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The Meme of Modernity
This is a very brief missive because you should read it, and I don't have time to make it fancy. That suits its content.
Modern society is defined by technology and politics. Technology we use to extract things from our surroundings, refine them, and trade the amongst ourselves; politics is how we motivate other people to do stuff we need.
We use linear logic for both of these, but linear logic has a prior origin. When we think of ourselves, we immediately split that self-image into two parts: the physical part, where we cannot control, and the brain, where we think we can.
Since our first experience of self is to ask, "What is this that's thinking what I'm thinking?" we find it impossible to include our minds in our brains and bodies. We can't both think of ourselves exclusively and think. Remember that.
This means we have an entire species composed of individuals who think they're God, when they think of their minds, but think of the rest of themselves as flesh to be manipulated for the positive sensations in that God-mind.
We see everyone else and our environment this way too. This thinking gives rise to rationalism, or the justification of linear logic, and from that to functionalism, utilitarianism and finally... to individualism.
Why individualism? Two reasons: first, we learn to recognize our world by recognizing it as not-self, which makes us slightly paranoid. Second, we can manipulate other people by appealing to their self-interest.
That's their material self-interest, since we cannot give them meaning. Getting a perfect score on the SAT or climbing Everest doesn't give them meaning; it's that they buy into the idea that those acts are important that lets them give themselves meaning.
So all these clever monkeys are manipulating each other with material self-interest. As a result, they form a big mob whose job is to defend the right of individuals to manipulate each other with material self-interest.
We call that mob a Crowd, and a Crowd is to civilizations what hardening of the arteries is to a human being. Starting in your teens, your arteries harden until at some point, they kill you. All things die, says entropy.
The problem with the Crowd is that we in turn treat it like our bodies and the world around us, or a meatsphere we cannot control. We like things we can control. That makes our God-brain feel really good, to be in control.
Since the Crowd is external, but we need to manipulate it, we make a fatal error and let its thinking into our lives. Now we're seeing the world one note at a time while it plays a chord. We're thinking linearly and manipulating others.
This leads us to look for meaning outside of ourselves. Linear logic is what happens when you have a dozen things going on at once, and you pick out one so you can compare BEFORE with AFTER and figure out how to repeat the process.
All the rest of those dozen things? To hell with them; they're details | context | crap | irrelevant. See how smart those monkeys are, and yet how sophomoric?
Of course, this means that for everything we do, all those other details gang up on us and screw us up. You can pound a square peg into a round hole, but you'll shear off the corners and the bits of splintered wood might hit you in the eye.
But our addictions are control, and linear logic, so we make ourselves the cornerstone of our thinking. We let the tail wag the dog, put the cart before the horse, invert our logic, etc. The world exists so we can use it to make us happy; we aren't part of the world, but a God-brain hovering above it in a state of perfect control.
You can manipulate any person if you can figure out how to convince them they're in control. If you've had to do it for a job, like sales or espionage, after a while it will make you sick how easy it is -- and how destructive details pile up.
For example, I swindle some guy out of his retirement, so he goes home drunk and introduces his children to anal rape. They in turn become prostitutes, drug dealers, bums and vigilantes. There goes the neighborhood. It's that easy.
Our entire society works by that principle of manipulation. Worse is that we take it inside of ourselves with Crowd-logic, and we try to manipulate ourselves with backward logic. We think of ourselves exclusively, and so we can't really think. Mind and body/world are divided.
You see how we're manipulating ourselves? Like a sales job, we're using the outside world to send symbols to ourselves. I bought an exercise bike, so I'm a physical fitness guru. I have tattoos, emo haircut and trendy clothes, so I'm a big deal.
That's the modern mentality right there. Whether you're a hipster, a corrupt president, or a shyster CEO, the principle is the same: you're using the world to make yourself feel better.
The problem is that only forward logic is going to make you feel really good. When you've adapted to your environment, and can predict it and make it do magic things that are cool for their own sake, like a forest, then you feel good in an honest non-hollow way.
Forward logic is what connects you to the world at large. Instead of taking one factor out of many, you're taking into account all factors at the same time. Your job is not to make justifications, or reasons separate from your environment, but to make all of your logic line up both inside and outside of your self.
Crossing over to that point is a big deal and it's the "invisible maturation" that society won't talk about because most people don't go through it. But if they don't go through it, they're delusional and cause problems.
You -- if you're reading this, you're seeking something -- have a chance to make this maturation. It won't kill the childlike part of you that you love, which is the sense of things for their own sake, e.g. "if this thing was cool before we filled it with gunpowder, it'll be twice as cool with the gunpowder."
It will kill the intermediate, fence-sitting, pseudo-adult state where you have the actions of a child but the outlook of a bitter adult. "Everything sucks, so I'm going to hide out within myself and reward myself with uplifting tokens."
The meme of modernity is the idea that you can use the world to make yourself feel better. The truth is that you have to make yourself feel better, and the first step is to use yourself as part of the world. With that, you start reaching out to the bigger things.
Give it a moment's thought. If pleasing ourselves was our only goal on earth, wouldn't more people be happy? After it, it's trivial to get a job and afford the entertainment pleasures you need. Does it make you happy?
So there's more to life than making yourself feel happy with the parts of the world that feel good. You've got to make yourself adapt to the world, and that will set your logical thinking back on track, at which point you can begin to ask the question "what will fill this life so I don't resent death?"
I know that statistically, most of you will fail to make this maturation. It is at least 80% genetic, having the inclination and ability to seek it out and cross over from crazy-neurotic-modern to clear-headed. But you've got 20% of "discretionary ability" and you can choose to spend it on this.
We know why we don't like the modern world. Now make sure you don't bring it within you. Banish the neurotic modern logic from your head, and reach out to the world. There is no division between mind and body after all.
February 22, 2009