Archive for the ‘Behavior & Understanding’ Category

The Irrational Defiance of Phobics

“The psychological root of terrorism is a fanatical resentment – a quasi-psychotic hatred originating in the depths of the archetypal psyche and therefore carried by religious (archetypal) energies. A classic literary example is Melville’s Moby Dick. Captain Ahab, with his fanatical hatred of the White Whale, is a paradigm of the modern terrorist.

Articulate terrorists generally express themselves in religious (archetypal) terminology. The enemy is seen as the Principle of Objective Evil (Devil) and the terrorist perceives himself as the “heroic” agent of divine or Objective Justice (God). This is an archetypal inflation of demonic proportions which temporarily grants the individual almost superhuman energy and effectiveness. To deal with terrorism effectively we must understand it.” ~ E. F. Edinger: On the psychology of terrorism

Captain Ahab sees more than evil in the whale he seeks to kill.  For it to exist as a force, implies some defined order, and therefore some meaning to his universe.  And if he cannot find and kill it, then he has no proof of the orderliness.  What he fears, perhaps more than anything else (including his own demise), is a disorderly universe that attaches no meaning to occurrences, including the fact that he’d lost a leg.

Most of his crew suspected Ahab to be somewhat imbalanced about his intense quest.  But that imbalance did not stop them from following him at the cost of everything including their lives.    Ahab was not just authority, but absolute authority.  You cannot have an absolute authority without beliefs.  The certainty of those beliefs, “the feeling of knowing” according to neurologist Robert A Burton, M.D., comes not from examining empirical evidence, or even from any analytical process we call “thinking”.

“Certainty and similar states of “knowing what we know” are sensations that feel like thoughts, but arise out of involuntary brain mechanisms that function independently of reason.”   ~

So it is emotive based on what is presumed to be true.  The captain of the ship, certainly in the case of Ahab, is a dominator.  And those he dominates are fearful–not just of him, but of the idea of not being submissive to the authority.  Please note that the captain is not independently dominant, as he cannot manage the large ship without a crew.

His orders must be heard by those who are phobic enough to not dare disobey them.  When we see this behavior on playgrounds, it’s called “bullying”.  Sometimes the bullied fear not so much some physical punishment, but the withdrawal of favor: losing worthiness, or significance in some way.  And that is precisely why the crew of the Pequod, though many with deep personal reservations, do as they are told.

Through Captain Ahab’s commands, the crew could fight against evil, even death itself, because it had been given both form and a name–a great white whale–Moby Dick. This rendered it tangible, and therefore less awesome than an unnamed, illusive to clear understanding, death.

So as the captain commands absolute obedience, the crew follows him.  He has convinced them not just that the fight was very real, and very winnable, but that it was their unavoidable duty.  And in so doing, death itself becomes diminished.  Death, in the face of a necessary battle of righteousness, takes on a manageable definition when the foe is believed to be finite.  Compared to the unbridled fear of death, the “cause” with meaning and purpose becomes determinate.

It all hinges on beliefs overriding the insanity of the quest, and even though quite a few of them considered the skipper to be crazy.  It was safer to believe in the authority of the captain in spite of him being a bit nuts, than to allow the thought of the great unknown of chaos–that the personified evil, Moby Dick, might be a delusion–no, that would unhinge everything.

The study of mythologies identifies a common thread: explanations offer to give order to things otherwise phenomenal.  Chieftains, high priests, and witchdoctors have a long history of connecting subservience to the supernatural in a way that provides for a safety net beyond mortality.  And many of those who believe in the stories would rather die than have their beliefs undermined–even in the face of overwhelming evidence that what they believe is not remotely founded in facts at all.

The Beowulf epic, written by some anonymous Anglo-Saxon poet prior to the twelfth century, tells a tale of having to fend off, defeat, and destroy a nemesis monster character called Grendel.  From the point of view of Beowulf and his human comrades, Grendel is not one of them, but “the other”.

We can observe the failures of human civilization when, due to prejudice, misunderstanding, and ignorance, communication breaks down, and people become polarized in pockets of the “us”, and the “them”.  When all parties are so inclined to believe the differences to be irreconcilable, their phobic nature gives them few options outside of their fear.  And if they can growl loud enough, perhaps “the other” will fear them as well.

The very basis of the fear is often misinterpreted by the fearful themselves.  And without dialogue with a sincere purpose of moving closer to understanding, the objects of fear are often reduced to matters of cultural difference.  The differences, when carefully considered, may really be little more than acceptable costume, or the manner in which some child’s mother taught it to pray.

There are more than 6,000 languages spoken by human beings today, and most individuals know only one of them.  Some of these languages are only spoken by small groups of people.  In fact, almost a third of these languages are used by populations of only a thousand people, or less.  And while they may not be widely understood when speaking out, their needs, wants, and concerns are no less human than are those of the users of more common languages.  And even among the more frequently used languages, a clear translation of ideas often breaks down when the literal clashes with the colloquial, leaving intent to seem ambiguous at best, and at worst, hostile.

I think people could do better.  But they won’t as long as they remain afraid of what they don’t understand.  To clear up misunderstandings requires bravery and not cowardice; requires effort and not indolence.  It will require honest investigation of truthful information and not suspicious presuppositions.  It requires a commitment to wanting to do the right thing, and an openness to ideas that may be different from those we bring to the table.  While that may not be too much to ask, many seem to believe it’s too much to expect.

Business of Theater and Theater of Business: Part Four

Just as the director needs to know what motivates the characters, it also helps if he understands what motivates the players assigned to the parts.  And so it’s true for leaders and managers who would expect other people to commit to help them reach goals.  In other words, the leader finds a way to get others to help him reach his goal, while they are also reaching theirs.  Each can get something they want.  That would be good, clean business, and it would be equitable leadership, wouldn’t it?

To do that, either somebody has to gather a lot of information, or develop a set of habits understanding the signals seen in observable behavior characteristics of others.  If you pay attention, most people will show you how they wish to be treated.  To start, let’s take a look at one exaggerated style.  Let’s look at Inspector Clouseau who kind of sees himself as Sherlock Holmes.

