63rd EDITION SERF UNDER_GROUND JOURNAL

 

ON THE MADNESS OF CROWDS.

One in … all in!

On the prairie the great buffalo herd are grazing peacefully. Then something happens … Maybe a tumble-weed blows into the herd and startles one of the cattle, perhaps the crack of a dry twig disturbs it, making it respond in panic. A tremor runs through the herd and suddenly they’re off – a buffalo stampede, a madness of the herd.

 

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Birds ‘n bees do it, we do it, critters disposed to group behaviour do it, flocking, swarming, behaving tribally. Here’s a homo-sapiens kind of stampede account by James Thurber, remembering the day back in 1913 when his town in Ohio went for a run…Thurber describes in a story ‘The Day the Dam Broke,’ how a rumour gets around that the dam has broken. About midday, somebody begins to run. Maybe they were just late for an appointment, but then some one else begins to run:

‘Inside ten minutes, everybody on High Street from the Union Depot to the Courthouse was running. A loud mumble gradually crystallized into the dreaded word ‘dam’. ‘The dam has broke!’ The fear was put into words by a little old lady in an electric chair, or by the traffic cop, or by a small boy: nobody knows who, nor does it really matter. Two thousand people were abruptly in full flight. ‘Go east!’ was the cry that arose, – east away from the river, east to safety. ‘Go east! Go east! Go east!’ ’

As the town stampeded east not one individual paused to consider that the dam was so far away from their town that not one trickle of water could reach the High Street, no one noticed the absence of water, everybody just kept running …

‘Nobody has ever been able to compute with an exactness how many people took part in the great rout of 1913, for the panic, which extended from the Winslow Bottling Works in the south end to Clintonville, six miles north, ended as abruptly as it began and the bobtail and ragtag and velvet-gowned groups of refugees melted away and slunk home, leaving the streets peaceful and deserted…

The next day, the city went about its business as if nothing had happened, but there was no joking.’ Says Thurber, ‘It was two years or more before you dared treat the breaking of the dam lightly. And even now, twenty years after, there are a few persons like Dr Mallory, who will shut up like a clam if you mention the Afternoon of the Great Run.’

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Above is an example of madness of crowds, a fear response not called for by the reality of the situation, irrational in the case of the citizens of Thurber’s hometown, par for the course for buffalo on the prairie. In that way-back machine of evolution, jumping to a conclusion can be a smart-survival response, the reptilian part of your brain signalling danger. For critters wired for a flight or fight response to that rustling in the jungle, that sharp sound on the prairie, flight is the safest option. By the time you pause to suss it out, too late to escape if it turns out to be a carnivore predator.

In humanity’s evolving history the panic response is a survival instinct that has stayed with us to now and so has crowd behaviour. Better to be venturing down that jungle track with a band of more or less trusty brothers, if armed all the more reassuring, if not, well, still some safety in numbers. As with a herd of buffalo, sheep or zebras, that man-eating predator won’t get all of you. On the other hand…in a complex situation, maybe pause a while, check out facts on the ground, context of claimants and claims…

The what, the how and the wherefore…

Regarding the madness of crowds, those irrational, manic responses to the reality out there, behind all that fear or group timidity, a felt need to follow the band, left right, left right…

Following the band, the what, how and wherefore of crowds. Concerning the ‘what,’ two books, ‘Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds,’ by Charles Mackay, published in 1841’, and plus ca change, plus meme chose, Douglas Murray’s ‘The Madness of Crowds, Gender, Race and Identity,’ published in 2019.

Charles Mackay’s book, in three volumes, lotsa’ madness out there, gives a guided index to human popular delusions throughout history, from alchemy, crusades, doomsday prophecies, and economic bubbles, to relics, sorcery and witch mania.

The ‘what.’ – Yr tulip mania.

Human stampedes take different forms, not always groups running from an imagined threat, just as often ‘jumping on the bandwagon,’ ‘following the fashion,’ ( or cult.) Regarding jumping on economic bandwagons, Charles Mackay recounts the investment follies of the South Sea Bubble and the Dutch Tulip Mania of the mid 17th century. Describing the mania to buy tulips, Mackay writes:

‘In 1634, the rage among the Dutch to possess them was so great that the ordinary industry of the country was neglected, and the population, even to its lowest dregs, embarked in the tulip trade. As the mania increased, prices augmented until, in the year 1635, many persons were known to invest a fortune of 100,000 florins in the purchase of forty roots. It then became necessary to sell them by their weight in perits, a small weight less than a grain. A tulip of the species called Admiral Liefken, weighing 400 perits, was worth 4400 florins … and, most precious of all, a Semper Augustus, weighing 200 perits, was thought to be very cheap at 5500 florins.’

Observes Charles Mackay: ‘Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, one by one.’… Time came when the more prudent began to see that the tulip mania could not last for ever and as this conviction spread, prices fell and confidence was undermined:

‘Hundreds who, a few months previously, had begun to doubt that there was such a thing as poverty in the land, suddenly found themselves the possessors of a few bulbs, which nobody would buy, even though they offered them at one quarter of the sums they had paid for them. The cry of distress resounded everywhere, and each man accused his neighbour. The few who had contrived to enrich themselves hid their wealth from the knowledge of their fellow-citizens, and invested it in the English or other funds. Many who, for a brief season, had emerged from the humbler walks of life, were cast back into their original obscurity. Substantial merchants were reduced almost to beggary, and many a representative of a noble line saw the fortunes of his house ruined beyond redemption.’

More ‘what.’ -Yr witch mania.

If that’s not bad enough, witch mania is worse. At the height of the witch trials by torture, and punishment by hanging and burning at the stake of the 17th century, god knows how many old women, hapless neighbours and vagrants died. Mackay cites some case studies and gives some figures, but likely more. From his opening paragraph:

‘The belief that disembodied spirits may be permitted to revisit this world, has its foundation upon that sublime hope of immortality, which is at once the chief solace and greatest triumph of our reason. Even if revelation did not teach us, we feel that we have that within us which shall never die; and all our experience of this life but makes us cling the more fondly to that one repaying hope. But in the early days of “little knowledge,” this grand belief became the source of a whole train of superstitions, which, in their turn, became the fount from whence flowed a deluge of blood and horror. Europe, for a period of two centuries and a half, brooded upon the idea, not only that parted spirits walked the earth to meddle in the affairs of men, but that men had power to summon evil spirits to their aid to work woe upon their fellows.’

Not just illiterate villagers succumbed to the superstition but the highest dignitaries in the land as well. Of course a crime that could be imputed against your enemies with ease had political expedience but seems lotsa’ superstitious belief in the mix. Pope Innocent V111 issued the papal bull Summis desiderantes of December 1484, a charge to inquisitors to investigate diabolical sorcery. King James V1 of Scotland, (later King James 1.) The Long Parliament of Cromwell had its witch trials. Charles Mackay writes that: throughout the 16th and 17th centuries:

‘An epidemic terror seized upon the nations; no man thought himself secure, either in his person or possessions, from the machinations of the devil and his agents. Every calamity that befell him, he attributed to a witch. If a storm arose and blew down his barn, it was witchcraft; if his cattle died of a murrain – if disease fastened upon his limbs, or death entered suddenly and snatched a beloved face from his hearth – they were not visitations of Providence, but the works of some neighbouring hag, whose wretchedness or insanity caused the ignorant to raise their finger, and point at her as a witch. The word was upon everybody’s tongue – France, Italy, Germany, England, Scotland, and the far North, successively ran mad upon this subject, and for a long series of years, furnished their tribunals with so many trials for witchcraft that other crimes were seldom or never spoken of. Thousands upon thousands of unhappy persons fell victims to this cruel and absurd delusion. In many cities of Germany, the average number of executions for this pretended crime, was six hundred annually, or two every day, if we leave out the Sundays, when, it is to be supposed, that even this madness refrained from its work.’

Good-bye to all that?

Say, aren’t we glad that those days of superstitious folly are a thing of the past? Well, nut so fast… you may just recall the recent history of the Jewish Holocaust during Hitler’s mad rule in Germany in the 1930’s and 40’s. And here’s the latest look at madness of crowds by Douglas Murray examining a recent political mania, the mania of treatment of different identity group politics, … politics of resentment really, everyone defined by their relationship to a minority group identity, specifically one of the trinity, race, sex or gender preference, these relationships involving ever-changing classifications, arbitrarily decided by social justice thought-police, you could call them, our 21st century Inquisition.

Douglas Murray gives a detailed account of the workings of this Inquisition and how it came into being as a consequence of leftist post modernist attacks in academia aimed at the grand narratives and institutions of western civilization. Attacking religious systems, economic systems, intellectual traditions and the arts, your post modern dogma is an assertion that the only reality of social life is power. Replacing religious experience and free enterprise, ‘power’ the one reality, combated through a lens of social justice and group identity politics, has become the new game in town. Everything must be viewed through your position in one of the disadvantaged identity groups and you may speak only with legitimacy if you belong in that group and express the consensus position judged appropriate to that group.

Douglas Murray’s book, ‘The Madness of Crowds,’ is set out in four sections, ‘Gay,’ ‘Women,’ ‘Race’ and ‘Trans’ and describes the particular madness of crowds regarding these groups, the pressures of consensus dogma and contradictions in thinking necessitated by adherence to group identity politics.

Identity politics, oh my! … Ah me… no, not ‘ you.’

Not too hard to understand that difficult and contentious subjects demand a whole lot of thought and a lot of thought often necessitates trying things out (including making inevitable errors.) Yet to think out loud on the issues which have become highly controversial has become such a high risk, Douglas Murray argues, ‘that on a simple risk/reward ratio there is almost no point in anyone taking the risk.’ Group-iness rules.

‘Today’ says Murray, ‘our societies seem always on the run and always risking extraordinary shame over not just our own behaviour but the way we have treated others. Every day there is a new subject for hate and moral judgement. It might be a group of school boys wearing the wrong hat in the wrong place at the wrong time.* Or it could be anybody else. As the work of Joe Ronson* and others on ‘public shaming’ has shown, the internet has allowed new forms of activism and bullying in the guise of social activism to become the tenor of the time. The urge to find people who can be accused of ‘wrong think’ works because it rewards the bully. The social media companies encourage it because it is part of the business model. But rarely if ever do the people in the stampede try to work out why they are running in the direction they are.’ (* Covington Catholic High School ,2019 * Joe Ronson. ‘So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed.’ Published 2015.)

Much of this activist bullying takes place on university campuses. Murray describes the example of Evergreen College, Washington, 2017, where respected left liberal, Bret Weinstein, and the President of the College, George Bridges, himself an advocate of social justice, were subject to violent bullying and chants of ‘ Black power!’ Here’s a Rubin Report video where Bret Weinstein speaks of the event.’

With the above and other examples, Douglas Murray describes how far we have regressed from the famous speech by Martin Luther King in 1963 when he said that he dreamed his children should ‘one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.’

In the Race Debate today is an insistence that content of character is nothing compared to the colour of someone’s skin, group diversity politics is the measure of all things. Those who do not belong to an unprivileged group, yr ol’ white male in particular, are expected to undergo a process referred to as ‘intersectionality,’ the invitation, increasingly in work places, the legal requirement, for those classified as privileged, to spend the rest of their lives attempting to work out every identity claim in themselves and others with feelings of due guilt and a willingness to rewire their attitudes to the prevailing consensus position.

Serfs find it somewhat ironic that humans have evolved critical language, logical and scientific processes to help us distinguish fact from fiction and have invented communication means, the printing press and internet to allow spread of data and argument about ‘the facts’ out there, (what Richard Dawkins calls ‘memes’ * that other replicator besides genes that transmits from person to person,) but here we are manipulating and censoring discussion, for example, using filtering internet algorithms like Silicon Valley ‘Mechanical Learning Fairness, (MLF) to promote a particular point of view.

Murray describes in his chapter, ‘The Impact of Tech,’ how Google, builds into computers a set of values, (MLF) that could only possibly be held by those on the extreme left of society, so that, for example, searches for ‘European Art’ will call up images that predominantly feature portraits of black people and severely skew history. Similarly, if you search for ‘Gay Couples’ you will be presented with a series of images of good looking, smiling gay couples, but calling up ‘Straight Couples’ will give a more mixed result that includes non-straight couples. ( * Richard Dawkins. ‘The Selfish Gene.’ 1976.)

Contradictions all the way down…

When you try to fit dogma to reality, witch mania, group diversity mania, any wonder that contradictions abound. In the political arguments of race and gender diversity laws of logic, the Law of Identity and Law of Contradiction no longer apply.

For example, African Americans, Thomas Sowell and Kanye West, critical of prevailing racial dogma, are no longer considered to be members of the racial group they were born into. Peter Thiel, creator of Paypal, is gay, but because his views do not agree with the consensus, he is no longer considered a member of that identity group. Douglas Murray, who is also gay, observes that:

‘You are only a member of a recognised minority group so long as you support the specific grievances, political grievances and resulting electoral programs that other people have worked out for you. Step outside of these lines and you are not the same person with the same characteristics you had before….you have the characteristics taken away from you.’

