will more easily understand, accept, and appreciate the usefulness of, the value of, the beauty of our revolutionary goals and methods.

I recently read an interesting, yet unsatisfying, book called “A First Rate Madness” by Nassir Ghamei, in which the he argues that in times of crisis we need leaders that are “abnormal”, a little mad. He cites William Tecumseh Sherman, Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt, Adolf Hitler, Winston Churchill, John F. Kennedy, all according to him more or less mad. He looked for symptoms of bipolar disorder — what used to be called manic-depression. He classifies these people as abnormal. He claims that people like Neville Chamberlain and General McClelland were normal people who are fine for normal (I guess peaceful) times, but unfit to handle crises. This all bothers me as being too simplistic. He seems to assume that history just happens and people, leaders simply respond. Is he maybe saying that it takes crazy leaders to start wars? If Roosevelt, Churchill, and Hitler had all been “normal”, might WWII been avoided? Churchill, Hitler, and Kennedy all had regular injections of amphetamines and all three had serious periods of depression and periods of mania. I’m not ready to celebrate mad leaders. If Hitler hadn’t constantly been pumped up with amphetamines might he have seen realistically that his war was lost and given it up one or two years before it actually ended?

What’s this got to do with the revolution we need? Only that we want people to work on their mental health, to develop good thinking practices and stay at or near some sweet spot between depression and mania.

We have already discussed that depression prevents action, and that a real danger of the present deteriorating system, with overwhelming bad news, is to cause people to become hopeless and depressed, and thus unable to help us change the system. We must avoid depression as well as we must avoid mania as we see some successes.

Ideologies can be, and probably most are, traps. Limiting your thinking is limiting yourself. We have already discussed this in Strategic Knowledge part 3.

Fear, anger, hatred, disgust are effective propaganda tools. We have already discussed this in Strategic Knowledge part 2, Propaganda.

Complex systems must be changed very carefully one step at a time. Complex systems can sometimes do very unexpected things. There are almost always unintended consequences when a change is made to a complex system. We have discussed this in the post The Structure of Organizations.

Some knowledge speeds up the evolution, the changes, in a society or culture. Freedom of speech should speed up the evolution of a culture. Freedom of behavior consistent with nonviolence should speed up cultural evolution. Both of these allow for increased spreading of new knowledge. Secrecy limits cultural evolution simply because it limits the spread of new information, new knowledge. There are many chunks of knowledge that if spread to enough people could significantly speed up the changing of our present system to a socially just system. Some examples are the knowledge of how to think better such as not thinking with excessive fear and anger or any excessive emotion; and not thinking in terms of personalities, in terms of the estimated goodness or badness of the person rather than listening to what the person actually says and does. Big changes can occur quickly. Some ideas, some chunks of knowledge, can spread very fast throughout a whole population, especially if the population has been prepared by being supplied with the intermediate knowledge required so that the new or radical ideas make sense. The foundation is already there and when the new idea is heard even once the reaction in the vast majority of people is “Yes!, Yes! That’s exactly right. That is what we must do.”

OK, we have analyzed the items on our strategic list. Now can we put the list into some kind of order that will speed up their learning by enough people so we can make the revolution we want?

Strategic knowledge part 4

We continue with our list of strategic information.

Information leaks, always. No ideology can be 100% sealed off from the rest of the world. No secrecy regime can absolutely prevent leaks of information. No encryption system is 100% secure. The algorithms may be unbreakable with present day computers in a time less than billions of years. But mistakes by humans (or machines) cannot be prevented. They will occur with some positive probability. Simple mistakes can result in information being sent unencrypted; the identity of the encryptor is revealed; then keys and future communications are revealed. Nothing is perfect. Information leaks, always.