In “The Pink Panther” movies, as the story developed and scenes changed, Peter Sellers was always Inspector Clouseau.  And your ability to recognize the character is evidence of the effectiveness of the performance.  What was so clear, and so obvious was, that the character Clouseau didn’t read the other people and situations around him very well at all.  And that, though in real life could become tragic, is what made it so funny.

In the movie, Clouseau never recognized about himself the things that everyone around him saw, that caused them to treat him as they did.  And by the same token, he generally misinterpreted how the other characters around him preferred to be treated.  And so, this element of not being able to properly read people and situations made it all the funnier that in this role, he was to search out meaningful clues; to investigate and discover truths in reality when his whole perceivable world was altered by delusion.

But the director, Blake Edwards and the actor, Peter Sellers understood it very well.  And that is precisely why the performance was such a success.  It is also fair to recognize that Mr. Sellers was an excellent selection for that role.  We’ve all witnessed situations where we felt the wrong person was given an assignment that just didn’t fit them at all, and some of us will have to admit that at times, it was us.

But let’s say you’re in the right role right now.  You are probably correct,  because the character you play is you.  It’s okay to be you, isn’t it?  I think we’ll all agree.  But won’t we also agree that it’s NOT okay to expect everybody else to be you?  How many times have you looked at somebody, and at least thought the words:

“If I were you, the way I would do it…” 

To hear the words “if I were you…”, or “the  way I would do it…” often carries a sense of judgement and condemnation, or at least some apparent condescension.  After all, how I might do something may not only be information others are not looking for, but often could be the very process they’d wish to avoid.  I can think of a few habits and practices I use often that might cause others some discomfort if expected to emulate.  Perhaps you’ve heard such words before and at least thought: “But you’re NOT me, and that’s NOT the way I intend to go about it.”

No matter how much we have in common, we’re all just a little bit different from each other, aren’t we?  And we all do some things differently due to our experiences, training temperament, and perhaps even our varying physical strengths and limitations. But being different in some ways is not such a bad thing.  First of all, if we weren’t different from each other, we’d have a terrible time recognizing anybody.  And after a while, things would get pretty boring.

But we are different.  And we like different things; different flavors, colors, kinds of music, and particularly automobiles, which is a choice often effected by style.  And so it is true with other choices we make, as we all don’t always want the same things.  And whether we admit it or not, we are motivated by what we want, and far more so than what somebody else tells us we’re supposed to want.

Most of us are likely to be reluctant to buy when the person selling shows no interest in what we want.  They need to pay us some attention, don’t they?  My goodness, if they don’t do that, they could very well make the mistake of assuming you would want the same things they do.  And, with that assumption, they might not be listening to what you’re telling them; they could be ignoring the signals in your behavior, your body language, facial expressions, or often as not, the lack of them.

When someone else fails to connect with you, it’s not just the mistake of not noticing you as an individual, but not noticing you with individual wants and needs.  And their failure to do that could cost them the sale, couldn’t it?  Keep that in mind while you’re out and about selling products or service or ideas.  If you intend to be persuasive, you should want to present things so your audience can see them, and as they’d want to see them.

But, be careful.  One of the greatest difficulties will be overcoming the predetermination that you should get credit for the idea.  Think about someone you’ve bought from that you’d gladly recommend to others.  One of the things you might be likely to say is:  “They helped me find exactly what I wanted.”

What you’re not likely to say is:  “They sure were persistent about proving to me that what I wanted was entirely wrong.”

You’re not likely to even think that.  You might admit you were shown options you hadn’t thought about before, but in the end, if you’re happy with the decision, it will be because you’re the one who made it.  And, it will have been an emotional decision.  So when selling to others, allow them that.  It’s far more important than how rational you think your offer is, or why you’re certain they should agree with you.

So the salesperson needs to be aware that while they can and perhaps should take on the role of directing the sale, the buyers may see themselves (and often do) as directing the purchase.


A Strange Fear of The Open Mind

“Culture encompasses religion, food, what we wear, how we wear it, our language, marriage, music, what we believe is right or wrong, how we sit at the table, how we greet visitors, how we behave with loved ones, and a million other things…”
~  Cristina De Rossi, Anthropologist at Barnet and Southgate College, London

Yes.  Additionally, one of the primary functions of any society is to protect, nurture, and teach its children so they can grow up and take charge without having to repeat all the unnecessary (and often stupid) mistakes made by their predecessors.  We want them to learn how to build “the better mousetrap”, and avoid the return of ignorant superstitions that lead to burning innocent people for witchcraft, or clinging to good luck charms instead of embracing scientific discovery.  However, we’ve been witness to efforts intending to stigmatize scientific discoveries as invalid, and the motive for such positions regularly seems to come from sources that make profits from the ignorance of discovery.  Ever question that, or wonder what specific motives would back up such behavior?  The bait looks delicious, but is there a hook in it?

Some will remember The Waxman Hearings that took place before congress on April 14, 1994.  The CEO’s of several major tobacco companies testified under oath that they believed nicotine and cigarette smoking were not addictive.  Well, weren’t the tobacco executives making money selling nicotine and cigarettes?  Big money?  Yes, they were.  Today we continue to hear the coal, natural gas, and petroleum industries (and all the politicians they own) take the same position–that the modern practice of using their products is not harmful to the environment, nor is it in any significant way causing changes or global warming (see  If you follow the money, you might at least suspect a bit of wool is being pulled over some eyes.  Please be aware that ignorance was not the reason for the false testimony of the tobacco industry, but their hoped for success depended to a large degree on keeping the general public ignorant, and hopefully continuing to buy their products because of such ignorance, or at least in spite of scientifically verified arguments for not doing so.

I think we’ll agree all good parents want their children to have a chance to “do better”.  So it is reasonable to appreciate mothers and fathers wanting their offspring to not only know what the parents know how to do, but to help the children to rise to even higher plateaus–of craft and skill, art, and understanding.  That’s justification to have a tradition of reading books to them, and sending them to mentors and teachers.  Unfortunately, as you well know, some parents are afraid of change.  And because of fears, are often reluctant for their offspring to take steps beyond “the way we’ve always done it”, or singing “Give Me That OldTime Religion”, as if “old” would always mean “best”, which you and I know is not always true.  Additionally there are some who seem to either not care or feel incapable of doing anything proactive about their children’s education.