Then there’s that biological contradiction involving hardware contra software in the gender debate. ‘Without doubt,’ argues Murray, ‘the scrambling device laid over the issue of the sexes is among the most deranging aspect of all. It involves a set of unbelievable mental leaps to try to play along with it.’ A lot of double think in the gender debate. ‘While Gay campaigners spent the 1990’s onwards hoping to persuade the world that homosexuality was a hardware issue. the direction of travel for women simultaneously went in the other direction.’

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‘Until the last decade or so,’ says Murray, ‘sex ( or gender) and chromosomes were recognised to be among the most fundamental hardware issues in our species, but suddenly ‘everybody was meant to believe that sex was not biologically fixed but merely a matter of ‘reiterated’ social performance.’

All that crowd mania through the ages, economic bubbles, superstition and fashionable group – think, where it turns out, ‘no matter how much you believe something to be true, believing does not make it so.’

The how and the wherefore…
Those pesky cognitive illusion.

Plenty of evidence in the human record that the homo sapien brain is likely the best there is in our universe, Horatio, enabling your critical language, your scientific methodology, human discoveries, inventions,  architecture, great literature and symphonies, etcetera. We are the species that deliberates, reflects, makes conscious decisions. See my ‘Clocks and Clouds’ post on same. https://beththeserf.wordpress.com/2019/11/27/62nd-edition-serf-under_ground-journal/ Says Karl Popper, ‘Our conscious states act as a probe on our behaviour. They anticipate our behaviour, working out, by trial and error, its likely consequences; thus they not only control but deliberate.

‘Not enough careful deliberation,’ says psychologist Daniel Kahneman in his book ‘Thinking Fast and Slow,’ that examines the various cognitive illusions which supposedly rational people demonstrate when making choices under controlled conditions.

In ‘Thinking Fast and Slow,’ Kahneman argues the existence in human brains of two independent systems for organizing knowledge, one he labels System One, a fight or flight fast thinking system making judgements and taking action without waiting for our conscious awareness to catch up. Making use of heuristics linked with strong emotions like fear and pain, in the complex environment we now live in, its judgements are often wrong. The other system, System Two, is the slow process of forming judgements based on conscious thinking that checks the actions of System One and allows us to correct our mistakes. Human science and the arts have been created by System Two.

Says Kahneman, we’re machines for jumping to conclusions, prone to associative bias. For System One, the measure of success is coherence of story, consistency matters most, not completeness of evidence. There’s a grab-bag of simple heuristics we adopt to make adequate but often wrong answers to difficult questions, like the ‘availability heuristic,’ whatever comes readily from memory is first in line. And the bad news is, as Kahneman found working with the Israeli Defence Forces in the 1950’s, that System Two thinkers are also prone to similar thinking errors and heuristics, more apologist than critical of the emotions of System One.

Regarding the ‘availability heuristic,’- ‘ that which comes readily to mind,’ there’s neurobiologist Antonio Damasio’s research on human associative bias.

Descartes’ Error…

In his book ‘Descartes’ Error,’ Damasio identifies the close biological connection between our evolutionary pre-mind and the complex human brain structure that has evolved over time. Damasio observes that in our evolutionary history, long before there was a homo sapien mind, organisms must have begun with a concern only for their internal problems via a rudimentary nervous system preserving the basic integrity of the living system, a kind of primitive low tech postal system, a form of positive or negative reaction or primitive emotional response, the bloodstream transporting hormones and information around the body to where it was needed for control and self maintenance.

‘Nature appears to have built the apparatus of rationality not just on top of the apparatus of biological regulation, but also from and with it. The mechanisms for behaviour beyond drives and instincts, use, I believe, both the upstairs and downstairs: the neo cortex becomes engaged along with the older brain core, and rationality results from their concerted activity.’

This relationship between emotion and human reason is the main focus of ‘Descartes’ Error.’ An overview here… http://www.cogprints.org/282/1/damasio.htm

Based on Domasio’s studies of neurological patients who have damage in the area of the frontal cortex of the brain, (that Damasio calls the body’s convergence zone for decision making,) Damasio found both defects of decision making and a disorder of emotion, so that while these patients could observe and explain what’s occurring when shown images of a horrific nature, they were unable to register emotion as normal subjects do. And while they could still pass tests of logic, in their own lives they were unable to call up salient reasons to act in their own best interest.

From these investigations Damasio advances his Somatic Marker hypothesis that emotion was in the loop of reason, that emotion is both a necessary adjunct to reason, sorting out appropriate reasons to act, and a mode of undermining reason, as in the madness of crowds, acting on a first available, or preferred, call to action.

Why we go wrong, a prey to conceptual bias, a prey to shaman persuasion. Emotional reaction is a survival mechanism of life, chimps do it, birds do it, reptiles, even the zig-zag dance of the stickleback is emotional response. Old knowledge for us homo sapiens. Your early human rope-trainers learned it domesticating animals. Shaman leaders, and later gurus, observed it and applied emotional association to control a human populace.

Difference between madness of crowds … jumping to conclusions and rational thinking … Like Richard Feynman says, ‘First you guess and then you test.’

He also said: The first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool.

That’s all, folks.

62nd EDITION SERF UNDER_GROUND JOURNAL

 

Crown of Creation – Goin’ on a Treasure Hunt.

Treasure-Island-Treasure-Island-Map-1

Think this post needs an introductory context as I’m doing something that I haven’t done before, that is, presenting a project that one of my followers has created in which I had some input, a Treasure Hunt Game that is being offered for sale, so here briefly:

Crafted to high standards, intended as a family heirloom, the Crown of Creation Treasure Hunt is a logic puzzle developed over the last year by its creator as his final project when he was in a hospice and with not much time to complete it, so he asked myself and one other person for input into its making and getting it out there when he was no longer able to support it.

We were both willing to become involved because we agreed with the project’s purpose, i.e. to help young children develop habits of rational thinking, like Richard Feynman’s father did with his young son, habits that would protect children from the U.N. indoctrination program that now passes as K-12 education in western schools.

In our own blog essays we both support the project’s underlying principles of individual freedom under non-fiat rule of law and critical enquiry. If you havent’ read my posts before, a couple of examples linked here and here.

And here’s a recent paper by Robin Eubanks who is one of my links in essays on education, that also gives context for the Treasure Hunt Project…

Anyone interested in purchasing the Crown of Creation Treasure Hunt Game for their family, as I have done, can order it from the producer here:

Crown-of-creation@outlook.com
or paypal harshitsinghind @outlook.com

To let you know, none of us involved in its creation gain financially from the project. Payment goes to its manufacturers by way of sales. So…

Goin’ on a Treasure Hunt …

One day a man set out to create a game, a treasure hunt…

What is the game?
What is the game!

Why, it’s a treasure hunt, a treasure hunt that’s like no other…

What is the treasure?
What is the treasure!

More to be revealed anon, but before we begin, let’s take a look at the game from the outside, its external appearance and follow on with something of its context, something of the what and wherefore.

First let us look upon the Treasure Hunt’s outer frame. The game’s enclosed within a leather folder, to be opened by a metal clasp, an interrobang. An interrobang to open it ?! And what is that, you’ll likely hear somebody ask. And here’s an answer by the maker of the game: ‘An interrobang is a binding that ties a question to an answer, a ligature of ‘ what’ to ‘that,’ of ‘cause to an effect’ ?!’ An interrobang’s the drawn breath and exhaled exclamation of a mental revelation, the ahah ?! moment of Galileo, gazing through his telescope, when he first sees the moons of Jupiter, or of Darwin, aboard the HMS Beagle, as he examines those Galapagos finches’ beaks.

In every treasure hunt you’ll likely come across a villain. There’s one of sorts herewith, not physical but comes in the form of a message from the many casuists who like to tell you that the universe exists only to make a fool of you, no matter what you try to do. The interrobang’s a reminder, tying grapheme to a glyph, a reminder of those moments that tell you that this simply isn’t so.

And now we’ll leave the treasure chest awhile, buried beneath the sands of some island hiding place, while we discuss some context on its genesis.

The name of the game is ‘Crown of Creation’ it is meant to be used as a bedtime story. We are told by its creator that the players of the game will be three members of a family, there is a mom, a dad and their child, the nuclear basis of civilization, and in this game, which is a game of life, the parents will be helping the child to play the game, coming together to solve puzzles, – but ultimately the focus is on the child, establishing first habits, what you do and learn is what you become, finding through play, answers to puzzles and the gift of rational thinking that will follow the child through life itself.

Concept behind the game. We sapiens are nature’s crown of creation, fitted through evolutionary development, large brain, complex language, conscious thought and dexterous hands, to uncover truths of nature in an interrobang opposing entropy, entropy that’s both physical and mental, which is homo-sapien’s enemy. Armed with nature’s gifts, what we do and learn we do become, that is our destiny.

What stands in the way and why this game? Humans live within a web of culture. Those individuals who made those hand imprints on the walls of the Lascaux Caves, first conscious mark making in the historical record, ‘I am here,’ were also part of a group, as we, members of tribes, associations, nations, live in societies with pressures to conform according to accepted rules and mores.

And since we learn from that which we repeatedly observe, I’ll repeat, from a prior post, an observation by Michel de Montaigne regarding the tyranny of custom:

‘Nothing so outlandish,’ said rational pessimist, Montaigne, ‘that cannot be demonstrated in public practise somewhere in the world.’ And those customs, ‘from some gentle beginning, unperceived, unmask a furious and tyrannical countenance, against which we have no more courage or power so much as to lift our eyes.’

Cultural conditioning. Say, having the good fortune to be born in a certain time and place that’s relatively open to individual development has ever been the luck of the draw. Through history, some cultures have emerged that are more enabling to rational thinking than others. Compare Sparta’s tribal society, where institutions were given taboo status as gifts of the gods, to 5th century BC, Athens’ emerging democracy, and its citizens who dared to question what and how? Being a member of a maritime society is helpful, observing many cultures and recognizing that institutions are made by man and therefore alterable … Greek dramatists writing drama about political and social issues, Socrates developing modes of critical argument, Aristotle developing tools of logic, ways of recognising and eliminating contradictions that hinder enquiry, these were major steps for human kind.

Man the debater, man the builder and discoverer. Builders of roads, bridges and aqueducts, inventors of the wheel, paper, printing press, miracle of achievements in the arts, Shakespeare, thinking aloud, Greek vase painters, Leonardo, Michelangelo exploring ways of suggesting depth of field on flat surfaces and living muscle and tissue in marble, and Johan Sebastian Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, resolving complexities of orchestral harmony. The scientific revolution curious investigators first harnessers of fire technology, discoverers of Nature’s mysteries, Galileo, Isaac Newton, James Hutton and Charles Darwin …

Great movements in civilization but soon under attack. Enter your gurus who want to remake and control society to their own plan, and always an authoritative plan. Greek oligarchs and Plato, he’d use the democratic Socrates as his sock puppet, distorting his logical arguments on liberty and justice to artfully produce their contrary, processions of philosopher kings, religious shaman and kings who rule by divine right, right up to today, enemies of open society like George Soros and those authoritarian, globalist activists of the United Nations, ( producers of fnords, look them up if you don’t know what they are) who would rule us from afar. Technology, internet, universal education should be enabling to open society, but as in George Orwell’s dystopian ‘1984’ they’re being used by guru groups to propagandize and take us back to feudalism.

And that’s your broadest context for something valuable you’ll find concealed within that treasure chest still buried beneath sand on some unknown beach. And so herewith, let the game begin!

The game and its treasure.

And what we have in the Crown of Creation Treasure Hunt is a user’s manual for a child on how to become a rational thinker, based on Aristotle’s three powerful laws of logic, laws that eliminate the mis-directions of contradiction in thinking and argument. And the child will be able to explain it completely, as nobody has done for 2000 years.

Sadly the child won’t get this practice at school but now he or she will get it from mum and dad, in a game that helps the child to self-possession, to becoming what nature has endowed him or her to be, nature’s Crown of Creation.

A brief digression on self-possession. What is it? Self explanatory that it is ‘self-ownership.’ The definition of ownership: ‘exclusive,’ ‘yours,’ and ‘no one else’s. – not to be controlled or taken over by uninvited house guests. But what is ‘the self?’ Well first, the self is a human self, ‘human’ distinguishing characteristics, ‘big brain, language, by which the human being defines himself or herself.’ Socrates ‘know thyself,’ a process that’s recursive and not circular. You get to choose, not some puppet master.

Recursive thinking. You find it in great literature, Shakespeare’s protagonists, Jane Austin’s heroines, reflecting on experience and on their own actions and motives, then possibly changing behaviour as a consequence; that’s ‘self possession.’

