onsdag den 30. januar 2008

Death of a Nation - East Timor

John Pilger om Vestens støtte til Suharto

Følgende er et uddrag fra John Pilgers artikel "Suharto, the Model Killer, and His Friends in High Places." Read it and weep.

To understand the significance of Suharto, who died on Sunday, is to look beneath the surface of the current world order: the so-called global economy and the ruthless cynicism of those who run it. Suharto was our model mass murderer – "our" is used here advisedly. "One of our very best and most valuable friends," Thatcher called him, speaking for the West. For three decades, the Australian, U.S., and British governments worked tirelessly to minimize the crimes of Suharto's Gestapo, known as Kopassus, who were trained by the Australian SAS and the British army and who gunned down people with British-supplied Heckler and Koch machine guns from British-supplied Tactica "riot control" vehicles. Prevented by Congress from supplying arms directly, U.S. administrations from Gerald Ford to Bill Clinton provided logistic support through the back door and commercial preferences. In one year, the British Department of Trade provided almost a billion pounds worth of so-called soft loans, which allowed Suharto to buy Hawk fighter-bombers. The British taxpayer paid the bill for aircraft that dive-bombed East Timorese villages, and the arms industry reaped the profits. However, the Australians distinguished themselves as the most obsequious. In an infamous cable to Canberra, Richard Woolcott, Australia's ambassador to Jakarta, who had been forewarned about Suharto's invasion of East Timor, wrote: "What Indonesia now looks to from Australia … is some understanding of their attitude and possible action to assist public understanding in Australia…." Covering up Suharto's crimes became a career for those like Woolcott, while "understanding" the mass murderer came in buckets. This left an indelible stain on the reformist government of Gough Whitlam following the cold-blooded killing of two Australian TV crews by Suharto's troops during the invasion of East Timor. "We know your people love you," Bob Hawke told the dictator. His successor, Paul Keating, famously regarded the tyrant as a father figure. When Indonesian troops slaughtered at least 200 people in the Santa Cruz cemetery in Dili, East Timor, and Australian mourners planted crosses outside the Indonesian embassy in Canberra, foreign minister Gareth Evans ordered them destroyed. To Evans, ever-effusive in his support for the regime, the massacre was merely an "aberration." This was the view of much of the Australian press, especially that controlled by Rupert Murdoch, whose local retainer, Paul Kelly, led a group of leading newspaper editors to Jakarta, fawn before the dictator.

Here lies a clue as to why Suharto, unlike Saddam Hussein, died not on the gallows but surrounded by the finest medical team his secret billions could buy. Ralph McGehee, a senior CIA operations officer in the 1960s, describes the terror of Suharto's takeover of Indonesia as "the model operation" for the American-backed coup that got rid of Salvador Allende in Chile seven years later. "The CIA forged a document purporting to reveal a leftist plot to murder Chilean military leaders," he wrote, "[just like] what happened in Indonesia in 1965." The U.S. embassy in Jakarta supplied Suharto with a "zap list" of Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) members and crossed off the names when they were killed or captured. Roland Challis, the BBC's south east Asia correspondent at the time, told me how the British government was secretly involved in this slaughter. "British warships escorted a ship full of Indonesian troops down the Malacca Straits so they could take part in the terrible holocaust," he said. "I and other correspondents were unaware of this at the time…. There was a deal, you see."

The deal was that Indonesia under Suharto would offer up what Richard Nixon had called "the richest hoard of natural resources, the greatest prize in southeast Asia." In November 1967, the greatest prize was handed out at a remarkable three-day conference sponsored by the Time-Life Corporation in Geneva. Led by David Rockefeller, all the corporate giants were represented: the major oil companies and banks, General Motors, Imperial Chemical Industries, British American Tobacco, Siemens, U.S. Steel, and many others. Across the table sat Suharto's U.S.-trained economists who agreed to the corporate takeover of their country, sector by sector. The Freeport company got a mountain of copper in West Papua. A U.S./ European consortium got the nickel. The giant Alcoa company got the biggest slice of Indonesia's bauxite. America, Japanese, and French companies got the tropical forests of Sumatra. When the plunder was complete, President Lyndon Johnson sent his congratulations on "a magnificent story of opportunity seen and promise awakened." Thirty years later, with the genocide in East Timor also complete, the World Bank described the Suharto dictatorship as a "model pupil."


Kilde

Se John Pilger's film "Death of a Nation" om East Timor ovenover dette indlæg.

Dagens Citat: Chomsky om undertrykkelse


Most oppression succeeds because its legitimacy is internalized. That’s true of the most extreme cases. Take, say, slavery. It wasn’t easy to revolt if you were a slave, by any means. But if you look over the history of slavery, it was in some sense recognized as just the way things are. We’ll do the best we can under this regime. Another example, also contemporary (it’s estimated that there are some 26 million slaves in the world), is women’s rights. There the oppression is extensively internalized and accepted as legitimate and proper. It’s still true today, but it’s been true throughout history.

One Day = $720 Million

tirsdag den 29. januar 2008

Neoliberalisme og udviklingsøkonomier

Den tidligere CIA-analytiker og professor emeritus i politologi, Chalmers Johnson havde forleden en ret interessant artikel på Truthdig, hvor han gennemgår den prisvindende Cambridge-økonom Ha-Joon Changs nyeste bog "Bad Samaritans: Rich Nations, Poor Policies and the Threat to the Developing World".

Udrag:

In Chang’s conception, there are two kinds of Bad Samaritans. There are the genuine, powerful “ladder-kickers” working in the “unholy trinity” of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank, and the World Trade Organization (WTO). Then there are the “ideologues—those who believe in Bad Samaritan policies because they think those policies are ‘right,’ not because they personally benefit from them much, if at all.” Both groups adhere to a doctrine they call “neoliberalism.” It became the dominant economic model of the English-speaking world in the 1970s and prevails at the present time. Neoliberalism (sometimes called the “Washington Consensus") is a rerun of what economists suffering from “historical amnesia” believe were the key characteristics of the international economy in the golden age of liberalism (1870-1913).

Thomas Friedman calls this complex of policies the “Golden Straitjacket,” the wearing of which, no matter how uncomfortable, is allegedly the only route to economic success. The complex includes privatizing state-owned enterprises, maintaining low inflation, shrinking the size of the state bureaucracy, balancing the national budget, liberalizing trade, deregulating foreign investment, making the currency freely convertible, reducing corruption, and privatizing pensions. It is called neoliberalism because of its acceptance of rich-country monopolies over intellectual property rights (patents, copyrights, etc.), the granting to a country’s central bank of a monopoly to issue bank notes, and its assertion that political democracy is conducive to economic growth, none of which were parts of classical liberalism. The Golden Straitjacket is what the unholy trinity tries to force on poor countries. It is the doctrinal orthodoxy taught in all mainstream academic economics departments and for which numerous Nobel prizes in economics have been awarded.

In addition to being an economist, Ha-Joon Chang is a historian and an empiricist (as distinct from a deductive theorist working from what are stipulated to be laws of economic behavior). He notes that the histories of today’s rich countries contradict virtually all the Golden Straitjacket dicta, many of which are logically a result rather than a cause of economic growth (for example, trade liberalization). His basic conclusion: “Practically all of today’s developed countries, including Britain and the US, the supposed homes of the free market and free trade, have become rich on the basis of policy recipes that go against neo-liberal economics.” All of today’s rich countries used protection and subsidies to encourage their manufacturing industries, and they discriminated powerfully against foreign investors. All such policies are anathema in today’s economic orthodoxy and are now severely restricted by multilateral treaties, like the WTO agreements, and proscribed by aid donors and international financial organizations, particularly the IMF and the World Bank.


The Third World was not always poor and economically stagnant. Throughout the golden age of capitalism, from the Marshall Plan (1947) to the first oil shock (1973), the United States was a Good Samaritan and helped developing countries by allowing them to protect and subsidize their nascent industries. The developing world has never done better, before or since. But then, in the 1970s, scared that its position as global hegemon was being undermined, the United States turned decisively toward neoliberalism. It ordered the unholy trinity to bring the developing countries to heel. Through draconian interventions into the most intimate details of the lives of their clients, including birth control, ethnic integration, and gender equality as well as tariffs, foreign investment, privatization decisions, national budgets, and intellectual property protection, the IMF, World Bank, and WTO managed drastically to slow down economic growth in the Third World. Forced to adopt neoliberal policies and to open their economies to much more powerful foreign competitors on unequal terms, their growth rate fell to less than half of that recorded in the 1960s (1.7 percent instead of 4.5 percent).

Since the 1980s, Africa has actually experienced a fall in living standards—which should be a damning indictment of neoliberal orthodoxy because most African economies have been virtually run by the IMF and the World Bank over the past quarter-century. The disaster has been so complete that it has helped expose the hidden governance structures that allow the IMF and the World Bank to foist Bad Samaritan policies on helpless nations. The United States has a de facto veto in both organizations, where rich countries control 60 percent of the voting shares. The WTO has a democratic structure (it had to accept one in order to enact its founding treaty) but is actually run by an oligarchy. Votes are never taken.


Læs hele artiklen her

Videre læsning

Ha-Joon Chang: "Kicking Away the Ladder: The “Real” History of Free Trade" - Foreign Policy in Focus.

Læs derudover i forlængelse af ovenstående min anmeldelse af Naomi Klein's "Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism" der ligeledes omhandler udviklingsøkonomi og neoliberalistisme.

mandag den 28. januar 2008

Saul Williams - Coded Language

Saul Williams - Coded Language lyrics

Whereas
breakbeats have been the missing link connecting the diasporic community to its drum woven past
Whereas
the quantised drum has allowed the whirling mathematicians to calculate
the ever changing distance between rock and stardom.
Whereas
the velocity of the spinning vinyl, cross-faded, spun backwards, and re-released
at the same given moment of recorded history, yet at a different moment in time's continuum
has allowed history to catch up with the present.

We do hereby declare reality unkempt by the changing standards of dialogue.
Statements, such as, "keep it real", especially when punctuating or
anticipating modes of ultra-violence inflicted psychologically or physically
or depicting an unchanging rule of events will hence forth be seen as
retro-active and not representative of the individually determined is.

Furthermore, as determined by the collective consciousness of this state of
being and the lessened distance between thought patterns and their secular
manifestations, the role of men as listening receptacles is to be increased
by a number no less than 70 percent of the current enlisted as vocal
aggressors.