Some of you remember a time when there was a  long-standing practice (tradition) of using lead in paints, food containers, water pipes, and as additives to other widely used consumer products such as gasoline.  The challenge to stop doing it when science helped us understand the harm we were doing to ourselves and our children still met with huge resistance.  And not just from capitalists and manufacturers heavily invested in lead, but from consumers as well.  There were many people figuring out ways to bypass catalytic converters during the time when some petrol was still available that contained lead.  Though it was not a wise practice, it was widely used–almost as if leaded gasoline was a tradition.

Because irrational fears about changes that could be connected to unknown or uncertain outcomes do exist, often born of ignorance, perplexing issues can surface when misunderstood risks are tossed into categories of impulse, rather than recognized as calculated.  We want discipline and accountability, which often mandates adherences to rules.  This is particularly powerful whenever individuals controlled by the rules do not understand how they could possibly do otherwise, or paralyzed by the fear of attempting to do so.  While it was a practice for a long time in warfare to march in straight lines and columns on the battlefield in bright and highly visible uniforms, the technological advances of cannons and firearms made the continuance of such to be disadvantageous.  In spite of the futility of it overall, it continued far beyond what sanity called for.  After all, wouldn’t you agree it was “tradition”?

One of the reasons was the image of power of the powerful was maintained as unquestionable, and many soldiers marched to their death as ordered.  It was what they were taught to believe, and any discrepancy of the rules faced severe consequences.  For many, it seemed better to die “bravely and dutifully” than to be hanged or shot for “stepping out of line”.  Thus, keeping an open mind when faced with “duty” is seldom allowed to be an option for consideration.

What would happen if people just decided on their own to not participate in wars anymore?  Would kings, dictators, presidents, and generals still go at it if they were not convincing or exploitive enough to raise an army to do their fighting for them?  Hmmm.  Should we consider changing the tradition?  Would changing it be disrespectful of those who fought and died in wars before us?  Perhaps one reasonably sane way to show respect for those killed in war would be for us to strive to make certain their children and grandchildren will not have to die that way.  Yet many people will never be able to see that as a viable option, because it seems to be a bit out of their control.

Even today, the concept of following command and direct orders without question is firmly instilled in the minds of military personnel world-over.  I understand it.  But outside the horrible circumstance of war, foot soldiers, pawns, and slaves might be better off than their overlords would have them be, if the dominated learned how to think for themselves.  Truth is, most would be afraid to attempt do so, because they fear the loss of the guidance they believe sustains them.  And that is exactly what they are taught to believe.  Dominators want the dominated to be compliant, so managing the phobic is often just a simple matter of managing their perceptions, and keeping them at a distance from ideas and thoughts that could lead to independence.

We raised sons, and also kept pets.  We wanted the boys to grow up to be men who could take care of themselves, solve problems, and know how to deal with adversities.  It worked.  They are all extraordinary men in those respects.  On the other hand, the dogs and cats were never expected to be educated to a level of self sufficiency.  We liked them, but there were limits of what was expected of their growth and development.

The human children, on the other hand, were expected to challenge their thresholds of self expectations.  There was real joy in seeing apparent light bulbs turn on in their heads.  That is not uncommon in healthy cultures, and is a part of…traditions.

Sometimes traditions clash, even within a culture.  When that happens there are those who have ideas for change facing off with those in fear of it.  Whichever side a person is on is not determined by rational thought as much as it is in accordance with their indoctrination.  Both sides might “feel” they are upholding a tradition.  Some reference to why I said that can be found in a book,”on_being_certain” by Robert A. Burton, Neurologist.

Beyond that, when conflict and controversy surfaces between practices that seem to oppose each other, some have to decide which traditional behavior will bring about the best result.  Unfortunately, more often the position most strongly supported by “authority” wins out.

We’ve seen this in universities that face funding issues that result in cutting programs and teachers’ salaries, while at the same time figuring out a way to give a popular coach a big raise and a budget increase in order to prevent his being recruited to a competitive institution.  The cuts are explained as efficiencies, and the off-sided boost to the coach justified as necessary and essential.  The maintenance of one program that was almost never the purpose for the institutions existence in the first place takes precedence over programs that were.

We’ve all seen this happen, and it is happening now.  Traditional curriculums of physics, chemistry, music, art, literature, and philosophy often become secondary to a recreational activity that has become tradition…and also big business for administrators.  We also see it in governance where fund-raising improves the lifestyles of politicians, but does little to advance the circumstances, long-term and short, for the constituency they are supposed to (but don’t) represent.  But after all, it is a tradition.

Some want to see that change, but such change faces the challenge of being called “progressive” as if such a term was in and of itself an indictment.  Ironically, most of the money available to finance what the public is likely to hear or read more or less subtly goes to support protecting the status quo (of bribery) than risk losing the coveted benefits of those who put up the money to pay for the game.

How do you address something if you believe it undermines-our-cultural-traditions, or in some way causes the next generation to forget or misunderstand how they got to where they are?  I’m not talking about a strict adherence to just dogmatic opinions, as they often overlook the facts required to understand growth and development.  Instead, let’s consider the current popularity, and even apparent love of reductions for the sake of efficiency that often seem to be “cost effective”, yet undermine integrity.  A simple example would be to side-step prerequisites such as not putting on a primer coat on a piece of raw wood before applying the top, or color coat.  It can be done, and it is initially cheaper.  But in the long run, the outcome is often less than desirable.

Lot’s of folks have trouble with the word liberal, and seem to have forgotten (if they even knew it in the first place) it comes from a Latin reference to that which is “worthy of a free person”.  In essence, the liberal arts do refer to an education that leads to being able to function with understanding in society, and be able to be a part of the processes of debating ideas and concepts with some background on how those ideas are constructed.

The trend of political disrespect felt by the liberal arts is an indication of a much greater problem: the abandonment of disciplines of reason. When the purpose is reduced to simply institutionalizing a system for a compliant work force that does not and cannot think for itself, there will be no real commitment to finding real solutions to difficult problems that require examination of empirical evidence. Instead, the business will be to find ways to blame problems on things or persons other than ourselves. It doesn’t take a genius mind to recognize how such as that leads to social dysfunction.

