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.”
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.
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 less—moments 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 Ukraini—Heroyam 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.
“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.
Protecting your own versus not appearing racist. Both of these moral positions (which become public semiotics when simplified as aspects of culture) are understandable until taken to extremes.
The first example comes from England, where police and public officials were afraid to appear racist and consequently allowed some 1,400 children to be abused without investigating the matter, which had been clear as a bell for years:
The vast majority of perpetrators have been identified as South Asian and most victims were young white girls, adding to the complexity of the case. Some officials appeared to believe that social workers pointing to a pattern of sexual exploitation were exaggerating, while others reportedly worried about being accused of racism if they spoke out. The report accused officials of ignoring “a politically inconvenient truth” in turning a blind eye to men of Pakistani heritage grooming vulnerable white girls for sex. (Abuse Cases in British City Long Ignored, Report Says)
That quote and story is from the New York Times. Isn’t that the most fucked-up thing in a long time? British officials were so concerned about appearing racist that they looked the other way while an enormous number of their own children were being violently raped. We might say in the sedate language of academic analysis that the public semiotic or the moral injunction against racism was so strong that they lost their capacity to think and act.
Here is the other extreme, a group that so wants to “protect” its own that they are willing to prevent them from making individual choices that harm no one.
This video is a good example of the raging emotions that can be experienced at the other side of the spectrum from the case in Britain. An article about this incident can be found here.
Fortunately, it is not often that we can see such extremes within a single week. I would propose that all of us are susceptible to the emotions that lie along this spectrum from extreme “self” preservation to such amazing laxity that sworn officials cannot even lift a finger to preserve the safety of their own children.
The difference between us (you and me, dear reader) and them is most of us can find a reasonable balance between these primitive extremes, the one born in sexual and tribal instinct, the other in overwhelming deference to internalized social norms.
Edit 8/29/14: Here is more on Rotherham: Rotherham: In the face of such evil, who is the racist now?
Here is one from the USA: Conspiracy of Silence. If you have not seen this video, it’s a must watch, especially for US citizens. There are several good books on this story and many links to articles can be found easily.
Whatever the outcome of the Michael Brown investigation, no one can complain that it has not been thorough. Eric Holder is going to Ferguson, there have been three autopsies, numerous eye-witness versions of the event, videos, photos, many stories and opinions, and more. The police, as far as I can tell, have been forthright in releasing information and in not withholding anything relevant.
We, the public, know a great deal about what happened and what is happening. In the end, I doubt that anything will be hidden or covered up. Indeed, Holder himself released the following statement yesterday:
“This is my pledge to the people of Ferguson: Our investigation into this matter will be full, it will be fair, and it will be independent. And beyond the investigation itself, we will work with the police, civil rights leaders, and members of the public to ensure that this tragedy can give rise to new understanding — and robust action — aimed at bridging persistent gaps between law enforcement officials and the communities we serve. Long after the events of Aug. 9 have receded from the headlines, the Justice Department will continue to stand with this community.” (Source)
I cannot praise Holder enough for that statement. That is exactly how an Attorney General should speak and behave. He has sworn to get to the bottom of the event, tell the truth about it, and ensure to the best of his ability that something like this does not happen again.
Brown was killed on August 9. Today is August 20. We still do not know for sure what happened, whose story is the right one. Eleven days have passed, but the evidence is still being weighed and considered. This kind of process must be done slowly and carefully. Authorities must be certain that they have the facts and that the public is fully informed and satisfied with their conclusions.
So far, the Brown investigation is a model for how crime should be investigated in the US, especially when the matter is of such great public significance. As Holder has promised, “Our investigation into this matter will be full, it will be fair, and it will be independent.” I have nothing but praise for these words and his actions.
Now compare the event in Ferguson to the complete lack of investigation into the lies and forged documents that led to the Iraq war, or the complete lack of investigation into the Wall Street meltdown scam. Compare how the Ferguson story slowly unfolds over days; as new facts are discovered the story changes and takes on different nuances—exactly how it should be. Compare this to the events of 9/11 when the “official story” was fully established within hours of the planes hitting the Towers; compare to how Bush steadfastly refused to investigate 9/11 at all until he was forced to relent well over one year later; compare to how NIST has refused to release the data used in their computer models upon which their report on WTC 7 is based. I could go on for pages.