The importance of these facts is not just that revolutionaries cannot count on being able to hide from government agencies and corporations. The importance really goes the other way: Governments and corporations cannot hide what they do for very long; and ideologies cannot prevent the leaking in of information which is critical of, contrary to, and ultimately destructive of the ideology. Just as there are no closed systems — a closed system has no energy, resources, or information either coming into it or going out of it — except the whole universe, there can be no completely, 100% closed ideologies. So no matter how dreary, tyrannical, repressive, authoritarian an ideology, or governments, or corporations try to be, they cannot control the information coming in or the information going out. We always have hope of being able to change the system by spreading new information to people.

And as a practical matter it is completely absurd for any person or any group to think they could prevent the creation of new ideas or significantly limit the circulation of existing ideas among seven billion people. Modern technologies — world-wide travel, world-wide internet, world-wide cell phones — are speeding up the circulation of existing ideas as well as the creation of new ideas. Information not only always leaks, it often pours.

Most people are not stupid. Almost everybody can learn new things at any age. I know someone who used to say “My keys are not lost. I just don’t know where they are.” I would say “If you don’t know where your keys are, they are lost.” But what she meant was “My keys are not lost in the sense that they are gone forever. I know they are here somewhere. I just have to find them.” Similarly almost everybody can learn new things at any age. Most people just do not know that they can. They go with the old saying “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” Well we can teach old dogs and we can teach almost all people new things regardless of their age. Some things like sports and playing musical instruments are easier to learn when a person is young. And the people who are the very best at these almost always start learning these physical procedures when they are very young. But older people can learn these things too if their body will still allow it. But mental things — new ideas, concepts — can be learned by older people, in many cases, more easily than by younger people because older people may have had more experience, more accumulated knowledge, on top of which new ideas and concepts can easily be accepted. This assumes their brains are healthy, that their brains have not deteriorated as in Alzheimer’s disease, and that they do not have beliefs which shut their minds to accepting new knowledge — for example being an adherent to a restrictive ideology or believing “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.”

This is important for the revolution because, as we have said, to make a revolution is to change people’s minds. If enough older people can’t change their minds to accept the revolutionary goals and methods, then the revolution will take longer than if most of them could. This has been long recognized. Many scientific revolutions were not complete until the old guard died off. (Read “ The Structure of Scientific Revolutions” by Thomas S. Kuhn.) If enough adults can’t change their minds and accept new revolutionary knowledge, then the revolution will have to wait for new generations to accept the new knowledge.  

Force and threats are counterproductive. This has been analyzed in the post The Strategic Advantage of Non-violence.

Altruism exists. This simple fact wasted a lot of minds. The assumptions of classical economics  and utility theory were so strongly held that some people wasted huge amounts of time and mental energy trying to prove that altruism does not exist or that it is really just some special case of utility theory. Altruism exists. (Read the book “The Heart of Altruism” by Kristen Renwick Monroe.) This book shows beyond any reasonable doubt that there are some people who are willing to put their own lives at risk in order to help others. It is hard to understand what all the fuss is/was all about. It is obvious altruism exists. Almost all of us are altruistic at various times in our lives! Let’s start at the beginning. Consider childbirth. Many women have died during childbirth. I’m sure we could find some women who refused to have children for this reason. And most women are/were aware of this risk of death. The very fact that seven billion of us exist right now proves that almost all women were willing to accept this risk for the benefit of their unborn children. We even assume altruism by soldiers who die to save their buddies or who die for their countries. Everything we do has risks. Therefore any time we do anything to help others we are being altruistic. The existence of altruism is a fake problem. Most people in many, many situations throughout their lives cooperate with, work together with, and help other people without thinking about — much less calculating — benefits, losses, gains, or profits. They do it because they want to, because it’s more enjoyable, because they believe it is just a better way to live, at least in those situations where they do cooperate or help one another. People do not always cooperate. They do not always work together. People do not always help others. People are not always altruistic. But most people often are.