In the Crown of Creation user manual, the first law is the Law of Identity, A = A ,
A is not non A Everything is itself and not something else. With that established no way can you be persuaded by some Hegelian dialectic that slavery is freedom or justice is its opposite.

The next law is the Law of Contradiction. For all propositions A, it is impossible to be both A and non A at the same time. So many ways to argue that ‘there’s no such thing as truth you know, I swear that this is true, the universe exists to make a fool of you.’

And then there’s the Law of the Excluded Middle. A statement has to be true or it is not true, it is a binary opposition, a statement cannot be some other thing. If it can’t be substantiated then it doesn’t exist. The null set is an empty set and therefore false. This eliminates the mysterious and the superstitious in one fell swoop.

And gone, too, all those tricky liar paradox arguments and apparitions of excluded middle that confuse, dehumanize and weaken you. Quest for truth, wielding your logic armoury, reaffirmation of reality enabling joy of discovery. That is the treasure!

How it works. Three puzzle sheets, images and verses, I myself did not solve the first, fell into a trap regarding the particular. Habits die hard, if at all. For adults who encounter difficulties there’s an accompanying lesson plan, my suggestion, as guide to steps for solving every puzzle, and finally a treasure map where the words uncovered in the puzzles will tell you where to ‘dig.’

Artifact treasures are also to be found, the Darwin award for getting it right, a silver coin, powerful and positive imagery on either side, that children will assimilate unconsciously, a ring to wear, one ring to free them all, embossed with three hands from the Lascaux Cave wall, hand prints of mother, father and child. The book is leather bound, with pages of archival canvas and printed with ink of 200 year permanence. It is meant to be an heirloom and serve a family for generations. For the children there are hidden sheets to be uncovered in free play, a bestiary of beasts, images and verses like Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwock, so that they’re imbibing protection, as they freely play, against the classic illogical spinners and fnords that sophists use to try and show you that you’re incapable of thought.

So let’s end with a quote from a philosopher, Will Durant, The Story of Philosophy:

Excellence is an art won by training and habituation: we do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence but rather because we act rightly these virtues are found in man by doing his actions, we are what we repeatedly do. Excellence is not an act but a habit.

Logic habits are for making you unbreakable. That’s it!

 

61st EDITION SERF UNDER_GROUND JOURNAL


THE FOREST… Into the Trees.

The Cure. ‘Into the trees.’

Where there’s mystery,
myth prevails, we humans
can’t help it, metaphor
begins with us.

Oh we homo-sapiens, how quick we are to apply upon an object, image or phenomenon our own symbolic reference in which, to our un-innocent eyes, a something, a tree, a cloud or a shining lake, lends itself to symbolic use, we must call it other than itself.

As with Odysseus long ago, sailing on uncharted seas that just had to be inhabited by monsters of the deep, Scylla and Charybdis and where there was land, sirens and one-eyed cyclops, so with the vast forests that once almost covered the land and still exist extensively, forests of Europe and the New World, the Brazilian Amazon and African Congo, mystery lends itself to myth. Why, even in the eighteenth century, there were few cities like London or Paris and travel by night was a wild, hazardous business between settlements, better to rest awhile at a way-side inn.

And so, for the ‘forest,’ a dictionary definition encompassing no error, ‘what is it in itself ?’ ‘A forest: extensive vegetation zone in which tall trees predominate. A large treed-area inhabited by wild-life ‘… Has to be large trees, else-wise it is woodland, has to be extensive … people have been known to get lost in forests, and not just in fiction.

And on to metaphor, (what humans do) and to human metaphors concerning ‘the forest,’ the metaphor most universally preferred, the metaphor of ‘darkness.’ We day-visioned homo-sapiens are lovers of light; metaphors of dark and light draw upon our deepest biological impulses, and as metaphors of human value, light and dark are probably the central metaphors of western philosophy, light and enlightenment associated with ‘the good,’ darkness, ‘the not-good,’ associated with mystery, confusion, savagery and grotesquery.

So let us begin with the lesser of the four evils, ‘mystery and confusion’ and characters in literature losing their way and having strange encounters in the forest. Herewith Tolkien and Shakespeare and …

The Enchanted Forest.

Back in the Third Age of the Middle Earth you’ve got a small band of hobbits. One of them named Frodo, here they are traversing The Old Forest…

‘Looking ahead they could see only tree-trunks of innumerable sizes and shapes, straight or bent, squat or slender, smooth or gnarled and branched; and all the stems were green or grey with moss and slimy, shaggy growths….The ground was rising starkly and as they went forward, it seemed that the trees became taller, darker, and thicker. There was no sound, except an occasional drip of moisture falling through the still leaves. For the moment there was no whispering or movement among the branches; but they all got the uncomfortable feeling that they were being watched with disapproval, deepening to dislike or even enmity. The feeling steadily grew, until they found themselves looking up quickly, or glancing back over their shoulders, as if they expected a sudden blow.’

In Tolkien’s ‘The Lord of the Rings,’ the mysterious life lurking in the forest is located within the trees themselves, this is their world and hobbits and other living creatures from beyond the forest that enter their domain are not welcome and likely to be harmed.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

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Below the level of daylight awareness, the forest as Fairyland, Shakespeare’s forest experience, a midsummer night’s dream. All flowery groves and bowers, take the trees as a given, it’s a tale of humans lost in a shadowed maze, star-crossed lovers and sundry artisans subject to the ploys of fairies immersed in their own dramatics, King Oberon and Queen Titania having a domestic, and trickster Puck testing cupid love potions on the hapless humans. Lots of mistaken identity…

Oberon:
Hast thou the flower there? Welcome, wanderer.
Puck:
Ay, there it is.
Oberon:
I pray thee, give it me.

I know a bank where the wild thyme blows,
Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows,
Quite over-canopied with luscious woodbine,
With sweet musk-roses and with eglantine:
There sleeps Titania sometime of the night,
Lull’d in these flowers with dances and delight;
And there the snake throws her enamell’d skin,
Weed wide enough to wrap a fairy in:
And with the juice of this I’ll streak her eyes,
And make her full of hateful fantasies.
Take thou some of it, and seek through this grove:
A sweet Athenian lady is in love
With a disdainful youth: anoint his eyes;
And look thou meet me ere the first cock crow.
But do it when the next thing he espies
May be the lady: thou shalt know the man
By the Athenian garments he hath on.
Effect it with some care, that he may prove
More fond on her than she upon her love:

The Enchanted Forest, well it’s enchanting, and despite the comic confusion, induced changes of affection, even transmogrification of appearance, Bottom the Weaver as ass, alas, all ends well and when they emerge from the forest, a nice speech about events from Thesius, Duke of Athens. (First part now, more later.)

Thesius:
‘More strange than true: I may never believe
These antique fables, nor these fairy toys,
Lovers and madmen have such seething brains,
Such shaping fantasies, that apprehend
More than cool reason comprehends.’

More than cool reason comprehends…What’s cool reason got to do with your darkness metaphor, with mystery, confusion, savagery and grotesquery? Exemplar of the latter, Grimm’s Fairy Tales, they’re grim.

The Dark, Dark Forest.

Grimm’s Fairy Tales, populated by witches, giants, trolls and malevolent goblins, a few wandering princes and princesses, usually bewitched, and bears and wolves. Read Grimm’s Fairy Tales and you’ll likely agree, ‘don’t go into the woods today,’ but they do, or worse still send their children there, like Little Red Riding Hood and Hansel and Gretel.

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Little Red Riding Hood, what is her mother thinking of sending a small child off to visit her aged grandmother in the middle of a dark forest inhabited by wolves? (There’s Little Red Riding Hood skipping along the path, iconic image, doesn’t have to go too far before she meets one,) and what’s her grandmother doing living alone in the forest? Any wonder they both get devoured by the wolf and it’s only by the deux ex machina intervention of the woodsman killing the wolf that the two emerge from the dead beast’s innards unscathed.

Context of the Brothers’ Grimm tales of grotesquery, those folk tales go way back, even before the Middle Ages, and hunger is a focus, eating and being eaten a common theme. What events of calumny when scarcity falls on the land, as in the story of Hansel and Gretel!

Pillow talk between the children’s father and step-mother, overheard by Hansel and Gretel:

Father:
What is to become of us? How are we to feed our poor children, when we no longer have anything even for ourselves?
Stepmother:
I’ll tell you what, husband, early tomorrow morning we will take our children out into the forest to where it is thickest, then we will light a fire for them, and give each of them one piece of bread more and leave them alone. They will not find their way home again and we shall be rid of them.

The compliant husband gives in to the evil step-mother even though he thinks wild beasts may devour the children!

Plan put into action next morning. When Hansel’s counter plan to find a way out of the forest goes awry, hungry birds eat the bread crumb trail he leaves, the children can’t find their way home and wander in the forest until they come across the witch’s gingerbread house, – a lure for lost children.

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The witch locks Hansel in a cage and plans to fatten him up and eat him… Your cannibalism was not unknown in olden times when scarcity fell upon the land, witches being particularly prone to savagery. Lucky that Gretel is shrewd enough to trick the witch into putting her head in the oven and pushes her in and shuts the oven door. Happy ending? …The two children manage to find their way home to their weak-willed father who welcomes them, the wicked step-mother has died, – so all’s well – Oh well…

And Going Deeper into that Dark Forest…

More of savagery in the forest, this time in Joseph Conrad’s novella ‘Heart of Darkness,’ a journey into darkest Africa – or is it?

Joseph Conrad wrote ‘Heart of Darkness’ in the latter years of the nineteenth century, the century of British and European imperialism in Africa and the East, which was also a period of religious questioning and doubt. In ‘Heart of Darkness,’ we follow protagonist Marlow in his shadowy and ambiguous journey into the interior to rescue the mysterious company agent Kurtz, said to have civilizing ideals, suggesting parallels with Stanley’s journey into Africa to rescue David Livingstone. But is this journey into the dark continent or a journey into the human subconscious? For Marlow, piloting a steamboat up the River Congo, it becomes both, a physical journey and Marlow’s own inner journey, a quest for enlightenment.

In this journey Joseph Conrad employs the metaphors of light and darkness, relating light with knowledge and civility, and darkness with mystery and savagery, but these boundaries become blurred as Marlow describes his experiences, and the language seems calculated to obscure rather than enlighten the reader, who, like Marlow himself, must try to negotiate the shifting focus of this journey and its unanswered questions.

In Marlow’s account of his experiences, the metaphor of darkness equating to savagery relates more to the actions of the white traders in ivory than to the African population. Marlow describes the muddle of the station in Leopold’s Congo, run by a rapacious manager whose only talent is a talent for intrigue. He describes the futile destruction involved in the building of a railway, the blasting of a cliff that ‘was not in the way or anything…but was the only work going on.’ Marlow is horrified by the sight of chained prisoners working on the railway and in the shadows, dying prisoners: ‘Black shadows crouched, lying within the dim light, in all the attributes of pain, abandonment and despair.’

Conrad uses the imagery of obscured light, ‘fog,’ glow’, and reflected light, ‘halo,’ ‘moonshine,’ to suggest the difficulties of ‘seeing’ or understanding what is happening, as when the pilgrims on the steamboat fire blindly into the fog or when Marlow finally meets Kurtz. Trying to understand and describe to us his understanding of the man. Marlow repeatedly uses the words ‘see’ and ‘dream’ to reveal his frustration. ‘I did not see – you understand. He was just a word for me. I did not see the man in the name anymore than you do.’

Marlow’s journey becomes a quest to understand Kurtz, the reality behind the rumours and when they meet in the final pages of the novel, Marlow describes how the man presented himself as a voice, that of all Kurtz’ gifts, this was the only one that gave a sense of his real presence, ‘the bewildering, the illuminating, the most exalted and the most contemptible, the pulsating stream of light, or the deceitful flow from the heart of an impenetrable darkness.’

Meaning for us, as for Marlow, is to be found ‘enveloping the tale as a haze.’ Kurtz’ megalomania is suggested through Marlow’s comments at second hand. ‘Oh yes, I heard him. ‘My intended, my ivory, my station, my river, my’ – everything belonged to him.’ We learn, filtered again through Marlow’s recount of a Russian adventurer’s story, of Kurtz’ raids for ivory with the local tribe following him as a god. Kurtz’ impenetrable moral darkness is never made explicit in the novel. Marlow tells us of the shrunken heads on stakes outside his station, the grief of the wild woman, ‘savage and superb,’ who wears bizarre witch doctor charms, ‘she must have had the value of several elephant tusks upon her.’…What lies behind Kurtz’ dying words, ‘The horror! The horror!’ we can only guess.

