American Pravda: The Legacy of Sydney Schanberg

I doubt if one Americans in twenty is aware that over forty years ago, his government deliberately abandoned hundreds of POWs in Vietnam, and then spent four decades desperately covering up that enormous crime, with the media being a willing co-conspirator. But even if our citizens remain ignorant of that particular dark deed, over the years they have strongly come to suspect their elites are guilty of a vast number of equally heinous offenses, some of which are plausible and others ridiculous; and who can reasonably blame them? If our entire media would willfully ignore “the story of the century” as massively documented by one of its most distinguished members, who can say what other matters might remain hidden from public view?

For years I’ve been telling my friends that unless and until our major media publications are finally willing to report Sydney Schanberg’s stunning POW expose, I simply won’t trust a word they write about anything else. And perhaps that is the most important legacy of one of America’s greatest journalists. (emphasis added)

link to original

Well-worth reading. ABN

The illusion of culture

Cultures have illusory “grammars” that outline what can and cannot be said.

Culture wars, essentially, are battles over what can and cannot be said, done, signaled, thought, believed, valued, etc.

A few days ago in You can’t say what they don’t already know, I said:

Cultures demand constant authorization and reauthorization from their members. To stray from established norms is to weaken group authorizations.

That’s how it works for all cultures with more than a few members. Cultural bonding and affirmation involves nothing more than authorizing and reauthorizing the basics of the culture.

It even works that way in groups as small as two people. This because two people speaking together typically do so in a larger cultural context that is defined and accepted by both of them.

Just as most people do not make up their own words or jokes, most people do not make up the bases of their culture(s).

Even committed couples speaking in private typically do not leave their shared cultural script(s). This happens because they do not know any other way to speak to each other.

A profound and rich world of subjective insight and perception eludes them because they are afraid they might stray too far from the established script.

Culture becomes deeply illusory at this point. Its tenets are held not due to thought and insight but only to stabilize or maintain a rote communication pattern.

You can change this by using a functional communication pattern instead of rote cultural grammar that has been imported into your mind from outside.

As an experiment, try not feeling anything about the basics of your culture. Do FIML from this point of view and see what happens.

You can’t say what they don’t already know

The main problem with culture is, in virtually all cases, “you can’t say what they don’t already know.”

Some very small cultures of just a few people are exceptions to this rule, but no large culture with anonymous and/or not-well-known members is.

Cultures demand constant authorization and reauthorization from their members. To stray from established norms is to weaken group authorizations.

In the world today, you cannot escape the above truth about culture. You will find it prevails no matter where you go.

In your private life you can escape the above truth by doing FIML practice. The whole point of FIML is to speak about things you don’t already know.

Intellectual intimacy

My partner said today that she thought many people ignore or avoid intellectual intimacy.

“They’re either afraid of it or don’t understand it’s possible,” she said.

I agree.

We know we exist, have minds, perceptions, emotions, thoughts. And we also have language. Shouldn’t many topics of conversation involve our intellects probing and sharing these rich areas of subjectivity, idiosyncrasy?

Hierarchies evolve to reduce connections (and confusion)

Large social systems, especially those with many members who do not know each other, evolve into hierarchies because the number of connections is reduced.

When the number of connections that hold a group together is reduced, it is less costly to maintain the group and thus such groups are more likely to survive.

Military organizations, companies, religious organizations and schools are usually organized into hierarchical structures. Creative, independent modules can relieve some of the formalism of hierarchy but these modules will still fit into the hierarchical structure somewhere.

Hierarchies are (always?) organized around a purpose—money for corporations, winning for militaries, belief and organizational systems for religions, food for animals and so on.

You can even see the hierarchical principle in plant structures.

A research project on this topic as it applies to artificial intelligence demonstrates that biological networks evolve into hierarchies:

…because hierarchically wired networks have fewer connections. (Research showing why hierarchy exists will aid the development of artificial intelligence)

If we accept this principle behind the development of hierarchies, I would submit that we can also apply it to how language has developed as a hierarchy in and of itself and also as a support system for the social hierarchy within which it is used.

