Saturday, November 21, 2009

Who's Afraid of The Big Hairy Spider ?

Few Americans realize the hatchet job that the Reagan through Bush years did to the progressive income tax system, and to the quality of life that most American now have. While they wail about “excessive” taxation, they don’t remember -- or are to young to have ever known -- that the top marginal tax rate during the moderate republican Eisenhower presidency was 90%. Or that that rate of taxation enabled the America we grew up with to come into existence -- middle class and all. Nor do they realize that the extreme amounts of tax dollars flowing from the Bush tax cuts went not into their pockets, but into the bank accounts of the ultra rich. A question was asked of me today about the reprehensible increase in the number of billionaires in America, and what it’s roots were. Here’s a link to the original forum in the Altoona Mirror.

And here is the question, comming from a frequent contributer whose pen name is "Nobama4me"

11-21-09 11:40 AM
»Mal: the increase in the number of billionaires is a result of the increasing disparity between rich and poor. The greatness of America was the large middle class. I do NOT believe this increasing disparity is caused by the lack of socialism, but rather because of the increase in the tax burden of the middle class.

Malarky's Resonse:

Nobama, I agree with everything you just said. Reaganomics and specifically, the Bush tax cuts, were responsible for the huge increase in the number of billionaires in America. It now -- just this year -- even exceeds that of the (almost universally agreed as corrupt to the point of being “evil“) “gilded age” That is an ominous landmark that most don’t vet know happened. The ultra-rich do not “work” for a living as do the rest of us. Their prime source of income is dividends. And, of course, Bush radically slashed the tax on dividends. This benefited not just the rich generally, but his own family and close circle of friends exponentially. It actually resulted in a tax decrease for the rich, while imposing a tax increase on the rest of America.

And, of course, they never really repaired things like the “alternative minimum tax”. And yes, you are correct that the Regan through Bush economic policies have crippled the ever increasingly disappearing middle class in America. In fact, “class” as a concept is no longer even a relevant term. So demographers are more often referring not to “class”, but, instead to “economic clusters” to describe the ever more bizarre and skewed way that American society is dividing.

But, even though the middle class -- which was indeed the backbone of America’s stability and strength -- is disappearing, it is the working poor who bear the real burden in our society. And their numbers have increased exponentially during the last 40 years. The real middle class -- those earning $100,000 and up a year -- have no problems putting food on the table yet. Their problem is in putting that third car in the driveway, or purchasing that second home in the mountains for a summer retreat.

And so, they too can reasonably be expected to bear the costs of redistribution of the wealth to all Americans. But they have, of course, become increasingly enmeshed in the radical right wing thinking that bombards us constantly from Big Brother, and his radio, television and newspaper soapboxes. You’re perhaps right that a lack of socialism was not the cause of the problem. It was more the result of the success of the greedy rich in destroying the progressive income tax system. But socialism is the solution. We just have to get a more acceptable sounding word. Thanks to Big Brother, people equate the word “socialism” with big hairy spiders. Even while they struggle to understand why they cannot free themselves from the sticky, and collapsing, web of capitalism.

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Friday, November 20, 2009

The Big Omission

Hometown papers have a nasty habit of skewing the news, editorially, to support self-serving notions. My hometown paper, the Altoona Mirror recently decided to describe the Obama administration’s economic stimulus package in the framework of the 1950’s concept of “The Big Lie”. Joe McCarthy would have been proud. Here’s a link to the original editorial, and my response, below:

Why is anyone so surprised that government might engage in the “Big Lie” approach to making statistics look good? Private industry does it all the time. That’s why local furniture stores, week after week, are able to stage the same old “biggest ever”, “last chance” “all inventory must go” “largest sale in our history”, “you can’t miss this incredible once in a lifetime deal” advertising promotions. New car dealers do the same. So do local banks who offer “incredibly high” interest rates of below 1% on savings accounts or certificates of deposit, while loaning out the same money at 70% rates of return. (That’s called “fractional reserve banking". Isaac Newton gave us the idea after he gave us the laws of gravity -- really).