Anti-intellectualism raises its ugly head in almost every generation, and is a tool of those (shamans, witchdoctors, and charlatans) who cannot rise to, or maintain power without the aid of fear held in place with superstition.  It is the flagship of extremist reactionaries throughout history.  We saw it happening during The Crusades, The Spanish Inquisition, the rise of Fascism, the evil tactics of Joseph Stalin to take control of The Soviet Union, “McCarthyism” in our own country, ISES, and many other bigoted religious extremist groups that thrive on hatred and colossal misunderstandings.

We also see it in the power-mongering processes of the self serving who insist they get to sit in the lap of luxury no matter what the cost is to the rest of the world and its inhabitants.  And without an educated populace, working together to move ever closer to understanding: thus real freedom and peacefulness, the cultural tradition of helping the children of each generation progress towards a better and more sustainable lifestyle is in great danger of diminishing further as it goes out of style.

“When a person believes all wrongs are the fault of others, the only filter left that postpones desires for instant gratification, is fear…Teachers are not the cause of poverty and underfunded schools any more than doctors are the cause of disease and underfunded clinics…There’s no wealth in a society that cannot educate it’s children.  If you can afford it but won’t, then you’re an enemy of the children.”

 ~  things-ive-said-before

Liberty, Equality…

A question often comes up about which is more important, as if the comparison was altogether fair, which it isn’t.  Do we assign freedom (liberty), or equality (impartiality–fairness) with the highest value?  No quick answer is sufficient without a good bit of thought behind it.  The same is true if you’re asked would you rather give up a hand, or an eye?  How about both hands or both eyes?  Not enough to just consider what you keep, but also what you give up.  It is complicated further if it becomes a question of the dominant hand or the dominant eye, doesn’t it?

The concept of equality as far as governance is concerned, is that we are all equal, or should be equal under the law.  In life, there are many inequities by the very nature of things that cannot become level by legislation or litigation.  In matters of thought, equality is not going to be realistic.  That would require we all have the same intellect, which of course is not the way things are.  I’m often made aware of my poverty in that department when faced with the superior thinking of quite a few others.

But without the freedom of thought, the benefits of fair and reasonable, which should be some motive for certain equalities, may not become easily realized.  Freedom of mind should allow for the opportunity to move closer to understanding, without which the pursuit of happiness will be hampered.  Laws that are not impartial or fair to all governed by them suggest some freedoms are being restricted, modified, or withheld from some, according to station determined by some prejudicial method.

Without understanding, people tend to find themselves in constant turmoil, conflict, and controversy, wrapped up in unresolvable ideological entanglements often not based on or verifiable by evidence, or from any rational thinking, for that matter.  For many situations in life, understanding and the pursuit of happiness are cotangents of the kinds of behavior supporting fairness–with all participating having some right to fair treatment as well as the responsibility to extend the same in kind.

The rights of people to be free even in their thinking is something that should be available to everyone–equal in that right with each other.  For example, we cannot have a freedom OF religion unless everyone is at the same time allowed to have a freedom FROM religion.  And so it is the freedom itself that is to be extended equally.

Some living things require oxygen and water to survive.  Those two things, quite different from each other are both important.  The one that might seem most important at any given time is whichever one is being made hardest to get.  Too much air can dehydrate an organism, and too much water could drown it.  So with that, when either liberty or equality is pushed to some extreme measure, they can become quite the opposite of each other.  The drowning man is probably not thirsty.

The Very Nature of Things

Neurologist Robert A. Burton has recognized through scientific discovery that brain stimulation/mapping of the temporal lobe has uncovered all kinds of new information about motor movement, emotions, and decision making.  Burton has determined that some of what we “think we know” comes from the “voices” within our own limbic system.

I’m sure you’ve spoken with people who truly believe the stories about space aliens abducting humans, and perhaps insist it has happened to them.  Even though they seem to be so certain in their beliefs, a little bit of knowledge about our real universe and some common sense tells you they are probably delusional.

“Despite how certainty feels, it is neither a conscious choice nor even a thought process.  Certainty and similar states of “knowing what we know” arise out of involuntary brain mechanisms that, like love or anger, function independently of reason.”

~ from the preface of:

“On Being Certain: Believing You Are Right Even When You’re Not”

 by Robert A. Burton, MD (Neurology)

We’ve all experienced opinions that, when placed in juxtaposition with a changing background, will take on textures and flavors not recognized earlier.  And for that reason, we need to continue to look.  The alternative is to accept some presupposition, and not even an original one, as if it were fact.  And that, of course, is not a wise thing to do. All of us know that, but people by-pass that logic every day, even when they know better.  Then, sometimes, they don’t know better, and listen for some explanation that satisfies them, and calms their anxieties about the unknown.

My father was born in a world that, for the most part, believed The Milky Way Galaxy was the entire Universe.  Science, through the process of moving ever closer to understanding, soon proved that conclusion to be wrong.  In fact, there are billions of galaxies, and The Milky Way is neither at the center of things, nor the biggest of them by any stretch of the imagination.

“Maggots from meat” was a misconception born of the erroneous theory of spontaneous generation, similar to the way it was thought that grapes became wine due to some magic trick performed by Bacchus or Dionysus.  The idea of spontaneous generation offered an explanation, but it was not scientific; it was not even presumed to be natural, and it was not true.  Prior to Leeuwenhoek’s discoveries of the world of microbiology, almost every theory or explanation about life was at best, born of ignorance.  And please don’t presume I mean stupid, for ignorance is something else entirely.

Disease and pain were presumed to be caused by demons and witches, and to this very day, some people still believe it.  Since they “feel” safe accepting what they’ve been taught, they investigate nothing on their own without prejudice, without knowledge, and without understanding.  Although that is a sad thing, it’s quite common.

The purpose of science is to move closer to understanding.  And that often challenges older explanations that were derived without understanding.  People believe all kinds of things, and they will kill you because of what they believe.  But for what people believe to be true to in fact be true, is not now, nor has it ever at any point in human history been required.

