The Shocking Truth About Hillary Clinton

HitleryI came across this incredible article about Hillary Clinton: #HillaryCoverageIsCrap.

It is >>shocking<< because it’s not only true, but glaringly obvious. And yet nobody  talks about it.

Media coverage of Hillary Clinton — Hillary the candidate, even Hillary the person — is so blatantly vicious, so casually demeaning, so gleefully mean-spirited, it’s … disgusting. Horrifying. SICK.

I’d like to select out a pithy quote from it, but the whole damned article is so good, so obviously true, it’s hard to decide on the best excerpt. So here’s a big chunk of it, with some of my own bolding to emphasize more shocking parts:

Somehow, enragingly, it is acceptable for panelists of talking heads to discuss her voice, her laugh, whether she smiles enough. To admonish her for “shouting.” To talk about her hair, her clothes, her accessories. To sneer at her jokes and disdainfully disqualify any personal tidbit she shares as “pandering” and “cynical” and a desperate, pathetic attempt to connect to voters.

To openly laugh at anything she does that reveals her humanity.

This is not news coverage. This is harassment. This is rank dehumanization. This is abuse.

How have we gotten to a point where we tolerate this deeply sexist, deeply personal sustained attack on one of the most admired women in the world?

How have we allowed ourselves to become so inured to a public, ritualistic humiliation of one of our nation’s most admired public servants?

Why do we expect that this overpoweringly unhealthy dynamic should be the cost of her public service, when no man in her position – including her disgusting opponent – is subjected to anything like this level of harassment and dehumanization?

Could any other human being survive this level of aggressive, ceaseless auditing, judgment, scrutiny, and personal criticism?

Why are the media doing this to her? And why are we allowing it to happen?

Hillary is the only person in public service at this level for whom unbridled contempt is not merely acceptable, but encouraged.

There is an elite Beltway media club, dominated by conservative-leaning white men, and every reporter on the political beat wants to belong to the club – a club whose gatekeepers have set as a requirement for entry the willingness to abandon all pretense of objectivity toward Hillary.

More:

The theme that runs throughout her career in public service that she is dishonest, corrupt, compromised is accompanied by a parallel theme of exoneration. She is investigated; she is found to have done nothing wrong. She is accused; the accusations are found to be without merit. She is battered by insinuations that are, upon objective scrutiny, found to be unjustifiable.

But they are endlessly repeated nonetheless, in order to create enough smoke that some voters reflexively assume there must be a fire.

But there is no fire. There is only a smoke machine.

And still more:

I refuse to abide in silence this toxic dynamic of a culture that treats as normal the ritualistic shaming and abuse of the woman who could be our first woman president.

A-fuckin’-men.

 

Randall Eades: On Beta Culture

Guest Post 2Randall Eades is a Facebook friend, and is responding to the four-part intro post on Beta Culture. He posted on Facebook, but is allowing me to echo it here.

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I have to preface this by stating it is coming from an autistically wired brain, i.e., high intelligence and analytical skills, minimal social connectivity and a penchant for systemizing the world around me. So my opinions may be a bit atypical.

I am a Betan. I am an atheist. I am rational and curious. The most important thing I got from a four-year adventure in the military was the realization that I am not an American, probably not what they were going for. Everywhere I traveled I noticed the people were all just like me, going about their daily lives, trying to survive and raise their children as best they could, with little concern for the forces that sent me into their world. They didn’t want to kill me nor I them. I have no enemies anywhere. I am a Human, a citizen of the planet. We all breathe the same air.

Having said that, the other part of my autism kicks in. I don’t do community and culture. I don’t join groups. I am equally uncomfortable with rational people and raving rednecks. I don’t even see the world from that perspective. I am not traveling in a boat looking for an island of like-minded people. I am alone on a log, with no paddle, floating down an endless river, amazed at the scenery and random people I see along the way. I have little to no control over the system. I just enjoy the ride.

I don’t see the world as something I need to mold and shape to fit my ideals, but to understand. I have always seen it as this hugely complex role-playing game I awakened into at birth. I had no skills and no idea where I was or what I was doing here. Level 1, so to speak. My task, as I see it, was not to change the world, the game, but to adapt to and survive it. The conditions around me are irrelevant, a random roll of the dice. African desert, Arctic ice, Amazon jungle, Southern USofA, rural, city, rich, poor, democracy, dictatorship, it’s all the same — a given set of conditions I must adapt to and survive for as long as I can. Some conditions are obviously easier and more pleasant than others, and it’s nice when I find myself in those places, but self-development is always the point of the game. It is not a game for the faint of heart nor slow of wit. Those generally escape into comfortable self-delusion of one sort or another. But I have made it 67 years … so far. Along the way I have picked up some skills and game knowledge, I’ve advanced a few levels, and I’ve had a hell of a lot of fun.

But I understand that is not your point of view, and I’m not suggesting it should be. You are in the boat. You are a part of the group. You have a desire to leave the world a better place than you found it, to do what you can to solve some of the many problems. You are connected to your fellow Humans in ways I can never be. So while I don’t feel driven to personally be a part of Beta Culture, I do find it extremely interesting as a concept, and I hope you find a way to develop it. It would be a good thing in the world, an island of sanity in a sea going chaotic.

Okay, then. Some random thoughts….

I agree with you that atheists should be as aggressive in proselytizing their non-belief as religions do their belief. There is more to it than simply a lack of belief, that once you’ve achieved it you’re done. There is a long-running war between rationality and superstition, reality and myth, and until very recently we’ve been losing badly. It is a war for the minds of our children. Religions have no qualms about indoctrinating children even before they can form a rational thought, when they are most easily warped and shaped. Once a mind is formed as a child, it is very difficult to change as an adult. Anyone who has tried to argue rationality with a Christian fundamentalist knows they have an impenetrable Jesus Shield in place that simply deflects any fact contrary to their dogma. They not only don’t think about it, they don’t even hear it.

Religion is not just an alternative way of looking at the world. It is a controlled way of thinking. It is dictatorship over the mind. They are big on preaching free will, that their god allows us to freely choose to follow his will. But then they wrap that free will in chains of commandments and thou-shalt-nots so tightly their followers don’t dare think outside their box for fear of eternal damnation of their immortal souls. They aren’t even allowed to question whether they do, in fact, have immortal souls. It cripples the mind, then sells it a crutch. It is a form of slavery that should be fought with all the zeal with which we would fight against physical slavery. The goal of a Beta Culture should be to end this blight on humanity.

There is the notion among theists that Humans have an innate, almost instinctive, need for “God,” that everyone has always had gods. That’s not true. The early Chinese, one of the great cultures of the world, never invented gods. They had a Heaven, but that was a kind of system within which the dance of Life took place, not an Afterlife for the righteous. There was no capricious anthropomorphic deity that demanded worship in exchange for fair weather and good fortune. They worshiped, or at least prayed to, their ancestors, who they didn’t consider dead and gone, but simply transformed. They didn’t have gods until the Buddhists brought them from India. Then the Christians came and really screwed things up. But we can live without gods.

There is the notion that there can be no morality without the commandments of a god. True morality has nothing to do with a god. It is totally rational. It is about survival. Put in terms of the Venn diagrams you like, it is a set of concentric circles. In the center circle is Self. Our own survival, doing whatever it takes to stay alive, is basic morality. Any deliberate action that threatens that survival is immoral. The next circle is family. While I must strive to survive, to sacrifice my own survival for that of my family is a higher level or morality. I work at a job I hate to ensure their survival, and, if need be, I stand between them and the gun. The next circle is friends, to whom I have no blood connection, no genetic imperative, but only bonds of love. The next circle is community, some of whom I don’t even know, but still help when there is need. The next circle is nation, whose taxes I pay to care for the less fortunate among us, whose call for common defense I answer with my life. The next circle, the highest level of morality we know, is the Human species and the planet we live on. Morality is simply stated as, to quote the Vulcan, “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one.” Or, for those who like the carpenter, “Greater love hath no man, than that he lay down his life for his friends.” Morality is not about how we worship a god, but how we treat each other.

Beta Culture is not without precedence. The Hellenistic Era is generally considered to be such a culture. Philosophers and poets and artists were the honored ones in society, wandering all over the place and performing like rock stars. Philosophy was debated in the public arena. Schools of philosophy competed like political parties now do. And even though there were many gods and goddesses who had to be consulted for every trivial decision, there were also major schools of atheism. Epicurus’s life lived for the sake of pleasure was a very popular school of rationality and atheism all the way up to the end of the Roman Era, until the chaos of the times inflamed religious zealotry that drove it underground. Perhaps there one might find the remains of a foundation upon which to build.