America’s economy is built on lies. We are a nation of liars. We lie about both the quality of goods we sell one another and the actual need for them by creating an artificial demand through advertising and public relations. We lie about threatened homeland security so that those who make tanks, airplanes, and the machinery of war can continue to make billions of dollars at the expense of American lives. And then we lie to the families of dead soldiers that they died defending freedom, when they, in fact, died so that the rich can continue to waste our resources on larger cars, bigger yachts, more remote and exotic vacations, personal jets and lower taxes for themselves and higher taxes for the working class.

The system was purposefully created that way by the “founding fathers” who were themselves simply rich land owners afraid that real democracy would threaten their wealth. And it is continued in modern times by men like Edward Bernays, who created the modern public relations industry. And that industry is nothing but a vehicle for keeping the public stupid while fleecing them of the worker-generated gross national product.

So, why be surprised that government employs the “big lie”? The “big lie” is as traditional as Thanksgiving Day -- which Native Americans will gladly explain to you is just another “big lie” in itself.! The Altoona Mirror is not uncomfortable with the “big lie” at all. Without the advertising it generates there would be no Mirror. What it is uncomfortable with is the notion that the stimulus package did indeed help the economy and that what is needed now is even more stimulus. The reason it’s uncomfortable with that is that it wants the stimulus package to fail, so that the democrats will fail along with it. Their concerns have absolutely nothing to do with the welfare of the country or it’s people. They’re not pointing that out to readers might be called, charitably, “The Big Omission”.

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Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Why the Rest of the World Still Hates America

In the late 1960’s people still believed that the revolution was at hand. In fact, it was by then, all but over. All that was ever to come of those angry masses wanting an end to war in their own lifetimes, an end to hypocrisy, an end to capitalism and an opening to a new age -- the age of Aquarius -- had already come and gone. The crowd that believed in rock and roll, flower power and "better living through chemistry" had expected the world to change rapidly. And for the better. They believed in Jim Morrison and Jimi Hendrix and Timothy Leary as visionary prophets. They were like the early Christians, apocalyptic in their vision. Like those early Christians, they believed that they were on the verge of a kind of “second coming“. They were similar, because like the Christians, who believed the message proclaiming a literal historical figure called Jesus, they also believed in the quick inevitability of the unfolding of events. For the Christians that was the certain expectation of Jesus’ return during their own lifetimes. And for the activists of the 1960’s it was the certain expectation of dramatic social and economic change. For the early Christians the second coming never arrived. Nor did the revolution of the late sixties. It died with the end of the Vietnam War. It was already withering well before the election of Jimmy Carter, whose tenure was to become the first born of the “born-again presidencies”. It was the precursor to an executive branch held captive to the puritanical expectations and free market fixations of the religious right. And, by the advent of Ronald Regan, the revolution was officially dead. It died along with the passing of military conscription as a method of ensuring an endless supply of young bodies earmarked to become the corpses of wars yet to be waged or even dreamt of. Regan was to usher in his own micro version of the new “dark ages”. A reactionary time when the whole zeitgeist of America -- from the lowest rungs of the social order to the loftiest perches of the super rich -- was to take a violent swing to the right.

Instead of an expected proliferation of the egalitarianism symbolized by the communes of hippie society -- one that would eventually overshadow the entirety of government, economics and the social order, the world tipped in the other direction. Like in the unexpected falling of a great tree revolving for the final collapse toward rather than away from the woodsman. America first, and eventually the whole earth, was to wobble sharply on its axis and jarringly spin, out of control into an Alice in Wonderland wormhole in space-time, emerging to find itself in a political semblance of Flat Land. An unreal Capitalist Utopia emerging, not from the vision of an affluent but egalitarian society as envisioned by mainstream economists of the time like John Kenneth Galbraith, but rather by some inept cartoon caricature, some ghoulish merger of William Buckley and Milton Friedman. Like a bad trip through the Star Trek transporter, where America found itself to have been morphed into a half-human, half-fly organism, and mounted on some microscope slide to experience the inspection -- and final judgment -- of the entire world.