Events in Ferguson show two things with great clarity—1) US officials are capable of serious, eminently proper, and thorough investigations, and 2) these investigations only happen at the small-change level, when publicity helps the investigators and no one in power is threatened.
His essay can be found here: The First Smile. I highly recommend it.
Evolutionary psychology is without question a real field capable of explaining a great deal about human beings. At the same time, it is often very difficult to separate what actually happened during thousands of years of evolution from what we think happened.
Graziano proposes that the human signals of smiling, crying, and laughing all evolved from a single more basic cringe reaction employed as defense against an object or person striking us or otherwise threatening us.
The evolutionary transformation from primitive reactions to subtle social cues is fascinating to contemplate. I am particularly struck by how ambiguous our present-day understanding of these social cues can be. As Graziano, the evolutionist, says, “So long as both sides of the exchange keep deriving benefits, the behaviour floats free of its violent origins.”
The violent origins of smiling and acting nice only sometimes play a direct role in why people do these behaviors today. Added to them is a plethora of cultural and idiosyncratic interpretations. And so, Graziano the social scientist also says, “We have stumbled on the defining ambiguity of human emotional life: we are always caught between authenticity and fakery, always floating in the grey area between involuntary outburst and expedient pretence.”
I would contend that this aspect of human emotional life is maddening, that it is literally driving people crazy. Because how can you really tell if an expression, a statement, a gesture is authentic or fake? And how can you be sure you know how to interpret it?
In most cases, you can’t be sure. Yes, we can make vows, proclaim fealty or allegiance, swear till death do us part, or repeat familiar, comforting routines for years, but none of these methods is certain either. Indeed, our need for them only shows what thin ice we are on. All of them can be faked and all of them often are.
I do believe that many, if not most, of us do not want to be either fakers or the one faked to. Yet we seem all but trapped “between authenticity and fakery, always floating in the grey area between involuntary outburst and expedient pretence.” Don’t we?
This is why we all need FIML practice or something very much like it.With FIML, much greater communicative detail can be made available to both partners. Rather than wonder what words, smiles, tears, or a tone of voice means, FIML partners have the means to find out.
Evolutionarily, you might say that FIML allows the human neocortex to understand and control the human limbic system. FIML allows higher thought, reason, and reflection to control base reactions and base signs that inevitably cause serious misunderstandings even between people who are very well-disposed toward each other and who share a strong desire to interact honestly.
Humans are characterized by a delicate and intricate web of thought, language, and culture that has been grafted onto a base of animal behavior. I do not see how it is even remotely possible to fully realize the potential of that delicate and intricate web of thought, language, and culture without frequently analyzing how animal signs and signals interfere with it during even the most ordinary of interactions.
Graziano mentions the Duchenne smile, a supposedly authentic smile that includes the muscles around the eyes. But Duchenne smiles can easily be faked. They are a required social expression in most of East Asia and can be seen faked by actors on American TV all the time.
The distinction between a Duchenne smile and a super-fake one is valid and valuable to a point. But it is also a woefully simple distinction. We cannot as thinking beings expect to find satisfaction in noticing minor, and easily faked, distinctions like that. The same thing goes for tones of voice, gestures, word choices, behaviors, and everything else we use to communicate.
In public, in the world at large, we have to use best guesses about what is going on, but in private guessing about what your partner really means is a recipe for mutual disaster, if not complete destruction.
I have a sort of close friend/relative who deeply believes in the alpha male thing. He believes it so much he frequently behaves horribly, and probably due to his alpha beliefs, at least in part, has become an alcoholic. He suffers from wild delusions of grandeur coupled with abject self-abasement and shame, a not uncommon formula. He is also as abusive to others as he is to himself.
So I have a personal stake in this issue. And also the alpha male thing is very good example of how far cultural beliefs can stray from reality and thus cause great harm to society as well as individuals caught up in falsehoods of that sort.