Altruism can be taught. Generosity is taught. Excessive selfishness is taught. These and many other human behaviors relevant for getting along with others, relevant to a fair and just distribution of human necessities — can be taught. They can be taught in that people can be shown how to recognize situations where more, or less, of these behaviors is better. The amounts of and the situations that are appropriate for all these behaviors vary from culture to culture. This proves they are mostly taught by our cultures. Thus in any particular culture we can change them.

We must take care of ourselves. Our body and brain warn us of various human needs — when we need food, water, when it’s too hot or too cold, of dangers, when we need sleep, when we need to be with other people. We actually take care of all these needs with the help of other people. nobody lives their whole life alone. Even hermits had to have been helped by other people from birth up until the time they become crazy enough to wander off into the mountains or desert to live alone. So if you want to think of a person taking care of his or her individual human needs as a form of selfishness, go ahead. But as I have just said this “selfishness” is almost always accomplished with the help of other people.

You may have noticed that many of the things we are talking about seem to be variations on a single theme — that we are social creatures — that almost everything we do, we do with other people. We are social creatures. But most emphatically this is not to deny the importance of individual autonomy, maximal individual freedom consistent with non-violence. (This does not apply to governments and corporations.) We must have both individuality and sociality. Neither can be allowed to dominate, or smother, or try to control or limit the other. The social groups we are a part of strongly influence individuals’ behavior. And of course individuals’ behavior strongly influence our social groups. Each continually influences the other through billions of feedback loops. Our cultures influence us. We influence our cultures. We don’t want our cultures to repress our individuality, our autonomy, our freedoms, our creativity, our development in any ways we may choose to go, all consistent with not harming others and our physical world, consistent with peace and non-violence. Nor do we want individuals or groups trying to bend our cultures, constrain our cultures in ways that prevent or limit maximal individual development for each individual person. We don’t want to have some individuals privileged over others or groups privileged over individuals.

The above may be too abstract. I am trying to think about and talk about in a general way that we must avoid two extremes. One is where the culture, the system works in some sense but it restricts individual freedom and individual development for the sake of a smooth running, or efficient operation of the system. The other is where individual freedom is given so much importance that violence is allowed against others and/or necessary resources are diverted from huge numbers of people. We want a system where there is both maximal personal individual freedom and where there is a just distribution of human necessities so that almost all individual people truly have an opportunity to develop themselves maximally all with non-violence and consistent with the limited earth’s resources.

For many people this will seem impossible. But that’s because they can think only in terms of our present very crude economic and political systems. But when you think about all the feedback loops between individuals and their groups, their cultures, we have to try to get to such a balance.

Let me put it more crudely. We don’t want a well running, efficient, stable system where almost all the people are well fed zombies. And we don’t want a system which seems to work fine for a small minority of people but in which there are all kinds of wars and violence and some people are grotesquely rich and others are starving  and the earth’s resources are being used up as if there were no tomorrow.

The remainder of the list is below. I’ll look at some of these in the next post.

In everything we do we are helped by others. We learn and create only by building on the knowledge, the work, of others. We are almost never alone. Conflict and competition are not the same. Competition is a form of cooperation. Conflicts exist but they can be limited. Thinking with too much fear, anger, or hatred can lead to wars. Everything evolves. Everything changes only slower or faster. We can influence social change. From the day you are born till you ride in the hearse there is nothing so bad that it couldn’t be worse (or better). Depression is dangerous, even deadly and anyone with even a little depression should seek professional help. Mania is dangerous. Authority is dangerous. Ideologies can be, and probably most are, traps. Limiting your thinking is limiting yourself. Fear, anger, hatred, disgust are effective propaganda tools. Complex systems must be changed very carefully one step at a time. Complex systems can sometimes do very unexpected things. There are almost always unintended consequences when a change is made to a complex system. Some knowledge speeds up the evolution, the changes, in a society or culture. Freedom of speech should speed up the evolution of a culture. Freedom of behavior consistent with nonviolence should speed up cultural evolution. Both of these allow for increased spreading of new knowledge. Secrecy limits cultural evolution. There are many chunks of knowledge that if spread to enough people could significantly speed up the changing of our present system to a socially just system. Big changes can occur quickly. Some ideas, some chunks of knowledge, can spread very fast throughout a whole population, especially if the population has been prepared by being supplied with the intermediate knowledge required so that the new or radical idea makes sense. The foundation is already there and when the new idea is heard even once the reaction in the vast majority of people is “Yes!, Yes! That’s exactly right. That is what we must do.”