That judgment was harsh. The world had already itself been infected with the virus of Americanism. And amid this raging contagion other nations were more than ready for a dose of the elixir of Anti-Americanism. Because the world, you see, had grown more than a little alarmed over the epidemic proportions of that infestation. In no way had it gone unnoticed that by the end of the second World War America’s gross domestic product dwarfed that of any other nation. And that the United State’s clear intention was to keep it that way. It’s appetite was insatiable. Both for the consumption of the earth’s shared resources and for the imperial dispersal of its own culture to other parts of the world, even at the expense of exterminating the cultural heritages of entire peoples. There were few actual challenges to it’s ascendancy, even in times before it was the only remaining super power of the world. China had too many problems of its own to be a real threat, although it served as a convenient theatrical prop. It, along with the Soviet Union, made good fuel for the peace-time propaganda machine as the illusory “communist threat” that was used to justify everything from the massive (and profitable) arms build up to the Chicago School’s invasion and economic subjugation of Latin America’s Southern Cone countries. All of this was done to save the world from “godless communism” and to promote “truth, justice and the American way”. And it all served, in the tradition of Edward Bernays, to keep the American people mindlessly grinning from both ear to ear and sea to shining sea. No one stopped to consider that the United States unlike the majority of the world’s nations enjoys its own shell of protection in the form of two vast oceans on either side, making any sudden invasion by other nations highly improbable. And, of course, America's clear military and nuclear superiority and the doctrine of mutual assured destruction, then taken seriously by all nations (since mad men had not yet been financed into positions of nuclear capability by American political schemers) still proved an effective check to the imperial ambitions of all other nations.
So, by the time the Bush presidency, which had run on the promise that there would be no “nation building” was up and running, the world was already holding its gut in pain from an overindulgence of a sixty year junk food diet of “American pie.” “The Ugly American” of William Lederer's and Eugene Burdick’s day had transformed itself into an all devouring consumer machine that threatened not only to assimilate other cultures, but to unseat the stability of nature itself by sucking the earth dry of it’s resources of oil, water, breathable air, sustainable agriculture and alternative fossil fuels, not in some distant future, but within a few generations. It was not only threatening the economic stability of poorer nations with it’s policies of unregulated investor driven capitalism. It was threatening the future of the human species itself in a very real and visible manner.

The realization that the earth is no cornucopian horn of plenty to be endlessly expolited for private profit has dawned on some of the world’s countries. They have come to regard it for what it is: an interdependent system of biological and geophysical mechanisms. One whose balance and continuation depend on responsible consumption and replentishment deriving from the goal of long term sustainability rather than short term exploitation for profit. They have begun to take small, but necessary steps toward restoring balance to our ecosystem. There is no assurance that they are acting in time to succeed. But they are beginning. The astonishing thing, though, is that among nations, America, in particular, is so begrudging of making the sacrifice called for so as to ensure that humanity itself will endure. It continues to put the short term personal satisfactions of consumerism ahead of the good of the entire species. It continues to use the power of media and political persuasion to convince it’s citizens of the rightness of ever increasing consumption of limited resources, literally to fuel the engine of economic growth. As if every predetermined disposable product conceivable were absolutely necessary to the personal fulfillment of every American’s individual destiny. As if there were no logical alternative to the automobile for mass transit. As if the transportation of vegetables, meat, poultry, fish and bottled water thousands of miles to their end consumer were somehow reasonable and necessary alternatives to the use of locally grown and acquired supplies. As if the resource intensive, and industrially encouraged, production of meat based diets were really a healthy alternative to vegetarianism. Even measures as small as a return to the 55 mile per hour speed limit which would ensure the savings of millions of gallons a day in gasoline consumption were enough to enrage the populace against the governor of New Jersey, the only state to call for it during the most recent bout of high oil and gas prices. Americans will pay any price, suffer any hardship and sacrafice even the lives of future generations to ensure the continuation of it’s culture of creature comfort. And yet, America continues to wonder why the world hates it.

