An anthropologist on Rotherham

I think we are going to have to consult with anthropologists if we want to figure out what happened at Rotherham and what to do about it.

The anthropologist Peter Frost does a good job of analyzing Rotherham in his essay Rotherham: The search for answers. Here is a short passage:

 First, most Britons have been living in denial. Few wish to believe, at least openly, that organized gangs are preying on school-age girls. Fewer wish to believe that the gangs are overwhelmingly non-white and largely Muslim. And even fewer wish to believe the extent of the problem: perhaps one in ten of Rotherham’s white families, if not more. It all sounds like vicious propaganda that only ugly hate-filled people could believe.

Yet it’s true. So what comes next?

Frost argues convincingly that the root of the problem is not “racism” or “Islam,” but culture because, as he says assimilation to British society

…does not mean giving up the restraints of one culture and taking on those of another. It means the first but not the second. Immigrants leave an environment where behavior is restrained mainly by external controls (shaming, family discipline, community surveillance) and they enter one where behavior is restrained mainly by internal controls (guilt, empathy). To the extent that assimilation happens, external social controls will weaken and may even disappear, but they will not be replaced by internal mental controls. There is no known way to give people a greater capacity for guilt and empathy than what they already have. No such psychotherapy exists. This is true even if we assume that population differences in these two traits are due solely to cultural conditioning, and not to inborn tendencies.

Please read Frost’s whole piece as the short quotes I have used do not do his argument justice.

A proper analysis of Rotherham must go much deeper than political memes or the maddeningly shallow emotions of political correctness, for as Frost writes, humans are not “…interchangeable units in a global community. Each human and each community is a product of adaptations to specific circumstances, and what works in one set of circumstances may not work so well in another.”

Israeli soldiers from elite wire-tapping unit refuse to use ‘extortion’, ‘blackmail’

“I’m worried that Israeli society will see us as traitors, as people who are trying to harm Israel, while in reality it’s the opposite. We’re doing this because we feel a sense of urgency, a sense of responsibility for the place we live in,” another captain said.

“The continuous cycle of violence is something that has to be stopped and something we can’t be a part of.” (Source)

A person can do great moral good by just stopping. Sometimes what is stopped is a “cycle of violence,” one that goes back and forth and on and on. Sometimes the good comes from just stopping reacting badly. For example, a tree falls on your car, making you feel bad, so you yell at your wife who then is sharp with a colleague who then goes home and drinks too much….etc.

The invented God argument

The invented God argument is similar to the simulation argument, but does not have to be earth-based or limited to historical sims.

Our universe is some 13.2 billion years old. Somewhere in that universe, maybe within our own galaxy, there likely is at least one civilization with technological capabilities that are many millions of years more advanced than ours.

A civilization of that type would be something like a Type V or beyond civilization. Their powers would be God-like. We may be part of their “world” or they might be us far in the future, able to reach back to us now.

In this sense, even a strong atheist is forced to admit that there may indeed be God, gods, higher realms, divine intervention, immortality, heavens, hells, reincarnation, karma, ghosts, visions, divine forgiveness, divine laughter, effective prayer, and so on.

The Buddhist tradition has six realms, billions of world-systems and Buddhas, Buddhas and bodhisattvas with “supernatural” powers, Dharma protectors, demons, rebirth, enlightenment, karma, and much more.

The usual way Buddhism is understood today by “educated” people is little if any of that stuff is true; it’s just the beliefs and superstitions of people of yore that have accreted to the tradition or that were used by the Buddha (who thought like us, of course) to make his points to “uneducated” audiences.

The invented God argument could also be called the invented Buddha argument or anything else that pushes the limits of our imaginations. I take this argument seriously and find it well-worth contemplating as doing that forces us to shift off the narrow seat of materialist/physicalist complacency and the fake sense of certainty that goes with it.

I don’t think we need to buy everything in every religious tradition from the past, but we can with little effort today see that the real state of our universe and our knowledge is complex and that we do not know its limits. Why wouldn’t having a pure mind, a developed moral sense, openness to visionary insight and higher realms be valuable skills?

One of the best Buddhist sayings, which I heard from Master Hsing Yun some years ago, is simply “make your mind bigger.” This saying can be applied to any problem, including the problem of unnecessarily narrowing our understanding of where we are and what is going on here.

The Diamond Sutra section 3

Note to readers: It will probably take a month or more to put up the entire sutra. If you read along as we go, section by section, you will absorb the sutra slowly and easily and be able to get much more out of it than if you read it quickly.