Motherfuckers better realize, now is the time to self-actualize
We have found evidence that hip-hop's standard 85 rpm, when increased by a
number as least half the rate of it's standard or decreased at three-fourths of its
speed, may be a determining factor in heightening consciousness.

Studies show that when a given norm is changed in the face of the unchanging,
the remaining contradictions will parallel the truth.

Equate rhyme with reason,
Sun with season

Our cyclical relationship to phenomenon has encouraged scholars to erase the
centers of periods, thus symbolizing the non-linear character of cause and effect
Reject mediocrity!

Your current frequencies of understanding outweigh that which as been given
for you to understand
The current standard is the equivalent of an adolescent restricted to the
diet of an infant
The rapidly changing body would acquire dysfunctional and deformative
symptoms and could not properly mature on a diet of apple sauce
and crushed pears
Light years are interchangeable with years of living in darkness
The role of darkness is not to be seen as, or equated with, ignorance
But with the unknown, and the mysteries of the unseen.

Thus, in the name of:
Robeson, God's son, Hurston, Ahkenaton,
Hathshesput, Blackfoot,
Helen, Lennon,
Khalo, Kali,
The Three Marias, Tara, Lilithe, Lourde,
Whitman, Baldwin, Ginsberg, Kaufman,
Lumumba, Ghandi,
Gibran, Shabazz, Shabazz
Siddhartha, Medusa, Guevara,
Guardsieff, Rand, Wright,
Banneker, Tubman, Hamer,
Holiday, Davis, Coltrane,
Morrison, Joplin,
Dubois, Clarke,
Shakespeare, Rachmaninov,
Ellington, Carter, Gaye,
Hathoway, Hendrix,
Kutl, Dickerson, Ripperton,
Mary, Isis, Theresa,
Hansbury, Tesla, Plath,
Rumi, Fellini, Michaux,
Nostradamus, Nefertiti,
La Rock, Shiva, Ganesha, Yemaja,
Oshun, Obatala, Ogun,
Kenedy, King, Four Little Girls,
Hiroshima, Nagasaki,
Keller, Biko, Perone, Marley,
Magdalene, Cosby, Shakur,
Those still aflamed, and the countless unnamed

We claim the present as the pre-sent, as the hereafter
We are unraveling our navels so that we may ingest the sun
We are not afraid of the darkness, we trust that the moon shall guide us
We are determining the future at this very moment
We now know that the heart is the philosophers' stone
Our music is our alchemy
We stand as the manifested equivalent of three buckets of water
And a hand full of minerals
Thus realizing that those very buckets turned upside down
Supply the percussive factor of forever
If you must count to keep the beat then count
Find you mantra and awaken your subconscious
Carve you circles counterclockwise
Use your cipher to decipher
Coded Language, man made laws
Climb waterfalls and trees,
Commune with nature, snakes and bees
Let your children name themselves and claim themselves
As the new day
For today we are determined
To be the channelers of these changing frequencies
Into songs, paintings, writings, dance, drama, photography, carpentry,
Crafts, love, and love
We enlist every instrument: Acoustic, electronic
Every so-called gender, race, sexual preference
Every per-son as beings of sound to acknowledge their responsibility to
Uplift the consciousness of the entire fucking world
Any utterance un-aimed, will be disclaimed, will be maimed
Two rappers slain
Any utterance un-aimed, will be disclaimed, will be maimed
Two rappers slain

Konsekvenserne af USAs outsourcing

I en artikel for Information Clearing House med titlen "The state of the union: meaner, not leaner", skriver advokat og lektor ved NYU William A. Cohn lidt om konsekvenserne af den enorme udlicitering der har fundet sted siden 9/11:

According to the Wall Street Journal, US private federal contractors now total more than 7.5 million, which is four times greater than the federal workforce itself. With federal contracting expenditures approaching half a trillion dollars a year, having doubled during this decade, the US national debt has now surpassed $9 trillion for the first time ever. Outsourcing is supposed to save money, but the New York Times found that less than half of the government’s private contactor actions in 2005 were even subject to open competition.

The Wall Street Journal reports that more than 40 cents of every dollar paid by US taxpayers now goes to private contractors, performing functions including oversight, security and tax collection. Even the most secret and politically sensitive govt. jobs, such as gathering intelligence, legal compliance, budget preparation, and counting the votes in elections are increasingly contracted out, despite a law prohibiting the outsourcing of “inherently governmental” duties. The US government spent $43.5 billion on intelligence gathering operations in 2007, of which about 70% was paid to contractors. Private contractors handle sensitive personal data, take minutes at top-level meetings on national security matters, review and oversee the performance of other contractors, and even help the govt. to determine what services it needs from contractors. The largest source of govt. contracting growth has been the burgeoning national security industry, most notably at the Department of Defense and the newly created Dept. of Homeland Security. Christopher Hellman, fellow at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, reports that while last year the total US federal budget was roughly $2.8 trillion dollars, $1 trillion of that was spent on security.

According to an October 24th New York Times report, “The Bush administration has doubled the amount of govt. money going to all types of contractors to $400 billion [in 2006; up from $207 billion in 2000], creating a new and thriving class of post-9/11 corporations carrying out delicate work for the government. But the number of govt. employees issuing, managing and auditing contracts has barely grown.” Critics contend that a lack of accountability, and the ensuing fraud and waste engendered by present govt. operations, undermines the core principle that democratic governance is built on a social contract whereby those elected act for the common interests of the people they are supposed to represent.


Vedrørende Blackwater:

Blackwater – a case of lawless disgrace

The September 16, 2007 killings of 17 Iraqi civilians in Baghdad by private security guards of the US govt. provides a useful case study of the pitfalls of outsourcing traditional military and other governmental functions.

A lawsuit filed in US federal court on November 26th on behalf of five Iraqis who were killed and two who were injured during the shootings accuses an estimated dozen Blackwater bodyguards of ignoring a direct order to stay with the official they were assigned to protect, and, under the influence of steroids, going on a crazed shooting rampage in a section of Baghdad known as Nisoor Square.

Investigations by the US military, FBI and also the Iraqi government found no evidence in support of claims by Blackwater employees that they were fired upon and were therefore acting in self-defense. The US Army investigation determined that there was “no enemy activity involved” and described the killings as a “criminal event.” There is also evidence that Blackwater employees tampered with the crime scene in a cover-up effort. Yet Blackwater continues to receive lucrative govt. contracts and the State Dept. reportedly gave bonuses for “outstanding performance” to officials with direct oversight of Blackwater. How can this be?

Blackwater was founded in 1997, but its security division was incorporated in January 2002, just before the US invasion of Afghanistan, which led to its first contract, with the CIA, in April 2002. One of the key players involved in that contract and securing Blackwater’s role as the leading mercenary company of the Bush administration was Buzzy Krongard, then executive director of the CIA. Buzzy, a friend of Blackwater CEO Erik Prince, went to Kabul in April 2002 and said the agency’s new station there was sorely lacking in security. That same month, Blackwater landed a $5.4 million six-month no-bid contract to provide 20 security guards for the Kabul CIA station, and Blackwater was off and running. Erik Prince has made six-digit contributions to Republican candidates and is well-connected with right-wing power brokers, but maintains that these contacts had nothing to do with Blackwater’s growth during the Bush years from a tiny start-up to a billion dollar federal contractor.

Buzzy Krongard’s brother, the top State Department official charged with investigating allegations of fraud, waste and abuse, has the duty to oversee Blackwater. Inspector General Howard Krongard resigned on Jan. 15th amidst charges of perjury and obstruction of justice in impeding investigations of fraud by contractors in Iraq. The chairman of the House oversight committee investigating fraud in Iraq finds that “the State Dept. is acting as Blackwater’s enabler.” Just what is being enabled?

In 2003, Blackwater was awarded a $27 million no-bid contract to provide the bodyguards for US staff in Iraq. A year later, the State Dept. expanded that contract to $100 million. Blackwater now holds a contract worth $1.2 billion. Over the past 4 years, State Dept. spending on private security firms has risen by 400%, to $4 billion a year, yet few officials act to oversee the contracts. Private contractors are paid up to 7 times what US soldiers are paid, yet, according to the Times, “The State Dept. has said that it will continue to rely on contractors because, for now at least, it has no choice… the military does not have the trained personnel to take over the job.” An official inquiry by the Special Inspector General for Iraq reconstruction found that the State Dept. was unable to say what is was receiving for much of the money given to DynCorp (whose employees were implicated in sex crimes committed in the 1990s in the Balkans), the second largest private contractor in Iraq and Afghanistan over the past 3 years.

Ultimately, Blackwater continues to prosper because the State Dept. and the armed forces have become depleted and anemic. The government has ceded so many core military responsibilities to firms like Blackwater and Halliburton that it can no longer afford to fire them. An early 2007 Wall Street Journal report found that due to its increasing tendency to outsource, the US govt. is rapidly losing its expertise and competence in vital areas such as security and defense, leading to what the author calls “the outsourcing of its brain.”


Læs resten her

fredag den 25. januar 2008

The Danse Macabre of US-Style Democracy

By John Pilger

The former president of Tanzania Julius Nyerere once asked, "Why haven’t we all got a vote in the US election? Surely everyone with a TV set has earned that right just for enduring the merciless bombardment every four years." Having reported four presidential election campaigns, from the Kennedys to Nixon, Carter to Reagan, with their Zeppelins of platitudes, robotic followers and rictal wives, I can sympathize. But what difference would the vote make? Of the presidential candidates I have interviewed, only George C. Wallace, governor of Alabama, spoke the truth. "There’s not a dime’s worth of difference between the Democrats and Republicans," he said. And he was shot.

What struck me, living and working in the United States, was that presidential campaigns were a parody, entertaining and often grotesque. They are a ritual danse macabre of flags, balloons and bullshit, designed to camouflage a venal system based on money power, human division and a culture of permanent war.

Traveling with Robert Kennedy in 1968 was eye-opening for me. To audiences of the poor, Kennedy would present himself as a savior. The words "change" and "hope" were used relentlessly and cynically. For audiences of fearful whites, he would use racist codes, such as "law and order." With those opposed to the invasion of Vietnam, he would attack "putting American boys in the line of fire," but never say when he would withdraw them. That year (after Kennedy was assassinated), Richard Nixon used a version of the same, malleable speech to win the presidency. Thereafter, it was used successfully by Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and the two Bushes. Carter promised a foreign policy based on "human rights" – and practiced the very opposite. Reagan’s "freedom agenda" was a bloodbath in Central America. Clinton "solemnly pledged" universal health care and tore down the last safety net of the Depression.