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Saturday, October 31, 2009

My mind is like a potato with too many eyes

by jimmi malarky

My mind is like a potato with too many eyes.
Like a college girl
Who’s known too many guys…
Or the lazy, friendly slob
Who’s had job after job
And settles for a life
Of cooking fries…
Food service, frozen dinners
Almost anesthetized;
To serve the tranquil, numb, and nervous
Who stuff their faces,
escape uneasy fears
Forget their lives and lies…
And drown themselves
In diet cokes and pies…

Fast food is a pleasure
Which by any measure
Never measures up
To what is advertised
Or what is super-sized
Until one’s waist
To one’s surprise
Bulges over undisguised
Like a graveyard retaining wall
With an occasional escaping foot
Or arm or leg
Oozing through the soil
Like scrambled egg;
Causing us to inquire
(A bit self-conscious
About our extra tire)
Whether eating like a pig
Has made our asses look too big?
Or, in effect,
Lessens love’s desire;
Expecting fully to be told
“It really doesn’t matter”
From one’s loving liar.

Yes, my mind is like a potato with too many eyes.
Like a picnic in the park
Staged amid too many flies.
Like a fast food chicken take-out
With too many breasts and legs and thighs.

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Friday, October 23, 2009

How Karma Sticks Like Velcro


Seeing How Wrong They Were

I don’t really believe in karma. My personal cosmology is based on random chance. My universe popped suddenly into being out of nothingness. This occurred in an unexpected instance of startling cosmic eloquence we call the big bang. It then evolved, along it's own celestial timeline, into that paradoxical confluence of the infinitesimally minute and the immeasurably vast. The place in which a bewildered humanity is forever destined to live out the moments of its brief lives. But the curiousness of how perfectly events unfolded to favor life, consciousness and intelligence is another matter altogether. The fact that it happened at all on this one tiny grain of sand, adrift in an unimaginable, and -- so far -- otherwise lifeless void has not eluded me. Nor has the improbable rarity that on our earth we have the exact conditions necessary for the evolution of life. And that it did happen in just the way it did -- in a universe where even the exact conditions necessary for things as basic as matter and gravity were a tenuous proposition at best. Now, that is something to ponder. But not in the way creationists ponder William Paley's self-evolving clock. I’m not looking for proofs of some divine counterpart to ourselves, busy in her laboratory whipping up flask after flask of parallel universes filled with little creatures, made in her own image, to “know, love and serve” her.

Even the notion of a biocentric universe, where we are just, in reality, a sort of floating brain in space becoming increasingly self aware as consciousness evolves as a part of our physical reality is, while interesting, speculative almost to the point of irrelevance, if not absurdity. So, like the Greeks before me, I don’t know why I’m here. In fact, I don’t believe there is even a reason why. All the reasons history and religion have given us have long since proven to be based on hubris and plain human arrogance. And I refuse to create a celestial sphere with planets and stars hung from it’s walls with crazy glue, as they did. Not because I’m smarter. But because my perch in history gives me the privilege of seeing how wrong they were.

The Pursuit of Social Justice and the Laws of Thermodynamics

And yet, in the beauty of mathematics; in the symmetry of Euclid’s two dimensional geometry, and even in the extraordinary, endlessly recurring proliferation of things in Mandelbrot’s fractal geometry, I can’t help but wonder if karma is itself some sort of inevitable physical reality. One that ultimately brings all things into a kind of cosmic balance. Where one finally finds a pattern to life’s craziness that makes it seem, if not normal, at least acceptably typical. One that lays those disturbing irregular and random bits and pieces of everyday life over with a blanket of recognizable, reassuring, recurring regularity. One that can provide that missing link between notions as diverse as the pursuit of social justice and the laws of thermodynamics.

And for the sake of continuing this metaphorical line of thought, I’m going to take a stab at imagining what that link would look like. Doing so requires the willingness to intellectually “trip the light fantastic” to some degree. It requires a departure from even the illusion of science and a willingness to stretch analogy like taffy to make it fit the framework of argument. So, prepare now to mentally “zoom-in” from the cosmic whole to the micro-personal, viral consciousness of the American ethnic majority in the precarious pursuit of the elusive occurrence of that stuff we call “karma”.