In trying to figure out how to start a culture, you might also look to the Hippie culture of the ’60s. It sprang up out of nowhere, in little enclaves here and there, and invited the world to live in peace, equality and brotherhood (though it might have been a bit short on rationality, with the psychedelics and weird religious cults). It spread around the world in a very few years. And though it has mostly faded over time, it left an indelible stamp on the world that is still with us. Its music is still popular. Every now and then you see a budding political movement in Russia or somewhere adopt the look. As mature adults, its members are still pushing the political spectrum toward the liberal side, as with drug legalization and LGBT rights.

While I really have no idea how to deliberately start a culture, most of them seem to just evolve out of seemingly minor events, I agree with you that it is a worthy endeavor and I wish you well with it. And even if you cannot save the world, perhaps you can push the Sisyphean stone a little further up the hill.

Beta Culture: New Intro — Part 1

Beta-Culture-JPGPart 1 / Part 2 / Part 3 / Part 4

[ The original posting date of this was July 30. It was updated with a substantially rewritten version on Oct. 15. ]

I had a request for more information on Beta Culture, to help readers better understand where I was going with the idea. Coincidentally, I’ve been asked to contribute a chapter on the subject to an upcoming book written by Patheos Atheist writers.

I worked for weeks to get that chapter-piece complete, to make it so that it introduced the whole concept, and yet fell within the length parameters given me. I failed at both. There’s SO much more to be said about the idea. As I think I’ve said in the past, I have hundreds of pages of notes full of ideas I want to get out there, and that will require a book-length treatment.

It’s longish — more than 8,000 words — so I’ve split it into four parts.

So:

Beta Culture

The day I left home to go to Reason Rally 2016, a friend — who knew I’d be driving 8 hours to get to Washington DC and another 8 hours to return that same night — asked me “Why are you going to this thing?” I gave him a flip answer as I stepped out the door: “Hey, it’s the Atheist Woodstock!” Thirty seconds later, I poked my head back in and answered seriously: “Because when I went to the one in 2012, it was the first time in my life as an atheist I felt welcome, and free, and HOME.”

If our one desire as atheists is to be a loose body of free individuals, nothing more need be done. We’re there and getting more there all the time. But if we want to have our own place in the world, a permanent place, a home, we need something bigger than atheism. Something sturdier. Longer-lasting. Self-perpetuating. Because atheism alone can’t get us there.

Here’s why I think so, and what I think that ‘something’ is.

Three Boats

Think of the future as an archipelago of possibilities, with all the things-to-come each on its own island. One island might contain a future of clean beautiful cities and unspoiled wildlands, of education and wealth; another might present a future of grit and poverty, overpopulation and starvation; a third might lack humans altogether; a fourth … you get the idea.

Every one of us will eventually arrive on one of those islands, to live in some sort of future. But most of those futures will be, in broad terms, of someone else’s making. In that future, whichever one we reach, we’ll pay whatever they charge us for our student loans. We’ll dress in what they sell in the stores. We’ll listen to the music and see the movies and read the books they provide. We’ll vote for the candidates they offer us. We’ll eat the foods — and the ingredients in those foods — they put on the shelves, in stores they own. We’ll celebrate their holidays. We’ll receive the medical care, or lack of it, offered by their hospitals. We’ll tread lightly under the scrutiny of their cops. We’ll obey their laws, or go to their prisons. Because the only boats going to that distant archipelago are theirs.

Who are the owners of those vessels? Who are they? Government. Corporations. Religion.

Government:  Organized and powerful, government can and does direct money, labor, and planning toward large-scale projects that can span decades or longer. Supposedly created to serve its citizens, it can have goals that have nothing at all to do with long-term benefits to ordinary people. It can create laws, operate police forces, courts and prisons. It can interfere in the lives of its citizens in ways large and small. It can even engage in wars, sending young men and women off to die for no good reason.

Business: Large corporations plan for their own future, a future of survival and profit in an environment of competition and scarce resources. Corporations have goals to benefit themselves first, customers second. Yes, they have to keep customers happy in the short term, but that doesn’t mean they actually have to benefit — or even keep from harming — those customers in the long. If there’s more money in sugary carbonated soda than in fruit juice or tea, guess which product will get the advertising budget? If lottery tickets are a more profitable sell than savings accounts, what’s going up on all the billboards? Which will be available in every convenience store? If a profitable product like tobacco actually harms the customer, but nobody can prove it without a protracted legal fight pursued over decades, will they sell it? You bet they will.

Religion: Not just people in random Brownian motion, but tens or hundreds of millions gathered together with common beliefs and goals — dictated, supposedly, by an actual god — operating out of one or more churches in every city, town, hamlet and neighborhood in the U.S. Religion can set and enforce social mores with real consequences that might range from public censure to shunning — in the past, even to death — and it functions across generations.

None of these “boats” travel alone. They rope together to smooth the journey. The boat of business sails in close touch with the boat of government. Considering there are something like 15,000 lobbyists in Washington DC, allegedly spending $3 billion a year to influence legislators, and most large corporations pay little or nothing in taxes, the corporate boat is not only well-fueled and -powered, it is avidly assisted by the vessel of government. Government, in turn, leans heavily on business for navigational cues.

The boat of religion gets all sorts of perks from the government, and does everything it can to reflect influence back into government. It succeeds: Government officials pay constant homage to religion, treading carefully on any issue that even remotely relates to it. Case in point: The Catholic molesting travesty was out in the open for years before law enforcement slouched into action.

So where’s the boat that has room for atheists, or atheist goals? Say we want to reach the island where schools — all schools — teach evolution. Not as some also-ran topic covered in a day, not as a suggestion given no more weight than creationism, but as the rock-solid heart of every discussion of Earth biology. Who’s going to make that happen? Who’s going to get us there?

Government? Uh, no. They’re going to waffle and sniff the air, veer off and carefully not get involved. Corporations? Nope. They’re gonna sit this one out too, kids. Churches? Ha! Not on your life. They’re the ones who got us to this island, the one where teachers are afraid to teach.

How are we going to get those actual science classes for every kid in America — the ones that explicitly say creation didn’t happen but evolution did? Answer: We’re not. It’s not going to happen. There is no boat going there. Generations of schoolkids will come and go with inferior science education.

There’s this island we want to get to, but there’s some whole other island — another future entirely — we’ll arrive at. We’ll get the future that government, business and religion will take us to. You and I might want a cure for Alzheimer’s in five years, but if government won’t help fund the research, if universities, hospitals and pharma companies won’t do the research, and if religion blocks the research, or owns the hospitals that might otherwise apply or test the treatment, there will be no cure for Alzheimer’s in five years. Not here, anyway.

But isn’t it enough just to be atheists? If we free ourselves and others from the grip of religion, won’t good things automatically follow? No. Atheism alone isn’t going to get us to any particular future because, beyond the bit about individual freedom (no small thing!), it has no built-in direction. Atheism by itself isn’t even a thing. It’s a non-thing, an opposed-to-this-other-thing thing. It can work immense changes on individuals, but as a larger social force, a force aimed at some particular future, it is dramatically rudderless.

If atheism isn’t going to get us there, and the three boats aren’t going to get us there, what can we do?
How about we build our own boat? To have any hope of creating a future of our choice — possibly any hope of having a future at all — we pretty much have to.

So let’s talk about this imagined boat of ours. Let’s talk about culture.

Culture

In simplest terms, culture is all the things you learn from your parents, peers and elders, and then pass on to your own children and grandchildren. Culture is just about everything you do. Your culture is the unwritten handbook on how to live life on scales both large and small.

It’s what you eat, the utensils you use to eat it. What to wear, what language you speak and the regional accent with which you speak it. Where to live, how to relate to your fellow men and women and children, what to learn and what to do with it once you’ve learned it.

It’s the haircut you sport, the songs you sing, the dances you do, the way you court and wed and cohabit, the way you welcome children into the world and bid farewell to departing elders. It’s the games you play, the slate of acceptable careers laid out before you, the jokes you tell. It includes your ceremonies and holidays, the things you read and don’t read. It presents you with life goals — a lion skin, a sheepskin, an eagle feather, a position of respect and honor within your tribe. Ways to deal with strangers and outsiders. Entertainments, contests, rules for interpersonal conflict. Women’s ways, men’s ways. It offers something for every social and psychological need humans have. For some of us, it’s the protective underwear we don at night, and even the short list of positions acceptable for (married-only, heterosexual-only) intercourse!

The substance of culture is taught to each new generation, but culture itself is probably automatic. Drop a group of ignorant kids on an island, isolate them for a hundred years or so, and their descendants would emerge possessing a complete culture, containing every possible thing they needed to live day-to-day — every ceremony, recipe, song, and article of clothing.