Section three has been added to the Diamond Sutra. A link to the sutra can be found at the top of this page or here.

Kumarajiva’s translation of the Diamond Sutra was divided into thirty-two sections by Prince Zhaoming of the Liang Dynasty (502-587). The sutra has been divided in different ways by others, but the Zhaoming division has remained the most widely used to this day. The titles of the sections are also his.

Section Three is called “The Heart of the Mahayana” because it contains the basic Mahayana vow to help all sentient beings attain enlightenment. In a word, to “save” them. The version and explanation of the vow in this section is the “heart,” or deepest explanation of the vow, because it includes both the helping part and the empty part.

As the Buddha says in this section, “All great bodhisattvas…should realize as they vow to save all sentient beings that in truth there are no sentient beings to be saved.”

This is both an answer to Subhuti’s question and a rephrasing of it. In the last paragraph of this section, the Buddha answers with more detail: “Subhuti, if a bodhisattva has laksana of self, laksana of human beings, laksana of sentient beings, or laksana of a soul, then he is not a bodhisattva.”

Laksana is a Sanskrit word meaning “characteristic,” “mark,” “symptom,” or “mental thing (dharma).” It is often translated as “characteristic,” “mark,” “thought,” or “idea.”

The basic meaning of laksana is “dharma of the mind” or “thing of the mind.” Thus, if a bodhisattva has any “thing at all in their mind about there being selves, human beings, sentient beings, or souls” when they are generous, they are not truly a bodhisattva. This describes the ultimate selflessness of self and other.

In this translation, the word “soul” has been used. A more literal translation would be an entity that “takes rebirth” or lives after this body is gone.

Word choices are fascinating and need to be discusse, but to avoid getting lost in them, it is best to remember that in this section, the Buddha is categorically saying that no matter what kind of sentient being you can conceive of, in truth, there are no sentient beings, there is no saving them, and if a bodhisattva has an iota of a sense that they are doing that or that they have a self, then they are not truly a bodhisattva.

In other posts we have discussed fractals in the humanities. This concept may help in understanding the meaning of this section and in glimpsing the meaning of the sutra itself. Surely all of us at one time or another have acted with a pure heart and a pure mind to give to or help another with no thought of ourselves or even of them. For at least a moment we dwelt within a pure state of mind and feeling that was utterly selfless, sublime.

Rather than say that state is the Diamond Sutra, let’s say that it is a state that points toward the meaning of the sutra. That state is a small fractal of the larger fractal set described by the sutra. Altruistic consciousness freed from the marks self, other, calculation, design.

The Diamond Sutra sections 1 and 2

Section two of the Diamond Sutra has been posted here. The sutra can also be accessed from a link at the top of this page.

The first section of the sutra, which was posted yesterday, tells us who heard the Buddha’s talk, where the talk occurred, and who was there. The “I” of the phrase “Thus have I heard…” is Ananda, one of the Buddha’s main disciples.

The second section tells us why the Buddha gave this talk. It is a response to a question asked by Subhuti. Since Subhuti is a senior monk, who is well-versed in the Buddha’s teachings on emptiness, we know that the questioner is asking for a deep answer.

Subhuti’s question is “…when good men and good women commit themselves to anuttara-samyak-sambodhi, on what should they base themselves, and how should they subdue their minds?”

Anuttara-samyak-sambodhi means “complete, unsurpassed enlightenment,” which is the ultimate goal of all Buddhist practice.

Since all “conditioned things” are empty (including us), Subhuti is asking how does an empty being attain enlightenment? Or, as he put it, “…on what should they base themselves?” (“…and how should they subdue their minds?”) An important sense of this question is how does an empty being “base” itself on anything?

The Buddha repeats Subhuti’s question word-for-word. This repetition is common in Buddhist literature as it avoids ambiguity. The rest of the sutra is the Buddha’s answer to Subhuti’s question.

Tathagata is one the ten names of the Buddha.

The Diamond Sutra

I am going to start putting up a translation of the Diamond Sutra. The link to the sutra can be found at the top of this page or here. To share the sutra we are going to use the Creative Commons license which allows copying and sharing but prevents commercial use of the material.

I will put up the whole sutra gradually as I want to reread it and make changes where necessary. At first I am just going to put up a plain translation. Eventually I will add a translation with notes, explaining in some detail what terms mean or why something has been translated as it has.

The Diamond Sutra is a concise Buddhist teaching that emphasizes wisdom and generosity. The translation of the sutra presented here was made from Kumarajiva’s Chinese translation, which was completed in 401 CE. It is the oldest known complete version of the sutra.