Strategic Knowledge part 3

We are going through a list of facts, ideas, chunks of information that in so far as these are spread to and accepted by a large enough number of people, we will have made a revolution, we will have modified the goals of enough people, so that the goals of our political/economic system will be to provide a socially just distribution of the earth’s limited resources. Our goal here is to analyze these chunks of information so that we can determine which ones should be spread to whom first, etc. We want to develop a good strategy for spreading these ideas.

People have a strong sense of, a feeling for, justice, fairness which can be increased or decreased by learning. We have a strong sense of injustice, of unfairness, of cheaters, of freeloaders — people who are not doing their fair share in some cooperative human activity. This sense of injustice is a feeling we have when we discover someone cheating. We don’t like it. We will make various efforts, we will work to get the person to stop cheating and to do what he or she can to cooperate, to play, to work, by the rules. In extreme cases if the person won’t cooperate, we may force them to leave the game or the group. Almost everyone has this feeling. This feeling developed in humans through our evolution perhaps partially biological and partly cultural. That is, it may be partly coded in our genes and partly learned as we are raised in our culture. It doesn’t matter very much how we have come to have this feeling of injustice. Even if it is mostly genetic It, like most other behavioral traits, can be modified during individual development — it can be strengthened or weakened and it can be applied in different circumstances. From an evolutionary point of view we almost have to have it. Since we are a species in which cooperation is essential for our individual survival, we will have developed mechanisms to encourage cooperation and we will have developed mechanisms to discourage non-cooperation. So we have this feeling of injustice and thus the feeling for justice. We want justice in our dealings with other people. We don’t like cheating. We don’t like people who don’t do their fair share when they are able to, and we don’t like people who take way more than their fair share of what the group produces.

Since almost all people have this sense of justice, most people will easily agree with the goals of the revolution: Move towards a system which provides social justice — a system that provides basic human needs for every person, where basic human needs are food, clothes, shelter, health care, as much education as anyone wants,  the opportunity to work with others, peace, and maximal individual freedom consistent with non-violence — and all this compatible with protecting and sustaining the natural world.

And if the sense of justice is not strong enough in some people we can teach it.

Most economic talk and theorizing is total bullshit. First most economic theories start with false assumptions so we cannot rely on any of their conclusions. A large part of economics depends on utility theory as an explanation of human decision-making. And we have discussed how utility theory is not at all a correct description of human decision-making. In addition there are clear errors in the mathematics used in classical theories. The aggregate supply/demand curves do not follow from the individual supply/demand curves. (Read “Debunking Economics” by Steve Keen.) And modern economists still refer to these incorrect aggregate supply/demand curves. This is still taught to economics students.

And Milton Friedman said assumptions don’t matter. This has led economists to waste time and energy generating theories from absurd assumptions. (Google “Black-Scholes”, “Efficient Markets”. There are many others.) Then other people apply these absurd theories to decide how to invest or gamble with their and other people’s money.

Finally there is real world proof that economics is mostly useless: Consider the recent crash (2008) and following Great Recession, preceded by the housing/finance bubble, and then go back in history. There are booms and crashes at irregular intervals as far back as 5000 years ago. All a surprise to economists. All not predicted by economic theories. (Read “Debt: The First 5000 Years” by David Graeber.)