Nothing has changed. Barack Obama is a glossy Uncle Tom who would bomb Pakistan. Hillary Clinton, another bomber, is anti-feminist. John McCain’s one distinction is that he has personally bombed a country. They all believe the US is not subject to the rules of human behavior, because it is "a city upon a hill," regardless that most of humanity sees it as a monumental bully which, since 1945, has overthrown 50 governments, many of them democracies, and bombed 30 nations, destroying millions of lives.

If you wonder why this holocaust is not an "issue" in the current campaign, you might ask the BBC, which is responsible for reporting the campaign to much of the world, or better still Justin Webb, the BBC’s North America editor. In a Radio 4 series last year, Webb displayed the kind of sycophancy that evokes the 1930s appeaser Geoffrey Dawson, then editor of the London Times. Condoleezza Rice cannot be too mendacious for Webb. According to Rice, the US is "supporting the democratic aspirations of all people." For Webb, who believes American patriotism "creates a feeling of happiness and solidity," the crimes committed in the name of this patriotism, such as support for war and injustice in the Middle East for the past 25 years, and in Latin America, are irrelevant. Indeed, those who resist such an epic assault on democracy are guilty of "anti-Americanism," says Webb, apparently unaware of the totalitarian origins of this term of abuse. Journalists in Nazi Berlin would damn critics of the Reich as "anti-German."

Moreover, his treacle about the "ideals" and "core values" that make up America’s sanctified "set of ideas about human conduct" denies us a true sense of the destruction of American democracy: the dismantling of the Bill of Rights, habeas corpus and separation of powers. Here is Webb on the campaign trail: "[This] is not about mass politics. It is a celebration of the one-to-one relationship between an individual American and his or her putative commander-in-chief." He calls this "dizzying." And Webb on Bush: "Let us not forget that while the candidates win, lose, win again . . . there is a world to be run and President Bush is still running it." The emphasis in the BBC text actually links to the White House website.

None of this drivel is journalism. It is anti-journalism, worthy of a minor courtier of a great power. Webb is not exceptional. His boss Helen Boaden, director of BBC News, sent this reply to a viewer who had protested the prevalence of propaganda as the basis of news: "It is simply a fact that Bush has tried to export democracy [to Iraq] and that this has been troublesome."

And her source for this "fact"? Quotations from Bush and Blair saying it is a fact.

Online Papers om bevidsthed og relaterede emner

Filosofiproffesor David Chalmers har lavet en meget udførlig liste over online- tilgængelige papers vedrørende studier af bevidsthed i dets mange manifestationer samt relaterede emner, så hvis du mangler læsestof til de kolde vinteraftener, er det her et godt sted at starte.

Transcendental Kunst: Alex Grey





onsdag den 23. januar 2008

Vedrørende Israels kollektive afstraffelse af palæstinenserne

No general penalty, pecuniary or otherwise, shall be inflicted upon the population on account of the acts of individuals for which they cannot be regarded as jointly and severally responsible.

Laws and Customs of War on Land (Hague IV); October 18, 1907, Article 50

No protected person may be punished for an offence he or she has not personally committed. Collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited.

Pillage is prohibited.

Reprisals against protected persons and their property are prohibited.

Convention (IV) relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, Geneva, 12 August 1949, Part III : Status and treatment of protected persons, Section I : Provisions common to the territories of the parties to the conflict and to occupied territories, Article 33

Any destruction by the Occupying Power of real or personal property belonging individually or collectively to private persons, or to the State, or to other public authorities, or to social or cooperative organizations, is prohibited, except where such destruction is rendered absolutely necessary by military operations.

Convention (IV) relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, Geneva, 12 August 1949, Part III : Status and treatment of protected persons, Section III: Occupied Territories, Article 53

Ovenstående er en ment som et supplement til følgende artikler:

The poor and the sick suffer as Israel cuts power to Gaza
Palestinian water authority: 40% of Gazans lack running water
The Lessons of Violence

Humanitarian impact of Israel's blockade of Gaza - 21 Jan 08

Socialdemokratisk retorik

Forleden kunne man læse en kronik af tre unge socialdemokrater i politiken omhandlende hvad de mente var 29 velfærdspligter, om hvilke man kunne læse at "De nye velfærdspligter skal sætte fokus på den enkeltes ansvar og forpligtelse over for fællesskabet."

En af kronikkens forfattere fik også en times taletid i Poul Friis debatprogram på P1. Hvilken af forfatterne der var i debatprogrammet husker jeg ikke, men i de ti minutter jeg kunne holde ud at høre, blev han ved med at gentage "fællesskabet....fællesskabet....fællesskabet" mens han uddybede hvad han anså for at være pligter enhver har i forhold til hans/deres idé om fællesskabet. Dette finder jeg ret problematisk for:

Hvornår opstod fællesskabet? Hvor starter og slutter det geografisk? Hvad kendetegner det? Hvem inkluderer og ekskluderer det? Hvad kendetegner den enkeltes medlemskab i fællesskabet? Er medlemskab af fællesskabet et tvunget medlemskab, eller er medlemskabet baseret på frivillighed? Er det kendetegnende for fællesskabet, at alle medlemmer nyder de samme rettigheder og privilegier? Eller er der forskel på disse fra medlem til medlem, og i så fald, hvad begrundes denne forskellighed så med?

Alle disse spørgsmål må der, i mine øjne, svares fyldestgørende på, førend begrebet ‘fællesskabet’, og nogen som helst tale om forpligtelse overfor dette, kan siges at have nogen som helst form for legitimitet og førend begrebets anvendelighed kan siges at være rimeligt begrundet. Indtil da vil jeg tillade mig at postulere, at det at tale om ‘fællesskabet’ som et overordnet begreb er ganske problematisk, og at ‘fællesskabet’ for mig forekommer mig at have nogenlunde samme begrebslige værdi - eller måske snarere mangel på samme - som ‘danskhed’, ‘almenvellet’,‘sammenhængskraften’ og andre begreber som ikke er klart afgrænsede, hvorfor deres anvendelighed er højst tvivlsom.

I mine øjne eksisterer der ikke noget man kan kalde fællesskabet, hvorfor det følger, at tale om forpligtelse overfor et sådant, er ganske meningsløs. Derimod mener jeg, at man kun meningsfuldt kan tale om medlemskab af diverse fællesskaber, og at det er kendetegnet ved medlemskabet af hvert af disse, at det for det første er baseret på frivillighed, og dernæst, at den grad af forpligtelse man føler overfor hvert af disse fællesskaber, er direkte proportionel med hvor stor betydning medlemskabet og de øvrige medlemmer af disse fællesskaber, har for den enkelte.

Dagens citat: George Berkeley om filosofi

Philosophy is just the study of wisdom and truth, so one might reasonably expect that those who have spent most time and care on it would enjoy a greater calm and serenity of mind, know things more clearly and certainly, and be less disturbed with doubts and difficulties than other men. But what we find is quite different, namely that the illiterate majority of people, who walk the high road of plain common sense and are governed by the dictates of nature, are mostly comfortable and undisturbed. To them nothing that is familiar appears hard to explain or to understand. They don’t complain of any lack of certainty in their senses, and are in no danger of becoming sceptics. But as soon as we depart from sense and instinct to follow the light of a higher principle - that is, to reason, meditate, and reflect on the nature of things - a thousand doubts spring up in our minds concerning things that we previously seemed to understand fully. We encounter many prejudices and errors of the senses; and when we try to correct these by reason, we are gradually drawn into crude paradoxes, difficulties, and inconsistencies, which multiply and grow upon us as our thoughts progress; until finally, having wandered through many intricate mazes, we find ourselves back where we started or - which is worse - we sit down in a forlorn scepticism.

- George Berkeley “Principles of Human Knowledge” udgivet i 1710.

Hitler om propaganda i Mein Kampf

Der var engang hvor politikere var ret åbenmundede omkring deres metoder, mens det i dag mere synes at være tilfældet, at en hær af spindoktorer og/eller såkaldte pressemedarbejdere hverves, for at undgå at det der menes, også er det der siges. Med Hitler forholdt det sig anderledes, han skriver for eksempel følgende - og ganske skræmmende, men det er jo Hitler - om brugen og nytten af propaganda:

“The receptive powers of the masses are very restricted, and their understanding is feeble. On the other hand, they quickly forget. Such being the case,all effective propaganda must be confined to a few bare essentials and those must be expressed as far as possible in stereotyped formulas. These slogans should be persistently repeated until the very last individual has come to grasp the idea that has been put forward. If this principle be forgotten and if an attempt be made to be abstract and general, the propaganda will turn out ineffective; for the public will not be able to digest or retain what is offered to them in this way. Therefore, the greater the scope of the message that has to be presented, the more necessary it is for the propaganda to discover that plan of action which is psychologically the most efficient.

It was, for example, a fundamental mistake to ridicule the worth of the enemy as the Austrian and German comic papers made a chief point of doing in their propaganda. The very principle here is a mistaken one; for, when they came face to face with the enemy, our soldiers had quite a different impression. Therefore, the mistake had disastrous results. Once the German soldier realised what a tough enemy he had to fight he felt that he had been deceived by the manufacturers of the information which had been given him. Therefore, instead of strengthening and stimulating his fighting spirit, this information had quite the contrary effect. Finally he lost heart.

On the other hand, British and American war propaganda was psychologically efficient. By picturing the Germans to their own people as Barbarians and Huns, they were preparing their soldiers for the horrors of war and safeguarding them against illusions. The most terrific weapons which those soldiers encountered in the field merely confirmed the information that they had already received and their belief in the truth of the assertions made by their respective governments was accordingly reinforced. Thus their rage and hatred against the infamous foe was increased. The terrible havoc caused by the German weapons of war was only another illustration of the Hunnish brutality of those barbarians; whereas on the side of the Entente no time was left the soldiers to meditate on the similar havoc which their own weapons were capable of. Thus the British soldier was never allowed to feel that the information which he received at home was untrue. Unfortunately the opposite was the case with the Germans, who finally wound up by rejecting everything from home as pure swindle and humbug. This result was made possible because at home they thought that the work of propaganda could be entrusted to the first ass that came along, braying of his own special talents, and they had no conception of the fact that propaganda demands the most skilled brains that can be found.