I apologize for the need to use the Creative Commons license at all, but suppose it will make sense to most readers. In the beginning, I am afraid the license will be quite prominent, but as the page grows it will just be a small paragraph at the end.

In my view, the Diamond Sutra is one of the world’s great texts. It provides a view into the past and into the Buddha’s teachings that inspires readers to this day. It describes a very high level of awareness, or conscious wisdom, concerning giving help to others. The giving is generally understood to be the giving of the Buddha’s teachings, but it can also be understood as giving of yourself, what you know, giving the best of your own unique and indescribable awareness.

A great advantage of the Buddhist tradition is there is no “word of God” that has to be followed exactly forevermore. Nothing in Buddhism is written in stone. Rather than being the start of an unchangeable tradition, the Buddha’s teachings are best seen as the start of a living, growing tradition that can and should be worked and reworked by every generation.

As the Diamond Sutra itself says:

All conditioned things

are like dreams, like illusions,

like bubbles, like shadows,

like dew, like lightning

and all of them should be contemplated in this way.

Henry Kissinger on the Assembly of a New World Order

History offers no respite to countries that set aside their sense of identity in favor of a seemingly less arduous course. But nor does it assure success for the most elevated convictions in the absence of a comprehensive geopolitical strategy. (Source)

Worth reading. Seems a a major problem showing now is many countries lack a “sense of identity.” A multicultural nation may identify with its ideals, but the variety of cultures within it will cause the ideal to suffer through different interpretations and competition between the various cultures, which usually are little more than ethnic groups.

I can envision a future world without strong borders wherein political “nations” are based on psychological types organized via electronic media. I can also envision a future world wherein every place is culturally like Ukraine—many groups, attitudes, and types but no coherent vision among them for anything.

The USA is not at Ukraine-levels of disarray but it does appear that whatever “identity” we have as a nation is weak and that fewer people than ever even know what traditional fundamental American values are, let alone agree on them.

Some of this is due to multiculturalism, but there are many additional factors, chief among them being excessive non-democratic control at the top—new world order types guiding the ship of state without democratic input.

Why the Rotherham sex scandal is good evidence for the need for FIML

The Rotherham scandal was a terrible tragedy and a great crime, but it is also a very good example of how bad people are at communicating and thus thinking. It shows on the big screen of scandalous public life how weak the human mind can be and why it needs a technique like FIML to help it discover its many significant errors.

If you have not heard about Rotherham, here is an article on it: Rotherham: politics ‘imported from Pakistan’ fuelled sex abuse cover-up – MP.

There are many other stories on the scandal, but I chose that one because it is was at-hand and because it contains this gem, spoken by Denis MacShane, the former Labour MP for Rotherham, who said he shied away from the issue because he was a “Guardian reading liberal leftie.”

Essentially due to liberal beliefs, which included a PC deference to the Pakistani community, MacShane failed to investigate the rapes of some 1,400 British girls that had been ongoing for years and had been reported to the police many times. A single thought, idea, symbol, semiotic, call it what you like, prevented MacShane and many others from investigating and stopping the crimes.

From what I read, Rotherham is not alone. Similar gangs exist in other parts of Britain, in Sweden, Netherlands, Denmark, and elsewhere in Europe. The reason this is happening, it seems, is similar to Rotherham—people are so afraid to appear “racist”  they cannot or will not do anything to prevent the raping of their own children.

That is the power of ideas, of semiotics. You can see this power displayed in virtually any issue in the public sphere. Rather than think clearly and use reason, people fight over simple symbols or ignore issues entirely.

I would submit that what we can clearly see in the public sphere in Rotherham (and everywhere else to different degrees) also exists within the psychologies of all individuals. While as individuals we may not be susceptible to Rotherham-levels of blindness, we are all susceptible serious blindness on individual levels. This blindness cannot be fully extirpated without doing FIML practice or something very much like it.

MacShane could not see his own blindness until he was confronted by an in-depth report and public outcry. This is a sworn  public official who was blind to a massive crime and was only awakened by overwhelming events.

As an individual, how do you propose to awaken yourself to idiosyncratic blindness within yourself? Idiosyncratic blindness is much the same as the shared blindness of the whole group of Rotherham officials who chose to look the other way. The only difference is it is unlikely the public or an official report will wake you up.