Alpha status, even based as it is on bad science, became a semiotic—something that can be communicated with signs to other humans—and in that capacity became a fetishized semiotic that took on a life of its own.
Anyone who has given thought to culture must surely be aware that all of the world’s cultures are filled with mistaken semiotics like the alpha male thing. In US culture, pretty much anything that become “a thing” is a fetishized semiotic, or a fetishized semiotic bundle.
If our entire culture can see through the alpha male thing, and by extension, the alpha female thing, we will save a great deal of time and avoid a great deal of suffering. In Buddhist terms, “empty” semiotics are impermanent things (dharmas) that have no “own being,” no “inherent nature.” They are reified concepts that become part of a transitory culture and are doomed to oblivion, especially if they are demonstrably false like the alpha male thing.
As individuals, I don’t think we can do all that much about which way our culture flows, but we can do a great deal about how our own minds flow. FIML practice would help my friend, but he is too drunk to do it and too lost in his delusions to even glimpse an exit from them. He is a sad example of someone trapped in a prison of his “own device.”
The alpha thing came from narrow wolf studies extended to dog training and then to human males, then females. It began in the 1940s and has held sway over parts of US culture to this day.
Here is a quick refutation:
The debate has its roots in 1940s studies of captive wolves gathered from various places that, when forced to live together, naturally competed for status. Acclaimed animal behaviorist Rudolph Schenkel dubbed the male and female who won out the alpha pair. As it turns out, this research was based on a faulty premise: wolves in the wild, says L. David Mech, founder of the Minnesota-based International Wolf Center, actually live in nuclear families, not randomly assembled units, in which the mother and father are the pack leaders and their offspring’s status is based on birth order. Mech, who used to ascribe to alpha-wolf theory but has reversed course in recent years, says the pack’s hierarchy does not involve anyone fighting to the top of the group, because just like in a human family, the youngsters naturally follow their parents’ lead.(Dog Training and the Myth of Alpha-Male Dominance)
As for my friend, I hate the sin but not the sinner. I know he doesn’t read this site (doesn’t know about it), but maybe by getting these ideas out there they will by “a commodius vicus of recirculation” “bring him back” if not to Howth Castle or Adam and Eve’s place, at least to a better place.
Edit 8/20/04: Here is a counter-argument on dog obedience versus wolf cooperation:Wolves cooperate but dogs submit, study suggests.
A secret report on “how to influence the media and public opinion in America and Europe” is allegedly guiding Israeli spokespeople’s words and emotions when they describe the Gaza conflict on the news or in public.
Every one of the 112 pages in the booklet is marked “not for distribution or publication” and it is easy to see why. The Luntz report, officially entitled “The Israel project’s 2009 Global Language Dictionary, was leaked almost immediately to Newsweek Online, but its true importance has seldom been appreciated. It should be required reading for everybody, especially journalists, interested in any aspect of Israeli policy because of its “dos and don’ts” for Israeli spokesmen.
These are highly illuminating about the gap between what Israeli officials and politicians really believe, and what they say, the latter shaped in minute detail by polling to determine what Americans want to hear. (The secret report that helps Israel hide facts)
Readers of this site should be well-aware of the importance of semiotics and of how they are used to construct and conceal “reality.” Humans are primitive semiotic animals who fight with words and ideas as much or more than with physical weapons.
Public statements on the conflict in Gaza amply reveal this, while the report linked above shows us some of the ways the deception works.
Of course, all public figures do stuff like this. Indeed, all individuals do it sometimes, if not all the time. Call it “framing,” “massaging the message,” “getting your point across,” “dissembling,” “explaining yourself,” “giving your side of the story,” or just “lying through your teeth,” it is something we are exposed to in public and private every day.
I don’t know how to stop this in the public sphere, but individuals can put an end to this sort of biased and harmful “messaging” by practicing FIML. FIML practice shows partners how societal and idiosyncratic semiotics affect both their listening and speaking, and, by extension, how they fundamentally make up what we normally call our “selves” or “psychologies.”
Remove as much bullshit as you can from your mind with the help of your FIML partner, and you will discover that your “self” is a very different entity than you had thought. It is much more dynamic, rational, and adaptive than the stolid bozo now trapped inside your head by a network of poorly learned semiotics.
