Beta Culture: Signs in the Heav … uh, News

I keep seeing news stories — a LOT of them — that spark this thought: Hey, that fits right in with the Beta Culture idea!

By which I mean it makes me think the time is ripe for creating a novel, independent, reason-based culture.

Here: Majority of Americans want a third party

Self-identified Democrats and Republicans were equally likely to see the need for a third party—49% of Democrats and 52% of Republicans said they saw the need for a third party—but a full 71% of Independents supported the idea of a third party.

Without knowing it, a lot of us want something new. But faced with either Option A or Option B, we either hold our noses and pick the one LEAST annoying, or we hold back and grumble at both.

Isn’t it time for Option C, the new direction, the new option that WE create?

Start with something. Anything. And then begin to build into it all the things we’d like to see. Maybe not everything is possible. And maybe after living in THIS culture, the one that’s killing us but that we are so familiar with, maybe we’ll have a hard time imagining better solutions.

But really, think about how utterly crazy some of the shit going on now is, and try to imagine the existing system — politics, government, religion, corporate business, social order, entertainment (hell, the news media!) — presenting us with any of the things we dream about in any near-term future.

When you keep getting the same result, you don’t continue with the same actions. You try something new, don’t you?

Time for some experimenting, seems to me.


The World Is Ending. Michele Bachmann Says So.

I love this quote from the Daily Kos story:

Rep. Michele Bachmann is a member of Congress. She’s one of the people currently celebrating the shutdown of the American government as being a fine thing. She is on—and I am not making this up—the House Intelligence Committee.

This is a person who gained so much respect in her home district, where people KNOW her, that she has been repeatedly elected to public office — first the Minnesota state senate, later the U.S. House of Representatives — since 2000.

Which makes her voice more resonant than the guy standing on a corner mumbling about Jesus:

Now what this says to me, I’m a believer in Jesus Christ, as I look at the End Times scripture, this says to me that the leaf is on the fig tree and we are to understand the signs of the times, which is your ministry, we are to understand where we are in God’s End Times history.

Rather than seeing this as a negative, we need to rejoice, Maranatha Come Lord Jesus, His day is at hand. When we see up is down and right is called wrong, when this is happening, we were told this; these days would be as the days of Noah.

I’m out of the loop on whatever sect this phrase comes from — Maranatha Come Lord Jesus — but isn’t that a magical-sounding thing? Makes you want to throw it into your own conversations.

I took the dog for a walk today, Maranatha Come Lord Jesus, and the fall colors were wonderful.

No, I did my homework, Maranatha Come Lord Jesus, but my little brother tore it up.

Maybe we could start abbreviating it and it could replace LOL as a frequent interjection in online conversations:

You were drunk as hell at the party and took off your top in front of everyone, MCLJ!

The boss bent over at the water cooler yesterday, MCLJ, and it was like looking at the Grand Canyon, only with pimples and hair.

I also love this bit from Wikipedia:

Bachmann is under investigation by the House Ethics Committee, the Federal Election Commission, the Iowa Senate Ethics Committee, the Urbandale Police Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation because of alleged campaign finance violations in her 2012 campaign for President.

And I especially like this:

On May 29, 2013, Bachmann announced that she would not seek re-election to her Congressional seat in 2014.

A little more than a year before the Bachmann Crazy Show goes off the air.

If All Your Friends Jumped Off a Bridge … (repost)

A phrase popped into my head yesterday while I was thinking about something completely different, and I’d like to toss it at you: “challenge food.”

A challenge food is that stuff you’re expected to eat, not because it’s good, not because it’s something you would normally like, but to prove to your friends that you’re tough. Or daring. Or … willing to go along with the joke.

How many times have you heard people rave about chili hot enough to bring tears to your eyes? Or read some story about the search for the hottest-ever chili pepper?

There are other challenge foods. Raw oysters come to mind. Mountain oysters (bull calf testicles). Sheep’s eyeballs.

Considering where I came from, sushi was a challenge food for me. At least until I took my first bite, and discovered it was heavenly!

There are also plenty of challenge drinks. Everclear. Metaxa. Hell, even beer, if you’ve never had it before.

I bring all this up because challenge foods illustrate a line in human thinking, the line between “I should like this” and “This should be good.”

