Tag Archives: Storytelling

The Decline and Fall of the Manufactured Consent Cartel

Although this documentary is about viral videos, there are some interesting undertones in its storytelling that illustrate how culture has undergone a massive shift in recent years as a result of the democratization of information sharing through social media technology. The documentary outlines who and what rose to prominence, and who fell, as a result of the shift. It almost inadvertently documents the reasons for the decline of the influence of media and large corporations as the manufacturers of consent and popularity. Perhaps why they are so desperately grasping to regain control of the manufactured consent reigns through a bonfire of self congratulatory prattle and obsessive repetition these days.

The Coming Social Age

Luther Standing Bear

The Japanese have a word “kodokushi” that means “lonely death”. It refers to people who died so socially disconnected they got noticed as a result of unpaid bills or the stench of their decay. From a wider view, this kind of death is an expression of social stress on a cultural level. It is increasing in places like Japan, where an individual’s social identity has been strongly tied to what that person does – their status in an atmosphere of decreasing opportunity to fulfill roles of that nature. When jobs dry up in a culture that heavily associates social identity to roles such as work and status with nothing of merit to replace it, so does a person’s social life and identity.

This type of expression of social stress is also true in the context of cultures that use unspoken inferences to imply false paths to satisfaction like; monetary and or material success is the path to satisfied social standing. Or a celebrity culture,where popularity is equivocated with success and satisfaction. In these cases it sometimes leads to the opposite; isolation in the form of a prison of superficial relationships and a servile life of superficial show that looks enticing from afar, but is quietly alienating and unsatisfactory to those within its grips. The false illusion can ultimately craft a pluralistic ignorance engine in the culture where people are enchanted by the notion and spend their lives desperately chasing the empty dream – the missing piece of satisfaction that is never to be found in a social maze that is actually a prison disguised as a prize – with only the promise of fulfillment, but no actual satisfaction.

Expressions of stress due to cultural identity crises happen anywhere there is a false path to satisfaction, but also anywhere a former means of forming a social identity is shattered and a path for a new social identity is not clearly established. When disruptions to the social economy, and by extension our connections to each other, are stressed and or destroyed, we become displaced and exhibit stress responses. Various exhibitions of stress like kodokushi are the result in individuals or whole cultures displaced by changes in the environment for which we are ill equipped to adapt.

We have witnessed this identity problem in indigenous people’s throughout the world. Those that have been displaced by western civilization suffer in the wake of social economic stresses. The basis by which the people established their identity was destroyed, and with it, the people. Where the means to form a valuable identity in a social context is disrupted, and no clear alternative path to cultivate a solid socially valued identity is presented, much less cultivated, we see expressions of stress. These social malnourishment stresses are expressed in many forms, including kodokushi. Sometimes self destructive alienation and deterioration take the form of life ending addictions, crime, and other predatory acts such as abuse, or in the case of western technological societies; a sacrifice of quality intimate relationships for gadgets, entertainment and superficial social posturing, none of which are fitting staples of nutrition for our innate human social hungers. As a result, we elevate the most vacuous inconsequential banalities to the status of ultra importance and proceed to swarm on it as if it had real merit – a cycle of self perpetuating distractions that keep us from addressing the reality of our desperately unsatisfied state.

In the west, our fickle passion for a flurry of distracting gadgets and banalities increasingly consumes our time, but does not lead to fundamental satisfaction. As we have distanced ourselves from nature, we have distanced ourselves from ourselves, and this has led to many expressions of cultural stress. When displaced from satisfying forms of social nutrition, we become socially ravenous creatures, desperately consuming anything that remotely looks like food, including social junk food, and each other, for the sake of forging a social identity – even if that identity is an unsatisfying and self perpetuating farce.

On a larger cultural scale, these expressions of cultural stress are the pre quake tremors that precede a much larger tectonic shift laying at the threshold of our near future. One of the fundamental challenges we face as a global culture is how to establish a satisfying identity in the context of the fact that our material needs will be increasingly met through technology. As technology increasingly replaces the need for human participation in the traditional hunt-gather-perform aspects of human sociality, we face a social identity crisis of unprecedented proportions as a species. Our traditionally formed social identities were based on necessary roles which are now increasingly being displaced by automation. If we do not act preemptively to craft a a new social economy, we will face the backlash of stressed humans desperately trying to get their bearings in a world we longer understand.