Language and culture are held together by a system of hierarchical categories.

These categories are what we think of as beliefs, values, codes, stories, political systems, who’s who in the group, and so on.

Hierarchical systems based on general categories of that type typically also exist between individuals within any society. Indeed, we can find the same sort of hierarchical system within the individual themself.

This is an efficient and very reasonable way to maintain a society and a language.

Problems arise in this system, however, when the individual does not know any other way of organizing themself or of communicating with others.

An individual who exists and communicates only within a hierarchical structure will be alienated from the great mass of idiosyncratic perceptions, responses, thoughts, and emotions that exist within them and others. I think that this causes a great deal of psychological suffering and is a major part of what the Buddha meant by delusion.

FIML is designed to fix this problem between individuals.

An example of explosive arm’s length (non)communication

The following video provides a good example of arm’s length communication happening in a public forum.

This is a type of formal communication in that it follows some basic forms and deviation from them is rarely allowed. Private communication, in contrast, is intimate communication between close friends where deeper levels of subjectivity are allowed, even desired.

No need to watch too much of this vid because it quickly becomes a ridiculous shouting match:

Do I even need to point out that no one even bothers to define racism? It’s a strong semiotic that once hurled tends to prevent further thought.

My point today is not Trump and the judge, but rather how Trump and the judge is a good example of something that can also happen in private settings.

When nebulous words, ideas, values, or beliefs become strong symbols in private conversations like the word racist in the video, confusion, bad feelings, alienation, or apathy will be the result.

In arm’s length communication, the instinctual human lurks behind signs and symbols much like a wild animal in the forest.

In formal settings, this is typically not a huge problem because everything is predefined. In the video, the exchange is largely a performance designed to excite the viewer.

In private settings between close friends, however, arm’s length communication is a recipe for disaster.

This is so, because even if there are no bad motives, there will be bad interpretations. And these bad interpretations will snowball and eventually lead to problems.

Since almost all of us have been raised in environments that only allow arm’s length communication and see it as the norm, almost all of us carry very heavy psychological baggage.

Few of us know how to overcome the very serious limitations of the communication norms we have learned.

The people in the video are being ridiculous, but almost all of us are just as ridiculous in our own kitchens.

If you want to do better, practice FIML.

A good essay on framing, reading, and thinking

The essay A Framework for Reclaiming Reality is a great example of good reading on the Internet today.

The author, Jonathan Revusky, skewers a good deal of what passes for thought and analysis in modern society. Whether you agree with every point he makes, his case is a strong one and surely mostly correct.

A lot of the fun of articles like Revusky’s comes in the comments section. For essays like this, I usually read most of the first comments plus all of the author’s replies, but skip a good deal of the back-and-forth between commenters.

Revusky is concerned with macro-societal-and-history-level BS and he nails a lot of it. A good deal of what he describes is the same as what I often describe as “public semiotics,” political positions (and others) which function more as social signals than real thought and that often are dead wrong.

If you can see Revusky’s point on the macro scale, you should be able to also see that we all do a lot of that sort of thing on the micro and meso scales of interpersonal communication and belief.

I have categorized this post under “Buddhism” because I believe a good deal of what the Buddha meant by delusion is falling for BS public (and private) semiotics.

The psychological value of micro-feedback

Normally, we get very little detailed psychological micro-feedback.

This is especially true of psychological micro-feedback in real-time real-life situations. Psychologically, such situations are the most important for mental and emotional growth.

Real-life psychological micro-feedback (PMF) happens whenever someone reacts to one of our acts of communication.

Most PMF reactions are not detailed because an explanation rarely accompanies them and even if there is an explanation it is almost certainly not going to include the real details of the actual communication act itself.

Rather than provide detailed PMF, almost all humans almost all the time provide only opaque responses based on their own guesswork, or presuppositions.

If there is any detail in the feedback it is almost always of a general nature that completely excludes the actual act of communication itself.

This happens because humans almost always process and use language at the phrasal level and normally never provide PMF in real-time during real-life situations.