Thus the German war propaganda afforded us an incomparable example of how the work of enlightenment should not be done and how such an example was the result of an entire failure to take any psychological considerations whatsoever into account.”

tirsdag den 22. januar 2008

Ricky Gervais - The Bible

Dagens Citat: John Stuart Mill


“A government cannot have too much of the kind of activity which does not impede, but aids and stimulates, individual exertion and development. The mischief begins when, instead of calling forth the activity and powers of individuals and bodies, it substitutes its own activity for theirs; when, instead of informing, advising, and, upon occasion, denouncing, it makes them work in fetters, or bids them stand aside and does their work instead of them. The worth of a State, in the long run, is the worth of the individuals composing it; and a State which postpones the interests of their mental expansion and elevation, to a little more of administrative skill, or that semblance of it which practice gives, in the details of business; a State which dwarfs its men, in order that they may be more docile instruments in its hands even for benefial purposes – will find that with small men no great things can really be accomplished; and that the perfection of machinery to which it has sacrificed everything, will in the end avail it nothing, for want of the vital power which, in order that the machine might more smoothly, it has preferred to banish.”

- John Stuart Mill ‘On Liberty’.

mandag den 21. januar 2008

Ytringsfrihed?

§ 140. Den, der offentligt driver spot med eller forhåner noget her i landet lovligt bestående religionssamfunds troslærdomme eller gudsdyrkelse, straffes med bøde eller fængsel indtil 4 måneder.

§ 266 b. Den, der offentligt eller med forsæt til udbredelse i en videre kreds fremsætter udtalelse eller anden meddelelse, ved hvilken en gruppe af personer trues, forhånes eller nedværdiges på grund af sin race, hudfarve, nationale eller etniske oprindelse, tro eller seksuelle orientering, straffes med bøde eller fængsel indtil 2 år.
Stk. 2. Ved straffens udmåling skal det betragtes som en særligt skærpende omstændighed, at forholdet har karakter af propagandavirksomhed.

- Straffeloven



Der tales så ofte om ytringsfriheden, og om at vi skal værne om den og den beskrives oftest som noget helligt, som ikke der ikke bør røres ved. Disse er selvfølgelig ganske legitime holdninger, men problemet er bare, at de forudantager, at befolkningen rent faktisk har frihed til at ytre sig, men sådan forholder det sig, som ovenstående paragraffer fra straffeloven illustrerer, ingenlunde, idet lovgivningen kriminaliserer en lang række ytringer.

Nu kan man selvfølgelig mene, at det er dumt at tilsvine andre på grund af deres hudfarve, seksuelt eller religiøse tilhørsforhold, hvilket jeg da ingenlunde er uenig i, men derfra og så til decideret at kriminalisere sådanne ytringer er der godt nok et stykke, og denne kriminalisering har da også den ret uheldige konsekvens, at den umuliggør nogen som helst tale om ytringsfrihed. For det, at man kun har ret til at ytre sig inde for en statsdikteret margin, er ikke ytringsfrihed, men derimod blot en begrænset ytringstilladelse.

Ytringsfrihed må altså med andre ord, af nødvendighed, omfatte retten til at ytre hvad som helst, for at være ytringsfrihed.

"Goebbels was in favor of free speech for views he liked. So was Stalin. If you're in favor of free speech, then you're in favor of freedom of speech precisely for views you despise. Otherwise, you're not in favor of free speech."

- Noam Chomsky, Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and the Media (1992).

I do not agree with what you have to say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it.

- Francois Voltaire

God regeringspraksis og god videnskabelig praksis.

Der tales fra regeringens side meget om, at man anser det for vigtigt at der gøres fremskridt henimod et videnssamfund, således at Danmark i fremtiden vil være i stand til at markere sig indenfor naturvidenskaberne, hvilket alt sammen lyder meget godt, men det interessante er, at hvis man førte videnskab på samme måde som regeringen udøver regeringsførelse, ville fremskridt indenfor de videnskabelige discipliner være ganske beskedne, da videnskab udvikles ved åbenhed for kritik, fejlfinding og diskussion af kriterierne for hvorledes god videnskaben bør drives, hvilket står i et direkte modsætningsforhold til den nuværende regerings regeringsførelse, som snarere synes kendetegnet ved at være lukket for kritik - “der ikke noget at komme efter” - ligesom fejlfinding og egentlig diskussion af kriterierne for god regeringsførelse, dvs. egentlig selvransagelse, kan ligge på et meget lille sted. Nogle kommissioner synes ligefrem at være sådan konstrueret at formålet med dem er at nå frem til et prædefineret udfald, hvorfor man i nogle tilfælde lader disse kommissioner være ledet af folk, som på forhånd er venligt stemt overfor den politik som ønskes undersøgt, hvilket f.eks. synes at være tilfældet med forsvarskommissionen, som ledes af socialdemokraten Hans Hækkerup, der ligesom regeringen, bakker op om en aktivistisk udenrigspolitik. Man ønsker altså med andre ord at verificere gyldigheden af den position man har indtaget, frem for, og i modsætning til den måde hvorpå god videnskab bør praktiseres, at have eventuel falsifikation som det egentlige formål mhp. at tjekke hvorvidt positionen er holdbar.

Videnskabsteoretikeren Stephen Toulmin skriver i sin bog ‘Human Understanding’, at måden hvorpå et samfund drives, bør møde de samme kriterier som måden hvorpå man driver god videnskab, hvis denne samfundsdrift skal kunne siges at være et rationelt foretagende. Om dette skriver han, at “The existence of regular procedures for criticizing the consequences of social or political institutions, and for advocating changes in social or political practice, is what makes the conduct of political affairs a ‘rational’ matter, rather than a mere exercise of arbitrary authority or contest for power [...] the overall ‘rationality’ of the existing procedures or institutions depends on the scope that exists for criticizing and changing them from within the enterprise itself.”

Det følger vel deraf, at såfremt samfundets styring ikke lever op til disse krav, er det ikke et rationelt foretagende, men snarere en trosbaseret konstruktion, som søger at bekræfte (verificere) gyldigheden af det ideologiske fundament, ud fra hvilket man driver politik. Selvtilstrækkelig lukkethed og uvilje mod at lytte til kritisk modargumentation hører ingen steder hjemme i god videnskabelig praksis, hvorfor man vel med rette kan indvende, at hvis den påståede hensigt er et ønske om at konstruere samfundet således, at der dannes grobund for forskning i verdensklasse, hvorfor ses principperne for god videnskabelig praksis så ikke udtrykt i højere grad, i den måde hvorpå man praktiserer regeringsførelse?

onsdag den 16. januar 2008

Mindre Frihed under Fogh-regeringerne

Der er næsten sket en fordobling i antallet af langvarige varetægtsfængslinger (fra 446 til 717) under Foghs statsministerembede, altså en fordobling af frihedsberøvelser af mennesker som er principielt uskyldige, da de ikke har fået bevist deres eventuelle skyld ved en domstol.

Hør mere om hvorfor dette er særdeles problematisk i dette radioprogram, hvor forsvarsadvokaten Merethe Stagetorn interviewes om sagen.

Dansk Folkeparti ønsker fordobling af tvang

Dansk Folkepartis udenrigsordfører Søren Espersen, mener det ville være en god idé at fordoble antallet af personer der er tvunget til at aftjene værnepligt i det danske forsvar, for dermed at skabe et bedre rekrutteringsgrundlag for den ideologisk betingede krigsførsel Danmark lige nu deltager i, i Afghanistan. Denne fordobling af statslig tvang mener Søren Espersen er at sammenligne med en "forlænget ferieperiode". Regeringen er selvfølgelig positivt stemt overfor forslaget

Kilde[1][2]

Læs i forlængelse af dette min kommentar til DF's Søren Krarup's undskyldning for at deltage i den uprovokerede angrebskrig mod Irak.

Is a Palestinian State A Real Threat To The State Of Israel?

Dagens citat: Emerson om transcendens

“A man is a facade of a temple wherein all wisdom and all good abide. What we commonly call man, the eating, drinking, counting man, does not, as we know him, represent himself, but misrepresents himself. Him we do not respect, but the soul whose organ he is, if he would let it appear through his action, will make our knees bend. When it breathes through his intellect. It is genius; when it breathes through his will it is virtue; when it flows through his affection, it is love. And the blindness of the intellect begins when it would be something of itself. The weakness of the will begins when the individual would be something of himself. All reform aims in some one particular to let the soul have its way through us...”

- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Læs mere om Emerson.

fredag den 11. januar 2008

En Erkendelsesteoretisk dialog mellem Rabh og Talmidh, af Erwin Neutzsky-Wulff

DEL I

Talmidh: Hvordan vinder jeg indsigt?

Rabh: Hvorfor spørger du mig om det?

Talmidh: Man har ladet mig vide at du besidder en sådan.

Rabh: Jeg er ikke ganske sikker på, at jeg forstår, i hvilket ærinde du kommer til mig. Jeg må altså først bede dig om at besvare nogle enkle spørgsmål, hvis du ikke har noget imod det?

Talmidh: Nej, naturligvis ikke.

Rabh: Allerførst må du isge mig, hvad du mener med indsigt, eftersom det åbenbart er det, du kræver af mig. Jeg ser, at dette spørgsmål virker overraskende på dig, og jeg vil derfor prøve at lede dig lidt på vej. Du ville vel ikke undre dig, hvis jeg spurgte dig, hvad det er, du ønsker at opnå indsigt i eller kundskab om?

Talmidh: Nej. Og jeg ville sikkert svare “om verden” eller “om livet”.

Rabh: Det tænkte jeg nok. Du ville sikkert også give mig ret i, at der i dit spørgsmål ligger, at kundskab og verden er to forskellige ting?
Jeg kan se jeg har forvirret dig, og må derfor hellere forklare, hvad jeg mener med mit spørgsmål. Lad mig derfor prøve at beskrive, hvad du mener, når du taler om at erhverve kundskab om verden. Derefter kan du fortælle mig, om jeg har forstået dig rigtigt.

Talmidh: Ja, det er nok en god idé.

Rabh: Nuvel, keg vil da sige, at det forekommer mig, at du mener, at det med disse ting forholder sig, ligesom når en maler frembringer et portræt. Jeg vil endvidere foreslå, at du mener, at et sådant portræt kan være mere eller mindre vellignende, alt efter kunstnerens evner.

Jeg må altså forstå det således, at du forlanger af mig, at jeg skal male et vellignende portræt af verden til dig. Dog mener du ikke, jeg skal frembringe dette billede for dine øjne, men at jeg skal vække det for din tanke med mine ord.

Talmidh: Det er ganske rigtigt.

