This may go some way to explaining the shock, surprise, and apparent lack of unpreparedness of the world’s nations to the current events in the Middle East: “The SNAFU Principle”, explained many years ago by Robert Anton Wilson:
It’s what I call the “snafu principle.” Communication only occurs between equals–real communication, that is–because when you are dealing with people above you in a hierarchy, you learn not to tell them anything they don’t want to hear. If you tell them anything they don’t want to hear, the response is, “One more word Bumstead and I’ll fire you!” Or in the military, “One more word and you’re court-martialed.” It’s throughout the whole system.
So the higher up in the hierarchy you go, the more lies are being told to flatter those above them. So those at the top have no idea what is going on at all. Those at the bottom have to adjust to the rules made by those at the top who don’t know what’s going on. Those at the top can write rules about this, that and the other, while those at the bottom have got to adjust reality to fit the rules as much as they can.
So I call this the burden of omniscience: those on the top are supposed to be doing the seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, and all the sensing, apprehending and conceptualizing for the whole society and those at the bottom have to adjust to what those at the top think based on all the misinformation flowing up in a hierarchy where any speaking of the truth can get you punished.
A fun Bill Bailey interview. Not your usual stand-up comic:
“My comedy increasingly goes into the most abstruse areas,” says Bailey once we get inside and settle down to tea. And how. In his current show, Dandelion Mind at London’s Wyndham’s Theatre, he develops not only a visual critique of the representation of Thomas the Apostle in western art, but also a counter-factual history (to music) of what would have happened if the Nazis had established their reich in Australia.
He even has a routine about the philosophically difficult issue of dark matter. “I ask my audiences how much dark matter there is in the universe. Nothing I’ve ever done has provoked such a divided reaction. Everybody has an opinion: ’70% of the universe is dark matter.’ ‘No, it’s 80%.’ ‘You’re confusing dark energy with dark matter.’ ‘How do you know dark matter exists if you can’t see it?’ I get a lot of nutters in my audiences,” says Bailey happily.
Sylvie and Bruno, first published in 1889, and its 1893 second volume Sylvie and Bruno Concluded form the last novel by Lewis Carroll published during his lifetime. Both volumes were illustrated by Harry Furniss.
The novel has two main plots; one set in the real world at the time the book was published (the Victorian era), the other in the fantasy world of Fairyland. While the latter plot is a fairy tale with many nonsense elements and poems, similar to Carroll’s Alice books, the story set in Victorian Britain is a social novel, with its characters discussing various concepts and aspects of religion, society, philosophy and morality.
If you hang out much with thinking people, conversation eventually turns to the serious political and cultural questions of our times. Such as: How can the Americans remain so consistently brain-fucked? Much of the world, including plenty of Americans, asks that question as they watch U.S. culture go down like a thrashing mastodon giving itself up to some Pleistocene tar pit.
One explanation might be the effect of 40 years of deep fried industrial chicken pulp, and 44 ounce Big Gulp soft drinks. Another might be pop culture, which is not culture at all of course, but marketing. Or we could blame it on digital autism: Ever watch commuter monkeys on the subway poking at digital devices, stroking the touch screen for hours on end? That wrinkled Neolithic brows above the squinting red eyes?
Available economic, educational, and military data indicate that, when it comes to U.S. global power, negative trends will aggregate rapidly by 2020 and are likely to reach a critical mass no later than 2030. The American Century, proclaimed so triumphantly at the start of World War II, will be tattered and fading by 2025, its eighth decade, and could be history by 2030.
Water consumed by people in China contains dangerous levels of arsenic, fluorine and sulfates. An estimated 980 million of China’s 1.3 billion people drink water every day that is partly polluted. More than 600 million Chinese drink water contaminated with human or animal wastes and 20 million people drink well water contaminated with high levels of radiation. A large number of arsenic-tainted water have been discovered. China’s high rates of liver, stomach and esophageal cancer have been linked to water pollution.
Before reading this piece about wooly-headed thinking, here’s the lucid George Carlin:
He’s with Bill Hicks now…wherever the Heck that is.
You may have noticed a curious phenomenon: one day, something that you hadn’t previously been bothered by suddenly begins to annoy you. This might be a sound, a building, a taste, a song, a person, or even an idea. This irritant passed by innocently on Monday, but on Tuesday it’s as appealing as fingernails on a blackboard. Critical mass has been reached, and try as one might there is no return to the time when it didn’t bother you.