At its best, culture provides you a Home, a place of acceptance, support, and stability. It gives you an identity, an automatic sense of self. At its worst, it acts as something of a cage, trapping its people within it, oppressing them, offering the threat of punishment or ouster to those who don’t stay in line. But to most of us throughout history, the price has apparently been worth it.

Here in the U.S., it seems to me culture comes in three general “grades” — which I label Full Culture, Fractional Culture, and U.S. Overculture.

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Continue to Part 2

Beta Culture: New Intro — Part 2

Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 3 / Part 4

Beta-Culture-JPGFull Culture

Already described above, full cultures cover every aspect of life, providing both game and gameboard for living. They present an elaborate social framework with all the details worked out.

In New York state where I live, full cultures include the Amish and Hasidic Judaism. However confining or silly they might look to those of us outside them, from the inside they provide a place of warmth, safety and familiarity, which most would only reluctantly leave.

But other than these, which make a deliberate attempt at island-like isolation and purity, few of us have anything even close to a complete culture. Here in the United States, they’re actually hard to come by. Instead we have the other two types.

Fractional Culture

Harley Davidson culture, gamer culture, NASCAR culture, Star Trek and Star Wars fan culture, Renaissance Festival culture, countless others. They contain certain rules and traditions, but those rules address only that one small part of life. Everything else has to be borrowed.

Fractional cultures, it seems to me, arise because they satisfy the yearning for a tribal home-place, a sense of inclusion with ‘My People.’ You and yours have a team, a band, a sport. But they fall apart on the rest of life. Science fiction fandom might provide you with the details of how to conduct yourself during late-night filking, but it’s mostly silent on funeral traditions, or what to wear to work. As an avid Yankees fan, you might attend all the games, go to after-parties with fellow Yankees fanatics, wear Yankees caps, and for all I know drink Yankees beer and dance the Yankees dance. You might even be enough of a Yankees fan to have a Yankees-themed wedding — all the while feeling included and safe in the cherished Yankees traditions—but you’re not going to ask for the Yankees meal on an airplane. You’re not going to confine yourself to exclusive Yankees positions for sex (I’m guessing catcher’s mitts and face guards are involved), or send your kids to Yankees school every day.

U.S. Overculture

All of us outside full cultures live in a huge, blended mess of subcultures I call U.S. Overculture. Overculture provides guidance for every aspect of life, but it does so in fractured, massively oversupplied form, presenting us with many different models for weddings, scores of courtship rituals, diverse ways of bidding goodbye to the departed, a dozen traditions for observing holidays — including distinctly different holidays — and countless potential suggestions for every other aspect of life.

You can have a cowboy wedding, a Catholic funeral, a Hello Kitty birthday party, Goth hairstyles and makeup, biker clothing, Montessori schooling for your kids, Wiccan holidays, any of thousands of other traditions, ceremonies and activities … without actually belonging to any specific home culture. All of us in fractional cultures, or no culture at all, call on this Overculture every day of our lives in order to fill sociocultural needs.

Overculture provides ton lots of traditions and foods and clothing, songs and dances and everything else, but the one thing Overculture fails to provide is any sense of belonging. It gives you no Home, instead leaving you adrift in a choppy cultural sea. Most of us manage only some vague identification as “American.”

The Worm in Overculture

We might think living in U.S. Overculture is perfectly fine, and miss a home culture not at all. We might even interpret the lack of a home culture as the ultimate freedom. After all, we don’t have to wear a beard and work a farm our entire lives. But that freedom comes with a degree of exposure and vulnerability. Because a great deal of U.S. Overculture arrives as purely predatory marketing. Rather than socially-useful traditions, corporate-supplied culture is an extended sales pitch aimed at nothing but profit.

On the streets of any large city, some large percentage of the faces you see will have a cigarette stuck in them. This pricey, health-destroying practice wasn’t something that got passed down by generations of wise elders, it was relentlessly advertised into existence by tobacco companies. We might imagine “A Diamond is Forever” to be cherished, ageless tradition, but it arose out of an ad campaign begun in 1947, before which sensible brides-to-be much preferred husbands to spend limited household money on washing machines or cars. Yet today, the central element of a “proper” proposal is a diamond engagement ring, the pricier the better.

Do either of these customs truly benefit the people who follow them? Not in any way. People trade money for illusion.

Full cultures serve as guardians for the people within them, but those of us living in U.S. Overculture have little or nothing to perform that function. An active ad campaign can be projected at us or our children, and there is no social mechanism, no equally active protective force, to oppose it. Left to evaluate the thing as lone individuals, many of us simply adopt whatever it is because it is new, different, and briefly entertaining. For every new thing presented, lottery tickets or vape sticks, Beanie Babies or Pokemon Go, car surfing or brain piercing (any day now), large numbers of us are right there, sucking it up.

Even if you as an individual detect the falsity, the uselessness, the actual physical harm of something, any public show of resistance will meet with instant unthinking opposition from those already under the spell. “Hey, vape pens are awesome, man! They’re way healthier than cigarettes!” “But Beanie Babies are a great investment!”

—No, new things are not automatically bad. But they’re not automatically good, either. Having a home culture with a collective of smart, trusted advisors helps you breast the daily flood of marketing, huckstering, and outright lies.

Religion and Culture

Speaking of the Amish and Hasidic Jews, note that both cultures are rooted in religion. In fact, every tribe, city-state and nation I ever heard of throughout human history had religion at or near its heart. Every culture had holy men, monuments, temples, gods, complex myths of afterlives and paradises and places of eternal punishment, plus numerous everyday rules and injunctions about how to relate to the supernatural—some of which you broke on pain of death.

Except for the part about death, that very much includes the society we live in here and now. As every atheist knows, you can’t sneeze without a chorus of god-bless-yous — often from complete strangers. The U.S. is well-salted with 10 Commandments monuments, many of them still on public land, police vehicles in some jurisdictions defiantly carry goddy bumper stickers, military leaders pressure subordinates to attend religious services, goddy signs and billboards are everywhere, biology teachers are nervous about using the word “evolution” in science classes, and there is a never-let-up insistence across the nation to say prayers at public meetings. Every disaster has people giving thanks to God for their survival, no matter how many others died in the event. With “In God We Trust” on every bill and coin, we ourselves hand out religious tracts with every cash transaction.

A few years back I drew an imaginary 2-mile-diameter line around my house in a town of 60,000 people, and discovered close to 80 churches and church-owned properties inside it. More than schools, more than libraries, more than gas stations and convenience stores!

Where has that left atheists? Out in the cold. There has never been a time or place we  could truly feel welcome. If you’re an atheist, probably most of the people you know — including your own family — tolerate rather than welcome you. In some countries, being an atheist can be a death sentence. Even here in the United States, there are places where you’d be wise to hide it. There is no place we fit. Non-god-believers are not safe, or free, or home in most of the “civilized” world today.

We even take part in borrowed holidays. Those of us who enjoy Christmas do so only by resolutely telling ourselves it’s a mostly secular occasion. You know, with the gift-giving and Santa and all. And yet, as we are frequently reminded by goddy neighbors, it remains CHRISTmas.

It doesn’t have to be that way. We could have our own holidays. We could have our own everything.

Culture, Rebooted

Religion itself is cultural. Draw a Venn diagram of Religion and Culture, and the circle of Religion would be wholly contained within the circle of Culture. It might occupy only one small area of the Culture circle, as it does in U.S. Overculture, or it might almost completely dominate it, as it does in conservative Christian or Islamic sects.

Culture is not religion; culture is the container religion comes in. There might be a lot of things people think are religious, but which are only cultural, things that can be teased out and considered separate from religion. A perfect example, understandable by just about any atheist, is morality, which might be presented as specifically religious, but really isn’t. You no more have to be religious to care about others, to attempt to be a good person, to not lie and steal and kill, than you have to be able to ride a bike in order to get to work.

But! There’s nothing that says the Venn circle of culture must contain a circle of religion. It’s just that we’ve never tried it. Maybe never even been in a position to try it. Until now.

Imagine a specifically, emphatically non-religious culture, created — for the first time ever in the world — by newly freed and connected atheists. Imagine a culture founded in reason and science rather than superstition and mysticism. A culture that reveres education, excellence and careful thought, that has as its champions teachers and intellectuals rather than ridiculously costumed priests and jingoistic uniformed “heroes.” Something that helps guard us from the lies and silliness projected at us daily via TV, radio, Internet, magazines, newspapers and billboards.

Give it a working title: Take all the religious cultures collectively, past and present on Planet Earth, all the tribes, city-states, kingdoms and nations, and call that Alpha Culture — Alpha because it came first. Call this new non-religious culture Beta Culture. “Beta” not because it comes second, but because it comes next.

