Monday, October 12, 2015

Embrace Your Inner Altruist

Christ Inc.

In my last blog post, I talked about psychopathy.  As I said, only a small percentage of human beings are genetic psychopaths - the rest of us are "situational psychopaths"  -- which means we hit the "Fuck you" button according to the situation.

I also indicated that this ability to act egotistically is balanced by altruism .  If we are all Dexter, we are also all Jesus.

Both  psychopathy and  altruism are mostly unconscious and therefore automatic.  The psychopath just "goes for it".  The "it" might be rape and murder or it might be a hostile takeover of another company, putting hundreds out of work, and causing  suicides and heart attack and untold misery.  Your classic Dexter doesn't care -- he doesn't think about the consequences to others.  

The soldier who falls on a grenade cares -- he  does not think about the consequences to himself -- only about their effect on others.   Yet, he, too "just goes for it".

So the mechanism for psychopathy and altruism is similar, even if the two things are very different otherwise.  They reflect different biological imperatives and act as evolutionary strategies below or beyond conscious cognition.

We tend to think of both psychopathy and altruism in moral terms but they are not normally moral decisions -- because there is little or no choice involved.   That is not to say that we cannot discuss the outcomes in moral or ethical terms -- just that... first things come first.  To understand results it is useful to know the process from which they derive.

Consider that god-fearing and mild-mannered accountant, who goes on a date and ends up joining a lynch mob who castrate and hang a couple of uppity black boys.   He doesn't think -- he  and his date just do what everybody else is doing. He doesn't feel either except as Ted Bundy might:  "Oh, what fun!  Something to put in the family scrapbook".

Where to take your date in the 1920s

Your identity is not your entire being. What you think you are is a fraction of what you are or can be.

Is this accountant (above, left) a "bad" person?  That's a moral question.  And morality changes according to the times and culture.  In the context of his white, southern community -- he and his date are just ordinary people -- like you and me.  This is what Hannah Arendt meant by the "banality of evil".  

We must, however, keep in mind that Nature has neither morals nor ethics -- it certainly does not care about individuals.   Nothing personal -- because Nature is not a person.  (I suppose that is why we had to invent God as a large hairy guy in the sky).

What we think are are "ethical rules" in eusocial species have evolved to ensure the integrity and survivability of the group. They are utilitarian -- not moral. While many social animals have evolved instincts to share and be fair -- it is not because these things are "good" -- but because such altruism ensures the survival of the group -- and its genes. 

Of course, human beings are marginally more complex than monkeys.

Consider the aging Japanese soldiers who come forth to confess war crimes against the Chinese.  "We did unspeakable things" -- they say.  "At the time, we did not feel anything".  Now,  released from the thrall of collective savagery and sadism, seeing the world through the eyes of a different person, they feel guilt and shame.

We saw the same phenomenon in the Vietnam War. Check his link (not for the faint of heart).

PTSD is not always "shell shock"; it is not always about fear; it is just as often about something else.  

Guilt and shame and disgust are emotions that serve to regulate our egoism relative to the collectivity upon which we depend.  They reflect forms of cognitive dissonance, amplified by the ability of the brain to abstract reality in the form of past and future, language and ideas, "good" and "bad".    Inner conflict can be painful.  Pain is a warning sign -- just like those awful popups when Windows crashes.

This is why notions of "collective mind" or "collective consciousness" are so important.   You cannot talk about human behavior -- including government, economics, social evolution, morality or religion without a theory of mind, that encompasses both individuality and collectivity -- our inner politics.

Sumus:  inner politics

Each of us has a Descartian "Ego", an "I am". But equally important is our Marxist "Sumus", our "We are".  We feel therefore we are

We must always remind ourselves that the apparent consistency of personal identity is temporary,situational illusionary, delusionary -- and always in conflict with other parts of ourselves. 

Cognitive dissonance -- shame, guilt, and disgust -- can be bloody, nasty business. Cognitive consonance is joy.

Happy are the genetic psychopaths, who are wired differently -- for consonance, rather than dissonance -- with different neurochemistry.  They do not feel less. They just feel as "me" rather than "we". .

Ego only

Dexter's brain is simpler -- missing the stuff that causes emotional pain in you and me. 

Even if you are a situational psychopath,  Ego still subsumes Sumus egocentrically so that all others are...well....Other. So altruism is -- in this situation -- impossible -- and at that moment also guilt, shame, and disgust.
Extreme psychopaths see no connection between their own being and that any other  -- that is, other people,  family, society and so on -- who are merely resources to be used -- things, not people, subjects eternally objectified. For situational psychopaths -- it's case by case.

Narcissistic psychopaths, such as politicians, don't join mobs -- because they never subordinate consciousness to the group --  they lead them. That, no doubt, is why so many politicians are psychopathic.   

Neoliberalism: 1938

As I have indicated, altruism, ironically, is also genetic -- an evolutionary adaptation and the eusocial glue that keeps all human groups together.    

The Mind is Modular

The altruistic brain  retains egocentric functions -- but is capable of over-riding them, which is why guilt, shame and disgust are important.   Yes, saints eat pizza with guilty pleasure and jerk off with joyful self-disgust -- but forget about such things to help people.  They do this automatically following the evolutionary imperatives, which evolutionary psychologists like to think of as a kind of bio-ethics.  After saving lives they think, "ohmigod, I am a bad person for masturbating".  And go back to masturbating.

Sound narcissistic?