People need to understand that economic theories are almost totally wrong because there is great resistance to change by many people who believe in some of these invalid theories. Those who adhere to these theories limit their thinking to their particular theory. They refuse to consider any political/economic system outside their theories. They are trapped by their own ideologies. And they would like to trap the rest of us too. So it is critical that if we are to have the revolution we want we must not be limited in our thoughts by any of these economic ideologies. Management consultants used to say “Think outside the box.” It is critical for us to think outside of any and all economic theories. They are traps, they are “closed boxes”, they do not accept any information outside their theory, they are epistemically closed.

The superrich run things, or think they do. No one controls anything. At most we can have some influence. We see that our politicians, our representatives, our senators have almost all been bought and paid for by bankers, banks and other large corporations, the rich or the super rich. The rich and super rich contribute so much money to the politicians for their campaigns, and that money is used to buy advertisements from the corporate controlled (influenced) mass media that influence the people voting so they effectively have no real choices. It doesn’t matter who wins an election, the parties are essentially the same, we get the same results, the same policies, the same law changes to make the poor and middle class poorer (the 99%) and the rich (the 1%) richer.

So do the rich run things? Are the rich in control? Well they surely influence things. But they do not control everything. They cannot control everything. They cannot control our thoughts. They cannot control our communications with one another. They can monitor Facebook all they want. Information wants to be free. Information leaks, always.

They cannot control our behavior. This has been obvious for a long time. They pass unjust laws like alcohol prohibition and anti drug laws. We (the 99%) mostly ignore those laws. They themselves (the 1%) also pretty much ignore any laws they care to. There is not much respect for laws anymore. The whole system — laws/police/courts/punishment/fines/prisons — seems to be nothing but a cruel joke to harass, intimidate, control, the poor and middle class (the 99%) by the rich (the 1%). They can’t control us. They can only influence us in so far as we let them, only in so far as we buy into and accept the present system.

Many people have already been forced out of the system. The poor are only marginally in the system. The working poor are contributing by their work. Some of the non working poor are also contributing by their community activities, some by developing themselves in various ways such as education, developing artistic abilities. But many have been pushed to the edge of or out of the system — those who have no interest in educating themselves, those who may have an interest in developing themselves but who don’t have enough money and support to do so, those who see no prospects for “success” —  a steady job, enough money to marry and raise a family reasonably comfortably. We could go on and on here. The point is the system works well only for the rich and the upper levels of the middle class. And those for whom the system is not working have less and less incentive to participate in it. The system itself, in its deterioration, in its unpredictable future course, is promoting revolution. The system is pushing people to reject the system. If the 1% think they are controlling the 99%, they are seriously mistaken. They and the system they think they run are forcing people out, are forcing people to be way less than they could be. “Be all that you can be” says the military. Yeah. Right. The 1% don’t control shit. They don’t even know what they are doing. We must help them see that a socially just system will be better for almost everyone, even for most of them.

The present system is uncontrollable. The present system cannot be understood by any one individual. The same is true for any similarly complex system. The most we can hope to do is change our systems to ones that are more understandable and more controllable. The super rich do not run things. Nobody does.

It is important to understand this because if you believe the super rich run things, control everything, then you might believe change is impossible, that you are powerless, and you are less likely to work for a revolution. The truth is change is inevitable. Unexpected, unintended change is inevitable. But we can influence it. We must.

The remainder of the list is below. I’ll look at some of these in the next post.