Real-time real-life is where human psychology really lives.

By always avoiding real-time real-life PMF and follow-up analysis, humans are forced to rely on general categories and ideas to understand themselves and others. It is not possible to do this and gain a deep understanding of human psychology.

When we ignore detail in any other area of human endeavor—musical and scientific instrumentation, microscopy, art, science, engineering, etc.—we get poor results that are almost always surpassed by results that are based on greater detail.

FIML practice corrects the problem of poor detail in the study of human psychology by emphasizing the use of real-time real-life PMF.

By doing this, FIML greatly improves communication while also upgrading the general psychology of participating partners.

One of the hardest aspects of doing FIML practice is overcoming the ubiquitous human habit of fundamentally never wanting real-time real-life PMF that is open to conscious analysis and correction.

This habit can be overcome by partners’ making an explicit prior agreement to do it.

FIML is like tuning a guitar, calibrating a scale, using a good compass, caring for a fine instrument.

We expect and demand very fine detail in almost all areas of our lives, save what we say and how we hear what others say.

I do not believe anyone can achieve a deep understanding of human psychology without having a way to perceive and analyze PMF in real-time real-life. To date, I know of no other way to do this but FIML.

Whole brain transformation through micro accumulations

Can we achieve whole brain transformation through an accumulation of micro inputs?

In other words, can we achieve deep transformation by gathering many small bits of information? Or by many small insights?

To ask is to answer. Most deep transformation happens this way.

We see something, see it from another angle, see it again and again, and eventually a transformation happens. It takes time.

We don’t usually make deep changes in a single moment with no prior accumulation of bits of knowledge or insight. What happens is the bits accumulate into a large enough mass of information and we “suddenly” change.

Changes of this type can occur within skill sets, within thought and emotional patterns, and within our general psychology.

An example of this kind of change happened to me recently.

For years, my partner had been telling me that I have a “positive neurosis” about some friends of ours. (A positive neurosis is an “overly-optimistic mistaken interpretation of something.”)

And for years, she tried to convince me that I was making a mistake. My mistake persisted for a long time because we rarely saw those friends.

Persisting for a long time was sort of good because it showed me how deep-seated this mistake was and that I have made it in many areas of my life.

My positive neurosis was that I thought these friends were extremely open to freewheeling discussions where almost anything can be said.

“No, they are not like that. You just think they are like that,” my partner said.

It came to pass that I found out she was right. Those friends do not like that sort of discussion. They do not even understand what the point of it could be.

So I changed. I made a deep transformation in how I see them, how I see myself, and how I see other people in general.

I now know that I have to be more careful in how I speak and in what I assume about others. Some people are discomfited by freewheeling talk and suffer from it. Not my intent! A positive neurosis to think otherwise!

This realization came about slowly—first through a long accumulation of bits of information coming from my partner and then by a more rapid understanding that what she had been saying was right when we had a chance to spend some serious time with the friends in question (who are still friends, I think).

My partner got me to see that through an accumulation of many FIML queries and follow-up discussions about those friends. Even though I never agreed with her, I did store her views away in my mind.

When circumstances were right, I saw she was right and I was wrong and changed.

I do not feel ashamed or sad or humiliated. I simply realize that I was wrong.

An accumulation of many micro bits of information caused a deep transformation in my mind as soon as conditions were right.

FIML shows us that finding out we are wrong about stuff like that is great, wonderful, the best thing.

I am going to suffer less and our old friends, and others, will too. A mistake I have been making and that was a fairly large part of my mind is gone and now I am free to fill that space with better stuff.

Most FIML queries are about the two partners who are doing FIML. What happened above is a type of FIML that involves our understanding of other people.

The one above bore good fruit because the long time duration forced me to see how deep my mistake was.

Wise compassion

The highest virtue in Buddhism is wisdom, not compassion.

Unwise compassion—that is compassion that brings harm rather than good—is bad.

I think the Pope’s talk as described in the following article is an example of unwise compassion.

Francis reprimands European leaders, forcefully asking continent: ‘What has happened to you?’