Rabh: Men sig mig nu, hvordan kan du vide, i hvilken grad det billede, jeg på denne måde skaber, ligner den verden, det er et billede af? Hvis al kundskab, som du siger, er et billede af verden, hvordan skal vi da komme til kundskab om, hvorvidt det ligner eller ej? Alt, vi i givet fald kunne sammenligne vores billede med, ville jo være et andet billede.

Talmidh: Hvis jeg forstår dig ret, siger du altså, at det ikke er muligt at opnå kundskab?

Rabh: Det kunne jeg måske føle mig fristet til at sige, hvis det ikke var, fordi vi begge til daglig oplever, at folk der opfører sig tåbeligt på grund af uvidenhed, kommer galt af sted. Det kunne altså synes, som om der findes noget sådant som kundskab, som det endvidere er gavnligt for et menneske at tilegne sig, men at vi ikke ganske har forstået dennes natur. Men her bliver jeg nok igen nødt til at forklare, hvad jeg mener. Forestil dig en gartner, der hemmeligt elsker sit herskabs unge datter. En dag hører han af en af pigerne, at den unge kvinde også elsker den fattige gartner, og om natten har sneget sig ud i haven og der efterladt et budskab til ham. Ganske uvidende om, at der blot er tale om en spøg, begynder han straks at gennemsøge bedene, men finder naturligvis ingenting. Han tænker da, at hans elskede af frygt for opdagelse ikke har vovet at efterlade et brev, som en anden kunne finde, og som ad den vej kunne falde i hænderne på forældrene. Han begynder efterfølgende at undersøge de former, blomsterne i bedene og bladene på træerne synes at dannw, idet han tænker, at disse kunne være opstået ved, at hans elskede havde plukket nogle og ladet andre stå. Imens han er optaget af alt dette forsømmer han sit arbejde og bliver afskediget af familien. Endelig forlyder det, at han er blevet gal, at han om natten klatrer over muren og graver haven op. Men hvori består hans galskab? Skønt han er gartner, glemmer han, at blomster blot er blomster, og at blade blot er blade, og at der altså ikke skjuler sig noget budskab i nogle af delene. Nok havde han været bedre faren ved blot at gøre, hvad hans fader gjorde før ham! Dog kunne det velsagtens være gået værre. Gartneren kunne jo nemlig have overtalt resten af tyendet til at at deltage i eftersøgningen af det skjulte budskab. Det ville sikkert have undret herskabet, men da de kendte disse folk som fornuftige og pålidelige, ville de måske selv med tiden have forsøgt sig, bistået af deres lydige datter. Endelig ville den pige som var årsag til hele miseren, holde det for utænkeligt, at hendes herskabs vældige sysler, skulle have noget med hende at gøre. Også hun vil snart gøre sig til, at at det mystiske budskab skulle blive kendt

Talmidh: Men ville alle disse ikke på et tidspunkt opgive en eftersøgning, som dog måtte være ganke frugtesløs?

Rabh: Jo, ganske givet. Anderledes forholder set sig imidlertid med en bonde, der pløjer sin mark i forventning om at finde en skjult guldskat. I dette tilfælde vil hans galskab jo nemlig ikke afholde ham fra at udføre sit arbejde, men tværtimod bidrage til, at han får det gjort. Vi begyndte jo med at medgive, at det er muligt at opføre sig klogt og tåbeligt, og som du ved, mener folk, at denne klogskab og tåbelighed hænger sammen med, om malerens portræt portræt ligner, og om vi er i stand til at tyde budskabet i haven. Og det har de naturligvis på en måde ret i, eftersom den dovne bonde ikke vil få pløjet, hvis han ikke tænkte på guldskatten i marken, og hans familie i dette tilfælde ville sulte.

Talmidh: Du påstår altså, at denne opfattelse, skønt den deles af alle i landet, er fejlagtig?

Rabh: Det kommer an på, hvad du mener, når du kalder den fejlagtig. Lad mig altså spørge dig, om du mener, at det er rigtigt, at man ikke bør stjæle og myrde?

Talmidh: Javist.

Rabh: Lad mig derefter spørge dig, om du mener, at det er rigtigt i nogen anden forstand, end at landets borgere er blevet enige om, at det forholder sig således?

Talmidh: Nej, det har du ret i. Men forstår jeg dig ret, når jeg mener, at det, du påstår, er, at der ikke er nogen verden at opnå kundskab om, men kun denne kundskab, at den med andre ord er et billede, der ikke afbilder noget?

Rabh: Hvilken egenskab skulle vi tilkende en sådan verden, som ikke netop er en egenskab ved billedet, som nødvendigvis er alt, hvad vi ser?

Talmidh: Det forstår jeg, men det forekommer mig dog alligevel, at der sikkert må være en mængde indsigelser imod en så indlysende sandhed, siden den ikke for længst er blevet accepteret, og jeg tror da også straks, jeg kan komme i tanker om et par stykker.

Rabh: Lad høre!

Talmidh: Så vil jeg først så vidt muligt gentage, hvad du har sagt mig, for at vi begge kan være sikre på, at jeg har forstået dig rigtigt.

Rabh: Udmærket.

Talmidh: Nuvel, det forekommer mig altså, at du siger, at dette træ ikke befinder sig noget andet sted end i min tanke?

Rabh: Jeg er nødt til at korrigere dig på dette punkt, også selv om det måske ikke vil forekomme dig, at min korrektion gør den store forskel. Når du siger “tanke”, forekommer det mig således, at du bruger dette ord som en modsætning til noget andet, men da det, vi påstår, netop er, at der ikke er noget “uden for” denne tanke, bliver denne brug af ordet, som du sikkert kan indse, ganske meningsløs. Det er, som hvis du ville hævde, at den verden, vi lever i, er blændværk.

Talmidh: Det kunne jeg let komme til, hvis jeg skulle karakterisere dit synspunkt.

Rabh: Det tænkte jeg nok. På den anden side vil du nok give mig ret i, at det er ganske meningsløst, at tale om, at noget er blændværk, hvis der ikke er noget, der i samme forstand er virkeligt. Du vil altså se, at jeg på ingen påstår, at intet er virkeligt eller sandt, men kun, at intet er virkeligt eller sandt i den forstand, at det står i et mystisk forhold til noget principielt uerkendeligt.

Talmidh: Javel, men det forekommer mig dog alligevel, at du siger, at intet er virkeligt eller sandt under henvisning til noget, vi ikke oplever.

Rabh: Det har du ret i.

Talmidh: Hvis jeg altså har forstået dig ret, siger du, at træet ikke er til i nogen anden forstand end den, at vi erfarer det.

Rabh: Korrekt igen.

Talmidh: Men så er du jo heller ikke til i nogen anden forstand end den, at jeg erfarer dig, og du ville jo kunne sige det samme om mig. Men hvem er det så, der gør den erfaring, der ifølge din filosofi er den eneste virkelighed?

Rabh: Her må jeg atter korrigere dig. Træet er kun virkeligt i den forstand, at vi erfarer det. Eller sagt på anden måde: Den individuelle iagttagelse, du bruger som argument, eksisterer ikke, og hvis du overvejer sagen, vil du sikkert indse, hvorfor det forholder sig således. Vi ville jo nemlig ikke meningsfuldt kunne påstå, at det var forkert at stjæle, hvis vi ikke var istand til at tilvejebringe den enighed, som var en forudsætning for en sådan påstand. Som du snart vil erkende, bygger alle dine indsigelser imod min filosofi på, at du ikke har forstået den og således været i stand til at indgå på dens præmisser. Hvis jeg forsøger at forklare dig, at folk på teatret ikke virkelig dør, vil det jo heller ikke hjælpe dig stort, at henvise til, at i den sidste akt af det og det stykke dør den og den person. Du har således accepteret, at den måde, hvorpå vi afgør, om noget er virkeligt, er at spørge en anden, om han erfarer det samme – ja, selv vise mænd, der mener at udgrunde naturen, holder dette for eneste kriterium. På den anden side forsøger du at snige din overtro om en virkelighed, ind ad bagvejen, ved at tale om en iagttagelse, der ikke bygger på en sådan enighed. Inden du er i stand til at kritisere min mening, må du altså først gøre sig klart, hvad du selv mener. Hvis du således mener, at der kun kan blive tale om virkelighed, i det øjeblik den erfares af andre, kan du ikke meningsfuldt tale om, hvad et menneske erfarer. Hvis du derimod ønsker at fragå denne opfattelse af, hvad det vil sige, at noget er virkeligt, tvinges du til at påstå at der ikke er nogen mulighed for at kritisere nogen påstand, i hviket tilfælde også din egen påstand bliver meningsløs.

Talmidh: Du har naturligvis ret. Jeg indser nu, at den påstand, jeg mente at se som en konsekvens af din filosofi, i virkeligheden er en følge af min egen. Men skønt jeg indser alt dette, forekommer det mig stadig så besynderligt, at jeg har venskeligt ved at se, hvordan jeg skal forstå det. Det forekommer mig nemlig, at jeg, hvis du forlod mig, stadig ville se træet, og endvidere, at jeg har set et træ længe før jeg havde mulighed for at tale med nogen om det?

Rabh: Sådan kan det meget vel forekomme dig, eftersom du, når du mener at se tilbage på den tid, hvor du endnu ikke kunne tale, benytter dig af de begreber, som du først langt senere erhvervede. Hvis du, når du ser op i himlen, mener at se et mørkt tæppe gennemskinnet af et bagvedliggende lys, og jeg derefter fortæller dig, at stjerner har deres eget lys, tror du da, at du derefter vil kunne se dem på nogen anden måde? Og hvis du tænker tilbage på en nat, inden dette skete, hvad tror du da, at du vil huske, mine eller dine stjerner? Hvad din første indvending angår, skal du tænke på hvad vi sagde om teateret. Alle de begreber, du benytter dig af, hører jo nemlig til det stykke, som opføres. Hvad vil det sige, at jeg “forlader dig”, hvis ikke, at personer rejser til fjerne lande, når de går ud i kulissen, eller at den person, der, idet han ser ud i den, beskriver et rytterslag, betragter dette.

Talmidh: Du har naturligvis ret, men ikke desto mindre forekommer det hele mig dog temmelig underligt.

Rabh: Det forstår jeg. Når et barn første gang får at vide, at den faste jord, det står på, er hvirvlende kugle, vel dets første reaktion også uværgerligt være, at dette umuligt kan passe. Også blandt voksne mennesker er der sådanne børn, der, stillet over for fornuftsgrunde, som de ikke er i stand til at imødegå og derfor vælger ikke at give agt på, fremturer i deres vildfarelse. En klog mand afholder sig fra at indlade sig i ordstrid med sådanne, derimod svarer han gerne på indvendinger, der røber at spørgeren ønsker at forstå. De første skal du kende på deres vrede latter, de sidste på deres ydmyge videbegær. Ingen kan nemlig opnå kundskab, hvis han ikke først indser, at han mangler den.