Many people find the popular idea that scientists will save us through technical break-throughs to be annoying, and rightly so. It implies an external solution or Deus Ex Machina to the problems that humans have brought upon themselves. However, there is another variant of this idiocy that’s even more annoying: the abuse of the first-person PLURAL, or for the purposes of this article, WE-syndrome.
The delusional aspect of WE-Syndrome is nicely demonstrated by the British Comedy duo, Mitchell & Webb. In this sketch, they use the sad (and all too common) example of a sports fanatic:
It works, at the lowest level, as brute tribalism. To quote Gary Brecher:
“Most people are not rational, they are TRIBAL: “my gang yay, your gang boo!” It really is that simple. The rest is cosmetics.”
If only WE-syndrome was limited to sports and tribes. Having spent many a happy hour reading sites like theoildrum.com for analysis of Peak Oil and resource news, WE-syndrome became apparent quickly. Discussions about the looming oil crisis in the comments section would inevitably degrade into:
“WE need to build x amount of solar panels…”; “All WE need to do is switch to Geothermal…”; “Once WE make breakthroughs in thin-film solar panels…” etc. etc. etc.
Which suggests the question: who, exactly, is this awe-inspiring “WE”?
The commentators wrote as if they were part of a collective, sharing mutual influence and power. In thread after thread, various individuals would have the solution. It always involved “US”…and “OUR” options…things that “WE” would do to solve the problem.
Fantastic! Let US just pick up the phone and explain the plan to Obama…
Unfortunately – and this may come as a jolt, there is no “WE”. There is, as far as modern society is concerned, a disparate collection of atomised individuals (forgive the redundancies), many of them neurotic, who wouldn’t know how to organise a birthday party if their lives depended on it. Try going to any of these futile political rallies, protests or meetings (of any political side). Observe! What you will see is a temporary illusion of WE-ness. Then, the rally/meetup ends, and the particles shuffle off to their McMansion/Apartment/Cube-farm/Matrix XYZ co-ordinates, studiously avoiding the exchange of meaningful contact information. Much better to congregate online, where they can vent on the keyboard.
After all, any of these people might be a serial killer! You hear such awful stories on the news…
Very occasionally, emails will be exchanged. Even more occasionally, they’ll actually be used. Even more occasionally, they’ll be answered. One in a thousand, or ten thousand, perhaps?
On the otherwise enjoyable io9.com, this debasement of “WE” thrives like a WEed. At the announcement of a new scientific breakthrough, the headline will almost invariably be a variant of “WE may have made an amazing breakthrough in materials…”, or “WE have found an amazing new planet”.
Correction! WE did no such thing. Scientists and/or engineers, after years of rigorous study, bloody hard work and sacrifice have made the discovery or breakthrough. WE did diddly squat, other than READ about it on the internet – and fund it through a small percentage of total taxation.
Whenever there’s a dark story on the above mentioned io9.com, there’s an abrupt difference in emphasis. A recent example being the accidental destruction of a rare beach ecosystem caused by the filming of the Sci-Fi TV show “Game of Thrones”. The article read
“…one environmentalist is calling HBO real-life (bad guys): They covered a protected beach in Malta with fake sand, resulting in “total elimination” of the ecosystem.”.
Note that it did not read:
“WE may have destroyed a rare ecosystem”.
Why not? Why is it “WE” when something good happens, but “THEY” when something bad happens?
This is the mindset of a child.
If a new Pixar movie comes out, would the headline read:
“WE have just made another animated classic”?
The idea is absurd…and insulting to the animators who toiled for years on the project. It’s no less inane to take credit for scientific breakthroughs, surely?
The reason why this grates may be due to the laziness that it implies. It also suggests a thinking process that’s delusional, if not dangerous. If “WE” are going to solve the problem of fossil fuel dependency, then “WE” should do something about it PERSONALLY. Preferably something that involves effort, time, money, and sacrifice. Else, “WE” are dicking around.
Changing your Facebook status? Putting a bumper sticker on your car? Voting? Going on a march? Sending a – God help us – sending an email to your elected rep? Chances are, you’ll entropically get back a little less energy than you put in. If you invest a minute sending an email to your congressman, don’t whine when you get a form email in reply.
Garbage in, Garbage out.
There are more sinister sides to WE-Syndrome. Stand-up comic Doug Stanhope demonstrates the Xenophopic uses:
And deep ecologist Derrick Jensen (who, ironically, over-uses the first person frequently) does a great demolition of “WE”, and exposes the psychological process of “Identification” that underlies it:
To conclude: this society seems deeply committed to delusional and magical thinking…totem behaviours, and gives every sign of being a latter day Cargo Cult. WE-Syndrome is just one of many symptoms.