This Unscholarly Hypothesis -- This Convenient Myth -- of Mine

Karma can’t be seen. Nor held in one’s hand. It can’t be examined directly. No telemetry exists to reach out and grab it, or manipulate it in three dimensional form so that it can be analyzed, probed, researched, subjected to trial and error experimentation or otherwise captured for one’s own personal amusement or erudition. Even it’s very existence must be inferred. It must be inferred in the same way that the existence of other multiple physical dimensions are inferred by the secondary behaviors they exhibit in imaginary structures like hypercubes. Like people living in Flat Land we cannot experience the physical reality of karma directly. We have to deduce its existence from the behavior of familiar objects (or social institutions) that we all normally dwell in the midst of. We have to approach it in the same manner that Johann Galle and Heinrich d'Arrest did when they embarked on their mathematical journey to discover why gravity was misbehaving in one small sector of our solar system. A journey that led to the discovery of the phantom planet they knew had to exist to explain that anomaly; which was, of course, the previously unknown planet, Neptune. It has to be approached in the same way that eventually led cosmologists to conclude that gravity itself -- that omnipresent constant of all constants -- behaves differently at the far edges of the universe than it does in the deep space of our own cosmic backyard.

There are, by this unscholarly hypothesis -- this convenient myth -- of mine, no doubt, millions of undetected sparks of karma bombarding our personal realities every second, just as there is an ongoing angry blizzard of radiation particles storming our earth continuously like pieces of hail in the fury of a relentless winter storm. And we feel their hits, even without awareness from whence they come. We feel them not only in the drift of continents, or the upheavals of tsunamis and earthquakes, or in the unexpected molestations of famine, pestilence or disease that have plagued the existence of our species from the beginning. We feel them as well in our non-physical worlds. In our mental constructs. In those social fortresses that we as a species have assembled: in our countries and nation states, in our huts and villages, in our suburbs and cities, in our religions and governments and nuclear families. We even feel them in those personal, singular, existential and visceral pockets of consciousness that constitute that state of physical reality that we describe as life itself. They are there. In the winds of war, as they brush against our faces, chilling our skin even to the bone. In the brutalities we inflict on our own kind and on the other creatures of our planet. And on the planet itself. They are there. Always there. Amid our joys, our loves, our fears, our hatreds, our compassions, our indifference, our commitments, our betrayals of those commitments. They are there in the ticker tape parades, the launching of both rockets and new cities. In the birth of new dreams and in the destruction and death of old ones. They are there at the moment of our conception and at the instant of our passing.

The Plight of the American Ethnic Majority

And they are there for a reason. To restore balance in the presence of dissonance. Not only in the thermodynamic forces that determine how the physical aspects of the universe play out, but even in the playing out of the pursuit of social justice. Consider, for instance the current plight of the American ethnic majority -- the white race. For two thousand years the history of the world has been written by the hand of the white race. It has controlled those institutions of power: governments, religion, technology, social progress, capitalism, democracy and all of those major propensities of civilization that have dominated the earth. If not by argument and intellectual discourse, then by the sword. And yet, at their pinnacle of strength they have repeatedly, in our own time, surrendered that dominance, willingly, by concession. The mighty WASP of the 1950’s has lost so much of its sting. And the power of cultural dominance, which had for two hundred years percolated down from a white aristocracy to those at the bottom now increasingly bubbles upward from the bottom to the top. We see it in the physical icons of culture. In fashion, where the new wardrobes of the rich come not from the boardrooms of corporations and the wives of socialites but from the streets of inner city youth. In music, where rap and hip hop have replaced classical music as the predominant vehicle of the cultural thrust that sets in motion the drive and direction of social and intellectual change. And in art, where kids with cans of spray paint set the new standard of the Avant-garde.