(Yes, I’m aware there’s already a ‘beta culture.’ Doesn’t mean the term can’t be repurposed. If it’s a problem, think of the two as Culture 1.0 and Culture 2.0.)

So what is this Beta Culture? It is, or could be, a crowd-sourced, deliberately-constructed  culture with the specific aim of providing a permanent socio-cultural home for reason-minded people — atheists, agnostics, freethinkers and secular humanists.

In the islands-of-the-future metaphor, it would be a new boat aimed at that far archipelago, a cultural tool to carry us to a future in which we have a place. It might not get us there directly, but it could influence the courses of the other three boats, a lot more than a demographic of rootless individual atheists who currently have no choice but to catch a ride with others.

Beta Culture would be a first in at least two ways: First in that it contained no religion or mysticism. Second, it would be the first culture deliberately constructed by the (hopefully) rational people who were to live within it. Built up one piece at a time from within, it would presumably possess an important third difference: It would be one of the few cultures that deliberately sought to empower and strengthen its members, rather than to control and limit them.

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Continue to Part 3

Beta Culture: New Intro — Part 3

Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 3 / Part 4

Beta-Culture-JPGCulture’s Gifts

The Home-feeling — which I call “Place” — is only one of the assets of a home culture. Cultures also offer Values, Ways and Goals.

Values serve as the guides and arbiters of good behavior: Honor your mother and father. Be generous to the less fortunate. Never lie to a child for any reason (which apparently is not a widespread cultural value!).

Ways are all the outward physical displays of culture: Wear a cowboy hat and a big silver belt buckle. Quit school at 14 and work the family farm. Never eat pork.

Goals are the menu of personal aims, careers and benchmarks of success: Raise a big family. Go to college. Kill a lion all by yourself.

What would Beta Culture include?

Values

Every culture has a set of core values — its basic concepts of who and what “we” are.  What we hold dear, what we’re proud of in contrast to all other, lesser cultures. In building Beta Culture, the easy part would be finding things to include. The hard part would be making it work, deciding on the various traditions and values and making them stick.

Of course its most basic value is atheism. Rationality. A reason-based lifestyle and view of the world. In attempting to create a fully non-religious, non-superstitious, non-mystic-woo-woo culture, this is something on which it could not afford to compromise. Loosen that rule and you end with just another religio-mystical culture, and damn, it’s been done.

In Beta Culture, there would simply be no place for the faithful, the superstitious or the woo-woo mystical. Prospective members would be either firmly convinced the universe works by physics and chemistry—that there are no such thing as gods or ghosts, spirits or mystical forces — or not. Only one of those positions gets you through the door.

There are values that flow out of reason. I picture Beta as powerfully oriented toward education — not just school and college, but some degree of permanent, ongoing studiousness throughout life. This educational emphasis would be one part of a broad push toward empowerment and support for its individual members.

I see Beta as equalitarian, as post-racial and, necessarily, as futurist. It would also be basically activist — including a muscular humanism aimed at making the world a better place.

I imagine it as very much an international thing — not just in the culture itself, but in those who chose to be members. Every Beta — while legally remaining a citizen of his/her home country — would first consider himself a ‘citizen of Earth’ rather than of historic tribes and nations.

I picture Beta as a champion of evolution, not just the subject, but the broader implications — the interrelatedness of all life on earth. I also see it as a strong proponent of real sex education — including contraception, safety and permission from an early age.

I would expect it to be oriented toward health, fitness and longevity for all its members. Considering the opposition it will face, every member will be something of a warrior. Being healthy and strong helps not just us as individuals, but everyone around us.

Ways

In the U.S., we have two national holidays — Veterans Day and Memorial Day — honoring soldiers, nothing at all to recognize the other heroes of civilization. Allow me to float the idea of an international SALT Day, a day to honor Scientists, Artists, Librarians and Teachers.

How about Conscience Day to recognize the warriors of conscience and justice — the whistleblowers, war protestors, and fighters for social justice who have carried us forward into betterment, but who’ve been treated like traitors and criminals for their labors? —Hell, we could honor people who choose not to have children.

Superhero Day would remind us annually (quarterly?) to devote time to volunteering, cleaning up neighborhoods, assisting the elderly or handicapped. Memory Day would be an annual event to come together for remembering friends and relatives, sharing with each other the stories and pictures of the otherwise unheralded people who have shaped our lives and communities. I can even see some merit in a just-for-the-hell-of-it Aunts, Uncles and Cousins Day.

In place of Christmas, why not Krismas? Jokingly devoted to the fictional Kris Kringle, it could be a weeklong celebration at the end of each year, with gift-giving, visiting, gathering, singing, dancing, performing, formally honoring the accomplishments of friends and family over the year, with lots of eating and drinking included.

Speaking of joking, maybe humor should be a part of any deliberately-designed rational culture. The Flying Spaghetti Monster could be a permanent ‘patron saint,’ a gently sarcastic counterpoint to god-belief. To poke fun at the pompousity of priestly costumes and other church frippery, there might be a tradition of Big Funny Hats worn on at least one annual occasion. Rather than Easter we could observe Wester, a western-themed dig at the religious holiday, held on the same weekend.

More seriously, we would have our own ways to observe births and deaths, graduations and other milestones of life. We could have all sorts of daily and annual and special-occasion Ways  that were not just secular, but that celebrated reason.

Place

A sense of Place, the homey feeling culture provides, would happen simply by Beta Culture existing. But I’d like us to also have our own meeting place. Inevitably, the idiots will call it the “atheist church.” I call it the Nexus.

If my own small town can have nearly 80 churches, many of them occupying pricey downtown properties, there’s no reason why there can’t be one permanent meeting place for Beta Culturists. Every city and town of any size should have a tax-free Nexus. It might contain a freethinker library and reading room, a coffee house or networking center (free coffee for math and science majors!), plus rooms for meetings, discussions and classes. I picture a media center and digital lab, maybe a room for a visiting speaker to stay the night, or even safely secular child care for working Beta parents.

Goals

Addressing the theme of empowerment, I’d want the Nexus to offer regular classes in leadership, public speaking and assertiveness — not only to advance the atheist cause but to enhance and strengthen individual members in their own personal lives.

Considering what I said earlier about asking for a Yankees meal on an airplane — when it comes to Beta Culture, I do want a Beta meal on an airplane. For myself I want a sandwich made in the past two hours, with whole-grain bread and a couple of slices of fresh-roasted free-range chicken breast. I want it to have a fresh salad alongside, with unwilted lettuce, crunchy croutons, tasty avocados and fresh, flavorful tomatoes — all of it made with no artificial ingredients.

That meal is an assertion that Beta Culture must have at least the same sort of determined impact on the world as Jews and Muslims — with every public act a statement of “We exist, we demand others honor and respect our customs and traditions.”

There would be both initial and ongoing World-Café-type sessions to iron out details and values of the culture and the goals of the people within it, including gender ethics, dietary observances, the focus of activism in broader society. Beta Culture might include integral side projects such as media watchdogging or issue activism — possibly a flatly stated opposition to genital mutilation for both girls and boys.

I imagine a Book of Good Living collected online with non-religious guidance for daily life, for anyone who chose to read and consider it. It might include tidbits such as “Take pictures of your parents, lots of them, something to keep you company in the long years alone.” Or perhaps “Live your life in such a way that nobody has to pick up after you.” Or maybe even “Never leave your dog in a hot car.” But definitely, “Hey, dummy, if you’re on the freeway and people are passing you on the right, get the hell out of the left lane.”

I’d like there to be deliberate efforts at recruiting and youth outreach, at least as aggressive as that done by churches in every city and town in America. I go further in picturing religion-superstition detox classes for young and old, for those interested in discovering and removing the last remnants of religious unreason out of their heads. I’d like to see such things as Beta Scouts (possibly arising out of Camp Quest) and Reason Riders (a motorcycle group already poised to go national) as public aspects of the culture.

Beyond local efforts, I want us to undertake a worldwide push for increasing the numbers of “out” atheists — 10ex9 by 2029 — one billion atheists by the year 2029.

More than any other goal, I’d like it to be a culture of strength, empowerment and independence rather than one of weakness and fear.

The Way of the World

In the era of mass communication, which has pretty much reached maximum saturation with the Internet, most of what we and our young people internalize comes from someone else — corporations, pundits, professional liars and manipulators. The persuasive pitches are everywhere. And everything in them, every word and musical note and motto, is aimed at gaining profit or power. Helping anyone live a better life is a distant second.

Which means: If you don’t teach your kids your culture — your values or ideas or wisdom — someone else will come in and teach them theirs. If you don’t have your own culture, other people will decide the way you and yours live large parts of their lives, often to the very thoughts that occupy your mind.