An article this morning describes an increase in mob killings of sorcerers in Cambodia.
The article is interesting, and grisly, because it provides some insights into this behavior as well as insights into Cambodian society.
One explanation for the murders:
“I think these killings have more to do with Cambodians’ perceived lack of agency in their own lives than with increased sentiment against people who claim supernatural abilities. And mob-think can be very powerful, especially in a country with so little effective governance.” (Cambodians are increasingly being executed for sorcery)
Reading that made me wonder if we Americans are all that much different when it comes to “terrorists” or our perceived “enemies,” in Ukraine or anywhere else in the world.
Most Americans oppose most wars unless there is a trumped-up threat accompanied by the “sorcery” of important people lying about that threat (run-up to Iraq war, Vietnam, etc.). At such times, and especially as the economy worsens, our “perceived lack of agency in our own lives” leads us into “mob-think.”
“Governance” in our country is very “effective” at inciting “mob-think” against terrorists and enemies, though it is, similar to Cambodia, generally highly ineffective at governing according to sound ethical principles or social ones that benefit the public.
The Vietnam War is an example of how we used sorcery at home to kill millions of innocent “enemies” in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. Our government’s support for the bombing in Gaza today is another example,
It’s a small stretch to see our large public space as a macrocosm of village life in Cambodia where sorcerers are singled out for blame and murder. The semiotics are remarkably similar, though our death tolls are massively higher.
Truth is the first casualty of war. It is also very commonly the pre-casualty of getting something done.
Feel bad? Throw a tantrum. Makes no difference if your reasons are right. Just go nuts and often you will get something done and may even feel better for it.
Confident assertion carries the day, especially among those who have power or are wannabe power types.
You can see this principle at work in politics, war, business, interpersonal relations, schools, science, religion—pretty much anywhere you look.
Truth, when out, is strong, but in most situations it is weak and quickly trampled by those who are getting something done or who promise to.
Communists in Russia and China said some true things before they got power. Once they got power, they still paid lip-service to truth, but became preoccupied with getting something done, especially getting more power.
Truth in Russia went from a semi-reasonable (semi-reasonable if you ignore the principle being described here) to unbelievable, wanton, astonishing violence and mass murder on a scale not seen in Europe since the Mongolian invasion of the 13th century.
Somewhat similar events unfolded in China a few decades later. Some partial truths were trampled by violent fanatics who killed scores of millions. Then Mao got Alzheimer’s and the country was ruled from behind his doddering throne by the Gang of Four, one of whom was his wife. After they were deposed, the country slowly opened up. Today it is ruled by a small oligarchy made up of the children and grandchildren of the original Chinese communists who brought about the revolution, which had been based on partial truths and a massive ability to get something done.
I am half-way through The Phoenix Program: America’s Use of Terror in Vietnam by Douglas Valentine. So far, the book shows that the same sort of thing happened there. A misconceived program got started and kept going because untruthful reports looked good to LBJ who wanted to get something done. He used people who also wanted to get something done. So something became anything became terror, blowing up villages, while using American “advisers” who had next to no knowledge of Vietnam.
I doubt it was much different in Iraq. Untruthful “intelligence” was sold as truth and mayhem got done. That there probably were more sinister goals than “birthing democracy” is a sort of refutation of my point that proves the point. The people that claimed to want to get something done were the ones who carried the day.
When we emphasize truth over getting something done, many things change. In interpersonal relations, we will find that something like FIML practice is essential for without it we will tend, at least sometimes, to ignore the small voice of truth as we rush forward to get something done.
From what I have read, CEOs do not deserve their rock star reputations anymore than hedge fund people do. They get high pay and respect based on statistical fluctuations. In any year, there will be a number of CEOs or hedge funds that have outperformed the average. Given more years, there will be regression to the mean and their track records will look no better than chance.
Our next presidential candidate will fill the media with small truths and many lies while ardently promising to get something done. It won’t happen. It never does. They fool us because it feels good to listen to someone promising to get something done, even if we know it’s not true.