Choosing Victimhood Over Dominance

But, perhaps the most startling change has been the decision of American whites to choose victimhood over dominance as the main method of achieving whatever remaining part of the white American dream that may still be had outside the covers of Time-Life books and 1950‘s television reruns. As they scratch and claw their way to minority status, both in the reality of population decline and in their own mental frame of reference, they increasingly decry the loss of white culture and white dominance to the cultural giants they fear most: affirmative action, the crumbling of evangelical Christianity, the growth of secular humanism, and the culture-wide acceptance of intellectualism over religion as a vehicle of progress. And, in attempting to recapture their depleted vitality, they have beat a path to the backwoods of talk radio, anti-intellectualism and a resurgence of racism and neo-conservative political surrender as a means to achieving those ends.

Even the Language Has Caught Up With Them

So, it has come to past; and yes, it may indeed be a reflection of that elusive factor, karma, that even the language has caught up with them. That even the words that spill from their mouths betray them cruelly; inflicting the unkindest cut of all. That karma has, in effect, seen to it that there is a word of compensation, a word of rhetorical revenge, set down to even the historical score between black and white. A word that dredges up all the hundreds of years of guilt that whites managed to hide under the legendary and celebrated cloth of the American Empire. But the word has stripped away that cloth as surely as it had the emperor of his “new clothes.” Karma has seen to that. Because for two hundred years there never was a word as hurtful , undeserved, hollow, or demeaning as “ nigger“. It carries absolutely no redemptive social value whatsoever. The word “ nigger“ has served as a cruel and maliciously spiteful tool against blacks for centuries. But society has a way of evolving useful new tools when there is a need for them. Now the word “racist” has picked up that utility to a great degree when applied to whites. And now, every time whites hear the word “racist” they cringe. They feel the need to justify themselves. To somehow cleanse themselves. To put distance between themselves and that charge, even when they are not particularly guilty of it. But nothing helps. They literally, viscerally feel the guilt of the “sins of the father“. The charge of racism sticks to whites -- not just in America, but the world over -- as if it were made of Velcro. Yes, it’s unfair to call all whites racists. Like the word "nigger", it triggers the same sense of self loathing, guilt, shame; the same visceral enducement of fear of failure, the need to cover up the truth -- even when the truth is innocence. It impels one to deny the undeniable. It triggers the need to deny the word itself and it's reality: that the very word “racist” is now the new “nigger”. And that, in short, if such a thing exists, is karma.

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Thursday, October 15, 2009

Of Paper Cups and Permanence ( A Tone Poem for the Tone Deaf)

I've always considered some things in life as being disposable. I’m not talking about diapers, cameras, or paper cups. Nor am I talking about the social extremes of our crumbling and crippled culture: disposable spouses (and the disposable -- or “wash and wear“ -- wedding gowns they logically infer). Or the disposable children who are the unclaimed progeny of delinquent husbands, wayward wives; and all those sexual kleptomaniacs, social negligents and sex-ed truants who are plainly too lazy, stupid or uninformed to use a condom. Neither am I speaking of the “disposable poor”. Those locked out of the safety net of the middle and upper classes, well beyond the sights of those within America’s gated communities. Well beyond access to a living wage, health insurance, decent and affordable housing, or the benefits of higher education, meaningful careers or the distant promise of a dignified retirement and old age. I’m not speaking of all these because they lie well outside the menagerie of “must haves” that comprise the life goals of the American Dream. And those are the real obstacles to curing the weightier problems mentioned above. Disposable items in my list are and always have been the simpler things that we, as a consumption based culture just “can’t do without.“ They are bicycles, lawn mowers, wide screen TV’s, cars and car loans, houses and mortgages, and all the other chattels that comprise the “clutter“ of “the good life“ in America. I don’t own them. Or, if I do, I own them in their cheapest, ugliest, refurbished and most undesirable forms. With the clear intention of using them and disposing of them. I take no particular pleasure in conspicuous consumption or in the ownership of property in any form. Neither do I borrow to own. I have never had a bank loan. Never borrowed to pay for anything that I cannot finance out of pocket. It’s not a matter of just saving cash -- although it does; and throughout my life it has. It’s just my stubborn refusal to participate in society in the way people who actually read the directions do. It’s a matter of simplicity. The kind of simplicity that Henry David Thoreau sought to achieve in escaping to Walden Pond. (Or, even the type of simplicity I seek to escape to in Malarky’s pond). It’s the need to flee what Thoreau described when he said that “Most men lead lives of silent desperation”. (And, today, of course, “most men” also include “most women” as they aspire to, and finally achieve, the sorts of things that “most men” always were free to chase after.