For Marlow the journey into the wilderness is to discover where lies darkness, and it is in us, and only the restraint of strong beliefs or principles prevent people who journey into a wilderness from reverting to the primitive. He recognises that behind Kurtz’ magnificent eloquence there was nothing ‘ to restrain the gratification of his lusts.’ The actions of the traders and pilgrims also revealed this hollowness. For himself, Marlow tells us that being forced to attend to the surface reality of keeping the boat afloat saved him from facing the inner truth of his own heart of darkness. He says, ‘But I felt it all the same.’

The light/ darkness metaphors in Conrad’s novel in the end lead us to the ironic conclusion that ‘enlightenment’ or understanding in ‘Heart of Darkness’ equates, not with ‘light’ but with ‘darkness.’ Marlow’s enlightenment and ours is the recognition of how easily we cast off our civilized values and revert to the primitive and savage. Without the controls of civilization, or restraints of firm beliefs or principles, we are likely to succumb to the heart of darkness that is in us all.

The Forest versus the Town.

Controls of civilization versus wilderness is also a theme in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel ‘The Scarlet Letter,’ but with a different emphasis than in Conrad’s book. Here the drama involves town versus forest. Its events take place in a lonely western outpost in the New World, the Puritan settlement of Boston, cut off from civilization on one boundary by an ocean and by an unexplored wilderness on the other. The dramatic events of the novel have as much to do with its setting, which bears directly on the story of Hester Prynne, the main character of the ‘The Scarlet Letter,’ as with the interactions of the four characters involved, Hester Prynne and her past lover, respected and spiritual pastor of the little community, their child, born out of wedlock, and Hester’s elderly husband, believed dead but now arrived in the town, his identity known only to Hester, whom he swears to silence.

The theme of adultery is easily presented as melodrama but in this novel it is not, it is a psychological and moral study of human transgression that is judged within the strict moral confines of the Puritan settlement, its vision of Utopia contrasting with the surrounding forest where no human laws obtain.

‘We have sacrificed all things,’ says one of its leaders describing its creation, ‘and come to a land whereof the old world hath scarcely heard, that we might make a new world unto ourselves, and painfully seek a path from hence to heaven.’

Not a heaven on earth this, but a preparation for the life to come, any wonder that punishment of transgressions are meted out without fear or favour, and that the cemetery, the gallows and the prison, are prominent features of the Puritan Utopia. Here is Hester Prynne at the beginning of the novel emerging from its prison portals:

‘The door of the jail being flung open from within, there appeared, in the first place, like a black shadow emerging into sunshine, the grim and gristly presence of the town beadle, with a sword by his side and his staff of office in his hand. This personage prefigured and represented in his aspect the whole dismal severity of the Puritanic code of law, which it was his business to administer in its final and closest application to the offender. Stretching forth the official staff in his left hand, he laid his right hand upon the shoulder of a young woman whom he thus drew forward, until on the threshold of the prison door, she repelled him by an action marked with natural dignity and force of character and stepped into the open air, as if of her own free will. She bore in her arms a child, a baby of some three months old, who winked and turned aside its little face from the too vivid light of day; because its existence, heretofore, had brought it acquainted only with the gray twilight of a dungeon, or other darksome apartment of the prison.’

The young woman was tall with a figure of perfect elegance on a large scale. Her dark and abundant hair was so glossy that it threw off sunshine with a gleam. On the breast of her gown the young woman wore a token of her crime, ordered by the authorities but which she has wrought herself in prison, an embroidered scarlet letter ‘A,’ denoting the crime of Adultery. She is a fine needle-woman and has created her mark of shame with ‘elaborate and gorgeous luxuriance of fancy’ and flourishes of gold thread so that it far exceeds the sumptuary regulations of the colony.

At the outset Hawthorne introduces a parallel of contrasts between the forest and the town, the grim, grey settlement contrasting with luxuriant nature. He sets off the prison ‘black flower of civilized society,’ with the wild rosebush’ that blooms by the prison door. Each side of the tableau has its parallel words, ‘iron’ for the town, man-forged metal, ‘iron clamped door,’ ‘iron-breasted company,’ and ‘wild’ for the forest, freedom from human constraint, ‘wild flowers,’ ‘wild energy.’

The human actors are part of this tableau by way of their preferences and different temperaments. Belonging to the town, Arthur Dimmesdale, the settlement’s pastor, the father of Hester Prynne’s child who fails to confess the relationship, and Roger Chillingworth, husband of Hester, who conceals his own identity and relationship to Hester… Those who do not belong to the town, Hester Prynne and her child, living in an abandoned cottage on the outskirts of the town.

Be true, be true, be true…

In the duality that Hawthorne creates in his novel between Puritan justice and the lawlessness of the forest, he deliberately enlists our sympathies for Hester and her child and exposes both the hypocrisy of the unknown father of her child and of the husband who resolves to unmask him.

The deception. When the pastor falls ill as a consequence of his weight of guilt, Roger Chillingworth, scholar and physician, takes an interest in his condition, and recognising its mental origins, initially begins an investigation he imagines ‘he will take with the integrity of a judge desirous only of truth and helping his patient.’ Not so. Soon he is sensing a guilty secret that he gropes stealthily to uncover. As he guesses what this secret is, the physician is now bent on revenge and becomes the pastor’s nemesis, (and also his own.) He seeks to distress the pastor further by speaking of confession as balm for sick men’s souls. Double-deception: in his reply to the physician, Arthur Dimmesdale reveals his own hypocrisy…

‘It may be that such men are kept silent by the constitution of their nature. O – can we suppose it? – guilty as they may be, retaining nevertheless , a zeal for God’s glory and man’s welfare they shrink from displaying themselves black and filthy in the view of men : because, there-forward no good can be achieved by them: no evil of the past be redeemed by better service. So to their own unutterable torment they go about among their fellow creatures looking pure as new-fallen snow; while their hearts are all speckled and spotted with iniquity of which they cannot rid themselves.’

Hawthorne having weighted the argument heavily on the feeling side, doesn’t settle for an easy conclusion. In the child, Pearl, (symbolic naming by her mother,) beautiful and intelligent, but mercurial and wilful, we see, as her mother observes, a child more elfin than human. She needs the father as well as the mother, as the child herself intuits when she and her mother returning from a sickbed visit, meet with the pastor at a midnight vigil at the town gallows where he calls them to join him. She challenges him: ‘And will you stand here with Mother and me, tomorrow noon-tide?

In the novel’s conclusion, it is neither town nor forest, iron or wild rose but something encompassing both that must prevail. Be true, be true, be true, man made laws defined by nature’s reality.

Time to conclude with those promised lines by Theseus, Duke of Athens, from the Bard’s ‘A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream.’

More strange than true: I never may believe
These antique fables, nor these fairy toys.
Lovers and madmen have such seething brains,
Such shaping fantasies, that apprehend
More than cool reason ever comprehends.
The lunatic, the lover and the poet
Are of imagination all compact:
One sees more devils than vast hell can hold,
That is, the madman: the lover, all as frantic,
Sees Helen’s beauty in a brow of Egypt:
The poet’s eye, in fine frenzy rolling,
Doth glance from heaven to earth, from earth to heaven;
And as imagination bodies forth
The forms of things unknown, the poet’s pen
Turns them to shapes and gives to airy nothing
A local habitation and a name.
Such tricks hath strong imagination,
That if it would but apprehend some joy,
It comprehends some bringer of that joy;
Or in the night, imagining some fear,
How easy is a bush supposed a bear!

60th EDITION SERF UNDER_GROUND JOURNAL

 

Nature rules … Hammurabi schools.

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There’s an essay in Quadrant Online, ‘Post-Truth and the Virtues of Reality,’ that appeals to serfs, dealing as it does with real stuff. Its author, David Shteinman is Managing Director of an Australian consulting engineering company specializing in the application of mathematics and statistics to transport, mining and aerospace, so Shteinman is well aware, working with technology involving transformation of matter and systems of matter, that nature’s feedbacks and judgements must necessarily rule.

In his essay David Shteinman observes the destructive force of post-modernism’s attacks on objective truth and empirical facts, the post-truth phenomenon originating in the humanities departments of our universities but now extending far beyond the academy. Before continuing, herewith a definition of post-modernism (with a serf’s added parentheses.)

Post-modernism is the negation of the Western intellectual tradition of Greek Revolution and Enlightenment thinking. # In place of an objective reality, (without which there could be no science and its physical follow-ons,) post-modernists declare that there is no objective reality. Descriptive and explanatory explanations of science and history can never be true. # Enlightenment thinkers argued that reason and logic are valid means of exposing contradictions in statements and tests. Say post-modernists, no they aren’t, they’re subjective constructs, # Our human development of descriptive and critical language refers to and represents a reality outside itself. Po-mos’ say no, they are always subjective discourses of particular communities. (Note post-modernists own dependency on language and argument in making this claim regarding post-modern ‘truth’.) … Relating to which, # It is possible to construct a general theory to explain aspects of the natural or social world, (think-Copernicus or Darwin or Adam Smith, think also ‘testable’ general theories else how can we prefer one grand theory to another?) Not so, say post-modernists, (though they themselves ascribe to a theory of Marx class-war extended to politics of group-resentments based on race or gender.)

So concerning post-modernism post-truth, one of its major causes, Shteinman argues, comes from the growth of virtual environments involving obsessive screen usage, computer gaming, websites, Facebook, Twitter and other forms of social media, which together with academia’s post- modernist bias, have formed a pincer-movement against objective truth and testing of assumptions.

Virtual environments are characterised by an absence of reality tests. ‘Virtuality’ says Shteinman, is by definition a detachment from the world of physical matter,’ judged by number of ‘likes’, re-tweets and on-line opinion, whereas an engineer is judged by the laws of physics, chemistry and materials relevant to his or her design; the engineer’s actions have consequences that can’t be disregarded. As the physicist Richard Feynman said in his review of the 1986 Space Shuttle disaster, ‘For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled.’

True grit.

Like the industrial chemist Primo Levi, whose writings Shteinman discusses in his Quadrant essay, Shteinman thinks there is a real philosophical effect, an ethical and epistemological dimension to work, when you are forced to regularly measure yourself against matter and its laws.

Working with matter forces you to be a thorough-going empiricist. When you work in technical professions or trades, there are objective demands which, by daily repetition become habitual in the practitioner so that their effects become ingrained as character. Measurable reality-testing operates. The bridge does or doesn’t fall down, the brick wall is straight or it isn’t, the farmer’s crop thrives or it does not. Shteinman’s own experience covers mathematical modelling of traffic flow and satellite navigation for improvements in existing processes, which involves testing. All models in industry have to include empirical data, data derived externally from the model, and these models are compared to results in reality. Modelling in engineering is still tested and validated via the indifferent medium of physical matter.

Working in technical professions and trades, Shteinman says, also makes you averse to abstract generalisations that cannot be tested. It steers you to precise meanings in language as used in their intended setting. ‘One cannot ‘play’with the meanings of words on a construction site or in a chemical plant.’

Shteinman describes how Primo Levi, in his book ‘The Periodic Table’ recounting some of his experiences as a Jewish prisoner in Auschwitz, reflects on his life as an industrial chemist and how his work was an antidote to the unproved affirmations and imperatives of fascist dogma. Below are two passages from his chapter on ‘Iron.’

In the first passage Levi describes the chemical battles of his autobiographical self when he and his fellow students take a course in Qualitative Analysis, a confrontation that took place at the same time as Nazi victories were occurring around Europe and the Fascists in Italy were becoming increasingly repressive.

‘One way or another, here the relationship with Matter changed, became dialectical: it was fencing, a face-to-face match. Two unequal opponents: on one side, putting the questions, the unfledged, unarmed chemist…on the other side, responding with enigmas, stood Matter.’

In the second passage Primo Levi recounts an exchange with a fellow student about their engagement with matter in the context of what is going on around them.

‘Was he not filled with disgust at all the dogmas, all the unproved affirmations, all the imperatives? He did feel it; so then how could he not feel a new dignity and majesty in our study, how could he ignore the fact that the chemistry and physics on which we fed, besides being in themselves nourishments vital in themselves, were the antidote to fascism which he and I were seeking, because they were clear and distinct and verifiable at every step, and not a tissue of lies and emptiness, like the radio and newspapers.’…

Primo Levi and David Shteinman extoll the benefits of working with matter that is testable to nature’s feedbacks, in contrast to the dangers inherent in the fuzzy constructs of reality coming from the humanities departments of academia. Unlike engineering models that are subject to universal laws, academic modelling of the economic, political and social behaviour of unpredictable human beings, encompassing human interactivity, human anticipations and strategies involving feedback, is just propagating uncertainty as certainty.

Git real !

Two writers, Nassim Taleb and Thomas Sowell, are highly critical of intellectuals as purveyors of dreams and utopia-building and as formulators of national Five Year and Ten Year Plans, all entailing flawed predictions based on fuzzy criteria and having wilful disregard for consequences.

Nassim Taleb has written two books regarding the complacency and lack of accountability of inhabitants of academia whom he labels ‘Platonists,’ a school of intellectuals who mistake their theories, formulated in the sheltered world of academia, for descriptions of reality.