Information leaks always. Most people are not stupid. Almost everybody can learn new things at any age. Force and threats are counterproductive. Altruism exists. Altruism can be taught. Generosity is taught. Excessive selfishness is taught. We must take care of ourselves. In everything we do we are helped by others. We learn and create only by building on the knowledge, the work, of others. We are almost never alone. Conflict and competition are not the same. Competition is a form of cooperation. Conflicts exist but they can be limited. Thinking with too much fear, anger, or hatred can lead to wars. Everything evolves. Everything changes only slower or faster. We can influence social change. From the day you are born till you ride in the hearse there is nothing so bad that it couldn’t be worse (or better). Depression is dangerous, even deadly and anyone with even a little depression should seek professional help. Mania is dangerous. Authority is dangerous. Ideologies can be, and probably most are, traps. Limiting your thinking is limiting yourself. Fear, anger, hatred, disgust are effective propaganda tools. Complex systems must be changed very carefully one step at a time. Complex systems can sometimes do very unexpected things. There are almost always unintended consequences when a change is made to a complex system. Some knowledge speeds up the evolution, the changes, in a society or culture. Freedom of speech should speed up the evolution of a culture. Freedom of behavior consistent with nonviolence should speed up cultural evolution. Both of these allow for increased spreading of new knowledge. Secrecy limits cultural evolution. There are many chunks of knowledge that if spread to enough people could significantly speed up the changing of our present system to a socially just system. Big changes can occur quickly. Some ideas, some chunks of knowledge, can spread very fast throughout a whole population, especially if the population has been prepared by being supplied with the intermediate knowledge required so that the new or radical idea makes sense. The foundation is already there and when the new idea is heard even once the reaction in the vast majority of people is “Yes!, Yes! That’s exactly right. That is what we must do.”

Strategic Knowledge part 2

We are going through a list of facts — chunks of knowledge — that will help people understand that we can make a non-violent revolution to transform our economic and political systems into more socially just systems. We are analyzing these facts to see where they come from, to see how they are related, to see what other information they depend on, so that we may put them in an order that will most easily allow their spread to a large enough chunk of the whole population. We analyzed some in the previous post. Here are swveral more from the remainder of the list.

Thinking requires feelings. Excessive amounts of feelings degrade thinking. We talked about the emotions fear, anger, hatred, disgust, and grief above. Emotions are changes occurring in your body in certain situations. In fear your heart beats faster, your blood is circulated to your muscles, your muscles tense, cortisol and adrenalin are secreted into your blood stream. This is the emotion — the actual bodily changes. The feeling associated with the emotion is your experience, your awareness, your sensing of these bodily changes. The feelings are inside you. Some of your emotional responses can be seen by other people since tensing of muscles can be seen by others, in particular your facial muscles, since each emotion has a unique pattern of facial muscles tensing and relaxing. (Read “Emotions Revealed” by Paul Ekman.) Your feelings can’t be seen by others. But they can be inferred from your facial and other bodily expressions. Feelings are stored away with all our memories. Some amount of the feelings we experience during some memorable episode are stored away with the other information about that episode such as where it was, when it was, who you were with, the sights, the sounds, the smells, the tastes (if any), the pain (if any). The feelings stored away with a memory are recalled along with the other information when that memory is used in thinking. For example if you are in a restaurant looking at the desert menu and you see pumpkin pie listed and when you were a child you once ate too much pumpkin pie and got sick, you might have very bad feelings regarding pumpkin pie, and thus you decide not to have pumpkin pie for desert. So you used your feelings about pumpkin pie, stored in your memory from long ago, in the process of thinking about what desert you might want, and you decided not to have pumpkin pie. Your feelings helped you decide. Your feelings were necessary for your thinking. When a person has damage to particular areas of their brain that connect feelings and thinking, they cannot make decisions. They can go round and round considering all the possibilities, but they cannot decide, they cannot “make up their minds”. This is especially true for social decisions like whom to marry, whom to trust. (Read “Looking for Spinoza” by Antonio Damasio. One person with such brain damage spent more than a half hour trying to decide which of two possible appointment times was better.)

OK, thinking requires feelings. So what’s the big deal? There are several reasons why this is important to understand. The fundamental reason is that it explains many distortions of thinking, poor thinking, that lead to irrational and inappropriate behaviors. Another reason is that it used to be thought that the best thinking should be totally detached from emotions and feelings. And some people still try to eliminate all feelings from thinking. To actually do that would degrade their thinking. The amount, the intensity, of feelings associated with some thought can be too much or too little. The feelings associated with one thought can spill over and affect another thought. And there are phobias. Some people regularly have fears of some things way out of proportion to the actual danger: fear of spiders, fear of snakes, fear of heights, fear of closed spaces, fear of open spaces, some people are afraid to leave their house or apartment. There are many others. (Read “Feeling Good” by David D. Burns, M.D. The whole book is about the multiple ways people use distorted and unrealistic thinking about themselves and the world.)