Talmidh: Alt dette indser jeg klart og vil ved at gennemtænke mine indvendinger forsøge at gennemskue disse, for således at opdage, om de er veritable eller blot skriver sig fra en manglende forståelse af det, jeg mener at kritisere. På endnu et punkt behøver jeg dog din hjælp, idet min anden indvending imod din filosofi forekommer mig så uomgængelig, at jeg ikke ser hvordan jeg skulle kunne forlige mig med den.

Rabh: Udmærket.

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Ovenstående er et uddrag fra Erwin Neutzsky-Wulffs seneste roman 'Hjernen'og kan købes her

Syntesens Tidsalder – Nogle Ervin Laszlo citater

“Contrary to popular belief, consciousness is not a uniquely human phenomenon. Although we know only human consciousness (indeed, by direct and personal experience we know only our own consciousness, we have no reason to believe that consciousness would be limited to me and to you and to other human beings.

The kind of evidence that could demonstrate the limitation of consciousness to humans regards the brian: it would be evidence that the human brain has specific features by virtue of which it produces consciousness. Notwithstanding the view advanced by materialist scientists and philosophers that the only physical brain is the source of consciousness, there is no evidence of this kind. Clinical and experimental evidence speaks only to the fact that brain function and state of consciousness are correlated, so when brain function ceases, consciousness (usually) ceases as well. We should specify “usually,” since there are exceptions to this: in some well-documented cases – among others, those of patients suffering cardiac arrests in hospitals – individuals have had detailed and subsequently clearly recalled experiences during the time their EEG showed a complete absence of brain function

Functional MRI magnetic resonance imaging) and other techniques show that when particular thought processes occur, they are associated with metabolic changes in specific areas of the brain. They do not show, however, how the cells of the brain that produce proteins and electrical signals could also produce sensations, thougts, emotions, images, and other elements of the conscious mind ... how the brain’s network of neurons would porduce the qualitative sensations that make up our consciousness”

The fact that a high level of consciousness, with articulated images, thoughts, feelings, and rich subconscious elements, is associated with complex neural structures is not a guarantee that such consciousness is due to these structures. In other word the observation that brain function is correlated with consciousness does not ensure that the brain creates consciousness.”

“The old adage “everything is connected to everything else” desribes a true state of affairs. The results achieved [by the evolutionary sciences] furnish adequate proof that the physical, the biological, and the social realms in which evolution unfolds are by no means disconnected. At the very least, one kind of evolution prepares the ground for the next. Out of the conditions created by evolution in the physical realm emerge the conditions that permit biological evolution to take off. And out of the conditions created by biological evolution come the conditions that allow human beings – and many other species – to evolve certain social forms of organization”

“Scientific evidence of the patterns traced by evolution in the physical universe, in the living world, and even in the world of history is growing rapidly. It is coalescing into the image of basic regularities that repeat and recur. It is now possible to search out these regularities and obtain a glimpse of the fundamental nature of evolution – of the evolution of the cosmos as a whole, including the living world, and the world of human social society. To search out and systematically state these regularities is to engage in the creation of the “grand synthesis” that unites physcial, biological, and social evolution into a consistent frameword with its own laws and logic”

Om Laszlo:

Ervin Laszlo, holder of the highest degree of the Sorbonne (the State Doctorate), is recipient pf four Honorary Ph.D’s and numerous awards and distinctions, including the 2001 Goi Award (Japan Peace Prize. In 2004 he was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize as well as the Templeton Prize. A former professor of philosophy, systems theory, and futures


We are the music-makers
And we are the dreamers of dreams
Wandering by lone sea-breakers
And sitting by desolate streams;
World-losers and world-forsakers,
On whom the pale moon gleams:
Yet we are the movers and shakers
Of the world forever, it seems.

- Arthur O’Shaughnessy

torsdag den 10. januar 2008

Earthship Biotecture



Earthship Biotecture creates buildings that...

Heat and cool themselves naturally via solar/thermal dynamics
Collect their own power from the sun and wind
Harvest their own water from rain and snow melt
Contain and treat their own sewage on site
Produce food in significant quantities
Utilize materials that are byproducts of modern society like cans, bottles and tires.


Læs mere om Earthship Biotecture HER

Se også denne video

Endnu et skridt mod fascisme i USA

Paul Craig Roberts har skrevet en ret interessant om end ganske forstyrrende artikel om et nyt lovforslag kaldet “Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act.” - HR 1955 hvis ordlyd muliggør en vidtrækkende censur af dissidenter.

Et par highlights fra artiklen:

"When HR 1955 becomes law, it will create a commission tasked with identifying extremist people, groups, and ideas. The commission will hold hearings around the country, taking testimony and compiling a list of dangerous people and beliefs. The bill will, in short, create massive terrorism in the United States. But the perpetrators of terrorism will not be Muslim terrorists; they will be government agents and fellow citizens.... Who will be on the “extremist beliefs” list? The answer is: civil libertarians, critics of Israel, 9/11 skeptics, critics of the administration’s wars and foreign policies, critics of the administration’s use of kidnapping, rendition, torture and violation of the Geneva Conventions, and critics of the administration’s spying on Americans. Anyone in the way of a powerful interest group--such as environmentalists opposing politically connected developers--is also a candidate for the list."

" This search for extremist views comes after President Bush and the Justice (sic) Department declare that the President can ignore habeas corpus, ignore the Geneva Conventions, seize people without evidence, hold them indefinitely without presenting charges, torture them until they confess to some made up crime, and take over the government by declaring an emergency. Of course, none of these “patriotic” views are extremist."

Læs resten af artiklen og se den medfølgende video her

Uddrag fra 'Verden' af Erwin Neutzsky-Wulff

“Han var vokset op i en kultur, der tilbad fornuften som gud, og det var der gode grunde til. Det modsatte af fornuft er trods alt ufornuft, og hvem vil være ufornuftig?
Det var et samfund, der satte meninger højere end følelser og kaldte dem holdninger. Holdningsløshed var en synd, mens ufølsomhed næppe bemærkedes.
Meninger kan man nemlig argumentere mod, og de er i øvrigt forholdsvis nemme at producere. De fleste sandheder er indlysende, det vil sige grundløse.
De har at gøre med den måde, vi har vænnet os til at omgås verden og hinanden på. Følelserne derimod har vi fra en fjern forfader, som ingen ville være særlig tryg ved at være i stue med.
Så vi prøver at have holdninger til vore medmennesker i stedet for at nære følelser for dem. Vi tager moralsk bestik og indretter vores følelser derefter.
Vi holder op med at spørge efter mod og kærlighed og slår op i politivedtægten i stedet. Det gør det let for os at forfølge og dræbe.
Vi behøver ikke at ære vores modstander eftersom ideologien er alt. Et menneske med en anden overbevisning er et helt igennem ondt menneske, for vi anerkender ikke andre menneskelige egenskaber.
Mennesker bliver til tal på et ideologisk scoreboard. Så mange menneskefjender plaffet ned.
I kærligheden, som nu er blevet et parforhold, et upersonligt partnerskab, er det den andens opførsel, der tæller. Vi holder omhyggeligt regnskab.
Vores kærlighed er ligefrem proportional med, hvordan vi bliver behandlet. Vi er som børn, der elsker deres forældre, når der er is, og hader dem, når der skal læses lektier.
Men eftersom vores barnlighed og egoisme er fornuftige, behøver vi ikke skamme os over dem. Vi finder os ikke i noget, og det viser, at vi er oplyste.
Ægteskabet bliver et langt skænderi. Det slutter først, når vi går i seng, og fortsætter, så snart vi er stået op.
På arbejdet fortsætter vi skænderiet med vores kolleger, vores arbejdsgiver, eller vi deltager i et politisk skænderi. Det handler altid om rettigheder, om at få sin del af kagen, eller endnu mere oplyst at få så stor en del af kagen som muligt, og stadig forlange mere. Tilfredshed og lykke vil trods alt være det ultimative forræderi mod os selv, vore kolleger og den lidende verden.
Jeg elsker dig bliver til, jeg elsker dig, hvis du opfører dig ordentligt. De kærlighedssange popstjerner bræger, bliver til triumferende uafhængighedserklæringer.
I baggrunden høres ikke længere smægtende violiner, men kasseapparatets smæld. You treated me bad – na-na-na – but you got another think coming – oh-oh-oh – now it’s your turn to cry-y-y …Kærlighedssange bliver til hadsange.
Den undertrykte kvinde bliver en selvbevidst prostitueret, og manden som ser sit ansvar fortone sig, regrederer til flæb. Da nu kærligheden ikke har vist sig ikke at eksistere og mændene, som mor advarede os om, kun er ude efter én ting, så lad da i det mindste svinene betale for det. Og skal han ryste op, skal han naturligvis også have noget for pengene og kan ikke lade sig nøje med flade patter eller lav seksuel frekvens
I disse boksekampe er hele verden kampdommer. Mødre og tanter, venner og bekendte, kolleger og arbejdskammerater er indbudt og kommer med opmuntrende tilråb.
Et mere professionelt hold af psykologer og terapeuter, ægteskabs- og familierådgivere lader sig dog også hverve. Disse voldgiftsmænd er ikke længere støvede præster, der sender konen hjem til manden, men upartiske og skruppelløse eksperter, der omhyggeligt fører statistik over antallet af gange manden har glemt at slå sædet ned, de perverse ting han vil have hende til at gøre, samt den gang i sommer, hvor lille Rasmus fik en på skrinet.
De undlader heller ikke at pointere, at hun måske en gang imellem, gerne præcis hver anden gang, kunne gøre det, han så gerne vil, ud fra den udtrykkelige forudsætning, at det så næste gang er hendes tur til at få noget ud af det. Man må jo snakke om det, handle om det, finde en måde at holde hinanden ud på.
Kan man ikke blive lykkelige samtidig, kan man måske blive det skiftevis, hver for sig, forkæle sig selv lidt og tage fri fra parforholdet, ansvaret, kærligheden og livet. Tale ud om, hvad der trykker én, til folk, som virkelig interesserer sig for en, til 200 kroner i timen.
Ve den vismand, som forsigtigt gør opmærksom på, at vi ikke bliver lykkelige ved at få opfyldt vore behov, men ved at elske og genelskes! At elske betingelsesløst er en vederstyggelighed for Herren!
Hvad kan vi ikke risikere, hvis vi glemmer at tage entré til vores hjerte? Men livet er en risiko, og risikoen hedder: Følelse.”