They think they can predict, observes Nassim Taleb in his book ‘The Black Swan,’ but they’re subject to the narrative fallacy of over simplification and our predilection for compact stories over complexities. And, says Taleb, they are blind with respect to those outliers and ‘unknown unknowns’ people can’t predict, that Taleb calls ‘Black Swan Events.’ Black Swan Events are unforeseen occurrences that happen even amid nature’s regularities, the rogue wave, the rogue meteor impact or complex interaction of atmospheric and ocean systems that prevent us from foretelling Earth’s weather events ten days out. Black Swans are the never envisaged impacts of innovation, from the inventions of the wheel to the internet, they are the unforeseen effects of human interactivity, such as length of engagement in world wars or those invisible hands clapping in the market place.

The world is more complicated than we think. People are not good at predicting and it seems that Platonist theorists come out the worst. In The Black Swan, Taleb cites a study by Philip Tetlock* testing the predictions of a large group of ‘experts’ and non -experts regarding future political and economic occurences within a specified frame time. The study found that the ‘experts’ error rates were many times higher than the experts themselves estimated. 😊  And not only that, the study showed that those with the highest reputations were worse predictors than the non-experts. (Say, intellectuals must really, really not care much for Philip Tetlock. Bet they’d be happy to banish him to one of those deserted islands you read about in literature, or to a gulag, maybe.)

So to continue. Philip Tetlock then decided to dig further into the mechanisms by which his subjects generated post-hoc explanations, Explanations they came up with involved not blaming their own skills but telling themselves that they were playing a different game, for example, ‘Social scientists failed to predict the Cold War collapse of the Soviet Union because crucial economic information had been withheld by the Russians.’ Another excuse involved invoking the outlier, the situation was to blame, ‘No one could have predicted this…’

*Ref: P Tetlock. 1999 ‘Theory- Driven Reasoning about Plausible Pasts and Probable Futures in World Politics.’ American Journal of Political Science 43(2) p335-366.

Taleb finds this habit of focus on a narrow game and linking performance to a given script is a common flaw of nerdy behaviour and in his second book, ‘Anti-fragile,’ he argues that one of the encouragements to this behaviour is that they usually do not have to pay a price for making flawed predictions.

In Chapter 10, ‘Skin in the Game,’ relating to complex modernity, Taleb sees an increasing problem of privilege without obligation, whereby intellectuals and makers of policy in large bureaucracies and corporations, protected by ‘modernity’s connectivity’ and ‘new found invisibility of causal changes,’ may cause harm to others without, themselves, being exposed to risk.

Taleb presents a Triad Table of decision makers in society, the first group, those with no skin in the game who receive benefits without risk to themselves, a second category, those with skin in the game, responsible for their own actions, – and a third category, those who take harm for the sake of others – the heroic, who may or may not be misguided. In the first category Taleb includes theoreticians in academia, bureaucrats and politicians, consultants, corporate executives, bankers and journalists who make predictions. In the second category he lists citizens, lab experimenters, authors, small business men, merchants and speculators. In the third category are knights, soldiers, maverick scientists, artists, innovators and investigative journalists.

Taleb sees a growing trend of ‘experts’ transferring fragility to others and he would welcome addressing asymmetries of risk, enforcing ‘skin in the game, as in the ancient Code of Hammurabi.  He calls the phenomenon of causing harmful action without accountability the Stiglitz Syndrome after Joseph Stiglitz, who without ‘skin in the game,’ made a public assessment regarding the government-sponsored mortgage association, Fanny Mae, that the risk to the government from a potential deficit in GSE debt was effectively zero, Says Taleb, had Joseph Stiglitz been obliged to invest his own funds in Fanny Mae he might have been more critical And while the collapse of Fanny Mae cost the taxpayers billions of dollars, Joseph Stiglitz, with selective amnesia went on to publish a ‘told ya’ so ‘ book post Fanny Mae’s demise. Academics seem not designed to recall their failed predictions. Think Paul Ehrlich.

Grand mastery of all we survey.

Thomas Sowell in his book ‘Intellectuals and Society’ agrees with Nassim Taleb on the growing influence of intellectuals in modern affluent societies, and their disastrous record in predicting and managing society’s ills. Intellectuals, creators of ideas divorced from the feedback restraints of working with matter, are prone to error, though they seem unaware of the fact that the easiest persons to fool may well be themselves.

Thomas Sowell, like Nassim Taleb, examines intellectuals’ track record in the policies they prescribe and also analyses the incentives and constraints that have influenced their views and visions for society’s ills. While intellectuals are skilled in manipulating symbols and creating conceptual systems their abstract creations are too often at variance with reality. Not much kudos in reformulating the hard won wisdom of experience, more kudos in donning the mantle of superior insight and adopting the high moral ground.

Unfortunately, the flawed policies they promote, top-down macro and micro interventions in the economy, pacifism and uni-lateral disarmament in international relations, moral relativism and social justice activism to create socialist utopias, have shown that intellect and wisdom are not synonymous. Thomas Sowell cites a number of examples of failed policies of intellectuals that he calls ‘visions of the anointed’ as compared to ‘the tragic vision,’ one vision, ‘the tragic vision’ an emphasis on nature, recognising the flaws of human beings…power’s corruptive, easiest person to fool, etcetera, therefore build institutions resistant to power, – the other vision’, ‘vision of the anointed,’ the emphasis is on nurture, the person as construct, utopian idealism the go, at its most visionary, your Platonist, your guru or philosopher king who has the answers to everything.

For example, F.D. Roosevelt’s interventionism in the Great Depression, that exacerbated unemployment. Before this intervention, following the stock market crash, US unemployment had peaked at 9% but had already fallen to 6.3% when Roosevelt intervened with his ‘New Deal’ in June, 1930. Six months on, unemployment rose to double digits, later to reach 25%, and never came down for the rest of the decade.

Another example of intellectuals’ getting it wrong: in the 1920’s and 1930’s intellectuals promoted pacifism and disarmament campaigns that played a major role in creating the military weakness and political irresolution within the democratic nations, which made a war against these nations appear more winnable to the leaders of the Axis dictatorship. The intelligentsia in Britain and France were reluctant to recognise the essential threat that Hitler presented. While Germany was already rearming, they were making rearming in their own nation political poison. They portrayed Adolf Hitler as a reasonable leader, instead Hitler exploited the moral disarmament campaign, violating international treaties, remilitarizing the Rhineland and annexing Czechoslavakia. An opportunist, Hitler tailored his aims to what he thought he could get away with. On the eve of marching in Poland, addressing the leaders of his armed forces, he predicted that Britain and France would not help Poland.

One of the problems Sowell sees with intellectuals is their hubris in thinking their competency extends beyond their own range of experience. Being an expert in Mayan Culture or Linguistics does not equip you with the consequential knowledge to survey society and provide solutions to the problems of the rest of us. Sowell offers examples of central planning failures and of Harvard initiated activist programs that exacerbated unemployment in the black community, citing actual data ignored by those promoting the activist policies. Sowell observes that the fancier the schooling, that being in the gifted student program and told how cool they are, the more they seem to think that nothing’s beyond their ken. This cleverness makes up for lack of experience. They advocate rule by the 1% over the 99%. Say, do they not pause to consider that no one individual or class can even possess a fraction of the social knowledge that is dispersed throughout society? Nope!

The Virtue of the Anointed,

With regard to virtue, ‘renouncing war,’ ‘ending poverty,’ Obama: ‘We are the change we are waiting for,’ there’s exultation in solving humanity’s problems, it gives you a role, even if it turns out that you’re exacerbating problems. You can renounce war, but others may not, you can create social engineering programs but they are likely to lead to unforeseeable problems …so it’s important, if you are an intellectual, that you don’t – do – checks.

Thomas Sowell observes that Intellectuals have very little interest in testing. Not only do they not have to face the consequences of their claims but there’s no payment in finding errors. The reputation of an intellectual depends on your being seen as the expert, why would you examine the data? Better to use your considerable language skills to support your case. Rhetoric good, empirical data bad.

A serf’s view regarding all of the above. Look, I enjoy a good story as much as the next serf, but when it comes down to ‘did Alice really have adventures in Wonderland or venture behind the looking glass, well! …What appeal to serfs are the dramas of the old Greek tragedies where despite those deux ex machina gods and goddesses getting in the way, you had your actor with the Achilles heel, usually hubris, taking liberties with Nature and wham, bam, you suffered the consequences.

Now these intellectuals of Nassim Taleb’s first triad, it’s all very well they’re creating their narratives and making themselves the leading protagonists, but I ask you, why do I have to be party to their virtual realities, when really, (in reality that is,) a serf’s well-being, sometimes the whole chorus’ and cast’s well-being, sometimes our very lives, depend on functioning well pertaining to fight and flight stage directions in NATURE’S DRAMA, which happens to be fact and not fiction.

800px-Alice_par_John_Tenniel_34
The Mock Turtle’s lessons: ‘Reeling and Writhing, of course, to begin with, and then the different branches of Arithmetic – Ambition, Distraction, Uglification and Derision.’(‘Alice in Wonderland.’ Lewis Carroll.)

59th EDITION SERF UNDER_GROUND JOURNAL



The Will to Deceive and the Will to Believe…
Do not become embroiled in the matador’s red cape…

Pertaining to which, Aristotle’s Law of Identity: A thing is what it is and not some other thing, no way! Law of Non-Contradiction: A statement is either true or it is false, that’s it! Aristotle’s Law of the Excluded Middle: ‘Is or is not’, likewise ‘that’s it’, don’t mess with maybe-there-be-some-mysterious-mister-in-between.


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And regarding the above, the will to deceive, ‘to conspire or not to conspire?’ Well we know the answer to that question. Like our chimpanzee cousins before us, we’re into game play, leadership alliances and plotting. Our language has multiple words describing it, ‘cabal,’ ‘clique, ‘coterie’ and on a grand scale, ‘conspiracy,’ one of the most broadly prosecuted crimes, ‘the conspiracy to’ … Dictionary definition of conspiracy, ‘Combine secretly for unlawful purposes.’

Further to the will to believe, as associative learners, we’re wired to quick fight and flight responses, that rustling in the jungle requires immediate response. But hey, with the development of our human frontal cortex, our evolved critical language and ability to make conscious reasoned decisions, we can do better …but it takes effort.

An illustration from literature, Shakespeare’s drama ‘The Tempest,’ papery whispers of fictional characters, not to be taken seriously you might say. Not so, it’s written by your Master Shakespeare, keenest observer of human behaviour, subtlest practitioner of the language of persuasion. Herewith, a serf translation of Shakespeare’s play, ‘The Tempest,’ reality or illusion?

All within a play of course, a play
on how we human actors create our
own living dramas that clash with,
or sometimes catch an intimation
of the reality out there, perhaps.
Why the play’s very theme’s ‘deception.’
The very events we witness here on
Prospero’s island – used to be Caliban’s
but now it’s not – we view because of it.

Everyone’s landed on the island because
of a take-over deal between Antonio,
Prospero’s brother, and Sebastian,
brother to the king of Naples, Alonso,
conspirators who robbed Prospero of
his dukedom in Milan, now brought to shore
and judgement by a seeming tempest, dire
spectacle of storm and shipwreck that
Prospero has ordered with his magic.

The play’s the thing, of course, to catch
the conscience of the king and perhaps
of Antonio, planned by that master
magician, Prospero, and ministered
by his airy servant Ariel. Nothing
but transmogrified scenarios from
beginning to end, masques, and music
that sends the actors into dreaming sleeps
like tricksy Ariel’s song to Ferdinand:

Full fathoms five thy father lies …
Nothing of him that doth fade,
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange.


Magic’s in the air and in the language too
that resonates with strange conjunctions
like ‘sea-change’ and ‘sea-swallowing’
and ‘heart-sorrow’ and ‘spell-stopped.’

Not that the actors need much confusing
when you see how easily they deceive themselves.
Do Gonzalo and Antonio describe the same island?
One describes a place ‘advantageous to life,’
the other ‘as ‘twere perfumed by a fen.’
Then there are the case studies of confused identity,
Stephano mistaking Caliban for a moon-calf,
Caliban thinking Stephano fell from heaven,
Miranda seeing Alonso and Antonio for the first time,
marvelling at beauteous man-kind and exclaiming:
‘O brave new world that has such people in it.’

And just to confuse the audience, consider the
final scenario where Prospero addresses us
across the stage proscenium, breaking the magic,
you’d say, except that he’s asking us to release him
and his acting crew, asking us to breath air into the
sails of his craft and send him on his way back to Milan.
What are we supposed to do? Any wonder that
the audience departs the play still held in a kind
of waking dream.’