It is very difficult to see where we are wrong, often profoundly wrong, in both the public and private spheres. If you have a better way to monitor, analyze, and change wrong ideas, beliefs, and semiotics in your own mind than FIML practice, please let me know what it is. Errors in thinking and believing must be confronted as they manifest in semiotic output and perception. This is so because they slip away otherwise and are very hard to see when they are analyzed as generalities. You have to see examples within yourself of how they are actually functioning in real life. If MacShane and the many others who ignored the scandal had had experience with FIML practice, they would have acted much sooner, right away, as in hindsight anyone can see they should have.

Nationalism in Ukraine (and elsewhere)

I am so sick of hearing Ukrainian nationalists being called “nazis” or “fascists” that I was going to write something about it. While researching the subject, I came across an article by Anne Applebaum who says much of what I wanted to say and surely says much better.

Her essay, from May 12 of this year, can be found here: Nationalism Is Exactly What Ukraine Needs: Democracy fails when citizens don’t believe their country is worth fighting for.

Please read it as it may shake some of the horrid stereotypes of Ukrainian “nazis” and “fascists” out of your head.

Here is a short passage from her essay:

Ukrainians need more of this kind of inspiration, not lessmoments like last New Year’s Eve, when more than 100,000 Ukrainians sang the national anthem at midnight on the Maidan. They need more occasions when they can shout, “Slava UkrainiHeroyam Slava“Glory to Ukraine, Glory to its Heroes,” which was, yes, the slogan of the controversial Ukrainian Revolutionary Army in the 1940s, but has been adopted to a new context. And then of course they need to translate that emotion into laws, institutions, a decent court system, and police training academies. If they don’t, then their country will once again cease to exist.

I don’t mind adding that if European multiculturalism keeps going at its present heady pace, more of Europe will find itself in a Ukrainian limbo, controlled by others since all sense of self and tradition have been lost. In the USA I truly fear a continued erosion of fundamental American principles, rule of law, individual rights and responsibilities, individual freedom, etc.

I am not sure how the US can continue with our present form of government since almost none of it works as intended anymore. Most believe, rightly, that there is no point in voting as the will of the people is typically uninformed and, anyway, consistently ignored by those who pretend to represent us.

In Tibet and Taiwan, we see other examples of small nations being consumed by one large one. Check out the history of Inner Mongolia to see where that leads. Or Hong Kong: Hong Kong braces for protests as China rules out full democracy. That should read “any democracy.”

The world today is made up of huge powers (US-EU, Russia, China) that are controlled by small oligarchies. All of us would do well to have a stronger, more active sense of nationalism so we can preserve and further traditions that benefit our nations. If we leave it up to the oligarchs or allow them to continue fooling us, we will before long wake up in a vast, world-wide Ukrainian limbo.

The situation in Ukraine

The following is an email from a friend who has extensive contact with and knowledge about Ukraine. It is a response to my asking him what he thinks is going on. His reply is excellent, so I am sharing it. ABN

Russia is using American tactics back against them as far as the same tactics used in the Arab spring etc. now being used in east Ukraine.  Although many know this in the West they can’t state it outright because it shines a light on everything wicked they’ve been doing too.

There is certainly Russian involvement but nothing so direct as artillery and tank support.  It’s completely unnecessary for the Russians to do this as it will also discredit the soon to come Ukrainian government that will be made up of the Nova-Russian forces.   You can see some of this in the recent stepping down of the Donetsk Republic President which happened right after the president made the mistake of saying he will allow Dutch military to open a cease fire region in the middle of the most contested territory.  Word was the old president was recalled to Moscow – but the error was quickly remedied with his exit.

If you hear or see stories about the rebel forces taking Karkiv, the war is all but over with Kiev losing.   This is imminent.  Ukraine has no army left, no money, no weapons, no way to really get them in time. And with Russian friendly people seeded throughout the government, even when they try to move, funds will go missing, things won’t get to where they should etc.  Now there are big real protests in Kiev by all the mothers and wives that have had their men conscripted.  The right sector, humiliated and kicked out of government now that they’ve been used, is also turning back on the government.

State department just issued warning for Americans to leave all south Ukraine – all the way to Odessa.  Also looks like they are prepping a try at Transnistria.  They are posting signs and such about watching out for Transnistrian terrorists all over Odessa and they built a trench across the entire Transnistrian border.

But the U.S. has really already lost.  It is why the lies are getting even more outrageous.  The defeat is amazing as it is all coming apart across the globe. France and Germany are in almost open revolt.  Just google or youtube Angela Merkel being heckled – this happens wherever she goes now.   If Germany pulls out of EU or NATO- that’s the end of the New World Order.  The Erodan Government in Turkey is in open defiance.  Also did you see the recent news the UAE and Egypt started flying bombing runs over Libya without so much as consult with Washington.  All this and China hasn’t even played it’s hand or even a single card yet.