We need to understand how good thinking and poor thinking actually work so we can teach ourselves and others how to think better. Then our choices, our decisions, will be better. We will be more effective in our actions, in everything we do. We will be less susceptible to propaganda.

I have said that thinking with fear and anger degrades thinking; yet here I say feelings are essential for thinking well. The degradation of thinking comes because the amount or intensity of the feelings is wrong, or the feelings are associated with the wrong object. Anger toward one person often spills over to nearby people. So thinking with fear or anger really means having too much fear or anger or it’s directed at the wrong object.  

Repetition is very effective. Repetition is how we memorize things  — basic facts like 3 X 8 = 24 or Columbus is the capitol of Ohio. These are facts — chunks of knowledge, chunks of information we use in our lives to make decisions, to do whatever we do. We learn and remember these chunks of information by hearing them spoken or seeing them written over and over during our education in schools as well as everywhere else. We also learn and memorize chunks of information that are less basic, more speculative, incomplete, somewhat useful, misleading or just wrong. Some examples: people are selfish; people are greedy; buy low, sell high; speed kills; follow your gut; look before you leap, etc. There are thousands of facts, factoids, rules of thumb, aphorisms, etc. that we have learned, memorized, through hearing or reading them over and over again. Repetition is the process by which we learn, store, memorize these chunks of information, treat them as knowledge, and use them in thinking and making decisions in our daily lives. Most of the information we accept and use as knowledge we get this way. Only sometimes do we carefully assess the usefulness, the truth, the consistency, of new information we accept and use.  

Propaganda works. Propaganda works by repetition, by excessive generation of fear, anger, hatred, disgust, contempt, by demonizing individuals and groups, by simplistic thinking — thinking in terms of absolutes and binaries such as good and evil and rejecting gradations in between the absolutes. Another form of simplistic thinking propaganda uses is focusing on people rather than issues and policies — the advantages and disadvantages of proposed changes to our systems. The person becomes a symbol for the policy. The character of the person is substituted for the policy. Propagandists then glorify or demonize specific people rather than discuss the proposals the glorified or demonized people make. We can call this thinking in terms of people. It goes along with thinking in terms of excessive fear and anger.

Propaganda is made easier by mass media — which send information from a very limited number of sources to millions of viewers or listeners such as TV and radio. But propaganda can be sent through any media. One possible advantage of the internet as the medium of information spreading is the large number of possible sources should be harder for a small number of people to attempt to control. But on the receiving end, which sources will people listen to? If we group people by their main sources of information will we have millions of groups, or thousands, or hundreds, or three (like we had when there were only 3 TV networks)?

Propaganda also occurs in person-to-person conversations. Just talk to someone who has been propagandized by one of the TV so-called news channels.  The propagandaness (the essence of propaganda) is still there: distorted thinking, simplistic thinking, thinking with excessive fear and anger, thinking in terms of caricatures of people. There is no question that propaganda works. It clearly leads people to support war, promote war, go to war. It easily convinces people to vote against their own interests.

So should the revolution use propaganda? The answer has to be no for several reasons. It’s like violence. Implicit in our goals of social justice is the goal of eliminating or continually reducing violence in our societies and cultures. We also surely want to reduce propaganda as I have characterized it. We want to eliminate distorted thinking, simplistic thinking, thinking with excessive fear and anger, thinking in terms of caricatures of people. We want more and more people to see and understand how our social systems can be improved, to bring them closer to our goals of social justice. It would be absurd to try to teach and spread methods of better thinking by using distorted and simplistic thinking. As with violence, if we try to use propaganda to make a revolution, then we will not be successful, we will have changed very little.