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Lot’s of deception here on Prospero’s island. Let’s begin with the ending depicting ‘how easily we deceive ourselves.’ Stephano mistaking Caliban for a moon calf. ‘Know thyself, ‘says the philosopher, Socrates, (that’s the real Socrates talking, not the sock puppet of Plato’s Republic. ‘Probe and question what you think and say.’ ‘The easiest person to fool is thyself, ‘says scientist Richard Feynman, ‘First you guess but then you test.’

Then there’s deception by a coterie, the plotting to rob others of their belongings, as Antonio and Alonso robbed Prospero of his dukedom. Conspiring to take what’s yours’ is pretty dire, but there’s worse, conspiring to take over you, rob you of your precious self-possession, that’s what gurus try to do. Prospero as guru gives an exhibition on how it’s done. There’s transmogrification of the scenario, sea- change into something rich and strange, and language games, ‘this becomes some other thing’ ‘tyranny become liberty.’ More of these anon. Prospero could, maybe, be forgiven because he himself has been deceived, and in the end he takes off his guru cape of deception, but the wish to control others, it’s the god-wish, aim to own and control earth, sea, air and all that lies therein … moving into ‘conspiracy theory’ territory here, that cleverly-directed, behind-the-curtain, over-reaching control by your philosopher king characters afflicted with hubris.

Here’s a word of caution. That word ‘conspiracy,’ well it’s an emotive word, beloved of those who argue the existence of conspiracies and also by those who do not … favoured by pro-conspiracists who wish to denigrate a perceived enemy, like the German Fascists did in the 1930’s and 40’s with their anti-semite demonization campaign as a first step to ethnic cleansing and used by those who would disparage enquiry into possible malfeasance by their own side. Here’s WIKI rebutting the conspiracy theory per se by slipping a gratuitous add-on to the dictionary definition , the add on … ‘both evidence against the conspiracy and absence of evidence for it, are interpreted as evidence of its truth, and the conspiracy becomes a matter of faith rather than truth.’ WIKI calling Conspiracy Theory per se an empty set. And here’s a clever twist to conspiracy dismissal by a certain Professor Stephan Lewandowsky, who conducted a certain psychological survey of participants in the climate debate with the provocative title, ‘ NASA faked the moon landing, Therefore (Climate) Science is a Hoax: An Anatomy of the Motivated Rejection of Science.’ Now if that isn’t a challenge to critics of the ‘science’ to jump right into the briar patch. Trouble is the survey contains no bona fide data that you can actually come to grips with, so you’re steered to supposition and there you are, surmising just what you’ve been set up to surmise. Tricky Brer-Fox Professor Lewandowsky, he’s created ‘a sticky tar baby’ for ‘science deniers.’ Best to walk on by and call it for what it is, do not be distracted by the matadors’ lures.

Aha, toro!

Re scenario as lure, a nice case study by the master of engineering consent himself, Edward Bernays, nephew of Freud, writer of a book on propaganda that influenced Dr Goebell’s in his infamous WW2 propaganda campaign, Bernays’ own smoke-screen event, his involvement with the American Tobacco Company and the cigarette ‘Lucky Strike’ campaign.

When you’re out to dupe,
everything becomes
the matador’s red cape.

When Bernays began working for The A.T.C, he was given the objective of increasing cigarette sales among women, who for the most part had formerly avoided smoking. Bernays’ first strategy was to persuade women to smoke cigarettes in place of eating sweets. He began using photographers, artists, newspapers, and magazines to promote the special beauty of thin women. Medical authorities were found to promote the choice of cigarettes over sweets. Home-makers were cautioned that keeping cigarettes on hand was a social necessity. The campaign was a success but a taboo remained on women smoking in public, an association linked to ‘fallen women,’ that Bernays set out to change. Tying the smoking campaign to the women’s freedom movement, he organized a contingent of attractive women to smoke cigarettes, ‘torches of freedom,’ in the 1928 New York Easter Parade.

The Easter Parade liberty parade was a big media event. Bernays had given media an advance message that something unusual was to be expected and they were all there to witness Bertha Hunt stepping out of the crowd on Fifth Avenue and lighting up a Lucky Strike cigarette, followed by ten other young women brandishing their ‘torches of freedom,’ as they marched in the parade.

What was not known by the media was that Bertha Hunt was Edward Bernays’ secretary and the story that she gave the New York Times of why she smoked that cigarette was a fiction. Her story, published appropriately on April 1st, 1928, described how a prior embarrassing episode when she smoked in the street was behind the dramatic ‘Torches of Freedom,’ protest. ‘I talked it over with my friends, and we decided it was high time something was done about the situation.’

The carefully scripted event was a publicity success and women across the country were soon smoking as planned. For his successful campaign, Bernays was paid $25,000 a princely sum in those days, and American Tobacco company sales doubled between 1923 and 1929. Other cigarette companies adopted the Bernays’ approach of cigarette smoking being associated with female emancipation and glamour, and today in the US, the UK and Australia, cigarette smoking statistics for women are not far behind the stats for males, around 16% males and 12% females.

Sophistry of word games.

Oh toro, do not be distracted by those faux scenario lures…or by word-play neither. Some apt observation of same in history, Plato on ‘justice’ as ‘your right to what is yours,’ turns out this means ‘ your right to ‘your’ place in a rigid hierarchy, i.e. the serf’s right to slave and the philosopher-king-class right to rule. And Hegel corrupting the logical concept of contradiction by a word game, claiming that ‘since science progresses via contradictions,’ contradictions are ‘permissible’ and ‘highly desirable.’ What Hegel is doing is omitting a part of the argument that’ contradictions could be said to be welcome as a means of identifying and eliminating false arguments and theories. Hegel, by sleight of hand eliminates the italics aspect and focuses on a connotation of ‘welcome’ as inviting to stay as a ‘welcome’ guest, thereby debasing logical argument, all contradictions conveniently welcome in the tyrannous Prussian State where Hegel presides as Court Philosopher.

Sophistry of word games, some nice observations of same in literature. As well as Master Shakespeare’s sea-change into something rich and strange, there’s Orwell’s toss-words-down-the-memory-hole so that which no longer has words to describe it may not be said, and Lewis Carroll’s ‘When I use a word it means just what I chose it to mean – neither more nor less.’

Just a question of who is who is to be master.

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Well no. At the risk of a little heaviness, need to recognise that reality, evolution and ideas all have the same forms and logic is the formulation of the forms. A thing is what it is and can’t be some other thing. When word definitions are changed from what is to something else the currency of the argument becomes debased. Sometimes with your persuasive gurus, you need to focus, not on what they say, their public pronouncements, but on what they do.

A case in point there’s the Trilateral Commission, a get-together of high-level philosopher kings if ever there were one, and their New World Economic Order, a scenario that’s been lumped in with those far-out conspiracy theories like that top-of-the-conspiracy-theory-list ‘The Moon Landing Hoax.’ No need to dig here it would appear, but hey, let’s do it, focus on who and what they do, not so much on what they say.

Lots of words in their armoury we’re going to by-pass, buzz-words like ‘sustainability’ and ‘renewable’ energy, sea-changes by them to meanings of key concepts like ‘democracy’ and ‘identity,’ words demonized so that ‘individual,’ means, per se, a ‘selfish’ person, far cry from the enlightenment’ individuals’ who extended suffrage, reformed working conditions and abolished slavery, and ‘CO2,’ with oxygen a life-enabling gas and plant food morphed into an existential threat.

So who are you and what is it you’re doing when you’re…

Well here’s a little list though by no means complete of who they are, these members of the Trilateral Commission, from its founding in 1973. The Trilateral Commission was created by David Rockefeller, chairman of the powerful Chase Manhattan Bank and Professor of Political Science at Columbia University, Zbigniew Brzezinski, (author of the book,’ Between Two Ages: America in the Technetronic Era,’) with the stated aim of fostering a global technocracy to manage the world’s resources efficiently. Since its inception it has co-opted an elite membership, its US membership mostly drawn from another private organisation, the influential behind the scenes US Council of Foreign Relations.

Yes it’s a gathering of philosopher kings alright. By December 1976 there were 19 Trilateral members holding positions in the United States Government., including president Jimmy Carter. Carter chose for his Cabinet appointees, eighteen Trilateral members, his running mate Walter Mondale, three cabinet members and fourteen top government posts and he appointed Brzezinski as Assistant to the President for National Security Measures, arguably the second most powerful position in the U.S.

The Long March Through the Institutions.

Subsequent US Administrations have continued to be dominated by Trilaterals. Every administration since Carter has had top level representation through the President or Vice President. George Bush, Bill Clinton, Al Gore and Richard Cheney were members, all of them advancing their globalist goal by placing Trilateral Commission members in top positions of global trade, global banking and foreign policy. Powerful people like Kissinger, Greenspan, Albright, and later, democrat members including John Podesta and Dianne Feinstein are members. Since 1973 there have been seven World Bank Presidents and six of them were Trilateral Commission members. More detail here:
http://www.thirdworldtraveler.com/New_World_Order/Trilateral_UsurpSovereign.html

Lots of clout, discretely employed and hostile to the concept of the nation state. Other members of the Trilateral Commission not yet mentioned, George Soros and Eric Schmidt. George Soros funder- extordinaire via his Open Society Foundation, of organizations active to bring about that New Economic World Order and Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google. Money and media, lotsa’ clout there…aims requires means, and regarding context, there happened to be a global institution just waiting the Trilateral grand technetronic take-over. Enter stage left the United Nations.

The United Nations was set up after the Second World War, by agreement of forty nation states, to replace the ailing League of Nations. Its main purpose expressed in the UN Charter, Article 1.1: To maintain International Peace and security and to that end to take effective and collective measures for the removal of threats to the peace and for the suppression of acts of aggression or other breaches of the peace, and to bring about by peaceful means , and in conformity with justice and international law, adjustment or settlement of international disputes and situations which might lead to a breach of the peace.

Another important objective in the UN Charter was its Universal Declaration of Human Rights: Everyone has the right to take part in the government of a country, directly or through freely chosen representatives. The will of the people shall be the basis of authority of government: this shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be universal and equal suffrage and shall be held in secret vote or by equivalent voting procedures.

Oh Octopussy….

In the way of bureaucracies over time to expand their domains and actions, the United Nations expanded its role, and from its initial HQ in Geneva, a growing UN global presence required more HQ edifices around the world…New York, Washington, The Hague, Rome, Vienna, you know how it is.

Not too difficult for the Trilateral Commission to become a player. David Rockefeller had been a significant donor to the U.N. Its New York building occupies land gifted by him, and in 1983, a member of the Trilateral Commission, Gro Harlem Brundtland chaired the UN Commission on Environment and Development, also called The Brundtland Commission, charged with finding solutions to global environmental problems of ozone depletion and global warming. Not surprising that The Brundtland Report published in 1987 as ‘Our Common Core’ came up with a changed economic model and new mode of governance, i.e. the Trilateral Commission model for a New World Order. Thereon from the Brundtland Report to the Rio Summit and UN Framework Convention on Climate Change signed by Trilateral Commission member, US President George Bush, and also on to Agenda 21, the UN itself gave credit to the Brundtland Commission for their creation.

Agenda 21, yu gotta’ read it to believe it…

…They’re not expecting that you will, 389 page blue-print for a new world order ruled by them. Here it is, and link to my 55th Edition where I provide a more detailed overview of the Trilateral Commission and Agenda 21.
https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/content/documents/Agenda21.pdf

https://beththeserf.wordpress.com/2018/11/01/55th-edition-serf-under_ground-journal/

Agenda 21. Section I, Social and Economic Dimensions: This section covers us humans and what we may consume…eat …use, where we may live and how we are to be allowed to develop. Significant chapters, Chapter 2, ‘International cooperation to accelerate sustainable development for all,’ Sustainable Development a phrase first coined by Gro Brundtland. Chapter 4, ‘Changing consumption patterns for sustainable development.’

Section II, Conservation and Management of Resources Development: Well this is certainly comprehensive, fourteen chapters of precept and regulation, a new world order alright, bureaucrat control over air, land, and all living things thereon, our energy use, control of seas, rivers and other waterways, management of all waste products, ‘waste’ denoted by them to include CO2, a basis of life on earth, without it no plants and no us. In section a of Chapter 14, item 14.9, outlining its many policy prescripts, there’s an opening phrase you’ll find repeated at (14.13) (14.14) (14.15) and many times thereafter…‘Government at the appropriate level, with the support of the relevant international and regional organizations, should’…
Take a look at the UN Wildlands Project a master plan of Agenda 21, adopted by President Clinton in 1993. It’s a major land grab, it’s a –…Government at the appropriate level, with the support of the relevant international and regional organizations, should’… it is part of the design to transform land from public ownership to large tracts of no-go wilderness managed by technocrats, each eco-area protected by buffer zones and with designated corridors linking human habitation.