To that end, I have never borrowed from a bank. Only purchased a home after saving the cash to pay for it and only then to quiet the whining of in-laws that paying rent was “throwing money away.” Only purchased a refrigerator because my wife would not keep our meat on a pole in the back yard in winter. Only run the most used of used cars from “Larry‘s Last Leg Used Car Lot“. I only take generic medicine to cure my ills. I only eat generic food from generic cans with plain white labels. I listen to my own music that I write myself. And I read this blog that I write myself, and anything else that I can lay hands on that is free. In short, I have a black belt in deferred gratification. And, no, if you’re wondering -- it’s really not that I’m cheap. It’s just that I don’t give a damn. Stuff just doesn’t matter to me. Stuff clutters our closets. It takes up the space in our homes that used to be used for living. It requires dusting. It requires washing. Buying it requires your long-term participation as a wage-slave or indentured servant to the same people who sell it to you. For most, it requires a down payment. Monthly interest payments. Credit -- on the approval of a banking hierarchy that would decline to shake your hand at the closing of a deal least you infect them with the germs of a common person. Who would take your money, but would not have you as a member of their country club. And almost nothing that is pushed on us by the predators on Madison Avenue is actually necessary to either our survival or our quality of life. Not the automobiles. Not the electronic gadgets. Not the “buy now pay later” furniture. Not the big screen TV’s. Nothing. Because none of those things really enhance our lives. Our brains do. And our brains are all that is needed to experience the world around us, even in it’s natural, digitally “unenhanced” state. That’s because 90% of what is important in life occurs between our ears. The other 10% occurs between our legs. And beyond that nothing is important. We think it is. We’re told it is. We’re prodded into a lifestyle of mindless “consumption for the sake of consumption” to enable the few wealthy among us to become ever richer, while the invisible poor of the third world go without food and die daily from starvation. And we increasingly deplete the earth’s resources so that tomorrow’s generations will lead lives far worse than those of the “silent desperation” that Thoreau spoke of. So, am I too extreme? I am hardly radical at all by some standards.

There are others who have lived even more extreme lives than I. There are the few who hold down good paying full time jobs, but choose to live only slightly above the level of “dumpster divers.” They choose to live in their vans for years so that they can achieve things like buying their first home for cash or escaping the rat race and retiring early. I managed to do that; even without going to those extremes, but they are still the sort of people I admire: The ones who, from early on, choose to walk away from the normal paths that others look to impose on them. The ones who ignore the admonitions of the high school guidance counselors, parish priests, evangelical preachers, politicians and harebrained, role modeling, laxative-gulping anal-retentives who manage to float to the top of the toilet bowl of the social order.

I aspire to a simpler life, a simpler time. One that followed the era when our ancestors first climbed down from trees, lost their tails, sprouted the enhanced neural networks we have today, and became hunter-gatherers. It was a good time to be alive. A time when our hands still clung tightly to the bosom of the earth, even while our opposable thumbs reached out, beyond our grasp, to the yet to be born notions of Descartes and Hume and Lock and Nietzsche. It was a time when the “starry starry night” existed both in nature and in ourselves. That culture must have lingered among human kind for a million years before the first chump noticed that those seeds inside wild tomatoes could hit the ground running and magically give birth to an entirely new crop. And so began the vicious cycle that we know today as agrarianism, the ownership of property, morality, law, religion, banking, war, slavery, industrialization, and all of those things that we as a society today hold dear. The things which, I like to say, follow us all -- from the cradle of civilization to the grave of entropy. They are -- all of them -- the things I would most like, in my life, to ignore.