To argue in defense of what is accepted as true even though it isn’t, was the reason Galileo was convicted of heresy by the Spanish Inquisition for noticing Venus orbited the sun and not the earth.  As we all (hopefully) know now, the Inquisition was in error, but Galileo, even though he told the truth, was forced to deny it in public, or face execution.

To acknowledge discovery takes nothing away from lessons about ethical behavior.  It does, however, often challenge preconceived notions about the details of stories used to make the point.  We live in a most amazing universe, and the more we learn about it, the more we understand about nature.

Copernicus theorized the sun was the center of our planetary system back in the 15th century.  In the next century, Galileo proved the heliocentric idea was true, and went even further to note the sun itself rotated.  This was quite a leap from everything believed to be true before, and consequently, by insisting his findings to be factual got him into hot water with the College of Cardinals and the Pope.  While this information is considered common knowledge today, there are still those who find it to be heretical.  But don’t you think it would be silly to throw out the scientific findings, and declare it okay to just accept whatever belief a person chooses to have on the matter?  Of course you would.

If a thing appears phenomenal to me, and quite a few things do, it doesn’t mean that it isn’t natural.  It just means that I might not understand the nature of it.  But at no time does nature cease to be nature just because I misunderstand it.  All the evidence we have about “creation” exists in nature.  So, without any brilliant leap required, it would make sense that what we can discover and understand about “creation” would involve studying and and learning more about nature itself.

And for those who wish to connect with the mind of “God”, they might try looking at the nature of things “created”, and to understand what can be discovered about the process itself.  After all, that would have to be exactly the truest revelations, if there be any at all.  The alternative would be to be entirely dependent on explanations offered by people who knew very little about the nature of anything, but made up explanations about everything.

There are many wonderful lessons that can direct us towards ethical treatment of others found in books, many of them religious books.  To attempt to deny that would be silly.  There are also good lessons to be learned from parables and fables told for that purpose without the presupposition that the story itself depicts something that really happened.  For example, I can get several lessons on several intellectual levels from a story by Aesop, without even once believing there was a talking fox that liked grapes.

I can also learn from some of the lessons in the Old Testament (most of which was written down for the first time during the Babylonian Captivity) without presuming there is a way for a man to sell his daughter into slavery that would please the Deity.  Or, for that matter, slaughter innocent men, women, and children, enslave some of them, steal their land and property, authorize some sovereign or monarch to take for himself far more than he could possibly need while others around him suffer.  It’s rather interesting when you read old scriptures from most of our modern religions (and I have) that one of the saddest delusions man has ever conceived of is that oppression of other people is authorized and approved of by the Deity.

One conclusion, if there be one, is that Charles Darwin opened some windows that can help us understand the nature of things, and was brave enough to publish his findings.  So it seems to me, as we move closer to understanding, we should embrace discovery rather than to deny it just because it doesn’t fit well within the confines of preconceived notions that occurred in the minds of ancients who didn’t have the benefit of knowing.

Think if you will about all the all the ancient theories of how the sun provided seemingly perpetual light and heat without any understanding of nuclear physics.  Isn’t it possible that some of those old theories, regardless of how noble or moral the person who came up with them happened to be, were not quite…the truth?  Although most of us give lip-service to the idea of growth, development and learning, sometimes, the hardest thing to do is to let go of an idea that makes us comfortable, even in light of empirical evidence that points out the error of its logic.

I embrace science as an ongoing process, not stagnated or trapped wherever it lands on any given day.  There is a peacefulness to be found by wanting to move closer to understanding rather an run away from it.  And when we do that, the benefits that can be had from being open to new ideas, thus willing to cooperate, can lead us to marvelous solutions to problems, where the prospects of hope are almost boundless, hampered only by the limits of our imagination.

The complexity of it, I suppose, may well be lodged somewhere inside wanting to know the importance of understanding what our imagination is made of.  Neurologists, such as Dr. Burton, are beginning to show us how to do that.  Yet with all the accomplishments made thus far, what we don’t know is still bigger than what we do.  So if we consider it even in the simplest of linear terms, I don’t reckon we’ve reached the end point, no, not yet, not yet at all.

Where are the Independently Dominants?

“The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.” ~ H. L. Mencken

“A man who is not afraid is not aggressive, a man who has no sense of fear of any kind is really a free, a peaceful man…What is needed, rather than running away or controlling or suppressing or any other resistance, is understanding fear; that means, watch it, learn about it, come directly into contact with it. We are to learn about fear, not how to escape from it.”   ~ Jiddu Krishnamurti

“…let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself…”                     ~ Franklin Delano Roosevelt


(The following commentary has resulted from a series of exchanges, both through some LinkedIn groups, and personal email with Chris Aristides Pappas.   You can find him on the internet, and read some of his thoughts if you wish.  You can also see the footnotes at the bottom of this post that includes some of the things he’d told me.  

Our correspondence was prompted by a keen interest I began to have for his views about biological social archetypes–specifically Dominants, Dominators and Phobics.  For those of you who have read some of my other posts about motivation, know I have taken a considerable interest in the psychology behind what prompts decision making.  

With that, however, we cannot overlook some anthropological and biological facts and theories that lead up to the development of a social order in the first place.  I owe a great deal to Chris, who is a scientist with quite a broad spectrum of interests, including nanotechnology.  That he has chosen to share some thoughts with me is absolutely amazing.)


Hominids have been hard-wired for fear for millions of years.  From the early beginnings in Africa, it was not only the predation of other mammals that might eat them, but that some of this predation occurred in the darkness of night, leaving the hominids at some disadvantage.  There were many predators in Africa back then, and still are*.

Besides direct predation that included other primates such as chimpanzees and baboons, our early ancestors also had to deal with quite an array of venomous creatures that are ubiquitous in their environment: primarily spiders and snakes.

In North America, there are a few species of venomous snakes, and a small enough number for most people to be able to know what they are, and quickly recognize them as rattlesnakes, copperheads, coral snakes, and the cottonmouth water moccasin.  Early hominids faced a much larger threat**.