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Section III, Strengthening the Role of Major Groups: Getting everyone on board, but not as described by that UN first General Assembly in 1948, Everyone has the right to take part in the government of the country, directly or through freely chosen representatives. Agenda 21 is not about individual involvement in decision making, it is about your role as part of a collective, you are subsumed by your role, in which the planned Delphi process prevails, plenary discussion but the outcomes are foreordained, you are a member of the women’s group, an indigenous group, etc. some ironic 1984 newspeak here ‘strengthening the role of farmers,’ as more and more regulations are being imposed on land use.

Section IV, Means of Implementation …involving financing and costs. You’ll get a shock when you go there. Some hefty estimated annual costs included, Utopias don’t come cheap, quite a drain on nation’s economies. The Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development program, Section 11, Ch 14 alone, annual costs in excess of two trillion dollars So if you’re needing to get the citizens on board for all that costly and controlling regulation you have to scare people and here’s how you do it … by way of SCIENCE and GUILT, Global Warming caused by us! That’s Chapter 35, ‘Science for sustainability,’ messaging by the Inter-government Panel on Climate Change set up by the UN, post the Brundtland Report, controlled by bureaucrats and charged with a mission to assess human caused global warming. Any wonder they found it, though their temperature models don’t match observations and they had to disappear past warming in the historical record to achieve it.

Further Means of Implementation, Chapter 36, ‘Promoting education, public awareness and training.’ Have to get school children on board, the mandatory international Education Core-Curriculum teaches sustainability from Prep to Year 12, in every subject, even math and focuses on ‘emotional’ learning, not critical thinking skills. K-12 Core Curriculum, compliments of the UN, now mandatory education program in western ‘democracies.’

So now better let’s give all of the above some teeth. L-A-W-Law, Chapter 38, ‘International legal instruments and mechanisms,’ they’re by-passing nations’ laws here, now isn’t that contra to, you know… Everyone has the right to take part in the government of the country, directly or through freely chosen representatives…

An article by Professor of Law, James Allan, gives a detailed description of the ways by way of International L-A-W-Law, that a nation’s voters are locked out when it comes to resolving debatable political or social policies.
https://quadrant.org.au/magazine/2016/09/problem-creeping-international-legal-rule/
One way is by way of ambiguously phrased UN International Treaties that play an increasingly large and influential role in determining judicial outcomes compared to less ambiguous, domestic regulations, The second type of international law, known as customary law, is a non-treaty sort of international law that can flow on from treaties and have influence on local judicial decision making although it has never been agreed to by any accountable legislators. Lots of government-from-afar by those unaccountable globalists today. Oh Prospero!

So regarding globalist unaccountability, let’s take a look at that Trilateral Commission member, George Soros and his actions as funding puppet master for Trilateral globalist causes. I’ve written a full post on Soros, and links to his funding, https://beththeserf.wordpress.com/2018/02/13/50th-edition-serf-under_ground-journal/ so just briefly, herewith some of his-behind-the-scenes activities.

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.

In Hungary in 1979, George Soros launched the first of his Open Society Foundations supposedly to help ‘build vibrant and tolerant democracies’ whose governments are accountable to their citizens.’ Passing strange that the Open Society Foundations he funds in more than 79 countries and the organizations funded by them are doing quite the opposite.

In the George Soros Manifesto ‘Open Society, Reforming Global Capitalism’ he declares his hostility to individual freedom, which he equates with egoism, and his hostility to the nation state which he seeks to subvert. The President chosen by Soros to run his open society organization, Aryeh Neier, is a Lenin Marxist and founder, in the 1960s, of ‘Students for Democracy’ an activist group committed to overthrowing American institutions and remaking them in a Marxist mould. Soros by indirect means funds action to shut down alternative free speech via orchestrated protest movements including the May Day Riots across the US. A left-wing organization called Rise-Up Org, that claimed responsibility for the May Day violence is financed by Alliance for Global Justice, one of Soros’ top 150 seven-figure grantees. It is also funded by Tides Foundation, number three on Open Society Foundation grantee list. Many inter-connections. Rise-up is connected to Antifa and Antifa is an alias of Refuse Fascism, which is sponsored by Alliance for Global Justice which is funded by Tides Foundation which is also funded by Soros’ Open Society Foundation …Get it?

George Soros funded programs are directed towards that long march through the institutions, to controlling the media, to capturing the education system, and weakening western democracies by promoting illegal mass immigration and by corrupting the electoral system. Seeking to manipulate federal elections strikes at the heart of the democratic system. Those leaked Soros funding documents show that Soros poured hundreds of millions of dollars into often secret efforts to change election laws, to fuel litigation to attack election integrity measures, such as citizenship verification and voter ID, to push public narratives about voter fraud as a myth, and attempts to manipulate media coverage of election issues in mainstream media outlets like The New York Times.

The funding documents name groups that received more than $500,000 each year, including the Centre for Community Change, the Advancement Project Centre and the Brennan Centre. Two of these organizations, the Advancement Project and Brennan Centre, regularly oppose election integrity measures in court and influence media by
pushing voter fraud denial narratives.

https://pjmedia.com/jchristianadams/2016/11/07/leaked-documents-reveal-expansive-soros-funding-to-manipulate-federal-elections/

So hey, guess actions speak louder than words from that supporter of ‘the open society,’ Mr George Soros. And guess actions speak louder than words for those other members of The Trilateral Commission also… Just remember to keep your eye on the matador and do not become embroiled in the matador’s red cape.

Special Edition – Global Warming

Global Warming – A Wicked Jabberwocky Kinda’ Problem – Reviewed in Five Fits.

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Jabberwocky – Lewis Carroll

Whereas global warming is claimed to be a wicked problem, a mysterious je ne sais quoi, – yet demanding of fear and guilt responses to the unknown, exemplified by Paul Ehrlich’s panic predictions, and attributable to alarm-triggering messaging as described by H L Mencken, there are some who look askance at mysteries masquerading as problems, myself among them, and so herewith, in Five Fits, a serf review of the wicked and mysterious ‘problem’ of man-made global warming.

FIT1: Whereas ‘mysterious’ denotes ‘uncertainties,’ of ‘what,’ ‘why,’ ‘ how’ and who knows ‘where or when,’ many in the cli-science community have hazarded guesses regarding the unknowns of climate science, many failed papers and predictions regarding same, short term predictions adjustable to time extensions for man-made Climate Armageddon, for loss of arctic ice, death of polar bears and lemurs, increase of wildfires, weird weather events, rising of seas, un-documented but mega wipe-out of species … though not those countless bats and birds hit by wind turbines or zapped by miles of solar arrays.

Of the ‘what’ and ‘why,’ carbon is said to be the main actor in the drama, CO2, basis of life on Planet Earth, only 0.039 percent of our atmosphere but vital for plant growth, oxygen and us, has now gone rogue (?) or maybe demonized, likely the latter, for raisons d’etat. Read Professor Richard Lindzen’s paper regarding politicks behind the climate-change science in which he traces conscious efforts to politicize Climate Science, the most impressive exploitation for political purposes being ‘creation of the International Panel on Climate Change by two United Nations bodies, the United Nations Environmental Panel and the World Meteorological Organization.‘ https://arxiv.org/ftp/arxiv/papers/0809/0809.3762.pdf Christiana Figueres adds another dimension, to the above; ‘it’s about creating a United Nations-managed New World Order.’

Regarding ‘how’ man made global warming has come about, it’s explained by way of shortwave CO2 forcing, a complicated phenomenon, arguments about climate sensitivity to a doubling of CO2 continuing and continually adjusted.

Each cause of global warming heats up the atmosphere in a distinctive pattern, its ‘signature.’ The signature of carbon emissions is a prominent ‘hotspot’ at about 10-12 kms in the air over the tropics. The hotspot is integral to the IPCC climate theory, ref. the IPCC Assessment Report 4 (AR4) 2007. Ch 9 for Source of Signature based on IPCC 1890-1999 warming, ref: https://sciencespeak.com/MissingSignature.pdf Dr David Evans, author of the above link, describes on pp 12,13, the process for water vapour feedback where the troposphere is effectively a blanket at the water vapour absorption frequencies. That hundreds of temperature sensitive radiosondes have not been able to find this signature is a travesty about which the supporters of the Carbon global warming theory are either silent or make tendentious claims of, ‘ well, it ‘could’ be there.’ ‘But it isn’t there,’ says David Evans. ‘No hotspot, therefore IPCC climate theory is fundamentally wrong.’

FIT 2: Whereas climate models are the crystal ball of climate science, ‘science’ not séance, so they’re okay, well not so okay, there’s that failure of the model projections to match observations. And that’s a major fail.

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There’s that failure of the model projections to deal with complex interactive atmospheric and oceanic systems.

https://judithcurry.com/2016/11/12/climate-models-for-lawyers/

Says denizen kim @ Climate Etc. Feb.2011, regarding inter-active climate-change:

I think I’ve never heard so loud
the quiet message in a cloud.

Observes Ross McKitrick on that Hockey Stick model, icon of the IPCC review of Climate change, the core issues; the cherry-picked, proxy data set and the flawed methodology.

https://www.rossmckitrick.com/uploads/4/8/0/8/4808045/hockey-stick-retrospective.pdf

Noted problems in that Hockey Stick proxy data, (C Loehle 2009.) Regarding effects of moisture, shade and other factors on ring growth, this ode, from Brad Keyes of CliScep blog, Dec.2013.

Ode to a Bristlecone Pine.

What good is that wood?
That wood is no good.
Would you graph that wood?
I don’t think I would.

FIT 3: Whereas that mysterious burst of warming in the 1980’s and 1990’s, – claims of an Unprecedented Warming Period, UWP, but no, the long historical record, CET, Central England Temperature Record tells us not so, the Medieval Warming Period was just as warm and maybe warmer, and there’s all those other see-saw weather perturbations, ‘The pendulum of climate change,’ that Brian Fagan, author of ‘The Little Ice Age,’ observed ‘rarely paused for more than a generation,’

Herewith Tony Brown, climate historian, CET long term temperature data:

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Temperature data cross referenced with all those written records, farmers’ almanacs, ships’ logs, records of glacier retreats and advances.

https://judithcurry.com/2011/12/01/the-long-slow-thaw/

In those ups and downs in the long CET record, @Figure 6, several hockey sticks can be observed prior to the Mann construct, one in the early 1100’s, another in the late 1600’s, and one in the early 1900’s before the mid-century cooling prior to the 1980’s warming.

FIT 4: And whereas the laws of logic conform to nature’s laws. Nature can’t be unnatural, contradictory, paradoxical or magical, the Darwin Award is for getting it right, which means getting to survive another day,

Wicked problem, indefinable je ne sais quoi, it’s a masquerade, appearance instead of reality, (eat a photo of a burger next time), resemblance to truthiness, it’s called a mystery,- a mystery is a nothing to which are attributed properties.

Mystery of alleged unprecedented global warming crisis. What is it? Aristotle’s Laws of Logic apply. Law of Identity: a thing is what it is and not something else. If it can’t be clearly defined and measured, what is it? No ‘maybe’s,’ ‘could be’s’, ‘should be’s,’ Aristotle’s law of Non-Contradiction Regarding Statements and Theories: A self-contradiction is a lie. For all propositions P, it is impossible to be P and not P at the same time. True in logic as in nature, what is unreasonable is not true.

There’s no such thing
as truth you know,
I swear that this is true,
the universe exists to
make a fool of you.

Aristotle’s Law of the Excluded Middle: truth is a binary alternative, can’t mess with Mister In-Between. If a proposition can’t evaluate to ‘true’ or ‘false’ it is by definition unreasonable. The mysterious is Mister In-Between. It doesn’t equate to ‘true’ or ‘false.’ What is ‘it,’ this mysterious wicked problem? The mysterious is a null set. An empty set has no properties. Phantasmagoria.

FIT 5: Herewith an addendum … -So if not magical, that patch of warming in the 1980’s-1990’s – what is it? Well whatever it is, it has to conform to proper tests, to observation, and there’s a paper by Professor W.J.R Alexander that says it is the sun and those Cheshire sunspots that come and go, and what is more there’s a long hydrological record, back to the Egyptians, as evidence that this is so.

I have a paper in hard copy by Professor Alexander, ‘A critical assessment of current climate change science.’ (April 2006) that I downloaded in 2011, but I can’t get Google to retrieve it. I discuss it in some detail on my blog, see below. It is a detailed study of the river flow of the Vaal River, South Africa’s major river, and its synchronicity with the double sunspot cycle such that Professor Alexander was able to predict the South African floods of 1995 and 2006. https://beththeserf.wordpress.com/2018/12/23/56th-edition-serf-under_ground-journal/ I have found some of its significant data reproduced in a shorter publication by Alexander on Professor Pielke’s blog. It includes in its Tables 9 and 10, on pp 23/24 of the original paper. Figure 9 is very important. It demonstrates the unequivocal synchronous relationship between annual sunspot numbers and the annual flows in the Vaal River. Note the alternating above (rising) and below (falling) flow sequences. Note also their synchronous relationship with sunspot numbers; as well as the statistically significant (95%), 21-year periodicity in the flow data that is synchronous with the double sunspot cycle.

https://pielkeclimatesci.wordpress.com/2010/05/20/climate-change-the-west-vs-the-rest-by-will-alexander/

Professor Alexander observes that in a number of his memos and publications he has demonstrated an undeniable linkage between changes in solar magnetic polarity and concurrent changes in South African rainfall and river flow.