With no home culture, you yourself won’t be immune to it. Sooner or later you’ll fall for one of those seductive pitches for inclusion and coolness and victory. If you do this thing, buy this thing, wear this thing, you will win, you will succeed, you will belong.

I might feel fewer reservations about all of this if the world was full of good people, generous and compassionate, interested in your welfare and the welfare of your kids, but the fact is, much of the content of U.S. Overculture is exploitative rather than supportive.

Already in the Pipeline

To repeat, there’s the future we want, and the future we’ll get. As literally nobody but freethinkers give a damn about a specifically rational future, the future we most want Will. Not. Happen. Churches, other cultures, broadcast media, corporations, and even governments will pursue their own self-interests, with no concern for your needs and desires, but worse, no long view of human survival on planet Earth.

For those of us in science fiction or tech fandom who happily imagine the Technological Singularity, that moment when advances take place so rapidly the rising curve of change goes completely vertical and all predictive models break down, let me present this alternate concept: The Dark Singularity.

The curve of negative change accelerates until it goes vertical in the other direction — downward to chaos. Human population continues to rise, human appetite and carelessness finally outstrips the ability of our planet to recover, all the elephants and rhinos, lions and wolves, whales and dolphins and mountain gorillas go extinct, shortages of energy, food and clean water spark riots, war breaks out pretty much everywhere, martial law is declared everywhere, and those few sitting pretty in an ugly, diminished world are either government officials and billionaires in fortified retreats, or survivalist fanatics dug in with guns and Bibles.

You think that can’t happen? Point to one coordinated worldwide social force aimed at preventing it. Hell, the main issue causing a lot of this — still-rising human population, with 62.5 million extra people per year, a city the size of Los Angeles added every 3 weeks — is a subject we can’t even bring up without being shouted down with cries of “Genocide!” and “Baby killer!”

If we were 200 years in the future, looking back for details of the fall of civilization, I’m convinced we’d see people of this time as very much in the midst of it. The drowning of New Orleans, the decay of Detroit, global warming, extinctions and invasive species, broken ecosystems, the rise of global terrorism, the electing of messianic figures to public office rather than competent public servants, damaging technologies used to pursue progressively scarcer petroleum, on and on.

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Continue to Part 4

Beta Culture: New Intro — Part 4

Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 3 / Part 4

Beta-Culture-JPGThe Flaw in Unbelief

Compared to religion, atheism is really rather fragile. It has sprung up and died out several times in the U.S. alone. Its recent resurgence is probably due to the existence of the Internet. Outside that, there’s really not a lot to support and preserve it.

Here’s the eye-opener I realized a few years back: Under the lash of strong emotions, humans become less intelligent.

Scary, right? But true. If the Internet goes down for some reason — a solar flare or some such event — if there is an incident of nuclear terrorism anywhere in the world, if even some small version of the imagined Dark Singularity happens, a majority of our panicked fellow humans will leap toward the certainty of religion and churches and authoritarian government, utterly supported by a pliant, uncritical corporate-owned media.

Churches will gleefully snatch up these new devotees, telling them to clasp their hands and close their eyes, to read their Bibles and chant its magic verses, to get down on their knees and pray, to give and give and give in order to bribe that Big Magic Juju Guy in the sky into letting them and their loved ones live.

Anyone casting the least doubt on that mindset will be the enemy, unAmerican traitors to all things good, and a lot of scared, angry fellow citizens will jump in to intimidate them into silence.
That would be the end of the noble mind-adventure of atheism. Bye-bye, outspoken atheists, hello religious fascism.

You’re sitting there right now, intelligent and educated, and you probably can’t imagine a mob coming to your door and dragging you out, or a riot that sets your home or business on fire. But I can imagine it, because I grew up in the Deep South among people who were not all that far advanced from the lynchings and murders of the KKK’s worst days. The witch burnings of yesteryear are absent today not because we humans have evolved beyond them, but because our culture disallows such acts at this moment.

But that culture is maintained by humans. It can be abandoned and replaced by humans, sometimes in days. You saw what happened after 9/11 — suddenly we were discussing the merits of torture, arguing whether we had too much freedom in public places, and launching off into a war that killed and terrorized hundreds of thousands of real people who also thought nothing bad would happen to them on any near-future day.

The more afraid and desperate we are, the crazier it will get.

Making It Happen

Here’s the rub: How do you create an entire culture?

I suspect it would take very little effort. Cultural creation already happens, and on a near-daily basis. At the least prompting, people take on actions and beliefs that become cultural traditions, perpetuating them indefinitely. Some years back the song ‘Tie A Yellow Ribbon Round the Old Oak Tree’ made a splash on the radio, triggering a sudden leap onto the public stage of ribbon-tying as a way of welcoming returning soldiers. Now ribbons and ribbon-shaped magnets are everywhere, tasked for every social cause.

The way attendees at Reason Rally 2016 reacted with smiles and selfies to a strolling Flying Spaghetti Monster, it was obviously already a much-loved icon of the movement. Yet it arose sheerly out of a sense of fun.

We figure out the basic framework and put it out there. If it’s a good idea, people will show up and be part of it, commenting, contributing, coming up with fun or useful things to include, arguing over the details and the aims, and one day there it would be. The short-term challenge might be in laying down the foundation, the basic concepts, before its growth outraced the underlying goals of reason and reality.

The larger challenge would be in creating something that was livable long-term, and paid off on the promise of enhancing the lives of people who join in it.

For years and years, evangelism was a taboo in the atheist community. Deliberately trying to get people to give up religion was seen as a self-thwarting shortcut. If people were seduced into atheism simply because it was the latest fad, without working it out for themselves, they’d be no better than religious people, right?

But in this case, that’s not a problem. People coming into it would either want to be there, or they wouldn’t. Besides which, we’ve already started selling atheism. We know we have the right; our problem is in believing we have the duty.

Moreover, considering that religion and religious observances are such an integral part of even modern cultures — Catholicism for example — and that most prospective atheists will come from such cultures, by inviting them into atheism we’re basically asking them to give up not only their religion, but their home culture, and often even the loving closeness of their families. To offer them none of the same tribal inclusion in return seems both morally shabby and counterproductive. How many who might otherwise be open atheists stay where they are in order to enjoy the continued safety and warmth of their home traditions and tribe? For millions, especially the weaker and more vulnerable among us, atheism by itself might seem a poor trade.

Where and how do we get the features and attributes of our own culture?

Two ways: 1) Make them up. 2) Steal them.

Make them up: If we decide every Beta middle schooler should go off every morning with Great Humanist Quotes fortune cookies to share with other kids, that’s doable. If we want every partner bonding (wedding ceremony) to include a traditional bat’leth fight with designated champions to determine who cleans the bathroom for the first five years, nothing would stop us. The limits are human nature, and our own imaginations.

Steal them: The entire world, now and for all its history, is a mine of ideas for designing our own unique cultural environment. We can borrow, copy, or shamelessly expropriate customs and lifeways from any and every culture on Earth, past and present, real and fictional. So yes, we could all wear Star Trek uniforms. Or sporrans and black plaid kilts (with underwear, my people, please!). Or leather jackets with flaming skull insignias and embroidered patches saying ‘Born To Raise Questions.’

Borrow cultural goodies from the Amish. Steal from the Catholics. Copy good stuff from the Romans, the Mormons, the Japanese, the Italians, the Navajo. Borrow, copy, steal … and make it ours.

Cultural appropriation? —Eh. No. Nobody has a copyright on culture, and borrowed traditions take nothing away from the source. I wouldn’t expect the group to flaunt yarmulkes, feathered headdresses or dreadlocks, but cultural appropriation is a moot issue, it seems to me. Lots of people wear cowboy hats, and—as someone who grew up with real cowboys, a group no less fiercely proud of our cultural apparel than Hasidic Jews or Sikhs — I find some of them fairly annoying. But I would never tell people they have no right to wear a cowboy hat, that I’m somehow mortally offended by it. I wouldn’t join in any screaming chorus of thin-skinned offense junkies, demanding those people instantly cease all cowboy-hat-related activities and apologize to us delicate, sensitive cowpokes.

Other than registered trademarks (which might be an issue with the Star Trek uniforms), nobody owns body decorations, hats, clothing or customs. What one or more groups in history have done, others can do, and the original doers lose nothing.

Hazards

We face two hazards already in our own psyches — complacency and misplaced optimism.