Another reason we must teach, promote, and spread better thinking is to undo the neoliberal propagandistic thinking that has led to the present neoliberal dominance. How do we get our Democracy back? One way might be to teach better thinking — thinking without excessive or mis-directed fear and anger, etc. — so that a large enough number of people have learned to recognize propaganda and therefore reject it. This is not impossible. All it requires is spreading the necessary knowledge to enough people. Part of the revolutionary program, part of the revolutionary strategy, must be to spread the knowledge of how to avoid propagandistic thinking to as many people as possible, and ultimately to almost everybody in the world.

Truth has an advantage. This may seem to be an odd assertion. It used to be thought that all a scholar or scientist had to do was to discover the truth, publish it, and our societies and cultures would accept it and act accordingly, and all would be well. It’s not that simple. Philosophers still argue about what truth is. Truth is or was one of those absolutes that modernists or post-modernists rejected. Absolutes seem to be quasi mathematical concepts. They may not actually apply to everyday human activities. Some have embraced this idea to claim then that truth does not matter. And from that they have concluded that anything goes — lies and tricks are OK in trying to convince people about something — maybe even Milton Friedman’s stupid assertion that the assumptions of an economic theory don’t matter comes from this mindset. Absolute truth may not matter, but relative truth surely does matter. Relative truth is how accurate a theory is or how well it works, or how useful it is in making predictions. Relative truth is how well some rule of thumb, some fact, some factoid, some statement, some rule, some knowledge, some information actually works in the world for people using the information. And we have systematic ways of checking, testing, finding out how well some theory, statement, fact, idea, etc. works. It is called the scientific method. Some theories, statements, facts, ideas work better than others. By the methods of science we find out which are better or worse than others. Truth matters.

The remainder of the list is below. I’ll look at some of these in the next post.

People have a strong sense of, a feeling for, justice, fairness which can be increased or decreased by learning. Most economic talk and theorizing is total bullshit. The superrich run things, or think they do. No one controls anything. At most we can have some influence. Information leaks always. Most people are not stupid. Almost everybody can learn new things at any age. Force and threats are counterproductive. Altruism exists. Altruism can be taught. Generosity is taught. Excessive selfishness is taught. We must take care of ourselves. In everything we do we are helped by others. We learn and create only by building on the knowledge, the work, of others. We are almost never alone. Conflict and competition are not the same. Competition is a form of cooperation. Conflicts exist but they can be limited. Thinking with too much fear, anger, or hatred can lead to wars. Everything evolves. Everything changes only slower or faster. We can influence social change. From the day you are born till you ride in the hearse there is nothing so bad that it couldn’t be worse (or better). Depression is dangerous, even deadly and anyone with even a little depression should seek professional help. Mania is dangerous. Authority is dangerous. Ideologies can be, and probably most are, traps. Limiting your thinking is limiting yourself. Fear, anger, hatred, disgust are effective propaganda tools. Complex systems must be changed very carefully one step at a time. Complex systems can sometimes do very unexpected things. There are almost always unintended consequences when a change is made to a complex system. Some knowledge speeds up the evolution, the changes, in a society or culture. Freedom of speech should speed up the evolution of a culture. Freedom of behavior consistent with nonviolence should speed up cultural evolution. Both of these allow for increased spreading of new knowledge. Secrecy limits cultural evolution. There are many chunks of knowledge that if spread to enough people could significantly speed up the changing of our present system to a socially just system. Big changes can occur quickly. Some ideas, some chunks of knowledge, can spread very fast throughout a whole population, especially if the population has been prepared by being supplied with the intermediate knowledge required so that the new or radical idea makes sense. The foundation is already there and when the new idea is heard even once the reaction in the vast majority of people is “Yes!, Yes! That’s exactly right. That is what we must do.”