Because Washington has been so totally humiliated, the scariest part of it all is that there is increased chance that it will just be a sore loser and kick the table over by launching a nuclear strike.

Fractals in the humanities

“A fractal is a natural phenomenon or a mathematical set that exhibits a repeating pattern that displays at every scale.” (Wikipedia)

Most of us know what math fractals look like and understand that shorelines and trees exhibit fractal patterns that display at different scales.

I think we can also see fractal patterns or sets in the humanities.

For example, the five skandha explanation in Buddhism to be fully understood must be conceived of as a fractal pattern that repeats at different scales. The normal explanation of the five skandhas is as follows:

The five skandhas are form, sensation, perception, activity, consciousness. A form can arise in the mind or outside of the mind. This form gives rise to a sensation, which gives rise to perception, followed by activity (mental or physical), and lastly consciousness. In the Buddha’s explanation, the five skandhas occur one after the other, very rapidly. They are not a continuous stream but rather a series of discrete or discernible moments. A form arises or appears, then there is a sensation, then perception, then activity, then consciousness. (Ibid.)

This explanation describes the most basic fractal pattern or the smallest one. “…the five skandhas occur one after the other, very rapidly.”

A simple example of this rapid movement of the five skandhas might be the experience of having something suddenly touch your neck. Your first awareness of this is the form. Your next awareness is the sensation; at this point you react with aversion, attraction, or neutrality. If you are outside, you might react with aversion as you perceive (third skandha) the touch to probably be an insect. Following that, there is often rapid physical activity (fourth skandha) as you involuntarily reach to brush it away. After that has been done, you will determine what actually happened, you will become conscious (fifth skandha) of what happened.

If it was an insect you might shudder or feel relieved. If it was a leaf on a tree branch you might feel a bit foolish. Your consciousness of the event comes after the first four skandhas have arisen or occurred.

A larger fractal version of the above might be the feeling (form, or first skandha) that you are ignorant about something. This form gives rise to an aversive sensation (second skandha), which leads you to perceive (third skandha) that you ignorance is probably something you should correct. This leads to mental activity (fourth skandha) which may require months of your time. At last, when you are satisfied that you are no longer ignorant on that subject, you will experience a new state of consciousness (fifth skandha).

In the above example, your ongoing feeling of ignorance as you study the subject might also be described as the fifth skandha, consciousness. Understanding that the five skandha explanation is a fractal pattern to be used to help you understand yourself will allow you to apply it where it can do the most good. As with so many things in the humanities, you will do better if you see the pattern and use it to aid understanding without letting yourself get trapped in a quasi-logical net that hinders understanding.

FIML practice can be seen as a fractal pattern as well. The smallest, or most basic level, is the basic FIML query which interrupts normal communicative processing to insert rational thought and more accurate information. The FIML query interrupts the mind as soon as the second skandha, sensation, arises. Whenever partners question a sensation, they will immediately change all of the five skandhas associated with it. Rather than follow a semi-conscious sensation down the same associative path as usual, partners gain an entry point to their deep psychology and an awareness of how their communications are affected by it.

A larger fractal pattern of FIML, might be hearing about it (form); feeling interested in it (sensation); perceiving what it is; learning the system (activity); and lastly gaining a new consciousness about how language can be made to work much better than without FIML.

FIML is a tool that helps partners leverage communicative details to gain great insight into how their minds work. Since FIML is not (yet) the rule for how people speak to each other, a non-FIML fractal pattern can be seen in society at large: since most people do not have a way to access the highly important details that FIML can access, they do not expect anyone else to access them. Thus, by default they accept horribly sloppy reasoning and lies from politicians and others who make important statements in public.

The fractal pattern of non-FIML communication in society at large is all but defined by lies, secrets, and hidden motives. At a smaller fractal level, so are the personal lives of most people. The world goes on. It is my guess that brain scans and better computers and computer programs will one day make it easier for people to see that having the ability to perceive and manipulate communicative details greatly enhances communication. And that communication so enhanced greatly enhances our understanding of ourselves and others. And that this sort of understanding will help us see that we do not have to live in a society that is all but characterized by lies, sloppy reasoning, and partisan nonsense.

In the humanities, fractal patterns can be seen at many levels. By changing the details of very significant communicative patterns between ourselves and our partners, we will change both ourselves and our perceptions of others, and this will gradually lead to better concepts of what society is and how it can function.