Or, more fully, the difference between

I should like this because everybody says it’s good.

… and …

If I’m going to like this, it has to be good.

Do you see the difference? The first one is a follow-along belief that says one’s judgment about what’s good should be based on what other people say is good. The second follows one’s own internal compass, saying that if something’s good TO YOU, you’ll like it, and not otherwise. In other words, the food is going to have to live up to you (your judgment), and not you live up to the food (in other people’s judgment).

I fell for the chili challenge oh-so-many times when I was growing up in Texas. Friends would make the burning hot stuff and gather to rave about how hot it was. “WOO!! That stuff just about burns the hair outta yuh nose, don’t it! Sweet Jesus, somebody git me a fahr hose! I think my eyeballs is meltin’! That chili’ll git the wax runnin’ outer yer ears!”

Until the day I said to myself “Dammit, I don’t want to FIGHT with my food. It’s either gonna be something I like, or I’m not going to eat the goddam stuff.” Ever since, I’ve enjoyed my own very-mildly-spiced recipe for chili, and none other.

I was surprised the first time I tasted champagne. I’d seen it in all the movies, you see, and people were sipping it and laughing, obviously enjoying it. I expected it to be sweet and light and fizzy. Instead it was this … bitter pisswater. I didn’t exactly spit it out, but I took two small sips – the second to be sure I’d been right about the first – and then put the glass down.

In fact, compared to my high school and cowboy buddies, I was very late in taking up drinking at all. I was 22 before I drank down an entire beer, or finished an entire mixed drink on my own. Beer simply didn’t taste very good to me. And even after I started drinking seriously (!) with my cowboy buddies in California, I divided mixed drinks into my own two private categories: Candy and Hair Tonic. Candy drinks – Tom Collins, Rum and Coke, etc. – I would drink. Hair tonic drinks – Martinis, etc. – I would not.

(Bear in mind this is all based on my much-younger sense of taste. Champagne no longer tastes like bitter pisswater, but it also doesn’t taste very GOOD. And still today, a six-pack of beer, which I do buy occasionally, will last me several months.)

Not to say that I wouldn’t try some of that stuff when I was out with the mule packers and had already had a few. I know what Metaxa tastes like, for instance (it probably rises into a third category – Paint Stripper, perhaps, or Human Rights Violation), but I would never, ever order it on my own.

Let’s look at those two mindsets again, though:

“I should like this” is hauled up from the deep, deep well of tribal solidarity:

This is justice because my neighbors say it is. This is right because the Pope says it’s right. This is a justified war because my countrymen say it is. This is good because everybody else seems to think it’s good. This is okay because it’s always been this way. This is the best way to do it because this is how my people do it. I should think this, and agree to this, and go along with this, because that’s what I’m supposed to do. This is real and true because the Bible says it is.

“This should be good” springs from the fountain of individual judgment:

Waitasec, is that right? Hmm, I don’t like this; is there something wrong with ME, or is it something wrong with THEM? Hell, I’m not going along with that. Jeez, I wonder why everybody thinks that’s okay? This tastes awful; I’m not eating/drinking/smoking it. I don’t like the way this is going; I’m outta here. No way am I going to put up with this. Well, shoot, that’s just silly; I didn’t sign on for this. Why is everybody standing around — can’t they see those people need help? Or even: What the fuck is up with you idiots? Can’t you see this is wrong?

I’m not knocking tribal solidarity, but there are limits. I’m pretty sure completely giving up your Self, vanishing totally into the herd, is just wrong. If you’re exactly like everybody else, you don’t really exist. I mean, you might still be walking around and breathing and stuff, but there’s no YOU in you. You become a nebbish, a puppet, a faceless, selfless nothing, pushed here and there by the tides of public opinion, or the will of corporate advertisers, or the driving whip of political manipulation.

If you default on the necessity of being an individual, you vanish in some way. You become a … thing.

But where do you draw the line between the two? On the one hand, there’s the risk you might become a non-entity. On the other, you face the danger of turning into something of an egotistical monster.

It’s not possible for me to really advise you on the thing, but several things come to mind in thinking about it:

First, the unspoken foundation of freethought is a willingness to take on the responsibility of making these kinds of choices. Once you become aware that there IS a choice, you’ll figure out where to draw your own line.