Feel free to print that out on a T-Shirt, bumper sticker, or Coffee Mug…or even email this article to your congress(w0)man!
Observant readers may have noticed the complete absence of first person singular and first person plural on idleworm (unless in quotes) since the relaunch a few months ago.
All the asteroids discovered since 1980. Each second represents 2 months. This is best watched full screen, and a high-res version is available:
Earth Crossers are Red
Earth Approachers (Perihelion less than 1.3AU) are Yellow
All Others are Green
Notice now the pattern of discovery follows the Earth around its orbit, most discoveries are made in the region directly opposite the Sun. You’ll also notice some clusters of discoveries on the line between Earth and Jupiter, these are the result of surveys looking for Jovian moons. Similar clusters of discoveries can be tied to the other outer planets, but those are not visible in this video.
As the video moves into the mid 1990′s we see much higher discovery rates as automated sky scanning systems come online. Most of the surveys are imaging the sky directly opposite the sun and you’ll see a region of high discovery rates aligned in this manner.
At the beginning of 2010 a new discovery pattern becomes evident, with discovery zones in a line perpendicular to the Sun-Earth vector. These new observations are the result of the WISE (Widefield Infrared Survey Explorer) which is a space mission that’s tasked with imaging the entire sky in infrared wavelengths.
The scale of the video at 1080P resolution is roughly 1million kilometers per pixel, and each second of video corresponds to 60 days.
Currently we have observed over half a million minor planets, and the discovery rates show no sign that we’re running out of undiscovered objects, scientific estimates suggest that there are about a billion asteroids larger than 100metres (about the size of a football field) .
Orbital elements were taken from the ‘astorb.dat’ data created by Ted Bowell and associates at ftp://ftp.lowell.edu/pub/elgb/astorb.html
A recent BBC “Horizon” documentary contained the astonishing fact that a single observatory in Arizona discovers 3,000 asteroids, EVERY DAY.
A personal favourite, and one of the most remarkable works of fantasy, is “A Matter of Life and Death” (US title: “Stairway to Heaven”). Directed in 1946 by the great Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, it tells the story of a doomed RAF airman who mysteriously survives a bailout over the English Channel, cheating Death.
This is the opening – and a magickal beginning it is. You won’t find may HollyWOOD directors who could achieve this today. Apologies for the French subs, but this is the clearest version on youtube at the moment.
Then to the fantastic sequence between David Niven and Kim Hunter, where they fall in love over the radio, sight unseen:
An amazing and delightful film…all the more impressive for 1946, made in the rubble of post war Britain. The Art Direction and SFX still impress, and hold up very well.
Most artists have a very hard time dealing with depictions of Heaven. Even the great Gustave Dore, when illustrating Dante and Milton, lavished his best work on Hell. His Heaven scenes seem bland and banal. Not so in “A Matter of Life and Death”, where Heaven feels spectacular, a place of grandeur – and more than a little eerie. Most modern depictions exude pure kitschiness, or bland colourless all-white. Not so, for Powell & Pressburger.
A great score and cast rounds off the film. Younger readers may be unfamiliar with Roger Livesey (wonderful, plummy voice) and Raymond Massey (boo! hiss!) – in which case, you have a rare treat in store!
It’s not possible to recommend this movie enough.
And from the late 1990s, an hysterical parody from the UK sketch comedy show, “Big Train”:
Orson Welles provides 2 minutes and 30 seconds of magic. From “F For Fake” (1974):
And this has been standing here for centuries. The premier work of man perhaps in the whole western world, and it’s without a signature: Chartres.
A celebration to God’s glory and to the dignity of man. All that’s left most artists seem to feel these days, is man. Naked, poor, forked, radish. There aren’t any celebrations.
Ours, the scientists keep telling us, is a universe which is disposable. You know, it might be just this one anonymous glory of all things, this rich stone forest, this epic chant, this gaiety, this grand choiring shout of affirmation, which we choose when all our cities are dust, to stand intact, to mark where we have been, to testify to what we had it in us, to accomplish.
Our works in stone, in paint, in print are spared, some of them for a few decades, or a millennium or two, but everything must finally fall in war or wear away into the ultimate and universal ash. The triumphs and the frauds, the treasures and the fakes.
A fact of life. We’re going to die.
“Be of good heart,” cry the dead artists out of the living past. Our songs will all be silenced — but what of it?