Rich and safe and well-fed, we’re prone to be complacent about dangers. Hey, nothing could really go wrong, right? We went to college, we know how to read and think and figure out this atheism stuff, and pretty much everybody else is just like us — same values, equivalent intelligence, same fearless approach to life. All we need do is be patient and rational, and explain things to them, and they’ll come around.
Living in the modern age, we’re optimistic that someone else — Brighter People Out There in the World — will work out all the problems. Scientists will solve the challenges of food and water and energy; educated, Empowered Women will spontaneously have smaller families and solve the population problem; Environmental Activists will save the whales; and the coming generation of smart, engaged Youth will burst out into the world and fix everything else that’s broken. Yeah, and all those public-spirited multi-national corporations will pitch in and help, even if it means reducing their bottom line.

Riiiiight. All we have to do, we happy optimists, is sit back and live our lives, go green and recycle, pick up our litter, continue to drive our SUVs to the grocery store to buy organic fruits and vegetables, and it’s all going to work out.

Except it isn’t. Complacency and optimism, when you have real problems, can kill you.

Forging ahead, we’ll make mistakes. Not every bright idea that pops into our heads for inclusion will be viable. Not everything we add at the beginning should stay forever. Continuous discussion and self-checking has to be a part of it. But hazards and all, we shouldn’t be afraid to make the experiment.

Target for Tomorrow

Sooner or later, there has to be that civilization that embraces science and reason and rejects superstition, don’t you think? I mean, really, shouldn’t we have that at some point?
But we don’t have it yet. We do not live in that civilization.

Get that? You do not live in a rational society. No, it’s not a living hell. Not for you. But for a lot of other people, and the planet itself, it’s pretty bad. Rather than casually accepting this status quo, I think you have to reject it almost violently. Every one of us has to reject it, to establish some bare minimum for being humans on Planet Earth. And until we start figuring some of this stuff out — for instance, “What is the basic intellectual and moral set every person must be required to have?” — we’ll continue on as we have been.

On a planet of diminished resources, radical human overpopulation, vicious inequality and mistreatment of women and minorities, all that, there’s a demand for this basic human society. But we don’t have it yet. Considering present-day politics and media, we may even be moving away from it.

Some of us might say “People have the right to believe whatever they want.” And I’d say yes, that’s true — if they stay home and don’t buy anything, don’t participate, don’t vote, don’t have kids they will subject to their idiot beliefs and behaviors.

In a real world, we can have a civilization based on reason and science and reality in which everyone participates, or we can have one based on fantasy and suffer the very real consequences. So far, we’ve had one based on fantasy and — in my opinion — it’s been an utter disaster. And it’s going to get worse, probably quickly.

I want a society that survives the disaster-in-progress, that picks up the pieces afterwards with this new way of thinking. What I don’t want is a society that reboots using all the old software. I want something that kicks us out of the cycles of mystical thralldom, something that allows us to live on this planet into the distant future, without wrecking it or ourselves.

Who do you want at your side in the midst of a civilization-wide disaster, working to live through it and later repair it? Goddy mystics who will react with screaming panic, or fall to their knees and pray for the Rapture? Or people who will look at the falling bits with, yes, deep regret, but also with calm determination and say “Let’s fix this, and then find a way to never let it happen again”?

I know who I want. I want a community of cooperative, rational individuals. What I emphatically don’t want is a bunch of faith-professing strangers telling me I need to get right with Jesus or, equally poisonous, a bevy of “Don’t tell them the truth; they might panic” government officials.

We’ve already taken a step back from the negative religious fantasy culture. Now we need to take a step forward, with a positive reason-based culture of our own making.

I expect the movement to have enemies. There are people — even a lot of atheists — who will instantly hate the idea of creating an atheist culture. But it’s a club you don’t have to join. Nobody has to be a part of it. It’s also not some sort of horrifying nightmare that needs to be stomped with lug-soled boots. It is one option among many in response to an uncertain future.

But reality-based thinking and living is not just a luxury to be possessed by the few, or some flickering candle that can be allowed to go out every few years. It’s important. It’s a light that must be kept burning, that must grow.

In the end, I believe atheists have a lot to offer the world. I think people would see that. If we did this thing, we might be surprised at the number of people who’d want to be a part of it.

Onward …

So here’s this airy-fairy fantasy someone had, right? This impractical utopian dream. Probably best to sneer and turn away. Get back to the real world.

Except the real world — as it really is — is why we should be thinking about this. Look around and tell me everything you see is all peachy-keen with you, and all we need is more lovey-love-love, kumbayah. That things will all work out in the end because of fate or something. Because stories always have happy endings, and because somewhere out there, the smart, rich people are working out all the problems. Hey, any day now we’ll all have flying cars and robot housekeepers, immortality and world peace.

Except sometimes — too often, as every mom and dad knows — the person who has to fix things, or pick up the mess, or be the grownup, is you. Or it doesn’t get done.

Someone has to be the responsible party, the person or the group with an eye on the future of Planet Earth, a planet that could be unburdened by irresponsible consumption, irrational beliefs, blithe lies and destructive craziness.

It could be you.

It could be us.

It could start now.

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Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 3 / Part 4

Randall Eades: Culture and Chaos

Guest Post 2This guest post by Randall Eades follows an online conversation about Beta Culture. 

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Okay, I’ve read enough of your Beta Culture to get an idea of where you’re going with it. It’s interesting. But before I get into that, I’d like to back up a bit to where we began — the end of the world as we know it— to fill in a little history of my point of view.

Twenty-five years ago I read a piece by some science fiction writer in which he described some predictions for the future he’d made years before, about our society, our lifestyles, our technology, and how they’d turned out. His point, based on his many failures, was that it is damned difficult to predict our future. On a whim, I thought I’d give it a shot, just to amuse myself for awhile. It wasn’t like I would ever tell anyone, so failure wouldn’t be an embarrassment.

I started with the proposition of prediction itself. Is it even possible? It occurred to me that, of course, it is. We do it all the time. We are designed for it. We take in sensory information from the world around us, predict the future based on that information, and modify our behavior accordingly. The whole game of baseball is based on our ability to accurately predict the ever-changing location of a small ball in space/time. Our transportation system is possible only because of our ability to simultaneously predict the trajectories of multiple masses moving at variable rates of speed in multiple directions. Our agriculture system is only possible because of our ability to predict weather. On and on, ad infinitum. No problem. I can do this.

Prediction is the projection of current trends from the past into the future. Accuracy depends on the length of the trend line and the number of variable forces affecting it. Since I wasn’t doing a scholarly dissertation, for my purposes I thought it best to make the timeline as long as possible and keep the number of variables small and rather broad.

I started out 200,000 years ago, give or take, back to our roots. At the time the only variable creating significant change in human society was population growth, and that wasn’t much. Resources were plentiful and renewable. Every individual could know everything necessary to survive. Indeed, if a small tribe wandered through a time portal and came out the other side 150,000 years in their future, they might not even notice the difference. The climate might be a bit different, but within the range of normal variability. The topography might have changed some, because of floods, earthquakes and such, but as wanderers they wouldn’t have noticed. The only thing they might notice, eventually, was that they seemed to be running into more people than they used to, and in larger groups. And the new people had slightly better tools and weapons, and more complex chatter. Still, the tribe could have continued their lives as they always had, if they so chose, or join the new people and quickly adapt to the new ways.

Eventually, over more thousands of years, those growing groups would have created another variable — resource exploitation. Herds of migrating animals were becoming smaller. Choice plants were becoming scarcer. Their wandering was curtailed as tribal territory was marked off. They had to start managing their resources. And I had to start tracking that variable.

As they settled down into communities and started domesticating their plants and animals, the rate of change was becoming noticeable from century to century. New variables were introduced — politics, religion and economics. Those had to be tracked. Then communities became cities, which became states, which became empires. As the complexity of the society grew, the knowledge an individual needed to survive became more specialized and incomplete, which created a new information variable. As the economic and political variables became more complex, a communication variable had to be tracked, how long it took to move an idea from one point to another. As we developed and became dependent on machines, a technology variable had to be tracked. And the length of time one passing through that time portal could jump into their future and still fit in became smaller and smaller.

I spent several weeks playing with this, plugging in real data where I could get it and filling in with general information I’d picked up here and there. I soon noticed that the rates of change for all my variables were tracking together and they were all accelerating. I wasn’t quite sure what that meant, but I knew it was important. Though I didn’t yet know I was autistic (I’d never even heard of it at the time), I knew I’d always had an affinity for systems. And I realized that human civilization was acting like a gigantic, complex system.

Along in there somewhere, about the time I was reaching the end of my timeline, I happened to read James Gleick’s book, “Chaos: Making a New Science.” At that point, my autism kicked in big time, with every analytical circuit in my “disordered” brain firing, and I “saw” what I was looking at. It all fell into place and it all made sense.