In nature, the independently dominant can take care of itself and its own; can adapt, can cooperate, and can stand in the face of much adversity.  It can take care of business, so to speak.  This is seen in all species, both plant and animal.  In nature, the phobics die off.  In nature, there are the independently dominants and the phobics, but the gene pool favors the dominants since the phobics cannot take care of business, and often cannot figure out how to cooperate or adapt.  The topic thus far is around natural conditions, and not the contrivances of processes such as systemic linkage, institutionalization, socialization and social control, or the domestication of other species.

As homo sapiens sapiens evolved, some clever phobics began to bully other phobics, often not recognized as bullying, and became dominators over them.  It’s important at this point to not confuse dominators with true predators, as predation is a part of the natural order of things.  Dominant predators tend to survive; phobic predators do not.  And in the natural world, dominators as are described here, don’t exist.  Among human beings, dominators that prey on their own kind are best described as cannibals***. 

Dominators do not survive very well on their own, and need to have slaves and armies do their work for them.  Dominators share a bit of the produce of the slaves back with the slaves in amounts sufficient to keep enough of them alive, and able to to the dominator’s work.  Dominators exist in hierarchies, and are often dominated over by other bullies.

This arrangement allows the phobics, who would otherwise die off, to over populate and create potentially unsustainable ecological situations.  It is also the structure that, backed by ideologies created by dominators, even allows for the possibility, as well as the probability of all out war.  Whichever dominator rises to the top at the end of the war is allowed to authorize the writing of the history of it, claiming themselves to be the good guys. Of course two motivations surface whenever you are dealing with what is behind revisionist history: the potential capability to shape and control ideological influence, as well as political influence.  These behaviors are always proprietary to dominators.  The phobics won’t know how, and the independently dominants will have no need of it.

It is worthy to note that dominators do not like independently dominants, because among other reasons, they don’t make good slaves.  When independently dominants, who are often respected by other independently dominants and some of the phobics, begin to gain a following, it is common for the dominators to gang up on them to either discredit them, or to destroy them–kill them if necessary, as history says was what happened to Socrates, The Christ, and many others.  And it is for that reason, though often well respected and trusted at local levels, they never rise to significant power in either state or national hierarchies.

In the meantime, Henny Penny, Ducky Lucky, Goosey Loosey, and Turkey Lurky will always believe Foxy Loxy is showing the best short cut to take to safety.  And to follow Foxy openly makes them feel worthy, and to stand right behind him urging the others to follow as well makes them feel significant.  That they are significant, worthy or safe from anything they have been made fearful of, are all illusions.  And all their thinking on the matter, always passive and never self-reliant, becomes a system of belief disorders that always allow others (such as Foxy Loxy) to make up mind laws, and convince the phobics they are real.

The important thing to realize is that dominators do not want the phobics to be well educated.  They do not wish them moving closer to any understanding of things other than what they’ve been told to accept.  The dominators want compliance; demand compliance, and when their own authority to insist upon it is insufficient, they present their mind laws to be from a higher, even supernatural power.

Dominators prefer their illusions over those of the dominated.  And, they do not care to allow the teaching of what they wish to remain unlearned.  This is the root of hierarchies, and the prejudicial development of attitudes of moral superiority by station.  It is also the fundamental reason behind all oppressive behaviors of one person, or groups of persons, over other individuals and groups of people.

And while it is presumed by many to be revelations of the supernatural, fully understood only by designated dominators, no proof of it is ever required.  The phobics are kept fearful of what they themselves cannot explain, so it is easy for them to accept the explanations given to them by their “betters”.  Because of this, most folks never come to the realization that one of the saddest delusions man has ever conceived of is that oppression of other people is authorized and approved of by the Deity.

The reason it works is, a few of the phobics often don’t recognize they are being oppressed, but instead, see themselves as being kept safe.  Others know quite well they are being oppressed, but other fears, such as not knowing what to do about it, cause them to at least try to project the appearance of being compliant–especially when they suspect they’re being monitored.

 The character, “Huckleberry Finn”, was based on a real-life boyhood friend of Samuel Langhorne Clemens.  As I’m sure many of you recall, Huck was neither a phobic nor a dominator.  And because of that, his general resistance to conformity was presumed to be problematic by those that would have his submission.  He knew how to catch a fish, build a lean-to, build a raft, and generally find ways to fill his personal needs.  Yet he was not a bully dominating over other people in the story.  And he would regularly remove himself from the presence of those who would want power over his choice of actions and personal behaviors.

The real life boy grew up to be a man others could trust and depend upon, and became somewhat of a pillar of the community back home, but never rose in any power beyond that.   Over the years, some have had the pleasure of knowing a few, though probably only a very few, “Huckleberry Finn”s.

So, where are the independently dominants?  Perhaps not where you’d think they would be.  Though not in every case, they are often independent scientists, scholars, doctors, artisans, and those who have mastered various art forms, crafts and skills.  You might traditionally look for leadership in high places, but find them missing.  Many of those in high places hold office at the pleasure of other dominators.  Yet as they themselves are dominated, due to the corrupt nature of sponsored politics itself, they often take on the same role as would effect the public at large.

Folks often refer to the game of life.  But if it’s your life, you have to consider who’s allowed to keep score.


“Evidence offers that the other apes and primates had well established themselves in niches prior to the appearance of the earliest hominids. Upon inception, the earliest hominids were the odd man out. Chimp and baboon groups defend their territories against other groups of their own kind and other primates. Clearly, the smaller weaker hominids could neither challenge these nor tarry overlong in their territories. They certainly could not compete with these nor even with the monkeys in the trees. This allows that they may have had to pursue a nomadic existence. Our feet offer some consideration of this. I do not recall any discoveries of hominids sans these. Of course, what early evidence we have found has been very incomplete. A skull cap here, a knee joint there.

But Chimps and baboons offered an even greater risk; predation.  Certainly, the leopard was the greatest risk to Hominids as it was to all large primates. Even young gorillas were on the menu. The leopard has a wide appetite, but primates are easy. Of these, hominids were the easiest. Predators are not trophy hunters and the weakest are always a target.  Leopards are disproportionally strong. A good sized leopard can easily kill an eland. These are horse sized antelope. They have two long sabre-like horns with serrated edges. They weigh 1500 lbs, 682 kgs. A leopard can then haul it over 30 feet, 9.2 meters, up a tree so that lions can’t take their kill, or them.  Primates, even groups, are entirely at risk from leopard predation. Another serious risk is an ancient cousin of the modern cats, the hyena. Both are effective predators, day or night.