Barack Obama's bud på en ny udenrigspolitik

I Foreign Affairs juli/august udgave kunne man læse et essay af Barack Obama med titlen "Renewing American Leadership". Følgende er nogle highlights:

"...we must launch a comprehensive regional and international diplomatic initiative to help broker an end to the civil war in Iraq, prevent its spread, and limit the suffering of the Iraqi people. To gain credibility in this effort, we must make clear that we seek no permanent bases in Iraq. We should leave behind only a minimal over-the-horizon military force in the region to protect American personnel and facilities, continue training Iraqi security forces, and root out al Qaeda.
The morass in Iraq has made it immeasurably harder to confront and work through the many other problems in the region -- and it has made many of those problems considerably more dangerous. Changing the dynamic in Iraq will allow us to focus our attention and influence on resolving the festering conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians -- a task that the Bush administration neglected for years."

"To renew American leadership in the world, we must forge a more effective global response to the terrorism that came to our shores on an unprecedented scale on 9/11. From Bali to London, Baghdad to Algiers, Mumbai to Mombasa to Madrid, terrorists who reject modernity, oppose America, and distort Islam have killed and mutilated tens of thousands of people just this decade. Because this enemy operates globally, it must be confronted globally.
We must refocus our efforts on Afghanistan and Pakistan -- the central front in our war against al Qaeda -- so that we are confronting terrorists where their roots run deepest. Success in Afghanistan is still possible, but only if we act quickly, judiciously, and decisively. We should pursue an integrated strategy that reinforces our troops in Afghanistan and works to remove the limitations placed by some NATO allies on their forces. Our strategy must also include sustained diplomacy to isolate the Taliban and more effective development programs that target aid to areas where the Taliban are making inroads."

"There must be no safe haven for those who plot to kill Americans. To defeat al Qaeda, I will build a twenty-first-century military and twenty-first-century partnerships as strong as the anticommunist alliance that won the Cold War to stay on the offense everywhere from Djibouti to Kandahar."

"To renew American leadership in the world, we must immediately begin working to revitalize our military. A strong military is, more than anything, necessary to sustain peace. Unfortunately, the U.S. Army and the Marine Corps, according to our military leaders, are facing a crisis. The Pentagon cannot certify a single army unit within the United States as fully ready to respond in the event of a new crisis or emergency beyond Iraq; 88 percent of the National Guard is not ready to deploy overseas.
We must use this moment both to rebuild our military and to prepare it for the missions of the future. We must retain the capacity to swiftly defeat any conventional threat to our country and our vital interests. But we must also become better prepared to put boots on the ground in order to take on foes that fight asymmetrical and highly adaptive campaigns on a global scale.
We should expand our ground forces by adding 65,000 soldiers to the army and 27,000 marines. Bolstering these forces is about more than meeting quotas. We must recruit the very best and invest in their capacity to succeed. That means providing our servicemen and servicewomen with first-rate equipment, armor, incentives, and training -- including in foreign languages and other critical skills. Each major defense program should be reevaluated in light of current needs, gaps in the field, and likely future threat scenarios. Our military will have to rebuild some capabilities and transform others. At the same time, we need to commit sufficient funding to enable the National Guard to regain a state of readiness."

" To succeed, our homeland security and counterterrorism actions must be linked to an intelligence community that deals effectively with the threats we face. Today, we rely largely on the same institutions and practices that were in place before 9/11. We need to revisit intelligence reform, going beyond rearranging boxes on an organizational chart. To keep pace with highly adaptable enemies, we need technologies and practices that enable us to efficiently collect and share information within and across our intelligence agencies. We must invest still more in human intelligence and deploy additional trained operatives and diplomats with specialized knowledge of local cultures and languages. And we should institutionalize the practice of developing competitive assessments of critical threats and strengthen our methodologies of analysis."

Læs resten her

Check endvidere mit indlæg om Rudolf Giulianis udenrigspolitiske aspirationer her

tirsdag den 8. januar 2008

Dansk Folkeparti spilder skattekronerne på latterlig statistik

Da Dansk Folkeparti fandt ud at Danmarks Statistik var nået frem til, at indfødte danskere laver mere kriminalitet end indvandrere og deres efterkommere fra vestlige lande, blev de meget forundrede, og fik derfor den geniale idé, at det så måtte undersøges om årsagen kunne være at tredjegenerationsindvandrere (altså efterkommere af efterkommere af invandrere fra ikke-vestlige lande) fyldte op i statistikken, hvilket man fik afsat en million kroner til på finansloven.

Nu er resultatet så kommet, og det fortæller så godt som intet, for antallet af efterkommere til efterkommere af invandrere fra ikke-vestlige lande, der er gamle nok til at være strafbare er blot 137, hvoraf 8 har begået noget kriminelt, og gruppen er altså derfor ikke i nærheden af at være stor nok til at kunne lave nogensomhelst form for seriøs statistik over.

Tillykke med det Dansk Folkeparti, den million blev brugt fornuftigt.

Virkeligheden er en kollektiv hallucination

A central rule of large-scale organization goes like this: the greater the spryness of a massive enterprise, the more internal communication it takes to support the teamwork of the parts. For example, in all but the simplest plants and animals only 5% of DNA is dedicated to DNA's "real job," manufacturing proteins. The remaining 95% is preoccupied with organization and administration, supervising the maintenance of bodily procedures, or even merely interpreting the corporate rule book "printed" in a string of genes.

In an effective learning machine, the connections between internal elements far outnumber windows to the outside world. Take the cerebral cortex, roughly 80% of whose nerves connect with each other, not with sensory input from the eyes or ears. No wonder in human society individuals spend most of their time communicating with each other, not exploring beasts and plants which could make an untraditional dish. This cabling for "bureaucratic maintenance" has a far greater impact on what we "see" and "hear" than most psychological researchers suspect. For it puts us in the hands of a conformity enforcer whose power and subtlety are almost beyond belief.

In our previous episode we mentioned that the brain's emotional center — the limbic system — decides which swatches of experience to "notice" and store in memory. Memory is the core of what we call reality. Think about it for a second. What do you actually hear and see right now? This article. The walls and furnishings of the room in which you sit. Perhaps some music or some background noise. Yet you know sure as you were born that there's a broader world outside those walls. You are certain that your home, if you are away from it, is still there. You can sense each room, remember where most of your things are placed. You know the building where you work — its colors, layout, and the feel of it. Then there are the companions who enrich your life — family, the folks at the office, neighbors, friends, and even people you are fond of whom you haven't talked to in a year or more — few of whom, if any, are in the room with you. You also know we sit on a planet called the earth, circling an incandescent ball of sun, buried in one of many galaxies. At this instant, reading by yourself, where do these realities reside? Inside your mind. Memory in a very real sense is reality. What the limbic system decides to "see" and store away becomes an interior universe pretending to stretch so far outside that it can brush the edges of infinity.

We are accustomed to use our eyes only with the memory of what other people before us have thought about the object we are looking at. Guy de Maupassant

The limbic system is more than an emotive sifter of the relevant from the inconsequent. It is an intense monitor of others, using its social fixations to retool your perceptions and your memories. In short, the limbic system makes each of us a plug-in of the crowd.

Elizabeth Loftus, one of the world's premier memory researchers, is among the few who know how powerfully the group shapes what we think we know. In the late 1970s, Loftus performed a series of key experiments. In a typical example, she showed college students a moving picture of a traffic accident, then asked after the film, "How fast was the white sports car going when it passed the barn while traveling along the country road." Several days later when witnesses to the film were quizzed about what they'd seen, 17% were sure they'd spied a barn, though there weren't any buildings in the film at all. In a related experiment subjects were shown a collision between a bicycle and an auto driven by a brunette, then afterwards heard questions about the "blond" at the steering wheel. Not only did they remember the non-existent blond vividly, but when they were shown the sequence a second time, they had a hard time believing that it was the same incident they now recalled so graphically. One subject said, "It's really strange because I still have the blond girl's face in my mind and it doesn't correspond to her [pointing to the woman on the videotape]...It was really weird." In visual memory, Loftus concluded that hints leaked to us by fellow humans are more important than the scene whose details actually reach our eyes.

Though it got little public attention until the debates about "recovered" memories of sexual abuse in the early and mid 1990s, this avenue of research had begun at least two generations ago. It was 1956 when Solomon Asch published a classic series of experiments in which he and his colleagues showed cards with lines of different lengths to clusters of their students. Two lines were exactly the same size and two were clearly not — the mavericks stuck out like basketball players at a convention for the vertically handicapped. During a typical experimental run, the researchers asked nine volunteers to claim that two badly mismatched lines were actually the same, and that the actual twin was a total misfit. Now came the nefarious part. The researchers ushered a naive student into the room with the collaborators and gave him the impression that the crowd already there knew just as little as he did about what was going on. Then a white-coated psychologist passed the cards around. One by one he asked the pre-drilled shills to announce out loud which lines were alike. Each dutifully declared that two terribly unlike lines were perfect twins. By the time the scientist prodded the unsuspecting newcomer to pronounce judgement, he usually went along with the bogus acclamation of the crowd. Asch ran the experiment over and over again. When he quizzed his victims of peer pressure, it turned out that many had done far more than simply go along to get along. They had actually shaped their perceptions to agree, not with the reality in front of them, but with the consensus of the multitude.

To polish off the mass delusion, many of those whose perception had NOT been skewed became collaborators in the praise of the emperor's new clothes. Some did it out of self-doubt. They were convinced that the facts their eyes reported were wrong, the herd was right, and that an optical illusion had tricked them into seeing things. Still others realized with total clarity which lines were duplicates, but lacked the nerve to utter an unpopular opinion. Conformity enforcers had rearranged everything from visual processing to open speech, and had revealed a mechanism which can wrap and seal a crowd into a false belief.

Another experiment indicates just how deeply social suggestion can penetrate the neural mesh through which we think we see hard-and-solid facts. Students with normal color vision were shown blue slides. But one stooge in the room declared the slides were green. Only 32% of the students ended up going along with the vocal but misguided proponent of green vision. Later, however, the subjects were taken aside, shown blue-green slides and asked to rate them for blueness or greenness. Even the students who had refused to see green where there was none in the original experiment showed that the insistent greenies in the room had colored their perceptions. They rated the new slides more green than they would have otherwise. More to the point, when asked to describe the color of the afterimage they saw, the subjects often reported it was red-purple — the hue of an afterimage left by the color green. The words of one determined speaker had penetrated the most intimate sanctums of the eye and brain.