Civilization is a non-linear, chaotic system. But it isn’t just “a” system. It is a fractal, with systems within systems within systems, way too complex for any human mind to comprehend. A set of conditions, a system, is set in motion, changes over time until the rate of change hits infinity, it goes chaotic, the conditions are shuffled and the whole thing starts over. The little systems are accelerating up and going chaotic all around us, every day. All these mass shootings are chaotic systems, building up over time, then exploding. Every war is a major system popping, taking years or decades to develop, each one setting up the conditions for the next. But the system I had been tracking, the one that really began with the first hominid, was a humongous mother of a system that has never reached the moment of chaos, and every variable I was following indicated that the rate of change was likely to reach the point of infinity within my lifetime, if I was careful. And when it explodes, it is going to be big. Everything is going to change. Life as we know it is going to end.

Once upon a time, I could have time jumped thousands of years with minimal adaptation to my skill set and the stuff I surrounded myself with. If I had jumped from the date of my birth to today in one jump, only 67 years, I would be totally lost and likely go insane. I have had to make major adaptations to my lifestyle several times in one life span. I look around my home and I am amazed by how much of the stuff I have collected, that defines my life on this planet, not only did not exist, but the very materials it is made of did not exist in the wildest dreams of anyone on the day I was born. I am stuck inside the time portal, with changes coming faster than I can understand or adapt to them. I look around the world and I’m reminded of the old saying: Everyone is crazy expect me and thee, and I’m not so sure about thee. Frankly, I’m not even sure about me.

I had set out to predict the future, and I did. It was not what I expected. It is not a guess that I might chuckle about in a few years, when it is proven wrong. I am as certain of our future as an all-star center-fielder plucking a lazy fly ball out of the air at precisely the right time. It’s a system. It works how it works. It does not have an OFF button. It does not have a rheostat that can be dialed back. It has been chugging along for more than a million years, doing its thing. The only variable of any importance is the accelerating rate of change, and it’s right there for everyone to see. Plotted on a graph, it is the hockey-stick curve familiar to everyone who deals with non-linear systems, and we are clearly well up the short end of the stick.

Chaos is coming. That is certain. What is not certain is when or how. Chaos is, by definition, absolutely unpredictable. From here on out, we can only guess.

The first thing to really hit me was that, when humans get involved with chaos, somebody usually dies. With a system of this magnitude, with this level of complexity, best guess is that a lot of people are going to die very quickly. Possibly everyone I know. Possibly everyone. That threw me into a bout of depression for months. But in this case, the hope and the fear are the same thing — unpredictability. Playing the probability game, there is an equal chance that everyone will survive and no one will survive, but the most likely outcome is somewhere in the middle. When the system goes down, a lot of people are going to die. We have no way of guessing how many until we have some idea of the how. And in the nature of chaos systems, the how is likely within the system itself. In other words, getting wiped out by an asteroid or attacked by aliens, while remotely possible, would not have anything to do with the system. We are going to do it to ourselves.

Chaos is coming. Then what? Can we prepare for survival and affect the starting conditions of the next iteration of the system? My guess is probably not. Preparing for the future requires predicting it to some degree; you can’t prepare for the unpredictable. We can’t train hand-picked survival groups, because we don’t know who will survive or what they will need to know. At any rate, such groups would become targets for every nut who resents being left behind.

One thing we might be able to do. All around the world, we could build knowledge repositories, structures that might survive every conceivable possibility of chaos. Fill them with books made of plastic or ceramic, something that could last for millennia, that contain what we have learned over our long trek, including lots of pictures. We could also throw in some seeds and basic tools.

But even at that, a good portion of the knowledge we pass on will be useless to them. One thing we can be sure about, whatever comes next, it will not be anything like our world. Even with all our knowledge, they can’t rebuild our infrastructure and technology. We didn’t leave them enough resources in the ground to do that. For example, they will never have oil, because what we have left is so hard to get to, they will never be able to build the equipment to reach it. All the metals they will have will be what they can salvage from our dead civilization. We’ve dug up most of what was in the ground, and again, what is left will be impossible from them to get to. Their world will have to be based on renewable resources. And in the end, they, like us, will have to adapt and evolve to fit the conditions they find themselves in. The best we can do is to make the best of the days remaining to us, and wish them well with theirs.

Beta Culture: Culture Itself

Beta-Culture-JPGIn pursuit of my Beta Culture concept, I’ve been thinking a lot about Culture over the past couple of years, and I’ve recently been making some interesting connections. I like to think I’m getting close to understanding the meat of it. Here’s a recent thought:

Your culture offers you Values, Ways, and Place.

VALUES are obvious: Honesty is the best policy. People are suckers and deserve what they get. Hard work is the stuff of life. Honor your mother and father. Family above all. Never stop learning. Being gay is an abomination. A wife must meekly obey her husband.

WAYS are all the things your people do, and the way they do them: Wear boots, a big silver buckle and a cowboy hat. Volunteer to serve your country. Every funeral must include a lengthy sermon about Jesus. Cut the end off your little boy’s dick. Go to school only until you’re 14, then work on the family farm. Hold your fork with your left hand, your knife with your right. Shave your hair into a Mohawk and braid feathers into it.

PLACE is the home your culture provides you. It’s where your People accept and welcome you, protect and defend you, and where you do the same for them.

There are “full cultures” that provide Values, Ways and Place for every aspect of life. You could live on an island with a full culture, totally isolated from the rest of the world, and still live a full life. Think of the Amish, or Hasidic Jews, who actually create isolated social islands for their people.

There are “fractional cultures” like Nascar culture or Star Wars culture, gamer culture or Jimmy Buffett fandom, which offer Place, but not a great deal in the way of Ways and Values. In other words, they offer some specialized Ways and Values, but not the full set for all of life. Most of the people in Nascar culture, for instance, wouldn’t have a Nascar wedding, and few Star Wars fans would consider a Star Wars funeral. But on the plus side, there’s the Place: You feel comfortable — you feel HOME — when you’re with your fellow enthusiasts.

Then there’s something I call “U.S. Overculture,” which provides a huge Chinese menu of Values and Ways, but almost no Place. You can live in it, as most of us do, but it includes no welcoming “tribe” of your own.

U.S. Overculture has two very significant features to it:

1) It contains a blended mess of pieces from all the cultures and fractional cultures within it, but ALSO contains a very high percentage of artificial features, Ways and Values which are created by the marketing departments of big corporations, or faddish movements that sweep through the population somewhat spontaneously. —No proposal is complete without a diamond ring. Collect all the Pokemons! Wear your pants sagging below the curve of your butt. Cigarette smoking is what the really cool people do. Take the grandkids to McDonald’s. Oh my GOD, you have to see the TWILIGHT movies! They’re, like, SEW KEWUL!!

2) As it contains no specific People for you to belong to, no Place to welcome and protect you, you’re pretty much on your own as far as figuring out what’s good and bad for you and yours. Standing full in the blasting fire hose of stuff thrown at you every day, you’re at such a loss to evaluate it all, you end up thinking nothing is all that bad, everything is pretty much okay. Sugary sodas, cigarettes, heroin, tongue piercing, riding a motorcycle without a helmet, throwing garbage on the sidewalk, Donald Trump for President, joining a street gang — it’s all just a matter of personal choice, right? And there’s nobody, no wise elder or more-experienced cultural peer to tell you any different.

It seems to me Culture is a need roughly as important to us as breathing, but without Place, the need for Culture can, in the modern world, be easily diverted and perverted to serve the needs of corporate parasites.

But Culture itself can control you to your detriment. Full cultures buoy you up in times of difficulty, but they also cut off all your wild flights of creativity. For instance, though artistic and musical talent is probably evenly distributed in every race and people, there are no Hasidic Jewish rock bands, or internationally known Amish photographers.

Regarding which, I know of no specific culture that focuses as strongly on empowerment of its members as it does on control of those members.

Even my own East Texas Cowboy Culture was pretty strict on what you could and couldn’t do, and in a fairly repressive way. For instance: Cowboys don’t read books, or if they do, it darned sure isn’t science fiction. Cowboys drive pickup trucks and not, Lord save us, Volkswagen Beetles. Cowboys don’t fly on planes, and Cowboys would never, ever eat sushi.

Another thing most cultures do not seem to have is goals — other than the obvious one of keeping people in line, or serving as that protective Place. Some of my recent thoughts about where Culture sits in the world, though, have it as something of an equal social force — in the sense of how much effect it has on our lives — with Government and Business. But Government and Business DO have goals. And I want Beta Culture to have goals.

So: In the design of Beta Culture, two more topics to think about — Goals and Empowerment.

Anyway … still thinking.

Pile-On Against ‘Rationalia’

via Wikimedia Commons

Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson) fired out a tweet on Wednesday, June 29:

Earth needs a virtual country: Rationalia, with a one-line Constitution: All policy shall be based on the weight of evidence

… and the response was weird.