The Pope tried to highlight Europe’s “strengths” with his lofty rhetoric, but I think he revealed some of its deepest weaknesses.

Identifying a temptation to “yield to our own selfish interests” by “putting up fences here and there” to stop the flow of migrants into Europe, the pontiff said: “I dream of a Europe where being a migrant is not a crime but a summons to greater commitment on behalf of the dignity of every human being.”

I probably shouldn’t say any of what I have said and what I am going to say next: Each of the major Abrahamic religions suffers from the flaw of holding some word or law or ideal above human wisdom.

Ethnicity, spying, China and everywhere else

Moral universalism which currently governs a great deal of American social and political thinking is wrong.

Moral universalism is the meta-ethical position that some system of ethics, or a universal ethic, applies universally, that is, for “all similarly situated individuals,” regardless of culture, race, sex, religion, nationality, sexual orientation, or any other distinguishing feature. (Source)

Moral universalism is not only wrong it is also very bad and causes great harm, especially when it governs a nation’s social and political thinking.

I personally came to this point of view from long and intimate experience with several non-American societies, one of which is China.

Like virtually all societies in the world China does not practice or believe in universal morality.

Seriously, virtually no society in the world does except European and European-derived societies.

If you believe in universal morality and your adversary (yes, that is how they fundamentally see you) does not, you are a dead duck.

Chinese espionage, both online and old-fashioned, represents a serious threat to American security and prosperity, as Washington, DC, has stated many times. Cyber theft and online pilfering of American intellectual property was castigated as “the greatest transfer of wealth in history” by the director of the National Security Agency back in 2012, and things have only gotten worse since then, with China taking the lead in stealing our secrets for profit and strategic advantage. (The Unpleasant Truth About Chinese Espionage)

I got that from a recent article by John Derbyshire, Chinese Immigration DOES Pose A Security Risk.

His piece is well-worth reading. I discovered that he, like me, lived in China for a long time. I also discovered that he, like me, thinks that:

The moral of the story is plain. Because Communist China 1) has a hostile posture towards the U.S.A., and is unscrupulous about stealing military, diplomatic, and commercial data, and because 2) they almost exclusively use Chinese-Americans and Chinese in America to do so, by ethnic appeals and threats to loved ones in China, 3) nobody with any connections to China should have access to sensitive data.

Derbyshire believes that even he should be “barred from access to sensitive data.

If the ban includes him it would also include me.

So, should I be barred?

I would say only maybe. I think I should be looked at more closely than a Mormon from Utah. Derbyshire does have relatives in China and I no longer do.

Please take the time to read his piece and follow some of the links to other articles. It’s a big subject that both he and I, who have real experience in China, agree needs a sea change in attitude among Americans.

Lest anyone think the above is some sort of anti-Chinese screed, let me assure you I think the above is true for anyone from any society that is not European-derived and I am not so sure about many of them.

The truth is most humans are intensely loyal to their own kind, the opposite of universal morality, and nothing is going to change that any time soon.

Most societies teach their young a morality that treats their in-group very differently from out-groups. This is a fact of life on planet earth.

In Buddhism, statements like “all sentient beings are equal” are true at an ultimate level, not at the relative level of mundane activity, which is the level at which most human activity happens.

Buddhism also teaches “wise compassion.”

Wisdom is always the highest virtue in Buddhism. Compassion can be harmful, disastrous, if it is practiced unwisely.

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China orders female government workers not to talk to ‘handsome Western foreigners’ because ‘they are probably spies after state secrets

Northern Europeans less prone to “blaming the other”

Globalism

Globalism is depicted quite well in this cartoon.

Globalism appeals to a universalist ideology that sounds good but isn’t because it leads inevitably to the destruction of nations and the cultures that are manifested through them.

In Buddhist terms, globalism at best is unwise compassion.

The globalist movement of our times is largely funded by billionaires and groups not well-known to the public.

The money is used to foment revolutions, fund political candidates, and propagandize entire populations.

Most SJWs are unwitting tools of globalists.