As we are carried forward on the inevitable currents of time that move us toward the future, in order to succeed, we need to understand that we are primarily social creatures with material needs – not material creatures with social needs. It has always been so, although the social currency has been historically based on material, this is changing and we need to adapt, or suffer the consequences of maladaptation. Although we have historically conflated material needs with social ones out of necessity, as this base erodes we need to recast our understanding of ourselves. We need to focus in on what has always been the driver of human satisfaction all along, sociality. This is the common denominator, and of paramount importance to recognize to successfully move forward. With this in mind it is perhaps wise to recognize that we are entering the social age.

As technology increasingly fulfills our material needs, the stability of our future will need to be built on what we bring that is of social value, rather than what has been of material value. This requires some rewiring of our traditional perceptions of what is of value. We need to move from material mindset to a social one. It is not a mistake that the stone age, bronze age, iron age and the industrial age gave way to the information age. The move has been from material to non-material values. We must now recognize now that the common denominator that has always been social. The variable has been what fills our fundamental hierarchy of needs. Social is what we must now put at the forefront of our understanding of what is of value. Adding value in a social context is what we need to recognize, cultivate and strive for as humans in order to have our bearings in the social age – in order to adapt. Our attempt to fill our social needs with materials pays an ever diminishing return on our level of satisfaction. This is based on the law of supply and demand. The degree to which we make the transition to the social age economy effectively is the degree to which we harmonize with what has been at the foundation of our human nature all along – and that is social. Delivering products of constructive social value is heart the new economy.

 

Here is an article related to kodokushi http://nautil.us/blog/alienation-is-killing-americans-and-japanese

A Note from Our Future’s Past

Cool

From wherever we are in life, if we project our self forward into the future to the end of our life with as much imaginary vision as we can muster… if then from that imaginary perch, we look back and reflect on what happened and begin to divide what really mattered from what didn’t matter much at all, we then have the proper perspective for what to focus on as move forward toward that day when this vision becomes an inevitable reality – that is, if our life is not cut short. There are no guarantees.

If we apply serious thought to this we will probably find that we don’t value or even remember much of the many extra hours we traded for dollars so we could afford fancier clothes, a gadget, or a needlessly trumped up car that carts us in higher style – or any other glitzy trap that tricked us into hugely investing in walking a trail mind numbing chores in exchange for a few fleeting moments of exhilaration.

We will remember and value the friends, family and the experiences we shared – the laughter, the tears, the triumphs and the failures, and we will ambivalently cherish and mourn the time we had with those who we have loved and lost. Everything will have happened in the blink of an eye from that future’s past. We will not hold any value for what we now know was wasted energy spent trying to fit in to groups that didn’t accept us as we are, but demanded that we fit the mold they prescribed for us. We will have long since learned the painful lesson that not everyone that wants us to come to their party wants us there as a guest; that sometimes it is to parasitically feed on our flesh. We will have shed that charade that drained us with bait of promises that never bore fruit.

Form our future’s past we will remember the lives we touched, and those that touched us and we might wonder why we were ever so scared to be our self in front of others – because it was the only thing we were better at than anyone else on Earth. We will measure what we value from that future place, not in terms of stuff, but of the bonds of intimacy between those we care about and those that care about us, and we will realize that everything else we ever did would have been better spent in service of cultivating that community which we now value the most – and we will realize that the degree to which our lives were not centered on these values with all the practical strength we could summon is the degree to which that life was a slave of our own ignorance of our self – that in those cases we did not own our own life  – at the same time we will realize that we had the key to release our self from that prison all along. Perhaps we will remember that time – long ago, when we watched the wizard of Oz, and a wry smile will subtly stretch across our weathered and wiser cheeks.

The Mother of all Invention is Broken

0079-Brokenness

In order to experience our life we must dismember and rearrange minuscule bits of biology and other morsels of matter, energy, space and time to compose them into this nebulous cloud that we call “I”. Using a wide angle lens to gaze upon our collective state of being, we see a compulsion on the part of biological creatures great and small… Indeed a mandatory obligation, to selectively suckle from the breast of this larger reality we are simultaneously baptized in and contributors to.

By this same token we must break apart and rearrange specific forms of structured energies to sustain ourselves, eternity itself must be dismembered for us to experience even the tiniest moment in time, the slightest of registration of awareness, passion or agency… Without brokenness we cannot yearn for intimacy, nor experience it if it comes. It is both a grand and monstrous truth that our experience of life is a product of brokenness. Our deepest pleasures and most exalted experiences flow from shattered rays of brokenness in one form or another. The same is true for the deepest depths of our sorrows or the slightest response to the most mundane snapshot of experiential paint conjured by our mind – conjured out of broken symmetry.