‘As long ago as in 1995 at the international IGBP conference here in Pretoria after I presented my Floods, droughts and climate change study,’ says Professor Alexander, ‘I asked the question, What causes El Nino? I received the joking response that if I could answer that question I might qualify for the Nobel Prize. Well, I can now answer that question. It is the direct consequence of changes in solar magnetic polarity. The occurrences during the past months, January and February 2006, have provided the proof that I needed.’ A critical assessment of current climate change scice, April 2006 p29.

Now here’s a contra hypothesis to CO2 man made warming and it’s based on observations that don’t conflict with the projections (predictions) or the long historical record. Regardless of whether Alexander is correct about the weather or not, the flaws in the existing IPCC theory remain. They are there on the record.

58th EDITION SERF UNDER_GROUND JOURNAL


Going on a quest? Something humans do, from Gilgamesh to Odysseus to…



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It is a truth quite well known, that going on a quest means wandering, and that with a purpose, which usually means leaving home, often travelling to the ends of the earth, even maybe visiting the underworld, like Gilgamesh or Odysseus on their epic quests. In one of the above, the quest was not about leaving home but about getting home, home from the ends of the earth, in this case, after the Trojan Wars, Odysseus returning to his wife and son in his kingdom in Ithaca.

Some interesting parallels and differences can be observed by a broad study of the themes and motifs in these two dramatic poems. The story of Odysseus has much in common with the pre-semitic epic of Gilgamesh from Mesopotamia, which predates the Odyssey by at least one and a half thousand years and is thought to be the earliest epic verse written in cuneiform script on clay tablets. In both quests, fate and human endeavour offer a parallel, fate taking the form of an arbitrary and often calamitous intervention by the gods in the affairs of men.

In the Odyssey, the sea-god Poseidon continually frustrates Odysseus’ attempts to arrive home. Odysseus has offended Poseidon in one of his encounters en-route with a monster kyklops, Polyphemus, the god-child of Poseidon, and so he wishes to foil Odysseus’ efforts to reach home. Odysseus is shipwrecked on the island of the sea-nymph Kalypso, who falls in love with Odysseus and holds him captive for seven years, so that ‘he lives and grieves upon that island / in thraldom to the nymph; he cannot stir / cannot fare homeward, for no ship is left him / fitted with oars – no crewmen, or companions /to pull him on the broad back of the sea.’*

Here’s the Goddess Athena interceding for Odysseus to her father, Zeus, who sends the god Hermes to Kalypso to command that she set Odysseus free. Reluctantly Kalypso allows Odysseus to cut timber on her island and build a sail boat, and she provides him with supplies and instructions for navigation. But it’s not too long before that god of earthquakes, Poseidon, storming home across the mountains of Asia, sights Odysseus and declaims: ‘Here is a pretty cruise! While I was gone / the gods have changed their minds about Odysseus./ Look at him now, just off-shore that island / that frees him from the bondage of his exile!/Still I can give him a rough road in, and I will.’

The gods, as fate, have their place in the Gilgamesh story also, and clearly Gilgamesh brings this fate upon himself.

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In The Epic of Gilgamesh you’ve got the young King of Uruk, handsome, athletic, seems he’s a bit too athletic, acting up badly so that his people make a plea to the god Anu to rein him in. The god Anu sends wild man, Enkidu, who lives with the beasts of the forest, to challenge Gilgamesh. But first Enkidu must be partially civilized by the temple goddess Shamhat, who seduces him and once that’s accomplished, after seven days he’s ready to go out and confront Gilgamesh.

Enkidu departs for Uruk, meets Gilgamesh and there’s a tremendous fight which Gilgamesh eventually wins. He and Enkidu become best of friends and together they set off to do heroic acts, to conquer and kill the monster Humbaba, whom the gods have made guardian of the great Forest of Cedar. When Gilgamesh and Enkidu kill Humbaba, the dangerous goddess Ishtar is impressed and makes overtures to Gilgamesh but he scornfully rejects her advances reminding her of the fate of her prior lovers. In revenge she asks the god Enkil to allow the starry Bull of Heaven to come to Earth to attack Gilgamesh and he reluctantly agrees. After a fearful battle, the two friends kill the great bull and this so angers all the gods that they decide to punish Gilgamesh by making his friend mortally ill.

Tended by Gilgamesh, after many days of suffering and visions of his fate in the underworld, Enkidu dies. When Enkidu dies, Gilgamesh won’t accept his friend’s death until the visible sign of corruption, the worm, appears. Then unable to bear the reality of human mortality, ‘How can I rest when Enkidu whom I love is dust, /and I too shall die and be laid in the Earth forever?’ * Gilgamesh sets out on a new quest, a quest for immortality.

Both epics reveal a metaphysical concern with life and death, a common underlying theme, the search for life in relation to death’s inevitability. From this theme, in the two epic quests, the characters of each of the protagonists evolve.

In both books, character is revealed by the heroes’ attitude to life and death, by their ability to face reality, and here the differences in character of Gilgamesh and Odysseus are revealed. Both epics depict a similar vision of death and a grim underworld, described by Enkidu in his dream of the house of the dead, where ‘residents are deprived of light,/ where soil is their sustenance and clay their food,/ where they are clad like birds in coats of feathers.’ and by Odysseus in his account of his journey to the underworld to question the blind seer, Teiresias, on what he must do to achieve his return to Ithaca. It’s a harrowing journey in which he meets ‘the blurred and breathless dead,’ conversing, not only with the seer, but with the shades of his mother, dead from grief over the loss of her son, and meets heroic comrades like Akhilleus who describes his feelings to Odysseus regarding the underworld: ‘Better I say, to break sod as a farm hand / for some poor countryman, on iron rations,/ than lord it over all the exhausted dead.’

And as the witch, Circe, sent Odysseus to the underworld, a journey which may be said to symbolize a search for life, so another enigmatic, magical woman, Siduru, tells Gilgamesh how to cross the ocean and waters of death to consult with Utnapishtim, only survivor of the Great Deluge, pre-biblical reference to Noah’s Flood, on how to avoid death. And as these sorties into the unknown necessarily involve fate, quests like the above don’t amount to much in human engagement unless they also involve TESTS.

‘Let the trial come,’ says Odysseus, and in the two heroes’ different quests involving human endeavour, Odysseus comes up trumps. Having fought at Troy and seen death at close range, having visited the dreaded underworld and been told of his own death by the seer Teiresias, Odysseus chooses to embrace his human condition, return to his wife and son, even though the nymph Kalypso offers to make him immortal if he remains with her. Odysseus shows himself to be a man of strong human loyalties, prepared to give up everlasting life for the sake of a few years with his family. And having chosen to embrace his humanity, he wastes no time on regrets, but courageously directs himself to his task: ‘Each day / I long for home, long for the sight of home./ If any god has marked me out again / for shipwreck, my tough heart can undergo it.’ What hardships have I not long since endured /at sea, in battle! Let the trial come.’

In confronting trial and tribulation, Odysseus is well endowed for the heroic quest, always grounded in reality, he is curious, intelligent and courageous. While curiosity leads him to investigate what manner of people and places he comes across on his travels, Odysseus makes few errors in his dealings with those he encounters, whether human or divine. Not for nothing is he called, ‘Odysseus the master strategist,’ or ‘improviser,’ ‘man of all occasions,’ or ‘cunning Odysseus.’ He likes to enter places in disguise, even when he returns home to fight the hordes of suitors who have invaded his kingdom and live off his patrimony while they vie for the hand of his faithful wife Penelope. No one recognises him until he’s ready to confront them and in these encounters Odysseus makes few mistakes.

We see his diplomacy when he is welcomed as guest in the kingdom of Alkinoos, and we learn of his past mishaps as Odysseus recounts the story of his journey home before he was shipwrecked on the island of Kalypso. In all these encounters except one, problems arise deux ex machina and also because his crew fail to heed sacred oaths and instructions: ‘Don’t open the god Aiolos’s gift, the sack of winds, that allows us safe voyage!’ They do and are blown back to where they set out. ‘Don’t eat the gods’cattle or sheep on the divine island of Helios or harm will ensue!’ They do and their ships are sunk and the crew drowned.

One mistake Odysseus does make is when he takes a group of his men to explore the Island of the Cyclops and they become trapped in the cave of the one-eyed giant, Polyphemus. Polyphemus rolls a boulder in the entrance of the cave and questions his guests. The wily Odysseus tells the cyclops that he served under Agammemnon and that his name is ‘Nobody’. He doesn’t divulge where his ship is moored. He requests ‘guest protection,’ for himself and his crew but to their horror, Polyphemus catches up two of the men in his hands and strikes their heads on the cave floor, spattering their brains. ‘Then he dismembered them and made his meal /gaping and crunching like a mountain lion.’ Later he proceeds to devour other men as well. Odysseus works out what to do, offers Polyphemus gift-wine ‘to wash down your scraps of men.’. The giant has never tasted wine before and while he sleeps in a drunken stupor. Odysseus and his men blind him with a burning spar that they‘ve sharpened in the fire. When Polyphemus calls out in pain that ‘Nobody has ruined him,’ the other Cyclops outside his cave who had responded to his cries go away.

By dawn, when the injured cyclops rolls the boulder away from the door to allow his flock of sheep to leave the cave, Odysseus has already devised an escape plan so that he and his men pass through the cave entrance slung beneath the bodies of the giant’s rams. But as he escapes, Odysseus makes his fatal mistake, announcing his own name and baiting Polyphemus, ‘O Kyklops! Would you feast on my companions? /Puny, am I, in a Caveman’s hands? / How do you like the beating we gave you,/you dammed cannibal.? Eater of guests /under your roof! Zeus and the gods have paid you.’

‘If any mortal man enquire /how you were put to shame and blinded, tell him /Odysseus raider of cities took your eye.’

Turns out that there’s one god who learns of this from Polyphemus and that’s the monster’s father, Poseidon, and now Odysseus’ voyage home will be beset with deux-ex-machina, calamitous intervention, unhappily of Odysseus’ own making. But thanks to his own strenuous actions and help from the goddess Athena, Odysseus makes it home at last, defeats the suitors in battle and is reunited with his wife and son.

Odysseus came up trumps, Gilgamesh not so much. In the beginning of the Gilgamesh epic, we’re told that Gilgamesh has all the right attributes for a hero, athletic young king of Uruk, doesn’t shy away from a fight, beats Enkidu in fierce combat. But there’s a flaw. From the beginning Gilgamesh shows poor judgement in action. The reason the gods intervene in the first place is because the townspeople are fed up with him, he’s a tyrant abusing his rights. Then there’s the decision to go on a quest, not a wise quest, but a quest to kill the guardian of the cedar forest, a guardian put there by the gods. He’s in conflict with the gods from go to woe. Next, his encounter with the goddess of the city, Ishtar, who offers him marriage. If this had been Odysseus, he would have found a way to praise her charms while avoiding the dangerous liaison. Insulting her got Gilgamesh a visit from the Bull of Heaven and more trouble from the gods.

And now a change of quest. After Enkidu dies, Gilgamesh embarks on yet another foolish quest, a quest for eternal life. When he finally meets with Utnapishtim, he discovers just how foolish this is. Gilgamesh can’t even hold on to the rejuvenation plant he acquires at great effort. After journeying all that way to seek Utnapishtim’s advice, Gilgamesh doesn’t trust him about the plant. He could have found a way to test the plant’s potency there and then, but chooses to carry it all the way home and loses it on the way, because of carelessness.

So now Gilgamesh goes home. What has been gained by this quest? Perhaps for the reader, and perhaps for Gilgamesh, when he returns exhausted to Uruk, there may be some wisdom gained from the quest experience. But for Gilgamesh, it comes at the expense of a life spent on a futile activity, whereas he could have experienced a productive life as king and protector of his city and of its people’s enterprise, could have enjoyed his own human experience as he was advised to do in the course of his quest:

‘Make merry each day, dance and play, day and night,/ let your clothes be clean, let your head be washed,/ may you bathe in water. /

Gaze on the little one who holds your hand, /let a woman enjoy your repeated embrace, / for such is the destiny of mortal men.’

… But he didn’t


* ‘The Odyssey Homer.’ Translation, Robert Fitzgerald. (Panther 1965.)

*’The Epic of Gilgamesh.’ Translation, Andrew George. (Penguin 2003.)