Today we are gathered as human beings on the threshold of the final ripening of humanity. It is the equivalent of no simple “senior-moment” in our history. It is an “evolutionary-moment”. One which will determine whether the next epoch will include humanity among the surviving or the extinct species of the earth. We will survive as a species only if we are willing to learn to postpone gratification so that our progeny will inherit the means and necessities of survival. And it will happen only if we allocate the resources of the earth equitably and sustainably, not just for the next 40 years, but for the next million.
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Of Paper Cups and Permanence ( A Tone Poem for the Tone Deaf) by jimmi malarky is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
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Sunday, October 11, 2009

I’m OK (and You’re even Better ! )

Life is a trap. The ultimate roach motel. With every decision, You lock yourself into another compartment with no apparent exit. And most choices either seem like a good idea at the time; or you are simply forced into them by the willfulness of a more muscular predator. And, of course, time -- outside the realm of quantum mechanics -- only flows in one direction. Even if you could reverse directions, would the past be at all plastic? Could it really be lived out in a different manner? Could one choose new paths? Could one find out what was behind “door number two” instead of having gone through “door number one” as per plan “A” of one’s life. Well, maybe not. I mean what’s done is done. Maybe that path you took is built. In place. Not alterable. Maybe if you altered it, what you would be doing is not really changing the past, but instead living an entirely new life, and so, in the process building an alternative, side by side, life parallel to the one you already lived.

That’s the idea behind parallel universes. It’s like trillions of “you’s” making trillions of decisions about your parallel lives and living them all out in another dimension of hyperspace. But are all those other “you’s” really you? I mean, you are not aware of them now. And if you are unaware of them, and they are not aware of you, then are they you or are you them in any meaningful sense? It’s like having a trillion clones. Or one. No matter how perfect a duplicate, you are still not the same. You don’t share the same conscious memories or awareness of the present moment.

Yes, it’s possible that at some point in time we will be able to share one another’s experiences in a meaningful way, just by “plugging in” to one another’s neural networks. Physically. It involves mapping the human brain much the same as we have already mapped the human genome. And then recreating it in an accessible digital format. It’s the kind of world that guys like Ray Kurtzeil describe. And, then it wouldn’t matter that you aren’t dealing with clones of yourself. You could live other lives simply by sharing the vast archive of human “present moments” that would be storable in digital format. It would no longer be necessary to limit yourself to one life, as we have for all of human history up until the present. In fact, from the moment that the task is accomplished, it will create for us a sort of virtual time travel, back to the point where the first brain copy was created. We would no longer have to speculate or reconstruct history, as we do in today’s fiction and rhetorical academic efforts.

And maybe that’s an essential part of “human nature”, as we call it -- to be able to live multiple lives. To live without limiting our experience to our own streams of consciousness. That’s essentially why we have language. To share with one another that which is not a part of the other’s experience. To end the loneliness of personal existential singularity, by achieving the ultimate communal singularity. To crawl into one another’s heads and see if their lives might have been worth living instead of or in addition to our own. It’s why we have books, literature, libraries, theater and all the exploding choices of media experience that are evolving today. Maybe it’s even why we have cheating husbands, wayward wives.

Of course, our brains are probably too tiny for all of this. And so, that means we will need to enhance them. To merge them physically with artificial intelligence via bio-micro-processing. And given the tendency for micro circuits to become ever more compact (although there are probably quantum limits to how small our digital devices can become) this looks realistically achievable. Just as bionics is enhancing our muscular and skeletal strength toward our becoming a race of “super-people” (and even, unfortunately, “super-soldiers” to better destroy ourselves through war), so too will our rush for singularity take us with ever increasing speed into the future -- one of “super-consciousness” -- the final Singularity. The final coming together of the ancient concept of the alpha and the omega.

And when we have, at long last, lived out all those trillions of alter-lives, will it have finally been worth it? And will we even still have to ask? They say, “if you have to ask…” Well, you know what I‘m saying.
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I’m OK (and You’re even Better ! ) by jimmi malarky is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at
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