Not a single moment of our lives can be experienced, much less cherished, unless it also passes. It is in brokenness that we can find the means to re-member the fragments of joy and through which we can cherish those moments as they echo, ever paler with the passing of time. Just as night gives rise to our capacity to recognize the day, forgetting builds the foundation for the value of remembering. Without brokenness we would be unable to distinguish anything from the monotone singularity that is the only alternative to this brokenness which we share. Meaning itself stems from membranes of abstraction that differentiate one thing from another – yet another chorus of brokenness emerging from the crucible of contrasted unions that shape our wonderfully splintered reality.

When we see from this distance we might appreciate the shattered womb of brokenness we are and share because it is the mother of all that is. It is our mother and without her, there would be no relationships, and no experience at all. By understanding the simultaneous unity and separateness of that which we are – in relationship, and that from which we come to relationship, brokenness, we can also understand that if it were not for this division, there would be no discovery, no unity of being, nothing to share with each other, because it is out of this boiling sea of shattered divisions that “being” itself is born.

The gift of brokenness compels us to travel on this journey on which we find ourselves, ever hungering for balance and intimacy – and when we see the depths from which we come with clarity, we realize the paradox that we cannot be separate at the same time we are broken, for we are children of the cosmos, stardust – secure in our mother’s womb, for all eternity and basking in the greatest gift that brokenness has to offer – this garden of living fire that is us and always has been.

“A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory. LLAP” – Leonard Nimoy

Intentional Life is Serious Business: Of Wasps and Stings

Ampulex compressa

Ampulex compressa

The Jewel Wasp is a solitary creature for most of its life. Named for its shimmering metallic blue-green sheen, it looks like a flying jewel.[1] Along with its looks, another notable characteristic is its use of cockroaches as part of its reproductive cycle. When the fertile female’s eggs are ready to be laid she hunts the grounds of her native territory in South Asia, Africa and certain Pacific islands for a cockroach. Once found, the wasp goes into action. She first gives the roach a measured and precision sting in a very specific area of its nervous system.[2] This venomous injection causes a 2 to 3 minute paralysis of the roach’s legs.

While the roach is temporarily immobile, the wasp administers an even more refined series of precision stings that do a number of other things to the now doomed roach. This second series of stings prevent the roach from walking spontaneously, it disables the roach’s escape instincts and changes its metabolism. The roach can still do things such as stand up, jump and walk if prodded, but otherwise it just stands there… waiting. The connections between the cockroach brain and motor signals have been surgically severed by the wasp venom. Both its behavior and metabolism have been edited by the wasp’s surgical strikes. The roach begins grooming itself excessively. The wasp grabs its waggling antennae and chews off half of each of them.[3] The roach stands there, a helpless pawn in the clutches of wasp’s desire. This stinging, antennae munching encounter completes the preparation for the next phase of the roach’s waspy relationship adventure.

As the behaviorally modified metabolically altered zombie-roach-slave stands there awaiting the wasps’ bidding, she goes off to dig a burrow in the soil. The wasp then leads the roach into the burrow using one of the chewed antennas as a leash. It proceeds to lay an egg on the roach’s abdomen and seals in the burrow entrance to keep other predators out. The roach stands in a state of suspended stupor as the wasp egg hatches into a larva and begins to feed on it, eventually chewing a hole large enough to crawl inside. From inside the roach motel, the wasp larva strategically eats its organs at the same time it secretes several kinds of antibiotics to inhibit the growth of bacteria, fungi and viruses.[4] The wasp protects the roach with one hand as it saps the nourishment it needs to develop into a fully formed wasp pupa with the other. Once fully formed it bursts out of the now dead roach’s exoskeleton, then emerges from the combination roach execution chamber and wasp nursery to look for food, a mate and, if it’s female, to someday hunt roaches on which to lay its eggs…

We might consider this simultaneously horrific and fascinating story of the life cycle of a Jewel Wasp one of nature’s astounding expressions of biological relationships in the parasitic and predatory realms. If we look slightly deeper, we see a no less amazing subplot of a nurturing symbiotic relationship intertwined with this beastly horror as the wasp, from its perspective, is simply caring for its young the only way it knows how. We can stretch ourselves to wonder how this complex relational dynamic that includes such an amazing understanding of the anatomy of another creature, how to use specifically tuned hunting skills, and the use of biological equipment and chemicals to hijack and masterfully edit the behaviors of this creature to serve its own ends. How did this perplexing mixture of tender care and cruelty emerge from what appears to us as the chaotic depths of the cosmos? We could also wonder with even deeper amazement at our own fortunes – to have the capacity to gaze with some vague understanding of this marvelous spectacle, and perhaps with some effort, turn this same lens upon ourselves – to see a kindred spirit in that of both the wasp and the cockroach.