Which means, given the fact that this is the real world, and we’re only human, in the thousand SMALL decisions of daily living, a lot of it will involve the familiar “Go along to get along.” It’s just too tiring to do any different. As long as you realize there’s a small price you pay each time you go against your own values, and you judge either that the price is too small to bother with, or that the benefits outweigh the cost, you’re set.

Second, in the BIG decisions of your life — the health and welfare, life and death of you and your dependent loved ones – it has to be you making the decision. Every time.

Third, if the choice involves another person – a friend or relative, for instance – be sure it’s your decision to make. If it’s them paying the price of the choice, I would suggest it’s not your place to make that choice.

Finally, there is one decision-making arena where you can ALWAYS reliably default to your own personal judgment: Anytime you’re expected to follow along completely, to obey without questioning, that’s the time you must not follow along. The time when you have to back out, call a halt, and take the time to exercise your own ability to investigate, evaluate, and judge.

Whether it’s pressure from peers, the danger of official sanctions, or just a context of unspoken expectations, if the situation suddenly turns your life into a cattle chute, you must — at least in your head — refuse to be a cow.

A good thing to remember the next time you’re asked to go along with a war. Or with a church.


By the way, do click on the photo to embiggen it. It’s one of mine, and of someone I know. The bridge is about 65 feet high, the young man is 19, and … dayyum. (Yes, he survived.)

Beta Culture: Listing of Posts

I’m due at a meeting of a new social group here in Schenectady, “The Sunday Alternative,” a Freethinkers Meetup group.

At a casual glance, it’s something along the lines of the “atheist churches” that seem to be springing up, with the reservation that the people involved here are not necessarily all atheists, and probably nobody involved likes to think what we’re doing is “church.”

But it’s something new, it’s somebody actually doing something, it’s practically within walking distance of my apartment, and it fits within my so-far-loose conception of Beta Culture.

My bit of Show and Tell for the group is this listing of posts on Beta. I know it’s ugly — I’ll come back and clean it up later. I just wanted to have something to show.

These are in chronological order rather than conceptual order, mostly because I haven’t worked out any sort of conceptual order just yet. I shotgun out a post at irregular intervals, and it’s whatever is in my mind at the time — maybe something basic and preliminary, maybe something a dozen steps down the road after the thing is well established.

This is not everything I’ve ever written on the subject. I’ve been writing about it since late 2010, and I also have several hundred pages of notes to turn into finished posts.


Feb 1, 2012
The Book of Good Living – Preface

Aug 2, 2012
First Person Revolutionary — Part 1

Aug 31, 2012
A Basic Motivation for Atheism+ … and for Beta Culture

Sept 2, 2012
Beta Culture: The Heart and Soul of American Ideals

Sept 18, 2012
Beta Culture: A Place to Stand, and People to Stand With

Sept 19, 2012
Beta Culture: Preliminary Musings

Oct 30, 2012
Beta Culture: Drowning Puppies So You Don’t Get Dogs

Dec 17, 2012
Connecticut Shooting: Warm Lies, Cold Truth, Free Minds

April 15, 2013
Beta Culture: A Community Nexus

April 21, 2013
Beta Culture: Bonsai Civilization and the Future of Humanity

April 22, 2013
Shoving Orphans Away From the Table

March 10, 2013
Beta Culture: Adrift in an Ocean of Lies

April 7, 2013
Beta Culture: Patheos Intro, Part 1
Beta Culture: Patheos Intro, Part 2
Beta Culture: Patheos Intro, Part 3

May 4, 2013
Beta Culture: 13 Early Questions

May 6, 2013
Beta Culture: Replies to Comments 1

May 8, 2013
Beta Culture: Big Funny Hats

April 23, 2013
Beta Culture: Earthman’s Journey – Part 1 of 8

May 9, 2013
Beta Culture: Never Doubt the Power of Religion

May 25, 2013
Beta Culture: Bridges and War and All Things Daft

Sept 1, 2013
Beta Culture: Self Defense in the Age of Fuck You

Sept 23, 2013 from Sept 3, 2012
Beta Culture: Don’t Teach the Controversy (repost)