The most basic group in nature is the mother and offspring.  The mother protects her babies, even at the cost of her own life – because in some sense she is the offspring, the future of her species.  Genes are truly selfish:  when "I" becomes "We", the needs of "I" are sacrificed for the survival of strands of DNA. 

By giving up her life, he mother gives up only part of her greater Being – beyond identity. There is reward -- but it is neither tangible nor immediate --it is deferred.   

Sacrifice implies deferred reward

So Ayn Rand was right...

Unselfishness is selfish.  But that does not mean that Selfishness is the better option.  Unselfishness benefits both you and others -- and has long term benefits.  Selfish benefits only you -- in the short term and may hurt you as a eusocial being in the long term.

Social logic is not linear -- not  one plus one equals two. Rather, it  closer to what you might call quantum logic, with its extra dimensionality and focus on probabilities and fields of being, rather than particularity. 

In a eusocial species, every individual within a group must be the group itself – so when it gives to others – it is actually giving to itself. This is the ultimate reflexivity

And yet in intelligent species such as human beings and some toher animals, the individual must also be  individual, too, allowing the group to benefit from personal creativity and adaptations.  So you have a complex but dynamic mechanism. 
Your brain working

In computing, single core CPUs are nominally faster than multicore computers -- but only for limited, single tasks.  Nobody wants them because an eight core computer can do so much more -- and, overall is much more efficient since you are almost never doing just one thing at the same time, handling graphics, sound and so on simultaneously.       

The best of us are also modular multicore systems-- and networked. Stuff meshes -- or not.
One core handles purely selfish processes. Another handles altruistic processes -- except for psychopaths who, as we have seen,  have a different architecture.   

The Clockwork Personality

As I wrote in my last post, such people are rare.  But on the other hand,  every corporation and most institutions are by definition,  psychopathic  -- existing only for their own growth and profit . 
We are all Pinocchio

This was not always the case.  At one time, many companies had social charters, which defined social responsibilities and values and acted as a kind of mercantile conscience.  Constitutions were always intended as charters of human rights -- a a kind of societal conscience, embodying ethical principles.

MBA schools teach psychopathy

Alexion set the price of Soliris at half a million dollars a year, because that's what it thinks the market will bear, based on the fact that the drug works and patients have no other treatment options.
Alexion knows that individual patients can't afford to pay half a million dollars a year for the rest of their lives.  The business model depends on public health-care systems and private insurance companies reimbursing the million-dollar drug bills.
But how many million dollar drugs can a public health system afford?  Not many, according to health economist Michael Law, at the University of British Columbia.

  This is why we need altruists.  When dominant meme for business is psychopathy you are in trouble. The Precariat is faced by a Predatoriat  --human predators -- like the Koch brothers, Barak Obama, David Cameron, the Hillary....ok...most politicians and all of Wall Street. 

Still, we must keep in mind that if real genetic predators are rare, despite our fascination with them, situational predators are not -- and business and politics are institutionally corrupt.
Vampires R'Us

On a small group basis most people tend towards altruism.
Take, for example, the classic prisoner’s dilemma. Two criminals are offered the opportunity to rat each other out. If one rats, and the other doesn’t, the snitch goes free while the other serves a three-year sentence. If they both rat, they each get two years. If neither rats, they each get one year. If players always behaved in their own self-interest, they’d always rat. But research has shown that people often choose to cooperate.

The two prisoners may be criminals -- but they also belong to a group -- the incarcerated.  What is too often ignored here is that while ratting on another prisoner may offer immediate rewards -- you still end up as a snitch -- and that might have long term consequences.  This is also not a true zero sum game -- because actual survival is not in question. In which case, mutualism is a reasonable compromise -- if one looks to the long term.  Game theory supposes a kind of linear logic.  But the human brain is quantum computer.  

One plus one equals infinity

Of course, we live in large-scale hierarchical industrial societies with growing degrees of inequality.  They are alienative -- encouraging predatory competition  -- discouraging communitarian initiatives, and effectively discouraging altruistic mutualism.  Small group altruism is co-opted by the Predatoriat -- who, like fish, have adapted to the waters in which they swim. 

Remember Jesus?  Remember what happened to Him?  The Jews didn't kill him -- Business-As-Usual did.

Imagine if He were alive today in, say, the UK? 

What would His position be on war in Syria?  On the Trident submarine in the UK?  On easing taxes for the rich and corporations and soaking the Precariat -- ordinary people?   On healthcare?  On the Environment?

What would David Cameron being saying?   You guessed it.  "Jesus hates Britain".  "Jesus loves the IRA and Osamu".  

What would the Guardian and the Independent pundits be writing? "Jesus is an anti-Semite".  "Jesus is unelectable".  "Did Jesus have sex with Mary Magdalene?"

How to know Jesus when He comes again

What?  Jesus doesn't even own a car? He rides a bike?   He doesn't know how to tune his message to the Pharisees and the Elders and the Romans?  And just look at the clothes!  He doesn't wear a tie.  He doesn't want to kiss the Queen's pinky?    

Clearly, this man is a danger to society.  Where the fuck are the hammer and nails?

Jesus cannot be Jesus -- not our Jesus...  

This imposter is the AntiChrist -- and we know who that is --  yes -- Jeremy Corbyn.  

Like Jesus, Corbyn is not long for this world, and may never reign. No matter, it's what -- and who -- he represents that counts.  And if he is crucified -- he will rise again -- albeit probably in another incarnation. 
The AntiChrist

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