The wasp figured out how to do delicate and specific brain surgery, developed the skillsets to hunt, crafted specialized venom, excavated burrows into which it could walk zombie cockroaches, and had the presence of mind to anticipate other predators and take preventative actions to make sure its waspy aims were not thwarted. The wasp did this on the heels of behavioral momentum of millions, perhaps billions of years of biological evolution.[5] It didn’t go to school to learn these complex behaviors. It too is a zombie of sorts. It just does what it does as part of the wasp family business. Its life is not a morality play. It is unfettered by any sense of good or evil (that we know of) in its behavioral posture. According to our current understanding of evolution, the wasp’s life and that of the cockroach is not intentional. It is simply an expression of a confluence of various types of experiences that flow from the relationships within this broader environmental womb of the whole of nature.

If we view all biological relationships through the simplistic categories of the parasite that drains, the predator that devours, and the symbiotic relationship that mutually nourishes, we might see the same three relational dynamics in the wasp and the roach coursing within our own behavioral veins. If we wrapped this idea up in a poetic veneer it might look like this:

We’re the lion that stalks and feeds upon the weakened prey
and we’re the lamb who falls and bleeds at its hands this day

Like fatty chunks of poison, the same parasitic-predatory dynamic clogs the veins of humanity’s capacity to move toward its most satisfied state of being. We are sometimes captivated by poisons that stupefy, oppress, wound and devour us. We are sometimes caught in the crosshairs of biological conspiracies that subjugate us to serve the ends of other creatures both inside and outside the human sphere. And like the tender nurture of wasp tending to its offspring, we also do whatever it takes to spawn our biological posterity – no matter what the expense or suffering is to any ill-fated creature that might be repurposed to serve our ends along this journey.

With our capacity to use the currency of abstract thought, we can examine the nature of the social landscape of reality. With this, we also have the capacity to see the relational connections between cause and effect with greater precision. Unlike the wasp, we can understand how our relationship behaviors connect to our experience of life. To hone in on this dynamic and its potential power, we can look at the fact that we wouldn’t know about the wasp if it were not for the symbiotic sharing of ideas between us that include everything from language and culture to communication technologies of various kinds. We also wouldn’t know that every relational experience we paint on our lives either nourishes or destroys based on whether it is symbiotically giving, or parasitically and predatorily taking in nature.

Everything we are in terms of “better off” experience-wise stems from some form of cooperative nourishing endeavor. Conversely, every form of poverty we endure stems from some form of parasitic or predatory relational element. With this vision we can decide which of the relational paints we apply to our lives, and in what measure. Through the precision application of this vision, we can intentionally craft an intentional experiential picture on the canvas of possibilities reality presents. Unlike the wasp, we can do more than merely reflect the blind currents of collected behaviors over time. We can exercise intention to cultivate a direction of our choosing. We can inspire each other with ideas and behavioral expressions that cultivate a more nourishing symbiotic relationship climate, and less of the experiential poverty that grows in the soil of parasitic and predatory behaviors.

To do this effectively, the first step is to have a clear vision of the cause and effect chain that shapes our experience. We must also know that whatever action we choose in light of this understanding must be carried out with enough strength, passion and perseverance to overcome the momentum of the behavioral seeds that were sown in our being for a very long time. Life, if it is to be intentionally lived, must be governed by fully functioning antennae and the capacity to move of our own volition, and disciplined actions that correspond with that vision. This precision sting, in the form of sharing these ideas, is intended to contribute to the visionary foundation we need to enable that intentional move.

 

 


[1] Also called the emerald cockroach wasp, or Ampulex compressa.

[2] The first sting is delivered to the prothoracic ganglion which temporarily blocks the motor action potentials that control the motor function of the front legs.For more Click Here

[3] It is thought that this may be to either replenish fluid in the wasp or to regulate the poison in the roach in order to prepare it to be a host.

[4] Specifically the antibiotic chemicals are mellein and micromolide.

[5] Depending on whether the wasp’s evolutionary predecessors and environmental partners are included in the view.