However, chimp and baboon harassment and predation of Hominids would have left hominids little respite. Vigilance could not be relaxed and anxiety would be relatively continuous. Most prey species enjoy periods of relaxation when the predators are sated. Hominids may have been under greater pressure. A chimp or baboon is a serious and even lethal threat to a fit modern man. Until the Heidelberg-Rhodesian man varieties, most earlier Hominids were much smaller.

Bonobos eat a variety of foods, including fruits, nuts, seeds, sprouts, vegetation, and mushrooms. They eat various parts of plants, including the leaves, flowers, bark, stems, pith, and roots. They also eat small mammals, insect larvae, earthworms, honey, eggs, and soil.  Unlike chimpanzees who form hunting parties to capture monkeys, bonobos do not aggressively hunt mammals, but they have been observed to capture duikers (small antelope) and flying squirrels.  Chimps eat every part of a monkey, including the brain.  Chimps also kidnap and eat young baboons.  Baboons eat seeds, fruits, meats, birds, small mammals and even antelopes.

I am quite sure that early hominids, young and adult, were at serious risk of predation by chimps and baboons.  Interestingly, this may have fueled a fear of others that appear like us beyond that from normal territorial competition between groups of the same species.  This all allows that hominids were under multiple pressures that suppressed their numbers for almost four million years. It is notable that early hominid remains are rare. Even many extinct mammals have left far more evidence of their existence.” ~ Chris Aristides Pappas


** “Immediately following is a list of venomous snakes from Africa, where Hominids spent most of their existence. Some of these are also found in surrounding “out of Africa” areas. Recall that H. sap was only the latest of the Hominids to trek “out of Africa”.

Boomslang Dispholidus typus.  Distribution: Found throughout sub-Saharan Africa.

Bush viper Atheris squamiger.  Distribution: Most of Africa, Angola, Cameroon, Uganda, Kenya, and Zaire.

Egyptian cobra Naja haje.  Distribution: Africa, Iraq, Syria, and Saudi Arabia.

Gaboon viper Bitis gabonica.  Distribution: Most of Africa.

Green mamba Dendraspis angusticeps.  Distribution: Most of Africa.

Horned desert viper Cerastes cerastes.  Distribution: Arabian Peninsula, Africa, Iran, and Iraq.

Mole viper or burrowing viper Atracaspis microlepidota.  Distribution: Sudan, Ethiopia, Somaliland, Kenya, Tanganyika, Uganda, Cameroon, Niger, Congo, and Urundi.

Puff adder Bitis arietans.  Distribution: Most of Africa, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Lebanon, Israel, and Jordan.

Rhinoceros viper or river jack Bitis nasicornis.  Distribution: Equatorial Africa.

Sand viper Cerastes vipera.  Distribution: Northern Sahara, Algeria, Egypt, Sudan, Nigeria, Chad, Somalia, and central Africa.

Saw-scaled viper Echis carinatus.  Distribution: Asia, Syria, India, Africa, Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Jordan, Lebanon, Sri Lanka, Algeria, Egypt, and Israel.

Following is a list of venomous snakes that were waiting for any Hominids that managed to trek “out of Africa” at any time.

Levant viper Vipera lebetina.  Distribution: Greece, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Turkey, Afghanistan, lower portion of the former USSR, and Saudi Arabia.

Palestinian viper Vipera palaestinae.  Distribution: Turkey, Syria, Palestine, Israel, Lebanon, and Jordan.

Common Adder or European Adder (Vipera berus).  Distribution: very common throughout much of Europe. It is also the only poisonous snake occurring in the United Kingdom.

The Aspic Viper, Asp Viper or Asp, European Asp, European Viper, Jura viper (Vipera aspis).  Distribution: Europe: northeastern Spain, Andorra, most of France- inckuding in the Ile de Re and Oleron islands -, Monaco, Italy, the islands of Elba, Montecristo and Sicily, San Marino, Switzerland; northwestern Slovenia and extreme southwestern Germany – southern Black Forest.

Long-nosed Adder or Nose-horned Viper (vipera ammodytes).  Distribution: Occurs in south-eastern Europe, from Hungary and Austria to Italy, Romania, former Yugoslavia, and northern Albania.

Pallas’ Viper (Akistrodon halys).  Distribution: throughout southeastern Europe

Ursini’s Viper, or Orsini’s Viper, or Meadow Viper (Vipera ursinii).  Distribution: This snake can be found in south-eastern France, central Italy, west Balkans (former Yugoslavia), northern Greece, Albania, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, and Germany.  

Lataste’s Viper or Snub-nosed Viper, Snub-nosed Adder (Vipera latastei).  Distribution: This viper occurs in the extreme southwestern Europe – France, Portugal and Spain- and northwestern Africa – the Mediterranean region of Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia.

Seoane’s Viper or Baskian Viper, Iberian Cross Adder, Portuguese Viper (Vipera seoanei).  Distribution: extreme southwestern France and the northern regions of Spain and Portugal (Basque country, mountains of Galicia and Cantabrici).

Ottoman viper, Turkish Viper, Rock Viper, Coastal Viper, Near East Viper, Mountain Viper (Vipera xanthina).  Distribution: a widely distributed species which occurs in northeastern Greece and European Turkey, as well as in some Aegean Sea islands (Simi, Kos, Kalimnos, Leros, Lipsos, Patmos, Samos, Chios and Lesbos). Its population is presumed to be quite large.

Nikolsky’s Adder or Forest-steppe Adder (Vipera nikolskii).  Distribution: endemic to central Ukraine.

Milos viper (Macrovipera schweizeri).  Distribution: Greek viper, limited to the islands of Milos, Kimolos, Polyaigos, and Sifnos.

McMahon’s viper Eristicophis macmahonii.  Distribution: West Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Common cobra Naja naja.  Distribution: All of Asia.

Green tree pit viper Trimeresurus gramineus.  Distribution: India, Burma, Malaya, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, China, Indonesia, and Formosa.