But this is just the iceberg's tip. Social experience literally shapes cerebral morphology. It guides the wiring of the brain through the most intensely formative years of human life, determining, among other things, which of the thinking organ's sections will be enlarged, and which will shrink.

An infant's brain is sculpted by the culture into which the child is born. Six-month olds can distinguish or produce every sound in virtually every human language. But within a mere four months, nearly two thirds of this capacity has been sliced away. The slashing of ability is accompanied by ruthless alterations in cerebral tissue. Brain cells are measured against the requirements of the physical and interpersonal environment. The 50% of neurons found useful thrive. The 50% which remain unexercised are literally forced to die. Thus the floor plan underlying the mind is crafted on-site to fit an existing framework of community.

When barely out of the womb, babies are already riveted on a major source of social cues. Newborns to four-month-olds would rather look at faces than at almost anything else. Rensselaer Polytechnic's Linnda Caporael points out what she calls "micro-coordination", in which a baby imitates its mother's facial expression, and the mother, in turn, imitates the baby's. Since psychologist Paul Ekman, as we'll see later in more detail, has demonstrated that the faces we make recast our moods, the baby is learning how to yoke its emotions to those of a social team. Emotions, as we've already seen, craft our vision of reality. There are other signs that babies synchronize their feelings to those of others around them at an astonishingly early age. Empathy — one of those things which bind us together intimately — comes to us early. Children less than a year old who see another child hurt show all the signs of undergoing the same pain.

After all, what is reality anyway? Nothin' but a collective hunch. Lily Tomlin

Cramming themselves further into a common perceptual mold, animal and human infants entrain themselves to see what others see. A four-month old human will swivel to look at an object his parent is staring at. A baby chimp will do the same. By their first birthday, infants have extended their input-gathering to their peers. When they notice that another child's eyes have fixated on an object, they swivel around to focus on that thing themselves. If they don't see what's so interesting, they look back to check the direction of the other child's gaze and make sure they've got it right. When one of the babies points to an item that has caught her fancy, other children look to see just what it is.

One year olds show other ways in which they soak up social pressure. Put a cup and something unfamiliar in front of them and their natural tendency will be to check out the novel object. But repeat the word "cup" and the infant will dutifully rivet its gaze on the drinking vessel. Children go along with the herd even in their tastes in food. when researchers put two-to-five-year olds at a table for several days with other kids who loved the edibles they loathed, the children with the dislike did a 180 degree turn and became zestful eaters of the item they'd formerly disdained. The preference was still going strong weeks after the peer pressure had stopped.

At six, children are obsessed with being accepted by the group and become incredibly sensitive to violations of group norms. They've been gripped by yet another conformity enforcer which structures their perceptions to coincide with those around them.

Even rhythm draws humans together in the subtlest of ways. William Condon of Pennsylvania's Western State Psychiatric Institute analyzed films of adult conversations and noticed a peculiar process at work. Unconsciously, the conversationalists began to coordinate their finger movements, eye blinks and nods. Electroencephalography showed something even more astonishing — their brain waves were moving together. Newborn babies already show this synchrony — in fact, an American infant still fresh from the womb will just as happily match its body movements to the speech of someone speaking Chinese as to someone speaking English. As time proceeds, these unnoticed synchronies draw larger and larger groups together. A student working under the direction of anthropologist Edward T. Hall hid in an abandoned car and filmed children romping in a school playground at lunch hour. Screaming, laughing, running and jumping, each seemed superficially to be doing his or her own thing. But careful analysis revealed that the group was moving to a unified rhythm. One little girl, far more active than the rest, covered the entire schoolyard in her play. Hall and his student realized that without knowing it, she was "the director" and "the orchestrator." Eventually, the researchers found a tune that fit the silent cadence. When they played it and rolled the film, it looked exactly as if each kid were dancing to the melody. But there had been no music playing in the schoolyard. Said Hall, "Without knowing it, they were all moving to a beat they generated themselves." William Condon was led to conclude that it doesn't make sense to view humans as "isolated entities." And Edward Hall took this inference a step further: "an unconscious undercurrent of synchronized movement tied the group together" into what he called a "shared organizational form."

No wonder input from the herd so strongly colors the ways in which we see our world. Students at MIT were given a bio of a guest lecturer. One group's background sheet described the speaker as cold, the other group's handout praised him for his warmth. Both groups sat together as they watched the lecturer give his presentation. But those who'd read the bio saying he was cold treated him as distant and aloof. Those who'd been tipped off that he was warm, rated him as friendly and approachable. In judging a fellow human being, students replaced external fact with input they'd been given socially.

The cues rerouting herd perception come in many forms. Sociologists Janet Lynne Enke and Donna Eder discovered that in gossip, one person opens with a negative comment on someone outside the group. How the rest of the gang goes on the issue depends entirely on the second opinion expressed. If the second prattler agrees that the outsider is disgusting, virtually everyone will chime in with a sound-alike opinion. If, on the other hand, the second commentator objects that the outsider has positive qualities, the group is far less likely to descend like a flock of harpies tearing the stranger's reputation limb from limb.

Crowds of silent voices whisper in our ears, transforming the nature of what we see and hear. The strangest come from choruses of the dead — cultural predecessors whose legacy has a dramatic effect on our vision of reality. Take the impact of gender stereotypes — notions developed over hundreds of generations, contributed to, embellished and passed on by literally billions of people during the long human march through time. In one study, parents were asked to give their impression of their brand new babies. Infant boys and girls are completely indistinguishable aside from the buds of reproductive equipment between their legs. Their size, texture, and the way in which newborns of opposite sex act are the same. Yet parents consistently described girls as softer, smaller and less attentive than boys. The crowds within us resculpt our gender verdicts over and over again. Two groups of experimental subjects were asked to grade the same paper. One was told the author was John McKay. The other was told the paper's writer was Joan McKay. Even female students evaluating the paper gave it higher marks if they thought was from a male.

The ultimate repository of herd influence is language — a device that not only condenses the influence of those with whom we share a common vocabulary, but sums up the perceptual approach of swarms who have passed on. Every word we use carries within it the experience of generation after generation of men, families, tribes, and nations, including their insights, value judgements, ignorance, and spiritual beliefs.

Experiments show that people from all cultures can see subtle differences between colors placed next to each other. But only those societies equipped with names for numerous shades can spot the difference when the two swatches of color are apart. At the turn of the century, The Chukchee had very few terms for visual hues. If you asked them to sort colored yarns, they did a poor job of it. But they had over 24 terms for patterns of reindeer hide, and could classify reindeer far better than the average European scientist, whose vocabulary didn't supply him with appropriate tools.

Physiologist/ornithologist Jared Diamond, in New Guinea, saw to his dismay that despite all his university studies of nature, the natives were far better at distinguishing bird species than he was. Diamond had a set of scientific criteria taught in the zoology classes back home. The natives possessed something better: names for each animal variety, and a set of associations describing characteristics Diamond had never been taught to differentiate — everything from a bird's peculiarities of deportment to its taste when grilled over a flame. Diamond had binoculars and state-of-the-art taxonomy. But the New Guineans laughed at his incompetence. They were equipped with a vocabulary each word of which compacted the experience of armies of bird-hunting ancestors.

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute's Linnda Caporael points out that even when we see someone perform an action in an unusual way, we rapidly forget the unaccustomed subtleties and reshape our recalled vision so that it corresponds to the patterns dictated by language-borne conventionality. A perfect example comes from 19th century America, where sibling rivalry was present in fact, but according to theory didn't exist. The experts were blind to its presence, as shown by its utter absence from family manuals. In the expert and popular view, all that existed between brothers and sisters was love. But letters from middle class girls exposed unacknowledged cattiness and jealousy.

Sibling rivalry didn't begin to creep from the darkness of perceptual invisibility until 1893, when future Columbia University professor of political and social ethics Felix Adler hinted at the nameless notion in his manual for the Moral Instruction of Children. During the 1920s, the concept of jealousy between boys and girls finally shouldered its way robustly into the repertoire of conscious concepts, appearing in two widely quoted government publications and becoming the focus of a 1926 Child Study Association of America crusade. It was only at this point that experts finally coined the term "sibling rivalry." The formerly non-existent demon was blamed for adult misery, failing marriages, crime, homosexuality, and God knows what all else. By the 1940s, nearly every child-raising guide had extensive sections on this ex-nonentity. Parents writing to major magazines spotted the previously unseeable emotion almost everywhere.

The stored experience language carries can tweak the difference between life and death. It's been reported that one unnamed tribe used to lose starving mothers, fathers and children by the droves each time famine struck, despite the fact that a river flowed near them filled with fish. The problem: they didn't define fish as food. We could easily suffer the same fate if stranded in their wilderness, simply because our culture tells us that a rich source of nutrients is inedible too — insects.

The influence of the mob of those who've gone before and those who stand around us now can be mind-boggling. During the middle ages when universities first arose, a local barber/surgeon was called into the lecture chamber year after year to dissect a corpse for medical students gathered from the width and breadth of Europe. A scholar on a raised platform discoursed about the revelations unfolding before the students' eyes. The learned doctor would invariably describe a network of cranial blood vessels that were nowhere to be found. He'd report a shape for the liver radically different from the form of the organ sliding around on the surgeon's blood-stained hands. He'd verbally portray jaw joints which had no relation to those being displayed on the trestle below him. But he never changed his narrative to fit the actualities. Nor did the students or the surgeon ever stop to correct the book-steeped authority. Why? The scholar was reciting the "facts" as found in volumes over 1,000 years old — the works of the Roman master Galen, founder of "modern" medicine.

Alas, Galen had drawn his conclusions, not from dissecting humans, but from probing the bodies of pigs and monkeys. Pigs and monkeys do have the strange features Galen described. Humans, however, do not. But that didn't stop the medieval professors from seeing what wasn't there. For no more were they ruggedly individualistic observers than are you and I. Their sensory pathways echoed with voices gathered for a millennium, the murmurings of a mob composed of both the living and the dead. The world experts of those days and ours conjured up assemblies of mirage. Like ours, their perceptual faculties were unrecognized extensions of a collective brain.

Fra Howard Bloom's "Reality is a shared hallucination"

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