I know absolutely nothing about Tyson’s motivation, but I suspect he put it out there in mild and humorous frustration at how utterly NON-rational current society and government is. Suggesting ONE way it could be better — with a more-rational, rather than more-religious, or more-politically-factional, approach to social problems.

This is also a TWEET — you know, 140 characters? — so if he meant something beyond that, there was no way to explain it IN THIS ONE TWEET. It’s ludicrous to expect otherwise, don’t you think?

Some people took the suggestion not only seriously, but as if it was a dire threat to all mankind. They lost their collective shit, not just saying it was a bad idea, but likening it to the French Revolution, Hitler, and eugenics. Some even took swipes at Charles Darwin for good measure.

A rational nation ruled by science would be a terrible idea

Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s ‘Rationalia’ Would Be A Terrible Country

Is A Rational Nation Ruled By Science A Terrible Idea?

Neil deGrasse Tyson proposes a terrible new political policy called ‘Rationalia’

The Road to Rationalia

Terrible! Terrible! Terrible! Terrible! It’s like they all got the same memo.

Random excerpts:

“Scientism” is the belief that all we need to solve the world’s problems is – you guessed it – science. People sometimes use the phrase “rational thinking”, but it amounts to the same thing. If only people would drop religion and all their other prejudices, we could use logic to fix everything.

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Scientism refuses to see this. The myopia of scientism, its naive utopianism and simplistic faith, bears an uncanny resemblance to the religious dogmatisms that people such as Tyson and Dawkins denounce.

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The republic of reason Tyson thinks will logic away the world’s problems has been tried before. It was called the French Revolution, and it caused a lot of people to lose their heads—literally and figuratively.

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Tyson, too, has a philosophy, whether he realizes it or not. It’s called “scientism,” the belief that science is the only valid source of knowledge. The rule-by-self-identified-experts he envisions for the happy land of Rationalia is scientism’s logical outcome. But when you insist that facts and evidence speak for themselves, it has a funny way of silencing everyone else. As one intrepid Twitter user replied to Tyson’s initial tweet, “Convenient how the ‘evidence’ always seems to line up with Tyson’s personal beliefs.”

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Politicians already misuse science, construe evidence, or outright ignore evidence to get what they want. Do we want scientists doing the same in their studies if they think their findings could influence laws based on their own beliefs?

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Professor Tyson, who may be the dumbest smart person on Twitter, yesterday wrote that what the world really needs is a new kind of virtual state — he wants to call it “Rationalia” — with a one-sentence constitution: “All policy shall be based on the weight of evidence.” This schoolboy nonsense came under withering and much-deserved derision. Conservatives, who always have the French Revolution in their thoughts, reminded him that this already has been tried, and that the results are known in the history books as “the Terror.”

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Man, I’m glad we settled that. Now back to the utterly perfect world we currently live in.

Negroes! Jews! Muslims! Martial Law! Listen, I Tell Yuh!

Facebooking this morning.

I have some fairly conservative friends out west. And when I say “friends,” I’m not kidding, or speaking in the Facebook sense. I mean people I love, good people, people I want to have in my life forever.

But THEY have friends, and those friends have friends, on and on outward on Facebook Planet, and I occasionally see posts my own friends liked or commented on, that are — let’s say — non-contiguous to me on the Venn Diagram of socio-political views.

So here’s this shooting in Dallas — Five cops dead, others wounded, Black Lives Matter in the mix, all manner of anger and righteousness and conservative vs. liberals swirling around.

And I see this:Dallas 1

Not even gonna comment on it, but the reactions to it were … interesting. These are all verbatim, typos and all:

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Jesse Ross: hmmmm , just in time to take the heat off of Hillary .Be very skeptical of what the media is putting out right now , just like the last shooting at the gay night club , it was busted as a false flag , it was part of the summer chaos crisis acting to push the Gun control issue , and the actors were found out , that is why you no longer hear it in the news. they are running out of time to get their agenda in place..if it is true , I feel bad , but I no longer trust the things we are being told by the media.

Jesse Ross: and while this kept everyone watching the right hand , the left hand signs EXECUTIVE ORDER To Take Over America yesterday…don’t believe me ..google it.

Marta Verissimo: Where is he? Busy preparing a speech that will further inflame and divide America. What does he think he’s going to accomplish by calling America racist every time he gets a chance? Violence that’s what. And no he will not blame guns. He will now blame us Americans for being racist. Again serving his political agenda. Wake the hell up people!

Mary Lessigne: All those strategy sessions with Obama & BLM leaders at the White House finally paid off for him

James Randolph: Obama has destroyed this country. Racism was never as bad as it is know. And all you will get out of Obama and his administration and the Democrats is more gun control. Worst President ever.

Ricardo Brown: All presidents since Kennedy have been puppets of zionism. Obama is no better or worse. He’s just folliwing orders.

Janice Wagoner: Our race bating president is glad this happened, it got the news media talking about something other than the turncoat FBI director who gave a total pardon to Obama’s hopeful replacement, Hillary.

Lee Veatch: Our p.o.s. president doesn’t give a damn about cops dying. That’s just 5 less enemy soldiers his army has to fight when his war starts.

Alan Kinsman: All part of Obama’s agenda. There is much more to this story than we will ever know.

Ricardo Brown: It’s not obama’s agenda, he’s just following orders. All presidents since Kennedy have been Zionist puppets. Kennedy’s assassination was a warning to future presidents.

Paula Griffin: Our president is a Muslim and a black terrorist that’s why he supports all this violence

Sandy Otto: What, no comment yet, what a surprise. Where is he and the family on vacation now?

Bill Sitter: Out of the country like he always is when this stuff happens.!!!!!!

Susan Day-Schisler: In Polland, is it strange to anyone else that he’s almost always out of country when disasters hit OUR COUNTRY?

Matt Duc: Bull shit post last night was flase flage u cant buy that caliber sniper rilfe legally if they pull anoth gun control law shit ima laugh cause the only way to buy guns like that are black market or deepweb for alot of bitcoins and yes this shit is real problem these people are not using the guns we as citizens use to protect our selfs these weapons that these criminals get are alot more powerful on par with guns our own amry has i used to no people that had fully atomic rilfes and im not talking ar 15 im talking shit like ak 74s and up shit thats banned and these people have no trouble geting more either i think our country would suffer more if we outlawed guns for citizens to protect them selves with

Dianne Johnson: That bastard is sitting in the White House laughing!!!!!

Emanuel Oshana: Scumbag is too busy dividing this country . He’s got plans for all of us come this election, does anyone else hear Martial law coming ?? We need to clear this trash out of the White house and take our country back . All these shootings one after another are all red flags

Daniel Ohls: Probably chilling with his ISIS buddies.

David Cobb: He is talking the same BS about Gun Control, when are these Idiots realize thugs and criminals don’t care about Gun Control other than taking guns away from law abiding citizens. They, these thugs and criminals will get guns no matter what, the Obama Administration has provided guns to drug Cartels and Terrorist, but they want to disarm Americans who obey the law. Liberals are idiots.

Vickie Hibbard: He staged it so he can take our guns

John Mccann: He is one of the black lives that doesn’t matter

David G. Patterson: LISTEN Folks!!!! Too much talk and not enough decisive action. Just like obama being president for two terms…….it was becouase the powers to be wanted it to be. It had nothing to do with your vote, black vote or electoral vote. It is all due the the corrupt, greedy, selfish, none patriotic assholes that just continue to get richer at our expense and do nothing for our Nation. It’s all about them and to hell with us and our Constitution and Bill of Rights. Now………….LISTEN……we can talk, bitch, complain, post etc all we want. Someone has to get to the actual ROOT OF THE PROBLEM or we are in laymen terms “FUCKED”!!!!!

Don Hanson: HE IS BUSY PRAYING FOR MORE DEAD AS LONG AS THEY ARE NOT MUZZIES BUT IF THEY ARE THEN HEW WILL DENY THEY ARE ISIS OR RADICALS.

Paul Showalter: THE FULL BLAME IS ON THE WHITE HOUSE TERRORIST, AS THIS IS WHAT HE HAS BEEN WORKING ON FOR TWO TERMS. NOTHING SUCH AS THIS EVER TRANSPIRED BEFORE HIS PRESIDENCY. THIS IS WHAT HE HAS LEFT AMERICA WITH.

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Paranoia, conspiracy, Obama, Muslims, gun grab, heroes in blue (!), scary black people (!!), EXECUTIVE ORDER TO TAKE OVER AMERICA (!!!).

But really, those Jews who Rule The World, they’re to blame.

Oh, and Hillary. It’s Hillary’s fault. Or maybe Obama AND Hillary.

Hillary 1Hillary 2