King cobra Ophiophagus hannah.  Distribution: Thailand, southern China, Malaysia Peninsula, and Philippines.

Krait Bungarus caeruleus.  Distribution: India, Sri Lanka, and Pakistan.

Malayan pit viper Callaselasma rhodostoma.  Distribution: Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Java, Sumatra, Malaysia, Vietnam, Burma, and China.

Russell’s viper Vipera russellii.  Distribution: Sri Lanka, south China, India, Malaysian Peninsula, Java, Sumatra, Borneo, and surrounding islands.

Wagler’s pit viper or temple viper Trimeresurus wagleri.  Distribution: Malaysian Peninsula and Archipelago, Indonesia, Borneo, the Philippines, and Ryuku Islands.

Habu pit viper Trimeresurus flavoviridis.  Distribution: Okinawa and neighboring islands and Kyushu

Hominid diet is also a factor here. Many primates eat eggs, regardless of type and including snake eggs.

Further, eating snakes cannot be precluded. Mistakes here would be fatal. Many snakes, including many of the above, are attracted to areas of human habitation. Clearly, these all are factors in risk and fear.” ~ Chris Aristides Pappas


*** “I do not consider dominators as true predators. Those individual creatures who “prey” upon their own are better characterized as Cannibals.” ~ Chris Aristides Pappas

Is Not Conservation Essentially the Quintessential Conservative Position?

When it comes down to the politically polarized issues about our environment, a good many people seem to be arguing about things outside their understanding.  It isn’t a new practice; it’s been going on for thousands of years–millions perhaps if you go back to the early beginnings of the hominids.  About 95% of our population is scientifically illiterate (according to Dr. Carl Sagan), and consequently fearful about what they don’t understand.

It is because of what they don’t know (and do not want to know), that they will presume to get their conclusions from other people.  The overwhelming majority are phobics, and as a large subset, get their opinions, not from research, or study, but from accepting the ideas presented to them by their bullies (dominators).  And as long as certain dominators are blinded by the prospects of a hugely profitable immediacy, the inability to postpone gratification, one of the basic character flaws found in individuals and societies as a whole, they will passionately pursue those profits, and support a campaign program of perception management to keep their phobic followers seeing everything as simple, and in some way similar to a pep-rally at a high school football game.  To them, it is just easier to see it as a game.  And during games, they will yell: “Hooray for our side!”

Some are not convinced, in the face of data they literally do not understand, that if we must err, it would be wiser to err on the side of caution.  Strangely enough, they have been convinced (which should give any reasonably bright person a clue to what is happening) that protecting the earth, air, and water in some natural way that can sustain life is some kind of communist plot. At the same time, the delusion has now spread so far as to insist conservation itself, which is the ultimate conservative position, is somehow a bad idea.

Furthermore, it is presumed bad by those who externalize good and bad to things outside themselves, especially if they do not understand them.  What makes it easy for dominators to benefit from such idiocy is the very nature of the phobics.  It is common for them to fear what is framed as “the opposition”, and fear it vehemently more so if it is not understood, or if at all, not very clearly.

And what irrational fear seems so profoundly expressed so loudly and so often?  What more so than the in-your-face insistence of an idea from someone seen to be of an opposing political or religious ideology?  In fact, since that very angst drives humans to become passionate about war, it appears that fears associated with threats they recognize (though not always rationally) to the fabric of their beliefs, will overwhelm even the fear of the loss of life and limb.  You’ve seen it in lots of places.  I’ve seen it on fields of battle.  You can find lots of evidence to support what I just said, if you’ll just look for it.

In the meantime, while incidences of melanoma continue to rise, while a glacier in Nova Scotia continues to melt risking thermal dynamic alterations to The Gulf Stream, while crude oil still leaks into the lower part of that Gulf Stream, while humans and their children have flammable liquids come into their homes through their kitchen faucets, since what was once thought to be an unlimited source of food in our oceans seen now to be endangered and very finite, while we continue to breathe air so unlike the air from just a mere century ago, people turn their backs to the problem, primarily because…they don’t even understand it?  And all of these things are happening whether anyone is willing to admit it, or not.

Oh, these issues are likely to bring sickness, pain, and death to some of the children and grandchildren of our people, but it is much easier to just not think about it than to risk the odd chance of becoming aware of the possibility that some things may have already gone too far.  And to turn our backs and not stand up to face these adversities is not a very responsible, or even a brave thing to do.  When others are seen to be not facing, and even hiding from things that could threaten them, it is often observed as the essence of cowardice, isn’t it?  Maybe we here in the home of the brave, should think about that a little bit.

I thought of some apparent confusions about irrational fearfulness and bravery the other day while looking at a photograph of a man carrying an AR-15 with him to the grocery store.  Imagine so many other people going to buy their daily bread without so much as a pocket knife on them.  Is it that they do not understand all the imminent dangers omni-present all around them?  Or instead, are they just enjoying the freedom that is found only in a peaceful mind?  And perhaps to some, is that not a peacefulness passing far beyond what others might have developed as skills, or ever made habits to even begin to understand?  Well, of course it is.

Human life exists on this planet, as does lots of other kinds of life, due to delicate balances within nature itself.   Some want to believe all this life, all this nature, is the good work and good gifts to us from an unerringly good Deity, yet they would trash it?  Hardly makes sense when you think about it.  But to think about it and want to understand requires an effort.  Those who are lazy with ideas and only want to stand on those built by someone else, some authority they’ve acquiesced their rights to self-reliant thought processing, will not think about it without becoming irrational, thus angry and even hateful.  Peacefulness, a by-product of understanding, is not the business of those willing to be enslaved by their own misunderstandings.

So the fearful will be sedated by the empty promises of their dominators, and remain faithfully in hope of being lead to safety.  And absolutely nothing outside those empty promises will be of any long-term benefit to the phobics, or to their children.

“Stop worrying about these rumors you’re hearing about Agent Orange.  It’s just a defoliant, and cannot cause any harm to people or other animals.”
 ~ Lt. Commander (name withheld), Civil Engineer Corps, USN, 1969, just outside DaNang, Vietnam.  I remember it well.